My name is Nick, I am a Wisconsin dad who loves all things fitness, diving, and food! Persistent Resilience is a log of the fun and craziness that is my life. I am passionate about running, I love to see how far I can push myself, and my favorite runs are off-road. Currently I am trying to add to my ultra-marathon experience. If you have any questions about how/why I run or eat the way that I do please do not hesitate to contact me by leaving a comment, via facebook, or by email at Thanks for Visiting

25 November 2013

RACE… RECEOVER… RACE… an experiment in ultra-stacking! Step 2 - Nutrition

Last week I covered how I approached my training for two ultras (here) I planned to race rather close together; (Mad City 50k & Ice Age 50 mile) there was three weeks between the races.  To be able to consistently train for the first race and fully recover for the second, I was going to need to dial in my daily, training, and race nutrition. 

I am not a nutrition expert, though I do have a science and medical background.  I have experimented enough with myself to know what works for me.  I sought extra advice from Peter Defty (VESPA) and Ben Greenfield (Ben GreenfieldFitness).  Both Peter and Ben advocate a high fat ketogenic or OFM (Optimized Fat Metabolism) diet.  I guess I’m a little more moderate, I like fruits, Vodka, hard cider, and dark chocolate too much to be in ketosis as deep as they are.   That said, I did refine my diet, which was already grain free/gluten free, to lower my carb count a little more and add in more variety when it came to protein sources.  I changed the timing of the intake of carbohydrates to coincide with post session insulin sensitivity.   I also started to do all of my training either completely fasted from the night before or with just some green tea and coconut oil. 

I often get asked what my diet is.  I hate this question as I do not have a “DIET”, unless you consider eating real, whole, and unprocessed foods a diet.  The descriptive term which most matches my eating habits is probably no sugar/no grains.  Now as I said earlier I am not a monk and will eat things like dark chocolate or drink alcohol, yes these are sugars.  I also will eat quinoa on a rare occasion.  That being said my diet is pretty clean due to the fact that I mostly eat meat, veggies, fruits, cheese, and the occasional starch (rice/sweet potatoes).  I do not eat processed foods or grains therefore my diet is absent of fake sugars, chemicals, gluten, and GMO products.  A sample of how I eat during the day is listed below.  There are days that will differ from this but this is usually how I eat 6 days a week.

BREAKFAST (Post Exercise – usually running)
3 eggs – scrambled in olive oil
½ serving meat (usually leftover from previous night)
½ - 1 Cup shredded cheese
½ banana
1 Cup of blueberries or strawberries
Green Tea

LUNCH (post exercise – usually weights or stretch)
Smoothie (12oz Coconut Milk, ½ Cup of beets, 2 TBSP of Flax, 1 TSBP Cinnamon, & 1 scoop whey protein)
½ Avocado

Beef Jerky or Cheese

1 Serving Meat (fish, lamb, game meat, chicken)
Salad (veggies, greens)
Cheese (sliced or shredded)
Olive Oil

I feel this diet gives me the optimal balance of fats, protein, and carbohydrates.  Eating simply, as I call it, allows me to maintain a lean body mass, as well as enjoy the foods that I really like.  I choose to eat for long term health not just short term performance.  A major change that I made was when I consume simple carbohydrates (fruits).  After soliciting advice from Peter I switched to eating fruit only post exercise.  First, I did this because my muscles insulin receptors would be sensitized thereby allowing for quick absorption of the carbs into my muscles, versus their being stored as fat.  Second it would aid in muscle recovery.

I separate these two where most people treat them as the same.  The reason most treat them the same is the old adage of “Never try anything new on race day”, therefore they practice how they plan to race.  Thankfully genetics has blessed me with an iron stomach during extreme efforts.  What this means for me is that I can more specifically train my body and mind during training and not be overly concerned during the race.  During the race I usually keep nutrition as simple as possible.  Below I will describe how I plan and execute my nutrition strategy for training and racing.  I will also give the why behind it.

