Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Some thoughts on fueling for long distance runs, weight fluctuations, and quick update on this week!

This entry ended up a lot longer than I meant it to be, but it's been nice to write down as I've been digesting a lot of info recently and wanting a place to organize and merge it. It has a lot to do with the body and science, which I find fascinating, so hopefully it will be interesting or informative to some of you!

I've been doing a lot of reading of fueling up for longer runs and finding a lot of interesting information about training your body to use fat reserves during training by not taking in carbohydrates on long runs, or doing doubles (which is running twice in one day). Running doubles every other day vs running every day doesn't give your body time to fuel up in between. It's a lot like when you're strength training, you tear muscle fibers and then after rest and repair you're able to endure more weight. In the case of running you're depleting your glycogen stores, which are typically good for about two hours of running, and then teaching your body to run on fat.

One reason why this is interesting to me is because it gives the body a strong advantage during race day when you will be taking in carbohydrates (gels/electrolytes). It also eliminates the "bonking" factor that runners experience on long training runs if you teach your body to use fat and not rely on the gels and clif shotbloks throughout the run. One common thing that occurs during a run is that your digestive system shuts down/slows down as your body is focusing its energy on keeping you moving. Cramming sugars down there every 45 minutes might not really be beneficial if your body isn't able to absorb them as effectively.

I wrote a bit about this last year when I was cutting back on carbohydrates but since I have been focused a lot more on training I've been reading up on this quite a bit more. My daily carbohydrate intake is not very high. It's certainly under 100 grams except for a couple days before a long race and usually after the race because I have cravings.

Right now I'm struggling with associated weight gain during my training. It's kind of silly really, because I have certainly gained quite a bit of muscle in my lower body and I feel very fit. I have lost some belly fat and my body has certainly changed. I know it's not about the number on the scale but in the past it's always been my "go-to" to gauge success. When the number was lower, I was doing well. When it was higher there was something going on and I needed to reassess my diet. It kind of became habitual, so it's still very difficult to step on the scale and see 148 lbs (about 5 lbs more than when I began training). It started to even out a few weeks back but I'm back up again.

One big reason for gaining weight during marathon training is your body starts to store up glycogen for those long runs and along with that it stores water. Certainly this accounts for a couple of those pounds. I've gained muscle, but that would likely not be much weight, just denser area's in certain muscle groups on my lower body. I've read that increasing carbs before a race will also change weight, and I do notice this trend. It's only been a couple days since my half, so likely this is why the scale was so high today.

I've been around 145-145 though since I started training, and while my main goal isn't to lose weight, of course I'd like to. I would like my racing weight to be more ideal for my body size for optimal performance. I'm very conscious of my diet and it's very healthy. I don't eat processed foods. I rarely drink. I do eat meat but minimal amounts and it is mostly for protein. I eat a good portion of protein. I bring my own lunch, try not to eat out, and I think at least 90% of my diet would be considered whole foods. I'm not entirely sure what wouldn't be considered a whole food: greek yogurt and the small amount of dairy I consume I guess? I should probably educate myself on these things.

Apparently it's pretty common to gain weight during marathon training. I'm not exactly training for my marathon quite yet, but I am running the marathon mileage during the weekend. I've decided to stay with those long runs just to see how I feel, as a sort of taste for what I will be experiencing next February and March. The harsh reality is that I will be training for this marathon on my own and it will be cold and rainy in Portland at that time. I'll be with the training group, but when they are doing 12 miles, I'll have to separate from them and go run an extra 10.

There is another thing that I have read that is intriguing and sparked my interest, as it would mean I could train with the group on Saturday's next year and then get the extra mileage in on Sunday. I've read that breaking up your long mileage over two days can work, but the main thing is that you need to run more miles than you would in that one day. So if you planned to run 22 miles on Saturday, you could instead run 12 on Saturday and then 14 on Sunday. The goal is to focus on running a higher percentage of those runs on target marathon pace. This says that you'll end up running 60% of marathon pace miles vs 40% on that one long run.

There is also evidence that if you can train your body this way, that you will certainly recover faster (2-3 days vs 4-5 on the 22 miler). During the week after the long run you would still be running, but the runs would need to be slower as your body is still recovering. If the long runs were broken up you would have the opportunity to get a quicker run in there and not feel so fatigued. Well... it's an interesting idea that I'm going to run by my coach at some point. Maybe not for awhile as I don't need to really think about this training for quite some time.

Quick update on my workout's this week:

Monday: I had the day off and just felt like getting out there so I walked 3/4 of a mile and then felt like jogging so off I went. 12 minute miles was about what I was aiming for since I had just run that half and my legs were sore, but my body felt good running around 11 minutes. I walked a little in my run, watched some squirrels, chatted with some people and just took it easy. I ended up going a little over 4 1/2 miles - more than I meant to go.

Tuesday: I went rock climbing with Katrin at the Portland Rock Gym for about 2 1/2 hours. We had a lot of fun and are going to make climbing a regular Tuesday night activity. This is good for me for cross-training! I worked on 4 routes and completed 3. The 3rd on that I was working on was a pretty difficult stemming and lay-back route and I spent at least 30 minutes on it. I was sweating and I was determined, but once I got about 3/4 of the way up I was just done. The last route was an easy one and I completed it, but I knew my arms/back were toast because it did not feel easy at all. I'm pretty sore today, but it feels so good to get a bit of upper body conditioning in as well.

Tonight is track night and we're doing hill repeats on Terwilliger, that hill that I mentioned running up about a month ago on my 11.85 mile run. The hill is right behind the track and I believe we're running 100 meter hill repeats. I have no idea how many we're supposed to do.

My coach also wrote down that we're going to do a re-test of our test mile. It's pretty hot right now (83F) so I'm not feeling very confident about my test mile. I think we're also doing the test mile after the hill repeats. This isn't an all out balls to the wall mile, this is a 75% effort mile, but in 80 degrees that test mile won't be very spectacular.

I will keep everyone posted! My health is good and I am feeling well. I'm still not sure what happened last week but it hasn't re-emerged, so I think that is good news!

1 comment:

  1. The whole to fuel or not to fuel is an interesting topic. I did not take gels or supplements during any of my half training last year. It worked for me & I think eating properly on a daily basis did a lot more for me. I am sure it could change when running a full 26.2. (which I have yet to do)

    Have a great workout tonight! I should look into working with a coach for a little bit.