Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weekly Training Wrap - 3/24 - 3/30

A pretty darn strong week for me. In fact, I set a PR for TRIMP points with 1027 point on just a little over 9 hours of training. I think that number was aided slightly by a small change to my zones -- I lowered my Zone 1 cut off to 143 -- and an unusually high HR day on Wednesday. Things settled out a little bit with my weight training and diet. However, I think the diet is still a work in progress and may take another few weeks to really engrain for me. My terrible HR day on Wednesday was likely a result of too little sodium to go with this high fat diet.

This week certainly helped to salvage a frustrating month that had me fall about 50 miles shy of my goal. The final stats for March:

  • 21 runs totaling 194.3 miles (once again a little shy of my per month goal for 2014)
  • 18,670 feet of vertical gain or slightly more than my per month goal for 2014
  • Two 20 mile runs and two weekends of B2B long runs

As I look at the big picture, it is pretty hard to complain. I have increased my miles each month since recovering from knee surgery. And, I have compiled 7 weeks of at least 47 since the beginning of the year and 557 miles YTD. I think I am in a good place. The meat of the trail running season is still in front of me and I persevered through Winter -- my least favorite time of year to run. That said, I only have 13 weeks to North Fork 50 and likely need to start pushing both volume and intensity a touch. I think intensity will be harder if I continue to worry too much about HR training. This ultra low carb diet is proving to be a challenge as well. I'll find a way to make it work.

Day Miles Notes
Monday 5Easy
Tuesday 10 Hill Repeats
Strength Training
Wednesday5 Easy
PT and Body Weight Training
FridayOff Rest
Saturday 20Long Road Run
Sunday 14Bluffs Loop
Total 62About 6100 feet of vert

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My New Altra Arrivals

I am generally a big fan of Altra shoes, though there are some complaints that I have had in the past 12 months. Despite those complaints, I am super excited to try many of the new shoes they are producing. And I continue to recommend them to my friends and family. (I would guess that at least 2-3 dozen pairs of their shoes have either been purchased by me or as a result of my recommendation.) Now that I am ramping up for 2014 and running injury free, I have restocked my supply after retiring pairs of Instinct 1.0, Superior 1.0, and Torin 1.0. And I currently already rotate pairs of the Lone Peak 1.0 and Instinct 1.5.

My New 2014 Line Up

The shoe I was maybe most excited about is the Instinct 2.0. The Instinct 1.0 was my second favorite shoe ever (other than the unappealing looks). While the Instinct 1.5 are a decent shoe, they seem  to be a bit narrower than the original to me. However, I really like the balance of cushion and road feel in them. Anyway, what appealed most to me about the Instinct 2.0 is the addition of some more cushion and the re-worked upper. It has only been three runs and 20 some miles, but I am very impressed. The mold/last is much more inline with what I hoped and feels closer to the 1.0 to me. The cushion is very pillowy, bordering on Hoka soft. This may push this shoe more into a long run category for me, but that is fine. I like my Instinct 1.5 as a strength and speed shoe. At some point when I have a few hundred miles on them, I'll write a review. But I expect these shoes to get more than their share of love in my rotation.
Instinct 2.0 are pillowy soft right out of the box
The other shoe I was super excited about is the Olympus. Like everyone, I have become enamored with cushion and wanted badly to have a viable alternative to the Hoka. I own a pair of Hoka Mafate because they are the only model that comes close to having enough forefoot room for me. But, the Mafate weigh nearly a pound each!  Yikes!! The Olympus weigh in at close to 11 oz for me, or just a little heavier than my everyday shoes. That extra weight is worth the cushion. Similar to the Instinct 2.0, my initial impressions are very positive on this shoe. Looking at the Altra website, it appears the shoes are built on the same last (SD5-M). And that explains why they both feel like a perfect fit to me -- no issues with width or toebox.

In addition to the weight and last, I am super excited about their rocker technology. The Hokas feel like bricks to me and I doubt I could ever run fast in them because of the rigidness of the outsole. Altra did a great job with the rocker technology and allowing for the shoe to feel like you can toe-off. It is an odd sensation when you first put them on, and they almost don't feel zero drop because of it. I already took these shoes on a 13 mile, 2500K technical trail run and was very pleased. They currently have 50 miles on them. I will write a more thorough review once they have some more miles on them. My only complaint so far: how will I ever wear out my Mafate with these shoes in my closet?!

A good looking shoe for having so much cushion.

The other shoe I recently purchased was a pair of the Lone Peak 1.5. I have yet to log a mile in them because I have a pair of 1.0 that I want to wear out first. I bought them in part because the changes between the 1.0 and this model were minimal. It seems the majority of changes were improving the material and the drainage in the upper, both are welcome changes for me.

