Running Adventures of a Trail Brat


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Capitol Reef 100

Quick. Capitol Reef. What’s the first thing that enters your mind? Southern Utah, Capitol Reef National Park, Red Rock, maybe oceans and coral reefs?

Now consider Ultra Adventures Capitol Reef Ultras. What’s the first thing that enters your mind? If you know anything about Ultra Adventures races, you might think: spectacular course, tough course, awesome race staff and volunteers, lots of backcountry adventure.

One of many views from the Aquarius Plateau

One of many views from the Aquarius Plateau

Though these are excellent descriptors of the Capitol Reef Ultras, it is also important to note that the course is not run in the Capitol Reef National Park. Instead, it starts in the arid, red rock of Red River Ranch in Torrey and gradually takes the runner to the subalpine zone of the Aquarius Plateau. The out and back format of the 100 mile course is very technical with the trail consisting of  all sorts of rocks and boulders, wet marshy patches, downed trees, and lots of steep ups and downs. Sometimes an obvious true trail seemed nonexistent or just overgrown. This element made following course markings difficult and added another level of difficulty to the challenge of the course.

Elevation Profile for Capitol Reef 100

Elevation Profile for Capitol Reef 100

Click on the image below to video below represents much of the first 50 miles of the course.

Click on the image of this link to view a video of Capitol Reef 100.

Next to Monument Valley, I’d have to say that Capitol Reef may be my next favorite Ultra Adventures race. The scenery, remoteness, and difficulty make this a course to remember. I also love running at night. My night time highlight was running across the plateau under a clear, starry sky. However, from my vantage point, I saw several lightning strikes over the town of Torrey. This light show was almost as magnificent as running under a meteor shower. Despite my fondness for night running, it also created a few issues trying to navigate across the plateau. At 1am, I stopped to put on another layer of clothing and found myself running in a complete circle. In correcting my course and moving in a forward direction, turns out I was now running the course backwards and heading back to the previous aid station. Fortunately, I ran into Tony Christensen who set me right and offered a second pair of eyes to navigate the plateau.

After 33 hours of running and dealing with the results of fatigue from running at high elevations, I missed the cut off for the 87 mile aid station. This is the first time I’ve missed a cut off and though a little hard to handle, I allowed myself to appreciate what my body had allowed me to accomplish: completing 87 miles of technical terrain with approximately 40 of those miles at sustained elevations above 11,000 feet all while witnessing the beauty of the Aquarius Plateau and Boulder Mountains. I’d say a day and a half well spent, despite not coming home with a belt buckle.

However, given the opportunity, in a heart beat, I’d return next year to redeem myself with a finish! 🙂

 

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Antelope Canyon 100

Antelope Canyon Elevation Profile

To a seasoned ultra runner, this elevation profile may not look too intimidating. However, though useful information, you shouldn’t judge a race solely by its elevation profile.

Here are a things the Antelope Canyon profile won’t tell you. (Click the image below to view a YouTube video of the course or click direct link here.)

View of Upper Antelope Canyon entrance

I’m always happy to reach the finish line. Yep, those white flecks are snow. The steady drizzle turned to snow about 1 1/2 hours before I reached the finish line.

At the Finish Line

This is what feet can look like after running 30 miles in sand dune-like sand, 10 miles on slickrock, and 60 miles on hard pack trail over slickrock.

Feet after running 100 miles at Antelope Canyon

Try as hard as I did to not bring home any of the Antelope Canyon canyon sand, with the rain, it was just unavoidable.

Sandy shoes

Unfortunately, I was not able to fit in any of the Anthelope Canyon Trifectas. The following links have, however, inspired me to return next year to Antelope Canyon just so I can check out these uniquie and awesome areas.

Cable Trail to Colorado River video by Travis McWhorter

White Pocket blog post by Jill Williams

As always, thank you Matt Gunn, Ultra Adventures, other races officials, race volunteers and fellow runners for an inspirational and challenging adventure in the desert.


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Altra Olympus 1.5 Review

Altra Olympus 1.5

Altra Olympus 1.5

Thanks to Mike Shuman with Shu’s Idaho Running Company I had the pleasure of giving the Altra Olympus 1.5 (Altra’s Maximum cushioning shoe) a try.

I’ve run in the Altra Lone Peak (Altra’s Moderate cushioning shoe) 1.0 and 1.5 and the Altra Superior (Altra’s Minimum cushioning shoe) 1.0. I’ve been a pleased with the Altra product since becoming a dedicated wearer since Sept 2013.

