This was a great year for me personally. Considering how much bad stuff happened worldwide I actually feel a little bad declaring that. Keeping this dialed into fitness and nutrition topics lets discuss 2016.
Without geeking out too hard in stats, I did about 7,500 miles on the bike. My year with the highest volume was 2012 where I did a bit over 11,000. Oddly enough, I feel fitter than I was then by a mile and a lot less burned out at the same time. 11,000 came with some significant sacrifices: you can’t wake up at 4am four times per week to ride for 2 hours before a full day of work and ever go to dinner with friends or really have a social life at all. While I am still definitely a bit of a hermit, in 2012 I was significantly moreso.
Despite having a lot less volume than in 2012 I hit my highest levels of fitness ever by training a bit smarter. This was the first full year I had a power meter on my bike. Though I didn’t follow any specific training regimen, having the accountability of a power meter made a huge difference. It simply forced me to work harder than I would have on each individual ride than I would have riding blind. Working harder with less miles is going to get you better gains than easier longer rides, assuming you have a decent base fitness.
I managed to get a decent base fitness, despite riding 3 hours less on average during the week than I did in 2012 by riding longer rides on the weekends. In 2012 I did only two rides of 100 miles distance. In 2016 I did 13 rides of over 100 miles in length. Again, I compensated for less total miles by making the miles I did higher quality. So during the week I rode harder and faster than in 2012, and on the weekends I rode longer than 2012. I rode my all time longest ride of 112 miles and then pushed past that the next month doing 126. These 5 and 6 hours rides pushed my base endurance higher as my body adapted to doing them. It allowed me to do my “short” 60 mile Saturday rides at a much higher speed. Because if I can hold 200 watts for 5 hours, I can do more than that for 3. The end result of training more efficiently thanks to a power meter is that I gained a lot more from a lot less training. I can end 2016 saying in full honesty I’ve never been fitter. The scary thought is, how fast could I be with a tailored, scientific race training plan? If I dedicated my weekday rides to high intensity interval training? Though I don’t plan to race competitively in the near future, and I certainly and not going to train high intensity intervals unless I need to train for races, its comforting to know that I haven’t hit the ceiling of my potential.
So cycling was great in 2016. I rode the longest ride of my life and climbed the biggest mountains at the highest altitudes and took some sweet KOMs in the meanwhile. Running, however, wasn’t what I had hoped. I set the goal for myself in January to run a marathon in 2016. Well, I didn’t. Though I had new running shoes and was progressing well, I hit a bit of an obstacle: it gets super hot in Florida. I know thats a shitty excuse, because lots of people train for and run marathons in Florida. But the truth of the matter is I sweat a lot. When I run, sweat pours off of me, even in cooler weather. I ran a 10k run in weather that was low 70’s (cool by Florida standards) and couldn’t see by the end because the sweat was running down my face into my eyes, stinging me to blindness from the salt. And that was wearing a halo headband. This headband, designed to keep heavy sweaters from having sweat in their eyes was insufficient.
The result was I had to reassess my goals and what it would take to pursue them. Running, for me, was intolerable between the months of April and November. If I planned to run a marathon by December you can see the problem this posed. This was a big problem, but perhaps I could have surmounted it. The bigger problem was that running was affecting my cycling in a negative way. If I ran a fast 10k on Monday, my legs didn’t feel 100% even by Wednesday and the power I was able to produce on the bike was a lot less. When I cut running out of my training, my average wattage on the bike went up by 5% because my legs were no longer constantly fatigued and battered. So as much as I wanted to check the marathon box off my to-do list, it was asking too much. So I was forced to admit defeat and back off of the goal.
Lastly, I want to touch on nutrition. This was my first full year as a vegetarian and almost entirely plant based. I reduced cheese to a minimum and reduced my egg consumption to about 5 for the whole year. Its fair to ask if I was that close to being a “perfect” vegan why not cut out the 5 eggs and the hand of meals I ate with cheese in them throughout the year? I don’t have a great answer. I know that ethically cheese and eggs are morally wrong, and its probable that I will eventually give up both. But for now, I say this as a total hypocrite, that it makes me life better to have a bit of cheese on something once every other month or to eat a cookie my mom baked that was made with eggs. I understand that making my life better while causing cruelty to others is pretty fucking awful, but its a journey.
So aside from my hypocrisy regarding some cheese and eggs, I’ve felt great nutritionally. I eat a ton of fruit, especially blueberries and bananas, and my staple dinner 3 or 4 times per week is rice, beans, and tomatoes. I don’t feel held back in any way, I’m able to do all the things I want athletically and I do not want for anything nutritionally and I don’t see anything that I am deprived or deficient in. In 2017 I plan to continue down this path. One thing I would genuinely like to eliminate is alcohol, though I hardly drink anyway. I’ll probably do a separate blog about alcohol later though.
So all in all from a fitness and diet perspective a great year. Solid training, epic rides, and lots of calories eaten. I hope I can say the same thing for 2017 when it’s wrapped up.