Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Brazil 135 and Fat Adaptation

Two weeks have passed since my trip to Brazil to pace one of my athletes, Linda Quirk, founder of Runwell, in her quest to finish the Brazil 135.  Needless to say, it was everything that I expected with a million little surprises.  I posted the course elevation chart on my last post and I have learned that what you see on paper does not do any justice in real life.  The Brazil 135 was true to its promise of being one of the hardest races on the planet with over 30,000 vertical feet covered.  

I will be brief in my race recap as I could go on an on but will instead focus on more of the highlights that I encountered on my 7-day adventure, most notably nutrition.

1. Sleep is not overrated.  I don't care who tells you that, we need it!  This was the longest I had ever stayed awake, beating my record by about 20 hours and my body felt it toward the end.  Staying awake for about 52 hours was daunting and as some of our crew would attest, lack of sleep plays funny tricks on our mind.  Two of our crew members thought they saw a UFO in the middle of the second night.  Turns out it was a streetlight with a motion sensor!  Funny times.

2. Training for a hot and humid race in the winter of Colorado doesn't work out so well.  We saw very little rain (uncharacteristic for this race) and thus, the heat and humidity were intense (at least for this Colorado boy).  I was profusely sweating most of the days but the nights brought much needed reprieve.  Regardless, it was a huge shock to my body!

3. My nutrition experiment of following a low carbohydrate (60-80 grams per day) and a high fat (~60-70% of total calories) regimen worked beautifully.  Here is a short recap of what I consumed:

  • 50-60 grams of carbohydrate per day while in Brazil.  
  • The morning of the race I enjoyed a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, cheese and two slices of pineapple with a glass of water.  After that, my nutrition turned interesting since my duties as a run pacer were very inconsistent.  There was another crew member of my athlete’s team who was also able to pace her so he and I took shifts in leading our athlete throughout the course en route to the finish. 
  • Aside from drinking water and consuming some electrolytes (from the products The Right Stuff and Saltstick), I consumed almost no calories during my running shifts.  The longest run I had with my athlete was 13 miles but a separate, shorter distance run, took us five hours to complete.  My nutrition plan was to consume calories during my time in the car so I would only have to carry supplies (food, water, electrolytes, clothes) for my athlete in my pack that I wore on my back.
  • This strategy worked out very well and allowed me to fuel prior to any run segment that I did with my athlete.  While my nutrition over the 45 hours and 40 minutes (her total time to finish) was sporadic and somewhat difficult to calculate hourly totals during running, I was able to keep a food log which included mostly the food I consumed while riding in the car.  Here is a list to give you an idea of what I ate over these two days, which consisted of me running approximately 65 miles with my athlete:
    • Generation UCAN: 6 packets, chocolate, protein enhanced
    • Mrs. Mays granola bar: 2 total (these are wonderful bars made of seeds, nuts and a little dried fruit; they contain 22 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbohydrate and 10 grams of protein)
    • Cocoa almond butter: 1 packet
    • Peanut butter: 4 tablespoons
    • The Right Stuff electrolyte solution: 2 packets added to water
    • Saltstick electrolyte capsules: 6
    • Clif Mini Mojo bars: 3
    • Quest energy bar: 1
    • Foodie Fuel: 4 ounces (a great new snack food I found that has a good ratio of carbohydrate to protein)
    • Zone Bar: 2 (my athlete brought these and I did not plan on eating them but tried a bite and it really satisfied my hunger well)
    • Almonds: 4 ounces
    • Trail mix: 1 cup (nuts, dried cherries, a few chocolate chips)
    • Melba toast: 8 pieces (we found this in a local grocery store; they were little 2x2 inch squares and I wasn’t planning on eating them until I tried them and again, they satisfied my hunger without disrupting my stomach; I put the peanut butter on them)
    • Snickers candy bar: 1 (I always bring these to ultra runs as a just in case of emergency; during the last 9 miles to the finish, it took us 5 hours and I left the car with only a Snickers bar in my pocket with the rest of the food and water for my athlete; our car was not able to follow us due to extreme conditions on the trail so I had to revert to eating this to help get me to the finish line)
    • Water: I cannot even begin to guess how many ounces I had as my intake was extremely sporadic and hard to monitor but rest assured, I was hydrated as indicated by the frequency and color of my urine.

As I mentioned, I did not consume many calories during my run pacing thus I cannot calculate hourly totals.  I can however, say in confidence that I consumed roughly 800-1000 calories less per day than I normally do at home.

Even more important and relevant to metabolic efficiency, is what my athlete consumed.  I was able to keep track of her nutrition during her 45 hour and 40 minute effort and the results are not shocking if you subscribe to the metabolic efficiency concept.  Here is a summary of her nutrition throughout the race:

  • Generation UCAN, 12 packets, chocolate
  • Zone Bar, 2, Sweet and salty
  • Melba toast with apricot jelly, 6 pieces and 4 tbsp jelly
  • Snickers bar, 1
  • The Right Stuff electrolyte supplement, 5 packets
  • Saltstick electrolyte capsules, 4
  • Water, not sure how many ounces 
Totals for her per hour:
  • Calories: 79
  • Carbohydrate grams: 13
  • Protein grams: 5
  • Fat grams: 1
  • Sodium milligrams: 300
She had never attempted a race this long and her goal was to come in under 48 hours of which she accomplished with 2 hours and 20 minutes to spare.  Nutrition was never a limiter and as you can see, she managed a very good effort on very few calories per hour due to being incredibly metabolically efficient.

