Sunday, March 15, 2015

Training Update: 3/9 - 3/15

Huge week last week, only my second official 80 mile training week. Of course, a 38 mile run on Saturday helps to really push the numbers higher. And, I won't lie, I ran Sunday primarily to push the number to 80. It is a tough balance sometimes, fighting between chasing numbers and recovering properly. I often tell my buddy Chuck not to be afraid to train when it is time, but only when the time is right. That's thing, this is almost the time, but not quite. I am 14 weeks from a race I have been training for the past three years. Soon the trails will be in a good shape and I need to be ready.

In addition, to good volume, I had good structure and a high-quality workout on Thursday. I even managed 3 cross-training sessions.

Day Miles Notes
Monday 9Easy Lunch Run
Tuesday 10Fartleks
Wednesday6 Recovery w/ Strides
Thursday9Bluffs Progression
Friday5 Recovery
Saturday 38HPRS - Fat Ass - Highline
Sunday 5Recovery
Total 813,800 feet of vert

I am trying to figure out the best way to approach next week given the large spike in volume last week. This period of training is about building volume and continuing to extend my B2Bs. I need to be vigilant that Saturday's effort doesn't have long standing recovery needs, so I won't do anything too hard for a few days. The good news is that the vertical gain has been really modest considering the trails are still full of snow and ice. So the stress level isn't as high as normal for that amount of miles. My knee and the rest of my body are feeling as good as they have in months. I am finding that my appetite has increased pretty dramatically the past few weeks as well, so I need to keep a conscious eye on keeping my calorie intake at the proper level.

The goals for this next week will be to cutback and only a bit of "light quality" (no true quality). Most importantly, I need to be completely honest with myself about how I feel and take a day off if I feel excess fatigue creeping in. Big trail miles lay ahead and there is no use spending up my motivation and energy in March!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

February Training Wrap and Training Update

Historically I have used this space to regurgitate my weekly training with some periodic updates and random thoughts, much of which anyone that cared could get just by following me on Strava. So, I think I am going to try to use this space as a space to "reset" every few weeks instead. I am self-coached, which is both great and confusing at the same time. Instead of week-to-week thoughts, this space would be excellent for grading my past few weeks of training and planning my next few weeks. You see, planning an entire training plan 20+ weeks in advance is crazy. Life happens. Things change. I get bored and think of new run concepts I want to try. By week three of a twenty week plan I am really just ad-hoc. Of course there is a main theme (specificity) and general direction (namely weekly time/mileage), but the specifics can and do change week to week.

So, a brief catch-up....

Back in December, I wrote down my goals for my WS100 Training Plan. Those high-level goals are as follows:

  • 2 - 3 good night runs on trails
  • 8 - 10 heat runs up to 2 hours in length
  • Consistent mileage above 55 miles (8-9 hours for me)
  • Peak mileage of 70+ miles, 4-6 times (10-14 hours for me)
  • Lots of light quality: Fartleks, Progression
  • Modest amounts of true quality: tempos/threshold, intervals, hard longs
  • Don't over-do trails and vertical
  • Don’t fight winter
  • Emphasize body weight training for XT

January Training

212 Miles
16K of vertical gain
33 Hours

I started January pretty unfit, having been injured and really demotivated as a result. The injury turned out minor and I am on a path to healing. Nonetheless, the lack of fitness is always hard to start from and figure out how to get going again. As is typical, I started out feeling really eager to get going and follow a well-thought-out-highly-detailed plan that was a fusion between Relentless Forward Progress mileage and structure borrowed from Eric Orton's book. As a result, I did quite a bit of quality for such an early month in training -- 29.3 miles of short intervals (workouts, not the intervals themselves). The structure was nice so I had some options for the treadmill when the weather sucked. I still spend well over 50% of my miles on "easy" runs.

As I look at the above goals the things that mostly stand out is getting my mileage back to 55 miles a week, which I accomplished the last week of January. Not surprisingly, my fitness made a huge leap too -- from 10:15 pace to 9:30 pace on a typical recovery run (by HR). Given that I was so early in training, not many of the above goals really applied.

