Training, Racing & LCHF Fueling For Skating And Endurance Sports
This post is going to be a mishmash of training updates and various other tidbits that maybe don’t justify an entire essay by themselves but that I like to commit to public record. Let’s get to it!
Immediately after the Thames Meander Marathon, my focus shifted to “Le Mans mode”. I was – and am – prepared to train like a madman and do whatever is needed, log whatever hours I needed to log, climb whatever mountains I needed to climb, in order to get myself into the best shape of my life when I toe that start line in June. I trained hard last year – as hard as I could at the time, but now I’m a year stronger and wiser I should be able to handle more. At least in theory.
However, the reality is that in the aftermath of the marathon I felt flat, slow and lethargic for far longer than it took for the DOMS to eventually from my system. That’s how it should be after a proper big race – your body needs time to recover – but there is always the part of you (I think it’s called “ego”) that never wants to admit this. As such, it’s simply not realistic to peak for more than 2 -or perhaps 3 at most – marathon or ultra distance races a year.
Nonetheless, I gritted my teeth, strapped on my skates, and put in the hours that I felt I needed to. It was slow, my technique was poor, the gales & the rain were horrid. You gotta be prepared to embrace the suck. During this training block I again followed the 3|1 build|recovery pattern… peaking with a very solid 17hrs total (10hrs skating) in the 3rd week.
And at last, things did eventually get better.. on many fronts. The clocks went forward, the daffodils sprang out of nowhere, I finally felt the strain of the marathon was out of my system, and I could feel better form and rhythm return to my skating. There is more fitness and form to come, but it’s a start.
Just this last weekend we finally hit some real bonafide T-Shirt weather. On Friday I had the opportunity to lead the weekly LFNS on the epic Circle Line skate – a 17 mile round trip touching all the tube station on the old Circle Line (that’ll be the yellow line, for non-Londoners) before they built the dogleg down to Hammersmith.. somehow renaming it the “@ Line” doesn’t really work. We have skated this route once a year for many years.
Then on Saturday I managed to drag myself to the normal LSST indoors training session, which has been extended to 2hrs, and has now moved more towards fitness & interval-based work… it is a harder and more intense session than it was over the winter. After that came something slightly less structured – the i-Treasure Hunt organized by skating legend RichardH (who did the Le Mans solo with me last year and will be competing in the Duo category this year) – a mad 3hr dash all over London (on skates, naturally) trying to solve and snap as many photo clues as possible. The emphasis ,at least for our team, was firmly on having some fun, and a chance to see some old still-skate-occasionally friends. Afterwards, all the teams gathered back at base HQ (aka the Alexander Flemming pub, Paddington), where prizes were awarded, and possibly a little too much vin rouge was consumed on my part.
And then on Sunday the Hawaiian Shirt came out to round off a great weekend of skating with a terrific Sunday Stroll that had some great long and smooth sections, followed by the first Hyde Park picnic of the year, and then an impromptu (and fast!) 8-wheeled dash across town to celebrate Minion-Richard’s birthday at the trendy Bounce ping-pong bar. Again, possibly a little too much vino tinto was consumed during the proceedings.
Street skating is still the bread and butter activity of many inline/fitness skaters in our skating community, and after such a great weekend it’s easy to see why. I am certainly not tired of it in any way, after getting my first set of inline wheels 8 years ago.
Street skating, however, is nowhere near enough if you want to become a good speed/endurance skater. In fact, the stop and start nature of a street skate makes it more like a fartlek workout – a nice “playful” session, but not that useful if you neglect the basics of training. Hill training is a crucial element if you want to do well on on a course that.. contains hills – shock revelation. Ultra-runners know this, of course and plan for it in their training, but it’s amazing how many skaters actively shy away from anything greater than a small incline. Richmond Park is close to my doorstep, and I do most of my hill training there. I like to skate 1-mile hill repeats that runs from the Ballet School on top of the inner loop, down to the exit at Stag Lodge Stables. It’s a great strip – one of the most beautifully scenic locations you could hope to find in all of London – where you can just go practice going up and down on all day. The cyclists and motorists tend to use the outer loop, meaning there is far less traffic than elsewhere in the park. It’s also a very good approximation for the section of the LeMans track between the final corner and the top of the chicane. I can’t emphasize enough that I consider Hill Training is crucial if you want to do well at Le Mans in the solo or duo category. I have already opened my Hill Training account for this year, and will aim to do more hill sessions than I did last year.
Thrice a week I will do 20 minute of “Offskate” – these are exercises and drills that generally simulate the actions and body position of skating, but on dryland without skates. Single/double leg squats, lunges, side-to-side jumps, low walking, wall-sits, walking crossovers, and various other exercises that all engage the “speed skater”position. You can Youtube plenty of offskate exercises – no need for further elaboration here!
