Sunday, May 31, 2015

Keto-Adaptation: 2 weeks in

I (or Lyndsey) has shared with some friends that I was making the switch to ketogenic fueling. Some of whom have kindly asked for an update and I thought it was also a good opportunity to document for myself the experience I have had so far. "Diet" is likely a more correct term than "fueling" when used in the sense of "sum of consumed food by a person", not "special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons." To be clear, the purpose of my change in diet is to support running a sub-2:55 marathon...any auxiliary benefits are, in fact, auxiliary.

Many resources go over the why and how, so I'll attempt to be brief in that regard and keep the focus on my personal experience.  Here are the resources that I have used:
1. Coaches (long-time friends) Matt & Amber: honestly, if this suggestion wouldn't have come from them, I would have remained oblivious to this entire concept (health-crazed Kenny has already been on the coconut oil train for years...getting more and more like my Dad everyday).
2. The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance Book: recommended by Matt, I read this 174 page book in 2 days and it left me wondering why I hadn't been onto this earlier.

3. Various blogs, youtube videos, etc. - like anything, with the internet you can consume information forever.

After running twenty marathons, I've developed a solid routine of how to fuel with carbohydrates.  It's not sexy, but it works: moderate pasta dinner the night before, vanilla Powerbar the morning of, and as many gels (4-6) as my stomach will allow during the race.  Most recently with Boston 2015, this strategy has been successful.  However, it does have some limitations:
1. Energy is "spiky" - energy declines until you pop the first gel, which gives you a nice jolt, then it declines in the next couple miles until you can take another "hit".
2. On an easy long run, I could consume gels all-day long with no issues. But at marathon race pace, it's a delicate balance as the stomach doesn't always want to process them, especially after the first couple.
3. Even with carb-loading and gels, you can run out of glycogen fuel during a marathon.  As I've read, and experienced, your body will eventually switch to fat, it's just not typically a smooth process (i.e. "hitting the wall").

So what if I didn't have to run primarily on carbs/glycogen to begin with?  The theory is that we all have nearly endless energy on board, our bodies just aren't adapted to using it (when glycogen is available, it likes to take advantage of that first).
The adaptation period obviously varies by person, but in general for performance athletes takes 2-3 weeks.  The number to stay below or around is 50g of carbs/day.  Here was my week 1 consumption:
~55g Carbs/day
Here's a visual of what I was eating to achieve this:
Whole, unprocessed foods
It did take a bit more planning, but wasn't all that difficult to do.  Biggest change was my snacks at work - I used to live snack to snack (high carbs) and would never really feel full.  That has changed.  I don't really feel the need to snack much anymore and if I do, I have spoonful of coconut butter or a handful of almonds.

I also raced Chase Corporate Challenge (3.5 mile), which I was a bit nervous about having only been 4 days in.  I maybe didn't have as much "pop" - hard to say though coming 4 days off of pacing Green Bay Marathon (3:25), but maybe I did feel smoother?  I ran sub 6:00/mile (faster than last year and only 9 seconds off my PR).  Will be very cool if I can get a 5k PR in this year as typically ketosis is suspected to be more advantageous for endurance events than shorter events (although it is used for strength-training as well).

I did have a concern about not consuming fruits as I had maybe missed that part with the focus on healthy fats and greens for vegetables.  Berries are very high in nutrients while not ridiculously high in carbs, so for week 2 that did boost my carbs a little.  Feeling good, I also was slightly more relaxed with the 50g carb/day as I'm now seeing this as a sustainable pattern (I really don't miss the grains that were previously a staple in my diet).  I could also likely eat less if I so desired - multiple times already, I've eaten meal even though I'm not hungry (previously I would be hungry before almost every meal).
Week 2 - 78g carbs/day
Week 2 was higher due to the addition of more berries, nuts, a delicious Founders All Day IPA and chocolate peanut butter brownie (a guy still has got to live).  Drinking less beer, light beers as substitute and an occasional craft beer, seems manageable to me and not a "sacrifice."

