"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Monday, March 10, 2008

I'll Take Long Runs for 100, Alex

This was a weird week, truly worth reporting.

Recent training 3/3-3/9

Sunday eve: fall down a flight of steps, with back injury.
Monday: Should not have tried running, but late in the evening, full of codeine, I shambled a mile, sat on a park bench for half an hour (hoping to freeze to death) and hobbled back home.
Tuesday: Tried to find a way to run. Every two miles, my back would spasm, my left leg would go numb and I'd fall to the ground. After ten miles, I ran out of uninjured body parts to land on, so called it a day.
Wednesday: 12 miles, 3 miles at a time. After each 3, I'd stop to stretch and massage sore areas ("Mommy, why's that man rubbing his butt?")
Thursday: 4 miles in 38, largely pain-free.
Friday: 4 miles in 35.
Saturday: No miles, but an interesting story. I took the Jeopardy! pretest and passed. They asked me to return, dressed as I would for the show. That's a tall order, as I've lived in jeans and t-shirts for a long time and none of my formal clothes fit any more. I pulled a suit out of the closet, but it needed drycleaning, so I found a one-hour cleaner open on Saturday and spent the hour getting my hair cut (10" removed. Enough to donate to Locks of Love, a charity that makes wigs for cancer patients. I only had to remove a few grey strands. Given how fast I'm greying and balding, it's probably my last donation). Went home and started polishing my shoes, which fell apart in my hands; found a dusty pair of wingtips in the back of the closet, size 9 (when did I ever wear size 9?). Drove to the mall and bought a pair of loafers, size 11 - I needed 11 1/2, but they were out - as the shoes were new, I had to cover my feet with Band-aids to avoid blisters.

Went to the Convention Center for the next phase. Because of the car show, I thought parking would be a hassle, but found a spot 4 blocks away. Took the second test with 50 others and was one of 9 who passed. Then they had us play mock games against each other, buzzers in hand - I need to start playing video games; I was really slow. I passed that section, too and went on to the interview, which I dreaded most, as my life doesn't fit the interview process. When asked what I'd do with the money if I won, I said I'd probably trade it all for some magic beans; the interviewer laughed and made a note - it was the only note he made on anyone's form, so maybe I passed! I'm in the contestant pool for the next 18 months.

Sunday: 50 miles in 8:45. HRav=118, pk=133. 20 times up the Mounds Hill. Surprisingly, there's not a lot to say about this workout and it felt like "another day at the office." Started slowing uphill at 25 miles, started slowing downhill at 35 and had a back spasm at 43 (but didn't fall!)
When I started, it was 12 degrees, windchill of 0 and snowing... the worst weather for a long run I've ever had. Practiced eating while running, which has been a problem in the past; walking uphill with a mouthful is much easier than running downhill while chewing. On my 17th time up the hill, a runner coming down cheered me on: "You can do it! You're almost there!" - he was right, 7 hours was "almost there," he just didn't know what "there" meant to me.

I figure the run was about the same as a top 20 finish at Ice Age, top 10 at Superior 50 Mile, but in much worse weather and without actually racing. I just might be ready to kick some butts this year!

The Mounds Hill monster has been slayed. I no longer have an fear of it and can't wait for the snow to melt so I can start running up the ski hills.

The Skinny on Fat

A typical 150 pound man has enough glycogen stored to run 13-17 miles, but enough fat to run 1200-1400 miles, so no one really needs to eat much fat. There are some fatty acids that the body can't make, so they have to come from the diet. The simplest ones, from which all others can be made are linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid, you've probably never heard about) and alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid, which is everywhere in the news). One only needs about a teaspoon of these per day. If one's eating fat, not all are the same as far as one's cells are concerned; the more space they take in the cell wall, the more fluid the membrane, so the best for flexible membranes is oleic acid (a monounsaturated fatty acid found in olive oil and canola oil), followed by other monounsaturated fats, then polyunsaturated fats, then saturated fats and lastly trans-fatty acids.

As runners want to burn fat efficiently, a number of ideas have arisen to try to help the body burn fat better. Here's what's been tried:

L-Carnitine. Most fatty acids, to be burned, have to be transported across the mitochondrial membrane by a carrier called carnitine. The body makes carnitine from the amino acid lysine and it isn't necessary to eat it. But does supplementation help? Carnitine supplements (or a diet high in muscle protein) do actually increase the amount of carnitine in muscle cells beyond what's normally there, but there's no evidence that this has any influence on performance; this transport probably is not rate-limiting in fat burning.

Medium chain triglycerides. MCTs (myristic and lauric acids) do not require carnitine to pass through the mitochondrial wall, so they've been touted as "quick energy" for ultrarunners. These are just fats you don't need; they're made from coconut oil or palm kernel oil and how many great runners live on coconuts?

Citric, malic and fumaric acids. Fats do not burn by themselves, but need sugar or a degradation product of sugar. The most immediate of these that can be used are intermediates in the tricarboxylic acid cycle (aka TCA cycle, Krebs cycle, citric acid cycle). The ones commercially available are these three acids. In a cell, only malic acid is present in any appreciable amount, as the others get converted to something else almost immediately. Oddly, citric acid is a short-term messenger in the body used as a signal that the body has a lot of excess energy and should be making fat and not degrading sugar. It's possible that this may be glycogen-sparing. Citric acid is present in almost all commercial sports drinks, but is used for pH balance and flavor. Could it be that it's useful by accident?

Caffeine, theophylline, theobromine and taurine. Almost all marathoners I know are caffeine addicts; almost all 100 mile specialists never touch it, except very late in a race. Caffeine causes the body to release fatty acids from adipocytes into the blood stream and this has been suggested to spare the use of glycogen. Caffeine also, however, causes the liver to release glucose from the liver (causing the caffeine "rush"), so it's a two-edged sword. The other compounds listed come from tea, chocolate and energy drinks and act similarly. To complicate matters even more, aspirin (and presumably other NSAIDs) interferes with the action of caffeine. Whether to use caffeine or not is a judgment call. Personally, I live on the stuff.


keith said...

sorry i didn't make it out to at least give you some water...i had to squeeze my sunday run in between other commitments.

glad you're on the mend.

i hope you get on jeopardy. that's one of my all-time favorite shows.

Londell said...

I have to read this twice as it is packed with info... I go with caffine but you have me second guessing... Keep up the great work!

Runner Brewer said...

I have a video clip in my head of you getting ready for the Jeopardy process.

I see a fast run film with the Benny Hill theme as you are ravaging through you closet looking for proper clothing, shoes, etc.

Caffeine.... Your body can acclimate to it, as mine has. I can't use it to keep me awake all night, though. After a certain point, it will just upset my stomach to drink it.

Tough day to run 50 dude. I thought it was hell running 20 on Saturday.

.......Who is "Steve Quick"

I will take micro biology for $1000 Alex...

Steve said...

Best of luck on earning a Jeopardy appearance and congrats on the 50-mile run. That's very inspiring! Personally, I'm not a huge caffeine guy. I had to eliminate a lot of it from my diet because it worsens the acid reflux I have. Nonetheless, I still love chocolate and an occasional caffeinated soft drink.