I recently took the minimalist theme one step further and tried some actual barefoot running. My initial intention was to just run 1 mile to see how I’d cope, and I must admit that I did feel a little uncomfortable at first, but I also found that if you pick your surfaces carefully – even between different pavement surfaces there can be a great difference – it was very doable. I felt good after a mile, so I carried on and ended up notching 5km at the end. Not bad at all for a first effort! Barefoot running is the most natural form of runnning, and if you can become comfortable as a barefoot runner then your form probably isn’t too far off what it ideally should be for your particular body specifics.
What I immediately noticed was simply that my feet felt lighter and faster – without shoes your footspeed is automatically a few strides a minute faster, and the lack of extra weight definitely helps you with a high leg recovery, helping to create a shorter “lever” to pull through.
I also think that being able to run barefoot is a good reflection of basic health of one’s feet. Just about any athlete can benefit from having great foot health, and especially if you are a speed skater who spends a good deal of time in a rigid carbon race skate. Some skaters have no problem spending all day in their skates, others complain that their feet hurt like hell after an hour.. and I believe them. I used to think that the difference was simply down to skate fit, and that some people were blessed to have feet the right shape to fit most skates while others were unlucky and had unwieldy feet. While I still think that that is the case, I now also believe that basic foot health is also a big part of the reason why many people simply can’t adapt to a speed skate. If you have good basic foot health then you will be far more adaptable, be able to skate in a wide range of boots, and spend much longer in them.
Your feet are amazing biomechanical structures – they contain a quarter of all your skeletal bones, and all the forces that your body generates for movement are typically expressed through the feet. So look after them, listen to them, and pay very careful attention to the feedback they are giving you.
What am I talking about? Standing?! Again, taking a leaf out of the wiley ultra-runner’s handbook, they will tell you that, as much as speed, simply being used to time on your feet is a big aspect of successful ultra-marathoning. Think about it – if you are planning to run/walk or indeed skate for 24 hours, then being able to comfortably handle being on your feet – ie not sitting down or leaning – with minimal fatigue is a prerequisite to that. So on Sunday I made the commitment to be on my feet all day – 16 hrs on my feet from morning to bedtime. This was tough, I can tell you…. as someone who is inherently lazy and often say that sitting is vastly under-rated, nobody appreciates relaxing on their backside as much as I. But precisely because modern life has removed these physical demands on us, making this sort of a commitment is a great way to reconnect the body with the sort of low-level aerobic fitness we should naturally have evolved with. When you’re death-marching at 22hrs into an ultra, that’s when this sort of stuff makes a difference. I will certainly include a few more of these days in my preparation between now and June.
Alas, it has not all been daffodils and treasure hunting, and a couple of pesky things have held me back. The biggest one is that the ankle is becoming a problem. Ankle issues are fairly common with skaters, unfortunately, and it seems that I may be on the way to joining the fashionably “fucked-ankle” club unless I can find a solution to my ease the pressure point on my right ankle. At the moment my solution is to go back to my old skate – at least the for the right boot – so I’ve been skating with odd-skates. Not a trendy footballer style statement… just doing what I gotta do to protect my ankle.
Finally, an update on my eating. As ever I want to write more, much more about my constantly evolving dinner plate, but for now I will keep it to a couple of new things…
Hell Yes. I used to think that chocolate is junk to be avoided, and indeed most of it is, but if you go for the high 85%-90% cocoa chocolate it’s surprisingly devoid of sugar. A 100g bar of 90% Lindt dark chocolate is about 55g fat and 14g carb (7g sugar), so technically you can eat a LOT of it and still keep your sugar intake very low. It makes a great snack by itself, but the best thing about it is that it is the *perfect* binding/setting ingredient for my home-made energy bars! The cocoa content means that the chocolate has a far higher melting point than your normal junk chocolate bar, which can be as little as 25% cocoa. At last, I finally have a bomb-proof energy bar recipe that doesn’t disintegrate in my pocket!
One of my new things is drinking tea – Ginger & Tumeric tea, to be precise. Both these spices contain the active ingredient curcumin which is one of the best natural anti-inflammatories you can find. I just add large pinch of each to a mug of hot water, and try to have this once a day at my desk at work. If I make it at home I might also add in some cloves, cinnamon & a splash of coconut oil to help with absorption.. all spices have potent health benefits, so make use of them as often as you can!
OK, that’s about it for now. British Summer Time is here! The Heatwave is coming. Let’s keep things rolling!