Other metrics - I love my new Withings WS-50 Body Analyzer (yes, it's a "Body Analyzer", not a "scale" and will toss in some screenshots:

I've declined in weight, which from what I understand is a significant portion from water weight that your body stores along with glycogen (takes 3-4 grams of water to store 1 gram of glycogen).  As my glycogen stores have been depleted, so has the amount of water I store.  It's also encouraging that my fat mass has declined, but there is inherently inaccuracy from the impedance measurement.  I'm not too concerned about either of these numbers, but it is fun to track them.

Some other random stuff:
1. I've made Nuun Energy my "vice" before workouts as a subsititute where I would potentially have a caffeine gel for a pick-me-up.
2. Trying to drink as much water as I can and adding salt to what I eat (there is some reason for this - can't remember).
3. Adding an occasional probiotic drink - figure can't hurt
4. Replaced my normal craft beer following dinner with fancy water.  Like mentioned earlier, not cutting beer completely.  Wine is also not a bad option.
5. When I buy foods, I buy foods that have more fat than carbs, no sugar added, and don't really pay attention to protein (getting enough just by eating whole foods high in fat).
6. If I have time in the morning, Lyndsey and I watch youtube videos about LCHF. Think there is some psychological benefit to starting out the day thinking about it.

My latest speed workout from Wednesday was a VO2Max 6x1k and "easily" hit my Jack Daniels VDOT numbers (5:53/mile pace).  I was surprised as I had biked there, did the workout, biked home, and didn't feel hungry - I ate a fat bomb when I got home for the heck of it.

So what's on tap for the coming weeks?  High Cliff Half Ironman will be an excellent "feel" test (I don't consider myself a triathlete and only have one other half to compare to, so may have to be qualitative). Reminder that I need to source some Generation UCAN (for another post).  Also doing "BulletProof" coffee this week for the heck of it - figured it would at least be fun to try with the "Brain Octane" and expensive coffee.  And finally, I may breakdown and buy some blood-test strips to measure ketone levels - I already have running-friend volunteers for the control group.

If you've read this far, wow, I'm impressed.  Thanks and let me know what you think!

**I didn't reference any sources where applicable - figured since this is small audience and people wouldn't take offense.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Boston - Sub 3 Achieved

Arguably the greatest thing about Boston is that you can spend hours and hours discussing race “strategy” with running pals, friends, or random people on the street.  One of the worst things about running Boston is that you can spend hours and hours discussing race “strategy”.

Regardless, going into Boston, I felt very confident.  Last year, I muscled out a one minute PR 3:02 on minimal, dedicated training.  This year, I had signed up for, and mostly stuck to, the full Fleet Feet Boston365 training program.  I also supplemented this with sport-specific and general lifting plan that was created by Amber Leonard Thome.  From the speedworkouts and Barrington long runs, I knew that the coveted 3 hour barrier was within grasp.

You probably haven’t yet heard enough about Boston race strategy, so I’ll go over mine…for the 100th time.  Intentionally positive split – that is the plan.  Last year, I followed this by chance, and I knew it would work for me again.  Take the fast miles while they’re easy and give a little back when it gets harder.  The theory is very similar to those “take-a-penny” dishes at the grocery store that I never use since I always pay with credit card.  In the first half/16 miles of the race, you take a couple pennies every mile.  Then once you get into Newton, you give a couple back (but not more than what you’ve already taken…suckas!!!).  I even conditionally formatted a paceband by elevation delta for where I should be taking and giving time.

