My Weekly Blog #11 (and my 100th Blog!)

This is my 100th blog on platform, so first of all I want to start by thanking everyone who has read my stuff: regularly or just decided to disagree with me and given up reading my blog, or reading altogether. I am a big believer in feedback, and I always welcome suggestions and ideas. I want to move away from this blogger platform and when I have more time on my hands, I will begin work on making a website where I can post and make a tiny bit of money from it, which I can put to good use.I am very competitive person, who believes in always being in motion towards the right direction. I do not like to lose, which often results in my recovery runs having spikes of 5:30 min/mile pace as a consequence of someone trying to overtake me. And infact, when Shalane Flanagan mentioned in her 60 minutes interview that her only goal wasn't to be her best self, but make others suffer in the process, I felt like she was my soul sister.




Because of my nature, I might have(well, i'm sure I did) come off as a bully, in the past. I am pretty sure about things and decisions I make, I am fiercely protective of dreams and willing to suffer for them. And when you are so passionate about things, you aren't very kind or fun especially when someone pisses you off or disagree with you. My modus-operandi in the past was decimating the opposition, and while I still follow that, I try to be nicer about it. Rather than being a bully, I try to be rational and reasonable. And to all those who have been hurt because of my words, I apologize. I am a different person now than I was months ago, and which already was a different person from an year ago. Life is all about moving forward and becoming a better person, because in the end our lives have to be like rivers, flowing and dynamic, full of positivity and energy. 

This week's blogs are a little longer and the 1st one is actually quite personal, second one is quite scientific (and might make you hate me if you support LCHF). So please, read on: 

 This Manor card and the definition of endurance.




Manor is one of the supermarket chains in Switzerland. Infact, it is the largest supermarket chain here (in terms of revenue) and it is quite nice. As a student, you try not to go there because the products in there, and their prices really mess up your budget.
During my previous internship as a Christmas gift, I got this gift card for the store and I used it in parts to buy some chocolates to send back with my father, when he was here and then I kept this in my wallet and forgot all about it.

In 2018, the year of my rebirth: as an athlete, as a human being; especially in the 1st few months when life was coming down on me like a SEAL Team Drill sergeant, I made the decision to eat differently. By differently, I mean incorporating fruits and vegetables, self-cooked food and reduce my inexplicable consumption of processed foods (I was mainly doing because I felt lazy and unmotivated because of my life situation and also because, for some reason I decided to give LCHF a try. Will discuss this in the next section of the post.)

Turns out, processed food is much cheaper. Pumpkin Seeds for example, cost 6.50 CHF and they though I don't use them like I use oil, I try to eat them daily and that is (one of the) expensive recurrences in my budget. Food (or anything in Switzerland for that matter) isn't cheap, but it is the reason why we earn: To feed ourselves. The problem with my logic was that I wasn't actually earning any money.
I relied on money from my parents, who quite unconditionally continued to support me. But as a human being, knowing what they were going through, I couldn't be blatant with money; not even after my mother's reassurances.

I continued to run, as it was the only thing keeping me sane and running makes you hungry, which slowly was becoming an expensive indulgence for me. I don't travel, or I forsake travel just so that I could eat and I don't party, I don't spend money on anything other than running gear and food. Literally. (Well rent etc. yes). Oh, and books too.

My drill sergeant finally allowed me to get employed again, which in itself was a beautiful respite from everything in my life; vindicating my family's and my decision to stay in Switzerland and keep chipping away, in the face of naysayers and negativity from people who don't matter. But when you have been in shit for so long, it takes time before things become clean.

As I would get paid in the month after, I was still on the verge of being broke again. And I didn't want my parents to spare any more money for me. People in Mao's China had more freedom of speech that I do, so I am just going to skim over the reality and write that I had to indulge in some unforeseen travel expenses, which I couldn't avoid because when I commit to people, I follow through with everything. I was sure that the travel expenses would end up being over-the-top because of my "food induced-debt" and in general traveling to the 2nd most expensive city in the world, meant that despite a loan from my awesome roommate, I had 9 chf to my name when that trip ended. With 15-17 days still to go before payday, I was near broke. Not that I had not been in such a situation before. I had been hand-to-mouth on one too many situations of the last few months, sometimes induced by people who owed me money but decided to change their minds at the last moment. But this time around, I didn't want to borrow any more money or had an discernible sources of income to go-to, so I ended up selling a spare wheel-set that I owned, for a few days of groceries. I learnt to cook in a way, where it would be healthy and not expensive. I did everything in my power to control the budget but with 2 weeks to go for the salary, I estimated that I would be out of money if I bought things I would actually need to eat.

