Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Grind Continues

Forty miles a week is a mythical volume for me. Upon arrival, I feel weary. Niggles cast doubt on my endurance. Scheduling the time to train challenges my organizational skills. Once achieved and maintained, however, the forty miles per week bring confidence, comfort and clarity. Last week marked my return to the volume, and I hope to stay at or above 40 miles per week until June. Provided I can stay healthy, of course.

I continue to leave pounds of fat strewn along the side of the trail. I lost the ability to remain in ketosis on the weekends. Between my strategic use of complex carbs like sweet potatoes on my Saturday long runs and post run recovery brews with friends I didn't stand a chance. Weekdays are still low carb, and by Wednesday weigh in I can get back into nutritional ketosis. I'd like to see if I can fend off the fatigue despite my weekly transgressions. Here are this week's numbers:

January 28th, Day 24:
  • Weight: 196.4
  • Body fat %: 19.18
  • Ketone level: 0.6 mm
3.5 pounds and a tenth of a percent body fat lost. My pace is quickening, slightly. My energy levels are good, and I am enjoying the flexibility of deciding how much and when to run as the days come. Sometimes the plan pans out, sometimes life gets in the way. As long as the weekly volume target is met, it doesn't matter. I doubt I'll ever return to being coached.

Physical therapy, however, remains a useful tool in my arsenal. Tight calves and some IT band issues are under constant surveillance. With just ten days to my first race of the season, I am focusing on form and pace. I have been tempted to begin strength-based workouts like hill repeats. I've stuck to my guns and remain in the "base" training phase until race day. I'll have a good bench mark for my hill skills that way.

I had a great morning showing David the southern end of the Miwok 100k course on Saturday. It was my first run in the Headlands in months. I need to spend more time there. Running just seems easier amidst those panoramic vistas.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Stumble, Stumble, Crawl, Crawl

Training continues at a good clip; I'm shooting for 40 miles this week. If all goes according to plan, I will not dip below that volume until the week before Western States. I recognized last year that 40 miles a week made me feel strong but not too worn out. Using 40 as a rest/reset week feels right. The calf and IT niggles are returning. I am getting A.R.T. as needed to facilitate flexibility and keep injury at bay.

At least the running part is going well. The long MLK weekend resulted in a fall from the ketosis bandwagon. Twirly and I helped her parents move out of their home of 30 years. Of course, moving and beer go together like peas and carrots. Over the course of the three days, I consumed well over 100 grams of carbs per day. Beer was not the only culprit. My mother-in-law bakes some mean cookies. I lost count around seven.

That said, the progress was not completely derailed. I lost some body fat and managed to get back into nutritional ketosis by this morning's weigh-in:

January 21st, 2015, day 17:

  • Weight: 199.7 lbs
  • Body fat%: 19.24
  • Ketone level: 0.6 mm
Ironically, I am feeling just as motivated by this week's minimal progress as I was by last week's major losses. I know that if I implement my plan I will do great things this year.

This weekend will mark my return to the Marin Headlands. It has been months since my last run there. I'm excited to show David some of the Miwok 100k course. May seems like a long way away, but I know that summer will be here in the blink of an eye.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Training Update: Holy Ketosis!

Comparing these first ten days on the ketogenic diet to my previous attempt is like oil and water. Yesterday afternoon's easy five miles felt spectacular, despite having only 750 calories for the day before my run. I am feeling satiated and energetic. I even had a beer on Monday! I have been starting every day with two hard-boiled eggs and a couple pieces of string cheese, followed by snacks of mixed nuts and green olives. For lunch I'll have a salad, leftover's from dinner or some baked tofu. Dinners have been some form of animal protein and a salad with some veggies. I feel great and the fat is melting off. This stuff really works. Check out the numbers:

January 14th, 2015, day ten
  • Weight: 199 (-4.2 lbs for the week)
  • Body fat %: 19.48 (-1.42%)
  • Ketone level: 1.8 mm
Over 4 lbs in one week isn't what I would call healthy, but it is in line with my ketogenic experience. I weighed 209 lbs on December 9th, so I have lost about 2 lbs per week. Most would agree that rate is healthy but rapid. The ketone number is 50% higher than I was able to achieve last summer. It indicates that I have entered what Dr. Phinney calls the "optimal ketone zone". A few more weeks in this range and I will be "keto-adapted". The bottom line is that my body will be burning almost exclusively dietary and body fat for energy even while exercising. While this may not help my performance, it will allow my loss of body fat to continue at a good clip. And losing that fat will help my performance. Recognizing the diminishing returns will be the challenging part. As my mileage increases, I will be strategically adding some simple carbohydrates into my diet to fuel the additional volume. I am interested to see just how many grams of carbs I can get before slipping out of ketosis. 

For the mean time, I'm having a blast. In this age of instant gratification, seeing the fat slough off so quickly is motivating. Feeling full on less food has been remarkable. Now that I have distanced myself from carbohydrates, I see how addictive they are. They breed hunger. Fat makes you feel fuller. I'm sold, American.

