Remove the Limits

Running on Sugar – Pt.1


Dec 13


It has been a couple of weeks since taking part in the Wild Sebastian 100. While two weeks is not a long time to write a micro-memoir or sorts, it is an eternity for recollecting details involving severe pain. The mind is good at supressing the experience of pain and the darkest of the details surrounding it. Since it is said however, that the finishers in the 100-mile distance are those who make the fewest mistakes; it is worth trying to recount the events. I will try to relive as best I can, given the distance of time, the unfolding of events, their impact, and what led to my decisions. I know this will help me, but I hope it also helps other mid-packers out there as well.

Race Planning

My plan resembled what I had done in my last 50-mile race. Initially, I was going to have my wife crew for me, but I let her off the hook. She was willing, but as the race grew near, the guilt of putting her through 24+ hours of mostly bleak nothingness punctuated by moments of tending to a grouchy, sleepless runner, burdened my conscience. I decided to go solo; sans crew, sans pacer.

The Course

The course was a 25.2 mile loop through a wildlife preserve. It was described as being partly composed of soft “sugar-sand” (more on that later), but I found that the part that was sugar sand was roughly…the whole thing. No, that’s not true, either, there were a few miles on knee-high grass growing out of the sugar sand as well as a mile or so of absolute high-speed luxury over a dirt road.  I will save my comments for the later analysis, but it’s important to note that this was the most difficult terrain upon which I have ever tried to run. In fact, it was mostly un-runnable. Forget the sand-in-the-shoe complaints. I expected that and had no time for purchasing gaiters. So, I am not bemoaning that fact. But the constant threat (and reality) of ankle-turning combined with the frustration of practically running in place struggling for forward momentum became a living nightmare at times. I initially felt that a flat race in Florida having a 32-hour cut-off was mighty generous. Do not under estimate running in “sugar sand”.  


The Hoka Mafate (top) vs The Saucony Virrata


I prepared all of my nutrition and personal needs prior to the race and split it between two drop bags. Since the course made a 25-mile figure-8 loop, I placed bag #1 at the start/finish aid station, and bag #2 where the trail intersected itself. This meant that I’d have access to bag#1 every 25 miles; while bag #2 would pop up every 10 miles or so. This second bag was therefore the main bag and contained my extra shoes and more nutrition. Both bags had standard first aid, body, and blister care essentials. Each bag also contained a small lunch bag cooler with chilled, premixed UCAN. The race required that each runner carry hydration. I used an Ultimate Direction Jurek pack with a 50 oz. reservoir. The pockets were to hold soft flasks with UCAN as well as amino acid and electrolyte tablets. As for shoes, I chose Hoka Mafates. I run in lots of different minimal shoes as well as Hokas, but I chose the Hokas for obvious reasons. A couple of other noteworthy items I carried were: a Suunto Ambit 2, an iPod Nano and an homemade bracelet with distances between aid stations (in a cumulative fashion, so simple math skills would not be necessary in later hours.)



That is a LOT of super starch

First of all, I follow a “fat adapted” approach. I therefore avoid any sugars or grains or carbohydrates (except super starch). With this approach, it is critical that one avoids any insulin spikes to maintain a steady energy over time and not come out of the body’s optimal fat-burn (as fuel) mode. For the non-runners, this approach is not for weight loss. There are many reasons for this approach, but the most import is to allow (that is — not interfere with) the body’s ability to utilize its vast fat stores as fuel rather than to tap into its limited carbohydrate stores. To offset muscle catabolization and promote better recovery, I take an amino acid supplement while I run. I use Master Amino Acid Pattern – MAP. I took 8 tablets prior to the race and 1-2 tablets per hour during the race. I also take some post race and continue a regimen for several days following the event. For electrolytes, I avoid any and all sports drinks as they have sugar. I took one Saltstick Caps Plus capsule per hour. I choose these because they contain the citrate versions of the electrolytes as opposed to the chloride versions. This is important as they are easier on your stomach. Saltstick somewhat sabotages their own product however, by adding caffeine to this version as pill-form caffeine is more harsh on the stomach than liquid form. I use 5-hour Energy for caffeine and would prefer that the tablets not contain any at all.


I thought I could eat all that?

For my food, I decided I would do what works for me at the 50-mile distance. This means using UCAN super starch for my mainstay, and eating real food as needed for satiation only. I requested a refrigerator in my hotel room and may parents – who met me there for the event and a little family-time – produced a small 16 ounce blender. I spent a few hours the day before the race preparing enough UCAN mix so that I could eat two scoops per hour for up to 30 hours. I was exclusively lemon-flavor. The “real” food that I packed was Justin’s plain almond butter and some Kit’s Organic Clif Bars. So that is how I showed up to the start line. With a 50-mile plan, extended over 100-miles. It’s worth noting what I anticipated in the way of weather. I had been watching the weather in the preceding week. I had expected low 70s in the morning with highs in the low 80s. Winter temperatures had set in a month prior to the event in my home state. So, I was keenly aware that my heat acclimatization would be null and void by race day. I made the strategic decision to not acclimatize. I believed that temperatures in the low 80s would not be an issue. My strategy would be to take it easy in the day hours, and move quickly through the night hours.


This wraps up part one. I will be back with details of the race in the next post. Until then, please help me to break the barriers and remove the limits by contributing to TASH. Cheers!

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