Category Archives: Fueling

Vary Your Training

It’s been a while since I posted something to my running/nutrition blog, but while I ran hills this morning I thought it would be worth sharing a bit of the last year or so of training failures and successes.

I’m totally in for a 50 miler this spring. After two weeks of hard training things are looking good – my knees are holding their own. This has placed me in a very good state of mind lately and it’s mainly due to the energy I have been deriving from harder training. This has not always been the case. I’ve spent the last year somewhat sidelined due to nagging injuries while trying to maintain a healthy aerobic base and enough supplementary strength work to rehabilitate/preserve/restore those injuries.

As a relentless self-experimenter, halfway through my training for my first 50k, I started to experiment with becoming a better “fat-burner” after reading about Zach Bitter and some lower carbohydrate using endurance athletes. I don’t know whether or not this improved my ability to use fat as energy. It must have because I was not using carbohydrates and something was getting me through the long runs. But, in retrospect, I feel like I was not running my best. I have a sneaking suspicion that my performance took a turn for the worse close to the end of my 50k training schedule. When you self-experiment, you have to learn from your mistakes and adapt or adjust.

There are studies now showing certain positive aspects to adapting your body to use more fat for energy (i.e. develop a strong aerobic base) especially for endurance athletes. However, if you train in one modality, I feel it will limit your potential. In my experience, after 8+ months of aerobic threshold training and lower-carbohydrate eating, I found my speed diminishing considerably. Despite strength workouts, my hill running became non-existent because my heart rate monitor would demand a slower pace. Doing this without fuel was perhaps a mistake but there is so much literature and “experts” out there encouraging the train low race high without addressing common pitfalls. What is worth noting, too, is that my enthusiasm for running started fading and energy for other endeavors also started wavering.

I recently re-reread Rich Roll’s Finding Ultra, Matt Fitzgerald’s Racing Weight, and Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run. It prompted me to start fueling again during most training runs and guess what? My performance is getting better by the second. Literally. I’m faster, my workouts are more intense, I’m more positive, I have more energy post-workout, and my endorphins are on the rise. I will still do some fasted workouts but I will be more strategic about it. So, the takeaway points, for me in this training cycle are what might seem like back to basics for most experienced runners but they are worth noting:

  1. Vary the modalities of your training: long, tempo, hill sprints, solely aerobic (heart rate), cross-training, strength, etc…You can try to cram two or three modalities into one week but do low-intensity between hard days (long, hills, tempo). Don’t be afraid to walk.
  2. For god’s sake, eat real food (lots of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, tubers, lean meats, nuts and seeds) or as mobility and CrossFit guru, Kelly Starrett, says, “Don’t eat like an asshole!” If you are putting in the miles, eat a lot of carbohydrates before (2+ hours) and fuel with carbohydrates and protein (brown bananas, mangos, spinach, and vegan protein smoothie work for me!) afterwards to recover quickly.
  3. You will become a better fat burner if you wait 2-3 hours after a meal to do your workout. It’s a-ok to fuel while you run if you are doing a hard workout. You may burn more glycogen but your metabolism will make up for it post-workout by utilizing more fat while you recover. My favorites intra-workout fuels right now are: Tailwind and Skratch.
  4. Sleep more.

Later.

 

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INJURED BUT NOT SIDELINED

Running a lot can really take a toll on your body if you have issues with moderation. I’ve been itching to start ramping up running mileage but do not want to do it while I still have unresolved issues. Knees have suffered but I am now incorporating (as prescribed after much research and a visit to my orthopedic doctor and physical therapist) LOTS of single leg squats at a very slight decline (like 5 sets of 20 for each leg before a strength workout). Apparently, the eccentric component of this exercise stresses the patellar tendon enough to increase blood flow which in turn jump starts more effective healing. So far, it’s sort of been miraculous. I haven’t taped up my knees for the running that I am doing and they are not as sore, if at all. After I ran a 50k in October, I was too eager to get back into training and after a quick run felt a twinge and tightness in what appears to be my left gluteus minimus (though I keep 2nd guessing that it may be a strained tfl). The problem manifests itself as tightness near the insertion point to my upper pelvic crest. Nevertheless, it is for this reason that I am not wholeheartedly ramping up the miles. So, scaled back miles, icing after diminished runs, rolling around on the foam roller, and strength training to support running are what I’ve been doing lately so that when I can ramp up, everything is functional and strong. Here is one particularly tough strength workout I’ve been incorporating into my week 2 times (once the day after my long run to get that back to back action) to make up for less mileage. It was inspired by Dr. Metzl’s workout for runners but I’ve modified it to help sort out my own issues. As a side note, I do it fasted (though I do have water and electrolytes). It’s not easy.

