Sunday, August 24, 2014

Granfondo Cannondale Les 2 Alpes 2014–Ketosis Experiment

The Granfondo course is the last in a summer series of monster races that include the Marmotte. This course is 167 km long with 4100 m of climbing. For the last few years I've not felt up to this sort of challenge - largely due to feeling that it is too demanding. These races are in the heart of the Alps in very rugged terrain with long and sometimes very steep climbs over many hours. Every tactic I'd tried in the past more or less failed and I ended up plodding around in relative discomfort and only took satisfaction from finishing - usually in a certain amount of distress and unable to breathe properly. They always finish at high altitude with a large proportion of climbing at towards the end. More "user friendly" races try to have a 20km descent and plateau at the end so that you can get some oxygen into your brain and enjoy the finish at least.  I might add however that even just the satisfaction of finishing is great - but not quite great enough to encourage a return on a regular basis. This series of races however is marketed heavily in Holland and Germany to a very keen set of club racing enthusiasts - and the Dutch being completely deprived of hills are are more than enthusiastic, turning races like this practically into a religion... if only religion was as friendly and civilized! Perhaps it's because hard cycling is such a great leveller and relates to the great outdoors that it's an infinitely more valuable and human way to spend a Sunday than being brainwashed in a church. Unlike the Marmotte which has several thousand entrants the full length Granfondo would be lucky to reach 200! (in fact it ended up with only 183). The other race in the Alps close to this category is called the Vaujany - and it's early in the season - likewise limited to a few hundred entrants – but not quite a “Granfondo”. Personally I don’t like those massive events like the Marmotte and the Etape du Tour - which are extremely commercialised. The excessive number of participants is just unnatural and disturbing. Sure there's no chance of being isolated - but there is a serious chance of bicycle traffic jams and claustrophobia even in a location where agoraphobia is normally the rule. You can also be sure at those massive events of the gigantic fleet of busses and articulated trucks coming up the rear to collect the thousands of abandons! The Vaujany and Granfondo races are just the right size so that they become "personal" - but this is also intimidating because there is a certain level of both confidence and ability required - so they are perhaps not for the person who might take 12 hours to get around isolated on their own followed closely by the famous "voiture balai" (sweeper up van).

Mont Pourri (Savoie) – no photos yet from Les 2 Alpes so I took this from the balcony this morning at home.


My entry for this race was very last minute. Still recovering from the Tour de l'Ain exploit the previous Saturday I was initially in no mood for a return to such extreme events as the Granfondo. Chris Harrop set the ball rolling with the suggestion, but when eventually I made the decision to go for it he had already backed out due to family pressures. Once you decide on things like this though you start to become motivated so there is no going back. The weather would be fine - no rain - so no obstacles. The massive descents and high altitude would not be sensible in cold, wet weather. It turned out that I was too late to register online so would have to do so in Les Deux (2) Aples on the Saturday afternoon before the Sunday race. Despite starting preparations early on Friday evening - sorting out the bike and every little thing imaginable - I still managed to leave for Les 2 Alpes the next day without a jacket or fleece and without a pillow or my overnight battery charger for the telephone - which is used for feedback and recording during the race. The intention was to sleep in the estate car. The most important thing I did remember however was to print out my medical certificate - without which entrance would be refused. The bike was cleaned up, checking for any problems. The chain was relatively clean so only needed a wipe and re-oiling with ceramic oil and the rear tyre needed to be swapped for a fresh - still "round" - one for the race. Food and supplements for the actual race had to be prepared and then bedding and cooking stuff, plus food for the "car camping" - including water and coffee etc. Cleaning gear for the morning and a million and one details have to be sorted out. Just one thing left at home can cause a big disruption. Part of my "fog" during preparation was due to the added complication of having spent the entire week in a "ketosis" diet - with no carbs! Not that the low carb effect was causing a fog - just that it was much more to think about and uncertainty was generating indecision.

Ketosis - No Carbs!

