Some stats, some juice and lots of pink

So. I’m almost over beetroots. I’ve been eating them, drinking them and peeing them. Everything except for bathing in them, but If I had a bath at home – well, who knows. I’m back on the ‘beet’, all in the name of science. I say that loosely. I’m not collecting qualitative data, and definitely not running a T-Test.

Why? Well, as mentioned in a previous post, I am curious to find out if beetroot dosing would actually increase my performance. There is lots of research to support the benefits of beetroot and the nitrates that they harbour on your muscle efficiency. I’m a bit sceptical. Increased performance could be so many other factors. I’ve dosed before and was not convinced. The opportunity to test if BRJ is all it’s talked up to be came up again… So it was worth a try, again.

How? This time I was able to conduct a better test… by racing the same Lancefield course I could replicate and measure (again, loosely) the before and after BRJ dosing. So. Last weekend I raced the Northern Combine Women’s Series/SKCC Trophy race whilst ‘on’ the BRJ. Two weeks earlier, I raced Stage 1 of the Northern Combine 3DT ‘off’ the BRJ.

I’ve written a report on stage 1 of 3DT look that up here if you want, or don’t. So, here’s how Saturday’s race panned out – in very fast forward so that you can get to the stats.

Photo credit Jo Upton Photography.

Last Saturday, was almost like déjà vu. Everything was the same. I ate the same food, again there was a thick layer of frost, again my feet were numb, again we waited for ever on the start line, again there were the usual suspects in B grade….Again, we rolled out in a relatively orderly manner.

Again, we started to roll fast turns straight away. We needed to get warm, the air was cold, and so was I, the fact that we spent about a thousand years on the start line was not helpful to my legs. They were feeling heavy. But, I was feeling good. “Race, not ride” was today’s mantra. After an epic fail at the first major corner (half the peloton went straight instead of turning), we hit Dons Rd fast. I hate Dons Rd, just hang on. But, the bunch started to break up. Again, by the time we got to the pinchy sections on Rochford Rd, we were down to eight or so, trying not to be caught. Interesting in that these pinchy sections, the sections that I hate the most usually, felt okay. Again, in no time we were descending, I looked up, and the first lap was almost over.

Not again! Lap two, we continued to rolled turns, well, most of us did. Some were more fatigued than others, and they had a nice ride on the back. Again, we saw some strength with one bridging the gap to get back on. We were still rolling fast. The worst section for me, Dons Rd came and went. Again, the same usual suspects were on the front on Rochford Rd, Oh no…Again, I was starting to fail, just hanging on for dear life and nearly not making my turns. Just before the last climb, I thought it was race over, my mind started to melt and so did my legs. Again, everyone started to dart up the hill and I thought to myself “race, not ride – you’ve got to break your 6th curse”… I pulled something from nothing. We were on the false flat before the finish (on the top of the climb), again Tessa off the front, Simone chasing and 3 of us side by side across the road. Wow, Tessa had already crossed the line by the time we thought about sprinting! That girl is amazing. Simone was close behind. We clicked up a few gears and bang. Harriet 3rd and me, 4th. wow… That was not the same as last time.

So, let’ analyse the results…

Data comparison

3DT SKCC Trophy Race
Beetroot No Yes
Distance 60.8 60.2km
Time 1:46:20 1:45:29
Ave speed 33.9 34.2
Max speed 69.8 67.0
Cadence ave 90 rpm 89 rpm
Heart rate 185bpm N/A
Place 8th 4th

It is pretty much exactly the same. Same distance, same time, same average speed, same cadence…except different end results. I moved up four places. That is an achievement. I’m very happy with the result! I am finally seeing some results and my training looks to be paying off.

But…I’m going to say that I don’t think that the results are entirely because of the BRJ dosing, environmental perhaps? Could it have been that I was more familiar with the course after racing it twice before? Maybe it helped me know where to use my energy and where to conserve it. Maybe I just raced better? Maybe I raced, instead of rode? Maybe I ate and drank more? Maybe I had a better sleep the night before?

Or was it the BRJ? Maybe it was the nitrates in the BRJ made my oxygen transport more efficient, made my muscles fire more efficiently, so that at the end, I still had the power and energy in the legs to do better in the important, final stages…Maybe?

