F*&% Breakfast: Running, Fueling and Fat Burning

Mainstream nutrition is slowly starting to catch up to what most intelligent people (and body builders, ha!) have known for years now.  You shouldn’t be eating breakfast.  The whole “breakfast is the most important meal of the day…even though you’re not hungry at all and could likely go three or four hours before you get hungry, you need to force feed yourself a bagel and a bowl of cereal” thing is finally starting to be debunked. 

It makes absolutely no sense from an evolutionary standpoint.  Our ancestors were hunter-gathers; they didn’t wake up and grab a granola bar.  They didn’t grow food.  They didn’t keep animals.  They woke up and they had to go find, hunt, kill and cook their food.  Or, they had to scavenge or dig for veggies and tubers.  Then cook those.  In all likelihood, they didn’t eat until the late afternoon or evening most days.

Why do you think you’re not hungry in the morning?  You’ve been fasting all night.  So, if breakfast is really the most important meal of the day, why aren’t you ravenous for a six egg omelet the second you wake up?  Because that’s how our biochemistry was designed by evolution.  When we wake up, we’re technically already eating breakfast: we’re burning fat.  Fat is the best, most readily available fuel source we have, and something I’m sure all of us would like to be better at utilizing.  On top of that, we get a heavy dose of cortisol upon waking that triggers our liver to start producing and mobilizing glucose to be burned as fuel.  Our bodies know that there’s a chance we won’t be eating for a while and possibly until after vigorous physical activity.

No one with a real life who doesn’t have a live-in chef wakes up and cooks a healthy breakfast.  Most people who regularly consume breakfast are literally eating candy in the form of breakfast cereal or granola bars or Eggo waffles or fruit smoothies.  It makes complete sense that the most popular and widely-consumed breakfast foods in the US are sugary garbage:  We have no appetite because we’re burning fat and so it’s the only thing we can stomach… similar to desert after a big meal. There’s always room for desert, right?  Even in the morning. 

Still, with all of the science pointing toward skipping breakfast, nine out of ten nutritionists will still give you some garbage about how important it is and how you need to “kick start your metabolism”.  If someone is about to go running, it’s basically blasphemy to tell them to skip their morning sugar fix beforehand.   To anyone with half a brain, it should be clear that you DO NOT need breakfast to go sit in front of a computer for four hours before you eat lunch.  With exercise involved, it seems less clear.  I’m here to tell you that not only should you skip breakfast, but that skipping breakfast will make you a better runner as well. 

Burning fat is like anything else, you need to train in order to be good at it.  You need to develop fat burning enzymes.  You need your body to become efficient at accessing your fat stores for fuel.  We’ve all heard people talking about how even the leanest among us—people with less than 10% body fat—still have tens of thousands of calories stored on our bodies.  We’ve all got it.  The more we burn this fat, the better our bodies become at it. These calories become available to us more quickly.  Upon waking up, your body is already burning fat.  This is a good thing.  As soon as you shove a couple spoonfuls of that “healthy” cereal in your mouth, it all stops. 

Just like Dr. Phil Maffetone has made abundantly clear through his research performed on high-level endurance athletes, eating carbohydrates—especially any type of refined carb—has a devastating effect on our ability to burn fat.  As soon as we eat carbs, we lose access to our fat stores. 

So, if I’m about to go running at 10am and I wake up 7am and start eating a bunch of crap to “fuel” for my run, there will be no fat burning going on during my run, I’m not developing my ability to burn fat and I’m stuck being dependent on the glucose in my bloodstream for fuel throughout the run.  If I hold out until after the run, I’ll feel much better during because I don’t have to contend with the food I recently consumed moving through my GI tract, I’ll burn fat as my primary fuel source and I’ll become a better fat burner along the way. 

Then, after the run, when my muscles and liver have been depleted of their glycogen, essentially making them giant sponges to soak up calories, I eat a big meal and replenish.  Breakfast is by no means the most important meal of the day.  The meal after your workout is the most important meal of the day.  And if you can get to that workout before eating (and especially before eating any carbs), you’ll have more energy all the time, never becoming a slave to your blood sugar swings, always utilizing fat as fuel.  

If you’re not going running until 7pm and you’ve got a long day ahead of you, I would still skip breakfast and don’t think about eating until you start to develop an appetite later in the day, but then pay close attention to what you’re eating.  You should primarily be eating good fats: coconut oil, grass-fed butter, almonds, avocado, etc.  Eating good fats not only keeps you satiated for a long period of time (no blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes) but they also help you burn the fat you’ve already got stored. 

