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.
As I settle into 100 mile weeks for my winter base, the time has come to look back at the year. I've raced 22 times this year, counting track meets with multiple events as one race, from 400 meters to 100 miles. I've won 6 races, from 1500 meters on the track to 50 miles on insane, washed-out/flooded, trails. I finished the year with the RRCA Western Regional XC Championships earlier this month where I pulled off a second place finish (like 30 seconds behind) to a guy way out of my league in terms of road speed.
My biggest problem this year has been race selection. I need to start picking races based solely on the level of competition. Winning a race nobody has heard of isn't going to get me closer to running professionally at this point. Denver Rock N Roll 26.2 was solid for that reason, maybe another big city marathon should be in the cards for next fall.
To stay strong and sharp, and keep training enjoyable, I'll be racing my first season in snowshoes this winter. The Beaver Creek Series is the first weekend each month from January to March and had offered prize money in years past. Winning the series would be a big deal for me. And racing 10k's at 9000 feet, in snow, with my feet weighted, is gona be a great way to prep for April's big goal race.
The first ultra on my calendar is the USATF 100k Road Championships on April 12th, a race that seems almost perfectly designed for me (gently rolling, road, and just over 50 miles) and one with fast enough dudes (and ladies for that matter!) that my chances of a top-3 are small to say it gently. -However, a win there would mean a chance to go to Europe and represent team USA, something that needs to happen before I retire from this craziness. This will be the biggest race of my running career to date. I'm also planning on the Platte River Half Marathon the weekend before to build some confidence with a PR, hopefully a 1:18:xx.
May will be spent almost purely training on trails and climbing. I'll get out to Golden Gate Canyon State Park at least once to camp on the race course for Dirty Thirty and get used to the idea of running fast there. Also, BoulderBoulder is a must and I have to run it well, so that'll cost me a a few days of training, a 35:15'ish would be the "A" goal as of now.
Next will be the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty 50k in June, right here near Golden, Colorado. This one has quietly become extremely competitive and is too close to home to ever justify missing. If I can get halfway decent at climbing I'll be ready to kick some elite ass here.
My end of summer "A" race is the Silver Rush (Leadville) 50 miler in July, one more that brings out serious runners every year. And it fits me well: non-technical, 50 miles, and close to home so I can train on the course.
This is the year; my stock is gona quadruple in the next 10 months! Any companies wana buy in now?
----Now to the dietary analysis:
This year had more incredible races than ever before and I credit it to my diet almost entirely. I train hard so I can run faster, but I eat a low-carb diet so I can enjoy running more. -those two are largely independent. Devil Mountain was 100% conclusive for me that I'm doing the right thing for my running. Feeling amazing from miles 18 to mile 45'ish is worth any price. I get goosebumps just thinking back to those miles. Carbs won't get you there.
Even my shorter races are more enjoyable if feel. When I did my first winter (2011/12) with a huge base building phase I noticed a huge increase in how shorter races felt, part of that was due to the liberating effect of knowing that 5ks and such were no longer "my race." They felt more playful; all the sudden I could hop in a 5k and run it like a dog: hard but smiling and with my tongue out! This past summer (after about a year in ketosis) I felt that same joy, and lack of brain-darkening feelings, at both a 1500 meter race on a track in Boulder and at the Pearl Street Mile. Both of those were done with hardly any speedwork and not far off PR times from sea level. But the way I felt was beyond explanation: as my body flooded with acid and my legs began to rebel, my brain remained as clear and focused as it was at the starting line. I used to think this phenomenon was just a good race. I'm not convinced there's some ketone-related science related to it. Perhaps ketones help maintain brain function even in an all-out race such as the mile/1500.
I came across at least one study that seems to support this theory:
"Hypoxia induced preferential ketone utilization by rat brain slices"
"These results are consistent with the hypothesis that ketones can be used in addition to glucose as a substrate for brain energy production even during reduced oxygen availability."
And I'm still getting faster, enjoying running more than ever, staying injury-free, and feeling healthy.
My ketogenic eating staples this year, things I ate almost daily:
-almonds and almond -butter and -flour
-peppers of all kinds
-meat of all kinds
-leaves of all kinds
See you in 2014,
G. Anthony Kunkel
Today, I was reading a post about Rocky Raccoon 100 from the EnduranceBuzz.com and read this quote from, I believe, Mike Morton. I read it a few times and it is not completely clear, but I think Morton is three months into a ketogenic diet. I searched the web, but could not find a second reference to confirm. *I hope I am not starting to sound like a “Keto Gossiper”, but inquiring minds want to know.
