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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Nutrition: To Infinit and Beyond!

As training experience, adaptation and knowledge has increased, so too has my ability to manage my nutrition on long run days. Generally, I'm fine with sub-3 hours runs and can run them pretty hard. The trick comes with the 4 hour plus endeavors, or more than 30k.

For some background on my previous post "The Power of Puking", I had some unanswered questions at the time. Some of those questions have now been answered, and some remain a mystery, although I'm in a better position to address the areas.
From the previous post: Here's what I DIDN'T know from the past post with updates:
1. Why I am puking - problem.
I know why I'm puking and/or getting nauseous. Generally, I am under fueled for  long distance. The golden number is 200 to 300 calories per hour for Ultra Running. I tend to get in about 140 to 160 calories per hour while I'm feeling good, and much less when the stomach turns. On my last race, the Diez Vista 50k, I used Vitargo, some solid food (salty potatoes), ginger, and a mix of Nuun in with the liquid calories. It wasn't enough and I was on the edge .
The Holy Grail?!
After some investigation, and a consultation with Darcy from Infinit Nutrition, I am not getting the fluids from my stomach into the intestines, which is where uploading of the required calories/glycogen, electrolytes, hydration and proteins needs to happen. It's just sitting, which in turn fills my gut, and then I can't take in any more fluid or food. End result: puking and/or bonking.
2. What calorie/sugar intake is going to work into the 4 hour + range for runs. That seems to be the "trigger" point, regardless of distance.
I will be using a customized formula from Infinit Nutrition that has three sources of carbs (which is scientifically better than a single source for absorption), a rich electrolyte mix, about 280 calories per 20 oz of fluid, and 3 grams of protein so keep me from getting "hungry" and sate the stomach. The goal will be to take in 20 to 24 oz of Infinit per hour on a long run to keep hydrated based on my heavy sweat rate, and to keep the required number of calories and electrolytes in balance. It should be my only fuel source, so I'm excited to train my gut and see what happens. I've had success with Tailwind also, but getting it in Canada is pricey, and that's how I found Infinit. 
Thus far, the customer service, ordering, and formula design has been amazing. If the actual product works for me, I see an amazing jump in performance in the coming months of training and racing.
3. How to keep ingesting once puking happens, since inevitably a bonk will follow.
This has been an issue, and even when the middle section of Diez Vista 50, almost derailed me. If I can keep the fuel coming in, that inevitable slow down and bonk or pre-bonk fatigue ought to go away. My leg turn over, downhills, and muscular strength, as well as mental fortitude have all developed above my expectations, so my Achilles heel is getting fuel. I tend to be somewhat anaerobic physiologically and haven't fully developed my lower heart rate/fat burning system, which takes years to accomplish. To that end, burning out doesn't do any good.
At UTMF this year (Ultra Trail Mount Fuji), a 168 kilometer Ultra, they had cameras at the aid stations. One following the lead runners/elites, and another following the mid-pack. I was amazed at how much fuel the lead runners were pounding back when they hit the aid stations. They were definitely fueling on the sections between aid stations, and on top of that, I witnessed the french runner Francois (who went on to win), pound back a 10 oz bottle, a bowl of soup, another 10 oz bottle, and a muffin of some sort. All in about 2 minutes. He then bolted out of the aid station. It was crazy. I said to my wife as we watched on the computer, "I'm pretty sure I'm doing this all wrong!" with a chuckle.
4. Relieving stomach "cramping" just before or just after puking. Feels like stitch but has more to do with the gastro issue than muscular failure. I have good core strength and stability.
My cramping, both legs and gut is caused by dehydration. After a 5 to 6 hour run, I will lose  6 to 8 pounds. I only weigh 133 pounds, so that's close to 6% of my body weight in water. Way too much. As mentioned above, with heavy sweating, exertion, body temperature rising, and lack of fluids, the whole scenario is just not working, and my regulatory hormones aren't traveling the circulatory system to keep things in check. I've read a ton of books and literature on athletic nutrition and endurance training; all the usual suspects from Tim Noakes,  Phil Maffetone, Sunny Blende and whatever articles I can get my hands on (iRunFar, Trail Runner Magazine, blogs etc) regarding ultra fueling. I agree with 90% of what they say, and just have to get my body to catch up to what my brain knows. However, there's some areas that through personal experience I challenge.
