Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Eating Well, On the Road...

"What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? — it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies."
- Jack Kerouac, On the Road, Part 2, Ch. 8

Eating well is hard enough, but doing it while you're road tripping is almost impossible.  Unfortunately, with Lana almost 400 miles away right now, alot of both of our meals come from gas stations and fast food places.  That's what today's post is all about, eating as well as you can on the road.

Obviously, packing food from home is the best idea, but sometimes there just isn't...well...time...

Let's start by talking about what to avoid.

  1. Sugary Drinks-  Obvious.
  2. Gas Station Hotdogs - Even if they weren't half fat and half snout...they roll around for hours on a heater that probably hasn't been cleaned in months while being fondled by other patrons. Gross
  3. Carrot Muffins - Yes, there is a vegetable in the name.  No, they are not healthy.  The typical muffin is 400+ calories and 20g+ of fat. 
  4. Gas Station Cappuccino- Those machines are evil and drinking from them blesses you with about 150 calories for 12oz...and likely you're going to be in it for 20oz with these sugary drinks.

 Ok, so what can you eat?  There aren't alot of great options in gas station fair, and alot of this is an exercise is making the best of a bad situation.  Here are a few ok options though...

1. Coffee/sugar free soda/energy drinks-  Caffeen is my friend, especially on road trips. It's a balancing act though.  Hydration is good.  Pulling over to use the restroom every 15 minutes is not. 

2.  Nuts!  Unsalted if possible.  Filled with hunger satisfying good fats, protein, and fiber; nuts are a good choice.  I like pistachio's and almonds the best.  Just be careful of portion sizes, nuts are a very calorie dense food.  Pumpkin seeds are a winner as well, if you can find them without too much sodium.

3.  Fruit.  While it might not be the best of quality, you are likely to be able to score an apple/banana/grapes if you visit a more truck stop oriented gas station.  I have some of these produce oasis' memorized on my normal route just for this reason.

4.  Sandwiches?  This category can be a bit more touch and go.  Deli Express has some stuff that is reasonable macronutrient wise.  That being said, their food has to survive in the refrigerator of a convenience store and as such is rather highly processed and high in sodium.  Another great option is the gas station with attached Subway!

5.  Jerky?  Even more questionable, is meat jerky.   Turkey, Beef, high protein, low fat...all goodness, but jerky can be REALLY high in sodium.  Everything in moderation though.

6.  Bars??  While they're almost certainly always available, the granola bar can be a bit of a landmine.  They're often heavily processed as well, sugary, high in carbs, low in protein, and rather high on the glycemic index.  Don't get me wrong, I love granola bars, especially from places like Cliff, and Nature Valley.  They might not be the most ideal for fueling your drive however.  If you do go for a bar, look for some substantial protein in it and keep the calories low.  I recommend trying to optimize the satisfaction/calorie ratio. 

Eating on the road is tricky, and often you're making the best of a bad situation, but by being a little careful you can come out on the other end of your trip in good shape...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

VO2max Testing

One way of assessing fitness is with a number called VO2max.  The higher your VO2max, the more intensely you can exercise, and in general the VO2max of someone that is well conditioned is higher than someone who isn't in such great shape.

Ok, but what is VO2max? 

VO2max is the maximum amount (in milliliters) of oxygen that a person can use in one minute, per kilogram of body weight.  Brian Mac explains it in depth on his website, so if you want to know more that's where I'd suggest you go. 

Why do I care what my VO2max is?

The primary purpose for the fitness assessments I've been doing in this year's preseason is the establishment of a baseline of fitness.  I want to be able to repeat this tests at later dates and refer back to them so that I can evaluate how well my training is going.  Quantifiable metrics are the name of the game here.

Additionally, a more accurate VO2max will allow me to more accurately estimate my calories burnt in gym sessions with my Polar HRM, and that should hopefully help with my nutrition.

Polar HRMs use a secret sauce for calorie burn estimation, but it is thought to have once resembled this polynomial (although now Polar uses resting HR as a variable and that isn't expressed below):

Let C = KCals and weight = the person's weight in Kgs.

Men: C/min = (-59.3954 + (-36.3781 + 0.271 x age + 0.394 x weight + 0.404 x VO2max + 0.634 x HR))/4.184
Women: C/min = (-59.3954 + (0.274 x age + 0.103 x weight + 0.380 x VO2max + 0.450 x HR)) / 4.184

So clearly, the amount of calories your HRM reports burnt is rather dependant on VO2max.  

Estimating VO2max

So, outside of lab testing, how can you accurately estimate your VO2max?

There are quite a few ways, however the one I chose based on the environment I had available was the Balke VO2max test.

You can read about the testing protocol in detail at the above link, but essentially it's very simple.  Run around a track as fast as you can for 15 minutes and record your distance.  You're supposed to use a 400m track, and my track was 9 laps/mile (roughly 179m/lap).  In 15 minutes, running as fast as I could, I covered 3168 meters. 