So what’s the deal with the string cheese Mike handed Liza Howard before the start? A good luck charm? Mike’s leftover breakfast? A gift to the race directors?
Apparently Mike had a reason.
“I switched to a high fat diet about three months ago. I’m in a state of Ketosis; that is when the body turns fat into Ketones for fuel rather than using Glucose from carbohydrates. The tough part for me has been finding a good “comfort food” and cheese with its high fat content has filled that void. The switch has had many benefits but it is tough to give up carbs. The rewards are worth it to me so far. I don’t have the crazy cravings and my energy and mental clarity have been great. Rocky Raccoon 100 was the first race since switching. I had been eating a huge volume of food and if you eat a lot you poop a lot! By eating a high fat diet I eat less volume, have a flattened energy curve and don’t need to poop five or six times in a 100. More to follow on the diet as the year goes along!”
Watch for more string cheese sightings at a race near you!
If it is true . . . check out the results.
1 14:28 Mike Morton FL 41
2 16:02 Nathan Leehman NC 39
3 16:16 Steve Speirs VA 46
4 16:48 Seth Kelly CO 28
5 16:54 Bob Ayers Jr VT 52
6 16:55 Nicole Studer TX F 30
7 17:18 Lorenzo Sanchez TX 35
8 17:20 Luis Guerrero Mexico 49
9 17:22 Matt Zmolek TX 32
10 17:23 Jorge Cardenas TX 41
QUESTION OF THE DAY: from Dave . . .
Hey guys, great website! I am 4 weeks into a low-carb diet and an ultrarunner and things are going great. I have a 100 miler in June and am at a loss on how to fuel. What do I do in the days prior? The morning of? I am too used to carbo-loading. What do I eat during the race? How often? I know everyone is different, but I need a baseline from which to start. Thanks!
Hey Dave, GREAT Question. I have been thinking about this a lot since I am only 93 days into Ketosis and I have not run an ultra yet while under the influence. I have been experimenting with 5k –10K fueling, but those are not very taxing. During my long runs, I generally just fast, so a racing environment is going to be totally different. In terms of carb-loading, you could have confused me with cookie monster . . . OMG I was a mess; I total carb addict. I laugh at what I was eating. AND during my guaranteed to bonk races, I did the ‘recommended ‘ 250+ calories per hour. I even set my alarm to remind me to eat every half hour.
With that said, I will leave the question for Anthony, Eric, or anyone else who want to chime in. I will report back how my first race goes, Trail Running Festival 50 miler, which is in April and then I will have another 50 miler, Quad Rock, in May.
Keep us up to date with your training. ~SKA
Last week there was a special UCAN webinar and I miss it; some how it slipped my radar. Here is an interesting audio clip regarding a ketogenic diet and endurance. ~SKA
*Andy asks the team how UCAN will impact his ketogenic (high fat/high protein/low carb) diet.
Anyone else using it? I have experimented with it, but not yet in a big race.
I just ran my first 5K in 12 years – without a stroller. Honestly I was disappointed with my time of 19:33. It should have been at least a minute faster . . . in my mind??? I liked to think that due to the rolling hills and winning time, that it was a slow course. With all that said, I was 7th overall out of 540 or so and won my age division 40-50. And my first place price paid for the race. Granted, I was humbled by an elite 52 year old – Dan Valerio, kudos for him!. Now for my time, why I am a bit confused? My first 5K split within my last 10K in December was about the same pace as today’s run. You would think I would be a bit faster running half the distance. I don’t know . . . some would swear it is because of my lack of carbs, but my last 10K was carbless as well - Nothing Different. In fact the lead up, calorie intake, taper, and hydration was just about identical. I ate 3/4 of a yam the night before, just to squeak in any last carbs, while staying under my 50g limit. Woke up in the morning, made a coffee and drank it on the way to the race. I made a UCAN cocktail and drank that 30 minutes prior to the race, probably overkill for such a short distance. I also took two S! Caps for sodium. I know there are tons of variables, but for the most part the same. *Oh wait, I have an excuse, Sunday and Monday I did have a bad case of the FLU and didn’t go to work.
Here is my major concern. Look at those heart rates per mile, for my age they are way too high. And I am truly concerned by it. I have read the articles on the Maffetone Method, but never really bought in to it. Training under 138 BMI seems like I am not even training. It is just so hard for me, I don’t know. I am questioning it now, and plan on at least reading it book.
I am still having fun though . . .
In Episode 642 of “The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show with Jimmy Moore,” Jimmy Moore interviewed an ultra runner and low-carb endurance athlete Timothy Allen Olson. Over the last few years, he has switch to a low carb diet,while in Ketosis, with amazing results. In 2012 Olson not only won Western States 100 in a time of 14:46:44, but smashed the course record by over 21 minutes on a course considered significantly slower than either of the courses used for the previous two course records. Very interesting and worth checking out . . .
