Well, I guinea-pigged myself on Friday morning and went out to one of my favorite hard trail runs that boasts 1500-1800 feet of climbing per hour on technical, rocky trail. I decided to finally make the push to the 3 hour mark before taking in any calories on a 17.5 mile run with 5000 feet of climbing The route has 5 large climbs of 900, 1500, 650, 500 and 700 feet respectively, with the rest of the elevation in the form of rolling grunt climbs. This route pretty much has you either ascending or descending nearly all the time. I broke out the Inov8 212s for their fourth official run, which I’m really liking so far (way better on technical than the New Balance MT100s).
Overall it went pretty well, I’ve been weening off gels on long runs for a few weeks and was up to about 2 1/2 hours without calories (just water and Succeed! Caps for electrolyte replacement). I felt strong most of the run. I did get some hunger pangs starting at about 1 hour, 50 minutes into the run, but they soon subsided. They returned about every half hour, but I ignored them and they would fade. I really didn’t feel the need for calories, energy-wise, until about 2:45 into the run on the last hard climb, which is pretty tough (700 feet in 3/4 of a mile). I normally would make myself run most of this climb, but with the calorie deficit, I was doing on/off transitions of running/power hiking and I found myself with not enough juice to really grind the running portions and ended up hiking more than I normally would. I held out though and made it to 3:00…but had a gel out and ready as soon as my watch rolled 3 hours. I have to say…that was the best Vanilla Bean Gu I have had in a long time! 🙂
I ended up running about 3:09 for the route…so, the gel was just to get me down the last 700 foot descent and up the final “little” 200 foot climb out of the canyon to the trailhead, as I was definitely getting pretty bonky the last 15-20 minutes or so. I was SO hungry that I devoured a banana and my recovery drink at the car immediately, called a local restaurant that’s on my way and grabbed take-out for the drive home. I think having a full round of food in a cooler at the trailhead is a must after going the no carb route on a long run. I needed calories immediately. It will get you back straight and recovered quicker…even waiting the 10-15 minutes to get the take-out was too much. On no calorie long run days, I’ll bring a full meal worth of food from now on. The banana and recovery drink didn’t even phase my hunger.
So, will I do it again? Heck yeah. Will I do it if I’m on a training run with other dudes pushing it a little harder? Probably not a full 3 hours…but definitely wait until at least 2 hours before taking any gel from now on. And, for normal long run training, I’ll keep doing it. The general theory makes sense to me. It’s suppose to help my body tap into fat quicker, conserve glycogen, and learn to operate more effectively in a low blood glucose state. I feel I need to give it some time to see if it works. Plus, in my experience, as with any aspect of training, if you don’t train it, you won’t be able to do it (at least not well). That’s how the body works. If you want to run hills well, you have to train hills. If you want to run fast, you have to spend some time running fast. The rule of specificity. I think over a few more attempts, the body will adapt and I suspect I can get to the 3 hour mark without even feeling bonky. We’ll see. Until then, I’ll keep guinea-piggin’ it up. Giddyup!