Granfondo races are a big enough challenge - as I well know from miserable experiences in the past. Having started the summer discovering the incredible benefits of fasting I'd now moved on to a full "ketosis" diet - where the effects of fasting could be maintained even without caloric constraints. Currently though I manage a 12 hr daily intermittent fast and also one period of 36 hr fasting each week. Endurance exercise also generates “post exercise ketosis” and only a few days before the race I’d done a 22 km run – fasting straight afterwards. The race and the ketosis were now meeting each other in a head-on clash. What should I do? Abandon the diet or risk abandoning during the race? With complete indecision at this stage I prepared food for returning to pre-race carbohydrate loading and also for remaining carb-free. Perhaps it was during the drive to Les 2 Alpes that the decision was made. I was going to attempt this race with the body as empty of carbs as possible at the start. The only reason for not putting this to the test would be a combination of fear and ego - but also perhaps because it is such a radical departure from "conventional wisdom". There is always intense but invisible, unconscious pressure to conform – even despite good scientists overtly disagreeing with this conventional wisdom.

When the body has been working hard for about 2 hours then it incurs a carbohydrate debt - below normal levels – and that allows you to replace the carbs without impairing the fat burning metabolism. My strategy would be to go into the race with no significant carbs having been eaten all week and then after 2 hours into the race to start supplementing with carbs. The recommended approach is to eat salty Cashew nuts. When the body is in ketosis the kidneys excrete more salt so more salt needs to be eaten. Cashew nuts provide many nutrients and a slow release of carbs - so I prepared about one pound of nuts to carry in the race. In addition I prepared two flasks of 180g (dry weight) of maltodextrin/fructose mix - so that I'd have the option of going heavily on carbs if necessary. The maltodextrin is actually recommended by Dr Peter Attia - one of the best Keto experts around currently. This would mean carrying a lot of stuff but as I'd already lost 24.5 lb in weight this summer that wasn't too worrying.


Les 2 Alpes

The trip to Les 2 Alpes only took 2hrs 30 minutes and registration was fast and simple. There was a surprise "gift" from Cannondale of a tiny but very neat pressure control valve and two CO2 canisters - for tyre inflation. I had bought food down in the valley to cook for the evening meal and breakfast - to use coconut oil for a direct supply of ketones and to avoid restaurant food that is packed with cheap carbs. First thing I noticed however when arriving was how chilly it was even in the sun - which is when I realised my warm clothing was left at home. End of season summer sales are everywhere just now so I managed to pick up a decent fleece for 10 euros. Fortunately I'd put a windproof polar cycling top in my bag too and it was sober enough to wear as normal clothing over the fleece later on. In town there was a small coffee shop with pure Arabica organic coffee and a quiet atmosphere - so I could hang out there for a while when the sun went down.

My only problem in Les 2 Alpes was that the car lock failed - for the second time. I had to remove the rear driver side window panel to get in. Fortunately I keep this panel a thin transparent plastic for exactly this sort of problem - breaking the original window after a complete locking system lockdown three years ago. This time a penknife was used to prise the rubber and remove the window in minutes without damage. Peugeot doors and locks are seriously rubbish.

For eating I'd need to find a place to cook so drove to the far end of town - which terminates in a cliff which can be used for paragliding take-off. Here there was some green space and practically nobody - just a bench and table that could be used in privacy for preparing a high fat meal and eating it without any hassle. This is also where I'd return for parking up for the night and sleeping - just to escape the lights and noise in the town - which actually has an incredible amount of parking available on almost every street. Les 2 Alpes is very "parking friendly" and this is so smart compared with the hostile imbeciles who pretend to run Val d'Isère and Tignes. This resort is absolutely buzzing in the summer and there is a massive mushrooming mountain-bike culture. The coolest thing I saw however was a lady on a skateboard being pulled by her dog. The dog was really into it and each time she slowed down a bit it would take up the strain and go for it. If I ever get a dog I'll need to take up skateboarding.

