The Keto Diet Experiment, Part 2

Sixteen Months Deep into the Keto Diet

Who would have thought it? When I started this journey, i my goal was to (as it is with all nutritional plans, exercise programs, new equipment, new supplements, etc) "test drive" this plan so I could come from a place of experience and integrity when, and if, I chose to recommend this plan to clients and friends.

Well here we are, 16 months later, and I am still "on Keto" (in quotes as I have modified quite a bit in order to make this a lifestyle instead of just a 90-day experiment. As I was very clear in my first blog, my intention (in addition to the "test drive") was to improve my performance and overall energy and well being during my long training runs and ultra marathons. I was just so sick of feeling like crap, sick to my stomach, emotional and physical rollercoasters, etc. I was ready to do anything and all of my research on the causes of the massive energy fluctuations and GI issues came down to excess glucose – think gels, GUs, Gatorade, etc.

Well, I can tell you, this plan works 100%. In 16 months I have not had one stomach issue, and my energy levels are amazingly consistent – both during training from as little as 30 minutes high intensity to 6 hours medium intensity!

It has been so long, I actually don’t remember what it feels like to “bonk” and need food so badly you would eat a half-eaten gel you found on the side of the trail (if that sounds like the voice of experience, I will let you, the reader, decide if that actually ever happened 😊 In fact, the ONLY time I have felt that kind of hunger has been on my “metabolic flexibility” days (PC vernacular for “cheat” days) when I allow myself to eat a high level of carbs. More on this later.

So, to reiterate the pros and cons that I have experienced...

Keto Diet Pros

(in order of magnitude of change and my perceived value of the change)

  1. Almost 100% elimination of my chronic anxiety and worry. This effect is DIRECTLY correlated with how compliant I am with my macros. If I go over on carbs or protein the anxiety creeps back in. This is and continues to be, my favorite and most surprising effect of being on this plan. The more I read, the more I see this as an incredible (for some people, this, like any intervention, works better for some people and doesn’t work at all for some), safe and natural way to control anxiety! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzwtHkUaOfk (btw, this guy is one of my favorites You Tubers on this subject. The most knowledgeable and pure research based person I have found on the Internet is Dr. Dom D’agostino (but be warned, he can be a little dry and monotone) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keSoSyu9m7c.

  2. Complete elimination of my energy fluctuation and GI issues in training. This is no exaggeration, I have actually completed a 3 hour, fairly tough, hike/jog/run in the mountains on NOTHING except water and electrolyte supplements. And felt totally fine. I am telling the truth that this plan has completely reignited my love for running and, especially, long distance running!

  3. Ease of going “in and out” of the plan and nutritional ketosis. On everything else I have ever done, when my addictive personality hits and I have a “cheat” or “refeed” or “binge” or whatever you want to call it, day, it is brutal to get back “on the plan”. With Keto, it is so easy (even after being completely off for 8 days in Italy) and I really look forward to getting back on it. Using Intermittent fasting really helps this process as well.
    Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwCRjwDs1Ek

  4. Increased cognitive clarity and improved memory and focus, also confidence! Once you have been on this plan for a while, you forget the “carbohydrate fog” your brain used to be in. I will actually test this now, when I am eating carbs (typically one day a week on the weekends) I will look around our church during Mass and test myself to remember everyone’s name that I know. I am 10x better when I am in full nutritional ketosis!
    Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPPIGSNcHT0

  5. Lower inflammation, better recovery from injury. This is very evident when I eliminate dairy, as this and alcohol are really the only traditionally inflammatory foods I eat on this plan. Another one of my favorites talks about booze and Keto here (he is not as knowledgeable or qualified as other two guys but he is more entertaining)
    Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fz-mlFMQXjc

  6. Virtually no hunger. There are many times during the day where I forget to eat, and this is from someone who ate 6-8x per day for the past 20 years!

