100 Day Run Streak

Today marks the 100th day of my run streak! I originally set out to run every day of July; suffice to say I’ve well surpassed that goal! My previous run streak was 10 days. Ten. Measly. Days!

What possible motivation is there for running every day? Wouldn’t you get too sore by running every day? If you were to run hard every day, you certainly would! Just like a lot of runners I too subscribe to the easy-hard training philosophy. I do an easy/easier run after a previous day that had a “hard” run.

Ironically, I found that running every day actually increased my ability to recover! While the two weeks of my run streak was hard, it got a lot easier as time went by. Running without a rest day hasn’t hindered my hard days.

In addition to the run streak, I set myself a number of other goals that included:

  • Run at least 100 km a week (high mileage for me!)
  • Do more marathon specific training (namely spend a lot of time at target marathon pace).

  • Add strides to the end of my easy runs.

Success on all accounts! Over the last 14 weeks, I’ve averaged 103 km/week (with a minimum of 100 km/week and maximum of 107 km/week).

Sooner or later the run streak will end. I’m happy with where it is and I’ll soon start my taper for the big race.

Here’s the highlights!

Everyday I’m Running

I’m on a run streak! Since the start of July, I have ran everyday! I’m pretty chuffed with my 34 day run streak; my previous run streak was 8 days.

Every now and again my fitness will plateau. It sometimes goes backwards as well. I decided to introduce a number of challenges and new workouts:

  • Run every day of July.
  • Add strides to the end of my easy runs.
  • Add variety to my weekly track run.
  • Do two to three quality runs a week.

Mission accomplished! I’ve also reached a new fitness level.

Windy Wellington Half Marathon!
Hilly tempo run
9x 200m on 200m jog: 31.0, 34.7, 34.6, 34.7, 34.1, 35.6, 36.8, 34.1, 33.7
Treadmill 10K
8x1000m with 200m jog: 3:20, 3:26, 3:25, 3:27, 3:27, 3:25, 3:34, 3:32
5x1600m with 200m jog: 5:38, 5:40, 5:39, 5:39, 5:40
Strides at the end of an easy run
4x1200m with 400m jog: 3:56, 3:52, 3:51, 3:55
Fartlek run (1km on 1km off)
6x1600m with 200m jog: 5:33, 5:32, 5:35, 5:37, 5:30, 5:30

Post Keto Recovery – I’m fatter and faster!

Two months ago, I embarked on what was the most daring thing I’ve tried in the name of running: try a low carb high fat (LCHF) diet! While there are several LCHF diets, the one I was on was the Standard Ketogenic diet (SKD) and limited myself to 30g/day net carbs!

Over the course of the LCHF diet I would eat food that was almost incompatible with my normal diet. Things I normally would consume in spades included: bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, apples, bananas, carrots, milk, chocolate and biscuits! I wasn’t allowed any of this! Instead, I ate fatty slices of meat, added 40g of full cream to each cup of coffee, and fried egg omlettes in 30g of butter!

One of the benefits of a LCHF diet is that it forces your body is burn body fat for energy. On the 12th day of SKD I was offered to have a skin folds test done. Unsurprisingly, I was very lean at 6.1% body fat! It is also likely that by the last day of SKD that I was even leaner than that. Yikes!

Out of curiosity, I decided to track my macros for a typical day. Using data from myfitnesspal I consumed 2110 calories:

Item

Calories

Fat (g)

Protein (g)

Net carbs (g)

115g bacon

630

48

43

2

130g cream

449

48

3

4

35g olive oil

290

32

0

0

160g chicken

242

5

49

0

2 eggs

143

10

13

1

10g mayonnaise

100

11

0

0

70g coconut cream

86

8.5

0.5

1.5

20g fat bomb

65

9

1

2

60g bean sprouts

30

0

3

5

225g celery

30

0.5

1.5

6

160g lettuce

27

0

2

5

60g spinach

14

0

2

2

40g gherkin

4

0

0

1

2110

172 (53%)

118 (36%)

29.5 (9.3%)

I later upped the fat intake and dialled back the protein. Having too much protein isn’t good for a high fat diet as it can get your body out of its fat burning Ketosis mode.