February Training

223 Miles
20K of vertical gain
36 Hours

You can see there was a modest increase in all the stats from January to March. This is slightly more impressive given that the month is three days longer. The month was shaped by my review of Dr Maffetone's work and a return to some base building. (See what I mean about my attention drifting...) This wasn't just a coincidence though; the weather was good the first few weeks of the month and I was able to spend lots of time outside, where it is much easier to go easy. I even managed a few almost dry trail runs -- a win in the "don't fight winter" category! Another positive was spending most of the month near 60 miles/week and several long runs and mini-B2Bs. And, I did my first night run of the cycle. That night run was a real struggle, reminding me why I made that goal. Overall I am really happy that I was able to get back to a reasonable mileage base and continue to improve my overall fitness and health.

In the context of my goals, I think the biggest negative was going 180 degrees from January and doing almost no structure. I need to find a happy-medium with the light structure and periodic true quality days (every 7-14 days). And, while I would give myself a passing grade in the cross-training department, I would say that I can improve slightly in this department.

So, recognizing that it is still winter and too soon for some of my goals, the mini-goals for March are:

  • Continue consistent mileage and weekly build up of B2B long runs
  • Add more "light quality" to my routine
  • Refocus on cross-training
  • Seek opportunities for Night Running and possibly B2B2B runs

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Brain Training

In my last post, I discussed how endurance is a three legged stool: Brain, Body, Metabolism. I have blogged quite extensively about my thoughts on metabolism and body (training) in the past. But the topic of training the brain has come up more and more recently, and I have learned through personal experience that it may be the single biggest thing holding me back from achieving my 100 mile race goals.

The first time I heard about this topic was reading Matt Fitzgerald's book some years ago. However, I have seen the topic come up in recent podcasts and some of the books that I have been reading on endurance recently. Brain training starts with a relatively simple concept -- the brain is the central governor of your entire body, it defines when you feel fatigue and pain. This is pretty profound in that it removes, or changes the way we view, some of the other limitations runners typically embrace: lactic acid build up, muscle damage, glycogen depletion, etc... All of those factors are real, and all of them contribute to your body sending signals of distress to your mind. But, it is ultimately the brain that decides when we slow down and when we feel pain.

A simple example is glycogen depletion. When people first run a marathon they are more likely to crash than future races. Between their first and their tenth marathon they don't suddenly triple their glycogen stores. Instead, their brain becomes adapted to going into a state of glycogen depletion without freaking out (technical term). A newbie marathoner may only be able to use 60% of available glycogen where a seasoned marathoner more like 80 or 85% before the brains sends fatigue distress signals to the body.

Here are some ways in which training the brain can help with ultramarathon racing.


Specificity is a topic just about every runner is familiar with. Seasoned runners quite often do tune-up races or quality workout sessions that mimic the intensity and the duration of their goal event. Ultrarunners frequently train on terrain and environmental elements similar to what they'll race in.  However, training specifically for a 100-miler is a whole new animal. How does one properly do that? I mean, a race that takes 24+ hours has so many different angles to specificity -- length, weather, time of day, terrain, nutrition, etc.... It is quite overwhelming and may not be feasible to hit them all in training, at least not with regularity. Experience may be the best way to truly get better at 100s. But this blog post wouldn't be all that useful if that is all I had to say...

Training volume is a consideration, but I am not a "volume guy". I do think running 55-75 miles per week (8-12 hours) on a regular basis is a great idea. And I do think more volume would help if the runner can handle it and has a life that accommodates the added stress. But, for the mid-pack, family-centered athlete, there is diminishing returns to volume that will lead to fatigue, burnout, maybe even injury. (As a side note, I am starting to think of volume more in terms of time than miles because that is really the defining factor.)

Another consideration I see in my own training is training too fast. Specificity is about mimicking race conditions. Running too fast in a tune-up race or specific workout sabotages your ability to find the flow and to teach your mind what a sustainable effort feels like. A practical suggestion here is just to take breaks to eat, drink, walk. These breaks slow you down and allow you to recover, a great tip for race day as well. I often get hurried into the race mindset and that causes anxiety unnecessarily, particularly in aid stations. Slow down, eat, drink, say hello to friends, crew and volunteers.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity for specificity training that I see in my own training for a 100-miler is learning to run ALL DAY LONG. My hundreds have not been marked with a lack of fitness or preparation, but rather fatigue and exhaustion that results from missing out sleep/rest and normal meals. Most runners, myself included, have a typical window of time where we train. Our bodies become used to that. Then we show up for a 100 and may have to see two sunrises on the trail, a recipe for a body freak out. One of my pacers at Bear 100  brought up night running in conversation and later that night my body totally seized. With the help of Robbie's comment, I finally came to the conclusion that I must embrace this and train more running at night. I tried my first night run of this cycle a week ago and it was tough! My heart rate was sky high and I felt fatigue normally saved for the late stages of a race. I was cooked! (See note about adversity training below as well.)