  7. Improved body comp and weight loss. This is low on my list as it wasn’t the reason I went on this plan, however I lost about 15lbs and 3% body fat in the first 3 months and have kept it off, with NO feeling of deprivation at all! Nice “perk” for me, this is number one for most people who try this. This plateaued after 6 months, but has started dropping again now that I have added a “feast” day – see number 8……

  8. Ability to make this a lifestyle, not just a short term plan! After lots of research and trying a number of different ways (100% compliance, 1 cheat meal per day, little cheats every day (this does NOT work), etc) to have this last a lifetime, this is what I am currently doing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CH0n25XOTv4 (I really enjoy the guests Ben Greenfield has on his podcasts, his voice – and massive ego – drive me crazy sometimes but the quality of guests and subject matter make up for it. This one is really long, you can fast forward to when he talks about “feast-famine” cycles and why they are important). I do what is called a “5-1-1” plan. 5 days a week I am very strict Keto, with the exception of a beer or two here and there. 1 day a week I eat pretty much anything I like, and try to take in WAY more calories than I normally do (my “feast” day). 1 day a week I fast, water, electrolytes and some caffeine only. That is it!I’ve been doing this for a month and love it, mostly from the psychological standpoint of having a day and treats to look forward to, and a day where I just have a lot of fun with eating with no restrictions! And, since I am so not used to carbs and how they make me feel, it makes the next day fast very easy to do cause I am READY to feel amazing again!

Keto Diet Cons

I won’t go into a lot of detail here, as the cons are pretty much exactly the same as I mentioned in my first blog that I experienced after one month. They are pretty minimal and all very easily avoided or reduced if you pay attention. I would say the biggest one that affects me directly and often, if I am not good about my magnesium supplementation, is the leg cramps at night. The good news is I am VERY motivated by pain, and I had a calf cramp so bad one night it actually injured my calf when I stepped on it – have not forgotten my magnesium supplements since (Thanks to my wife, who made the perfect suggestion to keep the supplements next to my bed so I won’t forget them)! The one thing I have found is that the effects of this plan (both pro and con) are VERY variable and some people have to be extremely strict to get the benefits I have listed. Some are never able to get into nutritional ketosis. As with everything, its not for everyone!

So, to sum it up, I see this plan as a tool in my nutritional tool box that I will use for the rest of my life. I intellectually understand (Dr. Pompa makes a very good case for this in the Greenfield podcase) the case for going in and out of Ketosis for extended periods of time (i.e., seasonal variation in your diet, Meat eating ketosis sometimes, Vegetarian sometimes, Mediterranean diet sometimes, etc.) but right now I FEEL so good when I am in nutritional ketosis that I will stick with the “5-1-1” plan for a while!

As always, if you have questions, or would like more information about FormWell’s training and nutritional services, please fill out the simple form below and we will set up a free consult to answer all of your questions!!

Yours in Health,

Rami F. Odeh, Founder and President
FormWell Personal Fitness Training

The Keto Diet Experiment, Part 1

Background

One of the rules I have tried to always adhere to in our fitness business is to never, ever promote a product, service, diet, equipment, etc. without personally trying it first. I find that this allows me to promote from a strong place of integrity and understanding of the benefits and/or pitfalls of the product, diet, etc.

Of course, I am fully aware that this is NOT a valid way to test something in a pure experimental form -- this "an experience of 1" is simply anecdotal but it helps me feel much better about selling or promoting something having tried it myself.

One of the main places I do this is with diet programs.  At this point in my life, I have tried almost every diet on the market (except completely non-science based and, quite frankly, stupid diets like "The Lemonade Diet").  I also do my best to try the diet for a long enough period to experience the most benefit, or lack of benefit, from the plan.  The exception here would be the 100% Vegan diet which I only did for 21 days -- I felt so terrible I just couldn't continue for longer than 3 weeks.  I am sure it is a good plan and works for some people but I am definitely not one of those!

The Keto Diet

So, the latest: The Ketogenic Diet.  (or simpler: Low Carb / High Fat - LCHF diet). This diet has actually been around since the 1920s, as research has shown that it is one of the only effective interventions for drug-resistant Epilepsy seizures.   It has seen a bit of a resurgence lately, especially in my sport (ultra running) as some top athletes have seen great success with it.  This is actually what attracted me to this plan -- I was looking for a way to get off the "sugar train" that I tend to get on in races longer than 2 hours -- causing a roller coaster of energy and mood and horrible nausea in longer, especially hot weather, races.