All in all, the race felt good, apart from a minor mind melt down before the final climb. I ended up in a good position. Do I think that it was the BRJ? The answer is maybe? I’m racing the Preston Mountain Classic on Sunday… we’ll see because, I’ve bought a new juice to try:


Get on your bike and ride it. In the cold, with your friends and have a bloody awesome time doing it.

You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @lowercasev

Beetroot bonanza begins, I’m back on the juice…and off the junk

Righto. So. I’m still anaemic. Thats a fact. It is something that has been affecting my energy levels for some time now. It is probably contributing to my general lack of motivation as well. I’m trying to get on top of it. Namely by taking supplements, when I do remember. Which is, well, intermittently. The doctor injected me in the butt with Iron and B12 to try and forcefully push my Iron up.

I guess me telling you all that is pretty irrelevant. But I really have to pull my finger out and start taking my health a little more seriously. My skin is terrible at the moment, a symptom of the crap that I have been ingesting. So. I’m going to do two things. Which I will pledge here. Please hold me to it.

1. Clean up my diet. I will eat good food. I will avoid sugar, Caramello Koala’s and the like. I will limit my alcohol consumption and do Dry July. I will TRY to avoid drinking all things labelled with diet coke or coke zero – i will TRY.
2. Look after myself a better. I will stretch every night. I will take my supplements. I will listen to my body.

I’m back on the beetroot band wagon as a spur to start to only put things in my body that are good for me. Beetroot is one. High in nutrients, and especially nitrates, BRJ is good for reducing blood pressure, improves muscle efficiency blah blah I’ve told you before.

Tonight I made my favorite salad. I call it “Beetroot Salad”.

So easy I don’t have a recipe. It is full of good nutrients and superfoods, just what my body is craving.

Just get some beetroot, spinach, green beans, walnuts, feta, red onion and balsamic vinegar. Chop what you need to, mix what you need to, then put them in a bowl together and serve with your favourite beetroot juice beverage.

photo 1

photo 2

I’m back on the juice. Lets see it improves my cycling performance. After being off the juice for a couple of months now, it will be a good test as to if BRJ does do anything.

I did okay in the ITT at Northern Combine 3DT. Lets see if BRJ does anything for me at the Northern Combine ITT in 2 weeks… Watch this space.

For now I’m going to get on my bike and ride it. Ingest, digest, good fresh food and eat no more junk. Ever. I promise. (with the exception of Sesame Snaps)

So, was it the juice?

Beetroot face

As I’ve mentioned earlier (here) BRJ is known to reduce the oxygen cost of excercise and improve high-intensity excercise tolerance – perfect for cyclists, particularly climbers or TT’s.

One body of research says that dietary supplementation with a single 0.5-L dose of nitrate-rich BRJ improved 4- and 16.1-km TT performance in trained cyclists. 2.8% improvement in 4km TT and 2.7% improvement in 16.1km TT, 7-11% improvement in power output with no increase in oxygen cost of excercise, which means an increase in oxygen economy. Plasma nitrite was significantly increased 2.5 h after BRJ supplementation, and blood pressure was reduced, consistent with an increased nitrate bioavailability within the blood.

Blah blah…The results indicate that acute dietary nitrate supplementation with beetroot juice may lead to a significant and practically meaningful enhancement of 4- and 16.1-km TT performance in subelite cyclists (Lansley et al 2011).

So…In the lead up to the Mansfield Crit and Mt Buller Road Race I was suffering from accute Beeturia. No, nothing was wrong with me! Beeturia is a symptom of eating a lot of beetroot, it turns your pee red or pink. Hence beet-uria.

Why… Because I had started some serous beetrootdoping. All in an attempt to get those 2% increases in my own cycling performance (what a wank) #beetrootbonanza. I was going to test it for myself, or try to.

I needed to be at my nitrate prime to fend off fatigue and get my body using oxygen the most efficiently. Remember I’m still frightfully anaemic, so my oxygen is not being transported efficiently to start off with (thats another story)… The weekends racing was going to be hard, energy efficiency key (not solar power) to sprint around a hot-dog-on-roids style crit course and back it up by racing up a mountain, Mt Buller.

So how did I beetrootdope?

Well I almost turned into a beetroot that’s how.