I think that perhaps taking the concepts of B2B and night running and blending them into a B2B2B might be a great way to mimic the kind of fatigue felt from running all day. Instead of running 40 miles in two runs over two days (like 20 Sat and 20 Sun), a routine of morning-night-morning might do wonders for pushing through this wall. For example,  Saturday morning,  Saturday night and one last block Sunday morning might be an incredible way to train. Of course there are tons of variations: changing the length of each run, using time instead of miles, fasting in between the last two runs, minimizing sleep in between the last two runs, etc... A pretty extreme but quite useful example might look like this:

  • 2.5 - 3 hours Saturday morning
  • 2 - 2.5 hours late Saturday night (with a headlamp on trail would be preferred)
  • 2.5 - 3 hours Sunday morning with only 4-6 hours sleep in between and fasted.

Forced Adversity

I borrowed this term from a friend. I think the concept is pretty self-evident, don't go out of your way to make training easy. When opportunities exist, make it tough on yourself. Embrace changes in weather and life circumstance. Some of this is related to specificity training -- heat, climbing, technical trail -- things that not every runner enjoys everyday. But much of is it just a mindset. If it snows, get outside and run. A little bit of rain? A new opportunity! If you have a morning meeting, run at lunch. The concept here is to put yourself in -- or maybe just don't avoid -- uncomfortable circumstances and learn to perform well in them.

Before someone takes this too far, I am not suggesting every run be miserable. Running is supposed to be fun, even training. I just mean takes what each day gives you and don't be afraid to have tough days in training too.


I know for me that Bear 100 was ruined by fear, among other factors. After running my first 100-miler, all I could remember was the pain and fatigue I felt that day. And it consumed me heading into Bear. Worse, it caused me to make silly decisions during the race. Fear is zapper of mental energy and a cause of fatigue. Not everyone has this issue, but for those of us that get anxiety about performing and about pushing through the pain and fatigue, we must learn to deal with that. We must learn to manage that fear. Fitzgerald's book has some practical tips on this.

Ken Clouber's famous quote "the toughest distance to manage is the 5 inches between your ears" applies here. Or, maybe you prefer: "make friends with pain and you'll never be alone". Bottom line, it is going to hurt... a lot. Be ready for it, but don't be scared of it. Challenge yourself to accept the pain and keep moving forward. Practice this with all the other techniques mentioned here, namely specificity and forced adversity.

Keep it Simple

Our minds will fatigue quickly when given too many tasks to manage. I know I tend to over-complicate my 100-milers -- pacing plans, pacers, gear, food selections, etc... Keeping it simple allows us to focus on the simple task at hand, getting from point A to point B on foot. Running is an amazingly simple task unless we make it hard on ourselves. Practice what you want to do in training, then just do it on race day. Do it, but remain flexible. Stay in the moment and keep moving forward.


Another good tip that I have used and read about is positive messaging. Don't get down on yourself. Listen to uplifting music. Write positive thoughts and comments on your clothes, water bottles, wrist-bands, etc... Say positive things to your pacers, crew, and aid station volunteers. I know I am guilty of occasionally circling the drain when things aren't going well. The great news about an ultramarathon is that you have lots of time to improve your race!

Be Fully Invested in the Outcome

This may be the toughest one of all. Many of us tend to race often and have many more "B" races than "A" races. That is normal, but set yourself up to give it your all on that "A" race. Trust me, you cannot force this. It has to be a goal that speaks to you at the core of who you are. It has to be something you are willing to work tirelessly for months on end. You can't just "kind of want it". If you aren't all in, the hundred will eat you alive and spit you out. I often try, but words simply cannot describe last 30 miles of a hundred mile race.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Slow Burn

*Title borrowed from Stu Mittleman's book.

