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  • Writer's pictureRyan Allen

2022 Fundraiser, Ironman, and project updates

Our 2022 Fundraiser is now live! You can donate via card or Apple Pay by clicking on the “Donate” tab, and we also welcome donations via Venmo @zone7health. In this post, we’ll briefly detail our current projects and future plans (further details are available on zone7.io/projects), where donations will go, and take a deep dive into the daunting physical challenge–an Ironman triathlon–paired with our fundraiser.


Scholarships


In addition to our flagship Zone 7 Scholarship, awarded to an economically disadvantaged high school student from Oakland, CA, we are thrilled to introduce the new Valley of the Sun Scholarship, which will go to a student from Phoenix, AZ. You can learn more about these scholarships and previous winners at zone7.io/scholarships. If you are or know someone who may be eligible for this scholarship, applications are now open on this same page, and close August 1.


Health Screenings


We have partnered with the organization Street Medicine Phoenix to provide health screenings and services to the Phoenix unhoused community. On community runs, we work with this organization to supply basic lab tests, blood sugar and blood pressure checks, wound care, vaccinations, medicines, food, water, hygiene kits, and other resources to this patient population. Donations will greatly expand our capacity to evaluate patients’ cardiovascular health with point-of-care devices for measuring cholesterol levels.


Housing


We are excited to announce plans for our Transitional Living Program, which will address the social determinants of health in at-risk young adults by offering housing, basic resources such as nutrition and transportation, education, career services, etc. This is a long-term project we look forward to advancing, and donations will be invaluable in expediting the process of securing property, architectural development, organization, recruitment, etc.


Health Education


One of our key missions remains to empower individuals and communities with information on living longer and living better. As always, you can follow along on the blog, subscribe for free to our monthly newsletter, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @zone7health!


Ironman Triathlon


Our physical challenge for this year’s fundraiser is the infamous Ironman triathlon, which we’ll attempt this Sunday, June 5. For those unfamiliar with this race, it has three stages to be completed in one day: a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. As is fairly typical for these events, due to the amount of time they take, we’ll be starting bright and early with the swim at around 4:30 a.m. Because of the complexities of this race, I thought it might be interesting to share a few training and strategy considerations we’ve had to make.


The first thing some might note is the clear disruption in sleep schedule, knowing that we are big advocates of sleep and its impact on both cognitive and physical performance. Since the goal is to shift our sleep window earlier (ideally going to bed around 8 p.m. and waking up around 4 a.m. on race day), we’re starting days and even weeks in advance to move towards this. For example, my typical sleep schedule these days is around 9:15 p.m.-5:15 a.m., so to adjust my circadian rhythm I have been incrementally sleeping earlier leading up to the race. The smaller the day-to-day changes the better, so I have been trying to move my circadian rhythm 15 minutes at a time towards the 8 p.m.-4 a.m. sleep period.


It is typically easier to shift one’s sleep schedule forward (earlier) than to ratchet it back (later). For anyone who has taken a flight westward (“back” in time), you know that you can just stay up later the night before the flight then sleep on the flight to, in a way, put yourself in the time zone you’re going to ahead of time. However, moving a sleep schedule earlier or flying east is difficult because you are losing time and sleep that you cannot get back. On a few of these nights where I have tried to sleep earlier, I have been unable to because I’m accustomed to sleeping later. In other words, we’re always able to fall asleep easily when it’s past our bedtime, not before our bedtime. Lastly, moving one’s sleep schedule earlier is a situation where I feel caffeine can be beneficial as a tool to reset circadian rhythms. Drinking a coffee right after waking up at 4 a.m. can help signal to your body that that is the time to be awake.


Next, as you might guess, the training regimen has been a lot. Our strategy, as is recommended, involved gradually increasing our volume of training until about two weeks ago, when we started to taper off to rest and prepare for the race. At our peak, we were swimming the full 2.4 miles on each swim, which fortunately does not actually take that long, only around 2 hours. Because of this, it should not be the rate-limiting leg of the race, meaning it shouldn’t matter too much if we’re having a “fast” or “slow” day on the swim; it would take a relatively similar amount of time either way. That being said, we may be limited logistically by the complications of swimming in a lake as opposed to a pool, mainly in the sense of maintaining direction and sticking together. Regardless, we will probably try to take our time on the swim and ensure that we don’t burn ourselves out right away, especially on an activity where bits of extra effort will be rather low-yield.


With biking, we peaked with a 100-mile ride a couple weeks back. There was not much need to do the full 114 miles in a day before the race; 100 miles is seemingly long enough to simulate the same physiological effects of 114 miles for training purposes. The bike portion of the race is really the key. It is the longest leg, taking as long as 10 or so hours, and therefore the most rate-limiting. A poor performance on the swim and run, losing 1 or 2 hours, can be completely negated by a faster day on the bike.


Not only is the bike leg important for speed and finishing time, but also stamina. With both the bike and swim legs, we want to do our best to remain in a state of aerobic metabolism and therefore at a low-mid intensity, i.e. Zone 2. There’s a reason why some refer to Zone 2 as your “all-day pace,” and that is because your mitochondria are very efficient, effective fuel-burning tools. When metabolism is kept to the mitochondria, fewer of the metabolites that signal exhaustion to the body are produced, such as lactate (or lactic acid) from glycolysis.


For the run, it is highly likely we will exceed this Zone 2 threshold. Running can feel like a rather rough form of cardio, in part because it is almost impossible to limit metabolism to the mitochondria. Instead, we’ll be using less efficient energy systems involving glycolytic mechanisms, which are not that sustainable and programmed to increase relative perceived exertion (RPE), a.k.a. exhaustion or tiredness. Running can also be quite destructive due to the high impact level, with many runners suffering long-term mechanical issues like joint damage. Our peak run in training was only 18 miles for this reason. Marathons are almost certainly more harmful to one’s health than beneficial in the long run, so it’s best to prepare as best as one can for race day without replicating the act.


Hopefully this post has been a helpful update on projects, along with some useful pieces of exercise physiology to take into account for your own training. We greatly appreciate any donations or contributions you are able to make towards our efforts, and be sure to follow us on Instagram @zone7health for live story updates throughout each stage of our race this Sunday!


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