Some of the advice that I don't agree with: 
  • Eat on the climbs. What? Climbing is where my heart rate spikes, so I'm drawing blood away from the gastric system and into working muscles and cardiovascular exertion. Forget that. Anytime I've eaten on a major climb has turned into a disaster for me. I tend to eat on the flowing downhills and steady state/tempo sections. Something I noticed at UTMF was the racers all sat down when they ate solids. There has to be a reason for that, and the most obvious one is the settling of heart rate to get blood back into the stomach and gut area to help digest. Makes sense to me!
  • Increase Salt/Electrolytes Once Dehydration Starts. From what I've read, this can be a disaster. Basically, you end up taking in too many electrolytes, panic with the salt pills, and create a gastric time bomb. There's a whole string of consequences that occur in this scenario, and I've experienced this first hand at Squamish 50 last year. There's an awesome YouTube video by Ginger Runner that discusses this with  Alicia Shay. The more sound advice is to keep a stable and steady amount of electrolytes in the system, without going under or over the desired requirement based on your body type. This is easier said than done, especially when you're 30 or 40 k into a long run and aren't thinking straight. This is where fueling formulas like Tailwind and Infinit have an edge on the whole juggling of gels, pills, fluid and carbs. I'm hoping the one stop bottle of nutrition is gonna be my magic bullet.
Are these days behind me? Juggling Fuel.
  •   Over hydration is the real culprit. I know Tim Noakes has stated this as being the real enemy in Waterlogged with sports drinks pushing the 'drink as much as you can' mantra, which he hates. On a road marathon course, I can see this being an issue. Even at last Sunday's 10k Sun Run, the number of water stations was insane, basically one every 2 km. But on an Ultra, I think one would be hard pressed to go 8 to 12 k between aid stations and taking in too much water or fluids (and in some cases like Meet Your Maker50, there's a 21k stretch without support). "Drinking to thirst" just has not worked for me, since once my stomach is full and not emptying, I'm not thirsty at all. The ability to upload your fuel into your blood stream is key. I've never finished a run weighing more than before I started, or had my wedding ring or watch cutting of circulation from fat fingers or hands. I know it can happen, and again, more likely on a road race, but it's not an issue for me.
  • So where do things stand at this point?
    My post run/race recovery is super. I've dialed in the 30 minute window for replenishing protein and carbs, and have little to no soreness after a hard effort. I use Vitargo, Muscle Milk, Chocolate Milk & beer for fluids. I eat anything I can get my hands on otherwise; generally real food, such as chicken, breads, rice, and potatoes. It's working, and the mental gain of knowing that I can recover has made a huge difference on my effort level during an event. There's no fear of being sore or blasted after, so I push a little harder during than I used to with the promise of being able to function at 100% in the 24 hours that follow.
    Pre-long run/race sleep is still an issue since I'm a night owl, so often times I wake up for a long run having 2 or 3 hours of sleep. Not ideal, but it's good Ultra training if I ever get into the longer distances or greater than 15 hours of racing. 
    I'm waiting for my Infinit nutrition to arrive in the mail. If it works, I'm gonna be so stoked. I've heard amazing things about it, from 24 hour racers, Ultra runners, and triathletes. It wasn't on my radar until I asked a few questions on the Trail and Ultra Running group on facebook, and the recommendations came in. 
    Athlete forums, some online reviews, and word of mouth has likewise supported the company's claims, so I'm optimistic on the results.
    Keep on keeping on!
    If you have any questions or comments regarding your personal struggles, successes or leads regarding race fueling, post a comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Race Report: Sun Run 10k 2014

