First of all, I would like to apologize for the continuous silence from my side. I simply did not have the energy to keep this up to the standard I would have liked.
Over the last few years I have been fortunate to not struggle with any kind of illness or injury. It was something I was very aware of and appreciative of during those times. So, it was one of the reasons why I never really struggled, when managing the challenges thrown at me this year.
Since the end of December 2017, I started to ‘feel off’. All blood tests were looking good and I took care of myself, so I kept training and juggling my life at the fast pace I was used to. My body got more and more unbalanced over time. I enjoyed the training more than ever, but mornings were starting to be more of a gamble. Some mornings you wake up normal, some your body wakes up in a stressed state with cortisol through the roof. The obvious one, that training load was not right at the moment, was not the case with me. There was no pattern to the ‘feeling off' mornings.
Looking back now, I believe I found the issue that caused me to struggle with a virus, at the beginning of May.
I started to change my diet to “Low carb high fat” in March 2017, but stayed rather loose with it. Change of coach and lack of communication in July, tightened the diet to a restriction of 50g of carbs a day. I actually felt great from July to November, before and after IRONMAN Florida. So, my body could keep it up for a few months before breaking down, something that is quite common after radical diet changes.
One of the ideas of the diet, is that it changes your ‘feeling hungry’ pattern drastically. Before the diet, my body was ‘screaming’ for food every 2.5-3 hours, but with the high fat diet, I could do 5 hours without feeling any hunger. This is a purpose of that diet, especially for people that plan to lose weight with it.
The little issues for athletes like me is the following:
Let’s say my basic calorie needs daily is 2500 cal. Then add 2-5 hours of sport and you are easily at 5000-8000 cal. a day (not even counting my 8-9 hours of physical and emotional demanding work as a physical therapist). Not something you can get in with two or three big meals.
I ate quality food only, paleo style-like veggies etc. with high quality protein sources, oils, avocados, cheese and nuts etc. All fine and dandy. Except getting in up to 8000 cal. is not something that is very easy to do, even with burgers, fries and pizza. Then try that with veggies, which have a good amount of mass to fill you up, but little calories. Good luck with that.
Fast forward a few months, body is in starvation mode gathering fat around my stomach (starts to save everything it gets immediately - with men, mostly in the stomach region). I never understood it, the way I trained and ate I should be ripped like Jan Frodeno. I did notice something at that time but did not analyze it correctly. As soon as I went to the local pizza shop, feeling generally overwhelmed and down, ordered a huge pizza and a huge Kebab, which disappeared with no issues whatsoever, I woke up the next morning completely ripped and feeling great! My body finally got the calories it needed, even though it wasn’t quality ones.
At first, it was only my body that ‘felt off’. Then it started to affect my mind and emotional health. Small things got me out of balance. Treating 16- 18 patients a day was a complete drag after just 5-6 patients. I simply couldn’t cope with other people that demanded emotional energy from me - something I had none of. I kept my poker face and gave my best to everyone, regardless. My physical state should not affect their rehabilitation and progress, to get back to their beloved sports and daily hobbies. So, the little energy I had, I left at work entirely. Add a few more stressors, like getting let down by people close to me, plus a funeral and you start the countdown to self-destruction.
I still saw sport as a retreat to recharge my mental batteries, but by that point the physical batteries must have been low. Nonetheless, my body still kept performing and still reacted to training. Which is why I kept on training. Right up until the point, that I developed a rash on my arm and got severe nerve sensations all over the right side of my body, with soft touch being interpreted as ‘plain’ pain! It was my body’s sign of pulling the brakes hard and I am grateful for it.
It took a very disciplined and detailed approach to crawl back from this type of physical and emotional overload. Something I will share in another post if people are interested - just let me know.
I am not saying the ‘Low Carb High Fat’ diet is complete rubbish. It works very well for many people especially some neurological patients. However, is it a good idea for the majority of athletes? I am not so sure! Some bodies react really well to it, but over longer periods - which is the only thing that matters (everybody can do it for 6 months and feel great with it), but what about a year or two? Some bodies on the other hand (me) need the right amount of carbohydrates (and more calories!) to keep everything running smoothly. After I upped my carbohydrate content I started to feel better within 6-8 weeks. If you are keen on a LCHF diet or you are already on it, I would highly recommend you to take a DNA spit test that determines your need of % of fat, carbs and protein according to your DNA. No guesswork, it is how you are built and what you need.
After a few weeks of getting back to training, waking up with a body that was mine to control and a balanced and calm mind; I was the one this time, who had to pull the brakes.
Kept short, a car did not see me while I was going downhill and I hit the brakes hard in order to not crash into it. I must have performed a YouTube-ready dive of about 10-15m with a front flip where I somehow landed on my back wheel which took most of the impact. I got away with contusions, road rash and muscle damage – no broken bones, extremely lucky! Well, to be honest I do not believe in ‘luck’. It was supposed to happen this way, for whatever reason. I could have lived with a broken elbow and shoulder as well, considering the distance flying through the air from point A (point of braking) to point B (point of impact).
I am extremely happy and grateful for the opportunity to race one more time on the big island of Hawaii at the 13th of October 2018.
I will give my body the time it needs to recharge (once again this year) and then I will build a strong vessel that will carry me through the lava fields. What matters more than the physical fitness in Hawaii though, is the mental strength and willingness to suffer. After all that has happened, I am very much ready to give it my absolute everything, once the gun goes off.
Feel free to have a look and share my crowd funding project with an awesome video made by my good friend Benni Klevers.
I wish you a good start to the week,