One of my favorite things to do if I’m not running soon after waking is to put a teaspoon of coconut oil in my coffee.  That small amount of coconut oil can usually get me to two or three o’clock before I even start to think about food if I haven’t worked out.  I’m just burning fat. 

It’s time to stop being brainwashed.  Forget about breakfast.  It will make you healthier, leaner and a more efficient endurance athlete. 

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In Defense of the Uncomfortable and Inconvenient

My right leg was a mess.  I couldn’t tell if it was originating in my hip or my ankle—my ankle was swollen and wasn’t flexing properly and my entire right hip felt like it was stuck in a vice. No range of motion.  The cold wind kicking up off the ocean was blowing hard now, the sun had fully retreated behind a cluster of dense clouds and my shirt was about six miles away, hidden halfway up a tree.  I was also still trying to dig some debris out of my palm after catching a toe at the beginning of the run. Needless to say, I wasn’t having a very good day. 

I came bombing down a covered section of single track and was kicked out onto a completely exposed fire road, offering me a view of the trail ahead.  Directly in front of me was a steep section of loose talus (one of the few areas where I get any real scrambling done in the Santa Monica Mountains) that climbs 450 feet in roughly 200 yards.  Directly to the right of that, the fire road continued to meander it’s way up and around toward the summit, maintaining a nice even grade, never too steep to cause problems for a truck. 

The inner dialogue between the two opposing ideas that had just cropped up in my head began:  “You’re all beat up right now, your right hip flexor is about to permanently seize up, you’ve got a quarter-sized piece of rock protruding from your hand, it’s cold and you’re tired.  This time—just this one time—you should take it easy and follow the fire road up the switchbacks to the summit. No one else will ever know.”

“What?!? Fuck that!! You don’t run on fire roads!! You’re telling me that you’re going to pass on a rare opportunity to scramble because of a few minor aches and pains?!?  You’re cold?!! It’s Southern California!! You wanna unpack your trekking poles for that fire road too?!? Maybe you should just lie down in the fetal position on the side of the trail until the next person comes along and you can borrow their iPhone to call in the search and rescue team.” 

It suddenly dawned on me that the decision lying in front of me was a microcosm of what has happened to our culture.  We’ve evolved (or devolved, depending on how you’d prefer to look at it) to the point where nothing necessarily has to be difficult.  Comfort and convenience has become the only thing that matters.  People literally waste 90 percent of their hard earned money on things that they certainly don’t need, but make life a little bit more comfortable or make something they already do a little bit more convenient. 

Sure, you’ve got a perfectly good bicycle and you only live 4 miles from where you work, but you should probably take on a $300/month car payment because that way you get to sleep in 15 minutes longer and sit, completely un-exerted, in a climate controlled environment, never worrying pesky things like sweat or rain. 

Sure, you’ve got a computer that works great but it can be so big and cumbersome at times.  A tablet just fits in your hand so nicely, you don’t even need to put it down to wipe your ass. 

Unfortunately for us and our ceaseless technological expansion, comfort, ease and convenience aren’t the pinnacle of our existence.  Not a lot of growth happens when you’re comfortable.  In fact, most of the time, it’s just the opposite.  Comfort and convenience cause you to shrink.  Just think about your life for a second… think about the times you’re most proud of or the times when you’ve really grown as a person.  I seriously doubt that comfort played a large role. 

When you’re surrounded by or presented with things that are difficult (like, for instance, mountains and nature), you’re forced to adapt, change, grow.  When you are forced to overcome a demanding, inconvenient problem, you’re usually a better, smarter person for it.

Running 50 or 100 miles, climbing a 14,000 foot peak—these are the things that help us understand who we really are.  These are the situations that force us to look at ourselves without the filters, stripped down to our essence.  You can’t lie to yourself 75 miles into a 100 miler. These are the situations that effect change.  

If you download an app so you can lay on the couch and push a few buttons and have your dinner delivered to your door—not only are you forfeiting a chance at personal expansion, you’re also perpetuating the cycle of fat, lazy convenience which with we’ve all become so obsessed. 

