Thursday, October 8, 2015

North Face Endurance Challenge, WI (Race Report)

This past summer I got a chance to run with Rob Krar when he traveled through the mid-west promoting the North Face Endurance Challenge Wisconsin event, held this past weekend.  While Rob and I are practically best friends now (I wish), I did get the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the folks at The North Face and Fleet Feet of Chicago.  After an hour of chit-chat on the trail...they hooked me up with a free entry to the race.  How could I pass that up?

While my long term goal remains committed to dominating the IMLP course in 2018...I knew I would need several intermediate goals along the way.  Biking, and getting wicked strong on the bike is my priority...getting proficient in the swim is up there...and building a set of superman, cramp resistant legs also made the list.

My struggles late in the run of IMLP opened up my eyes to a new sort of pain all together.  So I've set out to replicate that as many times as possible over the next few years.  Last year I tackled my first ultra, a 50k...and found that dark place during the last few miles.  The North Face Challenge offered up the same opportunity.  My goal was to run it considerably undertrained for the distance.  I knocked out a few long runs throughout September, but non of my training was really geared toward a 26 mile trail run.  I approached the race as a training effort...knowing that once in the race, I would try and push the pace as much as I could.  Mission accomplished.

Race morning was cold.  50 degrees and windy.  Perfect conditions for a trail race.  I wore my Salomon S-Lab shoes with gaiters and Salomon Skin S-Lab hydration pack with 20 oz of water in the front.  I wore my North Face "Better Than Naked" shorts and shirts, hat, arm warmers and carried a hand held.  All good choices.

Pre Race meal:  Since it was a low importance race, I experimented a bit and went with high protein/fat to see how my body would response.  Three eggs and an avocado.  I threw in an Extended Nutrition bar a couple hours prior to race for a few more calories and hopefully a nice steady blood sugar level.  All of that set well as I made the two hour journey up to Kettle Moraine.  Along the way I sipped my "endurance elixor"  (water, apple cider vinegar, Tailwind, Emergency Vitamin C, Nuun, beet juice, maca powder and chia seeds)

Got to meet some nice folks at the start line as we huddled around some fires and stayed warm.  I took in a few more calories but really resisted the urge to over do calories or water.  Listen to your body was my mantra.

The first ten miles:  My goal for the first ten was to take the pace wicked easy.  Stupid easy.  Walk some of the steep climbs and take care of the body early.  I ended up averaging around 8:30 for the first 10 miles.  Probably a little faster than I should have gone out...but I WAS TRYING to be stupid easy.  I took in a new bottle of Tailwind around mile 7.

The 2nd ten miles:  My goal for these middle miles was to race.  Pick up the pace and compete.  I was trying to run 8:00 on the flats, run the inclines, and continue to walk the steep climbs.  All went well.  I took in a second bottle of Tailwind around mile 17.  That's under 400 calories if you're keeping track.  Which I wasn't.

The last six miles:  Compete.  No pain.  Oh...but there was pain.  And that was what I was looking for. You can't get that on a weekly run.  In fact, I wouldn't have got it had I just run this race as a training run.  I needed to get after it...and push through the pain mentally.  Around mile 24, I went to the dark place that I had been seeking...and found a little light.

Results:  All in all, not a bad race.  Maybe even better than I expected.  I took 11th in a time of 3:52.  Almost an hour slower than my marathon PR...but on a much much tougher course.  It was a good way to kick off my 50 miler training.  Giddy up!  For the record, I only took in 20 oz of water and about 30 oz of Tailwind...that's was under 400 calories.  Was my body burning fat from breakfast?  Maybe.  This will require a little more experimentation...but I like where it's headed.

Oh!  I almost forgot...I got to meet Tim Olson at the finish line!  One of my heros!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Extended Nutrition-A Review

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Extended Nutrition to try some of their products and report on my findings.  I was given a case of bars and asked to discuss how they worked with my ultra-running training.  Here we go...

What is Extended Nutrition bars?  They were developed for diabetics to keep blood sugar levels stable. Not being a diabetic, I was curious if there could be a benefit for an endurance athlete.  Blood sugar spikes are the enemy of an endurance athlete, both in training and racing.  I thought there might be something to these bars.  The low carbs and no sugar fit well into my current diet goals of higher fat low carbs.  See previous post.

When:  I tried to eat the bars at all different times throughout the week/day.  This included:
1. First thing in morning/prior to workout
2. Lunch
3. After lunch snack/prior to workout
4. During long run


I really liked taking in the bars during long runs.  I usually stick exclusively to Tailwind on long runs, but often find myself (especially in races) wanting something solid to eat late in the run.  Extended Nutrition seemed to work well for this.  Actually complimenting the Tailwind quite well.  The other times were fine...on morning when I needed something solid before my workout and didn't
want to eat an avocado...the bars fit in well with my low carb goal.

Taste:  I received a case with most of the chocolate varieties.  Overall, I was please with taste and texture.  As I said above, they went down easy late in a long run, which is not always a given.  I especially appreciated the chocolate dipped bars and the chocolate carmel bars.

Effectiveness:  The company claims the bars maintain blood sugar levels for 6-9 hours.  While this might be true....one should not confuse this with FUELING for 6-9 hours.  No surprise.  But don't think you are going to pop a bar and be good for a 50 miler.  As long as you know what to expect, the product does what it sets out to do.  From company website: With most types of exercise and strenuous physical activity, the body’s rate of using blood sugar (energy) increases both during the activity and for several hours after. And it’s not uncommon for a person to hit a point when their energy level suddenly drops and they experience symptoms of low blood sugar (headaches, feeling light-headed, weak, shaky, or inability to focus).

