I have been experimenting with a Low Carb High Fat diet in my ultrarunning training. This blog is the second post in a series documenting my experiences and outcomes.
It is Thursday evening and now almost 96 hours since I completed the Northburn 100. How did it go? I finished in 38 hours and 31 minutes. My longest 100 miler to date. Overall, everything went GREAT! I felt I had my nutrition dialed and my body was very responsive to the demands on being on my feet for so many hours. All in the name of science, I have documented my experience in preparing and completing Northburn 100.
How I felt going into race day:
I felt confident with my training. I knew the course was going to be tough, so I knew I wasn’t trained to smash a difficult course. However, I felt I had the endurance to attack whatever was thrown to me.
Coming into the race, I was still dealing with some sore toes (second and fourth toes on my left foot and second toe on my right foot). I was slightly worried that my toes
would prevent me from finishing. I was also worried about the nerve issue I have been experiencing behind my second toe on my right foot. As I mentioned in Part One, the discomfort has decreased, however, it is still there. I no longer care to run in Hokas. Since August, I have been running exclusively in Altra Lone Peak 1.5. I love these shoes. The wide toe box allows my toes to splay without allowing my toes being knocked around, as is the case with the Hokas. I also find the Hokas restrictive around my Achilles after running in them for several hours. This is not the case for the Lone Peaks. But would that nerve act up in essentially a non cushioned shoe?
Worried that the Lone Peaks would not suffice for the entire race, I packed several pairs of socks and just about every shoe I brought to New Zealand with me (Scott T2 Kinabalu, Pearl Izumi EM Trail N2, Hoka One One Bondi B, Luna Leadville Trail sandal, and Les Waddel’s BareFoot Training sandal). Turns out this was overkill as I only changed my shoes once. (Better safe than sorry.) I ran the entire race in the Lone Peaks with no issues. What? Yep. I could feel my toes getting more bruised and the blister forming on the second toe of my left foot. However, this is normal for an ultrarunner and wasn’t so bad that I had to bunch my toes to avoid them from touching the shoe. Also,the nerve on my right foot never flared up.
What I ate pre-race:
For my pre-race breakfast, I had:
- a cup of yerba mate tea (going for the caffeine straight off this time)
- chia seeds/quinoa soaked in coconut cream with cashews, walnuts and blueberries
How I felt after the starting horn went off:
I felt great after the race started and throughout the day. I didn’t have the usual lag in energy that I had been experiencing in prior training runs and at Tarawera. Could this mean I was becoming fat adapted and moving through the transition phase?
What I ate during the race:
In my pack, I carried:
- coconut butter
- chocolate coconut nut balls (see recipe page)
- power balls (see recipe page)
- dino bites (see recipe page)
- mixed nuts with chopped dates
- crystallized ginger
- chickpea tortillas and pumpkin humus (see recipes page)
- salted dates
- dried miso beans
Other foods packed in my cooler at the start/finish include:
- hard boiled eggs
- sliced ham
- coconut flour english muffins (see recipe page) with marmite
- Red Bull
There were only two aid stations on course that stocked food. This was the TW aid station (located at the highest point on the course) and was visited by 100 mile runners a total of four times. This aid station stocked pumpkin soup, boiled potatoes and a variety of muesli bars. The second food aid station was at the start/finish and visited by runners a total of three times.
While running between the food stocked aid stations, I munched on whatever I had in my pack. I feel I required a lot less food than I have consumed in the past.
Each time I passed through the TW aid station, I did consume several cups of pumpkin soup. A couple of times this was because I needed to put in some liquid calories in order to keep solid food calories down without gagging.
At the start/finish aid station, I ate food contained in my cooler. It was at these two stops (after running 50K and 100K) that I ate the most food. I don’t know if my consumption was more mental or physical. Since it would be several hours before reaching the TW aid station again, did I think I needed to consume mass quantities of food or was I really that hungry? Either way, the amount and types of food I consumed managed to be enough to see me through the race.
