Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Ugen derpå and continuous experimentation in physiology

Jeg overvejer stærkt at begynde at skrive bloggen på dansk da hele mit daglige live foregår på dansk og jeg kan mærke, jeg har lidt svært ved at finde ordene når jeg skriver på engelsk. Jeg føler mig dog lidt fanget mellem to stole da jeg bliver nok aldrig så "god" til dansk som jeg er til engelsk. Nå- men jeg imidlertid bare på engelsk da langt over halvdelen af mine læsere ikke kan forstå det flotte danske sprog :-). Men måske lige pludselig en dag er bloggen på dansk.
Marie Sklodowska Curie was a mother of 2 girls. She was born in Poland, but educated in Paris. Basically, she studied rocks in an old shed and discovered that radiation does not come from the interaction of molecules but instead is due to an intrinsic property of the elements' atoms. As long as I have been an adult, she has been a person I have looked up to and the a number of Swedes did see it fitting to give her a Nobel Prize in both Chemistry and Physics.
My hematologist husband, SR, may be interested in knowing that Marie died of aplastic anemia. She had such an intimate understanding of radioactivity, yet, ironically, she did not know it could kill her.

Perhaps a good, albeit dark, segué to discuss ultrarunning. 

Many (especially new) ultra runners may be surprised to know that running ultramarathons appears to affect the right side of the heart. Whether not it is strain (and dangerous) or an adaptation (and advantageous) is not known (Heidbuchel, Oxborough, George, etc); it may be an adaptation that in the short term is good, but in the long term causes arrhythmias. In running longs distances, we experiment as we go. Humans have always run, but races this long? 

Post ultra fever

3 days after the Fyr til Fyr 60k, I developed my usual post-ultra fever. I felt terrible and had to force Mattias to go to bed early with me. It seems most reasonable to me that this is a result of a cytokine storm (in response to high levels of adrenaline +/- muscle breakdown) rather than an infection (see Pedersen, 1997), but studies of blood work multiple days after an ultra are difficult and expensive so they are few.

The most recent fever was nothing compared to the fever I had 3 days after 3 days of Syllamo where I was so delirious that I had to call 911. It got so high that I could not watch a newborn and SR ironically was on call at a different ER and couldn't leave. There have only been a few moments in my life where I wondered if I would survive and they have all been following ultramarathons (I don't drive much).

Then there is my diet experimentation: low carb, high fat

Our kitchen is at all times filled with pots, pans, cutting boards, loads of veggies, nuts, cheese, eggs, fish and tofu.I have never been one to get into cooking, but anything in the name of science! Burners and blenders constantly going, it is kind of fun, though time consuming. (by the way, it is nearly impossible to be a pesco-vegetarian and eat a truly high fat diet, but again, I think it is the low carb, no added sugar that is the most important part).

My newest discovery is ground flax seed in unsweetened soy milk.
This is the version Amy Sproston referred to as "cat getting sick"

Then I made it prettier with more soy milk and a few pure corn flakes
Again the reason for all of this is to 1. eat naturally, 2. keep my blood sugar more constant and 3. teach my body to rely more on fat as a fuel source.

My experince at Fyr til Fyr was evidence for me that my body is better at using fat for energy than before (evidence was needing to eat way less during the race). Additional evidence is Zach Bitter's continued ultraruning success (did you guys see him break the course record at the Mad City 100k? (I'm not saying it is not ALSO his training) - he is also on an all-natural, low, carb, high fat diet.

BUT- after I ate the above for breakfast AND lunch (very high fat and high protein), I got up quickly after Bikram Yoga and actually fainted in the locker room. As I stood there, feeling sick, knowing I was about to topple over, I had the wherewithal to think: "this is what happens when you experiment too much!" (it was probably because I got dehydrated from digesting a super high fat, high protein series of meals). 

Have I mentioned that I have lost over 4 kilos since starting this diet? As I stood there giving my "Runner's Diet" talk to Sparta, I talked about how I loved the fact that I never weighed myself and, on this new diet, just went by feel. Well, after two months, I figured I had better step on the scale--49 kilos!?