The missing pillow was sorted out by using an extra sleeping bag rolled up - with half of it spread over the inflatable mattress and the other half rolled up under the head. It was perfect. The tiny Mammut mattress is absolutely excellent for comfort. You can pay a fortune for a stupid hotel but will never find a mattress as comfortable as this. Pushing the passenger seat forwards gives me more than a fully extended body length for stretching out. Yes! Sometimes it pays in life to be short!  The bike, fully prepared for the course with numbers, electronic timing chip and extra battery for the telephone all attached had the wheels removed and was placed across the front seats. About 20 minutes into trying to get to sleep there was a visit from the Municipal police to put a notice on the car windscreen to say that parking was prohibited there between 10pm and 7am. They didn't bother me though. Looking out of the window while lying there the stars were filling the sky and were properly visible thanks to being away from the glare of the town. Almost immediately a meteor shot out of the central area. A few minutes later there was a bight flash in the same area - just a point of light this time - as if a meteor was coming straight towards me. First time I've ever seen that before. 10 minutes later it happened again and then again but further east and then again even further east but this time with a very small trail. It was definitely interesting to watch but not helping me get to sleep. Eventually sleep came and seemingly instantly afterwards so did the alarm clock for 6:30am. I knew that even this early would leave a minimal time to get ready for the 8am race start – which is why I eventually got there with 2 minutes to spare. Coffee, cooked breakfast with loads of coconut oil, everything packed up in the car, all the cycling gear worn under warm clothing and all the cycling bits a pieces sorted out, telephone put on charge from the car and the bike prepared and then slid into the back - and it was off in the car and into town, parking close to the amazing fully automatic public toilets - an essential element for any last minute duties before a race.

Somehow my brain fog was clearing and I didn't forget anything. Last week I'd forgotten to put water in my bottles - this time I had magnesium and salt rich gassy (CO2) mineral water in both. To deal with the cold I'd put on thicker socks and a base layer beneath the jersey, with warm removable sleeves and a full thin “water-resistant” windbreaker layer on the outside. The electronic timing chip was beneath the saddle and a number on the handlebars for the photographers - but no jersey numbers - which is good if you have to wear a jacket. At the start however it was surprising at how few the participants were - perhaps even fewer than on the Tour de l'Ain the week previously. That's not a lot of people for such an internationally promoted event. It’s also pretty scary when you realise how long the course is and how spread out people can become over 100 miles of mountains when you need partners to help work against headwinds and long rolling sections to have any hope of a good time.

Race Start

The evening had been cold – except when sleeping because the down summer sleeping bag was too warm – and this coldness persisted outside in the morning. The start of the race would be a long descent all the way down the valley from 1650m altitude to 720m altitude at La Paute - 3km  beyond Bourg d’Oisans. With temperatures around 6°C this was going to have a real effect. I’m generally not good at getting going in the cold. The start would be neutralised until Freny d’Oisans at km 11 – with a reassembling of everyone together before the official timing start. I set my own clock from the very start in Les 2 Alpes because it was my personal goal to complete the entire 167 km circuit in under 8 hours and the KM markers on the planning were related to the this location. Anything under 8 hours would make me happy!

Prior to the start I was very apprehensive  because not only were we dealing with the cold but I’d committed to remaining carb free all the way until at least 2 hours into the race. This was scary because if it didn’t work I could end up in a real mess with complete exhaustion and a lot of discomfort. I’d read contradictory reports of some people suffering terrible cramps and performance losses when this approach hadn’t worked for them – so anything was possible. The coconut oil in the morning was to supply pure ketones direct to the brain – in substitution for glucose. Hopefully my body was now fabricating its own ketones by now – but I currently have no equipment for measuring that (cheap semiconductor based alcohol breath testers can measure acetone in the breath so I have one ordered from China for 9 euros!). The problem is that during keto-adaptation – which takes a minimum of 3 weeks – the muscles themselves don’t get much of the ketones supplied to them as they are reserved to keep the brain working. My feeling was that even the modest level of physical training I had was enough to ensure that I was at least burning fat to a reasonable degree so that should keep the muscles going and any ketones that I made should be probably enough to keep the brain running and avoid bonking. Ketones are a by-product of fat burning and can directly replace glucose in the brain and it is the preferred fuel for the heart. It’s a mistake to accept the common “official” view that the brain is dependent on carbs for fuel – it simply is not.