My hip ached, my energy was low, I was cold.  I wanted to go up the fire road.  I wanted to take the easiest possible way out.  As I took my first few steps up the steep talus slab, beginning my uncomfortable, inconvenient scramble toward the summit, I couldn’t help but smile.  Leaving the fire road far below me in the distance, I knew—without a shred of doubt—I had made the right decision.

Chasing the Elusive 100-Mile Week

A lot goes into running 100 miles in a week. I’ve done it a couple times, a little over two years ago when I first stumbled across Tony Krupicka’s blog (he’s since changed his format and stopped logging all his runs).  I probably spent about three hours reading his posts on that first visit—my head (figuratively) exploding the entire time as all my previously held beliefs about running we’re being splattered all over my computer screen.  I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to consistently run 200+ miles a week.  I didn’t even know that people were running two or three times a day.  I was still under the erroneous impression that you should only run once a day.  Needless to say, Krupicka greatly expanded my running consciousness. 

After browsing a through a few of his entries and finally wrapping my head around the astronomical numbers that he was purporting, I decided it was time for me to hang a couple triple digit weeks of my own.  I started running twice and three times a day, and finally built to the point where I could handle the 100-mile load.  It was a solid accomplishment.  I could do it.  The only problem was, I wasn’t having any fun. 

I had managed to take this thing that I loved, that had literally changed my life in the way that few things can, and turned it into an obsessively quantified workload.  Before, I was just getting up in the mountains, ripping up and down gorgeous single-track trails, escaping the artificial, constructed monotony of my everyday life. 

When I started chasing 100 in a week, it became a lot more like work.  I was obsessing over miles, trading a chance to escape into the mountains for a quick, flat 15 miles on the road or the boardwalk  (because I could only get 10 miles in the same amount of time in the mountains).  I was sore all the time; I ignored little nagging injuries that could have used an easy day—or a day off all together.  The miles became the most important thing.  They trumped common sense. I started to lose the passion. 

Running suddenly became a lot less fun.  But I was hanging 100-mile weeks.  I had reached this arbitrary goal that I had imposed upon myself, but it didn’t feel as good as I thought.  Sure, it was fun looking at my Movescount profile and seeing that big number on there.  It was fun to say things like, “I can eat whatever I want tonight, I ran 102 miles this week.”  But that type of fun is fleeting.  It felt wrong.  I realized that what I had done wasn’t a legitimate 100-mile week.  It didn’t happen organically.  It was forced.  I wasn’t Tony Krupicka.  I had to be me. 

So I went back to enjoying myself on my runs.  Sure they were still hard.  I was still sore.  I still ignored nagging injuries (a lot less though) and I still banged out a quick 10k on the roads a couple times a month, but it was because I felt like a needed a shakeout run to dial in my form—not because I just wanted to tack more miles on to my weekly total. 

Now, over a year later, I’m finally honing in on the elusive, legitimate 100-mile week.  All on the trail and in the mountains.  Without running for the sake of mileage.  Just running because it feels right.  Running to have fun.  Running to push my personal limits.  Running to escape. 

Last week, I ran 87 miles with almost 20,000 ft of vertical gain.  It felt great.  I explored new terrain, ran twice a day four times, had two great long runs and never felt like I was doing too much or pushing too hard.  I stayed within myself.  Sure, I could have banged out a half-marathon on Sunday night just to hit the century mark… but it wasn’t about that. 

This week, I’m well on pace to eclipse 100 miles.  And it’s going to be legit.  I’m doing it right.  I’m not worrying about it, just letting it happen.  Organically.  Because it’s time.  

Running – The Cure for Everything

Yesterday I was having a shitty day.  I woke up with all the makings of a head cold—feeling stuffed up, congested and extra drowsy.  My eyes were refusing to open.  Then I went running.  I got up in the mountains, sucked my lungs full of that clean mountain air, blew a couple hundred snot-rockets into the dirt and watched the first few rays of sunlight trickle down onto the Pacific Ocean.  Head cold averted.  Things were looking up. 

Then I got to work and my boss started bitching.  Why was I thirty minutes late?  Did I have a chance to do all that work that he asked me to do even though it was way outside the scope of my job description and he wasn’t paying me for it?  When was I going to cut my hair?  Any chance I could stay late today?  Was I really wearing sweat shorts at work?  I started getting a headache.  My stress levels were rising.  Cortisol began coursing through my veins.  I could literally feel the muscle fibers on the right side of my neck binding themselves together into a gnarly cramp. 

