What is a typical daily diet for me? I'll show you. My current philosophy is is a high carb, low fat diet. I don't try to overdo it on protein since I'm not trying to add muscle, which wouldn't be possible anyway with 8+ hour a week cardio.
I eat very little meat, mostly because preparation is annoying and also I don't find it has any nutritional benefits that I am not already getting. If you can prove to me that red meat in my diet would make me a better cyclist I'd love to see the study. Until then, it's safe to say I get enough protein as it is. Combined with the fact I am not calorie restricting and the fact that I am still leaner than most human beings I would say the high carb diet isn't making me fat the way bro science would tell you it should.
So here goes a typical weekday for me...
2 medium bananas
2% fat greek yogurt
1 serving raw almonds
2 cans of Progresso Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 cup basmati rice added
2% fat greek yogurt
2 baked chicken breast fillets
6 cups basmati rice
1 medium banana
Works out to between 2100 and 2500 calories depending, which is fine for weekdays where I might only burn about 400-500 calories on my ride. On weekends, I will have a much bigger lunch and dinner as I have an extra thousand and a half calories to add from my longer rides.
I'm as excited/hyped/stoked for cycling as I've ever been. It took a while to get back here.
The story starts in 2010. It was a rough year for me. I had a rather painful breakup, followed by my father's cancer diagnosis in relatively short order. There were some pretty dark days in there. The weekends were the worst actually, because there was so much time to fill and being bored when you're (probably) suffering from depression is a recipe for bad decisions created from a brain that had way too much free time to dwell on its thoughts.
I had been a cyclist for a few, with my best racing results happening at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009, but my training went into abeyance and by the summer of 2010 I was not much of a cyclist anymore. However, I did have a lot of free time on the weekends and I needed to fill it desperately. So I filled it with long bike ride. Gone (mostly) were the hyper-focused rides consisting of high intensity intervals of 2008 and 2009 and in their place were long, steady rides exploring the middle of nowhere. I also found the local group ride scene which, being uncontrollably competitive, got me back interested in going faster.
In September 2010, I turned 29 years old. I was at a weird precipice with cycling where I was pretty fast again and able to hang with the fastest locals in the group ride, but I was hardly in racing shape. So when my 29th birthday hit, I decided that when I turned 30 in 12 months, I would turn 30 in the best shape of my life. I dedicated the entire next year to cycling and diet.
My training ramped up to about 225 miles a week. To do this, I had to wake up at 4am to ride 35 miles before work 3 days a week. On my two 'off days' I would run between 5-10 miles in the mornings. On the weekends I was doing around 150 miles. I also learned how to eat significantly better. My diet then was pretty bad, because when it comes to nutrition we are always learning and no matter how clean you think you eat, you can always improve. As flawed as my diet was then, it will still a vast improvement over what it was before with the most important change being I stopped drinking alcohol regularly.
I went from 185lbs on my 29th birthday to 150lbs by the next summer. My FTP improved by 25% in 6 months. On the local group rides, I didn't need to win the sprint: I was able to time trial off the front and ride all but the absolute strongest riders off my wheel just by raising tempo. I was a beast. I was getting definite results from the efforts I was putting in. I lived and breathed training. My race results were extremely good.
The winter of 2011 and 2012 was extremely cold for Florida, far worse than 2010-2011. It went into the 20's/30's and stayed there for several weeks. It was very, very difficult to wake up at 4am with it being 28 degrees and howling wind and finding the motivation to ride 40 miles. So many mornings I would come home from my ride and my mask would be frozen solid from the moisture in my breath. It was not fun. It was grueling and painful. Normally, cycling is the good kind of pain. This was the bad kind of pain. The kind of pain that makes you think, "why am I putting myself through this?"
My mistake was not treating these months as off season. I should have drastically reduced my riding, ran more, and rode only on weekends during the day when it was warm. And then when Spring hit, ramp back up. Instead I tried to grind through the cold months and keep the 250 miles a week pace going. I begun the process of burn out.
You wouldn't know that though, from looking at the rest of 2012. When warmer weather came back in March and April attacked it with a vengeance. I did about 11k miles in 2011. In 2012 I did about 13k. I went even harder and with more determination. But I wasn't having a great deal of fun. By the time the 2012 Horrible Hundred came around, I wanted to ride it just so I could be done with the 2012 season. Every training ride was "ride as fast as I can so I can get home and get off the bike as soon as possible." I had fun at the HH as usual, and I was as strong as ever, but my heart wasn't in it. I went into that winter with the intention of repeating the same as the previous winter. That first sub 40 degree 4am ride, however, changed it all. I got home, my extremities frozen. I was in the shower with my hands and feet suffering from the stabbing sensations associated with hot water hitting body parts that had long since gone numb from cold. I had only one thought: never again.
