Sunday, June 28, 2015

GFNY Mont Ventoux 2015

"Le Géant de Provence"

GFNY (Granfondo New York) - their first ever event at Mont Ventoux! Talk about taking things up a notch! Superb presentation and very professional management. I hope the French take note! There were supposedly around 1000 participants - though the results show only about half of that (I'm currently questioning GFNY over this slight discrepancy). The majority registered for the 140km route and about 1/3rd went in for the 115km - which was pretty much the same itinerary but minus an additional loop with 500m more climbing. My logic was that it was best to do the 115km as the race ended with the massive 1610m, 21.5km Ventoux climb (A relentless 10% gradient over the middle 10km) from Bédoin to the summit. I didn't want to arrive at the start of that climb with the legs already completely destroyed. This Bédoin climb was on the South side, exposed to the sun and it would take place later in the morning when the temperature would already be very high.

Despite the blistering Provence heat - and unusual complete absence of wind - I'd probably rate this race as the best ever. Not all of this is attributable to GFNY or the location - though they both played a big role. Most of the reason for a successful day was due to improved training strategy and having a very positive companion - Christiane -  for the weekend.


When camping overnight there is a ridiculous amount of organisation involved - where attention to detail is critical. Just one single forgotten item can cause pure havoc. On this occasion nothing significant was forgotten. We had a new bigger tent (with no proper assembly instructions) and comfortable bedding. We'd eaten a large ketogenic breakfast at 7am and I'd taken Marty (visiting) to Bourg St Maurice for 7:45, returning to Laundry to have snow-tyres swapped for summer tyres for the long trip. Unfortunately it took until 9:30 to escape the garage - big mistake leaving this job so close to departure. Two bikes fully prepared the previous day, cycling gear, camping gear and food protected by ice and an electric cooler (ice added inside the cooler) - were all rapidly piled into the car. Camp sites wouldn't take reservations so we had spoken to a friendly one at Faucon - 6km from Vaison-la-Romaine where the race was based and arranged that we could arrive around 5pm without stress and still find a place to camp. The GPS (Sony Z1 Compact phone) was set directly for the camp-site so we could arrive there first, find a pitch, set up the tent and then go into Vaison for race registration without worrying about the camping arrangement. Fortunately they had pitches outside of the main security so we could drive out on race morning before the barrier system was functioning.

Arriving at Vaison-la-Romaine (5hr to 6hr trip) it was slightly tricky to find the expo and race registration location - but by stopping and asking in a bike shop that problem was rapidly removed. Registration was simple and there was no need to commit to either route at this point. Unfortunately they doubled the inscription fee for last minute entries so it's good to know that for future planning. Better to pay half and risk losing it than to lose the same amount anyway when you do turn up - but having paid double overall. The cost however included a very acceptable full zip jersey and as I'm short on medium sized jerseys this more than compensated for the extra cost. GFNY had a large banner printed up showing the routes very clearly. The entire scene was clearly very professional. We had a number for the front of the bike and one for the jersey plus a timing chip for the bike, the jersey itself and a wrist band for the feeding stations (and post race meal) - all of which were compulsory for participation.

Christiane bought a new helmet at the Ekoi stand and I acquired three pairs of socks - all top quality but at bargain prices as usual from Ekoi. Rather than look for a restaurant for eating we added to our food supplies by visiting the nearby supermarket and then from the race start location we took the car and scouted the start of Christiane's own route for her solo cycling adventure the following day. She would ride from Vaison to Malaucène and from there make her own ascension up the North side of Mont Ventoux. Christiane's confidence level for this was low as she had not trained at all and was using my old steel framed racing bike which weighs half a ton. (10kg compared to 6Kg for the new bike) Near Malaucène we found a perfect, peaceful and sheltered spot in the countryside to stop near the road and have our high quality ketogenic dinner outdoors. That was far better than any restaurant.

Unfortunately, although the camp-site was quiet there was a village fête perhaps a kilometre away with stupidly noisy music and insane screaming until 5am. Somewhere there were also two village clocks that chimed out every hour during the night - very noisily. Perhaps we slept for about one hour in total and we were up by 5:45. That's a common problem with camping! At least the cigales (crickets) shut up. It was the birds starting off with the early dawn breaking that was the final straw though.

