After Leadville, I dialed way back on the training for a few months, an off-season, if you will. During this time, I read several related books and spent many hours perusing the Web as I thought about next racing season and some big adventures I intend on doing in the near future. I came across many opinions and research papers on ideal racing weight and the effect of weight on running performance. Anyone reading this post can also spends LOTS and LOTS of time gaining their own insight into this surprisingly controversial topic (I am not opening that Pandora's box!). It's not my intent to even suggest how one should lead their life. Everyone has to carve out their own path. For me, training to race and to live life to its fullest potential is a way of life, an unbreakable and non-negotiable contract I have made with myself. Again, to each his own.
At the end of October, I decided to give Fitzgerald's ideals a whirl during my 8-week building period for next year and as the Orizaba climb draws near. In synopsis, there are 5 steps to the plan from Fitzgerald's excellent book.
#1. Moderate calorie deficit
After working through some basic calculations from the book and investing in a good scale (with a body fat analyzer), I determined my so-called "racing weight" and further determined that I would operate at a deficit of 300 calories a day during my build. A very helpful app I downloaded on my iPhone is MyFitnessPal. I find that most sources overestimate calories burned in exercise and underestimate calories consumed eating but this app does a nice job of keeping track of all of that.
#2. Strength training
This wasn't a big deal for me because I am fanatical about incorporating strength training in my exercise regimen. Strength and conditioning coach Beth Byron has dialed up some dandy routines to keep me busy twice-a-week and to keep the hip bursitis in check.
#3. Increased protein intake
Fitzgerald suggests 30% of your caloric intake should be protein during this period. The reason is twofold. First, protein reduces hunger. Second, protein will serve to help build muscle while strength training so that the weight that you do lose is body fat.
This has not been a trivial task because it runs so counter to the way I eat; carbs, carbs, and more carbs! Nevertheless, through careful selection of foods, I have been able to pull it off. I've been eating Greek yogurt, soy products (e.g., tempeh), egg whites, cheese, protein bars, and a great protein drink from Peaceful Planet, just to name a few things. And let's not forget my Kashi Golean Cereal!
#4. Sprint intervals
I've still been doing speedwork during the build but not of the same sort as during my training where 10-20% of my milage would be in the form of high intensity 4-to-5 mile tempo runs on a flat ground, for example. Instead, Fitzgerald incorporates weekly hill sprints and hill repeat workouts on a small-scale, for physiological reasons he clearly spells out in his book. For example, this morning I did a run in the following fashion; 15 minutes easy, followed by 10 thirty second bursts up a hill (10% grade) at a Zone 4 speed sustainable through the last repeat with active recovery after each interval, followed by 15 minutes easy again.
#5. Fasting workouts
This might be the more unpleasant component of the build. You get up in the morning and go for a mildly long run without eating anything (e.g., two hours in Zone 2). The idea is to force your body to consume body fat as an energy store as opposed to drawing on available carbohydrates. For a guy that likes his bowl of oatmeal in the morning prior to his workout ... ouch!
I should add a 6th step that I have modified.
#6. Cross training
Fitzgerald has you do a spinning workout ... yes, spinning! Thanks to triathlete Sarah Quesen and her husband Conrad, I was able to get my Specialized bike set up in my apartment on a fluid trainer. A typical workout goes something like this: 10 minutes easy in a low gear, followed by 16 ten second bursts all out in a high gear with a minute's rest, followed by 10 minutes easy in a low gear again. Spinning workouts are done once a week.
I also decided to add two swimming workouts each week. I am not really a swimmer so I don't do anything extreme at all (currently, 10 x 100 on 3 minutes).
In closing, of course it is far too early to tell what the last several weeks have accomplished. I have lost two pounds. It has been body fat. My hip feels pretty darn good. My runs have felt really good and I have a spring in my step. Only time will tell the tale. I confess that as scientist and a statistician I love playing around with this stuff :-)