To step back a bit, in September of 2016 I had adopted an "anti-inflammatory" nutritional plan, virtually eliminating all the major food groups responsible for inflammation:  Gluten, Dairy, Soy, Alcohol and Simple Sugar.  I saw some AMAZING results, mostly in joint pain reduction (almost immediately) on this plan so I have stayed on it about 80% of the time since then.

There is a TON of strong research on the Ketogenic diet so I won't go into all of that here, I want to focus more on my results and experience.

Here is a good place to start if you are a research and data geek like me....

http://www.ketogenic-diet-resource.com/

Basically, to explain the macro breakdown in the simplest way possible; think of the Atkins Diet but with moderate protein.  On this plan you derive 80% of your daily calories from fat (you read that right), about 15% from protein and 5% from carbs.

Yep, pretty different huh?

For most people (it doesn't work for everyone btw, researchers haven't figured out why) this forces your body to go into a state of "nutritional Ketosis" (NOT dangerous Keto acidosis that can occur with Diabetes) , switching from using glucose and glycogen (stored sugar) for fuel to using dietary and body fat for fuel.  Just from a "gas tank" view, this was very intriguing to me: Most people have enough stored glycogen to run about 20 miles without refueling (about 2000 calories - some elite endurance athletes can bump this up to 2500-3000 calories).  At my level of body fat I have approximately 91,000 stored calories in fat -- enough to run 900+ miles on just water (if I could teach my body to become "fat adapted" and use body fat for fuel more than sugar)!!!!  I could run to Miami only stopping for water and the occasional electrolyte supplement :-)

I did a TON of research on this before I started this plan, both anecdotal from athletes and true research studies.  There is some really strong research coming out on Ketones being "neuro-protective" (protecting against brain disorders - Alzheimer's, MS, Dementia, etc), helping prevent and possibly reduce size of cancer tumors, improved mental cognition and memory, reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms, energy and mood improvement, reduction in inflammation, reduction in triglycerides, and many more benefits!  One benefit, believe it or not with all the dietary fat, is an improvement in Lipid profiles -- increase in HDL Cholesterol, improvement in LDL (small to large) ratio, etc.

I did initial blood work to get my baseline, then I ate Ippolitos as my "last meal" :)

Armed with all this research I did the diet 100% for 4 weeks.

Since then I have been on it 6 days a week, giving myself one "cheat day" to have some fun with foods that I was missing.

What do I eat on KETO?

One of the downsides, unless you are a professional cook, is the type of foods you can eat are pretty limited, luckily I don't mind eating without a ton of variety!

Breakfast

"Keto Coffee" - I have this every day. (you have probably heard of "bulletproof coffee" pretty much a homemade version of this) - this is my favorite part of this diet!:

(I am not trying to drop weight so I don't measure very accurately, mostly estimates)

  • Grass-Fed butter

  • MCT (coconut) oil

  • Heavy whipping cream

  • Splenda for taste

  • Coffee

(blended, it sounds weird but it is actually delicious - think of a full fat, frothy cappuccino).  This is about 600-800 calories of 90% fat so normally keeps me full all morning.

If I am training hard I eat a 2nd breakfast.  Normally a 4-6 egg omelets or fried eggs cooked in grassfed butter and MCT oil with cheese.  Maybe a side of grass fed, no nitrate bacon.  I eat a ton of bacon - yum!  Normally a side of tomato, or avacado for a small amount of carbs.

Lunch

Usually don't need it as I am so full from morning meals.

Dinner

Some type of high-fat meat or fish (very careful to choose organic, wild caught, grass fed, no additives, hormones, nitrates, etc.) Cooked in, well, you guessed it.  Large salad if I haven't eaten my allotment of carbs yet.  There are also frozen, organic "riced" veggies that are great (with butter and coconut oil of course).

Snacks

  • Pork rinds (Whole Foods has grass fed, clean pork version)

  • Cheese

  • Berries (small amount) mixed with Heavy Cream and Splenda

  • Macadamia nuts

  • Almonds

  • Bacon

  • Avocados (not enough)

Keto Diet Results

First week

All of my research prepared me for a rough first week, as your body depletes its stored Glycogen and switches over to using Ketones for fuel there tends to be a rough (3 days up to as long as two weeks- affectionately known as the "Keto Flu") transition period.  I didn't experience much of this, probably because I fasted for 24 hours at the start -- this helps jump-start the process a ton (Intermittent Fasting is a topic for another Blog for sure).  I was a little tired and out of it day 2 and 3 then I was fine.