(Image on the left is Gorges de la Nesque)

Breakfast had been prepared in advance (full ketogenic of course) and was eaten cold out of the cooler. The night before everything required for the day was placed and properly organised in the car so that by 6:45 we were off to the start location. In the morning only water bottles had to be filled (gassy mineral water) and tyres pumped up. Supplements were already set out to put in the pockets and being Sunday we could park at that supermarket car park right at the start location of the race. By 7am Christiane was already off on her route and I was going to the start. (for a 7:30 start) The previous day I'd verified that the registration building would be open and had located the toilets - because there is ALWAYS need for a second visit on race day! Sure enough - a massive attack of the runs - but perfectly handled! Joining the start with about 20 minutes to go it was easy to squeeze along to around the middle of the crowd - which is  a heck of a lot better than being stuck at the back. The road was wide so any mass start would be relatively efficient. Weather was perfect - clear skies, warm and no wind.

Race Start, KM 0

The guy standing beside me on the left was straddling his own bike frame and holding another two bikes - with only five minutes left before the start. I caught his attention and pointed out that I was impressed, telling him that all I had with me was a spare inner tube and had had two complete spare bikes! It turns out that his two companions had headed off to buy coffees as they hadn't had time in their hotel - but with 4 minutes left now this was getting a bit desperate. Luckily they did make in back in time with their coffees. Coffee is not only a great painkiller but it mobilises fat and sugar for metabolism, plus it has an effect on genetic expression leading eventually to the body pumping out massive quantities of natural antioxidants. Perhaps it's not surprising that cyclists make a bee line for the coffee machine.

One thing I'd forgotten to bring from Aime was the charger for the optical wrist Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) fortunately since figuring out how to use this device properly the laser can now function solidly for over 20 hours so the 5 hours or so of racing would be no problem. Meantime the use of it as a wristwatch placed no demand on power as it was set to only display on touching. Using Bluetooth 4 already paired with my Sony Z1 Compact phone meant that there was no worry about starting up the HRM and phone app amongst all the other cyclists. The Bluetooth 4.1 earbuds connected immediately too and within seconds everything was ready to go at the push of a button. I use audio feedback in one ear - for distance, pace and heart rate every kilometre. It's like having your own private coach along with you.

The race started while a drone was filming us from above. There were about 1000 at the start (54% of the participants were non-French) with the 115km course being my choice. I knew the end would be a nightmare so the 115km course was obviously the right one. There wasn't a lot of hanging around so it was a good start - but there was long enough to lose the front peloton. Around me the people seemed to be in a bit of a daze because they were quite happily sauntering off as if it wasn't a race. There was something mentioned about the start being neutralised - probably for a few kilometres behind the security car - but that wasn't very apparent at all. There was no way I was going to follow that lead so immediately the battle was on and it was time to move up the ranks. It only took minutes for breaks to form and for the fight to be on to bridge the gaps. Today I was back on form like at the Vercors race at the start of the month - before fatigue and over-training set in. Game on!

There was no feeling of not having warmed up because due to changes in training there was no deep fatigue to start with. I'd been training with a combination of long slow workouts at a low aerobic level - heart rate around 136 bpm and then on other days (twice per week) doing very high intensity intervals - 5 times 3 minutes of a sustained maximum output to specifically train the anaerobic system. Avoiding training close to the lactate threshold (LT) at around 165 bpm was allowing each system the time to recover, theoretically reducing inflammation and fatigue. It seems to work very well. Within the first 5km, during a sprint to bridge a gap my heart rate reached a new maximum of 192 bpm - adding another beat to the 191 that I'd only actually seen when running until now. I could feel the power to do this work coming directly from the shift in training. Coming up to the first main climb of the day "Col de la Péronière" near KM14 the main peloton was only about 300m further up the road. There must have been a small bunch off the front already because the security car was already out of sight.

KM 14 to KM 90

The motivation of the race had me working initially at a steady heart rate level equal to the maximum level that I could only hold for a few minutes during interval training. Looking at my heart rate data for the full 5:hrs 20:mins there is a steady slow decline - which is what happens when you push too high above the so called "lactate threshold". (With dehydration the heart rate goes the other way - it increases). My plan was to race flat out until the start of the Ventoux climb and then just deal with it - basically expecting the worst. The thing is that over the 90km stretch I could work with others and gain a lot of ground - but on the Ventoux it's every man for himself. The first 90km would have in total about the same amount of climbing but at lesser gradients so far higher speed could be maintained and drafting would be important.

