Saturday, March 18, 2017

Caumsett 50K and Primal Endurance Produces Results

As I mentioned in my last blog post, in July (right after Jake was born) I began following the Maffetone and Primal Endurance methods of training and nutrition (or diet, or lifestyle, whatever you prefer to call it).  I had a positive result though a little slower than my goal at the Tesla Hertz 100K in October.  The next month (Nov. 19th), I ran the Knickerbocker 60K going for a goal of sub-5 hours.  This was something I was not certain if I could do as it had eluded me the last time I went for it.  Since my training was also mostly at a much slower pace than 8 minute miles and much shorter distance than 37.2 miles (I think my longest run was 18 miles), I was venturing into the unknown but hopeful I could achieve the goal.  I was lucky enough to have a few running friends come out and do a few of the 9 loops with me and I was holding onto my pace well.  It definitely felt more difficult the last 3-4 loops, especially because the volunteers at the main aid station with our drop bags couldn't find my bag with my Tailwind nutrition for the final two loops but Coca Cola at the aid stations did the trick.  I finished in 4:59:13.  That certainly made me realize that the nutrition and training were indeed working.  But could it continue to work and when will I plateau?

Fast forward to this past weekend (March 5th), and the Caumsett 50K.  I ran the race in 2013 and had an epic blow-up, finishing in 4:18:59 (yay sub:4:19?!).  I was hoping for sub-4 (7:44 pace) but ended at an 8:20 after logging some 10 minute miles I think.  So this time around, I signed up hoping to go sub-4.  But then something else entered my mind.  A couple of years ago, they added a timing mat that coincided with 26.2 miles (marathon distance) which would enable someone to officially qualify for the Boston Marathon as long as they also finished the 50K distance.  While I really prefer to focus on trails and ultras, the Boston Marathon and my marathon PR in 2009 of 3:10:29 (which did qualify me back then and I ran the Boston Marathon in 2010) was something I wanted to go for again, and at some point, I would love a sub-3 hour marathon.  At my age, I need a sub 3:10 to qualify, but a couple minutes faster likely to actually get accepted into the race because the field is limited so the take the fastest qualifying times first.  Mind you, my fastest road marathon time post-2009 was a 3:19 I think.  Reasons for that are plentiful, but the main reason (or excuse) I made for not bettering my road marathon time was that I focused on ultras and trail running.  It's true.  I didn't plan road marathons to get my fastest time.  I ran them as a pacer for friends or a few weeks after running a 50-miler or 100-miler or a day or two after going for a multiple hour trail run.  However, when I look back at that 2009 qualifying run at the NYC Marathon, I was struggling and giving everything I had to hold on and qualify and I barely did it.  Now that this interesting thought crept into my head, I thought to myself that I could see how a pace around 7:15 felt (3:10 marathon pace) and if after a few of the 5K loops I felt like I was struggling, I would slow down and try to maintain a pace needed for a sub-4 hour 50K and scrap a BQ (Boston Qualifying) attempt.  So that was the plan and I was nervous about it because it really sucks to go out hard and blow up early and struggle through an hour or more of running (or shuffling) where everything hurts.

Before I get into the start of the race, I have to give a huge shout-out to the following people:
I'm very thankful that my friend Rebecca Odessey (who's gains as a runner have been incredible and will likely qualify for Boston 2019 if not 2018) came to the race to run the 25K and was very supportive before the race and on the course at the times I saw her while she was running and then she crewed me for my last couple loops after she finished.

Paul Kentor ran with me for 3-1/3 loops and it's always good to have good company running.

Devon Yanko. If you don't know who that is, just check this out  http://ultrasignup.com/results_participant.aspx?fname=Devon&lname=Yanko
This elite woman was testing the waters in her first race in 5 months following an injury.  It was awesome just chatting with her as if she was not one of the greatest runners on the planet the last few years, and a normal human like the rest of us (as opposed to the super-human than she is).  It's what I love about ultra-runners.  The elite athletes are always down to Earth great people and you would never know that they are some of the most incredible athletes in the world by just running and or talking with them.  They are really just like us, just much, much faster when they want to or have to be.

Back to the race.  Well, pre-race to be exact.

The good thing about being a "Primal Aligned" athlete is that I don't worry about carb-loading or nutrition frequently.  The ability to fuel myself even at a marathon pace with mostly my own fat makes the race that much easier because I don't have to worry about carrying this gel or chew along with sports drinks.  I use Tailwind Nutrition but I never feel "starving" for carbs or calories.  My breakfast about 90-120 minutes before the race was 2 bananas and a large coffee with cream.  I did not start to take my Tailwind until the 4th loop (75 minutes into the race) and was mostly sipping on it using it for the hydration, not as much for the nutrition but it is that as well. But I digress.