After the first week, what did I notice?

Negative effects

Cramps. Supplementing with electrolytes, specifically, magnesium, helps a ton with this. Drink LOTS of water!  When you cut out carbs, you automatically drop a ton of stored (excess) body water and electrolytes.

Heartburn. Digesting so much dietary fat.  Digestive enzymes alleviated this.

Constipation. Easily fixed with added fiber, more water and a few veggies and berries.  Back to "normal" after about 4 weeks on plan.  MCT oil in your coffee helps move things along as well.  TMI

Yep, that was it for me in terms of negative effects!

Positive effects

First and foremost, a PROFOUND reduction in stress and anxiety! I have dealt with some level of general anxiety my whole life and have tried many, many different things to improve the symptoms.  Nothing, and I mean nothing - including powerful prescription SSRI's - comes close to the effect of being on this diet - I am as calm as I am when on vacation, even calmer, 90% of my day!

Virtually no hunger. I find I can have my morning "keto coffee" and some fat-based snacks during the day (Macadamia nuts) and not eat again until dinner and be fine.  Even when you do get hungry, it is a completely different sensation than when you are on a high carb diet.  When I am eating a lot of carbs, low blood sugar can cause a "need food NOW" emergency.  On Keto, you are aware of the hunger sensation, but it really is not that important or pressing. I actually forget to eat sometimes!

Weight and body fat loss.  I didn't do this plan to change my body comp (so I am not operating at a caloric deficit on purpose -- it probably happened organically as you are so much more full on less food) but I still dropped 7lbs and about 7% body fat in 4 weeks.  One of the cool things on this plan is you do not have to eat as much protein as Ketones are Amino Acid sparing so you don't need as much protein to maintain muscle mass.

Virtually no joint pain (but this was already alleviated when I cut out gluten and dairy) - see note at the end about dairy and this.Steady energy and mood, all day - no up and down.

Improved sleep and recovery

Steady energy on long runs (I drink water only and eat bacon and nuts while doing runs over 2 hours - under 2 hours just water). No super highs after eating sugar and no crashing lows.

Blood work changes - since I was the only person in this experiment, I did a full blood workup before and after (8 weeks).  Interestingly enough, even while eating up to 300g of fat per day, my Lipid profile was fine, my ratio of HDL to LDL actually improved and my Triglycerides were reduced to a very good level.  Most importantly, my C-Reactive Protein level (a good measure of total body inflammation and high levels are associated with Heart Disease)- -which was low to start from being on the anti-inflammatory diet-- stayed very low.  All of the most recent research points to inflammation as the real culprit in most disease, including Coronary Heart Disease.

Super easy (first diet plan ever I have had this experience with) to get back "on plan" after a cheat or off day.  This is a HUGE benefit as I lean towards a "all or nothing" mentality which tends to sabotage my long term sustainability of diet plans.  For instance, I once eliminated simple sugar from my diet for a year, when I fell off I think I binged on Halloween candy and ice cream for a month and have Never been able to sustain a sugar-free diet for that long again.

So, why isn't everyone doing this, why isn't it all over the news (especially with the potential to improve cancer???).  Why am I not switching all of our nutrition consultation members to this plan? Because it is NOT easy.

Eating this way is not "normal" and takes some work.  And keep in mind,  I am someone who has always loved and felt better on a high-fat diet.  I can't imagine someone who doesn't like eggs, bacon, meat, full-fat dairy, etc.  Also, the lack of variety is problematic for most people, I do miss my protein shakes, my fruit, large salads (yes, I said that), etc.  It is very restrictive and is probably not sustainable 100% of the time (unless, of course, my "pain" was more - i.e., some type of disease state that this could help), I also believe that metabolic flexibility is a good thing for our bodies so I will vary the breakdown for sure!

I will continue to experiment with this and find a breakdown (adding re-feed carb days, more protein post workouts to help with recovery, etc.) that is sustainable as the benefits far outweigh the downside right now.    Also, I have noticed a bit of knee pain creeping back which I attribute to adding dairy back into my diet -- it has been fun as cream in my coffee and cheese were the only things I really missed (once I went on the elimination diet) and enjoyed putting back into my diet.  I will be taking these back out (replacing with coconut cream) for a few weeks to see if this takes care of the pain (very minor compared to before the anti-inflammatory diet).

