Athens, OH Marathon – 4/9/2017

In my last blog post, I mentioned that I was training for the Eisenhower marathon in Abilene, KS on 4/8, but I ended up switching to the Athens, OH marathon for several reasons. Originally, there was going to be a group of us racing together, but due to some extenuating circumstances, it ended up just being me, so my good buddy Jon helped me find a race a little closer to home.

Overall, training went well. I hit all of the scheduled long runs well and experimented with several fueling strategies. My best run was a 22-miler on March 4th, average pace 8:14. I did that run on a whopping 220 calories, almost all fat (2 servings of Keto OS 2.1). I had French fries and dessert with my supper 36 hours prior, and kept it low carb, low calorie the day before. That run gave me a lot of confidence that my 3:30 goal was within reach.

Then I got strep. The evening of March 25th, during an absolutely awesome survival retreat with my 6-year old son, Jacob, (Heartland Journey Retreat)  my throat started hurting. Being a typical guy, I ignored it for about a week. On Saturday, April 1st, it took a serious turn for the worse, so I headed to urgent care and tested positive for strep. I told them I had a marathon in 8 days and wanted to hit it hard, so they gave me a rocephin injection and z-pack.

The taper phase of a marathon training plan is important to keep muscles loose, maintain fitness and muscle memory. The two weeks leading up to my race, my training plan called for 58 miles total, with 12 and 8 milers as the long runs. With the illness, I ran a total of 24 miles, had a 7-day stretch with no running at all, and 6 miles was my single longest run.

That ended up being a recipe for really tight muscles and phantom injuries. The Friday before the race, I did a 4-miler and had to stop and stretch 2.6 miles in due to serious pain behind my left knee. For about 5 days leading up to the race, I developed acute plantar fasciitis in my right heel due to some very tight calf muscles. Putting weight on my right foot felt like nails driving into my heel.

I foam rolled and stretched as much as I could, determined to salvage this race to the best of my ability.

Athens OH is home to Ohio University. It’s a beautiful college town with a thriving downtown. When I checked into the hotel, the desk clerk asked, “are you here for the party?” I mentioned that there were thousands of people roaming the streets downtown, and asked if that’s what he was talking about. He just laughed and said it’s like that every weekend. I told him I was here for the marathon, and he said, “oh, okay”. All in, there were only 195 runners in the full marathon, and 526 in the half marathon, so the masses downtown most certainly were not there for the race!

The race starts downtown Athens, near the campus, and ends on the University running track, which makes it very spectator friendly. The course is a very flat out-and-back on a bike path near the Hocking River.

Race morning, I had 2.5 servings of Keto OS 2.1, and 1.25 servings of Ucan (a very slow burning carb), which I’ve been experimenting with on long runs. 388 calories pre-race total: 35g carbs, 17.5g fat, 2.5g protein, 80 calories from BHB (beta hydroxobuthyrate, aka exogenous ketones). The day prior, I followed my normal high fat, low carb protocol, taking in a total of 1870 calories, 73% fat, 19% protein, 8% carbs (26g net). 36 hours prior to the race, I had the French fries and a dessert from the same place I ate before my 22-miler to top off my glycogen stores.

30 minutes prior to race start, blood glucose 123, ketones 1.7 – good numbers! Apart from coughing and congestion, I was feeling good.

It was about 34 degrees when I arrived at the starting line race morning. The forecast called for sunshine and mid-60’s by the end of the race. The race started rather abruptly at 7:58am. It was actually strange – they had an American flag at the starting line, so I was expecting them to start the National Anthem at any moment…and then – BANG!!! They fired a cannon. Everyone was a little startled and confused. Oh, okay, we’re starting now! Off we went…not sure if that was planned or not.

My plan was to run the first few miles progressive, since that is what worked best on my long runs in training. My first 3 splits were 8:27, 8:20, 8:18, after which I was able to settle into low-8’s consistently through the first half. I was feeling good, and thinking that pace felt sustainable.

Hitting the turn at the half way point, my lingering cough started getting worse, which made it hard to keep any kind of rhythm with my breathing, so my pace started to slip a bit. It was about the 16 mile mark when my calves started tightening up, probably from my compromised taper and unplanned time off. I shortened my stride a bit and just kept plugging away, knowing that my son, Jacob, was waiting at the finish line to cheer me on. Athens is about an hour and a half from Columbus where he lives with his mom, so she brought him down so they could see me finish, which was awesome! Here’s the finish line pic of me waving at them:

I finished in 3:47:17. Not the time I wanted, but all things considered, I’m happy with the outcome. It’s a PR, and I’m encouraged to continue exploring endurance training on a ketogenic diet. I placed 59th of 195 overall, 50th out of 132 men, 7th of 16 in my age group. My previous marathon PR was 4:17:02 (2013), and I went 4:43 in the marathon split at Ironman Louisville last year, so happy with a new PR!

45 minutes post race, glucose 80, ketones 2.7. Definitely in the zone. I am going to continue experimenting with the Ucan, and comparing levels with and without. I feel like I’m getting closer to dialing in my race nutrition, but still have work to do to get it just right.

So, what’s next? I am starting a 12-week weightlifting plan, while continuing with the swimming, cycling, and running, and I’m working with a few friends on choosing one or two 70.3 (half ironman) races this year. My focus through the end of June is going to be on strength training and putting on a little muscle mass which will hopefully help with tackling another full ironman next year.


2 thoughts on “Athens, OH Marathon – 4/9/2017

  1. In my opinion it’s better to avoid raising blood sugar levels prior to the event. You probably are well aware of this,, but during exercise, especially above zone 1, there is a neuro-endocrine suppression of insulin release. Insulin before is to be avoided.


    1. Interesting – I actually had not heard that. But, that supports why my fasted 22-miler with no pre-loading was my best run. Will keep this in mind as I build volume in my next tri training block. Any advice on timing Ucan or other carbs for long distance events?


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