Altra Torin 1.0 Review

One pair of shoes that I loved a lot were the Brooks PureFlow. But, Brooks doesn't make any of their "Pure" series shoes in a wide. And like many of today's shoes, I cannot get by without a wide model. When Altra released the Torin, I immediately bought a pair looking for a substitute for the cushion of the PureFlow. Overall, I thought the shoe was just ok. The big issue right off the bat was the discovery that there were some production issues and the shoe was supposed to have 7 eyelets and not 6. This is a major issue for me because I like to really ratchet down the midfoot of my shoes and allow my forefoot to be free -- something Altra normally does really well. But the missing eyelet always gave me issues and allowed more heel movement than I'd like. Another thing I didn't particularly like was the different mold they used from their primary shoe lines -- the Instinct and the Lone Peak. The Torin have a narrower heel and a little more flare into the forefoot. The result was that my foot felt like it was spilling over the last and that and the shoe felt unstable, almost like the it was twisting as I moved in it.

There were some positives about the shoe that I really liked. First, it is plenty light for a shoe with 16mm of cusion, listed at 9 oz. For a shoe in this category, I feel that is a very solid weight. Second, I did enjoy the cushion and found it "just right". Many shoes these days are super pillowy soft (a more recent trend) or very rigid (like Saucony Mirage, Fastwitch, New Balance Fresh Foam). I thought Altra got this one just right. There was enough cushion to protect and feel soft, but not so much that I couldn't toe off or feel the road. And finally, the shoe honestly held up well. That surprised me because I expected it to fall apart easily when I first laid my hands on it. I only ran 240 or so miles in them, but I put countless more hours in them walking around and at the gym.

In review....

The Positives:
  • Adequate weight for a cushioned shoe (but probably could be improved slightly with a more minimal upper)
  • Quality was better than I expected
  • The cushion was just right, making the shoe pretty versatile in my opinion
  • I think the shoe is reasonably priced at $115, at least in comparison with Brooks
The Room for Improvement
  • I am not a fan of this mold that Altra has been making (it seems the One and the Superior may be in the same mold?) with the narrow heel and flared forefoot.
  • The shoe needs a revamped lacing system to secure the heel
  • I'd prefer the toe box to be more rounded like the Instinct and Lone Peak

Hard to see in this photo, but the lugs were worn down to the foam. One or two of the lugs was coming loose near the end.

This photo sort of shows the "pocket" that formed along the outside of the shoe as my foot spilled over the outsole.  Look closely near the front of the shoe.

There are several things you can see in this photo: Again you can see the upper had formed a pocket and was spilling over the outsole, which you almost cannot see. In particularly you can see how the forefoot is less rounded than other Altra models and my pink toe was digging into that upper left area. Also, you can see how my ankle was not secured with the laces.  A seventh eyelet would have aided in me securing the tongue and locking things into place.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Weekly Training Wrap - 3/17 - 3/23

I guess I should start this off by saying that I've been struggling with training for the better part of March. My original plan was for a HUGE month with nearly 260 miles planned, but it has been derailed by a minor injury (hamstring tweak lifting weights) and decision to mess with my diet. And, I think that these last few weeks of Winter are sort of wearing on me too. I am ready to run in a t-shirt and shorts everyday! (And not have to plan runs around storms.) After nearly a month of enough "blah runs", I went back and reviewed my 2014 Goals and Resolutions. This is where blogging is kind of fun, it is like writing notes to myself! Right there in cyber-ink I wrote "be kinder to me" and "be more flexible". I get so darn rigid about things that I almost beat the enjoyment out of them. After all, trying to run 50 miles per week and live a life as a husband, father, and full-time employee is hard enough, so why add challenges? I've decided to make a few changes and try to get things heading upward again.

First, I am going to ease off on this new diet. I could write pages and pages about this, but this particular venture just wasn't working for me right now. My amended plan is to meet halfway and follow a plan more like Ben Greenfield where I "time" my carbohydrates around when I am running. Heavy running days I may eat 200g of carbs, including carbs on the run. Easy and non-running days, I may eat more like 50-100 grams. I know this won't put me into ketosis and may ruin some of the benefit of a high fat diet. But, I've decided this isn't something I can really do in the middle of a training cycle. I will likely experiment with it again more when I am not trying to train so hard. It is important to note that I fundamentally believe in eating Paleo and low-carb, but there are extremes to things and eating 20g of carbs a day on a 50 mile per week training plan takes some adjustment. If you look at some of my previous posts, you will note that even at 200g of carbs per day (800 Kcals), this is still very much a low carbohydrate diet as far as endurance athletes are concerned.

