What I didn’t know about training for an endurance event
Runners looking for inspiration will know the motivational quote: “No matter how slow you go, you’ll always beat the one sitting on the couch”. It’s inspiring in itself to keep going, and it may even hold more truth, being able to beat the faster guys on the long runs.
Lisa is OmniBlend’s Sales & Marketing manager, and avid runner. In this series she’s sharing what she learned about training for an endurance event, specifically in terms of nutrition.
Running has been a passion of mine since my early twenties. I started out as a jogger, merely running to manage my weight and build some sort of fitness level. I enjoyed running to clear my head and generally felt good after each run (hello endorphins!).
After moving to Cape Town, I joined the West Coast Athletics Club in 2006. Still considering myself a novice runner, having done not much more than a 10km run up to then, enthusiastic club members soon got me into entering my first half marathon: the Peninsula Marathon 21km, which I completed in 2007.
Any runner will be able to relate to the sense of achievement that you experience after completing your first longer distance race, and for me it was mostly the comradery with fellow runners that stuck. Not only between club members, but also fellow runners from other clubs. Soon when you’re participating regularly in races you’ll also get to ‘know’ the runners who run more or less the same pace as you find yourself running more or less alongside each other during races.
In 2008 I entered the Peninsula Marathon, with the aim to get a qualifier to enter the Two Oceans ultra marathon which soon (again inspired by fellow runners) arrived on my bucket list. I put a lot of training in, however quite straight forward: just running running running, without any consideration of training techniques and training smarter.
My go-to fuel during these races were the GU gels, and jelly babies. Not that I suffered. It may have been that my age was right, that my nutrition was generally quite good, or whichever circumstance it was that unconsciously worked for me. I finished my first marathon in 4h12 and subsequently finished the Two Oceans 56km in 5h37. Anyone with some running experience will recognize those finishing times immediately as a steady 10km/h or 6min/k run. And that’s been me for most of my running career: just running 6min/k, feeling comfortable, just enjoying the run without lazing around too much.
In 2009 I finished another Peninsula Marathon and Two Oceans marathon, and then I called it quits for the long distances. Training for such events take up a lot of time, and I decided I still wanted to do the 10 and 15km events, with the occasional half marathon, but skip on the serious distances.
Until the idea of participating in the Wildrun arrived…: it’s new year 2019, my 40th birthday is around the corner and I’m asking myself questions about what I really want to do, what I enjoy most, and want to do now, while in good health. For years I’ve been pondering over the beautiful hikes that one can do along the Wild Coast, and for all sorts of reasons I haven’t taken action to get organized and do it. Then I realised the Wildrun may offer the perfect package: join a group of like-minded people, to run (which seemed more time-efficient than to hike) along some of the most breathtaking coastlines that South Africa has to offer, while being fully catered for. Cause even though I can rough it on occasion (camping in the wild on an overnight hike makes such 2-day hikes even more memorable), on this type of stage races I prefer to sleep in a comfortable bed, with my own facilities.
So, I entered and suddenly long-distance running was on the cards again. I found myself having to tune in to conversations about endurance training. Ten years on from my last long-distance event, knowledge around how to train optimally for endurance had also evolved. I joined a talk about the importance of training differently, applying different techniques to become more efficient. Running slower, to become faster. Over the years the Discovery Vitality incentives had pushed me to make sure I’d at least run 30+ minutes at a pace that would result in an average 80%+ heart rate to get my Active Rewards points. And now I had to make the switch to long and slow …?
As I researched the topic more, I realized that low heartrate training is indeed great for training your fat burning metabolism. That however is not the full story: least as important is your nutrition. Even more so: according to Dr Bob Seebohar, Sports Dietician and developer of the concept Metabolic Efficiency Training, the right nutrition accounts for 75% of optimal preparation, where your training programme amounts to the remaining 25% to improve your metabolism.
That fascinated me, and I wanted to learn more about it. Looking for a local expert on the topic, I found Adrian Penzhorn, who’s qualified sports scientist with a Medical Honours degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Cape Town, registered dietician, and the director of Performance Nutrition at Food for Sport, and founder of The Performance Kitchen. I met with Adrian to understand the concept of metabolic efficiency better, and more importantly: how would I apply it to my nutrition as part of my training for the Wild Run?
The coming weeks I’ll be sharing articles on what I learned from Adrian that is generally applicable to other athletes too. To understand the basic principles, and steps to take to improve your performance. Not only that: the nutritional recommendations as part of the metabolic efficiency (becoming a fat burning machine), have good health benefits for anyone else, whether you’re an athlete or not.
Next post: The role of nutrition in endurance sports