40km was the bifurcation point where the race split into two - the 140km and the 115km. We had been working very hard and had quite a large, fast group by this point. During each climb I was losing people ahead of me but then collecting them again on the descents. I seemed to have to power to bridge gaps and catch groups easily on the flats but to struggle somewhat on the climbs in comparison to those around me.

Amazingly at the bifurcation we found ourselves now a tiny group of only three on the 115km course. Being relatively fresh still at this stage the situation opened up a rare opportunity for conversation. Alongside me were Nicholas from Paris, No.271, who was five age categories younger than me and on his first ever race. The other companion was Robert from Nova Scotia, No. 156, who was an age category older than me - but had very strong looking legs. We worked fairly well together for a short while but Nick's inexperience was showing as he didn't quite fully understand how important the cooperation was. Either that or he was struggling and then recovering and so was a bit erratic. Only a couple of climbs further on and Robert vanished into the distance. By this time there were a few others hovering around - though they usually appeared out of nowhere. I guess it's a bit like people entering a shared online game - they just appear.

I think we had lost Rob before reaching Sault at 50km, but he was replaced by No. 206. The only problem with everyone having the same jerseys is that you have to try to remember numbers instead of characteristic clothing. This can be muddling as all numbers kind of look the same. I waited a few times for each of the others when they slipped off the back but in general we had good teamwork and managed to stick together until reaching the Gorges de la Nesque around KM61 - and then throughout the long descent to Villes-sur-Auzon at KM81 where there was a very welcome feeding station. I'd run out of water by now and my mouth was going dry and sticky. At no point was I able to bring myself to consume the coconut based supplement being carried in my right back pocket. Instead I consumed a quarter litre glass of Coke and refilled both water bottles.

The next section leading to Bédoin at the foot of the Ventoux climb was hard work and Nick fell off the pace. No.206 had already been lost and there was quite a group again around me with the only number I can recall being 203. Strangely there were several young women appearing and they were all very strong. At KM86 the leader of the 140km race overtook us at high speed. You can't argue with that. The support car and entourage for the leaders with all the mechanical support had to squeeze past too all within the next kilometre. We crossed some sort of timing control line at Bédoin 91Km from the start but I never saw a time given for the actual following climb in the results. Almost as soon as the climb began I realised we were there and just switched off. More accurately I switched the engine mapping mode to "economy" and started my accustomed "death plod" up the mountain. It's not so much that I'm dying (though the idea is appealing) but that I end up counting the bodies at the side of the road from many who didn't change their engine mapping mode - guys slumped over with feet firmly planted on the ground and heads in their hands against their top tubes - or sometimes trying to stretch out cramps or pretending they have a mechanical problem etc.

The climb was extremely hard. The first 5km is not bad but from then on until 21.5km from the start of the climb it's relentlessly steep, relentlessly hot and totally unforgiving. I think that passing the monument to Tom Simpson - on the spot where he died at 1km from the summit - just about sums that up. The problem isn't really the 21km climb itself, it's the previous 90km with the same amount of climbing at a flat out pace.  The exhilaration, adrenalin and overall feeling of well-being shouldn't be missed for anything, but that's quickly forgotten when you are trying to overcome nausea, headaches and exhaustion and all you can see ahead is more climbing for miles into the sky. It did make me think however about the meaning of "endurance" - being "endure".

There was a feeding station at 6km from the finish and for the last five minutes before getting there I thought I was going to vomit - it felt really bad. On the way up a really young lad No.188 had given me words of encouragement while complaining about the heat. He had his mother supplying him with water from a car (not permitted in the rules!). About 13km into the climb I passed him slumped over his bike and just said to him to keep on but go a little slower. He was trying to surge ahead and then collapsing as a result and needed to pace himself. It was obviously too steep and hot for what he was trying to do. Finally at the feeding station No. 188 went flying past as I was standing there downing two 1/4 litre tumblers of Coke. The very brief stop somehow settled my system back down and surprisingly the Coke didn't turn into projectile vomit. From then on it was just a grind to to the top. The exposed summit makes the final 6Km look like it's ten times that distance and the last 500m of course just had to ramp up to 11%.