Not all compromises represent weakness, but the ones that go against what you stand for do. And when do not compromise, we bring out our will to endure, which Dr. Alex Hutchinson defines as “the struggle to continue against a mounting desire to stop”. He continues: "The essence of endurance is that you are fighting against your instincts to stop doing whatever you're doing and you're choosing to go against your natural inclination and you're doing it over a prolonged period of time."

The desire to stop represented a compromise for me, to trade my healthy diet for a period where I could trade healthy eating and everything I had stood up for, for an unhealthy diet and give up everything I had been working towards.

And then I found the card in my wallet. But I had absolutely no idea how much money it had, and I had a total of 21.30 chf with me. So, I gingerly entered Manor on a Saturday afternoon, did basic mental math to limit expenses below 21.30 chf and then when I paid using the card I found out it had more than plenty, well, at least enough to last 2 weeks (if I shopped conservatively).

It wasn't much, but I didn't have to compromise with my diet. And that day I went back with 24.30 still on the card, which came in handy the next weekend.



I know it sounds like a very first-world problem. It was not like I was dying of starvation. And while I did end up purchasing pumpkin seeds as I was out, it wasn't like I splurged on Vegan smoothies. Even onions, tomatoes and garlic add up to be a minor dent in the budget here.

What mattered to me was the principal of the thing. Yes, I budgeted well enough not to end up hungry and completely broke, yes I managed to survive almost without money for 2 weeks without compromising on my diet and yes, it sucked at times because I felt hungry and I couldn't afford to eat more than a certain amount because it would shift the balance of my budget but I made it through. It was painful, it made me want to cry and did cry when I had just enough money to buy 2 tomatoes and 1 garlic on the Friday I hoped I would get paid (I got paid on the Monday after). I cried because I was so anxious about money that in the morning run my legs just couldn't move because of the anxiety, I couldn't sleep, and I couldn't stay awake because the reality was much worse than the dreams. It was painful to be in so much anxiety, it was painful to hang on by a thread even after being on the cusp of happiness and it was extremely painful to realize the dependence of happiness and basic functions on money and thinking about the extravagances in my life over the years when I had plenty, and I let it all go away because of stupidity.

But at the same time, it was no reason to give up on my principles. As a matter of fact, it was test of how much I could adapt myself to stand for those principles and how creative I could get with my solutions.

Endurance is not just relevant in sport, it is the foundation of mankind. It is foundation of our civilization. Those who endured evolved. Those who couldn't perished. Darwin theory of Natural selection is the perfect parable to the spirit of endurance.

What you need to do, is indulge your mind, let it talk and listen to it. Try to train yourself to talk more positively, not only with yourself but with others. Rather than complaining about the problems, which we all have in life, think of ways around it. Even in your general behavior, you can either be complaining about stuff all the time or you take things for what they are and enjoy the ride.
I didn't tell anyone I was this broke and surviving on no money and I tried to find ways to get through my problems without bothering others with them. And to be honest, while it wasn't all fun, but cooking things without certain ingredients, playing with flavors based on lack of ingredients just added to my cooking palette.

I shared this story with you, not to get pity but to give hope to anyone reading it, who is going through a tough phase in life, feels lost and thinks there is no hope out there. This phase taught me so much: it taught me that life never goes to plan, and even for an endless optimist, while it is all going to be okay, the path is not going to be linear. It will have tangents along the way, based on compromises which you will choose to make and how far along you get in life, will depend on your decisions. This phase taught me a lot about people, people who helped me out, people who took my money despite my situation and then abandoned me. I will never forget that weekend, when I couldn't afford to buy rice and I had just enough money to buy a salad and so I ate that for lunch and dinner, while that person acted holier than thou. God bless his soul, for he taught me about compassion and how I should never leave someone hanging. And the smallest acts of kindness, words of encouragement along the way that kept me going.

Endurance is the way of life. Endurance is the way forward. Endurance will light up the path and show you the way. Endure away.

LCHF

Let me be clear with you here, I am not a nutrition expert. And I am not the old Arunaabh Shah either who will come up with lots of sarcastic arguments against something and try to prove my point by making you feel bad. That strategy apparently doesn't work. If you want to change someone's mind about something, you present a statement to them, give them space to think about what you said and rather than forcing stuff down their throat or shouting at them, you allow them to digest the information. If your argument is compelling enough for the person to go "Hmm" they might consider it, otherwise, you just accept that they aren't going to agree with you and you just agree to disagree.
There is so much activism going on these days, people shouting stuff and each other: Women rights and Chaddi(underwear) runs in Parks and all the bullshit to gain attention, but believe me, that shit never works. It won't ever work and infact, it will be counterproductive to the point and the other person might get annoyed and start doing the wrong thing just to get rid off you, purely out of spite.