So what else happened over the 33 days that I was on Keto? In a nutshell I became skinner and slower! The first week on SKD was really tough and it certainly tested my willpower. Fortunately the second week wasn’t as bad, and everything besides running returned to normal.

In terms of running performance, I found that I was worse across the board. My fast track runs were slower. My fast road runs were slower. Even my slow runs were slower! On the 28th day of SKD, I decided to see how fast I could run a half marathon. Although it was self-paced, I was almost 10 minutes slower than what I had done earlier on the same course earlier in the year! This is despite being 4.1 kg lighter and in cooler weather!

It has been a month since I have reverted back to my normal diet. I’m proud to say that I’m now fatter and faster! Today’s skin fold test revealed that I’m measurably fatter at 7.4%. Success!

While I have yet to do the same half marathon benchmark, I’ve done a number of runs which suggest I’m back at a similar running level as I was before going to SKD. Last week’s track run was slightly different than usual. Instead of six sets of 1200m @ 3:20 min/km pace with 400m jog recovery, I tried eight sets of 1000m with 200m jog recovery. While the average pace of the interval was slower (3:27 min/km), the rest was significantly shorter (1 minute) which made it a more demanding workout. I also did a decent hilly tempo of moderate effort two weeks prior. I wouldn’t have been able to do either of these workouts on SKD.

Mission accomplished! I’m fatter and faster!

Measurement

17July-18

24May-18

% change

Weight (kg)

75.8

72.3

+4.8

Triceps sf (mm)

3.5

4.9

-28.6

Subscapular sf (mm)

8.5

7.0

+21.4

Biceps sf (mm)

2.5

2.4

+4.2

Iliac crest sf (mm)

13.0

6.2

+109.7

Supraspinale sf (mm)

8.5

4.6

+84.8

Abdominal sf (mm)

11.0

6.2

+77.4

Front thigh sf (mm)

7.5

5.8

+29.3

Medial calf sf (mm)

6.5

4.7

+38.3

BMI

21.0

20.0

+5.0

% fat (Yuhasz)

7.4

6.1

+21.3

Wellington Half Marathon

Last Sunday I competed in the 2018 Wellington Half Marathon. I completed the race in 1:19:06. Despite being a flat course, howling northerlies made it anything but a fast race! The weather was so foul that one runner thought it was the worst weather he’d encountered in the last 20 years of entering in the Wellington Marathon!

With winds averaging 20 knots (37.0 km/h), it made a flat course slow and difficult. While Wellington is infamous for its terrible weather, this year seemed particularly bad. The average half marathon finishing time since 2010:

Year

Time

2010

1:55:59

2011

1:59:58

2012

1:57:29

2013

1:58:09

2014

1:57:39

2015

2:01:41

2016

2:01:53

2017

2:00:09

2018

2:05:05

While there’s other factors that could explain the slower finishing time, it’s reasonable to suggest that the weather was largely responsible for the 5 minute slower average finishing time.

But does wind affect everyone the same? I found an interesting paper titled The Influence of Wind Resistance in Running…. Since drag force is proportional to the square of velocity, it comes of no surprise that the faster you are trying to run, the greater the impact of wind.

Using the regression equations from the paper and a couple of assumptions (i.e., when the runner was running with no wind on a 0% incline treadmill, this is equivalent to running outside with a tail wind):

Speed (km/h)

Wind speed (km/h)

Oxygen consumption (mL/kg/min)

VO2 relative to zero wind (%)

13.5

-13.5

43.6

-2.0

13.5

0.0

44.5

0.0

13.5

13.5

47.2

6.1

13.5

37.0

55.9

26.0

16.1

-16.1

46.3

-4.7

16.1

0.0

48.6

0.0

16.1

16.1

55.6

14.4

16.1

37.0

71.7

48.0

In other words, if you were running a flat out and back course where you were either running into a headwind or a tailwind, you’d expect to run slower than the same course on a windless day! And the faster you run, the more wind affects you! The same holds true for any out and back course, where the environmental conditions (wind and wind direction) remains constant.

So how does pace themselves during a windy race? By using heart rate! From my last half marathon race, I know I can hold 176 bpm over the race. Since my max heart rate (MHR) is 189 bpm, 176 bpm is 93% MHR. I regulated my speed based on my current heart rate!