One things I will continue to do is eat as much fat as I can tolerate. In previous experiments with my diet, I have discovered that I cannot eat 3000 Kcals a day based mostly in carbs without feeling like crap and gaining weight. This isn't all that surprising because that is the entire argument to eating low carb -- too many carbs mess with your insulin and cause your body to store excess weight. Obviously, this rule is not true of everyone, but the masses for sure. However, the numbers say very clearly that I should be eating close to 3000 Kcals a day (maybe even 3500) to sustain a 190 lb lean frame on 50 miles per week. Eating fat is the answer. Fat is body's preferred energy source and I can "fudge" my numbers a bit more without causing weight gain. My guess is I will land somewhere close to 15% carbs, 20% protein, and 65% fat for my daily intake of food.

Second, I am also going to change some strength training. Again, I could write pages and pages of this, but the bottom line is that I have been pushing XT to the point where it is impacting my running -- several muscle pulls, constantly running on legs ridden with DOMS, etc... Weight training was a pivotal part of my plan to recover from knee surgery. And I believe it should be a key component of everyone's off season plans. But, I am going to shift my focus to more "functional" training: mobility, muscular endurance, body weight strength, flexibility, etc... My plan will be to do at least 2 days in the gym with a focus on those areas and then several shorter workouts each weak for core and maybe some Yoga.

That's all the changes for now. I am sure I'll find something to tinker with in the coming weeks. As for running, this week was OK. I got my volume back up to where I'd like it to be and wound up with a fairly large TRIMP score -- due mostly to my time on feet -- but there wasn't really any spectacular runs in there due to the reasons above. Saturday was stupid and really a dangerous trail run with ice three inches thick in spots. I think I will avoid the mountain trails for a few weeks until Spring really sets in.

Day Miles Notes
Monday 6Rest
Tuesday Off PT and Body Weight Training
Wednesday10 Easy/Aerobic
Thursday85 x 3' @ Half Marathon Pace
PT and Body Weight Training
FridayOff Rest
Saturday 13Deer Creek (ice!)
Sunday 14Easy
Total 50About 5500 feet of vert

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Weekly Training Wrap - 3/10 - 3/16

Tough week for me. It was supposed to be a HUGE week (60+ miles) capped by a Fat Ass 50K run on Saturday. But life sometimes has other ideas... First, my son's soccer tournament got reschedule from last weekend due to snow. And my wife was out of town to run the Canyonlands Half Marathon, leaving me on Mr Mom duty. Worse, I have been feeling sick for the better part of the last 7 days. Nothing too major, just some achiness, stuffiness, and an "off" stomach. Finally, I suffered my second hamstring aggravation in the past 4 months (both due to weightlifting) and was pretty much unable to run until Saturday. Add it all up and I really was sort of fortunate to get 26 miles in this week.

Going forward I am going to change up my lifting a bit and avoid the Romanian Deadlift that has hurt my hamstrings (once each). Honestly, my knee has become something of a non-factor, which is GREAT. I honestly wondered if that day would ever come. (Though I still cannot sit on my heels, which I used to be able to do.) I will put strength training into maintenance mode for now and focus more on functional/body weight exercises as I build my miles.

Day Miles Notes
Monday OffRest
Tuesday 2 Hamstring Test
PT and Body Weight Training
WednesdayOff Rest
Thursday2Hamstring Test
PT and Body Weight Training
FridayOff Walk/Run with Dog
Saturday 7Easy
Sunday 15Long Run Pace
Total 26

Monday, March 10, 2014

Weekly Training Wrap - 3/3 - 3/9

A lousy training week due to a sore hamstring and a cold. I am not too bummed since it was designated a cut back week. But, I may become easily bummed if either drags too deep into the new week. Instead of training, I will talk a bit more about my LCHF diet....

After a little more than a week I think I am figuring this diet out. Right now I am targeting 3000 calories per day, but we'll see if I need to up that. Based on other runners' data, that number seems low. My goal has been to target 125-150 g per day in Protein, which I have been doing pretty consistently. My goal is 50 g of carbs per day, which I have exceeded a few days. The devil in the details is whether you consider net (carbs - fiber grams) or gross carbs. There seems to be some disagreement on this. If I count net carbs, I am easily under 50. And finally, I need to be eating upwards of 200 grams per day of fat. That is much tougher than it sounds.