Holy mother, I digressed and went off on a rant there, didn't I?




Coming back to LCHF, which stands for Low Carb High Fat diet. I will oversimplify: It basically entails eating higher amounts of fat, lower carbohydrates in your diet so that your liver goes into a state of ketosis and starts using fat as a primary source of fuel rather than carbohydrates. Which sounds good, right?

After all, your body can store only a finite amount of carbohydrates but even the skinniest of us, has enough fat stores. Your liver can store 400-500 calories of glycogen(carbohydrate) for use throughout the body, and 2000 calories in fully loaded legs muscles. And those get burnt out pretty quickly during a long run. So, instead if you start depending on fat as a fuel source, you will last longer.

But when you start to look at this, first from the performance point of view, fat as a fuel source begins to make less and less sense. One study found that running a marathon in 2 hours 45 minutes (3:55 min/km) relied on 97% carbohydrate fuel; while a 3:45 marathon (5:10 min/km) relied on 68% carbohydrate fuel. If you are trying to run fast then, you can't primarily rely on fat and there is a very good reason for it.

You see, a carbohydrate molecule is like a drop of petrol, you through a match at it and it burns instantaneously. A fat molecule is a wooden stick, it might last longer but it takes time to catch fire and then burn. When your body is in high performance mode, it needs a healthy mix of carbohydrates as opposed to when you want to putter around.

And i'm not the only one saying that. Zach Bitter, the American Record holder for 12 hours (he ran 101.65 miles in 12 hours at an average pace of 4 min 30 seconds per km), is a well know proponent of LCHF. Infact, on his podcast with Joe Rogan he discussed about body molarity and the impact LCHF has had on his diet. Typically, he runs 150-200 miles a week and typically, in a base training phase, when he is more fat-adapted he consumes around 80% of his calories from fat. But, he pointed out that during faster days (say, when he is doing a workout of 10*1-mile repeats); he shifts to 65-70% carbs. He does the same as he begins to approach race day, where he tries to consume carbohydrate calories through Sweet Potatoes.



I'm not saying being fat adapted does not have its uses. If you are a mountaineer/explorer where you have to traverse thousands of miles on foot, lugging heavy equipment over rough terrain then it does help if your food burden is lighter and your body is making do with your fat sources. Or even when you are a recreational, back of the pack runner, who aims to just finish a course and are trying to get Race A off your bucket list. It's all well and good at that time. But, if you are competitive then being fat adapted doesn't have much application.

And this bring me to the LCHF diet and the need to eat unhealthy amounts of fats, that would result in severe damage to your liver and your heart. Ketosis is not a natural state for your body, and while people who follow LCHF argue that "fat is natural", then constantly being in a state of ketosis seems to be an oxymoron. Fat has its place in the diet, it is very necessary to consume a healthy dose of fat and it is almost unavoidable and infact unhealthy at times, to eat stuff which has fat removed through a lot of processing. But is deliberately putting your liver and heart at risk, worth the potential "weight loss"?

When I stopped doing LCHF, I did what follows as a strategy to lose weight. It isn't exactly the healthiest thing to do and it definitely isn't sustainable, but in order to get results, this works better and has lesser damage than the LCHF diet, in the long term:
In the AM, I tried to execute a 1.5 hour run in Zone 2 Heart Rate (more famously known as the fat-burning zone.) What I did was, that I didn't eat anything at all before the run. And trust me, I started late in the morning, so I was hungry, even before I started. And then I ran for 90 minutes, the last 45 of which felt like the last 45 minutes of a 100 miler. And after coming back home, I had a nice, balanced meal. Doing this for a few weeks (I emphasize: only Low intensity runs. I tried to run faster runs on this strategy, but legs just did't move), allowed me to lose weight and burn fat.
Well, not just that, proper intense core workouts, done with proper form and mindfulness and executing a good stretch routine.

But I didn't eat excessive fat because eating too much fat, actually makes you fat. It's like Kenyans debunking Arthur Lydiard's running method: You can continue to run slow and build mileage but till you actually begin to incorporate faster runs in your training plan, you will not get faster.
Kenyans do run many miles slow, very slow because not all miles can be fast. But they run plenty of them fast, some of which are faster than their race pace.