How did the race go overall? I suspect I’ve lost a bit of conditioning since trialing a Ketogenic diet for a month. While the wind did not help, I think I should have done a bit better. From my heart rate data, I should have pushed more from 12.5 km, despite predominately being into the wind. I was 76 kg on the day, had either water or electrolytes during the first three aid stations and did not eat anything on the run.

Day Five on Keto

Since last Sunday, I’ve have been on a Ketogenic diet. Typically prescribed for people with various neurological disorders (Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease…), Low Carb High-Fat (LCHF) diets have recently come to the foray for endurance athletes as an alternative to the usual High Carb (HC) diet! As part of my valiant attempt to further sports science, I’ve volunteered myself as a participant in a running study that examines the effect of a LCHF diet on long distance runners!

The change in my diet could not have been greater. Going from fueled from carbohydrates and sugars — then suddenly — to fat and protein, it has not been easy. Today marks my fifth day on Keto, and here’s what I have endured so far:

Day 1 began following a time to exhaustion test (read: a very long run!). Craving for carbs and sugars, I had to abstain. Instead, I ate a large four egg omelette fried in 30g of butter! Later, I had two cups of coffee with 100g of cream and a chicken breast that bathed in the oven in 30g of olive oil. Yikes! As the sun went down, I became drowsy, developed a runny nose and an unshakable headache overcame me. All signs and symptoms of the noctorious Keto Flu.

Day 2. I was at work and I felt dopey, drowsy and easily irritable. Following from yesterday’s ordeal, today was a rest day. Again, I ate nothing but fats and protein. I also had vegetables that were low in carbs and sugars, such as lettuce, mushrooms and asparagus. These were also drowned in either olive oil or full fat mayonnaise (of course!).

Day 3. Although the Keto Flu lingered, it was much less than before. I also felt like my mind was clearer and was able to focus better than before. Although having thought about it, this could have simply been due to the sudden uptake of the coffee with cream. I seldom drink coffee. I decided to go for a short recovery run. Worst 10K run of my life! What should have barely broken a sweat ended up being more torturous than the last 10K of an all out marathon! The run started off at 14km/h ended in 11km/h. My body was aching from head to toe.

Day 4 was similar to the previous day. Again, I went out for a slow run. The first two kilometers felt mostly like a recovery run, but things got progressively harder. I even had to stop, and doubt I could have run much further than the 12 km I did!

Day 5 (today). From the previous days it appeared that the first two kilometers were much easier than the rest. I decide to do a set of intervals. Less than a week ago, I did 6x1200m @ 3:20min/km with 2:15 between each rep. Today, I could only manage 4x1200m and none of the reps were remotely close in speed! What’s more, the last rep was at least 15% slower than any of the ones done last week. I hate to think of how slow the remaining two reps would have been, had I grit my teeth and slogged it out!

I feel that I’m gradually overcoming the Keto flu and becoming fat adapted. Time will tell how this Keto diet turns out over the next 25 days I am on it!

Rotorua Half Marathon

Yesterday I paced the 2018 Rotorua Half Marathon. I was the 1:20 pacer, but came in one minute too slow! Reflections on the course and my pacing are as follows…

Unlike previous Rotorua Half Marathons, this year’s one was off-road and hilly! It starts at the same place as the full marathon, but instead heads south-east towards the forest. The majority of the course is on an old gravel road. You need to watch your step carefully here: there are countless fist sized rocks and foot deep potholes scattered along the trail! There is also a kilometer of running on wet grass trail, which also has a sandy part and a muddy part! Fortunately there were no river crossings!

Part of the course is also shared with the Quarter Marathon. This makes it hard for the faster half marathon runners; in the last 7 kilometers I had to navigate through hundreds of runners coming head on. This is easier said that done as you also need to choose a path free of things that you could roll your ankle on! The elevation gain was 260m.

As part of my preparation for my pacing duties, I studied the course profile. Instead of even pacing I needed to opt for even effort. I devised a program that gave kilometer splits, given the course profile and target time while maintaining an even effort. I followed my prescribed plan during the race. Judging by my heart rate, this plan indeed resulted in an even effort. I suspect it would have been spot on, had I factored in the surfaces I’d be traversing.

