How I Ran 26.2 on a Cup of Coffee & 3 Olives...and Never Bonked
Updated: Jul 22, 2020
*As always, scroll to the very bottom for a TLDR synopsis*
"At mile 20, you'll hit the wall." "You should be taking in x amount of carbs every three miles." "You'll need to fuel up on x amount of calories before mile 10, so you have reserves to draw from later in the race."
Two weeks ago I ran my first marathon. Out of everything that I had been advised about or cautioned against, hitting the dreaded "wall" around mile 20 was what I was most nervous about (because what a shitty last six miles that would be!). Well folks I survived and never hit that wall. In fact, I stayed mentally clear the entire time and would go so far as to say that it actually felt pretty easy. Aside from some ankle discomfort, present before the marathon, I experienced no mental or physical pain during or after the run, and no cramping either. Post run, I had some residual tightness and needed a good stretch, but I wasn't even sore. To make things more interesting, I had only run 14.5 miles prior to the starting line, instead of the 20miles that my training plan had prescribed. How did I do it?
I had only two goals for my first marathon, 1) to finish and 2) not feel like garbage. Mission accomplished. Because this would be my longest endurance event yet, I didn't really know what to expect. During the few months of training, I had run always with no fuel without issue. Preferring whole foods to processed foods in all situations, I wanted to avoid the recommended goos and gels if I could. It would be naive of me to ignore the advice of seasoned ultra endurance athletes. But being the stubborn gal that I am, I had my own theories to test and prove. By this point, I had trained my body to become metabolically flexible (read more about that here) and consequently was able to tap both energy systems without gastrointestinal discomfort or physical and mental strain. The human body is absolutely astounding and it is unfortunate that we do not seek discomfort more often to test what it is capable of. While in many ways it is fortunate that we do not face the same stressors that our ancestors did, it is sad to think that the majority of us are not able to tap into the biochemical systems that were once necessary for survival. An inability to do so leaves us overweight, stressed, unhappy, unmotivated, hangry, at risk for disease, and always seeking comfort with convenience (the subject for a future blog post).
In reality, it is a return to proper human functioning that allows us to stretch our minds and bodies. I ran this marathon the way I did, i.e drank my coffee the morning of the race and brought a small pack of olives (of which I only ate three as a precaution at mile 9), to prove to myself that I could optimize my own internal biochemistry to combat a perceived large physical and mental stressor. I sipped water along the way at aid stations, but did not bring a water bottle. I never ran in school and am not inherently that fast, but I did take the time to stress my body in the right ways so that I could tap the right systems.
Unfortunately, not many of us know how to test the right stressors without getting discouraged, impatient, and giving up. Because it easier to buy a gel and take it during the race (time spent is 30 seconds-ish) than it is to adapt your body back to way it was meant to operate & utilize real nutrients (time spent is several months plus), eight out of ten people will do the former. I get it. If you're already training for a marathon, why add another stressor on top of it? Yeah that would suck. The answer my dear friends is to become metabolically flexible BEFORE you start training for a marathon. And actually in a world focused on convenience, becoming metabolically flexible is more convenient and allows you way more flexibility with your lifestyle.
Answer yes or no to the following statements to determine if it's worth it for you.
-Showing up fully for everyone you interact with (including yourself) is important to you.
-Lowering your risk of disease in forty years (by the time you receive the diagnosis, it could be too late to reverse it) is something you're in to.
-Not snapping at your partner because you're "hangry" would be nice.
-Living longer and younger would be cool.
-Smashing any limited beliefs you had about yourself would be fun.
-Recovering quicker and building lean muscle faster would be great.
-Supercharging your brain and needing less sleep would be real helpful.
Now several months seems hardly like any time at all.
All it takes is an understanding of the human body, its composition, the nutrients it needs, and it's biochemical pathways to show up as your best self. This is the subject for another blog post, but take my experiment with the marathon as evidence that you will not die if you skip breakfast and no it is not the most important meal of the day, you will not eat your own muscle if you don't snack, your metabolism won't slow if you don't eat every two hours, calories in does not equal calories out... and most misnomers society has defined as truths. Do it right and it'll be natural. Short cut it without legitimate research and it'll be hell. You choose, but you open so many doors when you can utilize what you are naturally born with to show up in the world with more grace.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming metabolically flexible, I have created an online course that takes you through the exact step-by-step process that I used to become metabolically flexible and maintain it as a sustainable lifestyle. Check out the details here
I ran a marathon and it felt much easier that it should have, given that I had only run 14.5 as my long run during training. I never hit a wall and never felt mental fatigue. Aside from some ankle pain, I had no soreness and no muscle cramping. Just a bit of understandable tightness. I had a RanchHand coffee (recipe here) in the morning & a few olives at mile 9. I was able to do this because I had taught my body to be metabolically flexible in the months before the marathon (read about it here). I applied the right physical and mental stressors to activate pathways that the modern human has lost access to. When done correctly, life becomes so much easier and the way in which you show up for yourself and others becomes more elegant and satisfactory. Life gets better when you can use what you were born with. DM me if you are interested in learning how to become a more optimally functioning human being.
Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or any other medical body. I do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.