RunKeto.com - We are Running on Ketones. This is not a typical story; we are endurance athletes at different stages of our lives, who are experimenting with a low carb Ketogenic diet. We are not doctors or scientists, just athletes. Anthony is the youngest and the fastest, age 20, and prefers ultra road running. Eric (ZoomZoom), age 27, is ukulele playing mixed distance runner. Dan (SKA Runner), age 42, is new to running, prefers mountains ultras, and a bit of a computer geek. Bob(uglyrnrboy), age 54, prefers mountains ultras and loves to tele ski. This site, www.RunKeto.com, will document our journey as endurance athletes implementing a low carb ketogenic diet in to our lives. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you have about our experiences.

What is a Nutritional Ketosis Diet? []

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Normally, the carbohydrates contained in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported around the body and is particularly important in fuelling brain function. However, if there is very little carbohydrate in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source. This elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood is a state known as ketosis.

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Devil Mountain 50 Miler

Josh (my climber friend who'd never run a race of any kind before, and who was signed up for the 50K), Sabrina, and I got to Pagosa Springs around 2:30 on Friday and wandered around trying to get our bearings and make sense of the directions on the race's website. Apparently there was a road closure that would make our GPS worthless, so we were to follow directions that seemed to be written for people more familiar with the area. After some Google Map reading by Josh, we were headed to the start/finish line for packet pickup. We ended up following Morgan (the RD) with his UHaul, but being unsure it was actually him and being way to smart to follow anyone, we ignored the detour signs and took the closed road. "There it is on Maps. We'll just keep going straight and we'll be there." Next thing you know I'm swerving around potholes big enough to knock a wheel off at a moderate speed. So, slowing down a ton, we made our way down the country road with nothing but faith in technology (tough for me) keeping us going. Eventually, with completely white knuckles, I got to the end of the closed road and was a short, gentle, dirt road away from the start line. Even better was the fact that I recognized the route from last year and knew we were indeed on track. 

Packet pickup was predictably smooth and on time; there's a reason I came back to this one and it wasn't just revenge. This year the organizers opted for beanies instead of shirts and while they were cool I have to say I was looking forward to another amazing shirt like last years. Either way.. Next on the list was to find a cheap place to stay. The most unique looking lodging option that was partnered with the race and offered a discount was the Mountain Landing Suites and RV Park so we plugged it into Navigation, made sure to follow the detour signs, and made it there.
The two women working there were great and offered us some decent advice on the area, as well as a great price on an amazing room. Sabrina and I were grabbing our packs out of the car while while Josh unlocked the door and took the first look at our room. "This is significantly nicer than either of our apartments," he said with a smile standing in the doorway. After a local, grass-fed burger from Pagosa Brewing Company, along with some sweet potato fries, we were ready for an early night in. Another feature I loved about Mountain Landing was the movie collection they had in their lobby. Rush Hour was a perfect choice.

At 4:45 I was up to get some food down:
-1 tablespoon of virgin coconut oil
-1 pack of plain UCAN
-2.5 strips of uncured bacon (cooked before I left home and stored in a glass jar)

This picture captured the race announcements well: a bunch of runners with too much exposed skin freezing their asses off gathered around a fire while the race director (who was reasonably dressed) spoke to us.
The start was predicted to be 34 degrees, but I heard it was under 20. Either way, due to my weekly sauna session, cold just feels like cold and it didn't make a difference. The first 5 miles were spent with painfully cold hands and everything zipped up. Right out of the gates a guy in the 50 miler took off and started putting ground on us. There was atleast one of those last year too. "-you'll see him later -be happy you won't be running alone." It was mentally hard for my 21 year old brain to let him go but his pace was suicidal. I hate losing contact in any race. Ultra running forces me to pretend to be mature some times...