When we arrived at the dam junction, still a few miles from the official start, the control car had to stop to let traffic through and a white van charged up the outside right up to the junction. This idiot was trying to overtake the entire mass of cyclists, dozens of security motorbikes, ambulances and security vehicles! One French cyclist was chasing it because he must have had a close shave and he was yelling at the people in the vehicle and slapped it hard when he caught up. Out of the vehicle stepped a hysteric French girl and she started screaming and pushing the cyclist – forcing him to defend himself. This led on the silly boyfriend who was also in the vehicle and he came out with fists flying all over the place. It developed into a real fight. At least one cyclist had his bike damaged. Personally I felt the van people should have been arrested and locked up. However, we all went on out ways after security intervened. I forgot to stop my clock so about 5 minutes needs to come off the overall time for that incident alone. Before we got to Freny and the start I was shaking on the bike from cold during the descent. While waiting at Freny some people were shivering violently – depending much on how much they were wearing.

From the actual start there was a climb of 150m in altitude which sorted out the shivering but it would be 5 hours into the race before my feet stopped feeling cold. This climb told me that my legs did not feel great. Was it the cold or the ketosis? I could maintain a reasonable pace but not go fast. In a way that’s not too bad because I always make the error of pushing too hard at the start and ending up in a group that is too fast – wearing me out prematurely. I’d noticed when running three days earlier (22km run) that the ketosis made the start of exercise seem sluggish – probably because that’s when the body tends to be heavily into carb metabolism. After about a half an  hour to forty minutes when the body has warmed up and then fat burning works well. This is probably why pros warm up for 40 minutes before a time trail. In contrast we had been descending and freezing so I think I collected all the negatives in one basket. Mentally I just wasn't into it either – probably due to cold and poorly adapted ketosis together again.

I used my descending skills to catch up a bit before reaching the valley floor and so fell in behind a fairly strong rider for drafting along the 7 km valley plateau into a slight headwind. Three of us did rotations on the front and this was a good place to test the legs. It was hard getting the legs to cooperate but they still functioned. It was only when reaching the turn off at La Paute up to the first climb that I realised we we pulling along a peloton of 17 in total. All my references to subjective feelings are null and void with this developing ketosis experience. It’s impossible to judge subjectively which is why measuring it in competition is so important.

Hitting the bottom of the climb the entire peloton passed me. I’m quite used to that even though it didn’t happen last week. The cold legs and glucose starvation left me very unsurprised as I watched the peloton disappear into the distance. This was just the start of a 10km climb – the first of many. Needless to say I felt slightly worried and demoralised at this point and not at all buzzing as I’d been the week before at Ain when pumped full of carbs.

Climb 1

The first proper climb was 10km to the Col d’Ornon. I’ve always been terrible at transitions between flat rolling terrain and hills. I have no idea why this is the case but it is clear and obvious. Two young Germans had taken the lead of the peloton in the climb. They were very pro looking with well developed thighs and very slick looking altogether. One other fit looking guy had the head of a lion roaring tattooed on his left calf muscle. Other than Bradley Wiggins’s recent horrible arm tattoos you don’t see many people silly enough to make this sort of blunder. Anyway it makes it easier to recognise people so it can be useful.

The climb progressed and the peloton fractured into bits up ahead with the Germans and Lion leg disappearing out of sight eventually. My heart rate was sitting around 154 bpm so there wasn’t much that could be done to change the situation. Something strange then happened. We were now around one hour into the official race and with about 2 km left of this first climb. I suddenly started to feel different, the head clearing and legs working. Over this 2 km I went form being dumped by the entire peloton to catching up even those who had previously vanished out of sight and ended up leading the group again by the top of the col. It appears that the fat burning metabolism had started to kick in properly. Not being properly keto-adapted it was inevitable that I might have to wait for this to happen.

