Beaufort–Col du Pré

Today was supposed to be an orgainsed event at Bourg St Maurice. However some were setting off at 7:30am and not paying for the meal – and others would set off at 9am and the route would be nothing more than a collection of my normal inter-season mid-altitude plodding paths. Finding it impossible to get motivated for that I chose to do my own thing and head off for a solo 120km ride around Beaufort – taking in the Col du Pré and the Cormet de Roselend. In the course of events it was a late start because the evening before I’d gone out late for a 10km run and needed to use the morning and a good lunch for recovery. Night time would be already upon us by 9pm so I mounted some mini high brightness LED lights – which are also useful for going through long tunnels – just in case. This was a great decision as the roads were almost empty, at altitude there was no wind and the setting sun was stunning – it was absolutely gorgeous. It’s what living is all about – screw the office job and wage slavery! Sometimes it’s important to have the time to stop and take photos or just take a break in a mountain top café for a drink – with no pressure or distraction from others. Exercising itself was tough because I didn’t have a lot of energy. Perhaps it took a while to digest the pasta and veg (with coconut oil for ketones) lunch, but it proved difficult to raise my heart rate to a performance level. This was the first time out on the bike since Tuesday’s big ride – since when I’d managed a 6hr mountain hike, 36 hour fast and a 10k run. Normally the next ride on the bike after a big ride turns out to be a “recovery” ride – whether it’s the day immediately after or several days later. This felt like a recovery ride but it was impossible to really say why. What was interesting is that my functional heart rate did progressively rise so that it was correct by the time of approaching the top of the steep Col du Pré. The col is impressive because it has several kilometres averaging 11% gradient – so it’s tough with normal gearing! I stopped briefly in the centre of Beaufort, expecting to have to change the battery in my phone/sports app device. Surprisingly the battery was fine and so I just had a Coke and filled the water bottle in preparation for the climb up to the Col du Pré. Sitting on the terrace enjoying the break and the iced Coke in the heat of the sun it was hard to not be disturbed by the incongruity of the tables surrounding me – all filled with bikers and biker families in their leathers – and all puffing away at their stupid cigarettes  – parents and offspring alike – without exception – as they slavishly do all day and every day of their lives. Horrible! Escaping from the mechanised idiots I was promptly back on the bike riding up through Les Areches village – which was closed for a special 50th year festival of some sort. The gendarmes however let me dismount and walk though the town to start the climb at the other side. before climbing in the heat I topped up my bottle at an old fashioned water stand that uses a mechanical wind up handle. One of the little local kids offered to turn the handle for me – cute! With the town being closed the road up to the col was empty. It was like being in heaven! Right at the top of the col, overlooking the Roselend dam I discovered La Pierra Menta  café/restaurant, also overlooking the famous Pierra Menta peak. This would be my final extended pit stop for the day. There would be another stop at a watering point just before starting the climb up to the Cormet de Roselend – but here at the café I’d consume another Coke – if for no other reason than to have a break and chill out. The temperature was better here at 1750m altitude – although wind had kept me cool enough lower down where it was between 25°C and 30°C.      La Pierra Menta (famous for its winter ski touring competition) My legs had been throbbing by the top of the Col du Pré so the café break was a useful recovery. I was eating some dried dates and consuming some sugar mix along the way – but using only a minimal amount to keep brain fog and headaches at bay. Fortunately headaches caused by low energy supply to the brain are rapidly remedied by eating glucose – so you can more or less wait for the first signs and then use it as a signal to eat a bit more. From the café there is a descent down to the dam and then it’s necessary to cross the dam and cycle around the lake before starting the climb up to the Cormet de Roselend. The climb up to the Cormet was very easy in comparison with a setting sun still providing body warmth even at 2000m altitude.           Timing was spot on as light was just starting to disappear when arriving at home. The small LEDs were perfect for making the bike visible and there was still ample light for seeing the road. 15 minutes after arriving it would be dark! My energy levels continued to improve right up to the 5hr 25min (not counting stops) and 119km end – despite eating very little and having missed the evening meal. The descent from the Cormet was excellent as the wind was from behind and the roads were completely empty. The dry hairpin bends are real fun and you can play with dynamics, trying to nail the bends with maximum speed and g-forces, without worrying about skidding and falling. Needless to say there is no gravel there either. After the hard ride my appetite – as usual – was curbed. The body goes into a post exercise ketogenic state – where it metabolises fat and produces ketones for energy and feeding the brain. It’s true that if you want to replace the glycogen (glucose crystals) in your muscle and liver stores then you are best to eat within an hour of exercise – but the big problem with this is that it completely shuts down fat metabolism. I decided at this point not to eat and to go straight into my weekly 36 hour fast – despite having just burned about 5000 calories in exercise. There is a slight risk here that the body might steal protein from the muscles to metabolise and produce glucose – but with the fat metabolism already running there is also a good chance that more fat will be burned. I would really like to lose a few more kilos just now – so weight loss is priority. I have heard in the past that a good way to lose weight is to “not eat” after a workout. Of course this is never properly explained. When you understand the logic then there is more motivation to carry out such a dietary restriction. 12 weeks of fasting exercises also removes the fear and apprehension of not eating. Endurance sport itself appears to have boosted my fat metabolism anyway as performance has improved – so there should be no issues with “bonking” during the 36 hours of fasting. Whether or not I can manage to go for a run during this period remains to be seen. Any exercise will be slow – at “fat burning” pace due to reduced energy availability. Apparently the training effect of a workout is every bit as powerful when on reduced energy as when going flat out on a high carb workout! When the body is fully keto-adapted apparently the “fat burning” pace is as high as the carbohydrate performance pace – so the “fat burning” label needs to be used very carefully. In effect “fat burning” is a pace which uses the highest absolute number of grams per hour of fat in metabolism – which is different for someone using carbs and someone who is keto- adapted. I’m not keto-adapted!

Chi Running – evolution

The previous evening’s run had been interesting. Having just come off a 36 hour fast (later in the week than usual due to competition and other events) there was no way to get up to full power – so it was a good time to work on technique and efficiency. There were two key issues that really stood out. First of all the efficiency of raising the heels the get the lower leg properly horizontal for the recovery – it makes a massive difference to the reduction in energy required to pull the leg forwards. Secondly there was a new sensation. Normally running is a matter of “pushing” to try to advance the body. Of course this is a massive screw-up as the propulsion should come from  gravity (deflected) – but even knowing this it’s mighty hard to avoid the temptation to actively push. On this occasion I really felt that acceleration and speed came from driving the thigh forwards – and not at all from pushing. When coordinated with the falling forwards of the body I noticed that instead of the driving forwards of the thigh causing a breaking effect (equal and opposite forces) – the power from the forwards drive went into the leg that was extending behind. The power was not coming from that support leg – it was coming from the recovering leg and core (abdomen/ mid-section) and upper body (arms). For speed – there is a cadence and rhythm that must be met – about 90 strides per minute – to ensure an energetic/elastic  rebound and “freewheeling” sensation. Running downhill for a moment can help to connect with the sensation – but it isn’t about speed it’s about cadence. Oddly however, when just focussing on cadence alone it’s easy to miss the effect!

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