What I haven't done yet is do a really long and tough running effort, I have one planned in a few weeks so that will be a good test to see if my body has become more fat adapted and if this is working to solve the original goal...

Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

God bless you all!

Rami

Mountain Mist 50k

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I’m back!

After almost 5 years of constant writing, editing and successfully finishing 3 books, I needed a good break from writing. I’ve written a few blogs in that time, mostly on nutrition and a few race reports, but this past weekends’ race has inspired me to start again in earnest.

Those of you that know my story and my history might know that I have run in almost constant pain (varying from nagging to barely able to walk) from 3 separate Achilles tears over the span of 18 years, from 1999 – 2017. I had tried everything (PT, complete time off, massage, dry needling, acupressure, mega dose of anti-inflammatory meds, etc) to heal it and nothing really worked, in late 2016 I had basically given up and figured I would just run in pain until I fully ruptured it and then have the repair surgery.

Long story short, my Podiatrist recommended a procedure involving AmnioFix and I figured, what the heck, I’ll give one more thing a shot (I was in a lot of pain but not so much that it stopped my running so I refused to have surgery).

Well, this time I decided to REALLY commit to healing (instead of the normal ultrarunner mentality that we “know more than those non-running docs and we don’t need as much recovery time or rehab as they suggest”). To give you a prime example, the last procedure I had was High-Intensity Ultrasound and I decided since I would be laid up for a while I ran a tough 50K the DAY BEFORE the procedure. Needless to say, it didn’t work. This time I took a full 2 MONTHS off running BEFORE the procedure and a full 3 MONTHS off after. I mean REALLY off, no running at all. I also followed the EXACT instructions from the doc (poor guy gave me his cell number, bad move, I was texting him constantly with questions) in terms of rehab.

Guess what?

It worked!

I have been running completely pain-free (in my Achilles) since mid-2017. I cannot explain what a blessing this is, anyone that is in constant pain, especially doing an activity they really love, will tell you it saps a ton of the joy out of it. I was always grateful that it wasn’t bad enough to stop my running completely (except on some random and infrequent occasions) but running without pain is just amazing and I feel SO blessed I have this gift again when I was sure it was gone forever.

Being pain-free, I, of course, loaded up my calendar with a bunch of races for 2017 and 2018. Again in typical ultrarunning fashion, I didn’t plan at all for these which caused way more than my normal “DNS” rate (“Did Not Start”). The only upside was I made an agreement with a friend that everytime we did this we would donate the amount of the entry to our church (yep, double down in financial pain for our mistake) unless it was a legit reason like injury or sickness – not being an idiot and signing up for a race and thinking, “this date really sounds familiar” and the reason for that was it was my daughters birthday (true story – sorry Peanut)!

On top of this, I had two miserable races that I had to DNF (a trail marathon where I tore my calf (one of the residual issues I have from 18 years of compensation with a torn and super tight Achilles is calf issues) and other where I stupidly toed the line for a super hot 50k about 7 days after major oral surgery being still on heavy antibiotics and painkillers. You would think I would remember something from Grad School about not running in the heat while on antibiotics, I remembered it when my heart rate was in the 180s while I was WALKING a 20-minute mile.

So, in 25 years of racing endurance events and over 300 finishes, I have had a total of 5 DNF’s and 2 of them happened last year. I also had multiple DNS’s, some for good reasons, most for not. I even had a few races that I love that I just got up in the morning and didn’t feel like going. Not like me at all, I began to wonder if 10 years in this sport was enough and it was time to move on. Ironic because even though I was really enjoying running (training) again with it being pain-free, I just had lost my mojo for racing.

Not a good pattern.

Back to redemption.

Mountain Mist 50K

In January of 2018 I was signed up for the Mountain Mist 50k, the site of my first ever ultra in 2009 and still to this day one of my favorite, if not my favorite, race of the year. I had a great race at the DRT 30k and continued with excellent training through the winter and felt the best I had in years for that race.

Then I got the flu.

I have only had the flu 2x as an adult and this was horrible. I couldn’t even go to cheer on my friends, really a bummer. But in the grand scheme of things not a real issue. I put it in perspective and moved on, but I vowed to be back!