I mentioned earlier that I did not feel the lag in energy that I had experienced in prior training runs or during Tarawera. As I mentioned in Part One in Dr. Mikki Williden’s seminar, Dr. Williden mentioned that during the fat adaptation transition period, a person will notice a lack of energy during training.
There were, however, several times throughout the race where I felt mentally fatigued. The only aid station with caffeine to drink was the start/finish where I had my own caffeinated drinks (two Red Bulls). This meant I supplemented my caffeine consumption through the use of Vivarin tablets. In a typical race I may take one to two Vivarin tablets. However, during the Northburn, I took a total of four throughout the race. Each Vivarin tablet contains 200 mg of caffeine versus one 250 mL can of Red Bull contains 80 mg of caffeine. In the end I probably over-caffeinated and that I didn’t need to act like a crack addict and consume what ended up being every single tablet in my possession.
I felt the effects of the excess caffeine while climbing to the TW aid station for the last time. This stretch is a few kilometers and is uphill along an exposed, dry 4WD road. I hit this area at 2pm Sunday afternoon and it was hot! Normally I run pretty well in the heat, however I began to panic that I was overheating. I began to envision the anti-drug campaign, this is your brain…this is your brain on drugs as the egg sizzles in the frying pan. Was I indeed overheating my brain? As I climbed up the road, I used water from my hydration pack and my Sea to Summit X-cup to dump water over my head and wet my neck. As I noticed my heart rate and respiration rate increase, I began to focus on my breath by taking full deep breaths in and out. Reflecting back, I think my panic was more the result of my over-caffeinated state versus the heat. By the time I reached TW, I had decided to rest a bit. I sat and ate more pumpkin soup and some potatoes. The medic did take my pulse and agreed it was high, but wasn’t concerned. I was also weighed before being allowed to leave and my weight had only decreased by 0.3 kg. After a 30 minute break, I pushed on for the last 23K which took me 5 hours to complete.
Lesson learned: Be more cognizant of my caffeine consumption.
After the race was done:
I finished at approximately 8:30pm on Sunday. I made arrangements to get a ride back to Cromwell where I had reservations for a bed at a backpacker. By the time I arrived at the backpacker it was about 9:30pm and it turned out I was sharing a room with one other girl who was already asleep. I was tired and stinky and not motivated to walk to couple of blocks to see if the Fish N Chips shop was open or even wait for food, so I opted to go to bed. My sore body actually managed to sleep most of the night. At several points through the night, I woke abruptly only to fall back to sleep relatively quickly. This is actually normal for me after a race. At 6:30am I woke having to use the toilet and famished, so I got up and started the day.
Throughout the day, I had a ravenous appetite. For breakfast, I had a Mung Bean Hash* with eggs, cauliflower, turmeric and pumpkin seeds. I stopped at a vegetable stand for road snacks (rice crackers, carrots, pears). The prize giving lunch offered copious amounts of salad and pasta. While driving home to Dunedin, I had to make an ice cream stop for the most delicious Cookies N Cream ice cream sundae. And when I got home, Owen had an excellent sandwich made of lamb. It is not uncommon that I am hungry after running an ultra, but since experimenting with a LCHF diet, I find myself craving carbs (and fat) more after an event. However, by Tuesday (two days after finishing Northburn), I have been able to resume my (now) normal eating habits.
*In Part One, I mentioned Sarah Wilson and her book, I Quit Sugar. (Both the Chocolate Coconut Nut Balls, Power Balls and Dino Bites recipes are Sarah’s recipes.) Sarah is an author, tv host, blogger and wellness coach from Australia. Her book, I Quit Sugar, is finally making it over to the United States with a release date of April 8, 2014. The book is currently available for pre-order. From Sarah’s blog, if you pre-order (using the following link) before April 8, you can get a free I Quit Sugar Cocktail cookbook. http://www.iquitsugar.com/book/i-quit-sugar-print-book-us/