I had started out my Saturday 11 mile run at the same pace I had been running all of my long runs - I should have been feeling invincible by mile four, but instead I was feeling tired and heavy. I had to keep going - I had to get my 11 miles in. Bailey was along with me again for this run, and we'd been increasing his mileage one mile a week over the past month. This week was his seven mile run. I only had three more miles to go to drop him off, and then four more after that. I could do this. Mile five came and went and suddenly I had to stop and walk. I was spent. I was out of gas and the motor was stopping. We walked about a quarter of a mile, and picked up the pace again. Ok, I thought, a walk break is fine. Let's keep going. And then I hit mile six, and had to walk again. We picked up the pace around mile seven, and since Bailey was looking great, we continued on to mile eight. Then, it happened - the wall came down in front of me and I slammed right into it. I was DONE.
I stopped my Garmin at the eighth mile and began my half mile ascent up our hill back home. I was still considering dropping Bailey off and continuing another three miles, but I didn't know how that would be possible. Even if I dug down deep, I was done. My feet were hurting, my legs felt like they weighed 1000 pounds, my neck was stiff, and my back was aching. I was done.
What Went Wrong?
Once we got home Bailey grabbed his tennis ball and ran over to Tom to play a few rounds of fetch (who knew he was almost 10 and a HALF years old!) and I hobbled to our backyard and sat down attempting to pull my shoes off. I was a little confused about how spent I was. I had just run 10 miles a week ago and felt unstoppable. My weekly runs during the week were fine, a little tiring, but nothing out of the ordinary - so why was this eight miles so miserable? What had I changed this week? And then it came to me - my diet.
The Thursday before my Saturday run I decided I'd try carbo-loading like I would the few days before the upcoming half marathon. I hadn't carbo-loaded since I changed to a plant based diet, so I was curious to see how it would affect the long run, assuming I'd be fine and maybe get an extra boost. Here was my meal plan:
- Thursday Dinner: Brown Rice & Quinoa Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Peas
- Friday Breakfast: Oatmeal and Banana
- Friday Lunch: Fettuccine with Tomato Sauce, Broccoli, Mushrooms, and Fresh Tomatoes and two large pieces of bread
- Friday Dinner: Burrito Bowl with Spinach, Black Beans, Quinoa, Tomatoes, Onions, Avocados and a huge handful of tortilla chips
It doesn't seem that bad, right? Well, apparently my body had adjusted to running on plants and while most people can eat that plan and feel totally fine, I felt pretty awful. I usually get a 45 minute swim in on Fridays doing drill work and kick sets along with regular swim sets, but I felt exhausted and skipped the swim. I should have been fine, right? Resting a full day in between my Thursday run and my long Saturday run would be beneficial. But nope - I felt even more tired. So what happened?
Brendan Brazier talks about high-net-gain foods delivering us energy by a way of conservation as opposed to consumption. In an article he wrote for AskMen.com, he says:
By swapping out highly processed and refined foods for high net-gain whole foods, your body will be able to rebuild with the best construction materials. Focus on adding whole, minimally-processed, plant-based foods that are free of added sugars, common allergens (like dairy, gluten, and soy) and artificial ingredients (flavors, preservatives, or colors). By avoiding highly refined foods and artificial ingredients, your body can digest what you’ve eaten more efficiently and use the energy and nutrients it delivers faster and more effectively.
I had a lot of processed food the two days before my run in the pasta. Pasta, unless made fresh, is a processed food. And only one of those meals the pasta was made from quinoa and brown rice - the other day (fettuccine) I just ate plain white pasta with all its nutrients processed out. No wonder I felt better when I just ate a Burrito Bowl - food that was whole: quinoa, sweet potatoes, black beans, tomatoes, avocados, and onions. Natural, unrefined whole food digests with a considerably lower energy requirement. Therefore, we can gain more usable energy from simply eating foods that are in a more natural whole state, even if they have fewer calories.
Going Back To What Started It All
The good thing about all of this is, now I know what NOT to do before the half! My body has undergone some radical changes over the past year of going plant based. I feel so much better on a daily basis, I can do so much more, and instead of having to nap after running a long 10 miles like in previous training sessions, I can go out and have a full day of running errands. Sure, I'm exhausted by 10pm, but I don't mind - that just means I get some amazing sleep!
This week begins the full taper for the half - only eight miles this Saturday. I'm tempted to do more, maybe even nine, but I don't want to overdo it with only two weeks to go until race day. I don't want to overtrain and peak before the race. One thing is for sure - I'm going back to what started everything - running on plants. It's going to be a week filled with amazing salads, like my new Falafel Salad posting tomorrow, my Vegetable and Wild Rice soup (coming soon), my favorite Burrito Bowls filled with black beans, quinoa, and sweet potatoes, and Green Smoothies packed with spinach, kale, strawberries, pears, and beets. I'm excited to get back on track and get ready for my first plant based half marathon!