The Vancouver Sun Run is a super, mega-massive 10k run (one of the largest in North America), and has close to 50,000 runners! It was my first ever race back in 1999 when I wasn't anywhere near a runner (and didn't run it again until 2012). This year, I was prepared, after having been doing a lot of trail running, road and trail races and Ultra distances.

In a race of this capacity, you have to enjoy the crowds and the idea behind the event, which is a representation of the community spirit on a grand scale. Personally, I love it, and this year it seemed that the pace categories were being honoured by registrants, so very little dodging had to occur off the start mat.

I met up with my good friend and super 100k+ enduro cyclist Joseph Pelle (remember him from the Buntzen Lake 5Peaks race report). Jo was going for a sub 45 minute goal, which would be his 10k PR. I was shooting for sub 44:04, which would be my PR, but I know that's hard to do on such a busy course.

Training with a trail Hill Run in Anmore
I had done some speed work at Butzen Lake, Diez Vista, some local flat trails, and some hill climbs after the Diez Vista 50k to prepare for the road race to get the faster leg turn over going, but wasn't expecting to be quick enough to achieve my goal based the results of a couple of interval sessions and very little road running. It was going to be close, but I was skeptical. Regardless, I had hopes to push, and enjoy the craziness.

I was running for the BFL Team, as they sponsored my race entry via a colleague Jeff McLellan and the company had an awesome brunch set up post race the Georgian Court Hotel! I was to help push the team standing up a little bit, Jeff told me, so the pressure was on.

Neon DV50k Sleeves for the win!
After leaving our families at the Hyatt, we made our way to the start area and wove past a mass of runners to get further up into a bunch that "seemed" to be about our level of running. We seeded up by a couple of runners who were wearing DV50k shirts, and they noticed my sleeves also. We had a chat, then Jo and I sang the national anthem with 50,000+ people before the countdown. Unlike trail races, there was lots of ceremony to the start.

The pace at the start was FAST! As we rolled down Georgia street, I looked at my Ambit 2 watch and saw we were cooking at a 3:39 pace. We held that for the first km, and I told Jo we were pushing too hard and settled into a 4:20 to 4:30 pace about a mile into the race. The pack had settled, and there was very little jockeying going on.
As we hit English Bay after doing the hairpin turns past Lost Lagoon and the Fish House Restaurant, I passed a blind runner and her pacer! That was cool, and such an admirable thing to see someone who can't see running pretty darn quick.

As we approached the Burrard St. Bridge, near the Aquatic Centre, I pulled a hard stitch on my right side. It was uncomfortable, and I felt my pace drop a touch (4:32 & 4:52 for that 2km section) but as I topped the bridge, I focused on my breathing in time with my right foot hitting the ground to push it away. I attribute it to not having done enough fast runs in my zero drop Trail Glove Merrell's.

Greg Burnham, a local ultra runner and friend who has made this blog before (he's having an amazing year of successes), comes cruising by like he's on a Sunday stroll. "Hey Eddy! Nice day for a run!" He was killing it!! I lose him in the crowd as he's running a sub 44 min pace for sure (43:37 officially).

I hit Burrard street and Jo and I have been cruising together for most of the run, slightly pulling away from each other here and there but never more than ten steps or so apart.
As I pass the brewery, I see a VPD friend of mine and yell out to him as I can feel my stride coming back together.

Once we pass Granville Island and we hit the long stretch towards Cambie Bridge I'm feeling good. Like really good. Jo and I are in step, the cheering is intense, and I see the last water station (which personally I don't know why anyone would stop 1 km away from the finish line).

Jo and I are stride for stride, and he says, "I don't have anything left." I tell him he's got a ton left, and as we hit the 9km marker, I say, "Okay Jo, this is the start line. Right here. Let's race!" We pick up the pace to a 4:15 final km and start our "kick" to the finish line. My legs feel awesome, super fresh, no pain, breathing is clean. Fun.

As we drop into the offramp towards the finish line, I see my family and our friend Shanthi (she did SQ50k last year) cheering us on!

We cross the finish line, still step for step, and running the whole race with Jo was THE BEST thing.

The final kick.
Had a total blast at the Sun Run. Jo beats his 10k PR with a sub 45 finish!

My legs felt great and I had no issues at the finish line, so I could have pushed harder on the final 3k, but then that would have meant a different experience and I wouldn't have changed the opportunity to run in with a friend.

Super fun day and looking forward to having a mix of shorter road races in the running season to help keep things fresh as the endurance training continues.

Next up: 5Peaks Golden Ears Enduro 14k Trail Race on May 10th!

By the Numbers (Official)
Place 1256
Time: 44:44
Pace: 4:28/km
Gender:1100 / 19371
M35-39 Age Group: 144 /1966 1100/

By the Numbers (Unofficial via Strava)
Strava Report

Here's what Joseph had to say (originally posted to Facebook and reposted here with his permission):

 Ed Inspired: Joseph's Sun Run 2014

This won't be as well-written as Ed's... It's mostly an addendum. 