The way I fuel training sessions is listed below, after the description I will delve into the why behind each.

#1 (Easy & Tempo Runs)
Coconut Water

#2 (Long or Workout Runs)
Coconut Water
VESPA JR (long run only)
Green Tea w Coconut oil (bulletproof tea)
Electrolytes (Salt)

First, by completing my sessions fasted (no additional carbs to spike insulin) I train my body to utilize fats during all levels of exercise intensity.  Second, because I would not be spiking my insulin levels during the session I will not cause as much oxidative stress and therefore, I will recover quicker allowing me to go harder sooner.  This is where VESPA really comes into play.  VESPA is an amino acid supplement which acts as a key.  This key unlocks fat metabolism earlier allowing you to burn fat more efficiently as your fuel source.  (For more information regarding the exact science behind VESPA please view these articles (1) (2).)  Third, I was training my mind to handle hard efforts with little external glycogen.  The benefit of this strategy was apparent during Mad City when I had to take in fewer calories to sustain a higher intensity. I only took in about 400 calories total, about 100g of carbs for 3.5 hours.  When you compare this to the 50K I did 6 months earlier where I consumed 1400 calories total, about 300g Carbs for 4.5 hours and you can see the benefit of the training nutrition plan.

As I stated my race and training nutrition strategies differ.  I do not restrict glycogen (carbs) during races.  Rather I fully embrace their use in moderation.  I follow what some would call a “sugar drip” strategy during racing.  The human digestive system can absorb about 20oz of liquid per hour.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t consume more than that, just that your body won’t absorb it.  (You spend a lot of time in the woods.)  Keeping this in mind any calories you consume need to be accompanied by liquid to be absorbed.  This is the reason I keep my nutrition plan simple.  First it allows my body to get exactly what it needs to perform, and second I can adjust it if things change.  Here is a look at my nutrition before and during races.

(2-3 hours pre-race)
2-4 Packets of nut butter (Depends on Race Distance)
Coconut Water
VESPA Concentrate
Green Tea with coconut oil

(40 min pre-race)
Coconut water / water w electrolytes

(roughly each hour)
1 20oz Bottle water
Flask w honey, maple syrup, gels, or glucose powder diluted w coconut water
(I sometimes skip the flask and place the mix in the bottle) - EASY
1 salt tab (I use Succeed tabs, or Salt Stick)

(every 1:40-2:00 ish)

(Last 1/3 of the race)
I will switch over to coke in my 20oz bottle and just drink as needed.  I feel the caffeine helps me focus and maintain my effort towards the end of the race.

I will grab the odd potato chip or orange slice at an aid station just for a change of texture or flavor.

As you can see I keep my race nutrition simple.  The main benefit of this is that I do not have to think about it during the race.  A perfect example was Ice Age this year.  I planned on running on gels and plain water in my bottle.  The aid stations however were light on gels.  This really threw a wrench into some nutrition plans.  I simply switched over to filling my bottle with ginger ale, till the final 13 miles when I switched to coke.  I stuck with my timely utilization of VESPA and salt and had zero energy or GI issues the entire race.  Going forward I plan to continue this strategy, and possibly simplify it further by switching to a glucose powder.  I can easily carry the powder and empty it into my bottles at aid stations, thereby relying only on myself during the race.

I hope you enjoyed this look at how I tailor my nutrition for optimal health, racing, recovery, and eating pleasure!  If you have any questions regarding my diet, specific meals, VESPA and my use of it, or meal planning please do hesitate to comment on this post or to contact me.  Stay tuned for next week’s post regarding the supplements and methods I utilized for recovery to handle this challenge.
As always enjoy finding your own trail!