In training, I am in the midst of a rest week (25 miles). Easy runs and strength training. Up next is a three week ramp up to the American Canyon 25k. I have been striving to stay at MAF pace (HR~142) for this base building phase. After AC25k I'll be shifting gears to a strength building phase. Hill repeats, longer long runs, a focus on my TRX routine and other core workouts will be the keys to developing the power I'll need to attack the high volume training that is to come.

Is anyone else out there having as much fun as I am training for 2015? How about a Wanderplace Diet-bet, any takers?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Western States Redux Training: Begin Again

Looking for less light in 2015
With the holidays behind me I feel ready to tackle training for my second Western States 100 in 12 months time. While I gave running a rest in the second half of the year, I continued to consume as if I were training. Between the San Francisco Giants playoff run (Dynasty) and the holidays I packed on a hefty 17 pounds after States. When I sat down to sketch out my training program, it was obvious that  weight loss would be priority one.

I wanted to lose 30 pounds in 7 months. Not an impossible task, but I wanted to get down to race weight before the heavy lifting in the spring. December was easy; I began training again. The shock to my system and some smarter eating habits jump started the process. I knew once my endurance came back that I would have to implement some new strategies.

I played around with a ketogenic diet last fall, I decided to try it again at the start of the year. I'm finding it easier to stick to this time around, as I am eager to see results. Besides the lack of fruit and beer, I love everything about the diet. I can eat eggs, cheese, most vegetables, more meat, more eggs. The beer prohibition sticks in my craw, but I gotta do what I gotta do. Besides, there will always be gin for those special occasions. I am testing my blood once a week on weigh-in day (Wednesday) and will provide some progress updates as the season progresses. 

 Here are the starting numbers:

January 5th, 2015, day one of <50g/day carbohydrates
  •     Weight: 204.2
  •     Body fat: 20.9%
  •     Ketone level: 0.1 mm
 January 7th, first weigh-in
  •     Weight: 203.4
  •     Body fat: 20.9%
  •     Ketone level: 0.6 mm
The initial weight loss was likely water weight. I am pleased to find myself entering nutritional ketosis within 48 hours of beginning. The expected sluggishness did not deter my training. After peaking at 35 miles this first week I am taking an easy week of 25 miles the following week. That should get me back to feeling more energy. The next cycle of training is a three week build up to 50 miles, culminating in the American Canyon 25k on February 7th.

Reset with a rest week, and the cycle will resume. Every month I have a training race or big weekend planned as part of a peak week. I'll unveil it as it unfolds, but I am confident I have the tools to get me that silver buckle in June. As long as I stay healthy, it will happen.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Time To Go To Work

Hat-tip to Eric Schranz and for sharing the following piece written by Mario Fraioli. As I begin my 24 week WS100 training this week, inspiration is highly valued.

Time To Go To Work

The dark early morning sky gives way to a rising light from the east as two runners drop down onto the dirt trail at the mouth of a coastal lagoon. Headlamps aren’t necessary at this hour, but the duo proceeds carefully as their eyes adjust to the constantly changing shadows beneath their feet.

Fifteen minutes into the run the regular exchange of words gets spaced apart without warning as the runners simultaneously press a button on their respective watches. Their tempo increases along with their leg turnover as all audible communication seems to cease almost immediately. Despite the fact that the dialogue has died down, there remains an unspoken understanding between the two. It’s time to go to work.

Year in Review: 2014

2014 will always be the year of my first 100 mile run. Popping my hundo-cherry at Western States was a dream come true, but very well could have marked the end of my ultra running career. I set up goals, knock them down and move on, usually. Running has given me a return on my investment. I can wring out some more value by striving for continued improvement. I can make 2015 even more satisfying by putting in more hard work and making some lifestyle changes. Twirly is on the verge of making me sign a contract stipulating that I am not allowed to do any adventure racing, saying she would rather see me try a 200 miler! Before we get into the trail ahead, let's take a look at 2014. 

The numbers:

  • Total miles run: 1578
  • Average week: 30.3
  • Miles raced: 220.5
  • Elevation gained: 191,652'
  • Average HR: 132
  • Total calories burned: 179,168
  • Longest run: 100.2
  • Average run: 6.12
There are some interesting year over year numbers there (see 2013 here). Another mild increase in mileage, although 85% of that volume came in the first half of the year. I really took it easy after States. As a result, I raced fewer miles. My vertical bumped up 25%, which was in line with my 2013 training goals. Bronze buckle on belt, the year was a huge success.

Other events of note for the year:
Overall, I learned more about myself and running in 2014 than ever before. A variety of coaches and mentors helped me get through a slew of races: the Pacifica Trail Half, American Canyon 25k, Way Too Cool 50k, Lake Sonoma 50 mile, WS Training camp and Western States 100. Taking all that the year taught me, I will be tackling 2015 without a coach. In the coming weeks I will be outlining my training plans and goals for the year. I'll be focused on a sub-24 hour finish at States this year, because who needs two bronze buckles?