Unlike last year, where I had to *shudder* Skytrain to the race, this time I got to sleep in late and then simply walk a few blocks. I left my daughter snoozing in her bed, and Tina and I went from my new(ish) digs at the finish line, up to the start line. 
I did a bit of warm-up before meeting up with Ed and his lovely pit crew. Ed stripped down to his now-infamous shorty-shorts, we snapped a pic, and then headed to the corral to await our start.
The first couple of KMs of any race, running or biking, for me is always a chore. It takes a while to get my breathing down - I swear that my panting can be heard a mile away. Not that that is always bad, as it usually serves to warn people that I'm coming up behind them, and the peel off after a quick shoulder check. 
As Ed mentioned, we set off quick, and it wasn't sustainable. However, the first 4 or so kms went by pretty quick and I knew I was going to have my fastest 5km, but was unsure about a PR for the 10km. My hip was aching, but that's pretty much par for the course - or so I thought - for me these days. I was also "monitoring" a pretty minor stitch, hoping it would go away, or at least not get worse.
We hit the Burrard Street Bridge and it was killing me on the uphill for the first bit, but before we crested I felt I hit my stride. A quick look at the Garmin showed me why: I was moving pretty slow. About 5:10/km. I hit the crest and sped it up to about 4:10/km, and I figured I balanced the up and downhill portions of that bridge!
The next 3km or so, to the Cambie Bridge, was a bit of a slog. I just kept my eyes focussed ahead and tried to maintain a 4:30 average. Looking at Strava, it seems I bounced from sub-4 to 5-plus/km during that stretch, so not exactly consistent. 
A lot of people were passing me and I know that I didn't feel nearly as comfortable this year as I did last year. I just kept telling myself it was because I was going faster this year, and not because of the cheese burger I ate the night previous!
Ed and I turned on to the bridge together and I told him I was running out of gas. I was indirectly giving him the green light to go on ahead, but I think he decided to help get me to the finish as quick as I could. Note, however, that I didn't believe him when he said the 9km mark was our start line!  I did, however, know that the last km was downhill, so I tried to stretch out my stride and pick up the pace.
Which lasted until the last 200m or so, when I began to feel that burger coming back for revenge. I had to slow my pace a tad, when I really wanted to start sprinting - wasn't going to happen though.
Regardless, I made it across the finish line, stopped my watch, and was happy to see a sub-45 time! Woohoo, met my goal - where's the washroom?
Tina and my daughter were there to watch me cross the finish line, although they admit that it was Ed's arm warmers that caught their attention. 

Once I stopped running I felt pretty good. Still had that stitch and my hip was still aching a bit. 30 minutes later, I was hobbling around, though, as my hip decided it wanted to pop in and out. (Not an official diagnosis, but that's what it felt like.) Today it is still like that - and that's probably as bad as it has ever been, excepting when I first injured it 15 years ago. Some PT is in my very near future.

As a side note, my stitch stayed with me until I removed my number, which I had not pinned to my jacket but rather used a...uh, what's it called? A "number belt". Thingy. Anyway, as soon as I took that off, I felt much better; I must have had it on too tight and in the wrong spot! 

Overall I was happy with the run, even though I'm decidedly unhappy with my hip. It was great to run with Ed, and I'm looking forward to racing again with him and with the rest of the WRM crew at Golden Ears! - Joseph Pelle

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Diez Vista 50k: Race Report

April 5, 2014

The Diez Vista 50k is a local Ultra that takes place in Anmore BC, tucked just behind Coquitlam and across Indian Arm from the North Shore.

Wayne Gretzky!
I was one of 150 registered runners of which 140 or so started. We had a solid representation of friends running the race, some veteran and front of the pack capacity, and others, such as myself taking up the rear.
After my Squamish 50 DNF, this was going to be my first official Ultra Marathon finish line, and I was determined to make the most of the day and take what it gave, good or bad.

Weather forecasts were calling for 25 to 30 mm of rain by noon, so we were expecting a soggy and muddy race. However, morning of, the clouds were holding and it was a balmy 8 degrees celsius.
We milled about the start line, registered (which was SUPER efficient!), and had our pre-race briefing, and I was concerned that I had too many layers on. By the end of the race, we'll see that wasn't an issue.

