So, what have I learned this year from my training, diet, and experience at my first 100-miler at Zumbro? What worked? What surprised me? What failed miserably?
What Has Worked
-Longer runs and reduced frequency: At this point last year, I put in a few more miles than I have thus far. The big difference has been in the frequency and length of my runs. Last year I was averaging 4 runs or more a week, while this year I’ve been running 3 or less, often substituting some “primal” workouts for a run. In addition, my average run last year through April was around 9 miles, while this year it’s 12+ miles. In fact, I have only run less than 10 miles once or twice in the past two months. Bottom line, longer runs with more frequent rest results in better strength and stamina for ultras. Recovery is too often overlooked.
-Slower starts: I purposely started out slow at Zumbro so as to avoid burning out early. I tried this at last year’s Ice Age 50 and it worked rather well. The Zumbro 100 confirmed this as I had plenty of gas in the tank by mid-race. Some may argue this by saying that you might as well go fast as long as you feel good, because no matter what, by the end of the race you are going to slow down. While that is technically true, I feel that it has been better to have your pace slow down from 15 to 18 minute miles, rather than 10 to 20. The problem with scenario 2 is that while you get a big lead early, your chances of blowing up and having significant trouble greatly increases. This happened to me twice last year at Trail Mix and Afton. In hindsight, I would have better off going out slower and then ramping my efforts a bit later.
What Has Surprised Me
-The effectiveness of the Paleo Diet: Yeah, I know. Many of you are perhaps tired of me raving about it and/or are skeptical. Nonetheless, I have to honestly say that from my experience, it has made a huge difference in my performance thus far. My strength and stamina on long runs now seems infinite in comparison to last year. Recovery has also been dramatically improved. Case in point, during the Zumbro 100, I did not suffer any significant leg fatigue and nor did I have any significant soreness during the post-race recovery. Hell, last year after the Ice Age 50 I was walking around like an old geezer because my quads were killing me. After the Zumbro 100, except for my feet, I could hardly tell that I had run that far. Another bonus of the diet has been my increased energy level and reduced body fat. Late last summer when I had been putting in my most consistent training and eating “healthy”, my weight had dropped down to 165 pounds. However, rather than feeling fit, energetic, and strong, I felt tired, weak, and listless. In contrast, this year I am down to 161 pounds and feel stronger and more energetic than ever. Plus, I’m looking nice and lean with great muscle tone and definition, with my middle-aged gut gone! I’ve never been able to get rid of that before. I don’t know what it is about the diet, but it is working wonders for me and I plan to keep it as a permanent part of my life and training.
What Failed Miserably
-Alright, I have to admit that my crazy idea of consuming more fat during an ultra by using coconut milk turned out to be a bust. The idea was that your body uses almost 50% fat as its energy source during events like ultras. Doing some research I found that the fat in coconut milk is unique in that the body can use it immediately after digestion as an energy source. So, I mixed some with Hammer Gel and tested it out. It seemed to work great and sat well with my stomach. However, that test was only over 20 miles. Consuming that over the course of 40+ miles was a whole different story and resulted in some stomach distress and an electrolyte imbalance. Oh well, I survived it and know better now. Just stick to the gel and eat some solid food along the way. Although, I might try another experiment at Ice Age 50………..
So, in sum, it’s been quite the learning experience thus far this year, and a rather positive one at that. I truly believe I am better prepared to run my next 100-miler at the Kettle 100 and my confidence in being able to finish Superior Sawtooth 100 is high. Most importantly, I took a risk in trying to finish 100 early in the year so that I could qualify for Arrowhead, and it paid off.
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