Recovery and Preparing for Western States 100
The best part about ultrarunning is how much you learn about yourself along the way. Not necessarily throughout the course of a race, but over the course of weeks, months, and years.
After last fall's race season I felt I had asked quite a bit from my body by racing three 50 milers in nine weeks. However, I couldn't help but take note of other ultrarunners who seem to never break down. Some even posted ultra-length race results at clips of over ten per year! Crazier yet, there is Michael Wardian, who posts top-ranked ultra times on a weekly basis. And then there was me.
I'll never forget the moment at the JFK 50 Mile when I realized I didn't have the same snap in my step that I had four weeks earlier. Were there only a select few who had superhuman genes for speedy recovery? Was the secret a decade or more of injury-free base miles averaging well over 100 miles a week? Sure, both play a role in recovery, but since you can't help your genes, I decided to focus on a continuation of building base—and nutrition.
By focusing on training and nutrition, I believe I have made huge strides in speeding up my recovery. I tested this on three separate occasions: After the John Dick Memorial 50k, I was able to run 10 miles the following morning. After the Mad City 50k, I was able to run 20 miles the following morning. I didn't taper for either of these events, so the quicker recovery may have partly been due to less shock to my muscles on race day. The real test to me was after the Ice Age 50 Mile. In all of my previous 50-mile races I was physically incapable of running for at least three days following the event. In addition, the first week to ten days that I did run, I could notice a definite lack of turnover and snap in my legs. After IA50, on the other hand, I could have run the next morning. I took off two days anyhow, but that was for other reasons. In addition, my legs lacked that sharp pain that makes running feel impossible. After two days off, I went for a 7.5-mile run. It was a new feeling. Not only did my legs feel fresh, but I even had to force myself to not increase my pace near the end of the run. It was an experience you'd almost need to have for yourself to truly understand. I was certainly surprised... and excited.
So, what did I do differently that allowed me to bounce back so quickly? As mentioned earlier, I did have an extra winter and spring worth of base miles. Certainly this helped a bit. However, it's unlikely it accounted entirely for the speedier recovery. Instead, I believe my nutrition played a big part. I have been doing two major things differently compared to last fall: a high-fat diet and supplementation with Extreme Endurance.
I flipped my diet on its head. Rather than consuming the majority of my calories from carbohydrate sources, I based my diet on fats. My daily fat intake increased to 50-60 percent of my caloric intake. If you want to learn some facts about fat you can listen to the podcast Why Fat is Good by Ben Greenfield. If you are the deep thinking or reading type, check out the book Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. Both are very eye-opening. However, what I heard and read was just theory. I needed to try it out for myself. I have been following the high fat diet for about two months now, supplementing it with Vespa, and I have noticed a few changes. One, quicker recovery. Two, better mental focus. Three, no energy spikes and dips throughout the course of the day. Four, much deeper sleep. As far as I am concerned, all these benefits were extremely worth altering my diet.
The second dietary change I made was supplementing with Extreme Endurance. Just like in the case of dietary fat, I looked into the science behind this product, and I really liked what I saw and heard. However, once again, I needed to try it for myself before buying in 100 percent. You can read my four-week review of Extreme Endurance here. I loved it from the beginning. In fact, I noticed changes within 48 hours of beginning taking the product. The snap in my legs during afternoon runs following morning runs was great. I used to have to do my speedwork or otherwise intense sessions in the morning because I knew my legs were not going to be as responsive in the afternoon of a two-run day. With Extreme Endurance, this no longer is the case.
After winning IA50, I qualified for an entry slot into the Western States 100 (WS100). But I didn't enter IA50 with a goal to qualify for WS100. I actually had somewhat hoped to run WS100 next summer. However, having the opportunity in front of me, and some awesome support from Vespa, I will be running my first 100-mile race on June 23 at WS100. To be honest, I have no idea what to expect. The terrain is certainly different from anything I have trained on here in Wisconsin. I'm looking forward to a great learning experience—and to fall in love with the 100-mile distance.