Friday, June 09, 2006

Mushrooms and Rattlesnakes

Nice elevation chart for a recovery run, no?

I met up with Lucas and Jason the Dragon for a run up the Phoneline Trail, which is fast becoming my steady Friday haunt. Here are a few photographs to show you why. Even at 6am it's getting pretty hot here (think low to mid 70's), but thankfully the trail offers quite a bit of shade. Jason clearly felt better than Lucas or I did, so he took the lead. About three miles in he abruptly stops and jumps about two feet in the air while simultaneously eliciting a yelp. He apparently came within a foot of stepping on the rattle of a large, green rattlesnake, which are commonly found on the desert trails this time of year (which explains why hikers are uncommon this time of year). The trail is quite narrow, too narrow in fact for us to get by this big guy, so we bushwack above the trail to make our way past.

The rest of the run was uneventful, with the exception of Jason putting the clamp down a little over the last mile, which my quadriceps didn't appreciate. After the run I invited the boys over to the house, where Kiera had baked some of her world famous scones; chocolate and cherries for the veggie crowd and bacon and cheese for the meat-eaters. Haiden and Finn did their best to entertain all of us, and I really found myself enjoying the morning. It's rare for me to just go out and run without a schedule to keep, and starting work at 10am for the summer gives me a fair amount of time to relax after running.

I had a discussion about fuel consumption and fuel economy for the marathon with Lucas during our warm-up. I've explained my pre-run eating ritual before, which usually amounts to between 500 and 600 calories right before running. Evan, one of my many guardian-angels on this blog has often touted the benefits of not eating before the run, and I posted this article from Marathonguide and this article by Greg McMillan that support running after an overnight fast. Since the marathon I've been doing this. Here's where the mushrooms come in.

I worked at Carl's Jr for a short time when I turned 16, and one of the worst jobs there was stocking the salad bar. Everyone I know, myself included, has gotten sick eating from one of these, and the reason is obvious. When you're working for $3.15 and hour and you're told to re-fill the mushroom crock, you are supposed to temporarily displace the "old" mushrooms from the crock, put enough fresh ones at the bottom of said empty crock, then pour the old mushrooms on top. This means of course that the old mushrooms get eaten first.

Again, you are working for $3.15 an hour, so you just dump the fresh mushrooms on top of the old ones and head out the back door for a smoke break. The old mushrooms idly sit under the fresh ones and slowly expire.

When I eat in the morning I'm pouring readily available glucose into my liver and bloodstream (I'm talking about the simple sugars in the juice, jam, peanut butter and to some extent english muffin). The body burns the fresh stuff rather freely (as it seems readily available), and doesn't learn to efficiently burn the stored carbohydrate...the old mushrooms buried underneath.

If I don't learn to eat those old mushrooms now I never will. By going into my runs with just stored fuel, I'm hoping the body will learn to use available stored glycogen and carbohydrate more sparingly, which in theory should make the last 40 minutes of the marathon a less-unpleasant experience. Another side-effect I hope this brings about is the ability for me to more readily absorb carbohydrates (in gel or liquid form) when I actually do take them, which will be during "race-simulation" long runs and races.

Lucas didn't buy the analogy and thinks there are different forces at work that kept me from my goal, and if I took a sampling of the comments from recent days the fingers would collectively point to a too short and too intense taper. I'm also not advocating not eating to all runners, as I'm not sure how it will ultimately work for me. I'm hoping some smaller steps like these will help in the end, and as usual, time will tell. I should also mention that I'm not blaming Thomas's english muffins for a bad marathon here (I actually eat the Trader Joe's whole wheat ones), but every little bit can help.

Training: 10 miles, 1:22:45, including Phoneline trail in 1:12


Anonymous said...

i was reading at runnersusan, that she thought the marathon course was .5 miles too long via her garmin - do you think this is true?

GregC said...

Ease into the no eating thing slowly and don't get discouraged if it takes awhile for the body to acclimate. Just like anything, there is going to be an adaptation period. I think this is the right time to start training your body for it though.

If nothing else, it will save you 10 minutes every morning...

Eric said...

I'm not buying the analogy either. My understanding is that eating before the run is kind of like a supply chain. If the raw materials are placed into the beginning of the supply chain (breakfast), the body understands through various signaling processes that there is adequate materiel en route, and glycogen can be released on demand from the systems because it will be replaced. You can't sufficiently process much of what you are breakfasting on during the run, at least until you get into the second hour, and maybe later, so the real value of eating before you run is to ensure the supply chain keeps moving.

By not eating breakfast, you signal to the body that there is no fuel coming, and it goes into a sort of conservation mode. I've had this happen to me a couple of times on long runs. I'm dubious on the value of running myself to the edge of hallucinations, dry heaves, and blackouts to effect some kind of minor change in my Krebs cycle.

