Friday, June 11, 2010

it's going to be hotter than hell

.... when I get to Timor.

Like many riders headed to a race in a different part of the world, I am concerned about the heat and how to adequately prepare for it. Unfortunately I don't have the time to head over early - and let's face it not much changes in less than a week - and for full adaption I'd need atleast 2 weeks in that climate. Add that time to race days, and the worlds on only 3 weeks later - not possible to hit Darwin early and ride. So is there anything I can do?

I thought I would start by understanding what happens in that 2 weeks .....
Well this stuff is the guts of what you are trying to do when you acclimatise.

from Bill Henderson -

And all that stuff adds up to something everyone can understand. If you acclimatise you can push the pedals easier when you get there. That's right, same amount of output for less work.

Ok, sold? So the question then becomes how to acclimatise if you live in another country without the heat and can't get to your race location weeks in advance?

I think my office, my windtrainer and my heater have a date come September.
The important thing is to mirror conditions as best you can, and temperature and humidity are key. I think that might mean turning on the humidifier too. And a fan. I see a large electricity bill in my future..... should hook the trainer up to the grid!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

staying healthy....

So around this time of year (winter) I usually write a piece on managing immunity and staying well as an athlete - usually because I am sick and can't (won't) train. Not exactly a confidence inspiring admission - but here we go.... Last year apart from focusing on vitamins and minerals, I talked a bit about the importance of carbohydrate while training - even on short rides. Today let's look at the broader picture and general diet and unfolding role of probiotics for endurance junkies.

First of all, what's the problem for athletes and immunity anyway. Well it is now a generally accepted fact that athletes immune systems are disrupted by intense and/or heavy training for particular periods of time - specifically for a few hours straight after training (though this can extend in some cases for days). A whole bunch of important immune cells and regulators have been shown to be disturbed. I cannot even begin to imagine what a 24 hour race does! In fact, there is so much going on in this area that a new school of science, 'sports immunology', is gathering momentum.

The upshot is we as athletes are more susceptible to upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) than your average couch sitter, particularly during and after training. So that then begs the question - what can you do?? Most serious athletes will know the general behavioural guidelines for key pre-competition periods - wash your hands, avoid public places like shopping centres or public transport, and keep away from those you know are ill. That is all well and good, but how many of us can avoid our sick kids, or not go to work? I guess that leaves us with wash your hands.

Ok, so your hands are clean, you ate during training and you took your vitamins.... is there anything else you can do.... ??

Well research is indicating that probiotics may be useful to our athletic population in staving off the lurgy. Aussie researchers have shown that specifically for endurance athletes, probiotics can have a marked effect in preventing URTI, and if you do still manage to get it, they seem to shorten the duration and lessen the intensity.

So what is a probiotic? It's a good gut bacteria that is believed to stimulate the right immune responses (like fighting a URTI virus) and down regulate over excited immune activity (like allergies and inflammation). They also are thought to take up the 'prime real estate' and prevent others from moving in hence promoting health. There are a bunch of different strains - most people know about the acidophilus from yoghurt - but lactobacillius fermentum was the one used in study with the endurance runners and shown to have the effect we are interested in. Based on this it would seem a probiotic containing L. fermentum for endurance athletes in build/intense training cycles is probably not a bad idea.

So what is a prebiotic? A prebiotic is a food that selectively feeds probiotics once you have them onboard and encourages them to out compete any of the nasties that might also be around. They are a particular type of carbohydrate (oligosaccharides), though some fibres are included. Good sources are soybeans, onions, garlic, asparagus, bananas, legumes and leeks. If you fork out the $$ for a probiotic, you should feed the seamonkeys. Most of us get 2 to 3gms per day - you need more. Pay attention to your diet and ensure you include prebiotics by bumping these guys up or by taking one (about 5gm/day). Bumping them up shouldnt matter too much to your average endurance athlete in terms of calories - but if you are on a restricted diet, maybe look to the fibres as a source without so many calories.

What is for sure is that pre and probiotics is a very interesting area.
It is potentially part of the mechanism for the 'hygenie hypothesis', one of the reasons why breast feeding is thought to be so good, and certainly the focus of much interesting science to understand the complex nature of these good bacteria.

What do I make of it?? I guess it is time to learn to love yoghurt. Banana smoothie anyone?

Monday, June 7, 2010

that time of year

So not a lot of updates from SPR of late.
Work, family and no racing hasn't left much time or content for an entry. Base training is boring but necessary I suppose. Still the kilometres have (mostly) been going into the legs and now it is time to start thinking about testing the engine.

So first up - I am heading to ride the Tour de Timor in September as part of Team AQR. Claire Aubrey (Haugh), Sue Kleven and Libby Adamson make up the fabulous four for our female team. Claire is well-known from the great dirt roads to london squad and has pulled together the team. I am looking forward to riding with girls that have such great experience, seeing as though it will be my first stage racing experience.

I must say, looking at some of the images from last year it looks like I am in for some hard yards. Updates from those that went last year is that heat is really rough and lots of people had issues with the food and water, if you know what I mean. The course is a mix of roads and high altitude singletrack. A road in timor, is not the same as a road at home though... I'd still call that dirt :)
Five days of hard riding sounds like a perfect hit out before worlds. As long as I don't get malaria. Or crash. What's the worst that could happen?? Can't wait!