Getting Excited!

WRM Ultra Team

Kumar Support Crew
Hugs and kisses to my wife and kids, waiting for the race to start and suddenly the whole pack is running! Okay, I guess we're off. Once again, a hilarious non-ceremonial start to a trail race.

I start the run with a bunch of strangers, which is hilarious seeing as there were eleven We Run Mas runners, but the sudden start didn't allow us to group up before go, as Gregan and I were planning to do.

I see Vera, Natasha and Morgan out front, and it looks like they're gonna be well ahead. The first section does a quick loop around Sasamat lake and spreads out the field quite a bit. I'm hitting a comfortable stride, and settle in to a group before the short road section takes us up to the first climb.

Doris catches up, then zips ahead, then Andy and Andrew. I'm not fast uphill, at all, so I enjoy their company for a couple of minutes each before they disappear into the line that runs up the mountain. Gregan meets me on the more forested area, and we talk about the warmth of the day. I peel off my long sleeve and stuff it in my pack, and Gregan strips down to get his shorts on. Runners who pass by are well entertained.
Gregan, he's so hot right now!

Not as graceful without a stage! 
AS #1 comes at 6.5km in, and I'm at 55 minutes, pretty much exactly what I expected. Now it's for the more familiar continuation up the steep switchback climb to the peak. I'm taking it easy and get passed by a number of runners on this section. Many of us would end up yo-yo'ing throughout the day, which is typical for a longer race.
First climb of many (to the DV peak)
Once the peak completes, I tighten my laces, and start the technical ridge of the Diez Vista. I'm tentative at first, concerned that I may self destruct for later, but then I release all inhibitions and start charging along the top of the ridge. I catch Peter Zubick, and we run together for a short stint, and then I carry on my reckless charge to the north side of the course. I catch most of the people who passed me on the last climb section, and then kick out into the McCombe lake loop. The weather is cloudy with a light mist, and I love it. I LOVE running in the rain: it's cool, refreshing and really takes my mind off things. AS#2 is a blur, as we don't linger aside from some Oranges and popcorn.

Lorin and Kyla catch up to me, and we end up running the west side of the lake together for many of the sections. I know this area like my back yard (which it is) and I'm estimating arriving at South Beach at about the three hour mark, which is right on my forecasted pace. After we cross the floating bridge, the Energy trail section is super fun, and I jokingly ask the marshal on top, "Where's the Murph (meaning Mike Murphy)? I think I'm catching up!" He gives a laugh and guides me in the right direction. Sadly, Mike DNF'd on a course record pace due to a wipe out that cracked his rib and left him dizzy. Read about it here.
As I descend into AS #3, the cheering and noise is epic! My fam, along with Dianna, Elaine & Lianne are cowbell crazy, and screaming and cheering on EVERYBODY that rounds the corner. Elaine was capturing some awesome pics, as she was DNS for this race due to ankle injury.
They were also live Facebook/tweeting the whole race.

Lianne had her reporter specs on!

The Noisy Crew!!

Let that inner cheerleader out!

They owned the super cheer award!
A buffet of options becomes a tactical decision

Laughing at the shenanigans
I come into the aid station, and this was the only one that was a bit confusing. My drop bag number was somehow on a different bag that didn't belong to me, although we did manage to find my stuff. I start emptying my gear, giving up my arm sleeves, and basically getting into just a t-shirt and shorts. I drench my head in water, and my wife and Dianna are amazing at getting me stuff. I actually have no idea where the food and drinks were as they both just had potatoes and water and bottle refills going on in perfect Formula 1 pit crew efficiency. It was a pretty cool moment.

Leaving AS #3
Photo Credit: Mark Bates
I run across the grassy part of the beach, and after a quick bathroom stop, I'm back on the trail. The east side of the lake felt completely different than I expected. I know this trail really well, but after all the excitement of the south beach aid station, it's eerily quiet and I feel a bit down. No matter, plug ahead. I reach the north side of the lake, and make the hairpin turn onto Powerhouse Road. This is where the wheels fall off. My stomach makes itself known, kind of like Fozzy Bear who always cracks the lame joke at the inopportune moment. I am entering the early steps of the "bonk". It's hour 4 (Ed Mcarthy wins in another 57 seconds for a new course record), and I am slowed to a walk. Running flat or uphill is impossible, not because of my legs, but if I push, I'll start puking.
Tums and ginger is all I can do, and I slow fuel intake. Better to bonk than puke I say (that might be my next t-shirt).