I drank huge amounts of beetroot juice, beetroot shots, cooked it, ate it raw, had it in sandwiches… The more beetroot the more nitrates – the better, the better high-intensity excercise tolerance! I knew I was on the right track when the beeturia set in!

So, the Question: Did beetroot actually improve my cycling performance?

Well judging my results on the weekend, and on face value, I did quite well… and maybe, yes, it did increase my performance?

The results…

The crit = 4th B Grade


Normal day, racing at 3pm. Drank beetroot juice throughout the day.
1 gel, 15 mins before race start

How I felt in the race?
Good 8/10. Was able to keep up with the pace, stick close to the front, bridge gaps when we strung out, sprinted well. My heart-felt good, kept breathing under control and was not panicked. Lost points for not going faster in the bell lap. Was it the legs, bad gearing?

The RR = 1st C Grade

Normal breakfast at 7:30am- banana, muesli and yoghurt, cup of tea, 1/2 cup of beetroot juice with 1/2 cup ginger, orange and apple juice
A couple of Gu Chews on start line (they’re gross, never again), 9:30 ish
1 hr into race, 1 gel guarana-caffinated
Mid Climb 1.5/2 hrs into climb, 1 gel guarana-caffinated

How I felt in the race?

Out 6/10, climb 9/10. Struggled on the way out to the base of buller. Legs were sore, knees were sore, was working really hard. Mind was playing games on me, telling me to give up. I could have been struggling because it was really windy and we as a peloton were really strung out? The climb was good. I kept a constant tempo, was able to accelerate on the false flats, get out of the saddle comfortably. There were a few instances of panic breathing wise, from lack of concentration I think. Was able to get out of the saddle for the last pinchy 500m and accelerate hard.

Now the question is, was it actually the beetroot juice that did it for me?

The realistic answer is probably no. Though I did feel good on the bike the whole weekend.

There were plenty of things wrong with my ad hoc test. This is where my science brain takes over.

So without using a proper method and measured results, who knows? My feeling good means nothing. It could have been environmental factors.

I know better. Did 4 years Batchelor of Science. I know all about proper scientific method for testing: remember BACI from High School science class? Before, After, Control, Impact…blah…snooze…

Did I measure the before? No because I have never done a hot-dog or weird shape crit before, never raced the Mt Buller RR. So I have nothing really to compare my performance too…
Did I measure the after?Yes, 4th and 1st. After is a given…
Did the impact change? It could have, yes, because I won, was top 4… But no comparison…
Did I have a control? No.

Yep well I did not follow any scientific method in my beetroot madness. Something something ANOVA, something something t-test, statistic…. Oh yeah, that old statistics chestnut.

Anyway… I sabotaged my own test from the start… because, I got on the gels as well. Gels work in a slightly different capacity than the idea of building up the bodies nitrates through beetroot doping. But fundamentally gels give the boost of energy required for a short period of time. For example popping a gel 15 mins before the climb would have given me energy for 45mins or so. Then I would pop another to get me through to the end.

Beetroot may have increased my oxygen efficiency, maybe there was a 2% increase in performance. My oxygen was probably transported around more efficiently, my muscles were firing well…

But, who knows. Not being anaemic might help me too. Yeah, better get on to that.

So, it was probably the gels that got me through the weekends racing to be honest. And there is plenty of research on gels to verify…normal ones, caffeinated ones and guarana ones, doubles, triples, sugar free, extra carb…look it up yourself.

Hmm, is there a relationship between nitrates and lactic build up…I better get researching.

So. In conclusion, there is none…

Cram beetroot wherever you can. Beetroot juice goes well mixed with apple, orange and ginger juice (from Safeway). It goes well in salads, roasts, eat like an apple. Have the shots, dilute the shots, put them in a smoothie/juice them, have it, or don’t.

Have some gels too and do some bike riding.

So, was it the juice? I’m undecided … MAYBE IT WAS THE PLACEBO EFFECT?!

Ref: Lansley et al (2011) Lansley KI, Winyard PG, Bailey SJ, Vanhatalo A, Wilkerson DP, Blackwell JR, Gilchrist M, Benjamin N, Jones AM. Acute dietary nitrate supplementation improves cycling time trial performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2011 43: 1125-1131.

Refer to my previous post about Beetroot Juice (BRJ) here.