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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.

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