Anyway, week one is in the books and here are a few lessons I learned:

  1. Making Bulletproof Coffee (hot coffee blended with butter, ghee, coconut oil or MCT oil) is a good way to start the day and get a ton of fat in easily. I started with 1 tbsp each of Ghee and Coconut oil, which is about 30 g of fat in a cup. Lately I am upping the dosage a bit to get more fat. Soon I will experiment with drinking this before AM runs.
  2. You can overdue avocados or nuts. They sound like the perfect LCHF food, but if you take them to extremes, they blow out your proper ratios. I am basically targeting a 10 to 1 ratio of fat grams to carbohydrate grams per day and a 2 to 1 ratio of fat grams to protein grams. Avocados are close to a 1 to 1 ratio of carbs to fat. Too much avocado quickly becomes too much carbohydrates. Nuts have the same issue with carbohydrates. Almonds have a good ratio of fat to protein (near 2 to 1), but only a one to one ratio of fat to carbs but only a 2 to 1 ratio of fat to carbs. Even bacon doesn't have near the fat to protein ratio necessary (about 1 to 1).
  3. Based on the above, I have had to find creative ways to eat pure fat whenever possible. I found and tweaked a smoothie recipe that gives me roughly 45 grams of fat per serving, with little protein or carbs. If I have two of those a day, then I can quite easily get into the ball park for the day. The recipe includes heavy whipping cream, unsweetened coconut milk, and a few tbsp of coconut oil. Then I might include one or two berries or some cinnamon for flavor. It is actually pretty darn tasty. If I want to make it healthy, maybe add some kale or spinach.
  4. Supplements are necessary to balance things out. I am currently taking Magnesium Citrate and Sodium (in the form of bullion cubes). In ketosis, your body will shed water from the carbohydrate stores. This results in an imbalance of electrolytes and causes people to feel nauseous or light headed. I also take at least one shot of Amazing Wheat Grass each day for additional micronutrients.
I'll keep playing with this and see how it goes. My goal is to be able to run long with much less fuel than the average runner. At near 190 lbs, I need to be more fat adapted than the next guy or prepared to eat 400 Kcals an hour, which is tough. My experimentation will begin with VESPA, UCann, and watered down organic apple juice as my in-run carbohydrates. I may even "game" the ketosis system by changing the amount of carbohydrates I eat each day based on my activity level for the day. In that case, I might even be able to have a beer after one of my long runs!

Day Miles Notes
Monday OffRest
Tuesday 9 Fartleks
Strength Training
Wednesday6 Easy
Thursday7Zone 2
Strength Training
FridayOff Yoga
Saturday 6Snow Run
Sunday OffRest
Total 28

Friday, March 7, 2014

High Fat Diets

If you know my story, then you know I once weighed almost 250 lbs and was sort of spiraling out of control from a health perspective. Right after my daughter was born, I hit rock bottom. When I see really obese people, I always wonder what number it will take on the scale before they take action. For me, it was 250 lbs while shopping at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I bought a treadmill and started "running" in my basement. It was all I could do to run 12 min miles for an hour. Not long after, my brother-in-law mentioned to me the Atkins diet and it sparked a decade long research into healthy diets. Of course I dove head first in to try it. And I lost 20 lbs in the first month. I've heard all the criticisms and I've read all the snide remarks from people only capable of thinking in dogmatic ways. (I mean if the government tells us that a diet high in fat is bad, it must be so, right?) The one thing that always stands out to me is that it flat out works. I know more people that have lost and kept of tremendous amounts of weight -- like 50 - 100 lbs -- than any vegan, Jenny Craig, or other calorie restricted diet. I don't live low-carb year round, but it has been a staple of my nutrition choices for more than 10 years now.

I recently came across a great article in the NY Times titled "What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?". That title is extremely appropriate in my opinion. You owe it to yourself to read the article and at least understand the other side. If you still aren't convinced that it is at least possible that there is some truth to this, then fine. But at least give it a shot. There are three points I want to emphasize and then I'll let you read the entire article on your own.

Don't Believe Everything the Government Tells You, They Aren't Perfect

In the intervening years, the N.I.H. spent several hundred million dollars trying to demonstrate a connection between eating fat and getting heart disease and, despite what we might think, it failed. Five major studies revealed no such link. A sixth, however, costing well over $100 million alone, concluded that reducing cholesterol by drug therapy could prevent heart disease. The N.I.H. administrators then made a leap of faith. Basil Rifkind, who oversaw the relevant trials for the N.I.H., described their logic this way: they had failed to demonstrate at great expense that eating less fat had any health benefits. But if a cholesterol-lowering drug could prevent heart attacks, then a low-fat, cholesterol-lowering diet should do the same.
So the government went ahead and decided to give us a low-fat diet even though they cannot prove it. They made the classic mistake of attributing correlation as causation. What's more, they opened the door to drug companies selling us cholesterol drugs that come with their own side effects. And, worse yet, companies that pay millions of dollars lobbying in Washington are making billions of dollars selling us low cost, low fat alternatives to real food.