Back when I was training for my first 100 miler (Leadville in 2012), I quite literally beat the s&%t out of myself. In fact, I nearly couldn't run the race because of a knee injury that left me scrambling in and out of doctors offices the week of the race. I just didn't believe that the common person -- the guy with a full-time job, kids, etc... -- could really train the way "elites" do. But, I attempted to do it anyway.  During training, I asked Wyatt Hornsby about his thoughts and methods on training and he referenced Dr. Maffetone to me. That was the first I heard of Dr. Maffetone. Wyatt went on to train very diligently using Dr. Maffeton's methods in 2013. While he had some horrible nutrition issues, he still finished only 5 minutes off of his personal best time at Leadville 100. And, talking to him and Chuck (his pacer) after, it sounded like he was incredibly strong the last 30 miles of the race. What struck me following along with Wyatt's training that summer was the consistency. There weren't a ton of crazy long runs or super intense speed session.  I think he surprised himself with a break-through performance at the Leadville Marathon that year as well.

Since that Summer of 2012, I have been quasi-practicing Dr Maffetone's methods myself. Of course, like many runners, I have adapted to make them my own. After listening to yet another podcast with him yesterday, I am struck by the simplicity of his method as well as the holistic approach to health. In his book, The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing, Dr Maffetone talks about a three pillar approach to training -- Brain, Muscle, and Metabolism. The book is about running faster by living a healthier life. It is about giving up the short-term for the long-term. Can hacks like overtraining, high carb living, etc.... make us better for one season or one race? Probably. But, at the cost of long term success and health.

Muscles is quite simple: prepare your body for endurance. There are numerous elements to this, but the bottom line is that running easy allows your muscles (and joints, ligaments, etc...) to catch-up and stay even with your aerobic system. Running anaerobic puts undo stress on the muscles and joints and can lead to injury. Why spend hours in the gym and PT playing catch-up AFTER you overdo it when you can just ease into it and prevent these things to begin with?

Metabolism is something I completely endorse. If you follow along on this blog, you already know I am a believer in low carb living -- not NO CARB, but LOW CARB. Primarily that means eliminating processed sugar, grains and legumes. This is a complex topic and books are written about it. But, the bottom line here is that having a happy metabolism allows your body to train and race better. I have seen huge benefits in my own life. Those benefits will be amplified by training slower to build a bigger aerobic engine.

That brings us to the brain... Is that the missing piece? I think so. I've blogged several times about the difference between Bear 100 and LT100 for me. The biggest thing is that I just wasn't having any fun. Training felt forced. My body was nagging with injuries. I never really got into it. I was much stronger at Leadville because I was happy to be there. I didn't obsess about time goals. My plan was simply to run patient for 40 miles -- easy to do a LT100 -- and then simply getting to the next aid station as quickly as I could. My pacers can attest to the fact that I was mostly upbeat. (Note that Dr. Maffetone wasn't just talking about mental perceptions but also chemical and other factors regulated by our brain...)

I finally decided to quit splitting hairs with Dr. Maffetone today and ran my entire run at sub-142 (my MAF number). No more rationalizing zone 1 or 2 or whether I should add 5 or 10 beats for this or that. (Note that most runners are happy to find reasons to add beats to MAF, but few are honest enough to subtract them when they are sick or injured.) The run felt amazing, even after a 16 mile trail pounding the day before. It was so good that I added mileage. In my post, I described it as a "religious experience". I felt good the whole way. No aches. No hunger. My breathing was regulated and I was in-tune with my body the whole way. Midway through the run I began regulating my HR almost with my mind. I could tell when it was rising and I kept it in the zone by concentrating on breathing, form, and taking what the route was giving me.

To be honest, I enjoy running aerobic. I enjoy getting home and feeling like I barely worked out at all, having a simple breakfast and moving on with my day. No need for extensive recovery or well planned out "recovery foods". So, this change isn't a big deal for me, much the same as LCHF fit me well. This journey has always been about life health and enjoyment. Things lined up well for me, and this method is proven. I have never bought into the "No pain, no gain" method of training, even though I have tried it once or twice.

