Thursday, May 14, 2009

Primal for 60

Inspired by the fresh new look of MDA and a strong desire to get myself into shape I'm starting a new challenge in 12 days. Actually I'm never really out of shape - running 100km tomorrow but I just enjoy setting myself goals and experiencing the changes that occur along the journey. It's never really about the outcome for me.

This is nothing new for me. Over the last year I undertook the 30-day Primal Challenge, went on a raw food journey for almost 3 months and trained for and completed a number of events including running a marathon (Cities Marathon in a personal best time of 2:57), setting a course record at a 90km trail ultra and set another PB at the Six Foot Track. My wife has come to expect something new from me and she is also starting to ask me what's next. Better not disappoint.

The inspiration to attempt last year's 30-day Primal Challenge came from the inspiration found within the pages of
Mark's Daily Apple. Here is what I wrote about that experience...

30-day Primal Challenge Results (2008)

Wow! The month seems to have flown on by without me realizing. The main reason I hadn’t noticed was because nothing has really changed since the challenge finished up. I have continued along eating what I have been eating while following the primal challenge and even though I have given myself the freedom to choose to eat whatever I wish I still choose more primal options. I can’t seem to bring myself to eat the usual processed sugars, pasta, rice, bread etc that was a big part of my diet prior to the 30 day challenge.

My diet prior to the challenge was the typical of the endurance athlete diet consisting of cereal and toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, pasta and rice based dinners and throw in the several snacks spaced throughout the day that I consumed when feeling hungry or prior to or after a run. Snacks of course were of the processed variety and included sports bars, muesli bars, meal replacement snacks, pretzels, chips, cookies, chocolate etc.

With the challenge my diet drastically changed to include more fruit and vegetables but the biggest change was in the amount of protein and fats that I consumed at every meal.

While losing 10 pounds was an added result of the challenge, what I really discovered (almost day one) was that my energy levels where high throughout the day and replacing the fluctuations of low energy periods following my usual high carbohydrate feeds. I also noticed a reduction in post-run muscle soreness and enhanced day-to-day recovery. My legs almost felt like they were buzzing.

The final week:

Starting weight: 172 lb
End weight: 163 lb
Exercise total: 49 miles (including race 26.2 miles)
Marathon finishing time: 2:57:10


I followed the old school carb depletion-loading scheme which was popular amongst marathon runners a few years back. It made following the primal challenge easier during the depletion stage but I had to make some small departures in the form of added oatmeal, sweet potato and additional fruit (mainly bananas and dried fruit) in the days leading up to the marathon. I viewed oatmeal and sweet potato as being a good compromise.

Of course during the depletion stage the main challenge was getting in my runs and resting up for the race on Sunday. Actually stopping myself from going on long runs on the trails was my biggest challenge.


I stopped focusing on weight goals this week with my whole focus on being ready to go on race day. My weight probably dipped a little during the first four days when I eliminated nearly all carbohydrates but during the 24 hours leading up to the race I tried to top up my glycogen stores by adding in enough carbohydrates. The day before this ended up being around 600-700g of total carbohydrates.

Race day came and I woke 4 hours early for a good feed of oatmeal w/ honey, a banana and some apple juice (usually I eat two English muffins with jam and PB before a race). Two hours before I started drinking some sports drink (for the electrolytes) and just before the race I consumed the first of five gels. On the race I either drank water or sports drink.

I felt great at the start. Well rested and ready to run fast but by about 9 miles in I was thinking that I tapered a little short and was still carrying some leg fatigue. It didn’t get any worse and I was able to embrace the pain and fatigue over the final 6 miles to bring home a sub 3 hour marathon.

One mistake I did make was that I probably didn’t eat enough carbohydrates during the post-run window to help speed up my recovery in the days after and I suffered a little more than usual. Will rectify next time around.

As an endurance athlete it makes me aware that I still have a lot more to learn. While much of my learning will come from sites like this one and from books like the Paleo Diet for Athletes (although haven’t read it yet I plan on buying it) as an example I think much of the learning will take place while experimenting and finding what works best for me. So looking beyond this challenge I am going to continue on and for those that are interested I will continue to post my results and discoveries on my
blog. It will be an interesting journey as I get back into running what I hope will be 100+ mile weeks with my end goal of running a 2:40 marathon.
Thanks everyone for sharing your results during this challenge. It has been great that to read how others are going and knowing that other people are reading with interest or even taking part in their own personal challenges makes sticking to my challenge easier. The changes I have made to my diet have been taken up by friends and they are all experiencing good results also.

So what's next...

The next installment: 60-day Primal Challenge

Goal: to achieve "ideal race weight"

Race weight challenge

Dr George Sheehan and British running coach Frank Horwill believe that distance running success is governed by a runner's weight relative to height.

Stillman developed a height to weight ratio that stipulates that the non-active man's average weight for height follows this simple formula. He allocates 110 lbs (56.2kg) for the first five feet (1.524m) in height and 5 1/2 lbs (2.296kg) for every inch (0.025m) thereafter.

My starting point -
Height = 1.754m
Current weight = 77.0kg
Average weight = 77.3kg (from Stillman table)

So according to the Stillman table I'm currently at average weight for my height. Actually I might already be below this as my weight has been fluctuating between 76 and 78kg for the last few months.

So now having calculated the average weight for my height the next step is to find what my ideal weight would be for me to achieve my athletic performance potential. According to Sheehan and Horwill my ideal weight should be as follows:

  • Sprinters (100-400m): 2.5% lighter
  • Middle-distance runners (800m-10k): 12% lighter
  • Long-distance runners (10+ miles): 15% lighter as a long distance runner my ideal weight should be:
Ideal weight: 77.3 - 15% = 65.7kg (145 lbs)
Shaping up to the Stillman table has me at the same weight as the average person. Supposedly I can improve my performance dramatically by losing weight. As I document my challenge I'll be interested to see if and how my training, recovery and performance improves.
I'll part now with these words...
"if you are going to be an athlete - look like one." - Percy Cerutty

"When you become fully responsible for your life, you can become fully human; once you become human, you may discover what it means to be a warrior." - Dan Millman (Way of the Peaceful Warrior)

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