Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Crampy, Keto Newport Half

It might have been a silly idea to start this crazy nutritional experiment a week before running a half marathon, but I love a silly idea every now and again. I couldn't even say I was relying on good, solid training for this one because I've been having a very gentle winter but it wouldn't be the first half marathon I've winged and I'm sure it won't be the last. Either way, it was going to be an excellent way to see if being on a ketogenic diet really does make a difference. Would I really miss the carbs?!

Pre-race fueling was courtesy of Chiquitos. Watching the waitress's face slowly become more confused as I gave my dinner request was entertaining, "I would like the Chilli Con Carne please, except instead of the rice, can I just have loads of sour cream, and I don't want any tortillas thanks but could I have extra guacamole? Ooh, and please leave off the re-fried beans but I'll have extra cheese instead." It's a weird thing to get your head around. Still, they provided, and I was a very happy customer.

334kcals of fat for breakfast..
I met Newport's finest in McDonalds at 06:45 this morning as I went to get my morning coffee, three drunk blokes trying to convince the staff that they wanted a McCoffee Meal with hash browns. Now I can't really judge given my request a moment ago, but the staff were a bit less accommodating to these chaps. With half a cup of double cream added and my now favourite thick and creamy full fat yoghurt from M&S consumed, I was ready, and watched race buddy Nicky eat her Weetabix and carb-laden brekkie.

We headed over to the very well-organised HQ, which was buzzing with excited runners. It's about a 2000 strong race which is a great number; enough to keep you going on the course but not too many that it creates chaos. I saw a big 1:45 flag attached to one of the pacers and thought that would be a reasonable place to put myself. We made our way to the start where we wished each other a good run and Nicky went off up the front to start with the speedy runners. Some great music had all the runners bobbing up and down and spirits were running high, then we began.

Very excited to get started!
I stayed just behind the 1:45 pacer for about two miles, by which time my leg cramps (they hadn't disappeared since parkrun yesterday) were starting to cause some discomfort. By three miles I couldn't even see the pacer and I resigned myself to the fact that it was not going to be a fast one. The first part of the race was not especially picturesque, but the local support was absolutely extraordinary. Some kids had set up a mini drinks station outside their front garden and we ran past loads of the local community who were dishing out jelly babies from outside their houses. My favourite was definitely the pensioner leaning on his garden wall with his can of beer at 09:40 in the morning, cheering very enthusiastically.

By four miles I was suffering, my legs felt like lead weights and I even had cramp in my forearm (something I mocked Lizzie for at yesterday's parkrun! Karma). The Viridian High Potency Magnesium 300mg (120 Vegetarian Capsules) obviously hadn't touched the sides. The pace had started to drop and I wondered at this point if I would actually be able to finish.

At 10km (just over 6 miles), the 2 hour pacer  and his posse overtook me. It was a sharp left and the next part of the route was a long stretch along a lovely countryside cycle path. I was really starting to struggle and could see a water station up ahead. I couldn't decide what to do, my heart rate was low but my muscles weren't working at all, and I feared that drinking more water would dilute my salts even more. Then I saw the St John's Ambulance.. tempting. I decided that not eating carbohydrates was not an acceptable reason to take up their time and plodded on.

Nine miles felt like a very, very long way but a random bagpiper provided a temporary distraction from the fact my legs weren't working. By this point I could barely pick them up and I had started to do the maths to figure out what time I could do if I walked from here, but walking wasn't much easier than the plod. I caved at this point and ate two jelly babies offered up by a marshal, I was feeling very sorry for myself and hoped they would magically heal my failing legs. Alas, they did not.

I missed the ten mile marker but by this point we were running up the far side of the river. Just before eleven miles you could see the finish on the other side and I could see two bridges up ahead. One was close, it must be that one. As we approached the bridge, I couldn't see any runners at all, but on squinting into the distance I could see people tottering over the far one. My heart sunk, it looked like a very long two miles.

By the twelve mile marker it didn't even feel like I was maintaining forward propulsion any more. The route was cruel, sending us out on little twists and turns when we all knew it was a straight line along the river path to the finish. Another great bit of support came in the form of a man and his family with what I can only describe as a portable karaoke machine banging out dance tunes and he was shouting encouragement over the microphone.

One of the hardest earned to date!
I could hear the din of the finish way before I could see it, I was craning my neck just hoping to catch a glimpse and finally, relief, there it was. That was by far the hardest half marathon I have ever run in terms of how my body felt. Ironically I had originally entered this one as a PB possibility but managed to add on over 22

minutes to my race pace. It was still a very respectable 2:07:58 and a new baseline for 2016.

A great route, really well managed and a bargain too for the decent goody bag, Newport is definitely one I would recommend. Maybe I'll be back next year, when I'm fully keto-adapted (or just back on the carbs!!).

p.s. Nicky was 4th lady, 1st vet and is a total running hero!

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