When the Olympus 1.0 came out in Spring 2014, I was excited to try a shoe with some additional cushioning when running 100 mile races. At the time I was experiencing discomfort in the ball of my foot after running for approximately 3 hours. The discomfort would come and go throughout my run. I had been dealing with the issue for at least a year and just ignored it. So I hoped that a shoe with more cushion might alleviate the condition. (Fast forward to today, turns out it was Plantar fasciitis. Gratson technique has been providing me with much relief.) I put so much faith that this shoe could be ‘the answer’ that I had a pair shipped to me in New Zealand hoping they would arrive before I ran Northburn 100. Unfortunately, they arrived after the race. However, still excited to give them a try, I quickly laced them up, walked my daughter the 3/4 of a mile (downhill) to school and intended on going for a run on the trails in Dunedin. Just the walk to school let me know that these shoes were not for me. I ordered a size 8, the same size as my Superior 1.0 and Lone Peak 1.5. My toes hit the end of the shoe so badly that all I wanted to do was get them off my feet as quickly as possible. I sadly returned the shoes and decided to wait until I returned to the US to try a larger size on in the store.

In the store, a size 8.5 seemed like it might work until I ran a moderate downhill. There was so much room in the shoe that my toes were pushed forward, once again hitting the end of the shoe. At this point, I figured I’d remain a devoted Lone Peak 1.5 wearer.

Shortly after this incident, I became disappointed with Altra when they changed the Lone Peak. For me the Lone Peak 2.0 was too stiff for long runs. All I looked forward to doing at the finish line of Wasatch 100 was to take the Lone Peak 2.0 off! Next, my hopes for the Superior 2.0 were dashed when I was unable to find the correct size. Once again, the size 8.0 was a little too small and the size 8.5 was too big. Mike Shuman started calling me Goldilocks, however nothing seemed to be ‘just right’.

After telling Mike I had four pairs of the Lone Peak 1.5 hoarded away while I looked for another shoe, he suggested I give the Olympus 1.5 a try. For that I am so thankful and would like to take a moment to express why I think this is a really fun shoe.

Initial Impressions

After a quick run around the store, I decided to give the size 8 a try. The toe room felt perfect, however the true test would be to take the shoes on some downhill.

First off, here’s some Technical Stuff:

  • Weight: 10.7 oz
  • Stack Height:36 mm
  • Offset: 0 mm
  • Insole: 5 mm Contour Footbed
  • Upper: Quick Dry Trail Mesh.

These shoes do offer a cush ride.The tongue also does not have any extra material. This is a design feature lacking in the Superior 2.0, as I could feel the extra material laying on top of my foot.

The Olympus 1.5 also has Altra’s Gaiter Trap, or velcro connection. I ran in the Lone Peak 1.5 for several months before I noticed this feature. The Gaiter Trap keeps any velcro style shoe gaiter in place. I never bother to glue velcro on to my shoes, so I do like this feature.

Altra Gaiter Trap velcro connection

Gaiter Trap (velcro connection) to keep any velcro style gaiters in place.

Trail Testing

By the time I wrote this review, I had these shoes out on four different trail runs.

Test #1

I ran a quick 7ish  mile out and back along Dry Creek Trail in the Boise foothills. From Bogus Basin Rd, the trail quickly climbs and descends down rocky outcrops before plunging down to one of many creek crossing. The Trail Specific Sticky Rubber stuck great the the rocky trail surface, even after being coated with trail sand.

Dry Creek is never dry. In fact, with the recent warm temperatures melting the snow pack above, the creek crossings were swelling. My out and back involved crossing the creek four times and each time the easiest route was to just wade through the water. I give the Olympus’ Quick Dry Trail Mesh a big thumbs up. The water drained out of the shoe well and I never felt that I was running with soggy feet.

Creek crossing along Dry Creek.

Only way across is through it.

Altra Olympus 1.5 dries quickly

One quick drying shoe.

Returning to my car, I was excited to give these shoes a longer try.

Test #2

This run took me to Eagle Canyon off Willow Creek Rd in Eagle. My friend and I spent a little over three hours exploring a plethora of trails located in this canyon. We hit it all…mud, sand, uphills, downhills, water crossings, cow trails and dirt vehicle access roads. These shoes performed well. Once again, they drained well after two creek crossings, easily climbed the soft, narrow cow trails and quickly descended the fast downhills.

