Sunday, 25 April 2010

Llantysilio Fell Race, Fasted, Virtually Zero Carb

Location: Llangollen, Wales
Date: 24th April

Workout: Llantysilio Fell Race - 6.2 miles, 2100 feet of ascent

Total Time: 1 hour 16 minutes

Post Workout Nutrition: a large piece of beef, 6 hours later

This was an interesting experiment for me, because this race took place at the end of virtually zero carb week. The race started at 11am and I hadn't eaten since the night before, which had been a bowl of slow cooked chicken leftovers and bones.

Pre-Race Cake and Five Finger Discovery

, on the other hand, was apparently on a max carb experiment, as this photo taken an hour before the race shows. As I enjoy a pre-race coffee, he sets about an impressive slab of chocolate cake...

Cake? Not me guv'nor.

As we registered and collected our racing numbers, we met someone else wearing Vibram Five Fingers. This is the first time I have seen another person running a mountain race in Five Fingers. Lightning was clearly amused by this, and took this photo:

Two members of a rare breed of fell runner spotted...

Lightning has his own amusing take on the significance of these 'rare breeds' coming together, which you can read on his blog here. As I say in the comments, I would have been happy if some kind of weird, non-sexual FiveFinger breeding alchemy could have produced additional pairs from nowhere so that I wouldn't have to pay £150 to get them shipped over via eBay and UPS...

The Race

Competitors meandering at the start line

This was the route - more or less a circuit, going clockwise from the bottom right and with a brief, steep section up to the highest point, where the runners coming to the end of a gruelling set of peaks watch others careering back down past them:

The GPS altitude graph shows that final, highest peak about three quarters of the way through. The long haul up there was a struggle. Mercifully, after that it was downhill all the way, with the final mile being a tarmac road, allowing me to unload entirely, since there were no nasty stones to hurt my feet through the Vibrams.

Compared to the faces I usually get captured pulling on the downhill sections, this is a relatively good shot of me, taken not long after I had started coming down from the highest point.

Battling the downhill stones in the thin-soled Vibrams
(photo by Alistair)

Having been beaten in Wednesday's Wrekin Streak race by Lightning, I was motivated a little more than usual to put in a good performance, and really did this one as fast as I could. I came in about 2 minutes ahead and felt pretty strong through most of it. As will always be the case when you run a race as fast as you can, it hurt. But it was the right kind of hurt: the kind which, with hindsight, you enjoyed.

After the race, there was time to relax at the pub, where Lightning and I continued to exhibit contrasting approaches to nutrition. Behind the camera, I am nursing a pint of iced water...

The Zero Carb Verdict

As I mentioned in my post at the time, Wednesday's short race saw me feeling sluggish of leg, at least in the early stages. I had been inclined to wonder whether the zero-carb days leading up to it were to blame.

However, for this race, three days later, I had eaten even fewer carbs. Literally, I'd eaten a chicken, a rabbit, three eggs and a tin of sardines. Yet I had all the energy I needed. Perhaps my body had made some radical changes in the meantime - or perhaps Wednesday's sluggishness caused by something else entirely.

Would I have grun faster this time on a higher carb diet? Probably. I might even have shaved a couple of minutes off my time; but I am not within a couple of minutes of the course record - I am within 30 minutes. So what really matters is whether I can run the race comfortably and enjoy it - which I could.

I am not saying I will now always eat zero carb or go out of my way to fast before races - but it's good to know that I can if I need to, and that I don't have to scuttle around preparing special meals because I have a race the next day.


Lightning said...

The cake was a disapointment as well. The beer was good though. My legs are feeling the effects of the run now.
I'll rest for a few days and then I think I'll do long slow run with plenty of climbs.

Steve said...

It was me in the other pair of monkey shoes. Fortunately all of the pairs present yesterday were male, otherwise things might have got out of hand.

I finished in around 1:05, and had no problems with any of the surfaces. Compared to the regular KSOs, the Treks feel bullet-proof.

One of the other chaps I spoke to has some FiveFingers for road use, so I think there's a revolution coming.

For what it's worth, I got mine from CitySports, with a 25% discount code taking the price down to about $95 shipped -- a relative in the US then forwarded them to me for $30, so it worked out quite reasonably, and there ended up being no duty to pay.

Methuselah said...

His Steve - that's a pretty respectable time - you must have really got used to the Vibrams. I think they still take a few minutes off my time due to my gingerly descents, but it's getting less and less with every race. I thought this course was quite a good test for the shoes (and feet) and it was a real bonus getting that last mile of flat. I still struggle a little when there is a non-flat, grassy surface, and find myself wishing I had studs - there were a few in that section towards the end where there was also that nasty gorse.

I'm heading to the US myself in June so may travel out with a half empty suitcase ;-)

Steve said...

I ran a lot on the Sandstone Trail last year in KSOs before I got the Treks. Between that and running completely barefoot on the road a fair bit, my feet eventually loosened up, and now they handle rough surfaces much more easily. It probably took about 6 months in total for them to stop being so wimpy (or perhaps rigid).

At this stage, the Treks feel like enough protection for anything, and I can't imagine running faster in a different shoe.

Your neoprene Treks are intriguing. I'd worry about them being too hot. Are you duct-taping around the straps to prevent them wearing out? If not, I'd advise it.

In the meantime, I'm waiting for the Bikilas to become available, and also contemplating picking up some Vivo Barefoot Evos.

Methuselah said...

Hi Steve,

I've never had a chance to see how hot they get, but am expecting Skiddaw this year to be the tester, as it's usually roasting. Coming down Jenkin Hill will also be a true challenge.

I am heartened to know that in your view I should, once my feet have loosened up, be able to run downhill as fast, if not faster, than before. Some thing to look forward to.

Interestingly there's a UK site, LovethoseShoes, who are selling the 'Speed' model, which seems to be a forerunner to the Bikilas. They are also selling the KSO Trek for a mere £165 - ouch!

Methuselah said...

Steve - what are you fell running in at the moment? You mentioned you'd got some Bikilas and found them good for road running.... but did you buy some more treks for the fell running? My KSO Treks are dying and I need to get something for Snowdon!