Do you like suffering? Enjoy hurtling down narrow, twisty mountain roads at 60+mph with only one inch of rubber separating you from the tarmac? And finally: do you look fabulous in Lycra?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, you just might be a candidate to ride the Tour de France.
But first, you’ll need a coach and a training plan. The person I’d recommend to guide you through the Alps is Allen Lim, Ph.D.
“Allen who?” you might ask. If you race or read VeloNews, then you already know that Allen is an (the?) expert in sports performance and training. For years he’s worked with top cyclists like Lance Armstrong, David Zabriskie, and Levi Leipheimer . Allen knows all about minimizing resistance, creating the ideal training plan, and shaving precious seconds off of your climb up the Alpe d’Huez.
Much of Allen’s work revolves around eating and nutrition, which makes sense, given that the average cyclist can burn about 6,000 calories in a single day. You are what you eat, and if you don’t eat right, you will bonk (i.e., hit the wall). Everyone bonks, even Lance, but by eating right, you can minimize the chances that you’ll run out of energy and get dropped on the hills.
Working with young cyclists, Allen realized that, “As much as I’d talk about protein and carbs and the science of eating, I wasn’t getting anywhere. I realized I had to show a rider a specific recipe and know that he had the skills to cook it. Many of the young riders I coached couldn’t boil a pot of water to make a bowl of pasta.”
Allen got frustrated that he was spending so much time teaching his younger athletes the basics of diet and nutrition. That’s when he decided to team up with his friend and colleague, chef Biju Thomas, to write “The Feed Zone Cookbook.” Their goal? “To put together the meals I’d made for Lance and Levi and explain why they worked.”
Sadly, I am not a candidate to race in the Tour de France. Still, I’ve been using Allen’s book for about four months. All I can say is that it’s not only my new favorite cycling book, it’s also my new favorite cookbook (sorry, Julia).
The good news is you don’t have to be a world class athlete to enjoy “The Feed Zone Cookbook.” Duffers, hacks, and people like you and me can all benefit from Allen and Thomas’ simple recipes. As Allen told me, “We wanted to write this book to appeal to a broad range of athletes. It’s really popular with kids who want to learn how to eat healthier and improve their performance.”
My 18 year old son is great at ordering takeout. Still, after inhaling several dishes I cooked using Allen and Biju’s book, he asked me to buy him his own copy. Smart kid: he knows there’s no way I’m parting with mine.
The recipes are organized into sections for before, during and after your ride. Each recipe has detailed nutritional information and uses simple, natural and healthy ingredients. Still, Allen is no zealot: “We don’t try to be extreme about diet and we never tell people to only eat one kind of food, like raw vegetables. Our goal is to get people to eat real food using simple recipes and basic ingredients.”
As a vegetarian, I found that many of the recipes were easy to modify. No surprise, given that one of Allen’s athletes, David Zabriskie, a national time trial champion, ate a vegan diet last season.
These days, Allen is taking a breather from working full time with professional cycling teams like Radio Shack and Garmin. When he’s not consulting with individual athletes he’s working on new recipes for his company Scratch Labs, a name he chose “Because I started my nutrition company in my kitchen and came up with formulas from scratch that worked.”
Okay, so Allen’s book won’t flatten mountains, and it won’t protect you if you fall. What it will do is ease your suffering and quicken your recovery. Which just might help you win the race, whether you’re sprinting for the town line or riding along the Champs-Élysées.
Jonathan Simmons is a psychologist and an avid cyclist. His book, “Here For the Ride” will be published later this year.
Looking to put Allen’s book to good use? It’s not too late to register for Mass Bike’s Summer Century and Family Ride on July 28th.
Hubway is celebrating its first birthday with a party at The Boston Society of Architects, who is hosting the exhibit “Let’s Talk About Bikes.” The party is on Tuesday, July 24th, from 6-8pm. It’s free, but you must RSVP.