(either this is the weight my body wants to be - I still feel great, actually better than ever - or I need to blend and boil a bit more in the kitchen)

Training by Menstrual Cycle
This is not much of an experiment, but I love getting regular periods (this is the first time in my life I have) and the sure sign that one is coming is I write to coach Ole "I don't feel like running" - and then 1 to 2 days later, there it is. Estrogen levels drop dramatically (the female equivalent of testosterone) right before menstruation so it makes sense training (or racing) is not optimal at this stage of the cycle. A study I read recently in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that women who are on birth control pills don't have the same physiological changes during their menstrual cycles, but those not on hormonal contraceptives actually get significantly stiffer when their estrogen level is lower. (Casey, 2013) I am sure other "things" happen, but stiffness was the endpoint of that study.

My next experiment will be with something quite different before and during my runs: Vitargo. It is a Swedish-made carbohydrate source for athletes that is made with maize, maltodextrin and sugar. No, this is not part of a low carb diet, but will give you quick energy while training. Pia Joan, Jesper Noer and I have been asked to test it while ultra training. Jesper had a great experience using Vitargo at Fyr til Fyr. Thanks to Mikkel Halkjær of Sport4Fun for delivering this to Fysium today:

Vitargo products a plenty. But take note of "Free Style" in the left hand corner (not tampons). That is a a glucose monitor with strips. The bar with "ENERGI" written on it promises stable blood sugar during competition in 3 hours and 20 minutes. We will see! 
Yeah, so I plan on using the blood sugar monitor regularly to see what is really happening with my blood sugar. One thing is "feeling" a certain a blood sugar, another is getting a reading. I will keep a Stata spreadsheet; don't worry.

By the way, that green couch was hand-made for me when I was 18 years old. It has travelled a lot.

So, the glucose measuring is just to point out- you don't need a lab to experiment: you can get away with a Marie Curie shed or a tiny apartment in Næstved.

Another thing I look forward to experimenting with (Thomas said I could :-)) and following other peoples' experiences with is the Alter-G treadmill at Fysium. There are only 10 in Denmark.
The Alter-G treadmill effectively lowers gravity from the waist down and can be used in rehab from neurological or athletic injuries. That's Tomas from Fysium, who was telling me about the experiences people with stroke and spinal cord injury, etc had while using it. In my mind, it is a lot like water jogging, yet a lot MORE like really running and you can increase the gravity the stronger you get.
Now some pictures from a great pre-Easter week
Mattias following his first sub-18 min km.
I have started training with the fast women of Køge Atletik and we hope to win the Danish Championship in team 10,000 meters on the track on April 26th. Huge thanks to Erling for talking me into this. It is fun to run with 1:16 and 1:19 half-marathon women!
With family med doc, Rikke, of Køge Atletik (and 1:19 min ½ marathoner... you would not guess her age). Thanks to Jørn of MarathonSport for my new track shoes; I had sewn my old ones together again multiple times.

And with Sylvia the Kenyan braider, who went on to run a 1:16 ½ marathon the weekend after she ran a 1:20 marathon at Griseløbet (that fun race where I set my PR). You would probably guess her age and it is young!
But today was home on Herlufsholm home track.

Today's workout was simply 200 + 6  x 800 meters at "moderate" pace. I could feel I wanted to go faster and that my legs are doing well again after Fyr til Fyr.

Sometimes I wonder if the simple design of Danish furniture is inspired by the simple lines of the landscape (lovely bike ride-- I often dream of getting back into triathlon, but I refuse to buy an expensive tri bike). By the way is this young barley (byg)?

Everywhere we go the sky is different. Today's sky over Næstved. The colors in Scandinavia are much bluer than in the US where everything has a more yellow tone. Funny how only people of our generation can make observations like this.

Some pictures from our back yard 

Mattias and misakat
Happy Easter, everyone!

Toujours et encore une fois - la musique...

For my intervals today:


Julie B said...

How fun to be experimenting with Vitargo. I'm anxious to see how you respond to the product.

Running with the fast kids-what a blast, enjoy!!

The passing out at yoga-this was different from the passing out at Superior 50 or did it feel the same? Just curious.

Marathon Mom said...

Interesting on the diet, I have been doing similar over the past year (although not as rigorous) and have gained more muscle, fatigue less during workouts, recover quicker. Now if I didn't have a nagging hip and nasty winter training who knows how good I'd run!
Love the AlterG I ran on it last summer as I recovered from my injury and it was great for allowing speed work when outside I could only run easy.

sea legs girl said...