There would be a very long descent and rolling flats ahead so I let the two German “pros” take the lead and do the work – which they seemed very happy about. This is very stunning countryside and national park (Ecrins) area so by drafting there was enough time and energy to allow a bit of looking around – though not much as attention has to be kept on the other cyclists for safety. We continued like this heading generally South West until km 53.4 at Les Angelas. This would mark the start of what was easily the hardest climb of the day.

Climb 2

Right at the bottom of the climb up the Col du Parquetout I was once again overhauled by an invisible peloton that had been hiding right behind me – this time the 17 had been reduced to 14. The problem now was that the start of this climb was a 4 km stretch of between 11% to 15% gradient – and my gearing was far from ideal. The small 36T oval chain ring is just too hard at this gradient – even with a 28T cog on the rear. Perhaps it’s the “oval” making the push phase more like a 38T. I was wishing for my old 34T circular chain ring back again. Predictably everyone disappeared ahead and though I struggled with the gearing the gaps didn’t grow too much. It was very demoralising though and at times I had an internal voice suggesting to me that I should really stop. When the head goes into this dark area it’s not nice. Eventually, despite all of that we popped out at the summit to find a ravitaillement (drinks supply) stall where water bottles could be refilled. There were no feeding stations yet – just water supply. More than a few were probably annoyed about this but it was marked so on the planning. Lo and behold the Germans were just ahead getting their bottles filled – so I hadn’t lost any significant time. One minute’s stop to take on water was enough to chill the sweat soaked body for the next descent. When I set off to chase after the Germans (who were gone already) the reality of how tired that climb had left the legs suddenly set in. There was no force there to be used. We were now 2 hours into the race and it seemed that it might be game over for this little experiment already. The mental and physical clarity that had appeared on the first climb had more or less vanished by now. Remembering the plan to eat carbs from the 2hr mark I just got out the flask and swallowed the first carbs of any sort for over a week. The rest itself during the start of the descent was actually enough to surprisingly bring the legs back – so instead of giving up I went on the attack – reeling in the Germans and a good handful of others right at the bottom of the descent – just in time for a short climb and then a long plateau where the advantage of drafting and being in a group was necessary. So far so good. The next real climb would commence at km 77.6 and I was still in the race. Last week when heavily on the carbs I was already done by km 69! (In fact I’d last until  km 86 today on the Col de la Morte – appropriately named!) Around about now though the reality of the immense amount of climbing still ahead was beginning to sink in and thoughts started wandering towards devising a “plan b”. After considering abandoning and hitching a lift or waiting for the “voiture balai” I eventually decided that this was silly as this thinking was mostly based on fear and I could always slow down and plod to the end enjoying scenery if necessary. I was still fully covered with the wind breaker and cold feet so perhaps morale was just a bit low. The task ahead did seem daunting though.

Climb 3

The next climb (a series of two) began at Sevioz km 77.6. Just before reaching this turn off most of our original peloton had regrouped but about 30 seconds before arriving at the turn off I saw another peloton numbering about 20 already at the turn off. We must have gained a good bit of time on the last section but  unfortunately we never actually caught them. This is in fact where it all started to fall apart. The shorter part of the climb was about 6.5 km then followed by a short descent and another 12 km climbing up to the Col de la Mort. The Col de la Morte (Pass of Death!) has been likened to a mini Alpe d'Huez with numerous switchbacks up to the ski resort of Alpe de Grande Serre. However, on the first climb the slightly heavier set German very surprisingly started to crack. His friend went ahead but as we reached the short descent and plateau I waited for a moment to see if he could draft me into what was now a strong headwind. He was going through a bad moment because he didn’t make it. This meant that the entire plateau had to be traversed solo against an intense headwind. Close to the end of the plateau I saw a shadow of someone behind me and it was the German who had recovered and caught up – probably some time back. He was drafting me against the headwind and as a result was able to pull ahead slowly on reaching the actual climb up to the Col de la Morte. Now I was getting tired and about 5 others overtook me on this climb. This is about the point where my morale was at it’s lowest and thoughts of not finishing were quite persistent. Fighting not only uphill but against a powerful gale funnelling head on down the valley was not, according to my still cold and tired legs, any idea of fun. The important thing was to push on as best as possible. There was a proper feeding ravitaillement at the the top of this climb and right there were the two Germans again – the faster one having waited for his friend. I dismounted the bike properly this time and had some Coke to drink, just a little banana and a date but very little else. After stopping for a pee and then topping up on water I was off but now quite happy to just let the two Germans go.  It was now an extremely fast 1000 vertical metre descent down to 376m at Séchilienne- km 113.5. The difference in temperature as it warmed up during the descent was extremely welcome as my feet had been cold for almost 5 hours now since leaving Les 2 Alpes.