Mont Ventoux Summit

At the finish 203 was the next guy ahead of me and young Nick was about 5 minutes behind. He'd caught up with me on the first part of the climb again but then faded on the steeps where I had immersed myself into the interminable Death Plod. Rob - the Canadian was finally about 19 minutes ahead so he had done well and placed 63rd. In the results there's only about half the number that was supposed to have started so I don't know what was going on. They did have cut off times for the big climb and wouldn't let people up if they were too far back. Anyway - despite 2 hours of Death Plod I came 99th out of 262 and 10th in age category. I must have lost at least 25 places on the climb.

My instinct was definitely to consume sugar at the feeding stations. The Coke was swallowed whole without breathing. At the end I also had some sweet juice and water - and tried a small almond/apricot cereal bar which was so sickly sweet it felt horrible to eat. Later on I also had fresh apricots and artisanal ice cream - with predictably none of this affecting ketosis (BAC 0.05%) due to the monstrous carb debt in the body.

The change in training - only one week on - had a dramatic effect. The first 90km - properly racing - was seriously better than ever before.

The best part of it all was at the top Christiane was there to greet me. She had made the climb up the North side. The "Giant of Provence" is such a mythical climb that she had never even imagined doing it - I just suggested it to her a few days before so that she could clear her head from all the pressures of her music and trying to earn a living out of it. She did the climb without eating - relying as I did on natural ketosis supplying all the necessary energy.

One year ago Christiane was accumulating so many physical problems that any sustained exercise just wasn't on. She was dependent on her thyroid drugs or was laid out in bed useless. (She has now been completely off those drugs for 6 months) She had arthritis in her hands, chronic sharp pain in her shoulder, sciatic pains, chronic abdominal pain, heart skipping all the time and massive energy swings. Yesterday, despite hardly sleeping the night before - she did the climb with no physical issues (other than nausea for moment - same as me) - and felt great. After the 30 km ride back to the car and then after eating at 5pm we had a 6 hour trip home and neither of us were tired at all during the drive. The difference ketosis is making is phenomenal!


Pre-race nutrition involved absolutely no change to my now normal and permanent ketogenic diet - which relies on having only two meals per day - a large breakfast and then evening meal. The carb storage debt in the body is so high during and after the event that consuming the four sugary drinks makes no difference whatsoever to the ketosis. I don't know if the drinks helped at all during the race and in recovery - but I did have a headache before the final feeding station and then can't remember having one afterwards. That could simply be the H+ ions from lactic acid (or glycolysis) clearing out of the system though. I'd had some sodium bicarbonate the day before and in the morning to help to buffer H+ ions and draw them out of the muscle into the blood. In addition my water in the first two bottles was gassy and contained a large amount of bicarbonates. 

I did try one nutritional "supplement"experiment for during the race. I bought a "squeeze" tube with a drip proof nozzle to try to use liquefied (warm) coconut (dessicated coconut passed through a blender). Spirulina powder was added to give a strongly protective protein base for during the race - to prevent amino acids being scavenged directly from muscle tissue. There was no way this goop was ever going to get through that nozzle - but at least I tried. Eventually I decided that it wouldn't be difficult to unscrew the top and squeeze the stuff out anyway - so I took the stuff with me in the race. At no point during the 5:hrs 20:mins of the race did I have any inclination whatsoever to open that tube! Hunger just doesn't happen. Even after the race I had no desire to eat and waited until close to 5pm to eat again at the camp-site.

One additional thing worth mentioning is that breakfast included lactofermented beetroot. The lactofermented foods are not only a huge source of probiotics (intestinal bacteria), but the anaerobic work is already done here with fermentation converting all the sugar into lactic acid (and some alcohol).  Considering lactate (from lactic acid) is a major determinant in athletic performance it seems to me to make sense to eat it directly.

The amount of exercise a person does is the strongest factor in promoting the richness of their gut microbes. Athletes not only have much more diverse intestinal bacteria than normal but also lower levels of inflammation. In addition, butyrate is produced by our gut microbes and has a broad range of beneficial effects on the immune system. Exercise stimulates microbes to produce more of it. 


Some weeks ago I realised that my understanding of how exactly ketones were burned for energy was extremely vague - in fact my entire view of energy metabolism was vague. When you initially dive into the subject the complexity of biochemistry is so daunting that filtering out a clear and simple picture of the essentials is almost impossible - and that's not even counting the fact that the science is disputed at almost every point. My concern wasn't regarding the nutrition but how this nutrition should relate intelligently to training. I'm already extremely happy with the ketogenic nutrition and the stunning health benefits it brings - including the elimination of my exercise induced asthma.