Here is another interview from iRunFar talking a little more about the race itself. http://www.irunfar.com/2012/06/timothy-olson-2012-western-states-100-champ-interview.html
Here is a video from Olson of the actual race and finish . . .
Switching to a low carb diet (Ketogenic Diet) has really changed how I fuel during a run and has totally impacted my life – truly. Today is day 44 in ketosis and every day I feel that this is becoming a lifestyle. How many diets out there can really be maintained long term? I can live like this! I don’t even miss the sweets, chips, or even my weekly donuts. I would eat maybe two bags a chips a week . . . not to mention the Butterfingers and Twix.
Racing Weight: Is it just low carb magic? Weight has something to do with it too. My Leadville race weight, before the race, was 163-165 and as of today I weigh 147. I am not even putting in hard miles either – maybe 30 mile avg weeks. As of now, I am at 12% body fat, but I am shooting for 8%. I read Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance by Matt Fitzgerald, about a year ago and and it was a good book; I enjoyed it. The main thing I got out of it is, loose 10% of weight you will improve your performance by 10%. Now, I didn’t loose any weight from reading it and I was putting in hard miles training for Leadville??? I just accepted that 160 was my weight. Since I have been in ketosis, the weight just seemed to fall off; it was amazing. Looking at my recent 10k, I improved by 10% after loosing 10% of my weight since my last 10K. Tons of variables, but I think it was the weight.
Tim Olson: Now Olson is a Rock Star! He is 29 has an impressive race history – UltraSignup. The last few weeks, I realized that Olson, who won Western State 100 and killed that course record, is a low carber. Whether he is a Paleo or a Keto runner, I don’t know. He sure sounds like a Keto runner, “making fat my fuel as I run mountains.” Now he doesn’t really mention his fuelling again in his blog after this post, but I would bet that he is still low carbing. Also listen to this . . . http://www.skarunner.com/2012/11/low-carb-runner-wins-western-states-100.html
Here is an excerpt from Tim Olson’s blog. http://timothyallenolson.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/pine-to-palm-2011/
Feeling a bit depleted coming into Seattle Bar (mile 26.4) I knew I was in for a rough patch. I’ve been working with my diet and energy burning the last month to try to figure out my stomach issues once and for all. I’ve basically taken grain carbs out of my diet and have been sticking to veggies, meat, nuts and fruit.
Enjoying some Turkey up at Stein Butte. Picture Bradley Whelden
My food choices are as natural as possible, making fat my fuel as I run mountains. I do use carbs, but try to use them strategically to make my body as efficient as possible. I’m also supplementing with an incredible product called VESPA, an amino acid supplement that helps my body stabilizes energy, metabolize fat and optimize recovery. I’m still working on it and those first 5 hours of running I should have eaten a little more. I was on about 100 calories an hour and it came back to haunt me later. Rookie mistake, yet I look forward to completely dialing in my nutrition for running and daily living. One positive of the day was that using VESPA, my stomach was the best it’s ever felt, which I’m sure i wouldn’t mind getting used to!
So I wanted to test my speed while in the initial stage of ketosis (19 days) and jumped into a 5k. My whole family signed up for the Gobble Wobble 5K which is held the morning of Thanksgiving. I know it is early in the ketosis process, but it would establish some kind of bench mark. It was a gorgeous day and the temperature was perfect – about 35 degrees at the start. And I saw some friends, “Hey Jill!”
Well, I ran 22:25 which is about a 7 min pace, but it wasn’t much of a test for a number of reasons.
Now for the excuses:
- I am still in the 1st weeks of ketosis; it is the transition period and was expected that I would be slow.
- Tuesday I did some speed work and it was the fastest I have run in months I averaged 6:30 for 2 miles over a 7.5 mile run. *remember I blew my ham about 6 weeks ago and took a month off. My calves have been sore for two days and I almost decided not to run, but last minute I could not resist.
- It was a double loop. So by the time I finished the first loop, the walkers started getting in my way and there were hundreds of them.
- Here is the big one, I ran while pushing my son in the stroller. I did win the stroller division. My son loved it though, but man it took a lot out of me. The hardest part was weaving in and out of the rest of the runners. Holding that pace really torqued my cardio too; I don’t think I could have run any faster – today and it was my slowest stroller 5K ever. My shoulders and wrists really hurt, but the last time I ran with the stroller, was at least three years ago.