Race weekend, Lyndsey and I get out to Boston with rockstar friends, the Crockers.  On Friday, we eat some lobster, drink some delicious Harpoon beer and swing by the Adidas party.  This whole while, I’m feeling kind of crappy with a sore throat (the week leading up was a little crazy with closing on a condo, work, packing, etc. – not sure if it was stress-induced or what).
Selfie Stick - #BaumsAndCrockersInBoston

Saturday:  wake-up, still kind of feeling like junk.  Watch Lyndsey, Lacey, and TJ (PR) crush the 5k.  TJ and I run a shakeout 3-4 miles + strides followed by Fancy’s from Mike and Patty’s – the bomb!  Feel slightly better, but sore throat still there.  Watch the mile, do the expo, fried rice at Pho Basil (tradition), Red Sox game, Competitor party, bed.

Sunday:  wake-up, still feeling like junk…WTF!!!  Hit up the Cheers bar, Dave and I get fitted for suits (just normal prerace stuff), nap, late dinner, go to bed.
DMV, myself, and TJ
Monday – wake-up, don’t feel like junk…THANK GOD!!!  The weather was somewhat of a concern with wind, rain, and a little cool.  But whatever, it wasn’t 100F so that’s already a win.  Plus race photos look way more hardcore wearing singlets with arm warmers.  The Boston365 crew loads up and we roll in style to Hopkinton.  Sascha, Eduardo and I scope out Athletes Village and I pocket some nutrition as my best effort to recoup some of the entry fee.  Back on the bus it starts to rain a little, but then stops before we get off the bus.  I also managed to get Mark and Drew to hold their legs vertical in the air so I didn’t look like a fool being the only one.  Just about an hour to the gun, we start the walk to the start with our extra-oxygenated legs.

Despite us running very similar speeds, the competition at Boston splits you into corrals by very small margins of time, so I was all alone in my coral waiting to go.

Finally, it’s go-time and I tear off down the steep slope on the lefthand side.  I needed 6:51 miles for 3:00 and intended to run 5-10 sec quicker for the first half, which would bring me through in 1:28-1:29. First mile, I keep watching my lap pace (I probably looked at my watch in excess of 100 times during the race – not incessantly, but controlled monitoring I swear).  It’s in the 6:30 range…maybe a little faster, but my legs feel GOOD!  After the training build-up and taper, they are ready to go.  I split the first mile at 6:44…perfect.

Then I let them run a little on the lovely downhill – 6:35, 6:36, 6:37.  “No sense in hitting the brakes,” I told myself.  Here’s where people might say, “oh, you went too fast!”, I say “garbage – running downhill 16 seconds “faster” than race pace is practically the same as running race pace on the flat”.  Boom, logic!  When I crossed the 5k mark, I did wonder what people tracking must be thinking – TJ later confirmed that Lyndsey was super nervous about that quick split.

The first four miles are similar to a dark roast cup of coffee in the morning.  You savor the richness, holding it with both hands, just kind of numb to the surroundings, but secretly knowing it won’t last all day.  Then, it's off to work!  6:44, 6:43, 6:50, 6:48, 6:44.  Should also note that I cracked open my first gel (sample size) at mile 3, then another at mile 8 – stomach was feeling fine and I was grabbing a little water at every single aid station.  Somewhere in here it starts raining.  At first it was real light and even refreshing.  6:50, 6:47.  Now it’s coming down pretty significantly and I let go my anger at the guy who spilled a full cup of Gatorade on my right shoe miles earlier (he obviously didn’t appreciate the pristine condition of my vintage shoes - n00b).
I spot a blue Fleet Feet singlet ahead and keep squinting to try to figure out who it is.  I recall Dan mentioning that a Matt had joined the team and I assume it must be him.  I creep alongside him (he has earphones in) and I yell “Matt!” – confirmed, it’s him.  He pulls out an earbud and we chat for the next couple of miles.  6:44, 6:49 – coming through the half ~1:28, right on the bottom of the planned range.  Somewhere in here Matt drops back a little bit and I’m thankful to have had some company for those miles.