Move on to 2019. I signed up for Mist again, and did as much training as I could (ended up only doing 3 long runs, 1 - 4 hour mountain run in December on my birthday and 2 mountain runs one 5 hours and one 6 hours) Some foreshadowing here, in the 5 hour and 6 hour runs I felt really good for about 4 hours then suffered from absolutely terrible cramps, in the 6 hour run they were so bad at one point I didn’t know if I could even walk it in. So this was on my mind heavily as Mist approached.

Based on my year in 2018, just getting to the starting line healthy would be considered a huge win – talk about low expectations! In the last 2 weeks I did hardly anything running wise, just stayed loose and away from sick people.

I was planning on driving to the race with friends (“OCD” David and “Banner” Troy), but some things came up at work and I didn’t want to mess up their schedule, so I decided to drive on my own. Truth be told, I REALLY love driving by myself, especially to races, it takes a ton of stress off me as I can operate on my own schedule, stop when I want, etc.

I got on the road at a decent hour and I had a good feeling about the weekend already as I felt great, none of the normal moodiness and “niggles” that occur with tapering and an overall peaceful and content feeling of being blessed to get to go to this race and be healthy! There was no traffic, my friends were able to pick up my race number and I pulled into the restaurant EXACTLY as they were being seated for dinner (they had been waiting 20+ minutes).
I’m telling you, this was going to be a good weekend.

We had a great dinner at Longhorn, I added some healthy carbs to my dinner to prepare for the long effort, and we were back at the cabin by 8 pm. Chilled for a bit and fell asleep by 9:30 pm!

And slept 8 hours solid!

This may not seem like a big deal to you, but I normally toss and turn the night before a race, especially in tight quarters with snoring friends, this was a miracle I tell you!

I woke up feeling refreshed, fantastic and, most importantly, EXCITED AND BLESSED to be racing. I hadn’t had this feeling in so long I had forgotten how awesome it was. I ate a full breakfast (I’ve been starting all my long runs fasted to take advantage of my fat adaptation being on keto but I didn’t want to be hungry in what could end up being an 8 hour effort) of eggs and bacon (no carbs, those would start 60-90 minutes into the race), 2 servings of pre-workout and I was ready to go!

Another factor that I forgot to mention, but my friends kept reminding me when I had a great day, was that I was doing “Dry-Uary” and had not had a drink in 26 days. I’m not a big drinker but, like most of my contemporaries, I had definitely overdone it over the holidays (which seem to last from Halloween to New Years now) and the break was much needed.

After how I felt this day, I may quit drinking forever!

One last motivating factor (although in reality very, very minor – even if we joke about it a ton) was that I was racing (again) with “OCD” David and have never beaten him in a race, since meeting him in 2014. We are pretty close in terms of times but he is in WAY better ultrarunning shape than me (the guy has done like 15 - 100 milers and just finished the Badwater 135 this past summer – a 135-mile road race in Death Valley, considered one of the hardest events on the planet)! He also goes out way to fast for me, which usually means he puts 10 minutes or so into me in the first 5-10 miles and that is usually the race.

Funny “sideways” insult that morning, OCD says “you know I am not feeling that well, I think I might just run with you today”. Ha! Why not just say, “you are slow as crap and even if I am not feeling well I can beat you”!

Got to the start with just enough time, I don’t like to have too much time to hang out and we timed this perfectly.

Again, things were “flowing” on all fronts.

I really had no plan for the race, except to start slow like I always do – I couldn’t care less about my time as long as I made it in by 8 hours 30 minutes and 59 seconds, the official cut off. I just REALLY wanted to finish this race, get some redemption for the past year (it had actually been 2.5 years since I finished an ultra, hence my feeling that these distances might be done for me).

I knew things were going to be different from my first step.

Normally, I feel like total crap for at least the first 45 minutes of all long runs. Sore, out of breath, don’t want to be there, etc. This race I felt GREAT from minute one.

We were running way too fast for my normal start and it felt effortless!

The first 6.7 miles to the first aid station went by in a blur, spent a lot of time in a long line of people much slower than me, having nice conversations, figuring it was a good way to hold myself back. Finally, I ran around the whole line I was in, I felt so good I wanted to take advantage of it. I was assuming, like every other ultra race I have done, the “struggle bus” would jump on my back eventually and wanted to get as much time ahead of the clock as I could before that happened.

