I spent last weekend down in San Diego to run the America’s Finest City Half Marathon and as usual have some thoughts about my low-carb and running-specific training that led up to this race.
First of all I did knock nearly 10 minutes off my half-marathon PR in April so it was obviously a good race. After the cramp city that was the L.A. Marathon and the miserable hills of the La Jolla Half, it was a fairly uneventful spring and summer. I kept telling myself I would go strict carnivore and drop some weight but all the social engagements got in the way, and as the mercury rose the motivation dropped. There were a few weeks in which I skipped the usual weekend long run but as the summer progressed I felt like I was losing endurance so I tried to go back to a long run (13+ miles) a week. I also attended track workouts more regularly and tried to push myself a little harder during the regular group runs instead of hanging out in the back chatting with people.
Leading up to race day, I didn’t particularly taper, since the demands for a half is really much less than a full. I checked in to the Airbnb the day before, drank electrolytes, and got my usual pre-race 3 hours sleep. I should have thought out dinner a little better and ended up having a “paleo burger” and onion rings at Burger Lounge, and when that didn’t feel like enough, a chicken sandwich.
I knew I had to warm up so I elected to walk about 1.5 miles to the shuttle pickup instead of driving. Everything about logistics went off without a hitch; I got coffee and cream and arrived ahead of schedule and used the potty before the race (which were pretty polluted by the time I got in line and smelled awful).
I originally planned to follow the 1:50 pacers knowing I would likely beat my La Jolla time, but I passed them in the first mile and never looked back. The first 3 or 4 miles were really fast, especially on the downhill portions. I felt calm and steady, and unlike the LAM there was no soreness in my knees despite me going much faster.
Mid-race was smooth except I could feel the initial rush wearing off and not being able to keep a breakneck pace. Having run quite a few of these, I knew that there was little danger in running out of glycogen so I tried to sustain a good tempo pace which turned out to be 8-ish min/mi. I only had electrolyte once and poured most of the water over my head which worked perhaps a little too well in cooling myself off and made the race shirt cold and clammy against the skin.
Late-race was a little hairy because the hill at Mile 11-12 was a little bigger than I anticipated and my pace started to drop off (and the kicking myself for not losing some more weight began). Fortunately the hill was only about a mile long and the end of the race was a gradual downhill and I totally blitzed it at the end. I felt great post-race. For my first half marathon a year ago, right after the race I felt an overwhelming need to sit down and I couldn’t get back up for 20 minutes, but this time I walked all around the finish zone, collecting medals, picking up my bag from gear check, taking photos, using the restroom, etc. before finally finding a chair at the beer garden.
My time was 1:44:56 which translated to an exact 8:00 min/mi pace. According to Strava, I set a PR in every single category from the 1k to 13.1-mi, and came in 359/4141 overall and 45/293 in my division. I would pay for this in the afternoon where all the vegetables I ate with the paleo burger came out in a hurry and I had diarrhea for a few hours afterwards. This isn’t unexpected - in fact, there was a talk at AHS last year about endurance athletes and digestive distress - but it was surprising because I didn’t feel like I had a particularly hard race after I finished, and in fact walked the 1.5 mi back to the Airbnb with zero trouble.
I think both pre- and post-race nutrition was less than ideal this time because the vegetables slowed digestion and the ton of carbs I had post-race (in the form of inflammatory sugar) really interfered with recovery. My Tuesday group run was astoundingly slow and there was residual muscle soreness, but after having steak all day, I felt much better. It would probably have been a better idea to plan out both meals immediately before and after the race.
One thing that was somewhat hard to reconcile was the fact I gained 6-7 lbs from my 2018 low. Given the last burst of major improvement as a result of losing ~10 lbs from World Carnivore Month, I had been focused on improving my power-to-weight ratio, but clearly I had gotten faster despite a worsening of that metric, and despite running quite a few number of miles less per week. I think most of the benefit in the last few months came from doing speedwork and track workouts more regularly, so perhaps I accessed some untapped potential, and running with large groups is inherently competitive.
Now that I don’t have another significant race coming up (and the Santa Monica Classic 10k doesn’t count), it’s a good time to finally work on basic stuff like aerobic long runs and calibrate the diet some more. I’m glad the long break after LAM wasn’t a waste and improvements have continued to happen even during the traditional runner’s off season.