For much of my life, I’ve had an odd relationship with food. Some of it has to do with a history of addiction, some with having been an athlete of some variety since I was about seven. I can plow through a dozen chocolate-chip cookies in the blink of an eye, but I still see how certain foods work better in my system and in my training, than others. So, it has been a long, difficult road to where I find food that I enjoy and that will help my riding.
My diet changes from summer to autumn, winter to spring. I will adjust the proportion of each macro-nutrient, fat, carbohydrates and protein, as well as the sources of these. Right now, the height of summer, I eat 40-50 percent carbs, depending on if I am training or actually out competing or on a long tour. Fat tends to stay near 30 percent, sometimes a little lower when I’m out. Protein I like to keep pretty close to 30 percent, though it will dip a bit out riding. If you are familiar with recent trends, you may recognize the proportions of the “Zone Diet”. Yeah, I tend to do that.
I also lean more and more toward natural foods, or even the Paleo diet. The shorter the ingredients list, the better. The more processed a product, the more calories tend to be jammed into it. As much as I like them, chili and lime Doritos are just about as processed and unnatural as a food-like product can be. A handful of almonds and raisins are at the other end of the spectrum. This is the end I try to stay close to.
Now the whole rise of processed and pre-packaged foods is based on convenience. It’s easy to pick up a Twinkie at the gas station, though it is difficult to tell, even while eating it, how long that little yellow cream-tube has been around. Real food goes bad, eventually. It can be timer-consuming to pack a steak in a bike jersey, however.
So I have tried to find options. They have shifted and changed over the years. I have eaten my share of PowerBars and Fig Newtons. I have tried more “natural” options, like the Honey Stinger offerings. Now I have come across two or three options that I have not had until recently.
Allen Lim is a Boulder-based sports physiologist. He has worked for Team RadioShack and Garmin. He invented a hydration drink with less sugar that prompted other riders to dump their sponsor’s drinks and secretly fill their bottles with Lim’s “Secret Hydration Mix”, now just called Skratch Labs mix. No artificial colors, no artificial flavors. This approach I the basis for Lim’s new book, “Feed Zone Portables”.
I’ve written about this book before. Now that I’ve tried out the recipes, I’m convinced it’s the best riding food I’ve ever had, and it’s cheaper in the long run because it’s made at home. Little muffin-tin omelets, two-bite pies, pocket-sized sandwiches, all with whole, natural-food ingredients. My body handles the food better and I can perform better. The first fourth of the book explains from a physiological point of view why this works. It’s fantastic.
Now I am in no way perfect in my diet. It’s not all food that I can chase down or pick myself. When I’m out on a ride, I like a good treat. I still prefer when that treat has few artificial ingredients and a short list. With that in mind, let me tell you about the return of the Estes Park Pie Company.
Val and Patrick Thompson opened their little shop on Elkhorn Avenue a few years back and were surprised by the positive reaction. Their pies, muffins and cookies were, in my opinion, heavenly. After problems finding an industrial kitchen, questionable dealings with other retailers, a move to Longmont and Illinois, the couple are back and their shop has reopened, this time in Lower Stanley Village. They have added to their menu, now offering meals, as well as desserts. I look forward to beginning, as well as ending, a few rides at the Estes Park Pie Company.
This weekend marks the start of the 100th Tour de France. Due two a few wars, while the race began in 1903, this year is the 100th edition of Le Grande Boucle. American Tejay Van Garderen of Team BMC has the best shot of bring the yellow jersey back to the US, but he will have his hands full. While last year’s defending champ, Brad Wiggins, is not defending his championship do to injury, the only man who came close to him last season, teammate Chris Froome, will be leading Team Sky, widely regarded as the best team in the pro ranks this year. NBCSports and NBC will carry the US broadcast of the grandest of the grand tours beginning at 5:30 am on Saturday, and running through Sunday, July 21.
I often think of the overly-dramatic, overly-romanticized line delivered by Mel Gibson in Braveheart when I swing a leg over my bike. I think of the line when I’m driving between Lyons and Boulder and see the long lines of riders spinning, joking and prodding each other as they go. On Monday, while returning some borrowed stuff to a family friend, I saw two kids on BMX bikes wearing life vests. FREEDOM!
That is the sort of freedom I am aimed toward. That giddy feeling before an innocent adventure. Going to go find crayfish, like my daughter did this weekend. Going to explore the empty field or backcountry trail. Going to ride roads I have never seen. It’s a freedom of childhood summers.
I think this is why there are so many rides in Colorado. We live in an unbelievably pretty, scenic state. Mountains, meadows, flowers, old towns, serpentine roads, all add up to that feeling. The exploration of youth. The innocence that we, of a certain age, seem to crave.
Being able to do this, just jump on my bike and ride all day for a week, is a blessing beyond measure. Saturday, I board a bus bound for Telluride, I reputedly beautiful, old, mining mountain town. I will ride from there all the way back to Colorado Springs, a wonderful city, itself. I will document this journey, relaying back here so I can share the adventure with those who, for whatever reason, won’t be making that trek this year. I plan updates to my blog, waltoutwest.com, and of course, eptrail.com.
Speaking of cravings, I picked up Allen Lim’s Feed Zone Portables last week. It’s a cookbook created by Lim, former team physiologist for Garmin and RadioShack cycling teams. He and chef Biju Thomas created the food and the cookbook as an alternative to processed energy food that has arisen since the late ’80s.
I’m a big advocate of real food. Once I got an idea of how much better I perform and how much tastier real food can be, ditching to bars and bites and gels was not that hard. I started making my own “energy bites” from a recipe in Bicycling magazine a while back. Crushed nuts, diced figs, dates, salt, honey and cocoa powder; what could be bad. Then, I discovered a biscotti recipe in Triathlete magazine with nuts, almond flour and dried fruit. They were a huge hit on my group ride a few weeks back. Armed with this knowledge and an enthusiasm for cooking, I was ready for Lim and Thomas’ book.
The book has a variety of foods. One is not forced into sweet or salty, not just sandwiches or cookies. It has Allen Lim’s now-famous rice cakes, the oatmeal that Kristin Armstrong credits for her gold-medal performance in the Women’s Olympic Time Trial in London, eggs cooked in muffin tins and much more.
I plan to put it to the test. I will cook up some of these delights and pack them for Ride the Rockies. As much as I enjoyed the crepes last year, and the pancake guy, this might be a bit more economical, as well as better for me.
With any luck at all, I hope to have images and videos of the rides, themselves. I have a passion for coffee and unique coffee houses, so I hope to explore those. I will also have the chance to meet several cycling stars and luminaries along the way. I will also, finally, be able to give a first-hand review of the Shimano 9000 group set, as well as the C24 wheels. Of course, it is also loads of fun just talking to regular people on the rides. What sort of person spends a week’s hard-earned vacation torturing themselves over mountain passes? If you read this, you already know, but it’s fun to get another rider’s perspective.
One last little note: if you want to see some racing or find the desire to search for bike treasures, a bike swap is scheduled for Sunday, June 9, at the North Boulder Park during the NOBO Classic Bike Race. It’s a “Drop and swap” meet, so bring those old items that you don’t need. Someone else might be look for that very item.
Well, I’m off. Check the eptrail.com web site daily for updates. Also, if you just can’t get enough, head to waltoutwest.com, as well. This is going to be great.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding . . . the Rockies.