The day-to-day changes really just mean two things for me: 1) I will lower my MAF effort to 142 beats per minute instead of the more typical 150 I used to use 2) I will do a more comprehensive warm-up before my runs. I typically do MAF workouts about 80% of the time, but I won't do them 100% of the time. Even during MAF workouts, I will add occasional "light quality" such as short Fartleks and Hill reps to improve myself as a runner and vary my training. I will still do some quality work -- primarily during my weekend longs -- to push my fitness after a solid base is in place. I am also a big believer in progressive runs where only the final third is hard.  More than anything, the goal is to stay healthy, enjoy the journey, and build a monster aerobic engine. It is the ONLY way to survive the extreme circumstances that 100 mile race brings.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Western States 100 - Crew and Pace Strategy

Information here is based on the following page from Western States Official Site. Information also taken from the aid station page on Western States site.

The first half of the course is somewhat remote and rugged and difficult for crews to get to all the allowed aid stations. WS100 recommends that you either have a single crew ("A") or two crews ("A" and "B"). Steve and I are considering a plan where we split crews the first half of the race to minimize the time without seeing crew. Should we decide not to go with this strategy, then my crew will only be at the aid stations marked for crew "A". (The other possibility is to see crew "A" at Robinson Flat, Michigan Bluff, and Forrest Hill.) Notice that crew "A" and "B" are only necessary until Forrest Hill.  From that point, only one crew is necessary.

Course Profile - borrowed from

Course Map - borrowed from
Crew A - Chuck and Heather
Crew B - Kara and Thomas

Destination Mile 24-Hr 30-Hr Cut Off Time of Day* Crew Drive Time
Duncan Canyon 23.8 4:50 6:05 12:00 PM9:50 AMB3.5 Hours
Robinson Flat 29.7 6:20 7:55 1:50 PM11:20 AM A - Shuttle2.5 Hours
Dusty Corners 38 7:55 10:15 4:10 PM12:55 PMB3 Hours
Michigan Bluff 55 12:20 15:50 9:45 PM5:20 PMA1.5 Hours
Bath Rd 60.6 13:30 12:30 ---6:30 PM A* - Chuck-
Forrest Hill 62 13:45 17:45 11:45 PM6:45 PMA - Heather 20 Mins
Rucky Chucky (far) 78 17:40 23:00 5:00 AM10:40 PMA** - Heather 45 Mins
Green Gate  79.8 18:20 23:55 5:40 AM11:20 PMA*** - Foot -
Hwy 49 93.5 22:10 28:00 9:20 AM3:10 AMA - Shuttle 1 Hour
No Hands Bridge 96.8 23:10 28:55 11:00 AM4:10 AMA -
Robbie Point 99 23:40 29:35 11:00 AM4:40 AMA - Heather-
Finish 100.2 23:59 29:59 11:00 AM4:59 AM
30 mins

* - Walk in from Forrest Hill - 1.0 miles
** - Walk in from Green Gate - 3.25 miles
*** - Green Gate is 1.25 mile walk-in from designate parking area

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Training Update

I have not decided if I am going to stay with the weekly training update or go to infrequent, general updates for 2015. For now, I'll do the latter.

At the end of 2014, I felt pretty run down and wasn't really enjoying running much. Frankly, I think most of this had to do with not having a goal that got me motivated; I was never fully into Bear 100. I wrote several blog posts about motivation and trying to get myself excited. But, I just never managed to find my groove and trained pretty poorly in July and August due to an ankle injury and "life". Taming a hundred miles is so much harder than any other distance I have run. I cannot fully explain to people that have done another distance of ultra how much harder the 100 mile distance is. It weighed on my mind big time ahead of Bear 100.

I also have been dealing with an injury since before the North Fork 50. This is not an injury I have discussed here and may not be much of an injury at all, more of a compensation thing. Basically, I have had general knee pain -- and occasional shin pain -- since June. I finally decided to see my PT at the start of 2015 so it didn't linger into Western States. The good news is that isn't anything major and quite curable. The better news is that I can run through it (smartly, of course). We think it started with a pulled hamstring that occurred in March of 2014. When I attempted to run through it, I developed a compensation pattern that has me rotating my knee inward and sort of hyper-extending it backward. And, my hamstring remains quite tight and knotted from the injury. All of that is fixable with time, but it really played with my head for a long time. Being "injured" sucks and is highly demotivating to training.

Finally, being and obsessive and an ultra guy, I think overdid things a bit, particularly in the areas of vertical gain and long-long runs. Every year I have a tendency to slip into logging mileage and long-long runs during ultra season, foregoing the consistency and structured training that I like to do. I ran 6 runs of longer than 30 miles in 2014 and 10 longer than a marathon. When it was all said and done, I had one of the bigger stats years of my "running career", accumulating nearly 300K of vertical gain and nearly 400 hours of running -- not including, on average, 1.5 XT sessions a week.

