cycling

6 Quick Questions with Pro Cyclist Ryan Anderson

Ryan Anderson is a pro cyclist with Team Direct Energie. He has been a part of the professional peloton since 2011. Ryan is a two-time road vice-champion of Canada. He made his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a Espana in 2016. We were able to catch up with him as he is preparing for the spring classics. 

What have been the biggest differences in your training as you have worked your way up from amateur to professional rider?

On the bike my training has not changed all that much in the last few years. I think a big difference is that my race load was at its peak last year, and with that base I feel I can push a little harder coming into this year. I also gain a little more experience year to year, and have recently been doing more off the bike strength work which seems to be helping.  

How do you balance proper nutrition with your ideal race weight?

I do my best to maintain a good weight that works for me all year. I just try to eat healthy and always try to make things from scratch when I have the time as I really enjoy cooking. I have also been trying to do a better job of planning ahead this year with meals when I am at the store. When I am at home in Canada I can go to the store whenever I want, but when I am living in France I find it's easier for me to plan ahead. 

How has focusing on gut health improved your performance?

So I have to say this year is the first time I have focused on gut health and I believe it has played a big part in keeping me healthy! Staying healthy has let me keep on track with my training and racing plans. So far this year I have traveled a lot including long haul flights from North America and I am constantly on short flights within Europe, so there has been no shortage of exposure to germs. But despite this, I have been healthy this whole winter which has been a first for me! I hope to keep this trend going for the rest of the year!

What tips do you have for bouncing back from illness? 

The biggest thing I have realized is to just take the time to get better when you're sick – rushing back to train is just a shortcut that you will eventually pay for!

What kind of things do you do to optimize recovery after a race or hard training block?

I just make sure to stay hydrated and eat well right after a race and also to stay on top of stretching and massage. All of the little things add up; I find once I let this stuff slip it's a slippery slope. 

What race are you most looking forward to this year and why?

Right now I have my sights set on the upcoming cobble classics season as it's about to hit full swing. So much can happen over one of these days; things are good one minute and bad the next. You never really know what's going to happen which makes for some good stories!

10 Races to Test Your Limits in 2016

IMG_5885.JPG

What is epic or extreme is really in the eye of the beholder. Your local 5K could be an epic adventure for the right person or under the right circumstances. But for those competitive athletes who like to push a little further, here is a list of 10 races sure to offer up a challenge and test limits. We tried to stay within the continental US and spread out the options throughout the year. We also looked to some lesser-known races, because we could probably fill up this list with 10 Ironman races alone! Which races did we miss? Be sure to let us know your thoughts on the comments to the blog…. 

Arrowhead 135 – January – International Falls

Less that 50% of participants finish the Arrowhead 135. Whether by ski, foot or bike, racers face a punishing 135 mile trail at probably the coldest point in the lower-48 states. Temps can fall to 30 or 40 degrees below 0 pretty easily. The mandatory gear list alone is enough to scare most away from entry. Check out this short film on the race. www.arrowheadultra.com

Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon – June – San Francisco

Perhaps not the longest or most “extreme” on the list or even in the world of triathlon, but watching first-hand as swimmers battle the cold and choppy bay waters is enough to give you pause. Add in some brutal climbs on the bike, and the run up the iconic steps of Baker Beach, and this triathlon is a very punishing yet accessible short-course adventure.  http://www.escapefromalcatraztriathlon.com

Race Across America/RAAM - June – all over America

Teams and individual riders climb 170,000 ft in elevation along the way from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD.  The winners average about 22 hours a day on their bikes and there is a cut-off after 12-days. But don’t expect to just show-up, the shortest qualifying race for the RAAM is 375 miles long, not too mention the support crew set-up that is needed for this epic adventure. www.raceacrossamerica.org

RAGBRAI – July – all over Iowa

Created by a couple of journalists for the local Iowa newspaper, the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa is the oldest and largest week-long bicycle tour in the World. Averaging 500 miles across 7 days, the event draws cyclists of all abilities and ages. It’s a race or it’s a party depending on what type of adventure you are looking for. www.ragbrai.com

American Birkebeiner – February - Hayward

To ski or to bike? Located in northern Wisconsin, the Birkebeiner offers a few options for an intense winter workout. The 55k ski race takes place in late February and is North America’s largest cross-country ski marathon. And then a couple weeks later, the Fat Bike Birkie gives cyclists the chance to race along the same trail at either a 47k or 22k distance. Prefer a dry race? There is even an Ultra run on the same course in October. www.birkie.com 

The Dipsea – June – Mill Valley

It’s only 7.4 miles, but most would argue that they are the most grueling 7.4 miles you could ever run. There are steep steps and treacherous climbs. And folks love it. Billed as the oldest trail race in American, the race limits itself to 1500 entrants because of its popularity. The race entry process takes this into account, so plan ahead. Check out some amazing photos at www.dipsea.org 