Overall, I was quite winded after the race and took me a while to recover, maybe twenty minutes. I sat and watched my kids play in the park for at least ten minutes. I was getting anxious though, my body was craving food which is not very typical these days. I generally could go all day without eating. So I pushed for going out to breakfast and we went to iHop. I shared a half of a meat lovers omelet AKA Colorado Omlet with my wife. I figure there are about 5 carbs in a Colorado Omelet and I ate half, which is still quit low. Normally, I would eat the whole darn thing and would worry about it, but had Thanksgiving dinner to plan for.
My next 5k is in 23 days, and I will race that one for sure. I am hoping for a sub 18, we will see.
About two weeks ago at my wife’s race, a “kid” came running up to me and asked me if was running Devil Mountain 50 this year – I was wearing the shirt. I told him that I was planning on running it, but did not register yet. He told me that his car wouldn’t make it and he needed a ride. Now this “kid'” who is barely 20, keep in mind I am 42 and everyone seems younger than me and usually the youngest ultra runner is in their thirties, was wired and full of energy and excitement – like Christmas day. Honestly, I did not want to go unless I had a ride or car-pooled myself. I met another guy, Bob, who was going and we all ended up driving together; it was the shortest 5 hour drive every. The conversation was generally all about diet, particularly the Ketogenic diet. The “kid”, Anthony Kunkel, also known as ‘G’ was following this diet and seemed very knowledgeable about it. Then again, I no nothing about nutrition or have never followed any type of diet plan, other than just ‘train hard’ and eat less.
To get to my point, he describe this diet, which honestly I never heard of and it was quit interesting – Ketogenic. He eats 85-95% fat and 10% protein? What’s up with that? Bacon everyday, count me in. So he decided to take on his first 50 miler, his planned pace would have beaten the course record. My plans are never realistic and I have never met any of my goals, so I didn’t think much of it, plus he is a kid. Now you have to keep in mind that Bob and my goal was just to finish, but G was getting us pumped to run our best too.
During the race, the front pack got lost and unfortunately, he was there too. For the record, that was the first time I was the leader of a race ever, and this was mile ten. I was psyched and I held it for a few miles. I saw him again around mile 18 as he cranked on by cheering me on. Then I didn’t see him again until mile 37, I was at mile 30, and to my surprise he was just behind the leader in 2nd place. In the end, he tied the record and came in 2nd, and if he wouldn’t have gotten lost, he probably would have beaten it by over a half hour and maybe even won. Now Devil mountain does not necessarily bring out the “elites”, but it is the most technical 50 miler in Colorado. It is harder than Quadrock 50, which has over 3,000’ more of gain. So looking the times might not be that impressive, it is a hard course, but awesome and definitely a race I will be doing every year.
Back to the “kid”, he would have beaten the course record on his 50 miler debut, but the locals decided to re-ribboned the course. How nice right?
Here is the thing that really got me and I cant stop thinking about it. I ate somewhere between 20-24 GUs (two an hour), G ate 3-4 Gels total. My drop-bag weighed over 20 pounds, he literally put his name on a zip-lock sandwich bag. I couldn’t believe it.
A week later . . .
In the last few days, I have read everything and anything about the Ketogenic diet and somehow found myself reducing my carbs without even really realizing it. I initially thought ‘hell no’, this is not for me, think of all the good foods I will have to give up. But the next day I found myself making shakes and counting my carb intake and with out planning it, I was on a low-carb high-fat diet.
Sunday, I had a breakthrough while googling high-fat low-carb snacks and couldn’t hold back. I went to Buffalo Wild Wings and ordered a dozen of my favorite wings with extra blue cheese. It was amazing! I haven't eaten wings in such a long time, I thought they were a banned substance. About two hours after eating I ran an easy 10.5 mile loop, not very fast, and I was a bit sluggish. I wasn’t sure if it was just the fact that I ate less than two hours ago or my body was dependent on carbs and couldn’t find them. I was told that it takes a couple of weeks to adjust to a lower carb diet. We will see . . .
By the way, on October 3rd, I was 163 pounds and today, 4 days later, I am 157. That is with eating over 3,000 calories on Sunday. Hmmm . . .
My ultimate goal is to have a more efficient calorie burning system for ultra running, which has been my plan all along. Looking at my ultra running friends, they eat a third of what I do and destroy me. I do not want to eat that many GU’s in a race ever again. On top of being pricy, it is kind of disgusting. Imagine a 100 miler, 2 GU’s and hour for let say 25 hours? That is 50 GU’s!!! AND now, my ‘racing weight’ will be optimum too.
Now, I feel that a lower-carb higher-fat diet is more palpable. I think I can do it. Whether I should is another story and I am still researching. I will let you know what I find out. ~SR