Put it all together, and I just needed time. So, for the last few months of 2014 I tried to just run by feel and for fun. Then, I got a jolt when I got into WS100 that carried me for a few weeks. However, that quickly turned to angst as I obsessed about my knee before I finally got into see the PT.

Ah, finally, I have a plan and I am moving forward. Running is fun and I am going with the flow. Some days I sleep in and run at lunch. Other days, I run in the morning. I've even had a few days where I ran after work. I just fit it in where motivation and time allows. And, I am slowly starting to stop obsessing about cross-training. When you are injured, it is easy to convince yourself that adding more cross-training is what you need, possibly even considering alternative ways to train like CrossFit. And, like everything, I can overdo that too! The last thing that I have done is to stop fighting Winter. I haven't really attempted to run trails since New Years Day (a tradition) because the conditions just aren't enjoyable to me. So, I am running lots of hilly roads and lots of structure, things I enjoy. I am working a lot on raw speed -- short intervals and strides. The nice thing is that I suddenly feel like I am holding back, where two months ago every run felt like labor. I can -- and want to -- run more. But, I am intentionally trying to slowly build momentum towards March and April when real training will begin. I plan to peak once only this year -- June 27th. I have no plans for June 29th and beyond... yet anyway.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

LCHF in Practice

I have had quite a few people ask me about low carb high fat (LCHF) recently and I decided detailed post was in order! One thing I need to mention upfront is that you will often hear that this journey is an experiment of one (n=1). The reason is that we all have different physiological profiles that we bring to the table and we all have something why are trying to accomplish as well as certain tastes and preferences. However, the core idea of reading labels to understand what we are eating, avoiding cheap, processes foods, and allowing our bodies to adapt to a more natural metabolic state remains the same. Once you learn the foods that are good, bad, and in moderation (or green, red, and yellow according to Noakes), then you can develop a routine that works for you. Understand that you are fundamentally changing the way your body processes and maintains energy each day. This is not a small undertaking, usually requiring 1-3 months at a minimum and possibly up to a year to see full benefits. This post contains a ton of information and is best used as a reference. The easiest way to get started is just to track what you eat and eat more fat and less carbs, particularly those from grains and sugars. A book is another good place to start. And, I highly recommend tracking your diet -- calories and macro-nutrient breakout -- before you start so you have a means to compare.

Why I went LCHF?

I have been experimenting with low carb living for more than 10 years now. After my daughter was born and I weighed almost 250 pounds, I went on the Atkins diet and it started there. It has been a bumpy ride because I got caught up in believing the products "nutrition companies" like GU started selling me when I became an endurance athlete. And, I believed in calorie math. If I burned 2500 calories on a training run, then I could eat 2500 calories of whatever I wanted and be even, right?  (I no longer believe in calorie math, at least not in an absolute state.)  While I have believed for a long time that low carb is a healthy way of life, I just had a hard time reconciling that with the demands of training to be an endurance athlete.

As I have taken my running to greater time and distances, eating (and energy) has become a common source of problems. If you are carb addicted, you need to eat an almost endless supply of carbohydrates to keep your energy level constant. But that is tough to do. Your body can only process something like 250 calories an hour -- it varies person to person -- and you are burning like 800. The math doesn't work. Making the problem worse, many of the products we eat are from sources that, given enough time and quantity, will make us sick -- either GI distress or nausea. And, much of what we drink comes in the form of a sugary beverage which can lead to hydration issues from consuming too much liquid. When I first read that Jason Schlarb ran a 100 mile race (and won!) on 1700 calories, I decided to investigate this topic more. (I probably ate something like 10,000 calories in my first 100 mile race.)

What are the results I have seen?

I have seen almost all the benefits that Phinney and Volek predicted in their books -- leaner physique, more constant energy, quicker recovery from races and hard training sessions, stable weight, and solid gut (no more runner's trots!), and more.... I had two of my best race ever in 2014 and I fueled pretty much with one gel every 45 minutes and water, about 150 kcals an hour. My energy level was constant and I was surging past runners after 7 hours. I set a personal best on a segment of the North Fork 50 course after running 43 miles. The best part is that I rarely think about calories I am eating -- unless I am trying to eat more! I eat until I am full.