Test #3

I wanted to give these shoes the ultimate downhill test by running Cervidae Peak located 17 miles outside of Boise.

Cervidae Peak is approximately a 2.25  mile climb with just under 2000 feet of elevation gain. The trail is done as an out and back. Therefore, what goes mostly up, up and up, must come all the way down. I ran this trail two years ago in the Hoka One One Bondi B. There was so much extra room in the toe box that doing two laps (two out and backs from the Spring Shores trailhead to the peak) resulted in the bruising of my big toes. I have had my big toe nails permanently removed, so to bruise the left over skin is a pretty big deal. In fact, this is the only time that this has happened. Needless to say, my toes were not constantly being pushed forward while navigating down the trail in the Olympus 1.5.

Climbing Cervidae Peak, Boise

Cervidae Peak involves some climbing…

Climbing Cervidae Peak

and some more climbing.

Downhill along Cervidae Peak

The return trip involves steep downhill.

Elevation Profile for Cervidae Peak

Elevation Profile for Cervidae Peak

Test #4

One last test…just because…involved a 10 mile tempo run through the Boise foothills along the Ridge to Rivers trails Red Cliffs to Sidewinder to Trail #4 to Lower Hull’s. This route involved some climbing with a quick, steep descent down a motorcycle trail. The sandy motorcycle trail provided an uneven, downhill that seemed almost effortless to run down.

Elevation profile for Test Run #4

Elevation profile for Test Run #4

Conclusion

I am very pleased with how this shoe performed and again, very thankful that Mike Shuman gave me the opportunity to give them a try. Next week I will be heading to Page, AZ to run the Antelope Canyon 100. The course will have consist of sandy trails, running on slickrock, some steep scrambles and climbing a few ladders. Naturally, a shoe that performs well while providing a little cushion sounds like a good idea. I think this could be the ultimate test for the Olympus 1.5.

Stay tuned.


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No entry into HR. So what’s a girl to do?

Running through slot canyons in Antelope CanyonFourth year of applying to HR and still no golden ticket. Oh well, fortunately there are a lot of other trails to conquer and Mr. Matt Gunn has made my Plan B a lot more realistic. Instead of Running amongst the monuments of Monument Valleyworking to tackle the Rocky Mountain Grand Slam in 2015, I will…drum roll…complete all seven of the Ultra Adventures 100 mile races. This involves completing one race a month from February through August on some pretty spectacular trails located in southern Utah/northernArizona.

 

 

The race schedule is as follows:

Running along the Kaibab PlateauThanks to Matt Gunn, for making me one of his Ultra Adventures ambassadors, I am super excited to tackle what I’d like to call 7 47. You see there are 7 races and this year I turn 47 in March (during the Monument Valley race, in fact). I got the name idea from Malcolm Law who ran New Zealand’s mainland 7 Great Walks in 7 days. He called his challenge 7in7. Thanks, Mal. 🙂

capitolreefAs an Ultra Adventures ambassador, I’ll be posting a blog entry here about each race I complete in the series. If you know me, you Running to Pink Cliffs Aid Stationknow I’m not much of a blow by blow race reporter. Instead I’ll try and string together maybe a little Go Pro footage and pictures with some of my thoughts on the adventure. Each race also has what Matt is calling a Trifecta, which consists of three trails in the same vicinity as the race course. Matt hopes Tushars mountain are the third highest mountain range in Utahto encourage others to explore the area beyond the course markings. I hope to possibly have some extra time to explore a trail or two or three at some of the races. However, I am also encouraging any friends that travel with me who are doing one of the shorter distances to explore these Trifecta trails, as well. If I get any takers, I’ll be sure to also post their impressions of these additional areas.

I am certain that all of these races will be spectacular as I ran both Zion 100 and Bryce Canyon 100 during their inaugural year. I can’t wait, so stay tuned!

Happy New Year and happy trails. 🙂

Photo credits: Photos of Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon and Tushars taken from Ultra Adventures website. Photo from Zion taken by me at Zion 100 in 2012. Photo of me taken at Bryce Canyon retrieved from Facebook. Photo of Capitol Reef taken from Wikimedia Commons.


