Finding Fat Burn

I ran nine miles today at an agonizingly slow pace. Maybe. I didn’t time the run and don’t actually know what my pace was. I tried to keep my heart rate at or below 140 the whole time (something at which I only marginally succeeded), which meant my pace was s-l-o-w. It was actually hard, running this slowly. It felt like my movements were all wrong and inefficient.

It is frustrating to force myself to go slowly. I have spent years trying to improve my speed (I am not naturally speedy!), and FINALLY felt like I was making progress, and now here I go throwing that all out the window and running well below my anaerobic threshold. What happened?

Well, I signed up for a race that is probably out of my league at the moment. I’m scheduled to run the Yamacraw 50k in April, my first ultra. I signed up back in October on a solid base of 20 mile weeks with six months to increase my mileage. I then promptly stopped running for two months.

This commitment was probably premature, but I was so ready to be done with the whole breast cancer thing, and get back to my real life. The year before, in the fall of 2014, I had just completed my first marathon and was in the best shape of my life when I found a lump in my breast and got my cancer diagnosis. Twelve months later, after chemo, surgery, and radiation, I was ready to have my normal life back. Mentally, anyway. Physically, I think I was still feeling the effects (and still am, to an extent).

So here I am, six weeks out from my race, slightly panicked and looking for tricks to maximize my chances of finishing. Enter the fat burn.

In his book The Longest Race, Ed Ayres writes about training the body to burn fat, rather than carbohydrate, for fuel in endurance sports. The idea is that a fat-adapted runner can run long distances, expending large amounts of energy, on relatively low caloric intake. Most of us use primarily carbohydrate metabolism for aerobic exercise, necessitating frequent or constant replenishment of fuel to avoid depleting the carbohydrate or glycogen stores, or bonking. If fat-adapted, however, we can theoretically use the energy our bodies have already stored in the form of fat to keep us running for a long time.

I want this metabolism. I want to be able to run this race (or, if that is too soon, the next race) without having to worry about how I’m going to consume over three thousand Calories while running with no subsequent GI distress.

I came across this article on metabolic efficiency by Sunny Blende, and it seems like something I want to try. So here I go, embarking on incredibly slow (for me) runs and cutting out carbs. The article says that “most protocols are six to ten weeks,” but that results can happen in four. Hopefully I’ll see some benefit come race day!

I’ll update as I go, and we’ll just see how this whole thing shakes out.

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