So I went running.  I ran away from everything and everybody.  I charged up the trail listening to the pace of my stride increase with every step.  My heart began pumping, sending large quantities of blood surging into my muscles.  They loosened.  My cramp was gone.   As a topped out on the summit, thoroughly exhausted from the effort, I glanced back down at the city street I had left far behind.  It seemed my problems had stayed down there too.  They couldn’t chase me up the mountain.  Unnecessary stress averted.   Things were looking up again.   

I won’t bore you with all the mundane details of the rest of my day, but by about five o’clock I had accumulated a little IT band tightness, some dry skin, an allergy-induced sniffle and what seemed to be a mild case of constipation.  I needed to go running. 

When I did, it fixed everything (especially the constipation, that was fixed with a vengeance).  And it came with the added bonus of allowing me to witness the sunset from about 2,000 feet higher than anyone else around.  Running had singlehandedly turned my no-good, very bad day into a pretty damn good one. 

Ok, so running may not be the cure for everything.  It’s probably not going to fix a broken toe or help much with a rattlesnake bite, but roughly 99.6% of the time, I choose to prescribe myself a good long run for whatever seems to ail me.  And I’m rarely disappointed. 

Rolled my ankle playing hoops?  If I go running for an hour after the game, the next day I won’t even be able to tell it happened. 

Fighting with my significant other?  After a run I’m ready to admit I was wrong, even if I wasn’t (but let’s face it, I probably was). 

Hung-over?  Just gotta get on the trail and sweat it out.   

The Lakers lost again?  Hill repeats. 

Feeling fat?  Time for a long one. 

Tired?  The mountains have an energizing effect. 

Depressed? Anxious? Broke?  Horny?  You get the picture.  Running; it’s good for… well, everything. 

Chasing Flow

Dr. Angela Garcia, a Cultural Anthropologist at Stanford University, has coined the term “moment of incomprehensibility”.  In my rudimentary understanding of the subject, this is basically a moment where what is in front of you becomes utterly incomprehensible.  You can’t explain it.  You can’t find words to describe it.  All you can do is just be there.  Absorb it.  Try to take it all in. 

These moments don’t come around very often.  For most people, they don’t come around at all.  Most of the time, you have to be pretty far outside of your comfort zone to stumble across a true moment of incomprehensibility.  I’m not talking about being unable to fathom why the dude in front of you is going 15 mph under the speed limit or being baffled by the garbage spewing from the mouths of the Kardashians.  The moments that Dr. Garcia and I are talking about are beyond written description.  These are the moments I am chasing.  These are the moments that allow me to experience flow at it’s fullest. 

Standing atop Mt. Whitney, my first 14er, and experiencing the sheer, undeniable magnitude of it’s vast beauty.  Running through the early morning mist in the Santa Monica Mountains, climbing above the marine layer just in time to glimpse the first rays of the sunrise.  Scrambling between the switchbacks through the talus on the way up Mt. Timpanogos, stopping to suck wind, entirely exhausted, and glancing up at the seemingly unconquerable, gorgeous mass still waiting for me above.  Bombing down an underused single track, racing the setting sun, watching it slowly descend into the Pacific Ocean, increasing my pace as it disappears beneath the shimmering, purple water in a subtle, yet perfect flash. 

All of these experiences included a moment of incomprehensibility for me.  I have not described these moments here; to do so would be impossible. I have simply set the stage in which these moments took place.  My sense of awe was unmatched.  I was exactly where I was supposed to be in that moment.  The stars were aligned and I was absorbed by an overwhelming sense of rightness.  I melted into the landscape.  I became one with the mountain.  My soul was nourished.  Flow was realized. 

For me, Bobby Geronimo, this is what flow is all about.  Every time my foot falls on the trail, I’m chasing these elusive moments.  These moments don’t happen running through the city streets or staring at the screen of your iPhone.  These moments have to be earned.  These moments take blood and sweat, experience and knowledge, miles and miles, sacrifice.  These moments take an understanding of your own insignificance.  An understanding of your true place in the world.  These moments make me who I am. 

I want flow.  And I want it to be utterly incomprehensible. 

The 2015 Mt. Disappointment 50k

“I can’t believe we’re going to be late!” I mumbled, half to myself and half to my wife, as she pushed our Prius C up the windy road toward the summit of Mt. Wilson. On our right was a sheer rock face, to our left the San Gabriel Mountains stretched out toward the horizon, undulating across the vastness. 

