Can you complete/compete at the 140.6 distance w/ only 10 hrs of training per week?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Twin Cities Marathon and 160 calories

This Sunday (Oct 6, 2013) I am poised to engage the Twin Cities Marathon (TCM) here in wonderful city of Minneapolis. In the almost 2 years of living here I have learned much while working at Life Time Fitness - St Louis Park.

Since working here at Life Time I have been challenged many times to rethink how one should fuel the body 'on and off the field'. Yesterday I had the unique privilege to sit down and discuss my fueling methods with Bob Seebohar (, Peter Kaufman (, and Seth Bronheim ( for the TCM. Every time I talk with these guys I am always left a more educated man. A special thanks to each of them for sharing concepts and methods that are still very new and uber promising to the large majority of endurance athletes today.

Before I elaborate on the post heading it is relevant to validate where I once was and where I am now in terms of fueling for game day.

Back in the early 90s I was lead to believe several things:

(1) One must replace what they burn when exercising. If you burn 250 calories an hour you need to replace those expended calories. You burn 400 calories you need to replace those 400. This mindset drove me to jam down gels and solids feverishly to replace what was lost.

(2) Powerbars, Gatorade, and GI stress are the norm. For years I stuffed my gut with sugary items like Powerbars and Gatorade as I was convinced this was the best option. Unfortunately, most of us reading this can relate to this downward spiral. I continued to push on and think that if I simply diluted this sugary junk I would get by. Again, those who have played this card realized this too was not optimal for long term success. Some can get away with this, but I would argue there is a better and more efficient way.

(3) Carboloading rules. Pre-marathon / Ironman pasta dinners. Loads of dinner rolls, plates worth of pasta, and a gut that looked like the Pilsbury DoughBoy would always be the result. The sad truth was that these pre-race meals extended into every meal, which promoted unnecessary water retention and an ongoing state of 'blah'.

This list could go on, but I won't to get to why I used '160 calories' for part of the post heading. On Sunday I plan to use approximately 160 calories for the duration of the TCM. The goal is to run close to 2:50 for this event, which would crush my marathon PR by 9 min set last year at the TCM. I share that to simply validate how long I plan on being out there and to reinforce how good 'my juice' is. More on that in a moment.

How in the world is that possible to run almost 3 hrs on only ~160 calories? Most subscribe to ingesting some form of carbohydrate rich fuel every 30 to 45 min, which can add up to many gels and ounces of Gatorade / Powerade. I was blown away when I visited PowerBar to see there recommendation on fueling frequency for their PowerGels:

When to eat PowerBar® PowerGel®

Consume 1 PowerGel® (110 calories) every 20-45 minutes during activity, followed by a few sips of water

When I looked to GU and their gels here is what they had to say:

How do I use it?
GU (100 calories) should be consumed 15 minutes before and then every 45 minutes thereafter.
GU Energy Gel Usage
Lastly, I took a look at Clif Gel:

"Generally, performance athletes need to consume 200-400 calories per hour from all sources, such as gels (110 calories), chews, bars, and drinks. We recommend consuming one packet 15 minutes before activity, followed by 1-2 packets per hour during activity to support your needs."
Okay, so from this quick overview of several popular gel options lets calculate the old school way of thinking of how to best fuel for a marathon. Anyone notice the use of old school above? For those throwing down a 4 hr marathon they would be consuming roughly 440 to 840 calories (Clif Gel - 1 to 2 gels / hr assumption) to 550 to 1,320 calories (Power Gel - 1 gel / 45 min to 3 gels / hr assumption).

I have played this kind of russian roulette with race fueling before and have had to either slow down to a slower run pace or simply walk. Both are not options for this Sunday.

Before I finish off this post I wanted to encourage each of you reading this that racing / training with less is certainly possible. Its one thing to see my claim above, but have I ever produced training sessions to support such a '160' mindset?

I will share two recent TCM race simulation workouts that will help validate that one can race / train hard with far less calories IF THEY ARE USING THE RIGHT FUEL.

In the workout below I used NO exogeneous fuels for the 1:30 hr run around the lakes with TEAM Tri. I repeat, no external fuels were used. This was made possible for several reasons. One being that I have come to learn much through super smart folks like Bob, Peter, and Seth noted above. I wish I could say I used UCAN before this workout, but did not. The only reason I was able to run hard for 1:30 hr with NO external fuel was a result of eating more metabolically efficient in the weeks and months prior to this run. More on that to come in the months to come. In a nutshell, one can teach their body to use more fat then stored / external carb sources. Can't wait to share with you the effect of 'eating clean' and 'eating garbage' for 1 week intervals. More to come.

As you can see below, average pace for this 14.32 mile run exceeds goal pacing for the TCM by ~13 sec per mile. Interestingly enough, this pace exceeded my Metabolic Efficiency Point (MEP) by about 10 bpm. This to be expected as this run was run much faster then goal marathon pace. More to come on this as well post the TCM.

In this last example I had the privilege of running with Mike Buenting and Peter Miller at the Capitol Run. Both accomplished runners who are much stronger then I. As I tell my athletes, however, if you want to run faster you need to run with faster folks. In this 2:23 (hr:min) run I used only ~5 oz of Cran Raz UCAN at 11 miles in. That equates to about 50 calories. Yes, 50 calories. This run proved to me that my metabolic efficiency was fine tuned and that my body was able to spare my stored muscle and liver glycogen and tap into the almost UNLIMITED fat stores we all have. In this run I ran 5 beats higher then my MEP. It is vital for athletes to take lab based data that you can derive from an Active Metabolic Assessment (AMA) and apply them to the real world conditions outside. 

Lastly, prior to this run I had two servings of plain UCAN (220 calories) with 1/2 scoop of DaVinci Chocolate Whey Protein (70 calories) with about 20 oz of water. This was consumed 30 min prior to the start of the Capitol Run. My breakfast was 4 eggs, ~2 tb of Olive Oil, ~1 tb of butter, and crushed red pepper to taste - I go heavy. 4 cups of dark coffee as a legit chaser. This breakfast was consumed about 2 hrs prior to start time. 

It is also important to note that I kept electrolytes steady throughout this run by using Endurolytes and ingested Anti-Fatigue caps every 30 to 45 minutes. Both are Hammer Nutrition products.

I hope this post has encouraged and challenged you to think a bit outside the box. Please take note that it takes time to modify your eating behaviors to promote metabolic efficiency. I am far from perfect and still partake in ice cream and homeade cookies, but 90% of my calories are 'clean'. I have my wife to thank for that. 

I urge each of you to read Metabolic Efficiency Training - Teaching the Body to Burn More Fat  by Bob Seebhohar and also trying UCAN. These two arrows in your quiver will be sure to take your game to the next level. 

Poised to play hard Sunday! Looking forward to sharing my findings from the 2013 TCM with you all. 

Enjoy the process, 
Coach Lance

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