In my pursuit of getting faster, this is what I learnt: Until your body and your mind don't know that you can run X kilometers at a particular pace, you won't magically do that on race day. The body needs to get used to the feel of that pace, the mind needs to be aware of the sensations and emotions associated with that pace. It cannot be a "new experience" on race day. And I'm not saying that it doesn't happen, but it happens until a particular pace. If you are running a 30k in 3 hours, every weekend, you will not run a 30k during a marathon in 2 hours on race day. Sometimes you run fast, sometimes you run long and sometimes, you need to do those 2 together.

And I went off the rails again. Just eating too much fat will not burn fat, even if your body is using fat as fuel. To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit. To lose weight, you need to exercise, some of which is intense and for which you need carbs, which, eating just 2 bananas won't help.
As always, I encourage anyone out there to try things out before coming to a conclusion. My belief is a better option is to have a well-balanced diet, which has a healthy mix of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber and minerals. The simplest way to lose weight is to eat less and exercise more. It's plain logic. You won't lose weight if you eat more.

If you are more performance oriented, and actually want to be decently fast, then you can't glaze over carbs. And I know some might consider a 3:30 marathon "fast", but the World Records for the marathon are 2:02:57 and 2:15:25, so even though Einstein's frames of reference might influence your definition of "fast", the absolute reality is totally different. Running a 2:06:25 marathon as a man, might get you the Olympic Gold, like it did for Sammy Wanjiru in 2008 but in reality, that time only would get you up to No. 126 on the list of all-time fastest marathon times.

One thing we all agree on is that Kenyans are amongst the fastest marathoners in the world. The World best time of 2:00:25 is by Kenyan, Eliud Kipchoge. The Men's world record of 2:02:57, is by another Kenyan, Dennis Kimetto. The WR before him, 2:03:13 was held by another Kenyan, Wilson Kipsang. The last Olympic Gold medal was won by Eliud Kipchoge. The London Marathon this year was won by Eliud Kipchoge. You get my point, right? 60 out of the 100 fastest marathon times are in fact, held by Kenyans. And while the rule-of-thumb suggestion is to consume a diet where 60-65% of the calories come from Carbohydrates, Kenyans consume a whopping 76.5% of their calories from carbohydrates including 23% from Ugali (a cornmeal mash) and 20% from Sugar which they put in their porridge and tea. Out of the remaining 40 fastest marathon times, 35 are held by Ethiopians, who get 64.3% of their calories from carbohydrates. Infact, one of the greatest runners in history, Haile Gebrselassie, ate bread-jam as his daily breakfast during his peak training days.



And while I don't agree with that, or eating excessive sugars, I do vouch for healthy sources of carbs as an energy source for your next high-performance race, along with a great training plan, great mental training, strength training and stretching routine and a brilliant recovery plan. Why would you want to do things much differently than people who clearly know how to run a fast marathon?

Weekly Sports Roundup


I genuinely have developed a distaste for triathlon. Even though the people in triathlon are inspiring and pull feats of endurance that no other sport can match, my interaction with amateur triathletes, especially the arrogance that spills out when you talk to them or you experience with them during a race, has driven me away from the sport. I'm not saying that it is limited to triathlon, but lately I have been on a drive to eliminate negativity from my life and cut my ties with people with negative vibes, and somehow that seems to emanate the most from amateur triathletes.

That said, many of my favorite athletes are still triathletes, including Lionel Sanders, Jan Frodeno, Alistair Brownlee, Daniela Ryf, Tim Don and of course, Craig Alexander. All of them display that feeling of humility which many amateur triathletes seem to have forgotten.

Last weekend was the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa and it was a fantastic race both in the Women's and Men's fields.

The women's race which happened on Saturday, was won by, *surprise surprise*, Daniela Ryf, in an incredible time of 4:01:12 (24:25 swim, 2:15:28 bike, and 1:17:00 run), which happened to be her 4th 70.3 World Title.



And the reason why her Tri-top zipper broke was because she was given a fine chase by Great Britain's Lucy Charles, who in 2 years (mark my words) will win everything triathlon related.
Charles, who led the women out of the water and for most parts of the bike course, finished 3 minutes 36 seconds behind Ryf in 4:04:58.



Anne Haug from Germany, ran an incredible 1:15:11 half marathon to round up the podium.




The men's race wasn't any less exciting. While making the importance of Short distance racing clear, the 3 podium spots and No.4 were all claimed by former Olympians. All 3 podium men, were also Olympic Medalists. Jan Frodeno, who won Gold in 2008, outlasted the 2 time Olympic Champion(2012, 2016) Alistair Brownlee and 2012 Silver Medalist and 5 time ITU Champion, Javier Gomez on the run, with all 3 men running under 1:10 for the half marathon, after a fast swim and a faster bike.

