Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mighty Mighty...

Mitochondria!  It sounds like a declarative expletive of some sort.  Holy guacamole Batman!

This fall I competed in 2 100-mile trail runs, 2 50-mile runs, and 2 50-k events over an 8-week period.  My legs felt great, however my stomach was a mess in 3 of these events and severely prohibited me from maximizing my results on those days.   Leading up to this fall I was running 120-150 miles per week.  My fitness has never been better.  

Here is my theory.  As my fitness level increased, I got to a point where I could run relatively fast and steady without going anaerobic over the 50-100 mile distances.  My legs have completely adapted to this additional workload.  24 hours after completing the Arkansas Traveler 100 I was back out for some gentle recovery miles with no problems.  This has created a whole new set of challenges for me to overcome.  Nutrition and hydration.  You start talking about this with Ultrarunners or other endurance athletes and you will get a wide and varied range of theories about what works for them.  This increased fitness level has allowed me to push my body to new levels and  create strains on my digestive system, etc that I have never experienced before.

The above pic is me minutes after finishing the Wild Hare 50K in Warda last month.  My legs felt amazing on this day.  I ran almost half of the race in 3rd place and felt confident my legs would allow me to stay with or try and chase down anyone who passed me late in the day.  This was going to be a break-through day for me.  A top 5 finish amongst some pretty good runners on a fast course.  GI distress would have something else to say about this.  I ended up finishing in 15th and was reduced to walking much of the last 7-8 miles.  I spent most of that night hanging off a log outside my tent wishing I could vomit one more time.  

I believe it is time to get fairly scientific in my approach to nutrition.  This led me in a general direction to start investigating Vegan/Vegetarian diets.  I tend to take things to the extreme,(Yes, it is true)  so I have been very strongly considering full-on Vegan with no dairy or eggs.  Efficiency is ultimately the goal.  Eat the most power packed foods in the least amount of calories required and you can maintain a strong, lean race weight and minimize the potential for GI distress.  As I have been combing the WWW the last few days a friend of mine tossed out this nugget:  Metabolic Efficiency.  This takes things down to a cellular level where the power plant of our cells, Mitochondria, make it all happen.  Here is a link where I started researching this.

On the website I found this testimonial.  It sounded vaguely familiar to my efforts this past fall:

Late 30s, ultra-endurance runner who completed the Leadman series (marathon, 50 mile mountain bike race, 50 mile running race, 100 mile mountain bike race, 10k running race, 100 mile running race) in a 7 week period at elevations greater than 10,000 feet.  

For comparisons, he completed the Leadville 100 mile running race in 2005 and consumed approximately 260 calories per hour for his 29 hour and 36 minute race.  In 2009, after 6 months of teaching his body how to become more metabolically efficient, he consumed 133 calories per hour for a 28 hour and 10 minute effort.  He reduced his hourly calorie need by 50% through employing the concepts of metabolic efficiency.

Interestingly, he did not have any GI distress until he consumed a sports drink laden with simple sugar 
(big mistake).

133 calories an hour!  Amazing.  We have all heard the data about how our bodies can only process 250-300 calories an hour.  We also know how important it is to take in calories consistently for these 24+ hour events/efforts.  This testimonial really got my attention.  It is not hard to visualize all the systems of your body firing on all cylinders in the most efficient manner knowing that you have tuned the engine to run in its most optimal state.  It makes complete sense that such a finely-tuned, powerful machine will require very specific high octane fuel to perform properly.  Conversely, I can also see how I have been gunking up the works of this complex system with a very haphazard approach to fuel/nutrition that is very inconsistent and all over the map.

So where do I go from here?  I am going to gain as much knowledge as I can about metabolic efficiency as I can and the foods that create this optimum state.  I am fairly confident that this will lead me to embrace a very clean diet that closely resembles Vegan/Vegetarian principles.  If upon getting the facts for myself I will be incorporating some non-plant-based foods in my diet so be it.  I was not considering becoming Vegan because it was trendy of I had a strong ethical inclination about animal cruelty issues many Vegans share, although my eyes have been opened in many ways regarding this.  I want to honor my body by providing it with the cleanest, healthiest foods possible.  Doesn't everyone?  Ok, that is a can of worms I will not open up here.  

This all starts on Monday after Christmas.  Until then....bring on the cake balls!