Thursday, October 15, 2009

Project X, a WSCG Experiment

Yesterday, I wrote about your life being an experiment. Through my own scientific trials, I have recently discovered that I possess mutant power.

Last month, the state championship road race fell on the same weekend as the Omaha Corporate cup 10k foot race. And in addition to that, the marathon training calendar I'd been using to prepare for an upcoming race also called for a 20 mile run that weekend.

To manage the energy requirements, I began a carbohydrate loading diet experiment.

Step 1. About a week before the event, reduce or maintain your carbohydrate intake at about 50 to 55 percent of your total calories. Increase protein and fat intake to compensate for any decrease in carbohydrates. Continue training at your normal level. This helps deplete your carbohydrate stores and make room for the loading that comes next.

Sunday and Monday came and went without much notice. In fact, I was beginning to think that the unloading phase was a bunch of hoo-ha.

I found out otherwise during Tuesday evening's 1200m repeats at UNO's track. On the last couple of intervals, my legs became heavy. As much as I tried, I couldn't keep the leg turnover speed up. A feeling of general malaise and extreme hunger had set in. Meanwhile, my senses became seemingly sharper focused. Pedaling home from the track, I could smell the Amsterdam Cafe's carbohydrate-rich falafels & curry fries from six blocks away. I was tempted, but I had one more day to go.

If I thought Tuesday was bad, Wednesday was worse. At breakfast, the fridge opened its doors to containers awash in liquid diabetes; the pantry revealed boxes of processed foods gratuitously coated in refined sugars. Meanwhile, my mind was freaking out, continuously insisting on stuffing fistfuls of this garbage into my mouth. I had no idea how much of this crap was in my kitchen, let alone my body. Yet I resisted. Barely.

This insanity continued throughout the day. At the Starbucks in my building, the pastries were the first thing I saw when I entered the store. I was unaware that they had so many varieties of scones. Back at my desk, there weren't enough celery and carrots in my lunch bag to quench the sugar cravings.

Then came the Wednesday evening Trek store group ride. Since Shim talks behind my back in front of my back when I'm not there (his words -- not mine), you may have already heard how many times I was dropped that night.

If not, it went like this: repeated drops, each time with extending distances between the group and me. At the last regrouping, somebody asked if I had flatted. Apparently they had to wait a really really long time. As we soft-pedaled away from this final grouping, I confided to another rider about experimenting with my diet. Before he could ask more about it, I was dropped again. Allow me to remind you that we were soft pedaling at that moment. Sigh. I just didn't care any more. I sat up and saw the pack pull away at 12 MPH. My leg muscles were quivering and my brain hurt. I wanted nothing else to do with that ride.


I had succeeded in waking the mutant within. My liver & metabolism were undergoing lipid to glycogen regenesis. Without any quick energy (carbs) left, the body was forced to convert its fats to sugars from the liver stores. It's an inefficient process that causes significant performance degradation. In other words, a total bonk.

The time had arrived to flip the switch to begin carb-loading.

Step 2. Three to four days before the event, increase your carbohydrate intake to 70 percent of your daily calories

I rolled up to the first available convenience store. As I paid for the two bananas, a quart of Gatorade and a 16 oz bag of twizzlers, the attendant commented, "You look terrible."

A reply formed in my brain, but the synapses connecting the abstract thought to uttering a response misfired. A heavy nod simply conveyed my agreement.

Within 15 minutes, I was feeling much better. The sugars were coursing through my veins, clearing the fog in my head while providing energy for muscles. I was steadily cruising along at 20 MPH again.

Over the next three days, I was a banana-eating monkey. I had my fill of grains and pastas. I even had a falafel with curry fries. Evidenced by exclamation point abuse on my twitter feed (!!! ack !!!), a wave of ebullience overtook as my energy levels rose. I was ready to race.

The weekend's results were promising. A good Cat 4 race on Saturday was followed by a 10K PR while on the way to completing the 20 mile run on Sunday.


Fast forward to the present. I'm racing the Des Moines marathon this Sunday. I've completed a second round of carb unloading and am well into the reload phase now.

The unloading wasn't as bad this time because I was tapering. Still, I got the sugar cravings going and managed to wake the mutant within once more.

I'm expecting to see Charles Xavier at the finish line.


  1. "You look terrible"

    "You work at a convenience store"

    (I carbo-load every day)

  2. re: You work at a convenience store

    You have a gift, Fred.

    Even if my liver had been able to extract a gram of sugar in time from that lipid-rich quarter-pounder with cheese I ate in 2004, my reply wouldn't have approached that.

    To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift

  3. Brady, As nutrition geek,is it possible that my Sambucus Canadensis (Elderberry) Jelly, over loaded with refined sugar, negates its abundance of Vitamins A, B & C plus flavonoids, carotene and amino acids?
    Ol' Dad

  4. I like to eat Chivitos before big races (see Argentine / Uruguayan cuisine).

    Gump out a good one, Bro!

  5. Hi Dad, by the time that the liver has to do the heavy lifting to manufacture blood sugars, the elderberry jelly's vitamins, minerals, amino acids and such would be mostly pointless. It'd be like adding fire insurance to your house that's in the process of burning down, when what you really need is a hose and water.

    Come mile 20, I'd be happy to take a couple spoonfuls of that sweet nectar jelly.

    Brendan - I'm looking for a Boston qualifier. If I feel good, I'll attempt a go at 2:59:59. Follow me with athlete alerts

  6. Good Luck, not sure if any of this will help you, my performances have always been best when I ignored things like what I eat and having training logs etc..But then again I will never do a marathon. I will be great to see you go under three hours.

  7. Great job today Brady, Awesome run !

  8. Why didn't you break 3 hours Sally?

  9. Brady, Nice run.

    Hey - What size of bike do you ride? Email.