Searching online I stumbled upon the website of Dr Phil Maffetone - who has been aware of the benefits of ketosis since the early 1970s and mentored Mark Allen, 7 times winner of the Hawaii Ironman. His mantra is "Go slower to go faster!". Well, that's a challenging paradox if ever there was one - but everything interesting in life begins as a paradox. Let's say this just caught my attention. I've been involved in a fascinating dialogue with the site moderator since then...

The same online searching also brought me here: and by understanding the role of lactic acid better the entire picture of how to train effectively was eventually clarified. Dr Maffetone appears to be correct and basically explains why - in detail.

The connection between the aerobic and anaerobic systems and the role of ketosis are finally all brought together by Dr Peter Attia here:

The net result for me is that after a year of directly struggling with nutrition in sport (and life) and making great progress (with tons of reading and research) I've now been able to tie this together constructively with training (and physiology) in only a few short weeks.

The key issue is the "interdependence" of the aerobic and anaerobic systems upon each other. They are not independent. Here's how it comes together...

Eat carbs - produce fat - get fat (store/reduce endurance)
Eat fat - produce carbs - get thin (burn/increase endurance)

Anaerobic: The anaerobic system burns "sugar" - either glucose or glycogen. It does not use oxygen. What it does is generate the "energy molecule" ATP - in fact, 2 from glucose or 3 from glycogen. There is a by-product in this process and it's called pyruvate. Pyruvate is another carbohydrate - but it can't be used by the anaerobic system.

Aerobic: The aerobic system is far more flexible and can burn fat, ketones and guess what... pyruvate! In fact pyruvate is the ONLY carb that the aerobic system can burn and it's produced by the anaerobic system. In addition, when the aerobic system does burn pyruvate it produces ATP two or three times faster than fat burning. Unfortunately I have no data for where the ketones fit into this efficiency - but I do know that the heart works 28% more efficiently with ketones than with anything else! The key here however is that ALL the carbs used by the aerobic system come directly from the anaerobic system. The systems are not independent - so training must respect this. 

Pyruvate - if not gobbled up immediately by the aerobic system is then turned temporarily into lactate - another carbohydrate. Lactate can move all around the body and between cells in the form of Lactic Acid. When pushing very hard this becomes the primary source of fuel for the aerobic system - fat burning being almost stopped. The lactic acid of course has to be broken down again into pyruvate to be burned - the other states just being to facilitate transportation throughout the body. Some of the lactate is converted back into glucose in the liver.

When you eat a glucose supplement during racing it is feeding your anaerobic system - not your aerobic system. The anaerobic system then feeds the aerobic system - plus it provides ATP in the process and so takes some of the load off the aerobic system.

When in ketosis however you are not eating carbs and the carbs stored within your body - muscle, liver and blood - are about half the level (perhaps only 800 calories for a trained person) than they would be if you were feeding on carbs. The advantage you have if you are completely keto-adapted (takes about 3 months) is that your muscles can burn ketones effectively. Ketones are a by-product from fat metabolism (They are molecules very similar to glucose but preferred by the brain and heart and used without insulin being involved). However - during this fat metabolism there is another by-product molecule called glycerol - from the fat triglycerides. Glycerol is converted into glucose which then feeds the anaerobic system. What Dr Attia shows on is web page is that when he exercises in a ketotic state the exercise causes his blood sugar level to rise! So basically - by eating fat and then metabolising it aerobically - he then produces carbs which work through the anaerobic system to support the aerobic system for higher end performance. 

Ketosis is essentially a win/win state for health and performance.
Non-ketosis is only a win/win state if your goal is to get fat and hibernate. Eating carbs shuts down the fat metabolism system on a long-term basis and won't allow it to start up again! This obviously has survival advantages in the wild when autumn harvests of fruit need to be stored as fat in the body. Behaving this way 360 days per year is however probably fatal let alone damaging to optimum sports performance.

10 months of being in ketosis (age 56 now) has seen my maximum heart rate change from 172 bpm to 192 bpm - a figure I only last saw 35 years ago. Ketosis is not only more efficient it cleans out the system. We are born with a max heart rate and if we stay fit and healthy it does not change with age. Being sedentary and probably eating excessive carbs appear to be the real reason max heart rate tends to decline with age. Age correlates fairly well with heart rate decline across a population - but that doesn't imply that age is the cause! My current minimum heart rate is 36 - and that is a figure that seems to vary regularly depending on fitness and fatigue.