“OCD race within the race” update #1: As usual, OCD dropped me in the first couple of miles, but he had a hydration pack malfunction so he had to stop and work on it at this aid station (secretly I think this is why I ended up beating him for the first time, he is so OCD he couldn’t stop thinking about this minor issue and it destroyed him mentally! HA, maybe I sabotaged the pack the night before, who knows……) so I caught up to him. I dropped him on the descent out of the aid station, but I figured he would be passing me soon enough.

My biggest worry was cramping, especially in my right calf which had been giving me so much trouble. I felt the “twinges” starting around 2 hours (wayyyyy too early) and was starting to worry – as usual, I tried my best to turn this worry into a prayer of gratitude to our Lord, you cannot be grateful and worried at the same time I have found). So then I land on a rock with all my weight in my toe, which stretches my Tibialis Anterior (front of Calf) so badly I saw stars. But it completely got rid of the pre-cramping feeling in my calf.

Never to be felt again.

New Calf cure noted!

Side note; I had also been putting essential oils on my calfs all week to reduce tightness and swelling, I am now a firm believer and happy my wife is selling them now!

OCD update #2: Around 11 mile the second aid station, got to see “Banner” Troy who was supporting us this weekend instead of running (he got a new job and has not had time to train – we all know how that is)! I dropped my layers on top and moved through quickly, he asked where OCD was (honestly at this point – until Troy asked about him - I figured he had passed me somewhere between 6.7 and 11 and I didn’t remember) – I said he is probably right behind me.

It's probably important to mention that the terrain conditions were some of the worst I had ever run on. It had been raining for weeks here and the mud was brutal. So hard to get a rhythm and actually run, but in theme with how this day was going, I had fun with it, accepted it and did the best I could.

Where was the struggle bus? When would it show up?

I was in such a perfect place physically, mentally and spiritually. I was even able to complete my “running rosary” with other people around me, which is normally too distracting for me. I dedicated it to all those who could not be at the race this day, and those having a really bad day.

OCD update #3: Got to the 17.something aid station and again, felt awesome, saw Troy (he said OCD was about 4 minutes behind me at mile 11 – what????) and moved through quickly, ate some frozen chocolate candy and that was a real treat – simple pleasures are important in ultras and in life!

The day just got better and better. I couldn’t believe when I passed 4 hours and still felt great. My mood was up the whole time, I was eating anything I wanted and had zero stomach issues (I pretty much expected this, those went away completely once I started eating an LCHF diet about 2 years ago), my legs were strong (getting tired on tough climbs but nothing like in other races) and my overall feeling of gratitude to our Lord was at its’ peak!

Final OCD update: Didn’t see Troy again till the mile 25ish aid station, this is at the top of the hardest climb in the race and I was STILL feeling fantastic (although the steep climbs did take a bit out of my legs). Troy later told me that I was one of the only people who was still in a good mood at this point! He told me OCD was 20+ minutes behind me at mile 17ish so, unless I totally fell apart in the next 6 miles I was going to finally beat him – again, not a prime motivator but just icing on the cake on a magical day!

I ended up beating him by about 50 minutes, I always told him for me to beat him would take his worst day and my best – he is still claiming he had pneumonia, Tuberculosis, flesh eating bacteria, Ebola and parasites that caused his lungs to stop processing O2 – ha ha!

I was able to finish, feeling super strong and never, ever, wanting the run to be over! I cannot remember that EVER happening in any endurance event I have done.

When I crossed the finish line, I had such a feeling of Joy, relief, pride, and redemption. I punched the air like I had just won the Western States 100!

I had proved to myself I can still do these long races if I choose to.

God had granted me as close to a perfect day as possible.

One week later my overwhelming feeling is still one of Joy and Gratitude.

What will I do next?

No idea, my gut tells me to only sign up for races like this that inspire me (Like Mist; I love the course, I love the weekend – it is like a reunion of southern ultrarunners) and definitely stop randomly signing up for races that “I might like or might work out in my schedule”. Right now I am going to enjoy the feeling of finishing what I started and let God lead me to what is next.