Using this formula:  (((Total distance covered ÷ 15) - 133) × 0.172) + 33.3 gives me a result of 46.75 mls/kg/min VO2max

How accurate is this number?  Well it's probably good enough to set my heart rate to, and additionally as long as I repeat this exact test in the future it will serve as a measure of improvement to some degree.  According to Mac's website the correlation between this number and  actual VO2max is high as well.  

Estimating Caloric Burn

What does this mean for my energy expenditure estimations?  Well, the default setting on my HRM is a VO2max of 36, which would be about the norm for a non athletic 30-39 female, which is perhaps a safe bet for the typical Polar F6 consumer, but I believe it was causing my HRM to grossly under report calories burnt for me.  

For example, I recently did a bike ride averaging 150 W for 60 minutes.  Assuming 22% efficiency, which is conservative at best, that would indicate a calorie burn of:

150W = 150 J/s
3600 seconds * 150 J = 540 KJ / 4.184 (conversion rate between KJ and KCals) = 129 KCals

129 KCals / .22 (22% efficient, yeah I wish I was that good...) = 586 Calories burnt.  However in this same time frame my Polar F6 was reporting about 286 Calories burnt.  

I'm expecting that my new and more accurate VO2max will greatly improve the estimated calories burnt, but we will find out when I bike tonight...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays Everyone

I hope everyone finds a new PR, or at least the swag they need to train for it, under their tree.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Swim Test: 1000m TT

My season begins on 1/25 so I'm starting to gather some initial performance data and track my progress a bit more scientifically.

Today I did a 1000y Swim TT to get a baseline of my swim speed using a repeatable protocol. 

600y Warmup
1 Minute Rest
1000y Race Pace

Time:  20:45
Rate:  2.05/100y

Last year in my A race I did 2:11/100y so that's a minor improvement, although I'm not sure it really counts because that 2:11 was open water in 53 degree lake Michigan with real race intensity.  There are just too many variables to judge progress using race results, so I'm going to attempt to use this method to judge my progress.  I'm planning on retesting every time I change periods in my training plan, based on Joe Friel's suggestions in The Triathlete's Training Bible.  By the way, I'm going to be using the Training Bible exclusively for this season's training plan development.  More on that later.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gear Review: ISM Adamo Road Saddle

If you'll recall, one of my goals for this off season was to get a bike fit.  Before I did that however, I wanted to find a saddle I liked.  I definitely did NOT like the saddle that came on my Cervelo P1 and knew that my relationship with that painful little piece of plastic was going to be short lived.

I did some research and talked to a few people and came to the conclusion that the ISM Adamo was worth a very serious look.  While there are many fine high end saddles out there, in my opinion the concept behind the Adamo saddles was the best.  It also came highly recommended by some other Tri-Sharks and Beginner Triathlete members. 

There are two models of Adamo for TT bikes, the Adamo Race and the Adamo Road.  They seem to be essentially the same, with the Road weighing a bit more and having a bit more gel/padding than the race.  Light is good, but so is comfortable, so which one should I choose?  In trying to answer that question I discovered one of the things that separates ISM Adamo products from their competition.  Fantastic customer service.  After explaining my goals and needs to Dave at Adamo, discussing my weight loss history, and my Ironman aspirations, Dave recommended the Road over the Race for me.  Thanks for all the help Dave!

The Adamo is an unconventional saddle.  It doesn't have a nose like a traditional saddle, but rather is built to support your sit bones while  relieving the pressure from your perineal nerve, which prevents all sorts of medical badness that I'll just reference here rather than try to explain. 

At first I was skeptical about comfort.  I mean, who wouldn't be.  I very carefully read the Adamo instructions and watched their installation video though.  After that it was time for a road test.

I took my bike out and immediately felt pretty comfortable.  I only road for about 20 miles that day but I enjoyed the ride.  The next day the tissue over my sit bones was a little sore, but I knew that might happen based on Dave's warning and the products documentation.

After a few more rides I was enjoying the Adamo without any pain, and alot more comfort than I've ever experienced on a saddle.  The Adamo put everything else I had ever ridden to shame, including my pricey Fizik Airone.

Then, about 5 rides in, something surprising happened.  While the Adamo was always very good, I stopped for a tweak to how the saddle lined up laterally and  finally just got it exactly right and it was like I snapped into the saddle.  Things went from good to glorious and I couldn't be happier. 

A few days after that ride I took my bike over to a much more experienced triathlete's house and he helped me get the bike tuned in even more while spinning on his computrainer.  Things just kept getting better.
Not only am I more comfortable on my Adamo Road than I ever have been on any other saddle, but I'm faster too.  I know what you're thinking...faster? really?  Yes, faster.  It's very true.  I can stay aero longer, and I'm much more comfortable.  A more aero, more comfortable triathlete is a faster triathlete.

I highly recommend the ISM Adamo Road, it's great equipment from a great company that makes me fast and makes me want to ride.