So how is the training modified?

For me the brilliance of Maffetone is in recognising that most people automatically train close to their so called Lactate Threshold (LT). This is the point at which lactic acid starts to accumulate out of control and cause the sort of nausea and headaches that I (and Christiane) had on Mont Ventoux. In fact it's not the lactic acid that does this - it's most likely to be the H+ ions involved in the conversion of lactic acid into lactate - but some scientists think this is incorrect and the real culprit is the H+ ions produced directly from anaerobic glucose metabolism in the first place! (All that seems like another good reason to boost ketone production!). People set off training with perhaps an hour allocated - so they go as fast as they can for that hour - just like they might do in a race but perhaps not quite so hard. Everyone knows however that when you train for a marathon you don't run marathons (usually). Running marathons breaks down the muscle too much with recovery taking weeks. Similarly training near LT levels breaks down muscle and causes inflammation. Constantly repeating this leads to fatigue building up and a far less than optimum development or performance improvement.

The ketogenic lifestyle and diet is all about eliminating chronic inflammation induced by excessive carbohydrate consumption! Training near LT works against this entire outlook. Well done Dr Maffetone! Maffetone devised his own formula for approximating a maximum heart rate level for endurance training. Once again this formula is age dependent and that's not so great - but it's a ball park figure. "180 - Age" - with a few adjustments for fitness levels. For me that gives a figure of 129 - which worried me because my supposed aerobic range was from 145 o 160 bpm based on accurate max and min heart rate measurements. However I too had still been using a formula and there are many different ones out there! This led to an open debate on the Maffetone website. The moderator stated that he was looking for a "pure aerobic" level of heart rate. I pointed out that this simply doesn't exist - and we agreed on that point - but for the sake of "simplicity" we continue with that idea.

Aerobic Base

Realising there was a problem here and wanting to be more precise for my own target heart rate I spotted that when running or cycling and warmed up there was a transition in my breathing at above 136 bpm. Until that point breathing was imperceptible so there was no compensation for lactic acid (CO2 needs to be expelled to maintain pH balance in the blood). To feel this properly I had to use pure nasal breathing - both in and out. This is now my upper limit for any distance work. The idea is that it permits a stronger aerobic base to develop by eliminating excessive tissue breakdown and inflammation. Mitochondria (power cells) density and the density of related enzymes can increase (top athletes can have 5 times the average density) and so can capillary blood supply. Muscle fibres - some scientist argue - are not just two or three types but a complete spectrum of everything in between white and red fibres. Training converts one to the other so there is the opportunity to develop more appropriate biases for the type of sport goals being targeted. 

Anaerobic Training

Personally I appear to have a reasonably strong aerobic base - though I'm very happy to keep on building it. With this fairly good base already there I'm happy to also work independently on the anaerobic system. This involves High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) - which in this case on the bike means 4 or 5 sets of 3 minute intervals at maximum sustainable output. The last set has to be at the same level as the first. 3 minutes is allowed for recovery between intervals. That takes me up a good 30 minute climb a bit faster than usual! It's very hard to do mentally but nothing like as hard as Mont Ventoux! Between intervals I back off getting heart rate down to around 120 bpm. So far in training - even with a good 30 minute warm up - I still can't get above 167 bpm. That's entirely "motivation" because in competition I have no problem going way above that unintentionally!

Here is an excellent source for anaerobic training advice and much more...

Just one week on this program and the outcome has been startling. Harmonising the diet and training program has removed my chronic underlying fatigue totally. The first 90km of the Ventoux race was exhilarating and great fun as a result. The Death Plod was expected - but not the great feeling of well-being that followed an hour later after recovering. Even the 6 hour drive home in the evening was enjoyable with no fatigue despite not having slept the night before! 

Monday was a rest day and then on Tuesday I went out for a 136 bpm 11km run - and was astonished once again how good it felt. Running along a lakeside path I just thought how no amount of money in the world could buy this feeling.

