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


  1. I must tell you that your blog is very informative and taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful and beneficial to your readers
    Sports Coaching Courses

  2. In modernity, most RMA requests are completed through the Internet, so having the ability to process RMAs has become reviews a crucial aspect of the tech world. Upon receiving the initial request, the representative, aided by the help of reverse logistics technology.
    become reviews