Great question about the two types of passing out (syncope). They did FEEL the same, but they were most certainly NOT due to the same mechanism. This is a subject I have quite a bit of interest in. Here is my understanding.
1. Passing out af the Superior 50 mile run was due to the muscles in my calves being inordinately fatigued and losing their ability to pump blood through the veins back up to my heart, thus my brain got too little blood and I felt like I was going to throw up and almost lost consciousness. This is called exercise-associated postural hypotension and is the most common cause of syncope after ultras. Being dehydrated doesn’t help, but it is not the cause.
2. The passing out at yoga, which had never happened to me before and Bikram is pretty much always the same – always at 40C, always the same postures, was in my understanding due the high fat and high protein meal shifting fluid out fra intravascular (in the veins) to the gut to help digest this meal, which happens to require a lot of water. Add to that sweating for 1½ hours plus perhaps a very small element of the above and getting up quickly, I was down.

In other words, same feeling, different mechanisms. (btw a guy on the computer just walked by me and started rubbing my fingers on the keyboard and then walked away. Danish Ash Wednesday tradition?

Jen, I remember you saying you liked using the alter-G in your rehab and that was part of the reason I was so excited we were getting one. The PM&R department at UC Davis seemed to really like theirs, too. It is a great idea for all kinds of injuries. Glad you are liking your change in diet. A lot of times people ask me about my diet like “Don’t you ever want to have any fun?” Well, yes, there is nothing more fun than a good experiment :). But more importantly, once you feel this great you just don’t want to go back! Kind of crazy all the thing that have worked their way into the human diet that really shouldn't be there and what a difference it makes when you avoid them.

danmajgaard said...

Hi, Dan here :)

Thanks again for a great weekend, nice to hear that you are feeling well again after your fever.

I also experienced a fever from wednesday till saturday, with general tiredness and a running nose...

I find it odd that these things come after a few days, maybe due to the post adrenaline, but would like to know a bit more, at least to how I should manage it in the days after, and when I should return to training, so if you have any useful links, please don't hesitate to fb me ;)

And if you plan to start a study, I hereby volunteer as a test subject, lots of 50m's coming up this year ;)

Oh, and do you remember me mentioning me talking about my sugar rush after eating apples? - Only happens with the red ones... strange...

Looking forward to "race" you and talk at the next race :p


sea legs girl said...

Dan, how strange you also had a fever. Now I wonder if it actually was a virus and we both just got it. In any case, if you develop fevers after your next ultra/s (or don't), let me know and also measure your temp if you think of it and note how many days after the ultra it is. Could be fun to just start an informal study after a race where everyone has to report whether or not they get a fever, after how many days and how high it is. Thanks for commenting! I'm looking forward to Gendarmstien, too!

danmajgaard said...

Hi Tracy,

Just wanted to follow up on my last comment, about the fever experienced after the race, as you asked me to ;).

I've had quite a busy late summer, first running with Moses in Tyrol (4 days, avg. 25k/day), then 3 weeks final taper/training for TDS (120k, +7250, 28.22 hrs), and then 6 weeks training/tapering for Ultima Frontera 50m (12.22, really warm... 31 deg).

Even though the races were relatively close together, and I got really fast back to training after TDS (60, 110, 110, 110 weeks first 4 weeks), I did NOT experience any fever or sickness whatsoever. The quick return to training after TDS did come with some extreme exhaustion (waking up in the middle of night, craving simple sugars), but that's it!

I guess we can conclude that it was a virus, or maybe the cooler weather in april :)

Oh... and just a quick question, regarding your last post, what kind of nutrition do you actually use on long training runs (20k+), I often use gels (ev. 5-7k dependent on distance), I I kind of got the impression you only use such things in races :)

Happy trails! - Dan

sea legs girl said...

Thanks for the follow-up on that, Dan! That can only mean good things about your immune system and that you didn't go over the edge in those races. Or maybe, like you said, it was just a virus after Fyr til Fyr!

I never eat on my long training runs!! I actually very rarely have long training runs and only eat during races. The last time I did a 4+ hour run on my own was in Lake Tahoe and I ate a big bag of nuts at the half-way point :-).