Effort-wise, being the 1:20 pacer was suitable and well within my ability, even on a hilly trail course like the new Rotorua Half Marathon. From races in the eight months, my average HR for the 10K, 21.1K and 42.2K events are 180, 176, and 170 respectively. With yesterday’s run, my average HR was below my average HR for a marathon! My max HR was also the same as what I average in a half marathon race. This was a surprise to me, given the steep hills on the new course.

All in all the new Rotorua Half Marathon course is enjoyable and a nice change from road running. However, I’m unsure whether it is a wise idea having off-road courses added into what has been and is a road-running event. If I were pacing for a 1:20 again on the same course, I would aim to run 4% faster on the road surfaces (equating to 3:36 min/km on the six kilometers of road).

Auckland Waterfront Half Marathon

Last Sunday I competed in the 2018 Auckland Waterfront Half Marathon. My official race time was 1:16:43. This was a great result for me: I managed to slash 3 minutes from my previous best (PB) half marathon!

The Auckland Waterfront Half Marathon is a new race that runs along Auckland’s Tamaki Drive. To reach the 21.1km distance a large portion of Tamaki Drive is covered twice. Unfortunately this meant that there was was a lot of other runners to negotiate around on the second loop. This also made it near impossible to pick up a cup of water at the aid stations! As a result, I did not hydrate properly during the race.

There was no wind or sea breeze. Next time I’d consider running with sunglasses, given the orientation of the course and the morning sun. It was between 15C and 18C with 75% relative humidity while I was out running. This gives a wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) between 13.3 and 16.1. According to research this was a challenging environment to achieve a PB, despite the “fast and flat” course!

Notes to self: I was 77.5kg on the day. This is about 1.5kg heavier than I was two weeks ago! I was out of the country for a week a week ago and was on an untypical diet. During the race I actively monitored my heart rate (HR) and tried to keep it below 176bpm. Despite consuming less water that I would have liked, ironically I still felt bloated for most of the second half of the race. The last four kilometers were tough and it showed in my poor posture towards the end of the race.

Auckland Marathon

Today I ate humble pie. Determined to go sub 2:45, I could only manage 2:54:07 on the day. That’s a huge disparity! Let me explain…

The Auckland Marathon starts at 6am. Despite beginning at the crack of dawn, it was unusually warm this morning at 16C. By the time I finished my run it was 18C, making it the hottest marathon I have run. The air was also uncomfortably “sticky” and estimated to be 90% R.H!

Despite a significantly slower pace and easier course profile, my average heart during the first 10km of the marathon was similar to that of a typical 10km tempo!

Ten kilometres into the run and my heart rate is higher than usual. I’m travelling at 3:50 min/km pace and my heart rate is at 170 bpm – 5 bpm higher than I’d like. My bib is also drenched sweat, no doubt from the hot and humid weather! I reach half way at 1:21:34.

It’s now 26km into the race and I approach the first of two drink stations that I’ve left my own water bottle and energy gel. However, the people manning the station offer no help and I’m lost searching in a sea of nondescript water bottles for my own one! After stopping for a frustrating 10 seconds, I forgo a crucial hydration and energy stop.

Kilometre split comparison between 2016 and 2017 Auckland Marathons.

From this point on, I begin to slow down and start paying for going too hard in the first half. I persevere but the “wheels fall off” at 33km as I begin the slow and painful run back home.

It’s now 36km and I’ve arrived at the last special drink station. This time I yell out my bib number and the course volunteer swiftly finds my drink and energy gel and hands it to me. Much better!

It’s been a long slog but I’ve managed to cross the finish line after several agonizing 4:50 min/km kilometers. This is a pedestrian pace compared to the 3:53 min/km I averaged over the first 29 kilometers! The second half split was 1:32:33, giving me a 11 minute positive split. Ouch!

All was not lost. I’ve come away with some valuable lessons:

  1. Adjust expectations based on current conditions. Hot and especially humid conditions can completely change the course difficulty.
  2. When approaching a “special drink station”, yell out your race number well in advance to the course volunteer so they can fetch your drink for you!
  3. There’s a lot of techniques for breathing while running. In today’s high humidity, I would have been better off breathing “through the mouth”.
  4. Peanuts can give laxative-like effects! By the skin of my teeth I avoided a toilet stop during the race. Never again!
  5. I was happy that I achieved the much vaunted 180 steps per minute over the course of the marathon. A high leg turn over is more energy efficient and reduces the likelihood of over-striding / injury.