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The North Face 100 Australia 2014

Okay, I intended to have this post written and created awhile ago…but better late than never. 🙂

On May 17 while I had friends in the US planning Rim to Rim crossings of the Grand Canyon or partying it up at East Creek Ranch in Los Olivos at Born to Run Ultras, I had the exciting privledge of running The North Face 100. The 100 K and 50 K events sell out at 2000 runners. Despite the large field, this event maintains the close knit, family appeal of any other great ultra. If you’d like to enter in the 2015 events, sorry they already sold out. However, if you’d like an excuse to visit Australia, I’d highly recommend scheduling a trip around this race.

YouTube thumbnail for video

Click on the image to view a 16 minute video of my experience at TNF 100 Australia.

 

 

 


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Northburn 100 – Reasons to run 100 miles

This is my first official race report. Though not your typical blow by blow race report. Instead I wanted to share why I thought Northburn 100 was an unforgettable experience.

Northburn 100 belt buckle

Finishers belt buckle for completing 100 miles

When it does come to 100 mile races, I’ll admit to being a little superficial, it is all about the bling! In 2009, my first 100 mile race was Hundred in the Hood. This was

Lisa Tamati 'Keep on Running' ring

Keep On Running. Instead of the token race shirt, at Northburn, competitors got to choose a piece of custom jewelry made by Race Director Lisa Tamati.

Oregon’s first 100 mile race conducted along much of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) south of Mt Hood. Belt buckles were given only to those runners finishing in less than 24 hours. I knew a sub 24 hour finish was not possible, so it was my love affair with the PCT (and not the bling) that spurred me on to train and complete my first hundred mile race. However, in the 13 (out of 15) 100 mile races that I have completed, I will admit, an eye catching finisher’s belt buckle can entice me into signing up for a particular race. In all truthfulness, Northburn was no different. When my friend, Robyn Lui told be about  Northburn in 2012, I was instantly drawn to the beautiful buckle.  However, Northburn is so much more than testing one’s limits for a piece of metal. The following includes several elements on why Northburn is the epitome of why I got hooked on running ultramarathons.

Northburn 100 start group

Northburn 100 (mile) starters and Race Directors.

We Are Family

Northburn 2014 saw 113 runners toe the line to run either the 50K, 100K or 100 mile (161K) distance. The men’s 50K winner, Sage Canaday, and women’s 50K winner, Sandi Nypaver, finished in 4:45:46 and 6:08:21, respectively. As a result of spending several hours with like-minded athletes, it is hard to not forge special friendships. Northburn is no exception to this element as it maintains an intimate closeness as runners set off to cover the same terrain and tackle similar goals and obstacles. At the 6am race start, Race Director Lisa Tamati encouraged the small field of runners to look out for each other. Becoming part of a family is one quality that encourages runners to become repeat offenders of a particular race (return in the future to run the same race again).

Being One with Nature

When you are spending hours out in the elements, it is hard not to bond with your surroundings. For many, this is the appeal that trail running offers. We have the opportunity to live on a pretty spectacular planet with a

Moon shot

When running through the night, I believe it is mandatory to stop at least once and turn off the torch and gaze at the stars and play peek-a-boo with the moon.

wide variety of inhabitants (both in the form of plants and animals). I love having the chance to marvel at the splendor that this world has to offer.

In the past, Northburn has been plagued with high winds and freezing temps with snow flurries at the higher course elevations and hot temps in the start/finish areas (which the 100 mile runners pass through three times by the time they finish). However, this year’s event had moderate winds and warm temps at the higher elevations. I am familiar with running in hotter temperatures, however, the heat did get to me on Sunday morning and forced me to rest at an aid station for 20-30 minutes before continuing to complete the last 23 K of the course. (After reflecting on my condition, I think it was my over-caffeinated state more than the heat that forced me to take this break. See my blog entry Experiment of One – Part Two for more details.)

Kindness of Stangers

Where’s Waldo 100K (2007) was my first race beyond the 50K distance. The second half of the course occurs in remote areas. This not only makes it more challenging for a runner to consider dropping out of the race at this point on the course (you’d still have to hike out), but it also requires a huge commitments from volunteers working this area. To this day, I still find these acts of unselfishly providing assistance and support to runners an amazing aspect of the human spirit. As a result, I try to give back when I can by also volunteering my services.

The Northburn course is designed so that you pass some remote checkpoints more than once, however, in a span of ten and more hours. The 100 mile course also has a 48 hour time limit. Many of the checkpoints rotated volunteers in and out in 12 hour shifts and some were operated by only one person (Course Marshall). Every Course Marshall, aid station volunteer and volunteer medic that I encountered was helpful, encouraging and excited to see me making progress. Northburn would not be successful if it weren’t for the wonderful dedication of these volunteers.

