Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Running on Empty

A few months ago I read an interesting article about performing training runs on "E" (empty). The conclusion was that certain benefits can be achieve by completing training runs without fuel intake. This wouldn't be unusual for your regular mid-week runs of 5-6 miles. I think your body starts burning off whatever energy levels you currently have in your system and will then start working off your energy reserve tanks (mainly fat). The goal is not to trim down and lose a bunch of fat. My understanding of the article was that you teach your body and yourself mentally on the times that you have no fuel intake for an extended period of time and still want to perform at a high level. This could happen if you get lost running on a trail or miss an aid station during a race and cannot load up on fluids and calories.

As these types of runs have a high potential of bonking, I choose to run within town and not venture out into the countryside. Also making sure that I still have my regular $5-$10 on me in case I need to drop into a gas station is a nice safety net.

It was the first "warm" day of spring in Brookings (32 Degrees Fahrenheit) and I ran in shorts for the first time this year (other than on a treadmill). Running my usual routes around town allowed my mind to wander and I didn't think about slowly getting de-hydrated. As a matter of fact the only times I consciously thought about drinking water, was when I picked up the tempo and elevated my heart rate, but still was able to calm myself knowing that I could have something to drink at any point, so I didn't overreact to the thirsty feeling I had around mile 10. I knew that I was only a 5K away from home and was convinced that I could make it without cramping.

Finally when I arrived at home after 1:48h (8:15min/mile) I rewarded myself with a nice cold beer. I came up with a rule, that while training for a specific race, I need to run at least 10 consecutive miles before drinking beer.
The beer may not be the #1 choice for re-hydrating after an "E" run, but it does taste exceptionally well at that point. Also drinking water and tea helped re-fueling.

I didn't feel specifically fatigued and was surpised that I had no onsets of cramping. I think it helps that I was hydrating well to begin the day and the days prior so that my hydration levels were at maximum. Also, running in colder temperatures usually doesn't require as much fluids. The Brookings area is completely flat and I ran a relatively easy pace compared to my goal of a 7:30min/mile marathon. Still, this type of training-run is more orientated for the ultra-marathon distance and not a Marathon, where you have an aid station every 2-3 miles. Still, it is good to know that if I get close to a PR time, I might be able to shave some seconds on the last couple aid stations by going straight through.

In order to let my body recover from this run, I won't have another "E" run for maybe 2-3 weeks, but do think I can push it to maybe an 18-20miler next time.

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