Nasal Breathing

I mentioned nasal breathing for determining the upper heart rate limit for optimal aerobic development - however the nose is the actual breathing organ and should be used for breathing most of the time - both in and out. We know that CO2 and NO levels are kept higher when nasal breathing and this keeps circulation to the extremities functioning well - allowing better cooling amongst other things. The Nitric Oxide also keeps the arteries relaxed and protects them from damage. It is apparently impossible to have a heart attack when nasal breathing. Nitric Oxide is what is administered to people to stop angina (usually from a pill) and it is produced in the rear of the nasal passages. What impresses me is that the Maffetone approach permits ideal use of nasal breathing - just converging one more significantly important issue that is otherwise difficult to reconcile with athletic performance.

Nasal breathing also increases the body's tolerance of CO2 - with five main sensors in the nervous system adapting to accept higher levels. This generally happens as a correction of the general tendency to hyperventilate. Think of the person with a panic attack having to breathe in and out into a paper bag to raise CO2 levels and calm the body down - bringing circulation back to the cold sweaty palms etc. The increased vasodilation helps most things - especially those things associated with endurance.

Technique (Economy)

Why do we seldom hear the word "technique" used in the context of cycling or even with running? Well it's because they use the word "economy" instead. Macho sports like this clearly can't discus technique - and after all everybody can pedal or run - just like they can swim - can't they?

Christiane is used to a very low geared mountain bike for climbing - where even on steep terrain you can spin the pedals without much force but of course end up going very slowly. Racing bikes are not about going slowly! This is where she quickly discovered the advantage of pulling up slightly with one leg while pushing with the other. If this is tied into "chi" technique it becomes very natural - the hip coming forward as the foot is pulled up - the other hip going backward as the foot is pushed down - connecting everything in the centre - the core -  with a "cross lateral" action. This allows the upper body to completely relax - instead of pulling on the handlebars. Overall more muscles can relax and the coordination leads to greater "economy". What did I just say? Christiane also tried to create better economy by not lifting up her head to look forwards and instead only lifting up her eyeballs. This was fine until she started seeing double. It's best to lift the head perhaps.

One technical aspect that never seems to be discussed anywhere is the need to flex the ankle before pushing against the pedal. This then allows the ankle to be extended during the push and so the calf muscles can be used actively. Considering that the legs contribute to circulation by acting as a pump then this seems to be a sensible move. The ankle finishes up extended at the end of the stroke and then flexes during the "pull" phase. Most people seem to just block the ankle and approximate towards "toes down" technique - but beginners often do the opposite of extending the ankle and they allow it to flex during the push - thereby absorbing a lot of force instead of applying it. Are we talking about technique here or economy? Technique of course!

Some time ago, when running in very thin "barefoot" minimalist trail shoes I realised the same technique is necessary. Due to a lifetime of wearing shoes with stupid heels (for no logical reason whatsoever) we tend to drop the forefoot when running and reach for the ground with it. This is perhaps fine for short sprints - but I'm not even sure about that. No matter how hard I tried - for five years - I could not stop calf pains from developing with barefoot running. The solution is to simply flex the ankle before the foot strikes the ground - not after the impact. Landing in the front of the heel (directly beneath the body - not in front) avoids any unpleasant shock - this is probably technically a "midfoot" strike. What struck me with this is that cycling and running are normally considered to be incompatible because cycling uses the normal muscle contraction during shortening - while much of running involves "eccentric" contraction - where the muscle lengthens during contraction - as do the quads when walking down stairs. They are of course referring to the foot strike when running though - but it appears that this incorrectly assumes an over-reaching ahead of the foot during the stride. Using "Chi-running" technique or "Pose" technique and simply posing the foot below the body - with the ankle flexed as the foot contacts the ground - appears to eliminate the eccentric contraction - so when the leg starts extending towards the ground it just continues this extension when the foot hits the ground and the body passes over it. 

Focus of effort in Chirunning is on recovering (pulling up) the leg from behind - so that forward propulsion comes exclusively from gravity (falling forward).  

The upshot of all of this is that it would seem that when executed technically correctly there is astonishingly little difference between an efficient pedalling and running action.


It's important to mention that the integrating factor in all of the nutrition, training and technique discussed here is one central thing - inflammation!

Many of today's fatal epidemic diseases are due to chronic inflammation - including the biggest killer of all - Heart Disease. How do we avoid this trap - which today costs the world an incalculable price in both money and suffering? (USA is only 51st internationally for longevity, 24% of its entire GDP profit is used up for medical care, 36% of its adults are obese and the third largest cause of death is actually medical care itself - counting only blatant errors! (Only beaten by heart disease and cancer!))