Climb 4

Right at the bottom of this descent, when taking up pressure on the pedals, I got my regular as clockwork “5th hour” cramp welling up on the inside of the right leg. I tried shaking it loose but this time it got me –though only for a moment and then with light pedalling it died away. Lucky! Now – also very lucky – that strong valley wind was coming from behind so it didn’t really matter being isolated. In fact it was really enjoyable being able to set my own pace and just feel the wind pushing gently from behind and warming up the body. We were set for a long 14 km climb on the main road – likely to be a solo time trial and then another 7 km on a faux plat up to the base of Alpe d’Huez. The tail wind removed the pressure to worry about drafting anyone. Oddly enough the descent, prior to the cramp, was also very enjoyable being so fast and with the temperature going up. Those were the first positive thoughts I seem to have experienced all day. Having felt borderline miserable for 5 hours this was a surprise.

About 5km into the climb I was getting hot for the first time. It was easiest just to pull over and take off all the weather gear – rather than faff around and risk falling doing it when cycling. One guy passed me while stopped but it didn’t matter – it was nice to get the warm air drying the sweat drenched clothing now. Slowly I started to close up on the guy who’d passed and then someone else – wearing a camelback appeared on my tail and he drafted for a while. I could feel the warm air and sun infusing my body and seemed to be getting stronger and faster as a result. We caught the guy ahead and he tagged along and then Camelback went in front and took over for a while. We started to do rotations and gradually picked up speed and eventually the other guy joined in. Suddenly we were back in business and reeling people in from quite a long distance ahead. Very unexpected. My dark mental state had gone away but I’d only eaten a small amount of sugar so it wasn’t that.

Climb 5

At last we were at the foot of Alpe d’Huez. We would be climbing the lower section – which also happens to be the steepest section and about 3 km long. Suddenly when hitting this wall we encountered the familiar heat that always seems to be present in this special corner of France. I’ve never climbed this in anything but heat. Once again I was dropped by the new posse as I battled to cope with the transition from flats to steeps. Camelback had gone way ahead and the other guy from our original trio also pulled away. There were a few obstacles to negotiate as a large team of people were actually skating up the hill and some were struggling right from the start and before the first hairpin bend. It was the only other section of climbing today between 11% and 15% – but blissfully that gradient would only last one kilometre and not four again. Surprisingly this time I seemed to click into place and by moving the upper body slightly more over each pedal stroke I noticed that I could ensure  more weight on the appropriate pedal and a lightening of the other side – a bit like when standing up and pedalling. When I started doing this I found that it caused an acceleration and noticeably higher speed so I just kept at it and gradually wound everyone back in again. By the time the 3 km climb was over I’d caught and left behind all the others who had pulled ahead at the bottom and remember saying to myself how strange it was to be now feeling like I was really enjoying this – the start of the section I’d anticipated earlier on in the day never even reaching. Shortly after this climb there was a final feeding ravitaillement. Once again I dismounted and both ate and drank as well as charge up the water bottles again and managing another pee. When heading off a guy in orange (Dutch presumably) pulled ahead by about 150 m. We had a 7 km climb ahead and he remained 150m ahead the whole time. The climb was stunning with the narrow single track road cutting across a sheer cliff face above Bourg d’Oisans. At one section the roadside barrier was perhaps a foot high and there was a vertical 300m drop to certain death on the other side. I stayed away from that! There were tunnels to go through and a truly spectacular view which I was now in a state of mind to properly enjoy. Although we were climbing up to 1336 m we would have to descend back down to Freny d’Oisans at 933m before the 11km climb back up to the finish at Les 2 Alpes. Nobody had overtaken me and stayed ahead now since that cramp attack right at the lowest altitude of the day.