I'm getting passed like crazy and I don't mind. Peter cruises by, and I know I'm still making good time for my expectations and I would rather deal with this stomach issue before it takes over. As the downhill road section starts, I am able to run again, and make up time where I can. Before we hit "Aid Station Klassen" (Solana and Jay had a cheer booth with cookies and not ginger beer), a runner came out of the woods and skipped the whole east side of the run. She ended up getting pulled for cutting the course at AS #4. Sad, but true.
The energy is fun at AS Klassen, and makes me smile. So does the beverage! It's the start of my recovery from Powerhouse implosion but it will take me until the top of the Eagle Mountain climb to get out of the slump.

This is my pre-beer "bonk" face, fake it 'til you make it!
Photo Credit Jay & Solana Klassen
Heading up Eagle Mountain was a reflection of past experience. Had I not been to such places mentally and physically in the past (Squamish 50 and some long run training for example) it would have eaten me up, but I knew as long as I placed one foot in front of another I would reach the top of the climb. The forest was dark and rather "sleepy" in energy and it allowed me to meditate. That is until the lead pack runners came charging down the hill! David, Bryan, Vera, Chloe, all fast friends and acquaintances are zipping down the trail. I stand aside, cheer them on and give a high five to Vera, who is in 3rd place female!! She ends up holding off Chloe for the position and getting her first podium finish in her second Ultra!!

Vera on her way to 3rd place finish!
Eagle Bluff finally arrives, and I plod along the FSR and reach Lorin. He looks like he's suffering and I'm coming out of my slump. We offer each other words of encouragement, and he gives me a pat on the back as I pass him. I have to say, that pat on the back does it. I don't know what it was or how it happened, but the feeling completely lifts my spirits and I'm able to run again and power hike the uphills. The out and back sections let's me see a ton of people! Doris, Sarah, Gregan, Andy, Andrew, Morgan, Natasha are all at different stages ahead as we pass each other. Gregan has that look on his face like "WTF?!!?" and we high five.




Andrew (& Dianna)



Doris (Jazz hands!)

Lorin, who I met on raceday. He dug deep!
Photo Credit: Mark Bates
AS #5 is my turning point, literally and mentally. My support crew is awesome and I fill my handheld and leave my race vest with my wife. I probably stayed at the aid station for a few minutes too long, but it worked. I run back along Eagle Mountain. A few runners still heading towards AS#5 say, "Hey Ed, aren't you supposed to be running naked?" "Later!" I say with a chuckle. Then it dawns on me. The finish will be a hoot  . . . here's where this nakedness theme stems from:

The  back section of the course from thereon in is solid. I feel great. Legs are super, stomach is in check, head is on straight and most importantly I can run. I run everything that's runnable (subjective term here). The descent into the final Aid Station is super, I see Elaine on a trail junction, and then finally reach FU George Hill. I've done this climb so many times, that I love it. It's raining hard, and I'm not even a little bit sore.

The saddle comes up, and then it's mainly rocky, wet and treacherous downhill into Sasamat lake. I continue to run without stopping and finally reach the bottom, get directed into the lake trail and take off my shirt. I'm running the finish in the pouring rain with no shirt. That's right, not just the elites get to have all the fun!

Downpour and Donuts: Finish Line!
The final set of stairs comes up, and then it's a short uphill to the finish. The cheering is awesome, and I can see all our crew hooting and hollering! This is my first official Ultra finish on a superbly organized, epic course that had it all.

I'm super stoked that this race was my first finish, as I grew up as a school kid playing on the very same trails of the course, running around Buntzen and Sasamat, mountain biking on Eagle, and swimming on the beaches; and for that it will hold a very special place for me.

Official Finish Time: 7:39:47 (97/134 finishers)
Strava Report (click)

Next up on the race calendar: Sun Run in two weeks, followed by the 5Peaks Golden Ears, Iron Knee 23k and Squamish 50k in August with Meet Your Maker 50mile in September!