What are the challenges I have encountered?

The main challenges I encountered were early on and part of the adaption phase. I attempted to go extreme low carb (20-50g a day) while training 55+ miles per week and I was groggy all the time. I hated running. Some of this was due to adaption phase and should be expected to take time. Some of this was due to the extreme nature of trying to go so low so quickly. (These days I typically eat 50-150g a day, though I rarely count anymore.) And some was due to the amount water weight I shed. This is referred to as the "Atkins flu" and is cured by drinking some beef broth to get sodium in your system.

The other thing that has remained with me and been somewhat elusive is a bit of a "fog" that comes over me once in a while. I think the difficulty here is with the central nervous system (brain), which requires lots of energy, mostly from carbohydrates. You need to keep the brain energized and alert. In races I started using amino acid pills to aid in keeping my central nervous system from being overcome by fatigue. As the central governor to your entire body, once your brain fatigues, it will shut everything down. The pills were expensive and kind of a hassle. Lately I have been experimenting with an amino acid supplement (called Biosteele). I use it before and during workouts and even as an energy supplement during the day. It contains no sugar and no caffeine.

What do I actually eat?

Day to day, I eat lots of things and won't waste (much) space here. Google LCHF or Paleo and you'll find lots of ideas. The books I recommend below also have example recipes. I tend to eat lots of salad, soups based with broth and/or heavy whipping cream, red meat, pork, eggs, coconut oil, cheese, high fat dairy, etc... I try to buy organic fruits and veggies and grass fed meat, but I am not super strict about that. I never eat legumes or grains and I rarely eat fruit (typically just berries or organic apple sauce). My beer drinking has been cut significantly down. But, I still have cheat days -- usually pizza and beer. I don't try to be perfect all the time. I think that is a misconception of this diet. My cheat days are fewer (maybe every 2-3 weeks) when training hard. After Bear 100, I went off the diet for several days and ate like a pig.

Eating on the run is a bit of a moving target. Fat adaption does not mean that I do not eat sugar during runs. It means that my body is quite happy to burn fat. In fact, it burns fat as the primary energy source. However, for shorter distance races (up to 50 miles), I find the convenience of gels hard to pass up. They are easier to pack, cheap to buy, and convenient to eat. I just eat fewer of them. For North Fork 50, I ate Hammer Bars and drank Skratch Labs for the first 25 miles, then I switched to gels and plain water in the second half of the race. Pretty simple.

Beyond 50 miles is the point when all that sugar starts to take a toll on the GI system. And, running 100 miles takes a serious toll! Your body goes through a lot, including missing multiple meals and being awake for up to 48 hours. Having only tried twice, I have not yet perfected a 100 mile diet, but I think it will require more real food (Epic Bars, Nut Butters) and supplements (like Generation Ucan and pure MCT oil) as well as gels. During my recent Bear 100, conditions were miserable (hot early, then pouring rain) and I lost patience with my nutrition plan early. I also think I was attempting to eat too many calories, nearly double what I was eating in shorter races all summer.

I see lots of advantages in a product like Generation Ucan and have attempted to use it -- and will continue to try -- as an in-race fuel source. It is great pre-run. But, it is extremely inconvenient on-the-run. Not only is it expensive, it is difficult to mix, grainy in the mouth, and does not provide an instant energy source when you get low. I am considering just drinking it at aid stations where I see crew. I think my 2015 strategy will be fewer calories between aid stations (some Skratch Labs and Vfuel gels) and then real food at aid stations -- Epic Bars, Ucan, Nut Butters. And, don't forget the amino acids!

Please note that I have no sponsors. Every product I mention above I pay for with my own money. Therefore, I have no allegiance to them an no incentive to push products on you. Most products I choose are either because I believe in them -- usually they are wholesome food with clean labels -- or because they are convenient (cost, taste, easy to carry on the run).

More Resources

If you undertake this process, I highly recommend reading as much of the following as you can. Remember this is a major life change that impacts your long-term health. I am not a doctor, but many of the of the following folks are.

Previous Blog Posts of Mine

Links and Authors I recommend
Peter Attia Blog
Zach Bitter Blog
Timothy Olson Blog
Endurance Planet
Ben Greenfield
Phil Maffetone

Tim Noakes

Books I recommend