That was the last time I was up at 4am to do my "epic" dawn attack 40 mile training rides. I was literally sick of my bike. Just looking at it made me ill. I got a horrible revulsion from the thought of riding, even in amazing weather conditions. In 2013 I went weeks at a time without riding. My fitness mostly went to seed. Thankfully, I still ate well and never let myself go completely. I fully acknowledged that I was burned out, and being honest I needed the time off. I spent most of 2013 exploring other interests and hobbies that went by the wayside during my two years of hardcore cycling. It was a good time to discover about myself what I really wanted to do, what I valued. I still rode a bit, as review of this blog from 2013 will attest, but that year a 30 mile ride would have been considered "long."
In 2014 it was much the same, but I was much more restless. I would ride still, but had no fire for it. I was still interested in other hobbies moreso than cycling. In July, I went to California for my good friend Patrick's wedding. While there, I met up with my friend Michael-Scott who was also a cyclist. I rented a rather too-nice-for-a-rental bike and we went on an exceptionally hard ride through the Malibu canyons. It was almost 70 miles and had more climbing than I've ever done in a single ride by almost 2,000 feet. To say I was unprepared was an understatement. The first 30 or so miles were OK, the sun hadn't come up and there was a fog from the Pacific. We were mostly descending towards the coast and I felt OK. At the halfway point, I had already gone through two bottles despite it being foggy a cool. This was a bad sign. As a Florida boy, I'm used to high humidity riding, where three bottles of water might last 4-5 hours. Riding in arid conditions was brutal. I filled up 2 more bottles and we hit Mulholland Canyon and a 10 mile long climb. In the canyon the weather was very different. The fog was gone, and the temperatures soared to the triple digits and I became a desiccated husk.
By the time we summited, I was hurting badly. I was cramping from a combination of dehydration, electrolyte shortage and lack of fitness. The last 20 miles of the ride were as painful as those 4am chillers, just completely opposite. I was cramping every few minutes, was painfully, dangerously dehydrated. By the time we made it home I was suffering immensely and I laid down in the shade and stared at the sky for a good 45 minutes before I was really capable of moving again. At that moment I had only two thoughts...
1. That was insanely fun.
2. My performance was embarrassing. As challenging as the route and conditions were, had I done the same ride during the summer of 2011, I would done it easier and faster. Almost effortlessly.
When I got home, I vowed to get back in form... but it didn't go exactly as planned. I ran into a big issue: since riding at 4am again wasn't an option from a mental health standpoint, how would I ever find the time to get back into the same shape? My initial response was just to "ride as much as I can, when I can." Without a real directive or plan, though, results were poor. Despite my vow to get back in shape, I was making no real progress towards it. It was too easy to find an excuse not to ride. Too tired. Too busy. Bad weather. Feeling a cold coming. Going out the night before more important.
The turning point came in early 2015. It was a beautiful February Saturday morning. The type of weather people move to Florida for: 68 degrees, sunny and a very light breeze. I woke up, looked at my bike and had no motivation to ride. I walked outside to see the weather, but what I was really looking for was any excuse not to ride. I decided I was just take "a rest day" but in fact I wasn't training hard enough to deserve such a thing. I sat down in my living room chair and looked at my bike on its wall rack.
"Am I a cyclist, or am I not?"
Looking back, this was a pivotal moment. I was faced with the decision to be either a super fit cyclist or to be a normal guy who had a bike and rode it irregularly. I'm not sure how much I thought consciously about how awful I felt after that California ride at that moment, but the next thing I knew I was in my kit and out on the road. To motivate myself, I joined the monthly Strava mileage challenges and set myself a weekly goal of 150 miles. In order to fire the analytical side of my brain, I invested in a power meter after having the benefits of one hammered into my head by DurianRider videos on Youtube. As I learned 150 miles with a Power Meter is almost as good as 250 miles without one. I worked out a schedule that allows me to hit my mileage goals, without going insane.
I cannot say that I am as fit as I was in 2011, but I feel like I'm close. I'm not training as much, but I'm training way smarter and more efficiently. My threshold power is probably a few percent off what it was in 2011, but it's significantly higher than it was in July of 2014 going up Mulholland Canyon Road. I'm not sure whether it was the memory of that ride, the strava challenges or the power meter, or as is likely a combination of the all those and more, but the spark has reignited the fire in me. I'm happier than I've been in a long time and I have more motivation than ever.
I'm not sure what I'm going to do this winter when it gets cold again. I bought some really, really good cold weather gear. Hopefully that keeps me warm enough to keep it fun and keep the fire lit.