Strength Workout (running focus)–

2 sets bodyweight 25-30 reps

4-5 sets single leg squat 20 reps/leg

6-8 sets squat jumps 15 reps

circuit 1 (2-3x)

pull-ups (max)

push-ups (max)

bicycle 25 reps

circuit 2 (2-3x)

walking lunges with weighted vest or jump lunge 10 reps/leg

dumbbell deadlifts 12 reps

circuit 3 (2-3x)

mountain climbers 30 reps

flutter kicks or sit-ups 30 reps

circuit 4 (2-3 x)

squat with weighted vest and dumbbells 15 reps

dumbbell overhead presses 10-15 reps

bicep curls (mimic running arm movement) 10-15 reps

End with:

6-10 sets burpees 10 reps

side/front/other side plank 60-90 seconds each

50K#1 Fat-Adapted Fueling

On Saturday, I finally ran my first ultramarathon. The Skyline to Sea Marathon and 50K was organized by Pacific Trail Runs. The sense of camaraderie throughout the race was palpable and inspiring. It’s important to note that road marathons and trail marathons are not the same animal. And, road marathons and trail ultramarathons are definitely not the same animal. Hills and more hills: long, short, steep, rolling, and everything in between. Forget pacing strategy, forget predictability. Everyone was advised beforehand to run flats, to walk the uphills, and to negotiate the downhills. And, as the race director put it, “Run the uphills if you must but start walking when it just feels stupid.”

Almost six hours from the start of the race, after three near falls and one good dirty one, a serious cramping on my inner right thigh (oddly, this is where I had a cramp at mile 21 of the Napa Valley Marathon), and plenty of time to enjoy the forest and surrounding redwoods, I ran through the finish line. I have never felt more exhilarated to finish a run.

Skyline to Sea 50K

Skyline to Sea 50K Finish

This was the first endurance event I’ve done after trying to become “fat-fueled”. I followed Vespa’s OFM protocol. Because of this, I’ll post how I specifically implemented it, pre-, peri-, and post. The two most noticeable differences were that my reliance for fuel was curtailed due to the increased reliance on plentiful body fat for fuel and the fact that I never experienced a bonk or an energy low. In fact, there were several stretches where I felt like the energy flow was just about perfect. The question, always, is whether that perfect energy flow is something that I can generate more consistently throughout my next event.

PRE-FUELING:

The night before I added 6 oz. of steamed butternut squash covered in coconut oil and butter to a meal of chicken breast and greens and followed this fueling plan for the day:

70 minutes before: 2 big glasses of water, coffee, 1.5 Tbsp. Artisana raw organic virgin coconut oil, 1 Tbsp. Organic Valley‘s Pastured Butter, 1 Vespa CV-25, 10 Sunfoods chlorella tablets, and 1 8 oz. container of Pacific Foods Vegetable Stock.

10 minutes before: 16 oz. water and 1 Vespa Junior

PERI-FUELING:

I wanted to make it through by relying on aid stations to replenish my water. I did not eat anything from the aid stations.

30 minutes in (and subsequently repeated each hour from then): 1 SaltStick Cap (at 4 hours and 30 minutes in I took 1 SaltStickPlus Cap because I needed it)

45 minutes in (and subsequently repeated each hour from then): 1 VFuel gel and one Vespa CR-25

60 minutes in (and subsequently repeated each hour from then): 1 Hammer Anti-Fatigue Cap and 2 BlueBonnet BCAA pills.

Almost six hours from the start of the race, after three near falls and one good one, a serious cramping on my inner right thigh (oddly, this is where I had a cramp at mile 21 of the Napa Valley Marathon), I ran through the finish line.

POST-FUELING:

Afterwards, I had an orange and some watermelon, an organic active greens bar, and lots of water. Hobbled over to the ocean and stood in the freezing Pacific for 15 minutes.

Next post: gear and lessons learned!