I glanced at the clock on the dashboard, then at my watch. Yep, it was 6:38am.  Race check-in ended at 6:30am and the Mt. Disappointment 50k started at 7am.  She was giving the Prius just about as much as it could handle on these tight mountain roads (when you’re getting 55 miles to the gallon, you sacrifice a bit of top-end climbing power).  We came careening around a bend, just over a mile from the summit when a boulder the size of a small refrigerator came crashing down 25 feet in front of the car as we skidded to a stop.   

A dense dust cloud— way too thick to see through— plumed up across the road like a mini mushroom cloud.  We both sat back in our seats, mouths agape, processing the scene in front of us, wondering what might have been had we rounded that corner 10 seconds earlier.  When the dust cleared, the exploded pieces of boulder were still to big to drive the Prius over, so I rushed out to move them, hoping there wasn’t a second boulder coming down on top of my head… 

We were a little shook-up as we pulled into the parking lot atop Mt. Wilson (5,712’).  Not exactly the most auspicious beginning to a race day.  It was 6:44am.  Luckily, I was able to get checked-in, get dressed and hit the port-o-potty just in time to hear the awesome Gary Hilliard give his pre-race briefing.  Without much time to think, let alone get anxious, we were off, leaving the Summit of Mt. Wilson, only to return 31 miles later.  

Unbeknownst to me, the race began with a two-and-a-half mile downhill stretch of asphalt road.  There wasn’t a shoulder, but there also wasn’t any traffic so we all just bombed down the middle of the road.  The majority of the Ultras I have run typically begin with climbing and and end on a decent.  The Mt. Disappointment 50k started with a sustained downhill and ended with a three mile, 2,600’ climb up the Kenyon Devore trail back to the Summit of Mt. Wilson and the finish line.  

The course record for this climb on Strava was over 40 mins.  And presumably that person was fresh, not 28 miles into a run.  I could easily see myself getting to this final climb depleted, on the verge of bonking, with the full heat of the day upon me and getting buried, taking 2 hours to make the summit and effectively destroying my time.  I wanted to avoid this result at all costs.  It had been over a year since I finished a race (a couple DNFs and stress fracture had made sure of that) and I wanted to get a good finish under my belt. 

I resigned to go out slow, force myself to get a bunch of calories down and have plenty left in the tank for the final climb.  Looking back at my splits on Strava after the race, I ran my first two miles at 6:45 and 6:30/min pace, respectively.  Not exactly the “slow” pace I was looking for at the beginning of the race and probably the reason why, as I write this four days later, my quads are still sore as hell.  It’s hard to hold back on a downhill section of road, especially right after the gun went off, with a couple hundred runners all around you, everyone’s adrenaline spiking.  

We got off the road soon enough (to never return, thank god) as we arrived at the Eaton Saddle and continued up toward the Markham Saddle.  Leaving the Markham Saddle we were provided with our first of several stunning views, a panoramic shot of a handful of San Gabriel peaks, including Mt. Disappointment herself.  I was continually awed throughout the race and spent a good deal of time chastising myself for not spending more time in this mountain range. It’s too close to my house, I gotta get out there more.  But I think this experience sealed my 100-miler fate. My first attempt at running 100 miles will be the 2016 Angeles Crest 100.  It’s in my backyard and it’s GORGEOUS.  Only makes sense.  

I pulled into the Red Box aid station (mile 5.2) at 44 mins elapsed feeling good. I filled my bottles, drank a couple dixie cups full of coke, said a quick hello to my wife and our dog Frank and I was off. I wasn’t really sure where I was as far as placement at this point but I kept myself from asking any of the volunteers about the runners in front of me.  I was determined to run my own race, listen to my body and not worry about where I finished.  

I headed down the Gabrielino Trail toward the Switzer Falls trailhead, turning and climbing a fireroad a few hundred feet up to Highway 2 and the next aid (mile 10.3).  I arrived here just under 90 minutes and I felt really good, surprised that the weather was staying so mild.  I had fully expected 95-degree temps by 10am, so the breezy 70-degree weather we were now experiencing was most welcome.  I filled my bottles, drank a few cups of coke and stuffed the back pockets of my Patagonia Strider Pro shorts with Cheeze-Its and Pretzels and took off again, munching my way up the 1,500’ climb to the next aid station only a couple miles away (mile 12.8).