Frodeno finished in 3:36:30 just 2.5 minutes outside Michael Raelert's world record of 3:34 for the 70.3 distance, running a 1:06:34 half marathon (3:09 min/km) in the process.



Brownlee and Gomez, who are relative newbies to the 70.3 distance finished in 3:37:41 and 3:38:26 respectively with Brownlee running a 1:07:40 half marathon.




Gomez ran a 1:08:16 half, which wasn't good enough to defend his title.




Also, last weekend was the UTMB or the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, which is a 103 mile traverse around the Mont Blanc peak in France.

The Men's race was won by Xavier Thévenard, who notched up his 3rd UTMB win by clocking 20:44:16 for the extremely brutal 103-mile course.



The men's race favourites, Kilian Jornet, Jim Walmsley and Zach Miller all ended up dropping out, with Kilian dropping out after having an allergic reaction in his foot to a bee sting, that happened a few hours before the race. Jim and Zach, both had stomach issues and had to pull out, which was particularly devastating for Jim given how well his training had went, following his course record setting run at the Western States 100 miler.




The women's race was won by an even more surprising winner, Francesca Canepa (to be honest, I had never heard of her).



The 100k World Championships are next week, which I am really looking forward to!
And well, the US Open and La Vuelta are happening as of now, but I'm not really following them because I have decided to spend even more time reading, which brings me to:

The Monthly Book Recommendation



This books lands in my top 3 books of all time, not just sports science or sports in general. Alex Hutchinson, who I wrote about earlier in this blog has written this absolutely must-read, fantastic page-turner of a book. His data is backed by science, his writing is lucid and unbiased, he has backed everything with science and he has done a beautiful job in compiling this book.

The facts that I wrote about LCHF have been borrowed from his book. Alex is not just a great writer who was one of the 2 people allowed to cover Nike's breaking 2 project, his career trajectory is what I would love to emulate. He is a PhD in physics from Cambridge and then got a Masters' degree in Journalism from Columbia University. And not just that, he qualified for Canada's 1500 meter Olympic trials and has run a 3:44 1500 meter, 14 min 5k and a 1:12 half marathon.

And he is humble enough to reply to my tweet!

I urge you to buy a copy and read this amazing book.

Finally, Recipe of the week!

I'm sorry, I know this has been a really long blog, but last week I promised to put in a recipe each week and I believe in following through with my promises.

This week's recipe is the humble oatmeal, something I started eating before my long runs as opposed to unscrupulously carb-loading the night before it.

As you read before, your body can only store enough glycogen in the liver, part of which gets consumed while you sleep. Plus, when you carb load, you have to keep in mind the other aspects of nutrition that you are taking with it. For example, trans-fats, which are insanely detrimental to your cardiac health.

Waking up early before a long run and consuming a bowl of oatmeal provides you with slow-release carbohydrates, which serve you better during a long run and in the long run, do less damage to your heart!

This is my bowl of oatmeal, which I make (for 1 person) as follow:

1/2 cup oatmeal
1 cup Almond Milk
1/2 banana
Tea Spoon of Chia Seeds
Assortment of Dried Fruits (not necessary)
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
8-10 pumpkin seeds
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon Honey

1. Cut the banana into small pieces.
2. Cook the banana, oatmeal and almond milk at a low flame till they become a smooth mixture.
3. Mix the rest of the stuff in it and gobble it down.

I just put them nicely for this picture. Haha.

And because it is my 100th blogpost, I want to close it with this simple, beautiful and poignant training haiku by Michael Joyner:


That's all there is to training, that's all there to life. Be consistent, show up every single day not matter how bad it gets. Keep working hard and learn to consider "rest" as a part of working hard. Above all, believe in yourself and your hard work. Smallest of beliefs can change the biggest of things. Eliud Kipchoge, after his VO2 max test, didn't take home the numbers or didn't do a major league social media post boasting about his running efficiency. Instead, he went back home to Kenya, with the belief that he could run a marathon under 2 hours. His favorite book, is Stephen R Covey's "7 habits of highly effective people" and while people are saturating the social media sphere with fake motivation with a ton of ulterior motives behind them, he believes in the book because he believes in the power of positive thinking. Despite being a multi-millionaire, he lives 6 days a week in a training camp where he cooks his own food, washes his own clothes and cleans the toilets. Successes are beautiful and necessary, they move you upwards in life and without them, life's struggle will have no meaning, but internally you do not have to change the core of who you are. The simpler you keep your life, with the least amount of distractions, the better your life will be as it will have more space for success.

God bless you all, see you next week.

Comments

  1. Good read ,Note about eliud kipchoge is really motivated.

    ReplyDelete

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