The race started at about 18 degrees F.  This made me question if I should cancel that BQ goal.  But then I figured, if it's cold out, I should run faster so I get done sooner and not be out in the cold for a long time.  So I kept on with my goal.  The race began and I started running at what I felt was a comfortable pace.  I was not wearing a heart rate monitor.  After maybe 250 meters, I hear Paul behind me talking with someone.  I look back quickly and notice it is Devon Yanko.  I slow down so they catch up and I run and chat with them.  A few times I look at my watch to get an idea of pace and it fluctuates between 6:45 minute mile and 7:10.  Great. . . I'm going out way too fast.  I decided to just go with it since the pace really felt slower and thought maybe my watch wasn't accurate.  We finished the first 5K in a 7:02 minute/mile pace, so the watch was indeed accurate.  I felt good though and decided to maintain the pace and relatively good effort.  No guts, no glory.  The pace stayed surprisingly consistent and I focused on my form a few times and tried to assess how I felt and I kept coming back with surprisingly good but cautious, knowing that at any moment, things could fall apart and fall apart big.  Once I was no longer running with Devon, who passed us on loop 3 after she took a bathroom break and Paul took a bathroom break on loop 4, I had to focus more now since I was on my own (asides from all the other runners on the course who we always exchange "good jobs" with) and not give in to any negative thoughts.  I was scared that I had gone out too quickly and it would come back any minute now and make me slow down.  Each time that happened, I just decide to see what the clock says and timed myself between mile markers (not my watch GPS mile split).  Sometimes I would forget my time and had to start over at the marker.  It gave me something to focus on and also gave me the truth about my pace.  Each time I did it, I was still within my BQ mile split pace.

Laps 5 and 6 were probably the hardest because I knew there were so many more laps to go and so much time for me to implode.  My tricks kept working and once I crossed the start/finish to begin my 8th lap, I had to get to that near half-way mat which would tell me how much time I needed for the final 5K before the marathon finish.  When I got there, I needed something like 25 minutes (give or take a minute now on my memory) to get my BQ.  So now it was just give it almost everything I had for the next 5K.  I say almost everything because I still had to finish the 50K in order to qualify.  And since I was a few minutes ahead of the 3:10 I needed, I held on to my effort and made sure I wasn't going slower than I needed to qualify.  I hit the start of the 9th loop and the clock read 2:58 I think so I knew I had 12 minutes to run 1.4 miles.  I knew I was gong to qualify but it ain't over until it's over.  Also, due to the popularity of the Boston Marathon, even if you run a qualifying time, you may not be accepted because they accept runners based on fastest time first.  For example, in 2016, you had to run 2 minutes and 28 seconds faster than the qualifying standard for your age group in order to be accepted.  For the 2017 race, you had to run 2:09 faster.  This is why I didn't just jog it in.  As I ran down that hill and then up the next towards that marathon finish, I put all my effort there and got it at about 3:06:58, a 3 minute 30 second marathon PR!  At that point, my mind relaxed and my body started to ache.  However, it was now time for my victory lap and I coasted nice and easy (also took a port-o-potty poop break on the final loop) to finish the 50K at 3:52:32.  So I got my 50K PR by 25 minutes and hit my sub-4 goal.  All in all, another successful race.

This brings me back to the title of this blog post.  I am well aware of the "n=1" logic behind training and nutrition (diet) plans.  What works for me will not necessarily work for you.  That said, unless you are an elite sponsored athlete, I really believe going Primal will improve your results especially if you have had some bad races and training periods or think you may have plateaued.  I think it's much easier for someone with a stronger mindset that doesn't have a lot of social pressure on them.  Like me for example.  After Jake was born eight months ago now, my days of going out for a drink, or dinner, or to watch "the game" or to hang out are pretty much over for the time being.  So I have been able to more easily avoid the temptation of the foods that I should not be eating (processed foods, refined sugars, grains, alcohol, etc.).  Once you go 21 days or more without those and you encounter and win the test of will when these no-no foods/drinks are presented to you, it is much easier to forgo them in the future.  That's not to say I was 100% compliant over the last eight months.  My work holiday party, X-Mas/Chanuka, Thanksgiving, and a work trip to Amsterdam were a few of the times I know I ate some foods that would not be on a Primal menu for certain.  But that's ok.  It's bound to happen and just like a bad race or training day, you accept it and move on.  Most days (weeks if not months actually) I would say I am 100% compliant.  I feel much healthier (could be placebo but I think its real), I lost at least 5 lbs and I'm not a big guy to begin with (which definitely helps me run faster), and I definitely notice I'm leaner with more muscle mass (I can now do 13-15 pull ups where when I began, I could only do 3-4) so I lost fat, not muscle. My lab test results from a check-up in the fall show I've improved all of my stats over the last few years and my resting heart rate at one Dr. visit was 45 beats per minute.  Can't wait to see what the results are later this year.  All of this with less training compared to the last 8 years (or 12 years if you go back to my triathlon days).  It takes a little effort though as does most of the important things in life.  It's very easy to just order a sandwich, eat cereal, have that supposed "healthy" protein or other bar that is loaded with things we don't have to have for optimal nutrition.  So you can't be lazy.  If you've read this far, you're probably not lazy or maybe you want a change in your life.

I highly recommend checking out Primal Endurance (https://www.primalblueprint.com/primal-endurance/) or Mark's Daily apple and even asking me for more details about it.  I'm heavily into the science of it and enjoy the subject.

My next race I'm signed up for is Bear Mt. in May.  I may do a race in April but that will be decided on closer to race day.

https://jmsresults.com/results/2017/caumsett17n.pdf
https://jmsresults.com/results/2017/caumsett17m.pdf

The adventures continue.

FYI - Coconut is a top-notch Primal food and apparently, hilarious
video