My belief is that the additional mitochondria production, capillary growth and infusion, and mechanical improvements gained from effective long runs (i.e. not the ones that only last 16 miles because you passed out) provide many more benefits than the marginal and purely anecdotal improvements that Pfitz talks about. Pfitz himself says there is no scientific evidence that it works. Granted, sometimes faith is all it takes.

It will be interesting to see how it works for you. Phoneline looks frickin cool. I wish I had something like that around here.

Eric said...

The marathon course was definitely not long. It is a certified course. GPS can be off by a lot depending on signal availability.

Sasha Pachev said...

I agree with Eric and Lucas. At least from my experience, when I tried to teach my body to run depleted, I've run worse. I am at the point now where I absolutely refuse to run depleted, if I have a choice. What I've had success with is eating a good diet, always running loaded, never running more than 20 at once unless racing a marathon, and going fast for 10-15 miles once a week.

Mike said...

Anonymous, the course was 8 miles too long for me, so what's another .5? I'm sure it was correct.

Wait a minute, Sasha and Eric are agreeing and ganging up on me? What is this, bizarro-blog day? Keep in mind this is an experiment of sorts, and I will keep a gel on hand (like I did today). I think the body does use the high-glycemic carbs/sugars very quickly, the very short lag between taking an energy gel (not that different from jam and juice) and the slight sugar "rush" it produces is an example, though an easy one to poke holes in since they're usually taken when muscle/liver glycogen/glucose is depleted.

If I'm wrong the truth will no doubt be revealed via knock-out punch during a 22 miler as Eric predicts, though I should stress I run for enjoyment and not to punish myself (some might disagree here). I will keep the big picture in mind here, and I won't damage myself (a la Salazar).

The question remains then, how do you keep the ratio of burning fat and carbohydrate fairly even for a longer period of time (before the carbohydrate/glycogen stores start to dip much faster than the former and eventually run dry)?

Omniscient said...

I once rode my bike loaded and crashed...on the way home from a bar, of course. (I have a scar on my left knee to prove it)


I am with you, Mike. The mushroom analogy correlates with my morning pre run ritual which only involves drinking a large volume of water.

I think the most important meal is the one the night before a run. When I eat a dinner high in fat and low in carbs (a fairly difficult feat for a vegetarian) or a meal low in calories, I pay for it during my room in the morning. In such a situation, I feel depleted and quite hungry by the end.

Anyways, I really never have experimented with eating before a morning run. Until then, the mushroom analogy works for me.

Eric said...

In my experience, I wouldn't consider going longer than 90 minutes without eating beforehand.

For shorter runs, I just drink a few ounces of water or milk, otherwise my stomach hurts the whole time.

If you truly have a fuel problem, not eating before a 22 miler will prove it. If you don't bonk hard, I would put the concerns about a congenital fueling disorder behind you.

The fat burning question I think is just a matter of consistently getting in the long runs and adapting your body to burn fat. Your body is going to find the right mix over time.

tb1 said...

I ate less at SDR&R than R&RAZ; 2 bananas, 1/2 of a plain bagel, 6 oz of coffee, and one gel all within an hour of the start in SD. I had to force myself to take a gel at the clif shot station but I didn't want to. I thought that eating less but still eating something helped me in SD. The problem with comparing me to you is that I weigh 195-200 so if it wants to, my body can eat on itself a little.

Justin said...

I'm with Eric and his 'supply chain' analogy, though I think there should be a happy medium between not eating and your ritual of 500-600 calories. You have your stored energy from the night before, so a granola bar or half a bagel should be enough to get that supply chain moving. I'm not sure if there's scientific evidence to support that, but it works for me.

By the way, very nice blog...some of your posts really remind me of how I run.

Joe said...

If nothing else, I'll NEVER eat mushrooms at a salad bar again...

Hey, for this flatlander from Indiana, that trail is awesome. Can't imagine that here!

But I can show you some corn fields.

Evan said...

Thanks for the mention, Mike. Ease into the lower calories thing. When I first started early morning running I'd have a banana and a cup of coffee before heading out. Then I just switched to water. Now I can (presuming I had a normal amount of carbs the previous day) roll out of bed on Sunday morning and happily do my easy 22 miler without eating anything. (Easy being 8:00 for the first mile or so, and then 7:00 - 7:30s the rest of the way, so well over marathon pace). I occasionally do morning marathon pace runs with no calories prior.

Several important caveats.
(1) I worked up to this over several years
(2) Any plans to do anything faster than marathon pace, and I'll take a gel with me, or have a banana/powerbar beforehand.
(3) Can't emphasize enough the importance of immediate re-fueling. Step in the door, have something to eat, then shower, then eat some more. This approach can quite easily draw down your muscle glycogen and compromise your training later in the week.
(4) YMMV, as always. But it's worked for me.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

I'm late replying, but had to say:
1. those photos of phoneline are great
2. the rattlesnakes are exactly why I've been too scared to run out there by my lonesome
3. I need to get Kiera out for a run so I can sample some scones! ;)
4. Not sure about the analogy, but sure am glad the mushrooms you were referencing weren't some sort of psychodelic drug :)