Power of the Body

Need salt?

Need salt? Fortunately S-Caps are easier to carry than a salt lick.

My first 50K was Siskiyou Out Back in 2003. I have learned A LOT in the past 11 years and I am still amazed at the power of the human body. I believe that we are built to run. I also believe it is how we choose to furnish our cockpit (our brain) that determines how well we perform the task of running. Our own messages, mantras and vibes play as much a part of what we can accomplish as does the fuel we choose to put in to our bodies.

As many women, I have been a victim of dysfunctional body image issues at different points in my life. However, when I am able to complete a course like Northburn, I am able to continue to marvel at the abilities of my body. I have learned to respect my shape and appreciate that my success as an ultrarunner is only possible because of the way I am built.

Explore

More than a snazzy belt buckle, a race’s location is a much bigger factor when I decide to shell out my entry money. Turns out you can take alot of an area in when you

Northburn first 50K route.

Running ultras is a great way to explore an area.

spend one or more days traipsing across its terrain.

Northburn is located in the unique setting of Northburn Station, a vineyard/high country merino station that overlooks Cromwell’s Lake Dunstan and surrounded by incredible views of the Pisa Range mountains. The terrain in the first 26K change dramatically with runners running a 5K loop through the vineyard before climbing 21K through high country 4WD tracks, along steep fence lines and across a moon scape looking environment filled with tussock grasslands, cushion plants, lichens and golden Spaniards.  By the end of the first 50K loop, you return to the vineyard area only to be forced out and back up to the high country two more times before finishing.

The terrain, the climate and views are constantly changing throughout the course. You won’t find the Northburn course listed in Lonely Planet.

Being a Role Model

Of the 45 runners who started the 100 mile distance at Northburn, only 13 of them were women. It is hard not to feel a sense of empowerment when you are one of a few awesome females who are willing to toe the line. I am also a mother of two daughters. As an ultrarunner, I hope to serve as a role model to them. I’m not obsessed with them becoming runners. Instead, I hope my running antics provide them the confidence that they too can conquer/pursue anything.

It’s a Tough Course

Instead of boring you with a blow by blow account of the course, view the following video and read Experiment of One – Part Two.

However, I will say, “YES, the Northburn course was tough.” Was it the toughest I’ve ever seen?  To be truthful…I can’t recall. Call it selective memory? When I ran Pine to Palm in 2011, I remember thinking that it was

Water Race course

The route through the Water Race, an abandoned water route constructed during gold mining operations. Water races are long, on steep hillsides, and constructed with limited resources. I can’t imagine going through this bit in the dark as was the case for those who finished hours ahead of me.

the toughest 100 miler I had finished to date. However, Pine to Palm was also my fourth 100 mile race.

Northburn, like other tough 100 mile courses, keeps coming at you and offers few breaks from its steep climbs, descents, and technical terrain. Northburn rightfully lives up to its motto, “You don’t race it, you survive it.” To top it all off, don’t expect the race organizers to hold your hand on this one! Two weeks before the race, the Northburn Facebook page was full of photos of the course being marked. However, this didn’t mean organizers were out clearing loose rock off the trail, cutting a path through the golden Spaniards, trimming back the sweet briar bushes or assembling buffets of food for the two aid stations stocked with food. No. Northburn requires runners to run with not only mandatory gear, just in case of a sudden change in the weather. It is also important for runners to maintain their wits and keep a good eye out for the course markings, especially at night and along the Water Race. The start/finish and TW aid station were the only two aid stations stocked with food, which consisted of boiled potatoes and pumpkin soup. Water was offered at checkpoints and from several creeks along the route. Electrolyte was also supplied at some checkpoints, as well as any goodies a generous Course Marshall may have provided on their own. Otherwise, surviving Northburn was all up to the runner!

Northburn is a Hardrock 100 qualifier

I’m still trying to get past the Hardrock lottery. I am thrilled to not only have a qualifying race for the 2015 lottery already under my belt, but having survived such a tough race has increased my confidence that I can take on a race like Hardrock.

Northburn has all the elements of a great race and as with all  great races, Northburn offers the runner the opportunity to learn and grow. I have grown as a runner and been privy to witness the accomplishments of others. It doesn’t get better than that.

2014 Results

2014 Northburn 100 mile results


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Experiment of One – Part I

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!