Eating to Train

After riding easily for about a half hour this morning, I did a 20-minute time trial to determine my functional threshold power. My average watts were 250, and the multiplier of .95 yielded an FTP of 237.5. But that might be on the high side. I was whipped at the end of the trial and doubt I could have kept up 95 percent of that effort for a full hour, which is what the formula implies. I think I'll try a half-hour effort later this week and see what happens.

Afterward, Niko and I walked over to the Daily Market Cafe, our favorite place for brunch. I love being out in the brisk fresh air after a hard ride in the basement. The world seems especially alive and vivid, and my legs appreciate moving easily in a manner wholly different than riding. I strolled while Niko burst forward, stopped to play in the snow, then burst forward again, stopped to play in the snow … like that.

When we got to the cafe, the lad ordered the banana pancakes. I got the scramble—eggs with spinach, tomatoes and chicken—with potatoes and a biscuit. When the meal arrived, I paused to think about how it fit with my goal of improving my nutrition during the Six Months to Coeur d'Alene. I rated the plate one-third very good (the scamble), one-third fair (the potatoes) and one-third sinful (the biscuit: white flour, butter, just awful).

We're all pretty adept at excusing our food choices, and we endurance athletes are no different. In fact, many of us train for the very reason that it gives us permission to eat whatever we want and in ungodly portions, too. I call this "training to eat." Think of it this way: You run 15 miles. You get home and have a perfectly nutritious recovery meal. Afterward, you notice a hunk of leftover Peppermint Cheesecake Brownies in the fridge. Tell me you aren't going to eat it, all the while telling yourself it's your reward for running 15.

This is fine if your training goal is to maintain poor eating habits without gaining weight. But if improvement in your fitness is what you're after—if, say, you want to take your Ironman Coeur d'Alene time from 12:26:07 to 11:59:59 or better—then you've got to do better. You need to eat to train. You don't have to be perfect—a biscuit here or there is OK—but you can't cash in every workout for cake, or an extra glass of wine (one is always OK in my world).

Which is why I really shouldn't have scarfed that last half of pancake that Niko had left uneaten on his plate.

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