From this aid we were looking at a 7.8 mile stretch that circumnavigated Strawberry Peak (6,164’), back down to the Red Box aid station (where I knew my crew was waiting).  I drank a lot of water at this station, filled my bottles, put a handful of ginger snaps in my shorts and decided that if I was going to make a move in this race and improve my position, now was the time.  I bombed the single-track down toward the Josephine Saddle, keeping my pace hovering right around an eight minute mile, picking off a couple of runners here and there, falling in to chat with some before running on by.  

The next section of the race was amazing.  We began to round Strawberry Peak on a exposed stretch of single track with huge granite faces— at least 1,000’—on one side and 5,000’ drop down to the valley on the other.  The whole Northwest side of the peak was amazing, as I ran on this little silver of winding trail carved into the side of the mountain, beautiful views all around as I ticked off the ridges wrapping Strawberry.  Not really that hungry, I forced myself to get a couple Justin’s Maple Almond Butter packets into my system (I’ve never been one for gels or GUs, my stomach doesn’t seem to handle them well) and continued to feel really good. 

It started to get a little hot during this section and with my slightly increased pace, I drained both my 20oz bottles of water with about three miles still to go to the next aid station.  Luckily the views kept my mind off both the heat and my burgeoning dehydration as we ran right past Mt. Lawlor and dropped back into the Red Box aid station at mile 20.6 (3:42 elapsed).  From this point, I was looking at five downhill miles to West Fork, the final aid, before beginning the roughly five mile, 3,500’ climb back to the finish, including the final push up the Kenyon Devore trail to the summit of Mt. Wilson.  

I handed a bottle to my wife (who, as an ultra vet by now, was savvily posted in the shade in her comfy chair, next to the cooler, reading a book) and asked for coke and ice before I made my way over to the table and started eating potato chips.  I knew if I was going to leave this aid station with only one bottle of water and the other full of coke (I wanted calories for the final climb) I had to get a lot of water in me here.  I slammed six or seven cups before my wife made me slam a couple more and I left the aid with a full stomach, feeling good, ready to attack the last 10 miles.  

The five miles down to West Fork went by quickly.  I was able to keep my pace sub-8/min for the majority of this section and drank almost my whole bottle of coke.  I passed one more person on this section, chatting for a moment about the climb looming ahead, before I pushed on and arrived at the West Fork aid station alone (4:18 elapsed).  

It took a lot for me not to ask the volunteers about the runners ahead.  I knew I was somewhere in the top ten, but I had no idea how close I was to the people in front of me.  I still didn’t want to know.  I kept telling myself I was running my own race. They didn’t matter.  How I felt was what mattered.  I filled my bottles, stuffed my pockets with pretzels and, for the first time all day, dumped a cold cup of water on my head.  I had been holding off dumping water onto myself up until this point— we’re in one of the worst drought cycles in history in the state of California— but I figured one cup could be justified at this point, so I stood over some plants and emptied a dixie cup onto my head.  It felt awesome.  

The final climb ended up being somewhat anti-climactic.  I had been thinking about it for almost five hours, effectively scaring myself into sticking with my race strategy. When I finally hit it, I was feeling good, had plenty of energy and was able to stick the Strava section in under an hour (58:44).  Despite maintaining a running cadence and a decent pace, I never saw the runner in front of me, and looking back down the switchbacks at least 1,000’ below me, no one was in sight.  My position was pretty much locked in.  I just kept moving, pushing as hard as a could, hoping I would miraculously catch someone in front of me.  It didn’t happen.  

When I finally hit the parking lot and thought I was done, I realized I still had to run up the observation deck to the finish line.  It was probably only 50’ of elevation gain but it seemed like about 500.  Running through the finish line I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed (5:38 elapsed).  I finished in 7th place, nothing short of respectable, and from a management standpoint, I did a great job: I was never on the verge of bonking, I consumed a proper number of calories and kept myself decently hydrated.  

The problem was that maybe I didn’t suffer enough.  If there was never a point where I considered quitting, does that mean I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough?  Part of the reason I run these races is to go to those dark places, find out a little something about myself, and then push through to the other side, becoming a stronger person in the process.  I didn’t feel like that happened here. Did I hold too much back?  Did I really give my best effort? 

