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Busy weeks of running

By Staff | Nov 25, 2016

Can you run a marathon in under three hours and the JFK 50 Mile at age 50 on fat and in sandals?

It’s been a busy few weeks running my 24th Marine Corps Marathon proudly represent the U.S. Air Force and recovering for a quick turnaround to line up with local trail friend at the 54th JFK 50 mile run (my 8th).

The Marine Corps weekend started at the AMAA Marine Corps Marathon Sports Medicine Conference where my topic was “Running with Diabetes” and a focus on low carbohydrate adaptations to endurance sport. I followed a Sports Nutritionist who presented the traditional approach of 6-8 grams of carbs per kg of body weight per day for those doing endurance sport (that’s a lot of carbs…. 500g a day for a little guy like me). This all works fine if you are what is now the minority of the population and are not expressing insulin resistance.

I, like many of the 30,000 out there at the Marine Corps Marathon, am carbohydrate intolerant/insulin resistant so I presented the alternative approach of adapting the body to use fat. The goal as my friend Dr. Phil Maffetone has said for years- you need to be “Healthy and Fit.”

I enjoy the discussions at academic conferences. We all share experience and come away with new ideas and things to try with ourselves and patients. We had some wonderful speakers sharing emerging topics in sports medicine and health.

The highlight of the weekend is joining my USAF teammates as well as friends from the Marine Corps, Army, and Navy as we compete for the Armed Forces Championship. The race for me was another experiment in footwear and fueling with low carb strategy. Pre-race meal was bacon and eggs and Grandma’s Italian meatloaf the day prior and race morning of almond butter and a banana with a UCAN shake.

UCAN is the secret sauce for fuel without an insulin spike which will sabotage fat burning. I could not get UCAN on the course so topped off a bit with a few ounces of Gatorade even four miles or so. When you are running you can utilize the some glucose with insulin independent pathways, but the majority of fuel is from fat.

I started relaxed and conservative since it was reported to be the warmest day ever in the 40 + years of the race (high reached near 80). As you see from the image below with the splits the strategy worked great and finished with what my son Leo called “freakish” even pacing. Won my 50 plus age group and was the only 50 plus runner in the top 100 finishing 81st in 2:55.

The Shamma sandals were great, too. Lots of fun comments on the course about them as you can imagine. I also breathed 100 percent nasal to keep the governor on and used a simple device called a Nasal Turbine. I think there is some magic in nasal breathing to engage the diaphragm and release parasympathetic.

Our USAF men’s team finished second to a super strong Army team. The Army takes running seriously and the top runners train as their duty. Three Army runners made the Rio Team and one won the silver medal in the 5000 meters! In the end we are all Comrades and my bond with these runners and soldiers gets me out of bed to run every day.

Last weekend was the end of the year trail party at the JFK 50 mile. Put the sandals to the test on the rocky Appalachian Trail and applied similar minimal fueling strategy. For a 50 miles you must run on fat, not sugar. Before discussing nutrition the pacing is critical and my heart rate was most below 100 (fat burning zone) until the final drive for home which is about five miles out in an event of this length. We call this “smelling the barn.”

The night before homemade enchiladas with low-carb wraps and loads guacamole and sour cream and some nice red wine. Breakfast was some really good coffee, a banana loaded with almond butter and a UCAN protein shake. On the course had three UCAN peanut butter bars also just to settle stomach with something solid and low sugar UCAN drink and a product called VESPA which helps fat burning. six miles to go I took a shot of Coke for rocket fuel. From what I see people trying to do too much sugar and gels are rolling the dice and half of them get G.I. distress. Why would you train for six months and do something like this is beyond me.

I finished the race in 8:31 feeling good the whole way. Our local trail runner crew is my tribe and we all like to love to dig into the steely perseverance which exists in every human. As humans we deeply appreciate what is the challenges versus something that comes easy.