Climb 6

Going into the final climb of the day was slightly intimidating. This is where it can easily go pear shaped. I’d kept the legs turning on the last descent to avoid any recurrence of cramps and that seemed to have helped and the cramps never returned. From Freny I calculated that it was still possible to get to the end within the 8 hours if I kept each kilometre of the climb beneath 6 minutes – so it was a battle from now on to hear “5 minutes…” at each km from my telephone – and surprisingly I was managing it. The Orange guy was still 150 m ahead even when we reached the dam and started the real climb up to the ski station. Another Orange guy was there now and he had dismounted, probably due to cramps and was obviously struggling. Strangely once again I started to feel even better and felt some more power in the legs and began to pick up speed. The new Orange guy was picked off rapidly and about 3 km later I finally caught the original orange guy and was getting stronger. Another group of 3 cyclists had to pull over and stop as a girl in their group was having some sort of crisis. All the time I was getting faster. 3 km from the top I suddenly came across one of the Germans – this time the thinner one – who was now very slow. He was rapidly overtaken and then next appeared Lion Leg from the original peloton and he was overtaken too. Only one guy stayed with me on the climb and refused to be overtaken – unlike 8 others.

The Finish

The final kilometre was mentally very tough because you just keep imagining that it’s already over – but you have to keep on pushing and keep the rhythm and power flowing. Crossing the line was just a sense of relief. I continued on directly to the car and felt perfectly fine dismounting. No breathing problems and other than feeling tired no physical problems at all. I organised everything in the car, sorted out a clothing change and packed the bike. That still left time to see some of the prize giving and then have the meal. The meal was mostly carbs but the immediate “ketosis” task was already accomplished so I was quite happy to eat them under the circumstances – especially as the standard and quality of food has risen slightly – probably due to people complaining about the horrible food they used to provide. When you have a large “carb debt” from exercise then it doesn’t interfere with ketosis to eat some carbs.

When eating the meal and looking out over the closed off reception area near the race finish I had seen that there were quite a few gendarmes hanging around. Then I spotted the hysterical girl from the fight in the morning. Apparently she was still hysterical and managing to wind up the gendarmes and her gullible boyfriend was being led deeper into trouble. It appeared that the gendarmes had confiscated their vehicle which was parked now in the reception area and they where clearly upset at not being allowed to have it back. Nice to see the gendarmes doing their job properly!


It took a day to realise that this is the first time I’ve ever completed such a gruelling endurance event without feeling completely destroyed by the end. In contrast the last three hours felt really good both mentally and physically – with the final climb being strong.  My overall goal of being under 8 hours was achieved – 7 hrs 57 mins on my clock – (without subtracting the delay time for the fight). The official time was 7 hrs 35 mins from the Freny start and this was 25 minutes inside the “gold” category for my age group – and also comfortably inside the gold category for the 40 to 49 group.  My placing in age category was 28th (out of 42)and overall 137th (out of 183 participants). I hadn’t touched the pound of cashew nuts that had been carried the entire distance and a full heavy flask of sugar mix remained untouched. During the entire final descent and final climb I ate nothing – but felt stronger all the way. The main limit that could be felt was simply fitness due to lack of training and mileage. It’s three years since tackling such an event and this is easily my best performance of this type by a long way – so I guess that makes ketosis a winner.

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