The Current Paradigm is Broken, Badly

They (high-fat advocates) say that low-fat weight-loss diets have proved in clinical trials and real life to be dismal failures, and that on top of it all, the percentage of fat in the American diet has been decreasing for two decades. Our cholesterol levels have been declining, and we have been smoking less, and yet the incidence of heart disease has not declined as would be expected.
Americans, being blasted with advice from their doctors and the government, have been trying to do the right things. We are smoking less and eating less fat, and we aren't any healthier. Exercise isn't helping either.
The 1990's data show obesity rates continuing to climb, while exercise activity remained unchanged. This suggests the two have little in common.
It has been my belief for sometime now that diet, not exercise, is the key to weight management and health. If exercise and low-fat diets aren't making us healthier, shouldn't we try something else? Is three decades of data not enough?

Eating Tons of Fat Won't Give You Heart Disease

Atkins also noted that starches and sugar were harmful in any event because they raised triglyceride levels and that this was a greater risk factor for heart disease than cholesterol....
The results of all five of these studies are remarkably consistent. Subjects on some form of the Atkins diet -- whether overweight adolescents on the diet for 12 weeks as at Schneider, or obese adults averaging 295 pounds on the diet for six months lost twice the weight as the subjects on the low-fat, low-calorie diets. In all five studies, cholesterol levels improved similarly with both diets, but triglyceride levels were considerably lower with the Atkins diet. Though researchers are hesitant to agree with this, it does suggest that heart-disease risk could actually be reduced when fat is added back into the diet and starches and refined carbohydrates are removed.

If you are worried about heart disease, take a risk on a diet that works. Bet on the fact that carrying around less weight is more beneficial to your heart, even if scientists don't agree on the causes of heart disease. Sometimes the most obvious thing is right in front of you. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Weekly Training Wrap - 2/24 - 3/2

This was an easy week with relatively little strength training and only one day of running with any effort. It was a cutback/recovery week of sorts after my 50K from the previous week. I am starting to see some signs  in HR data that my fitness is returning.

Saturday's run was a bit of a lethargic mess and it prompted me to do some digging. I have been trying to go low carb high fat (LCHF) for a while now. While I am still way better than most people, I've been struggling with implementing this a bit lately. Some of that is just laziness on my part. Some of it is trying to understand specifically how to apply this type of diet (actually amount of food, serving sizes, what to eat on the run, etc...).  And some of it is just trying to trust it -- naturally every lethargic run makes me question whether it can work.  On Sunday, I stumbled across a book called The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance. After reading it over, I am committed to increasing my discipline toward this diet in hopes of making it work better for me. The book is a gold mine of information for the positives and the pitfalls of this type of diet.

There will likely be a blog post in the future as I experiment, but here are some highlights:

  • Low carb diets increase the loss of sodium and water, which can result in a negative sodium balance. This is could contribute to my fatigue Saturday. The weekend before I felt great all day and was taking sodium and magnesium pills on the run.
  • To maintain Ketosis (the goal of high fat diets), daily intake of fat must be 65-80% of your total calories.  Wow!
  •  My rough targets each day are 400-680 kcals from protein (100-170 g), 1450 - 1620 kcals (165-180 grams of fat, and only a few hundred calories from carbs (less than 50 g).  Everything has carbs, so this is tougher than it sounds.
  • Here is the key: in a clinical test, the average non-keto (high carb) runner burns about 28 grams of fat per hour (252 kcals) and the average keto (high fat) runner burns 90 g (810 kcals) in the same time. This has HUGE implications on fueling and energy during an ultramarathon. (Both tests were done at 65% of V02 max, which is ideal for fat utilization).
  • Both VESPA and Generation Ucan are highly recommended products for aiding in fat burning on race day.
The book is a wealth of knowledge about things like micronutrients and cramping, recovery techniques and debunking the idea that you need carbs to recover, recipes for LCHF athletes, practical strategies for implementing it, research on diets and exercise, etc....  It is well worth the read!

Day Miles Notes
Monday OffYoga
Tuesday 7 Easy
Wednesday5 Easy
Strength Training
Thursday8Bluffs w/ Tempo
FridayOff Rest
Saturday 20Ridgeline Open Space
Sunday 9Easy
Total 494900 feet vertical