The sun seemed to take forever to finally get out enough to form shadows but once it did I got my first rush of the day. At the top of the first climb (4.1 m, see below) the views opened up and the sun was starting to warm me up a little. I let out a whoop and heard a few people behind me do the same. I got goose bumps as I looked around. Unzipping my midlayer I began the long decent.
I didn't have any reason to stop at the first aid station and actually dumped a little of the water I had in my (20 oz) bottle. I think I was a bit over hydrated (peed clear a few times in the first 15 miles) anyway so figured I'd save my arm. The downhill was wet, rough, rutted, rocky, and exponentially less runnable than last year. "The course is gona be slow for sure, but it'll be better on the out and back and that's where my race'll start." 
Coming into aid 2 (red numbers above are aid stations) I filled my bottle quickly and kept moving. The incline here was steep enough to merit walking and I needed to add some plain UCAN to my water. I took in about 18 ounces before aid 3, along with a Vespa Concentrate and 100 mg of caffeine. Add the scenery to all that and I was feeling great and settling in to my groove. The view top of the climb (15.4-23'ish) is absolutely huge on all sides and instantly reminded me why I'm really here. Then the downhill came and reminded me of why I think I'm here: to win.
The second downhill was much more runnable and I passed a few marathoners as I fully settled in to my all-day pace. The trail was flowing past me as quickly as I'd ever want it to and I was smiling and positive. Full speed ahead.
Coming into aid 4/7 I was informed that the leader had dropped to the 50k and I was now in first. "Damn, so much for using him for the next 20 miles.." I wasn't surprized though, this course would be taking down plenty of runners today based on what I'd seen so far. And it was just going to get tougher. But it felt great to be heading out for the crux of the race and to be leading. And I had just warmed up. Eating a small (1"x1") homemade brownie with a pretzel inside as I filled my bottle, I was glowing.
The hardest part of the 50 miler by far is the out and back portion from aid 4 to Sally Overlook (34.4) and back. This section involves 8 miles without aid over the toughest terrain on the course. And I had been looking forward to it since last year, visualizing it so many times in the last few months that it felt familiar to be running it. By the marathon mark I was deeply in the zone and feeling stronger every mile. I was looking forward to every steep uphill so I could walk and every flat and down so I could run, and I was completely focused on getting to aid 5/6. 
Since I was only carrying one 20 ounce bottle, I was out of water well before the aid station so I used the fact that 80% of this part of the course had water running over it to my advantage, leaning over a beautiful mountain stream to fill up. The water was a tiny bit brown and tasted like the Rockies, sandy and life-giving. After an eternity I crested a hill and sparked some volunteers into life as I came cruising into aid 5/6. "Half way done(with the hard stuff)." This is where I'd originally planned on checking out what place I was in and turning it on to take the win. But the whole being alone thing... I actually beat the photographer to Sally Overlook, so I gave her a straight face on the way back when she made me stop for a picture. 
Coming back into aid 5/6 I was a little disappointed to see I was still the alone. No one else had even made it to the aid station yet. My lead was at least 6 miles judging by the profile above, but all I knew a the time was that it was huge and I still felt great.
I grabbed my first (and only) gel of the day, a Razz Clif Shot, and was pumped to find it almost as palatable as the strawberry ones. Nursing that for the next 5 miles or so kept me on cloud nine and ticking off the miles. I swear that part of the course was downhill trending both ways, and this is after running over 38 miles. And I was even enjoying the walking on these gnarly uphills, hands on my quads and leaning into the inclines. They're just so steep and technical that walking doesn't feel as boring or slow.
After another eternity spent alone in the wilderness, I emerged back at aid 4/7 and was thankful for the response I got. "You look like you could do it again!" For once in my running career I believed a person cheering me on; I know I looked good.
But ultras wouldn't be as fun if they didn't make you dig deeper than you want to. The last 7 miles were the hardest and finally brought me down from my high. -I'd won. -I'd run a much better race than last year. -I'd dominated the field by at least an hour. -Why am I still working this hard?
I wasn't sure how much the extra 50 water crossings and extra 30 fallen trees (there were a few last year but this time it got ridiculous, good stuff) might have slowed me, but I figured the record was in the bag. If it wasn't I really didn't mind considering the insane conditions. I had given all there was to give today and had a great run in the mountains. With 6 miles left I was done.
Until I saw the finish line and heard everyone cheering. One final buzz and I was done. 9:52:xx is what I heard, within seconds of last years time. The conditions slowed me more than I thought, but the beautiful 1st place trophy I'd been waiting for since last year was mine.
This is one of those nice races that lets you drop to the 50k and still be an official finisher, so its hard to tell just how many people DNF'ed the 50 miler this year. I heard afterwards that over 40 were signed up and the official results list 8 finishers. Also, last year had three people under 10 hours and this year had one, with second place an hour and a half behind me. So although I ran within seconds of my time from last year, I think I'm content. Had I worn a watch I probably would have pushed a bit harder in the last few miles to secure the record, but running alone all day took its toll on my mental game. I renewed my faith in both ultra running and in my ketogenic diet. Nothing makes me happier than effortlessly covering large amounts of ground on foot at a good pace, and I plan to keep doing. Most runners run for months to get that one run that feels effortless and just flows out of them; Keto athletes need only run an ultra to get that feeling for hours. I was fighting a lot of demons during this one that I didn't realize I had in me still, namely insecurities about my staying power after falling apart in my first and only 100 miler last March. But those are in the past now.

I really love this race. Designed by the first Barkley Marathons finisher (the conclusive toughest race to finish anywhere), Frozen Head Ed, and put on by an amazing organization that's working to unplug kids and get them outside, it's a classic in my book. Camping out the night after, having a good glass of red wine with the RD while sitting around a bonfire with racers and volunteers swapping stories, and waking up to eggs in the morning. Can you believe the UROC entry fee alone was as much as this entire trip?! The only thing that didn't deliver, my only complaint, is that the aspens were almost all green. What are they thinking?! We started the race with ice!

A quick note about diet. Breakfast is above, that and water. I also took 6 (I think) SaltStick electrolyte pills, three (maybe only 2)100mg caffeine pills, and a 200mg one during the race. Diner the night before was a rare burger with some sweet potato fries as stated above, but I also had some cashews (25 ish grams of carb) earlier during the drive in, and had more (50 grams of carb worth probly) later before bed. That carb up is what had me foggy for the first bit and is not something I ever do during training, just a little boost for race day. It obviously worked.
I actually kicked it in hard for fun so they didn't catch me the first time, but I was a gentleman and ran through again at the RD's request. Hah!
Thanks Morgan for putting this on and everyone else involved. Thanks all you aid station volunteers as well, you guys are second to none and really make the run what it is. And thanks Mountain Landing for giving us the hookup with a great room, both pre-race and afterwards while we explored the town. You guys are my home away from home for sure.

Another beautiful day in the books.

4 comments:

  1. That's awesome man! I appreciate you sharing the details of your nutrition. I have my 1st hundo in April 2014 down at Umstead. Feeling pretty good now on the Keto diet (day 14). Way to kick a$$!!

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  2. Is there any way I can contact you? I want to run a few ideas by you. My name is Matthew Ottewell and my email is albertalawyer@gmail.com.

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  3. Good to hear Dean! And thanks!
    Have fun at Umstead. That's a great course from what I've heard

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