Sunday, 29 December 2013

Carb Loading Ain't What It Used To Be

With my training very much in the aerobic zone and no racing there's not much to blog about. Time has also been at a premium over the last few months so when I do have some it's better to go running than write about it. My weekly mileage had been relatively low and only picked up over the last few weeks, still very much in the aerobic zone. My focus since Connemara in August had been elsewhere and the weight had piled back on. No harm as the body needed to recover.

However all that changed a few weeks ago when I decided to embark on a two week carb depletion diet in order to kick start my fat burning metabolism ahead my Christmas Eve 48 mile looooong run. About three weeks ago, two days before pacing 3:45 in the Clon marathon, I had a bad reaction to overdosing on crusty white bread (I can be a bit of a junkie) and spent a whole day feeling like shite so the decision was relatively easy - i'd sandwich a two week depletion diet between the Club night out on 7th December and my work Christmas do on 20th December and gradually replenish the carb stores between the 20th and 23rd - a new slant on the traditional carb depletion/loading combo, although the purpose of the traditional practice is to fill the carb /glycogen stores to the brim for reuse in a race as opposed to my current philosophy of training the body to burn as much fat as possible for as long as possible.

The 3:45 pacing gig in Clon was the perfect aerobic conditioning training run as I managed to keep my heart rate on the hills just below my 138 MAF Hr. This was my 6th time running Clon this year (2nd on this "new" course) and my 6th time coming home in the same time as my Clubmate John D - we're joined at the hip when it comes to Clon. The pace was perfect for enjoying the scenery, which more than made up for the very hills that "made the scene". We had a permanent crew of between 6 and 8 runners, including Pat O'Toole, Gerry Delaney and Geraldine O'Sullivan (Bantry AC), who all ran within themselves managing to push on over the last few miles to finish a few minutes ahead of the balloons. Pat even managed to carry a backpack containing 2 full hot water bottles (5kgs worth) as part of his prep for Marathon De Sables next April - and he didn't even break into a sweat. He said he came across my Connemara race report through a link to "spring onions" - delighted to hear that my blog was reaching a wider audience - i'll have to post a few recipes.

Mile 24 - Heading for home

My 2 week carb depletion diet proved a bit monotonous and resulted in an over consumption of nuts (almonds, brazils and pecans) so much so that my initial 3kg weight loss regressed to 2kg by the time I was back on my "normal" diet - not helped by the fact that I did not run as often as I would have liked. I'll have to expand my eating options next time. But weight loss was never the name of the game - it was all about getting the fat burning engines stoked and ready for action. My running during these two weeks was typically slow and effortless. Although one or two runs were at the high end of the aerobic spectrum the resulting pace was relatively pedestrian - as if 8 minute miles had suddenly become hard work. This bothered me initially but I was more interested in knowing the cause and the only thing I could put it down to was the fact that I had set off too fast, pulling energy from my depleted carb stores and not allowing enough of a slow warmup to mobilise my fat stores sufficiently. Lesson learnt.

My Christmas Eve run started at 4 a.m. with clubmates Denis and Alan joining me at that cold and windy hour for an "easy" run before both of them headed off to work, Denis covering the first 12 mile loop from my house into Victoria Cross and Alan going for the full marathon distance (2 x 12 mile loops with 2.2 stitched on the end). What can I say? Hats off to both of them for turning up at my house at that god forsaken hour to accompany me on the start of my journey - Denis even managing to arrive 10 minutes early for the free cup of coffee. Given the forecast of heavy rain and strong winds, Alan was a bit doubtful as to whether or not I was going ahead with it, but nevertheless turned up just as I was about to head off.

My nutrition consisted of 2 x 750ml bottles of a carb drink (600 calories) and 2 x 200ml bottles of ensure meal replacement (300 calories) - less than a fifth of the calories I expected to burn - the other four fifths coming from my fuel tanks.  In reality I ended up taking about half of each and relying on my ample fat stores to make up the difference.

