Running Adventures of a Trail Brat

Experiment of One – Part I

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Tarawera Ultramarathon

Tarawera Ultramarathon

Tarawera Ultramarathon is now in the books. I was supposed to run the 85K course, however, Cyclone Lusi put a stop to that plan. Better the weather than me. 🙂

Turns out, due to predicted high winds that the course was altered and as a result shortened. I was planning on running the longer (shortened) course by taking a right at a water tank that was 5K into the course. Yes, I do know my left from right, however, on this morning my body went in the direction of the ‘other’ right (to the left). What didn’t help was I could swear that there was a sign saying 70K on the left side in front of the Course Marshall. I seriously thought I was running the longer course and didn’t realize that I had indeed taken a left (instead of a right) more than 24 hours later. Duh!

Despite my mistake and the shortened course, this event was fantastic and surreal. Cyclone Lusi waited until around noon before the real rain began to fall. This meant I only ran in the rain for about three hours. The trail also had lots of forest canopy coverage, so when I finished I didn’t feel too wet. However, after looking at the free professional course pictures, I guess it was wet.

Running the last 3K to the finish. I do look like a drowned rat.

Running the last 3K to the finish. I do look like a drowned rat.

For me this race continues to be a piece of my current nutrition experiment that started in August when I finished It Starts with Food and began the Whole 30 eating plan. At the end of 30 days, I learned a lot about my food triggers and I ran the Great Naseby Water Race (160 km). I had a good race with a finish time of 23.19, which earned me 3rd place female. I felt good throughout the race with the ball of my right foot only being a slight annoyance. I also recovered well and was able to ski with family and friends the day after completing the race. Did I owe my

My second toe on my right foot is migrating towards my big toe. It really isn't as scary as it looks. I still have heaps of mobility in my toes.

My second toe on my right foot is migrating towards my big toe. It really isn’t as scary as it looks. I still have heaps of mobility in my toes.

success to the Whole 30 eating plan? Maybe. However, for me the Whole 30 eating plan is too paleo-like and I really didn’t care for its emphasis of animal proteins. In the initial 30 days of the Whole 30 program the user eliminates several food categories.  Legumes comprise one of those categories and taken from the Whole9life.com website (a supporting website for the Whole 30 eating plan and its associated book, It Starts with Food), this is why legumes are eliminated:

Legumes are often recommended as a healthy dietary choice, based on their fiber, vitamins and minerals, and “high” protein content. But legumes aren’t really a dense protein source (most contain two to three times as much carbohydrate as protein), and they’re nowhere near as dense (or complete) as the protein found in meat, seafood, or eggs. In addition, when compared to vegetables and fruit, legumes pale in comparison in both micronutrient density and fiber.

Some legumes also contain considerable amounts of phytates — anti-nutrients which bind to minerals in the legumes, rendering them unavailable to our bodies. (This means some of the minerals technically present in the legumes aren’t able to be accessed by our bodies — and means that legumes aren’t as micronutrient-dense as nutrition data might suggest.*)

*Ancient cultures figured out that rinsing, prolonged soaking, cooking, and fermenting legumes reduces the anti-nutrient content. If you choose to eat legumes, we highly recommend you also take these steps to mitigate some of the potential downsides.

In addition, because some of the short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) found in legumes aren’t properly digested and absorbed in the digestive tract, they can act as food for bacteria living in the intestines. These bacteria then “ferment” these carbohydrates, which can create unpleasant symptoms like gas and bloating, and potentially contribute to gut dysbiosis – an inherently inflammatory condition.

For experimental purposes, I followed the Whole 30 eating plan to letter and reluctantly eliminated legumes from my diet for 30 days. Personally, I love legumes and when I did not feel any ‘ill’ effects upon reintroducing them back into my diet, I eagerly welcomed them back into my diet.

I did, however, find that I had an issue with grains. In particular, wheat. Turns out I was addicted to wheat and could easily eat and eat and eat it. When I eliminated wheat, I didn’t miss it. And to realize that I was no longer under its control felt so liberating! Since not eating wheat, my daughters can make muffins that don’t even tempt me. This is huge as I could easily inhale 4 fresh out of the oven muffins in one sitting. Now they last the rest of the family for 3 to 4 days and I don’t even give them a second look. The feeling is awesome.

From September to the end of December I dealt with moving from Wanaka to Dunedin and finishing up my online master’s degree in Educational Technology from Boise State University. Needless to say, the next phase of my eating experiment took a back seat. By New Year’s, I began to incorporate a more plant-based version of the Whole 30 program. (In New Zealand, we bought a butchered lamb from a friend and we have several jars of canned tuna caught by Owen and McKenzie, so I wasn’t ready to swear off all meat right now.) In February, while at the library, my eyes fell upon Sarah Wilson’s book, I Quit Sugar. This book includes an 8 week program to quit sugar along with 108 different recipes. While leafing through the book, I noticed that I had already implemented weeks 1 (start cutting back on your sugar intake) and 2 (replace the eliminated sugar with fat…good fat). Week 3 consisted of taking the leap and completely eliminating all sugar (including fructose). Sarah’s book came about after she discovered quitting sugar that she was able to cure her own autoimmune disease. While I fortunately do not suffer from any autoimmune issues, I have been dealing with inflammation in the ball of my right foot to the point where my second toe is actually beginning to migrate towards my big toe.  The ‘pain’ (on a scale of 1-5, I’d rate the pain as a 1.5 to 2) has decreased over the last year and I can ignore it. However, I’d like to eliminate it completely, so if diet can reduce inflammation in my body…well let’s try it! Let’s see what happens if I eliminate (excess*) sugar.