Some things to work on:

  • Try breathing “through the mouth” as it is apparently better for running. The only time I should be breathing through the nose is when the air is cold and/or dry.
  • More long runs at marathon pace on profiles similar to that of the course.
  • Consider reducing the number of interval sessions I do with tempo runs or long runs as these are more marathon-specific workouts. Trouble is I actually enjoy the interval sessions!
  • Find out how to “reset” the distance my GPS watch thinks I have run during the race. It always overestimates the distance!
An enjoyable 6x1200m interval session!

Notes to self: I was 77kg on the day and had three gels (8km, 17km, 23km). I missed one gel at 29km and did not feel like eating the one I picked up at 36km. I had either water or sports drink at each of the aid stations. I had flat soda for two of the stations following the mishap at station 29km.

Altitude. Heat. Humidity. Pollution!

Over the last three weeks I have been in China. Where in China you might wonder? How about Beijing, Dunhuang, Lanzhou, Xining, Xi’an and Shenzhen? And yes, it was frantic three week trip to visit all of those cities!

The first stop was the capital. Like every Westerner that visits China, I too saw The Great Wall, The Imperial Palace, The Summer Palace, and Tiananmen Square! My hotel was in-fact very close to the Forbidden City and I found a nice 5 km loop to go for a run. Running three loops was a good start to the day. However, I tried this run next day after visiting attractions. Big mistake!

The temperature late in the day was almost 30C. The air was also heavily polluted. After my run I coughed and spluttered for 20 minutes… no wonder they call it the “Beijing Cough”! The pollution hit 194 AQI. That’s 21 times worse than what I’m used to!

Fortunately I recovered from the ordeal and went to Dunhuang, a city famous for the Mogao Grottos, Crescent Lake, and The Whistling Sand Dunes! I too saw these attractions. I also went for a run in Dunhuang. This was the first time that I had ran at altitude (1200m) and 25C+ heat! No problems.

We then travelled to Lanzhou to visit some of my father’s friends. Lanzhou is not known for attractions but infamously known for once being China’s most polluted city. Fortunately, Lanzhou has since changed and is no longer as polluted as it once was. Running along the walkway by the Yellow river ended up being a trip highlight! A lot of locals are there too, walking, whip cracking, playing with diablos or just dancing! Oh and Lanzhou is one mile above sea level!

The next two stops involved even greater heights. Although we were not there for long, I was dead set on running at Qinghai Lake. At 3200m above sea level, this is in high altitude training territory. Despite gradually building up to this altitude over several days, I had a slight headache while at Qinghai. But it was now or never! The first kilometer of the run felt odd. The air was noticeably thinner as was the cool temperature. However, each stride became harder and harder. Soon my legs were completely dead and called it quits after a mere 4km!

Humbled by the high altitude experience, we headed back to Xining. At 2200m above sea level, my run in Xining was fine albeit slower than my usual pace. I enjoyed the cool climate and the much cleaner air!

Next we headed to Xi’an, one of the great ancient capitals of China. And just like the other thousands of tourists, I too visited Xi’an to see the Terracotta Army! Another interesting relic of the past is the 15m high, 14km perimeter long city wall! A perfect place for a run? Although the air was not smelly like it was in Beijing it was visibly polluted. I ended up doing two laps of the city wall on a day that was warm (23C), hazy and heavily polluted (174 AQI). I think I also got Bronchitis from this run. Was it worth it? Ask me after I recover from it! Cough splutter cough…

Finally the last city we visited was Shenzhen. Known as the “Sillicon Valley of Hardware”, 90% of the world’s electronics are made in Shenzhen! There are literally five story buildings packed to the rafters that just sell USB cables for iPhones! In order to preserve my lungs from the polluted air I decided to run at night, where it is usually cooler (low 30C!) and less polluted (<100 AQI). One night it was 33C. Suffice to say when I got back from my run, my tshirt was drenched in sweat!

Altitude, heat, and humidity! Whether you are after altitude training (right up to crazy 2+ mile high runs!) or just curious to see if you can handle running in the mid thirties with high humidity, China has a city for all environments.