All in all, it was a very successful trip for both my athlete and myself.  She will be submitting her application for Badwater as her time in Brazil provided her a qualification time.  As for me, I plan to getting back to short course and high intensity triathlon training while continuing my nutrition experiment and further test my theory of being fat adapted for higher intensity endurance training.

Stay tuned...it will get even better after I recover my body and move into speed work!

Coach Bob

Saturday, January 12, 2013

30,000 Feet

As I write this last blog entry before my Brazil trip, it is 8 degrees and snowing in Colorado.  One-week from now I will be somewhere in the remote area of Brazil just outside of Sao Paulo "enjoying" heat and humidity and pacing my athlete Linda Quirk of Runwell during the Brazil 135 ultramarathon.  It is an honor that she chose me to be her pacer but since I am her coach and sport dietitian, it makes sense because I know her well.  My "job" during this race is to get Linda to the finish line in under 48 hours.  Not many athletes have the distinction of doing this and no matter the weather, terrain or any other obstacles, she will cross that line under the cutoff!

I have not been able to find much information about the race other than some YouTube videos and a bit of info on the race website but one thing I did find was the elevation chart (see below).  From what I understand, there is roughly 30,000 feet of climbing and only about 12 miles (out of 135) that are flat.  Up or down will be the mantra of the race!

But it gets even better.  Not only is there some serious vertical ascending and descending, there will also be Mother Nature as a challenge.  The weather, as of today, is supposed to be in the 80s during the day and 50s/60s at night (depends on the elevation) with a 50% chance of rain on both days of the race.  Because the race is mostly on dirt roads/paths, this will make it a slippery, muddy mess of fun!  Of course there is that little thing called humidity, which is my arch enemy.  I can and will deal with it but it is not my choice environment to train or race in due to my high sweat rate and fluid loss.  Needless to say, my electrolyte intake will be consistently high in an effort to remain hydrated.  Generation UCAN (chocolate) will be my main source of energy and I will be bringing a new found product, Foodie Fuel, as a snack along with some other higher fat, lower carbohydrate snack bars that I have found.  Eating will be an adventure, always is in a different country, but my trip to the 2008 Olympic Games in China prepared me well for this!

My daily eating has been spot on for the last few weeks, still following a controlled (lower) carbohydrate and higher fat nutrition plan.  I am more metabolically efficient than I have ever been and while my physical training did take a small dip due to an IT band scare, I am more than physically ready to embark on this challenge.  My longest run has been 25 miles which is good "money in the bank" or as ultrarunners call it, "time on feet".  I have been doing a good deal of crosstraining, strength training, swimming and mental preparation for the task at hand.  In fact, while my long run miles have been compromised, I made sure to run more frequently (4-5 times per week) for shorter runs.  Time on feet...time on feet.  An ultrarunners friend.

I can honestly say that the three aspects of completing this journey (nutrition, physical and mental) are all in check.  The challenge really comes when we hit the ground in Brazil and after the race meeting as I then begin to map out the paces we need Linda to maintain to make it to the checkpoints in time en route to her sub 48-hour finish.  Of course then there are the small details such as not getting lost, making sure both of us stay hydrated and fed and dealing with sleep deprivation for 2 days!

Ah, the fun of ultrarunning is back!  Bring it on Brazil.

Until my return...

Coach Bob

Friday, January 4, 2013

Welcome to 2013!

Ah, the holidays are over which only means one thing: remorse.  I know, not the most positive descriptor but let's face it, way too many people overindulge in delicious food over the holidays, feel bad about it after the fact then set New Year's resolutions to rectify the issue and feel better about themselves.  I myself experienced the first part of it for sure as I did engage in the luscious holiday offerings but I have been to this rodeo before.  I know that when this happens to me, I enjoy it and not let it affect my psyche.  Enjoy and move on.  The important thing is how you respond to this speed bump or "miss".  Life is way to short to get down on yourself.  It happened and it will continue to.  Hopefully, you are able to control it but more importantly, you are able to control the response it has on you.  Like I said previously, enjoy and move on.

Okay, back to the topic at hand.  Welcome to 2013 everyone!  Personally, I have had a great introduction to the New Year as I have had a much needed rest, have spent time with my family and have continued to refine my preparation for the Brazil 135.  Two weeks from today, my athlete Linda Quirk from Runwell will be embarking on her journey to complete the Brazil 135 in under 48 hours and my role is to make sure that she does it.  It will be the first time that I have been a pacer and on a crew and I am very much looking forward to the adventure!

I have been refining my daily nutrition on my lower carbohydrate, higher fat plan and have reduced my long runs to add more frequent runs (due to issues with my IT band).  I am training much more intelligently for my pacer duties and have been able to continue my 2-3 times per week swimming (including 100x100's on New Year's Eve) and have ridden my secret weapon (Powercranks) about 4-5 times per week.  My run volume can support running a 20 miler pretty easily right now but I am being conservative with 2 weeks to go to make sure I have no IT band flare-ups.

I haven't been able to do follow-up blood work or another metabolic efficiency testing as I have been fighting a cold but I am just about 100% again and hope to have both of these done before I leave for Brazil.

Stay tuned for my next blog which I will post before Brazil and remember, focus on the journey, enjoy food and family but without remorse or future doubt.  Head into 2013 by looking through the windshield and not the rear view mirror.

Coach Bob