Because Extend Nutrition products convert to blood sugar over 9 hours – more slowly than any other product – they can supply the energy you need for even the most physically demanding activity. And Extend Nutrition products continue providing energy for several hours after, while your body works to adjust its blood sugar needs back to a normal level.


Long story short....this is a product I could get behind.  While I've gotten away form energy bars for the most part, the simple fact that this bar is low carb and no sugar makes it enticing to an endurance athlete like myself.  



Taste:

Friday, August 28, 2015

Endurance Atheletes and The Blood Sugar Battle

Call me a little late to the party...but I am starting to figure out what makes my body tick.  And more importantly, not tick.
The highs and lows, the fueled up and famished, the green smoothies and cupcakes...two sides to ever coin in the endurance athlete's body.
While I've taken great pride in my diet (it's not perfect, but it's pretty good)...I have come to realize that I am still a slave to my blood sugar.  My solution?  Fat.  Lots of it.  Lots of creamy, good fat.
Of course this all started reading Ben Greenfield's book last summer.  The first time I read his book Beyond Training, I took note of his high fat approach and moved on.  But then I began to read more how endurance athletes (ultra marathoners in particular) are taking to approach and stoking their endurance engines by training their bodies to tap into their almost unlimited fat stores.  Worth trying?  Sure.
For the time being, I'm keeping it simple.  My mornings are starting out with a good, fat filled breakfast.  I've keep to eggs, avacados, full fat milk, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and a few other gems (though not all at the same time).  I've been trying to keep the carbs low and keep the body in its "fat-burning" mood from the overnight.
What I've noticed:  I don't hit blood sugar spikes in the morning.  At all.  No need to a 9:00 smoothie.  I'm full and satiated until lunch.  Lunch, I bring in some carbs, but again, I've been trying to keep the body in fat burning mode.
My experiment is only a week old...but I am excited to see where it goes and how it may (or may not) help me.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Steelhead 70.3 Race Report

I must say...I didn't have the perfect race.  But I raced perfectly.  

I spent the summer with the big goals and small goals in mind.  Racing Steelhead 70.3 fit neatly into the larger, big picture goal of world domination at the 2018 Lake Placid Ironman.  Summer goal...get some bike power...enough to average 20+ on the 56 mile leg...and be able to run "well enough" off of that.
I short...mission accomplished.  I had a great summer of training...mostly having fun, running long (highlighted by an amazing 20 miler through the Tetons) and pushing the big gear on the bike.  I made a calculated decision NOT to swim much.  Once...sometimes twice...a week.  Just not enough time.  I figured I had the least to gain by time in the pool.  One day I hope turn my attention to knocking 10 mins off my Ironman swim time...but not this day.  I also spent A LOT more time strength training...and I really think that it paid huge dividends in the swim and bike portion.  The lead up to the race was spot on...racing to a forth place sprint finish two weeks prior to race day and knocking out a ten mile run one week out with ultra-running legend Rob Krar.
The water had a little chop on race morning, but the swim went out without a hitch.  Not fast...but easy and smooth.  I hit mile 20 on the bike in :57 mins.  I had vision of a serious PR, until I got a flat at mile 23.  It was a slow clumsy fix...and I was left with a slightly under inflated front tire, but I was back on the bike in 13 long minutes.  Hammering.  And passing.  Not including the flat, I average 20.5 mph.  Goal accomplished.  Well...almost.  
The stomach was a little off as I entered the run.  I took a few miles to get water and real calories into me.  Once the stomach settled, I was able to pick up the pace.  In my mind I broke down the 13.1 mile run into four 5ks...and then 1.1 miles of glory.  Each 5k I ratcheted up the pace.  The final 5k found me hammering around 7:00.  I finished at 5:30...knowing my actual race time was around 5:15.  Very happy to handle to events of the day and optimize my efforts.  It wasn't the perfect race.  But I turned it into the best it could possibly be.  In that regard, I actually would put this one up there with one of my better efforts.
Next up...I've got a few ideas.  And a few surprises.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Perfect Green Smoothie

I haven't been sick for over 3 years.

Not a cold.  No flu.  Not a fever.  Not a sniffle.  Nothing.

Now, having written this statement on the world wide web, in front of God, Bill Belichick, and Lance Armstrong (different people...which is a surprise to them) I fully intended to be bedridden with the flu, chicken poxs, and hoof and mouth disease before the end of the week.

So what is my secret?  I haven't the slightest clue.  I'm just making this shit up as I go.  I read a lot.  I try lots of different things.  Training ideas.  Nutrition ideas.  Life hacks.  Bio hacks.  I don't even know what a "hack" is.  Some of them work.  Some don't.  What I'm about to share with you has been something that has worked.  And has ultimately led me to the creation of the perfect green smoothie.

It started with a simple idea:  vegan before 5   That was it...eat like a vegan before 5pm in the day...and then eat like a normal human for dinner and after dinner.  Yes, I just implied that vegans are not normal humans.

This challenge helped simplify things, because it left the two meals I am in charge of open to change.  Breakfast and lunch.  Lunch was an easy one.  Salad with some protein.  So that left breakfast.  I grabbed my blender and never looked back.  The secret?  No secret really, just put a bunch of good green stuff in and blend.  My usual consists of:

Kale or spinach 
Watercress 
Broccoli 
Apple or frozen peaches
Chia seeds
Flax seed
Spirulina or chlorella 
Full fat Greek yogurt
Small amount of "GreenGoodness" Naked Juice
Ice cubes


Boom.

Sometimes I add emergency powder for a little flavor and zip.  Sometimes some coconut.  You get the idea.  Cheers...happy blending.