At the end of the day, I think it was a good thing.  My last few races I’ve been way on the other side of the whole bonking spectrum (i.e. trying to drag my cramping ass through the dirt because my quads are so completely locked up that I can’t flex my knee), so I think this was a great learning experience.  I’m starting to learn how to execute a race properly.  I’m learning to listen to my body and give it what it needs.  I’m beginning to become less reactive and starting to stay on top of things.  I’m growing as an ultrarunner.  

All in all, it was a great day and a great race.  Gary Hilliard and his wife did a great job.  There were awesome volunteers all over the course, the race was well marked, the course is gorgeous and the atmosphere was perfect.  High energy and fun all around.  I highly recommend this race.  

One day, it’s all going to come together for me.  I’m going to find the perfect balance of calorie consumption, hydration and race effort.  I’m going to deftly toe the line between redlining and bonking and come out victorious.  It’ll probably only take me 40 or 50 more races to get it all figured out.

Be Evolutionarily Relevant

As I’ve been tacking more and more miles onto my personal odometer, it’s become harder to keep my running obsession under the radar.  It’s not that I’m trying to keep it hidden; I’m incredibly proud of the running I’ve done and what running has done for me.  It’s just that I skew introverted to begin with and as soon as people start to realize what I’m doing, it inevitably leads to questions.  Questions that I generally have no interest in answering.

Every ultrarunner understands exactly what I’m saying because every ultrarunner has been asked, at some point, ‘Why?!?’, when something like the distance of your next race happens to be disclosed through casual conversation with a non-runner.  And we all know that someone who would ask that type of question has no idea how to fully understand the answer.  At least not in a real, practical sense.  So we utter clichés and talk vaguely about the intrinsic value of running.  

More often that not, when I arrive back at work after a long run in the middle of the day, I’m forced into some variation of a conversation that goes something like this:

“Bro! You were running this whole time?!?” You’ve been gone for like three hours!”

“Actually that was about four and a half… bro.”

“That’s nuts man!  I can’t do anything for four and half hours besides sleep. Why would you do that?”

“Oh, you know, I really enjoy getting away from everything—getting out in the mountains—and just running around.  It calms me down.”

  “You’re insane!! Why would anyone do that?! What do you think about while you’re out there?  Does your ipod last that—Bro! Where you going? Why you walking away?”

When looking at the human body from an evolutionary perspective, it seems odd that nobody ever has conversations like this:

“So, how was your day today?”

“Eh—it was pretty rough.  I sat at my desk at work for eight hours and then I sat in my car for an hour on my commute home before sitting for another five hours in front of the TV.”

“You mean to tell me you’ve been sitting for 14 hours today!?! That’s crazy!! How could you have possible done that?!? Isn’t your back killing you?  I’ve never heard of anyone sitting for so long!!”

“Well, I did get up a few times… I had to go to the bathroom and get something to eat… walk to my car.”

“Still, I don’t how you anyone could sit for so long!!  I would have lost my freaking mind! You’re a way stronger person than me.”

What happened to our evolutionary relevance?  As Harvard Evolutionary Biologist Daniel Lieberman points out in his book, The Story of the Human Body, humans are incredibly slow in comparison with the majority of quadrupeds.  The fastest humans top out around 23 miles an hour for—at the most—20 seconds.  Your average lion is running around 45 miles an hour for over four minutes.  

Tools like the bow and arrow weren’t invented until about 100,000 years ago and even the most basic stone spear points only appeared 500,000 years ago.  Yet there is archeological evidence that early humans have been hunting quadrupeds like kudu, zebra and wildebeest for almost 2 million years.  These animals were faster, stronger and much more agile than the humans hunting them.  But as mostly hairless bipeds, our ancestors could do a couple of things better than the rest of the animals on the planet: sweat and run long distances. 

So, according to Lieberman, we waited until the day was hot and we ran our prey down until it collapsed from heat stroke.  We evolved to be endurance runners. Now, we sit in chairs and type on computers.  We’ve lost touch with our evolutionary history.  Most of us have completely stopped using our bodies in the way they were designed.  And for some asinine reason, we expect no consequences for these actions. 

The next time someone comes up to me and asks me why I run such long distances with an incredulous look plastered across their face, I’m going to simply reply that I’m “attempting to stay evolutionarily relevant”.  I think that sums it all up nicely.  What more should I really have to say?

Now, if you’d excuse me, I’m going to run outside under the hot sun and sweat my ass off.