Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

January 29, 2018

Arches Ultra 50k, 27 Jan 2018

My first race doing the KETO diet was a SUCCESS!  More about that below.

I'm the best blogger ever!  Or at least I am if you don't like too many things spamming your inbox...I haven't posted anything for at least 6 months.    Perhaps not writing for so long will make me funnier.

I've fallen in love with Spartan racing after doing my first one last year.    Rolling in mud, flipping tires, and swinging across monkey bars appeal to me somehow.   That and I seem to have some affinity for the sport, so this year I've signed up for a Spartan Race pass and I'll try to get in as many of them as I can.  Perhaps I'll even qualify for the world championships in Lake Tahoe in September!

In the meantime, my dog watches me doing lots of pull-ups in the garage, and I've built a tall wall in the backyard.  It's been there for a couple of months already and I've managed to make it over exactly....once.   I also glued together a spear and hung a hay bale, and I try to avoid spearing the chickens when I practice throwing it.   The dog was banished immediately, when he thought I was tossing a toy and almost became a lawn-dart on my very first throw.   Sheesh.   Now I manage to hit the hay-bale occasionally, and perhaps will avoid 30 penalty burpees in a race here or there.

Spartan races are coming up soon, but I couldn't resist entering the Arches Ultra.  Held just outside of Arches NP, on single track bike trails near Moab, UT, it's one of my favorite places in the world.   The weather was perfect for winter running.   Low 20s in the morning and 40s by afternoon.   This was the inaugural race for Arches, but Mad Moose events puts on great races every year and this one is a keeper I hope!

I jumped out of the truck at the last minute wearing hat, gloves, fleece, and windbreaker, but my feet still felt like frozen bricks for a few miles.  I've been battling nerve pain in my little toes, but they were really too cold to feel anything for a while.   The 50k was pretty flat, meandering around the Moab Brands and Klonzo trail areas.  We ran over a lot of slick rock, which was difficult footing with lots of bumps.  Getting on nice even sandy jeep trails occasionally felt really nice!

The day warmed up really fast, and I resisted stopping to remove layers but eventually had to strip down.   My pack bulged with extra gear and when I had to get out my water bladder for a refill, I spilled a yard sale worth of clothes on the ground.   By the last couple of hours I was running in just a t-shirt and it felt amazing in the calm sunshine!

Ok, so Jim and I started the KETO diet about 6 months ago.    Keto, Atkins, Low Carb, Paleo, Plant Paradox diets...they are all similar although they argue about the details.   From the multitude of books I've now read about all of these (I like to be educated about my choices) they are all much more healthy choices than the old low fat, high carb crap that the government has been peddling to us for 50 years.   Go ahead, eat some bacon already.

What do we eat?   Lots of good fats, lots of veggies, moderate meats, no wheat or sugar or vegetable oils.   The amazing thing?  I no longer crave sugary things like twizzlers.   Knock me over with a leaf I still can't believe the cravings are gone.   I sleep better, I feel better, I don't get hangry, and my weight stays right where I want it.

The theory is that when you don't eat carbs, your brain switches over to burning Ketones instead of glucose.  This can be made directly from your fat cells, giving you an almost unlimited amount of energy during exercise.  The hard part is that this takes some time to happen.  A few days to switch over (you might feel like crap), and then 6 weeks to a year for the body to fully adapt.   Eventually physical abilities should be the same or maybe better than on glucose but it is a process.  We've done it long enough now that we can eat a few carbs and still stay in that fat burning mode.  We check through a cheap hack from Amazon...this cheap breathalyzer measures breath ketones too.  Just don't drink and keto together they both register!

The unknown of this diet?  And the reason why I signed up for a long race.   What to eat while racing?    I had a half marathon in August where I got it wrong.  13 miles of abdominal cramps while pinching my side and trying to run was, um....yuk.

This time I did my research and discovered VESPA.  It's some strange rocket science bee pollen that enhances fat burning even if you aren't trying to do Keto.   So theoretically you can drink this before/during a race, then eat less and burn more fat.

I've also been using Generation UCAN products.   Originally developed for kids with hypoglycemia who couldn't sleep all night without needing to wake up to eat, UCAN starch is called a super starch. It's an incredibly long-chain starch, and has no effect on insulin, unlike normal sugars and starches.

The best advice on eating for an ultra marathon is on the Vespa website.   It's specific and comprehensive.  http://www.vespapower.com/ofm/what-is-ofm/

I decided to follow their advice, and deviated from my low carb diet the night before the race.  Along with a steak and side salad, I had a few bites of baked potato smothered in butter and a dinner roll, also smothered in butter.  Then I crossed my fingers I wouldn't get sick from the sudden change, and went to bed.   Vespa calls this a "carb sneak" to add to my glucose stores for energy during the race.

So before the race for breakfast, I had a packet of Vespa, some butter in my hot cocoa powder, and a UCAN bar.   Chocolate I think, although they all taste a little chalky and I don't eat them for the taste.

During the race, I drank another packet of Vespa every 2 hours, and took a bite of UCAN bar every hour or so.   I also had a bit of potato at an aid station, and a couple potato chips.   They were really salty and didn't make me want to eat any more.  In my water bladder was a HEKA caffeine packet with some electrolytes, and later a Skratch electrolyte packet.    I even ate a tiny snickers bar, but passed up my normal fare of gummy bears and junk food.

Thats it.     300-400 calories for breakfast.     About 600-700 calories during the race, with 2 1/2 liters of water.   I didn't feel hungry, I didn't bonk, my stomach felt great and I ran the whole thing.   I ran as fast or faster than usual on very little training (13 miles was the furthest I had run, and that was back in August six months ago!).  Lately I've been doing more short running intervals and very little total mileage while emphasizing recovery.   I guess it worked!    In short, I was VERY happy with my Keto fat-burning food choices.

Back to the race, the scenery was amazing, with views of Arches NP and the La Sal mountain range.  There were small patches of snow/ice on the ground on north facing slopes, but otherwise the trails were clear and dry and amazing.   I power hiked with my trekking poles up a couple of decent hills, but otherwise focused very carefully on my footing on the uneven slick rock.

By the last few miles I had exceeded my training, and my running speed and efficiency was compromised.   Jim saw me just as I could see the finish line across the road, but....he  grabbed my pack as I had to hobble a very long mile under the underpass on the bike trail rather than dash across the highway like a crippled rabbit.   With the elasticity gone in my legs, it's probably better that the race forced us on the underpass as I would probably have become road kill.

I finished the 31 miles in 6 hours 13 min, which was 15th out of 72 women.      Definitely I'll think of doing this race again next year as long as there isn't too much snow and ice on the ground!


  1. Wow Dawn, great too know about Vespa. When you get back to agility, let's discuss further!

    1. Sure, sounds good! But who is this I can't tell from your profile....

  2. Beyond impressed!!!!! Congratulations.