Saturday, March 22, 2008

Experimenting on Myself...

Coming into today I had two goals: to experiment on myself and to break the post marathon funk. The second one was the easiest. I mean, all I had to do was go out and run anything longer than 6 miles and I feel it will be a start to breaking out of the funk and begin training and running again for my next marathon on April 5th.

The first goal is the hardest because I would be doing something that isn't recommended for the mainstream. It would be performing an experiment, something that I have wanted to try for a while. And I have done this on a smaller scale without a hitch. The experiment: to wake up and run without eating anything. Why? To try and begin teaching my body to know when it is on empty and to train it to begin using my fat reserves as energy. I've done this before on smaller runs, like 4 or 6 miles and I didn't have a problem at all. Today, however, would be a 10 mile run with no food or energy in reserve.

The run started great, with my first four miles very consistent and on pace to my normal training runs, around an 8:15 pace. But from then on I could definitely feel the effects of not having eaten anything and drinking very little. Many short walk breaks later I was able to finally finish the 10 miles at an 9:19 pace.

The Good - This experiment had some ups and downs that you only ever experience at the end of a marathon, the last 6-8 miles. You begin to feel the wall loom ahead of you and you begin to drag your feet. You can't run as fast and you can feel your energy so low that it is hard to continue running. That is why doing this was great because it is so very important to simulate the last 10k or so of the marathon and be familiar with how that feels.

The Bad - I never really felt like I was able to get a nice, consistent run in. My miles were up and down, with the exception of the first few miles, and the run itself didn't feel as great as it usually does, which was expected under the circumstances.

The Ugly - I haven't had training miles as slow as a few in this run in a long, long time. Sometimes I go into the low to mid 9 minute pace when I am starting to run slower, but today my last three miles came in at 10:38, 10:38 and 10:26. So in that sense I was definitely hurting from not having anything to eat or stored for energy.

Overall I think this experiment was successful. It is extremely important to feel how it feels during that last 6-8 miles of the marathon, and this was the first training run I've done that has been able to simulate this (minus the aching legs and sore joints). So a huge plus. Eventually I will begin to adapt and feel the miles better as I run on empty.

Interestingly enough it was strange to feel the ebb and flow of energy. My body knew what was going on and was trying to convert my fat reserves to energy, but I needed the energy faster than it could give it to me. This is why I should train more like this because the more refined my body becomes the better it will adapt. How? As I was running I noticed the lack of energy, so I would stop at each mile and walk a little. The energy would build a little and immediately after I started running again I could feel the flow of energy. Amazing. And this would happen with every mile.

As a side note, I weighed myself and after, and came in at 3 pounds less, even after all the water I drank during and after the run. Obviously most of that was water loss, but maybe some was fat loss from the need for energy?

Here's to experimenting and finding new ways to better our running. If all goes to plan then a 16 miler in the hills of Saratoga Gap should happen tomorrow. Alas, it is Easter and I do like to sleep in, so maybe this one won't happen. But here is to trying...


Bill Carter said...

Hi Brian

This whole experiment that you came up is one of the most interesting ideas I have ever heard of.. very cool. This seemed to very well approximate the level of energy at the end of a marathon, but as you well know your legs are a big factor as well. From a cardio standpoint, I always feel pretty good even over the last couple miles. The thing that catches up with me are my legs. I believe this is due to the fact that I have only been running for a little over 5 years. I think there is a big advantage for runners who have been training their legs for 10, 15, or even 20 years.

I'm looking forward to your race report and best of luck with your race.

Nancy said...

You're running another one? Holy cow. You are amazing. I love this experiment.