I am now in week 15 of a 16 week training plan for my first 50K ultramarathon. After two marathons and reading Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run, I was intrigued and inspired to discover what psychological and physiological events occur after 26.2. On the recommendation of another runner, I thought I would use a 50K as a stepping stone to the American River 50 Mile ultramarathon in April. The blueprint for the training plan was from Competitor Magazine. I followed it pretty closely but added minor adjustments for preventative insurance. Running W, Th (hills), F, Su (long), M, with active rest on T and Sa (walking, biking, yoga). I complemented the training with preventative strength and core routines twice a week. The training plan peaked around 65-70 miles before tapering.
During week 7, I read about Zack Bitter‘s use of the OFM protocol to set an endurance running record and this led me down one of my many nutritional rabbit holes. After a week of reading all I could find on OFM and keto-adaptation as it related to endurance training, I decided to pull the plug on sugar and grains. I lowered my intake of carbohydrate to achieve nutritional ketosis in the attempt to become “fat-adapted”. Using your own fat stores for the bulk of your endurance training has several benefits but the two that interested me the most were the clean-burning aspect of fat when compared to the biobyproduct of burning sugar and the thought that if I did indeed train my body to favor fat as fuel I could run longer with more consistent energy.
I did my first training run without gels, without an oatmeal breakfast, and without a post-workout whey and fruit frenzy, up near Lake Tahoe on one serving of UCAN and one Vespa CV-25. It was slow. About 2 minutes slower than my marathon pace. My goal was to stay in my target aerobic heart rate throughout the adaptation (following Phil Maffetone‘s target calculator). At altitude, with no fuel, and with nagging knee issues, I had a fairly good justification for plodding along the Truckee river for 18 miles at a rate that would encourage a slug to feel competitive.
Over the course of the following weeks, I made sure I was doing everything I possibly could nutritionally to not compromise the transition. I went as far as having a blood lipid panel done and all markers came back well above or below where they should have been.
And, coming off of bone edema induced from too much hill running a year ago, I wanted to make sure that on the physical side, I was treating all possible issues either preventatively or at least in a manner that insured the degradation and wear rate on my body would have a reversibility component in it during recovery.
I have now done most long runs (20-26 milers) on a cup of coffee with coconut oil and occasionally some butter from grass-fed cows, water, and electrolytes (sodium heavy). Manageable but no upper gear. However, after the third week, it was easier. I had one 16 miler where I tested the OFM protocol: at mile 4 I had a vespa junior and a VFuel gel and then another hit at mile 10. Gel felt like rocket fuel. Upper gear back.
So am I fat-adapted? Closer, for sure. My blood ketone levels on most days around noon measure at .7 – 1.3 mM. I feel great but know that if I can get them closer to 2 mM there will be additional benefits. As it stands, I’m pretty confident that I am burning a much higher percentage of fat for fuel during runs.
Here are a list of sources that have helped. I plan to review/comment on each over the course of the blog.
-sodium intake through broth and saltstick
–greens perfect food
-ginger, turmeric, dandelion root, green tea (traditional medicinals and tao of tea)
–extreme endurance (or Hammer’s Anti-Fatigue Caps)
More on each of these to follow.