3:59 - Self Portrait With Denis (Loonies)

I walked the first mile, heading off ahead of Denis and Alan and commenced running when they caught up with me. The pace was a few seconds ahead of the 9 minute mile target but relatively effortless. I kept reasonably quite for the first few miles as I warmed into the run leaving Alan and Denis do most of the chatting. Heading out of town passing the Kingsley Hotel (Mile 7) I decided to hop over a low wall to relieve myself and misjudged my step and ended up flat on my face - thankfully on grass, although I did catch my shin on the top of the wall. I said I was fine and told the guys to run on and i'd catch up with them - the adrenaline masking any pain. Apart from this the first 12 mile loop passed without incident, with neighbour Ian joining us at about 5:50 a.m. for the second loop. The weather remains quite good with no rain and only a moderate wind. 
The pace for the second 12 mile loop remains under 9 minute miles, which is more challenging for Ian, whose HM PB pace is about 8:30 minute miles. The weather takes a turn for the worse just before 7 a..m (mile 19) when we are hit by a heavy downpour of hailstones and strong winds, the hailstones biting into any areas of exposed flesh - ouch!!!
With the second loop completed, I don a backpack containing my carb drink and remaining ensure, bid adieu to Ian and Alan and  set out on the 8 miles into town as far as the Lee Rowing Club on the Marina, to join the Eagle AC club run, scheduled for 9 a.m. The backpack adds a little to the effort and my heart rate climbs into the 130's as I maintain a sub 9:00 pace to ensure I arrive on time.

Mile 32 - Nice morning for a run

Unlike last year I manage to keep the pace on the club run as we head out to Blackrock and along the Mahon walkway, the expected strong winds replaced by a gentle breeze and sunshine, perfect running weather. After 6 miles of chatting we are back at the cars, where I pick up my backpack and head into town with a few others to offer support to clubmate Jo Fearon, who has just started running her 12th marathon of Christmas - 12 marathons in 12 days in support of Cork University Hospital's Neonatal Unit - and all on a treadmill. It's always comforting to know that there are others out there even more devoted to the cause of long distance running.

Mile 39 - 12th Marathon of Christmas

My legs limber up for the final leg of the journey as I leave my clubmates and head for home. Pat Twomey joins me for a few miles to the end of the Straight Road where I continue on at a 9:00 minute pace, a little surprised but happy that my legs have remained relatively fresh despite the increasing monotony of running for a long period of time.  I had planned on mixing it up a bit by introducing intermittent walking but as my legs were relatively intact I kept running. As the Garmin had acted up during the run, recording one or 2 miles faster than actual, losing the satellites for a spell and pausing accidentally I was unsure of the exact distance I had covered so I erred on the side of caution, taking the long way home and slowing down to a walk over the last mile, arriving home at 11:49, 7 hours and 49 minute after I had set out - covering 48.4 miles in 7 hours and 26 minutes.

Mile 48 - Survey the damage

Apart from the cut and bruises from my fall at  mile 7, pointed out to me when I joined the club run at Mile 32, my legs were reasonably intact and there was none of the post run aches and pains over the following days that I had after the 100 miler - it's all about the pace....and the preparation.
Wishing a belated happy and peaceful Christmas to everyone.


  1. And to think that some people have the cheek calling ME a lunatic! I'll point them in your direction in future - I know it used to be the other way round.

    Is all that fat burning and 50 mile training runs aimed at Belfast by any chance?

    Happy Christmas!

  2. Too early to be thinking about Belfast Thomas. This is just some off season fun ;-) Many happy returns.

  3. Fun! Nice to know that "fun" has so many meanings….
    Well, you're a tough dude, Grellan.

  4. Grellan you are some crazy fein all the same. Amazing how you can do what you do. Hats off.

  5. Wonderful ... other than the grisly leg! The fat burning periods you commit yourself too are almost as impressive as the runs.