6:47, 6:50  I had swapped the order of my gel schedule and took my caffeine gel a little earlier.  In a marathon, I try to go as long as I can on regular gels and then use the caffeine as a little boost, but no concerns with taking it a little early.  Through mile 15-16, I am dead focused on spotting the #1 fan crew.  I had told them, I’d be on the right, but I was still passing quite a few people, so I kept running center-left.  Mile 16 goes by 6:45.  I’m now scanning the right side very hard, so much so that I need to keep reminding myself to keep my foot on the gas and not slow my pace down.  Finally I hear the giant cowbells ringing and spot TJ’s green jacket.  Their yells boost me up and I blaze off again for some hills.
Lyndsey all bundled up - difficult to spot, easy to hear
6:53, 6:59, 6:47  I don’t get too caught up in the hype of the hills.  I totally get how this part could destroy you, but any mile at this point in any marathon could also do the same.  There’s some theory that people enjoy being able to connect dots and tell a simplistic story.  The Newton hills fit that perfectly in my opinion.  “Oh man, I was having such a great race, but then it was the hills that did me in.  Never mind the fact that I hadn’t been fueling like I should have, or was running far beyond my means earlier…it was definitely the hills.”  The other mental trick that I use is to compare these hills to the hills at the Birkie – those hills at the Birkie will make any runner cry.

6:57 for mile 20 and I look at my fancy paceband for the first time all day.  I do some oxygen-constrained math and figure out I could run X/mile and still finish sub 3.  Coming up heartbreak, I take slightly shorter strides and am passing more people than are passing me…win. I’m a little extra cautious not to redline and split mile 21 at 7:01.  The "7" stings a little as if I would have been paying better attention, I would have totally hit the lap button 2 seconds earlier!

Still feeling ok and have some downhill ahead.  Have to force the nutrition down, but it's staying down. I'm thinking about all the mile pennies that I've acquired and I’m taking more until the tray is empty!  “Take more, give less!” scrolls through my head - not something you’d tell your kid to do, but totally appropriate for racing.  6:38, 6:51, 6:44

Approaching mile 25, I’m on the lookout for the fan crew again.  I hear Corinne first with a "Go Eric" and then a little later the all-familiar, distinct voices of Lyndsey and Lacey. On both, I'm not quick enough to lock in a visual, so I lift a hand in acknowledgement.  6:51

Across the Citgo sign and one to go, I look at my watch for some more mental math. 2:51:15 – dang it, why couldn’t it end in :45 so I can coast in at a 7:00 mile.  No, instead I now need to run another 6:45 to break the :00 and avoid a painful single digit second time (the worst kind of time in running regardless of what the minute is).
Kenmore Square - 1 to go!
My quads have now been feeling like they have needles jammed in them for some time – it’s the same exact feeling you get during the marathon in an Ironman.  I marvel at how efficiently the Boston course can achieve the same kind of leg sensation in 2 hours that takes 8 hours in an Ironman. I make the final turn and my eyes are glued to my Garmin 920 - with about 100 to go, I realize it's going to be very close to 2:58:00 so I gun it at sub 6:00 pace and dodge around all those guys holding their arms up soaking in the glory. Official time of 2:57:55 - less than a minute shy of a free suit wager that I had going with DMV - no worries though, the showdown will happen in Chicago.

A race recap, wouldn’t be complete without some cadence analysis.  I would have liked to include vertical oscillation and ground contact time, but I foregoed the sensor and accompanying data for weight savings. As you can clearly see from the cadence graph, I ran a fairly optimal race.  The slight variation in dots can be attributed to the rain and wind, which likely cost a few seconds.  The graph also shows that I have a little left to take after a summer of training and 2:55 at Chicago should be my next target.
Cadence Analysis
Finally, a word of thanks to Lyndsey - my biggest supporter, Dave - biggest competitor, Lacey and TJ - awesome travel buddies, the Cheetahbacks - LNL, Dan - his no-nonsense running advice and inspirational blog 2-something, Fleet Feet Boston365 Coaching, and all the friends and family who were live-tracking! And a tribute to Tom Ebertowski who passed away the morning of the race after 16 months courageously battling brain cancer - this race was for him and his loved ones.