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).