After an online discussion with Tom Shand with Trail Blazer Nutrition, it was brought to my attention that I was somewhat following the Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) diet. This isn’t your Atkins or South Beach diet, but more like the diets followed by such elite runners as Tim Olson,  Zach Bitter, and Sage Canady. Thanks to Tom Shand’s recommendation, I started following Professor Grant Schofield, a professor in Public Health at Auckland University of Technology, who has been researching the correlation between diet and longevity and peak athletic performance.

Despite all of my reading, I arrived in Rotorua still a little nervous about my eating plan and was this a smart thing to do during a ‘race’. To my delight, Dr. Mikki Williden was a seminar speaker at the Tarawera Ultramarathon. Dr. Williden is a registered nutritionist and she presented her findings on a LCHF diet and sports performance. The following are a few points made by Dr. Williden

  • fat is an infinite source of energy (regardless of a person’s BMI).
  • the amount of carbohydrates consumed can be flexible according the individual and should be between 50-150 g (of carbohydrates) per day.
  • fat adaptation can take 6-12 weeks before the body uses fat as its source of energy.
  • during the transition period during fat adaptation, a person will notice a lack of energy during training. (What a relief!! Maybe I am doing this right.)
  • carbohydrate loading prior to and on race day is still an important element to a successful performance.

The following was my Tarawera race day breakfast:

  • coconut butter
  • Cashew Chia Pudding with blueberries
  • ginger tea

My race fuel consisted of:

  • salted dates
  • crackers I made with sunflower seeds, chia seeds, herbs, almond meal
  • cucumbers
  • coconut water in one hand held and water in the other
  • protein bites (mixed nuts, coconut, cacao)
  • dried miso
  • mixed nuts with dates and cacao bits

From aid stations, I also consumed:

  • bananas
  • ginger beer
  • mountain dew
  • electrolyte drink
  • crystallized ginger

I felt great for the first 20K. After running for about 2 1/2, I began to feel my energy drop. My body felt good, but I just felt like I was slowing down. After doing a check on myself…I wasn’t hungry or thirsty, nothing

Early one and still feeling good.

Early one and still feeling good.

hurt or ached and at this point I hadn’t had any caffeine. I decided to take a caffeine tablet. This helped alot. Soon I was back to being able to push and the dull headache that was forming was gone. Yeah! At 40K I took some crystallized ginger just to consume some additional instant sugar and forged back into the forest to the finish line. While running/walking uphill I could feel my legs cramping, however, I was able to push on until…at one point the course drops down into two river crossings. Both river crossing were currently void of water, however they consisted of a short steep, downhill followed by a short, steep uphill. At this point the rain had turned the trail into mud and while going back uphill my whole right leg cramped. For several seconds I could not bend my leg or foot. I managed to hobble up the embankment.  Once back on flat ground, I gobbled up the last of my dried miso and remembered that the cacao in the protein bites contain magnesium. Thankfully, this brought some great relief and I was able to run/walk/shuffle the remaining 14K. Lesson learned: Take in some caffeine with breakfast and I’ll need to consume more electrolytes.

In the following days, my body felt good and this includes two days of long drives in the car. My only issue is a few sore toes from wearing wet Hokas. For the comfort of my right foot, I chose to wear the Hokas. I brought a pair of Bondi B to New Zealand with me. The toe box on these shoes are a bit wider than the Stinson, so with the downhills on the Tarawera course, my toes got a little banged up. I am confident my body has recovered well for this weekend’s Northburn. I’ll just have to figure out what to do with the toes.

So tomorrow the experiment continues as I run Northburn 100. I am excited to see what happens and will definitely report back here.

*By excess sugar, I am looking to reduce my sugar intake from the 25 or more teaspoons of sugar/day contained in a ‘normal’ healthy diet down to 5-9 teaspoons/day.  To reduce my sugar intake this much not only means eliminating the refined stuff, but also agave. Dried fruit and some raw fruits contain alot of fructose. Though I could never eliminate dates from my diet, I have become more aware of how many I eat and I no longer look to apples, oranges or bananas as a ‘go-to’ snack. Now I go for veggies. Did you know that celery is a great source of potassium and calcium!

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2 thoughts on “Experiment of One – Part I

  1. Good job Lynette,
    We are trying to follow the Palio
    diet not to the T but trying. Harald has dropped some weight and says he feel better and his training is going well. I dont follow it like he does but do feel better. Sugar is the on for me to break. You are such an inspiration!!

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