All of the following converge into a powerful anti-inflammatory program with each aspect supporting the other. The goal is "well-being" and the sports performance is just a fun part of it all, good motivation and a useful test or proof that it is working.
  • Ketogenic Diet (Avoiding excessive carbohydrates of all kinds - and wheat/gluten)
  • Food Supplements (Omega 3, Vitamin D etc)
  • Microbiome Management (Intestinal bacteria - inflammation control)
  • Cold Adaptation 
  • Exercise (Regulates microbiome)
  • Intelligent Physical Training (Separating aerobic and anaerobic)
  • Efficient Movement (Not damaging joints and coordinating intelligently)
  • Nasal Breathing (CO2 tolerance and optimisation)

Appendix: Our General Health Improvements from Ketosis (10 months)

  • Gastric reflux gone
  • Exercise induced asthma gone
  • 30 lb of weight gone - now 9.4% body fat. 
  • Most visceral fat gone - stomach/ lower abdominals concave.
  • Sleep apnea gone
  • Cramps gone (in sport too)
  • Need to pee during the night gone
  • Frequent mouth afts and sores gone
  • White "protein" patch on lip gone
  • Energy swings gone
  • Hunger urges gone
  • Need for snacking gone - 2 meals per day now.
  • Maximum heart rate significantly increased - from 172 bpm to 192 bpm
  • Flu and viruses dealt with far more effectively and rapidly.
  • Ability to endure cold massively improved (bath - whole body at 3.0°C for 35 mins - no pain, no shivering)
  • Cold Thermogenesis active during night - staying warm with no heating

  • Hypothyroidism gone - off levotheroxine drug (6 months now)
  • Dry eyelid gone
  • Arthritis in the hands gone
  • Finger joints blocking - gone
  • Heart arrhythmia - with constant cough - gone
  • Intense chronic abdominal pains gone
  • Frequent urinary infections gone
  • Onychomycosis (Toe nail fungus) gone
  • Profound energy swings gone
  • Addiction to cakes gone 
  • Constant high activity level all day.
  • New ability to engage in intense exercise without negative after effects
  • Cramps gone
  • Frequent eye blood vessel ruptures stopped
  • Jaw stopped clicking when eating
  • Shoulder pain when exercising gone
  • Knee pains gone
  • Muscle pain on exercising gone


  1. Hello Ian,

    What a great blog. I discovered you on Dr. Phil Maffetone's website where you had an informative discussion with Ivan Rivera.
    I was so impressed with your knowledge base that I had to learn more. Luckily you left a link to this blog.

    So how is your experiment in Nutritional Ketosis coming along? I hear a lot of stories of people having problems with prolonged NK. People such as Paul Jaminet of "Perfect Health Diet" and Robb Wolff to name a couple. I experimented with mild NK (0.5mml morning reading) from April 2014 until August 2015. While I thoroughly enjoyed it I have since added back sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash other starchy vegetables and kefir to my diet which has pushed me out of ketosis. Honestly, the only reason for doing this is from fear of prolonged NK specifically loss of mucus production and lack of nutrients. If you would please consider relaying your experiences and thoughts on prolonged NK I would be most grateful.

    Thank you,


  2. Hi Aristotle,

    What a great name! After over a year in ketosis I can't imagine ever returning to the nightmare scenario of carbohydrate addiction ever again. My weight has remained stable (for the first time in 20 years) and loads of small but accumulating niggles, problems and injuries have been resolved or are slowly resolving.

    When you consider that the body is 72% water and 28% minerals - and Sea or Rock salt contains the exact proportions of minerals (except sodium levels) that we need - it's not hard to get the right level of nutrients - as long as you avoid all the brainwashing. I certainly haven't had any mucus issues - but then I haven't had any bugs either.(just one 2 day mild cold last Xmas.) If you eat meat you get all the nutrients the body needs there - just make sure it's organic and fed on grass. Get loads of sun, fresh air and physical activity - plus avoid toxins as much as possible. Ketosis is great because you don't have energy swings, you don't crave food all day, you don't bonk during prolonged endurance activity and you don't need to eat anything or drink much during it. It's easier if you send me an email for contact if there's more detail you need - mine is at the very top of this page. One thing I later realised (after the Maffetone interaction) is that in ketosis your heart rate during exercise is higher - so I adjusted my "aerobic max" by about 10 bpm for that. I never bothered telling them because they don't appear to be too interested.