Earning my awesome

My training has been going pretty well and was beginning to see some good progress in my tests and during my workouts. However I felt I really needed to focus on diet and fueling.  I had lapsed into a bit of a lazy diet with way to much sugar, and processed foods. I chose to kick start this aspect of my training through a 14-day detox program with Pursuit Athletic Performance.  

The program called for two ‘shakes’ each day with a regular meal in between.  The program was not a calorie reduction diet, but focused on eliminating grains, sugars, dairy, and processed foods.  Caffeine is out too.  The program focuses on fruits, vegetables and clean meats & fish for the regular meals. Some foods aren’t ‘approved’ because they lead to  inflammation, or create an acidic environment in the body.  Basically the point of the detox is to push a big “reset” button on your metabolism.

So how was it?  The first week was tough, especially eliminating coffee.  Typical foggy head and low grade headache through day 4 or 5.  On the first weekend I attempted to fuel my long bike ride with water and a couple of Larabars and ended up in an epic bonk.  It took a bit of soul searching to decide if I really wanted to continue the program, I wasn’t feeling a lot different, but I was losing a bit of weight and a good bit of body fat.  I wasn’t feeling hungry, but I was having a lot of problems focusing on tasks, reading etc.  In the end sheer stubbornness kept me on the program for the second week.

But within a day or so into the second week, the fog lifted and I started to feel much better.  My weight and body composition bottomed out, and I realized I had a lot more energy.  I no longer had energy spikes and troughs but just a steady, level feeling of energy through the whole day.  I started falling to sleep a lot faster, and sleeping much deeper and completely through the night.  I was waking up feeling good and not sluggish.

By the end of the second week I was really feeling awesome.  My weight had stabilized about 6 lbs lower and 3% less body fat than when I started.  My workouts felt great and my recovery seemed much quicker.  What amazed me most was my mental focus was a LOT better and emotional stability was much, much better.  As I was continuing the program with some minor tweaks into the third week (I had to have my coffee back!) I was also handed a lot of new responsibilities at work, covering a role for a co-worker who retired.  While I could sense the stress level increasing with the workload, my ability to “remain calm and carry on” was so much better than before.

Normally I would get really wrapped up in the situation, and my self-talk would focus on the negative aspects of the issue, and blaming all those around me for creating the situation.  Suddenly I’m able to see through to a positive solution, even finding learning moments in some of the most stupid situations.  That was a huge breakthrough for me.

The whole process culminated for me on Thursday, during my bike/run workout.  Since this past week was a planned recovery week going into XTERRA Jersey Devil, the bike/run was “as you feel”.  Coach Debi instructed “Listen to your body and ride as you feel – slow or fast – just listen to what the body wants to do!”  I opted for a quick MTB ride and trail run at Chimney Rock since I hadn’t been on the MTB for awhile and wanted to make sure the Mojo was running well before the race.  I got to the park only to discover that I left my bike shoes at home.  Since I was squeezing the workout between a conf call, and a dinner engagement, I was not happy to have to waste 30 min driving back home to retrieve the shoes and then back to the park.  Normally this would have ‘popped my cork’ and I would have blown off the workout. Instead I just figured I’d do what I could with the time I had left. I

Back at the park I started out on my normal 1st loop.  Within 10 minutes I felt like a completely different athlete.  I was grabbing harder gears on the climbs, blasting through technical sections that I’d normally take much more carefully, railing corners and bombing descents.  Everything felt smooth and effortless, and just got easier and easier.  My brain and body became disconnected in a way that I’ve never felt before.  I was able to just stop thinking about what I was doing and let my body push the bike around.  I had reached a state of Zen on the MTB that I’ve never felt on a technical trail.  Even a bad line choice was instantly corrected without conscious thought or effort.  My iPod seemed to be plugged directly into my emotional center and was pumping out a continuous stream of perfect tuneage.  I had flow.

I cut the bike ride about 12 min short, as I wanted to make sure I got as much of the planned run as possible.  Transition was quick and off I headed down the trail.  My legs felt light and springy, and I was moving along quickly.  As I headed into the technical section of the trail, I hit the first incline and simply bounced up and over, leaning into the turns, and flowing over the roots and rocks I felt solid and sure footed. I began to pick up the pace and I could feel my body respond with extra power.  In fact as my pace began to really increase I had to exert some effort to slow down and not leave Sunday’s race on Thursday’s workout.  At one point I realized I was feeling so good, moving so well and smiling so wide that tears of joy were flowing out of my eyes.  I’ve not felt that good on a workout in a very, very long time.  I stopped at a sunny spot to pull my emotions back under control, take a quick selfie pic, and then head back out to finish the run.  On the 2nd loop of the run, I really focused on what was working well for me.  My balance seemed better, I was more confident in my footing, I was light on my feet, letting any loose footing roll under control.  Descending the last rocky section on each loop was faster than I’ve ever run on that section, nailing each foot fall without thought.

Back at the car I began to process what just happened.  As a coach I understood that my training was falling into place exactly as planned, and feeling this good during a sharp taper prior to a race was a very good sign.  I also knew that losing 6 pounds would also be a major improvement on the bike and run.  But my overall feeling of awesomeness couldn’t be explained by the weight loss alone.  By focusing on eating much better, cleaning out the sugar, processed grains and most dairy I was really altering my body, mind and spirit.

So I would say that the detox program was a big success for me.  Did I really need to use a ‘program’ for the results?  For me, I need structure to make these types of fundamental lifestyle changes, and the 14-day PAP program provided the right structure at the right time.  The PAP Detox group on Facebook provided a good sounding board for questions and encouragement during the tough early days.

I’m continuing the same meal plans (shakes/smoothies 1-2x day) and a smart lunch or dinner.  I’m adding back in some detox-forbidden foods (coffee!) and will continue to experiment with small changes such as adding back some dairy and some whole grains.  But not too much change too fast.  I don’t want to lose any of the awesome I’ve earned!