Runner be warned! Many cities in China are badly polluted, as I’m sure you already know. So caveat emptor, if you’re in one of China’s large, polluted cities, choose another sport!

Pedal Bite, Rest and Recovery

It’s been a long road to recovery but I’m now back and better than ever! Today’s track session consisted of 6x 1200m intervals with an average time of 3:57 (3:55, 3:56, 3:57, 3:59, 3:58, 3:57)! There was a 400m / 3 minute rest between each interval. This is a solid workout for me.

Six weeks ago I tried mountain biking for the first time. What’s the worst that could happen? As my confidence grew on the beginner tracks so did my ego. Sure enough I was now on an intermediate track, hurtling down it with gusto! I approached a sharp right-handed turn with a steep descent. But just before the turn, my right pedal snagged a tree root, putting me off balance. You can guess what happened next!

Life was now played in slow motion. I recall bailing all but my left leg; the bike and all its pointy bits lands on my leg! Embarrassed and brought down to earth, I got back on my bike and gingerly rode the rest of the track.

Aided with the help of my friends I assessed the damage. My leg was covered in blood but had clotted. Unfortunately, the bike’s metal pedal made quite an “impression” on my lower leg! It made a large and deep gouge that would require stitches!

I’ve just received a “Pedal Bite”!

We rode back to the front office and my leg received Steri-Strips and a temporary dressing. We then head back and complete more trails. I even went for a run afterwards!

Late Saturday afternoon. I turn up to the A&E but its full of people. Lesson #1: pick a better time to be injured! The A&E was full of sick infants and people with sports and alcohol related “injuries”.

Shell shocked from the cacophony of whining children, I eventually see a doctor. He numbs the wound, vigorously scrubs it then sews fives stitches. Luckily the lacerations do not expose the dermis and are on an area that only has flesh and bone! I collect my medication (antibiotics and pain relief) and head home.

Sunday and Monday I’m bedridden. Was this my body’s immune system working overtime to mend the wound? Was I experiencing side effects from the antibiotics?

True to the doctor’s orders I skipped a week of running. And just as well. I’d been as sick as a dog with a slight fever and a nasty cough.

I head back to A&E for my fourth dressing change. The nurse took one look at the wound then ordered a swab test. The wound was warm, puffy and was still weeping. It’s infected, she said!

The swab results come back and it was indeed infected with a “heavy growth of Aeromonas species”, also known as flesh eating bacteria!

What’s more unsettling than the Google images of “Aeromonas leg infection” is the knowledge that the bacteria was resistant to the Penicillin-based antibiotics (Flucloxacillin) I had been on for the last two weeks! I’m immediately prescribed Co-Trimoxazole which is effective against the bacteria.

I make regular trips to the A&E to get my dressing changed and request a doctor to monitor the wound. My dressing has now been changed by three different nurses and they all apply completely different types of dressing! Lesson #2: there is no standard way to treat a lower leg wound!

One of the nurses also managed to unsettle me. He states it could take four months for the wound to heal. Four months! That’s because lower leg wounds take a long time to heal, and in some cases, don’t heal! Yikes!

I was three days into the Co-Trimoxazole and the wound already looked markedly better. It was no longer puffy or weeping and was mending well.

Four weeks after the “Pedal Bite” a doctor was concerned that the wound had become “lazy” and was taking too long to heal. He referred me to a plastic surgeon who later scrapped the newly formed skin off my wound to promote faster healing. It bled a bit and felt like a step backwards. Fortunately, the doctor was right. Lesson #3: removing the scab off a wound can help it heal faster!

It’s now six weeks since the ordeal. I no longer require dressings and my wound is a fraction of its original size. It is going to leave a large scar. What I thought was a minor injury turned out to be a major inconvenience. I’ve only regained my fitness in the last week. Two weeks ago I barely could do 3x 1200m intervals (with times of 3:59, 4:03, 4:10).

I suspect most of the damage was not from the “Pedal Bite” but from the nasty cough I caught from the two and a half hour wait at A&E. This cough lasted for about four weeks and from my own diagnosis of the symptoms I had, it could have been a mild form of hospital acquired pneumonia! However, the “Pedal Bite” could have ended up much, much worse. Thank goodness for modern medicine!

Onwards and upwards!