Badwater 135 – July – Furnace Creek

It starts in a place called Death Valley and proceeds through Furnace Creek. Badwater is known as one of the hardest races, let alone foot races, in the world. And if the names of the locations don’t scare you off, the course covers three mountain ranges for a total of 14,600 ft of cumulative vertical ascent and 6,100 ft of cumulative descent. If a 135 ulta run isn’t your thing this year, Badwater hosts several other races of varying distances around the country.   http://www.badwater.com/event/badwater-135/

Big Sky Ridge Run – August – Bozeman

In 2013, Outside Online named the Ridge Run one of its Top 10 Bucket List trail runs in the world. The Ridge Run is 19.65 miles of brutal climbing and descending, complete with unstable footing and unpredictable weather. Unfortunately there are only 250 racers allowed in each year, but the lucky few get to tackle over 6800 ft in elevation gain. http://winddrinkers.org/ridge-run/

Everest Challenge – September – Bishop

The race is billed as the hardest two-day U.S.C.F. race and ride in the US. With 27,000 feet of climbing over just 200 miles, it just might be. Take in the beautiful scenery in the eastern Sierras while you’re catching your breath. https://www.t.bike/2006/09/everest-challenge.html

Moab Trail Marathon & Half Marathon – November – Moab

Thought of as a mountain bike destination, the Moab Trail Marathon actually hosts the 2016 Trail Marathon Championships. The terrain includes single track, rugged jeep trails and even old mining trails. The top runners will run all but the fixed rope section and are expected to finish in less than 4 hours. Average runners will do a combo of running with a bit of walking and are expected to finish in the 5 to 6 hr range. Did we mention it’s in Moab? http://www.moabtrailmarathon.com

What are some of your favorite epic races? Share your thoughts with us below!

Diet and your gut health

diet-for-gut-health

Our guts are home to trillions of bacteria, some good, some bad. What is most certain is that they have a tremendous impact on our health. These organisms in our gut, or intestinal microbiome, can be influenced by several factors including where you live, stress, and alcohol. But it is believed that our diet has the greatest impact on our gut’s microbiome. Disruption of this delicate system has been linked to an array of maladies including obesity, diabetes, and depression. More and more research is demonstrating that these bacteria have a far greater influence on our general health than we thought.

The traditional Western diet consisting of high fat, high protein, and more than a modest amount of alcohol has been shown to alter the gut’s microbiome in a negative way. The Western diet leads to alterations in the gut’s protective function. Because of this, toxins leak from the gut and into our bloodstream resulting in low grade inflammation. The Western diet has been linked with cardiovascular disease and diabetes – both associated with increased levels of inflammation in the body.

Most research has compared the traditional Western diet with vegetarianism, which not surprisingly is not associated with leaky guts and inflammation. But if you’re reading this you’re probably not eating fast food or buying your groceries at places that also sell clothes and lawn supplies. You may adhere to the Paleo diet, or even be strictly vegan. Although, we know that these diets affect the composition of the gut microbiome I have yet to find research that compares their influence on the protective and more beneficial bacteria of the gut (if you are aware of such research, please share it with us!)

Although, there have been studies showing that high protein and high fat diets contribute to alterations in the gut’s microbiome that result in inflammation and even colon cancer, the types of protein and fats the studies were using are not characteristic of a Paleo diet or any other (non-Western) that focuses on high fat and high protein. There is clearly a difference between lard (used in one comparative study) and the fat found in almonds and avocados.

I think the common thread that connects all “bad” diets is not necessarily a food group, but rather how processed it is, in other words, how far removed is it from it’s original natural source. What is most important for our gut health, in my opinion, is not the food group we consume most of but whether it is real–whole foods. As this article from Nature points out, our bodies have learned to adapt to various diets:

Our findings that the human gut microbiome can rapidly switch between herbivorous and carnivorous functional profiles may reflect past selective pressures during human evolution. Consumption of animal foods by our ancestors was likely volatile, depending on season and stochastic foraging success, with readily available plant foods offering a fallback source of calories and nutrients. Microbial communities that could quickly, and appropriately, shift their functional repertoire in response to diet change would have subsequently enhanced human dietary flexibility.

What is clear is that our body’s adaptation to the modern diet is anything but adaptive. Ultimately, you need to determine what foods are best for you knowing that your gut’s microbiome is influenced by many factors including genetics, where you live, but most importantly your diet. Perhaps, less attention needs to be on whether one specific diet is better, and simply focusing on eating real food – as Jennifer Aniston said “just stop eating shit.”