18 November 2013

RACE… RECEOVER… RACE… an experiment in ultra-stacking! Step 1 - Training

I have been meaning to write this article for some time, better now than never right?  Late in 2012 when I was planning out my race schedule for 2013 I needed a challenge.  Apparently ultras by themselves are not challenging enough right?  I wanted to push my limits, so I was either going to race my first 100 miler or two ultras within a few weekends.  My decision was made for me in the first week of December when I didn’t get into Western States via the lottery, so racing two shorter ultras in succession it was.  Now, Mike Wardian I am not, so the two that I chose (Mad City 50K) & (Ice Age 50 mile) were 3 weeks apart.  I am still relatively new to running long distances in training and racing so I wasn’t really sure how to go about training for two ultras so close together, or how I would recover in between. 

I sought out advice from some of the more experienced, and prolific front runners, in my trail group (The Lapham PeakTrail Runners).  Their first response went something like this; “So what!  You are racing a 50K before a 50 miler, I did that last weekend!”  Helpful right!  I kept at it though and eventually received the following advice.  “A 50k is not really any longer than a Marathon, and you have an ok base.  Do some advanced marathon training for the 50K, recover right, and the speed work from the marathon training will get you through the 50 miler.”  Now that made sense.  This recovery they spoke of, that was going to be my real issue.  I figured my ability to recover would be affected by 3 very distinct but related topics; specific and consistent training, nutrition (pre, during, & post race), and body damage mitigation.  In this three part series I will describe the training, nutrition, and recovery techniques I utilized to complete this task.


Specific and consistent training is the backbone of all endurance sports.  You may be able to complete an event but not compete during the event if your training is interrupted or not specific to the race course you are attacking.  This posed an issue for me as Mad City is a fast, flat, & looped 50K course, whereas Ice Age 50 is a hilly trail race.  I knew I would end up sacrificing something as I couldn’t train for all the variables in both races.  I learned this would be my ability to quickly ascend the hills at Ice Age.  The leg speed I gained from the fast training would help on any flat or downhill sections, but I was going to have to power hike most of the significant climbs at Ice Age.  I followed a pretty standard marathon training bloc; the only change I made was in regards to the long runs.  I doubled up on Friday and Saturday and they were also sub-race pace or fast finish (Progression) runs.  The schedule looked like this.


Mon – Tempo (8-10miles),
TUE & THUR (Easy 6-10 Miles),
Wed – Workout (Hills, Fartlek, Track)
Fri- Sub Race Pace Mid-Range Run (9-15 Miles)
Sat – Long Progression run, final ¼ of distance was at race pace (13-25 miles)
Sun - OFF

I steadily built my Friday sub-race pace run and Saturday long run distance.  As far as the individual training blocks I did break up 12 weeks into three distinct groups.  The first group consisted of my Wednesday workouts being hill intervals.  The Second group consisted of fartlek runs on Wednesday.  Finally the last group I completed before my taper was track intervals.  This plan completely prepared me for Mad City.  I was able to hold a sub 7 minute pace for 30 of the 31 miles. (Yes I had one bad mile, 29, where a cramped hamstring caused me to walk a bit.) 

For this challenge I needed a double taper. Tapering is a very individual aspect of training.  I do better with a 10 day taper.  This means that I shift my last long run to Wednesday the week before a key race.  For Mad City that meant the week before the race I completed a 12 mile tempo run on Wednesday and a 6 mile tempo on Saturday.  I did three shorter fartlek sessions during the taper week, to hold the speed in my legs but show up race day completely rested and hungry to race.  I finished the Mad City 50K in 3:50 which was good for 7th overall and 1st age group. 

Post Mad City, I took 1 week off of running.  I just biked and swam.  I then repeated my taper for Mad City.  The only difference was that all of my runs 2 weeks before Ice Age were completed on hilly trails.  My Wednesday (10 Days Before Race) run was a 21 mile hilly trail tempo run.  I also replicated the fartlek sessions the week of the race.  I raced Ice Age conservatively, starting off slow (11-12 min pace) but finished the race running the last 13 miles of 50 at 7:50 pace.  Finishing only 15 minutes slower than my fastest 50 miler.


I peaked with my longest run being 26 miles in 3 hours, and my longest week near 80 miles.  I really feel this training got me ready for the 50K which allowed me to race without causing excessive damage to my body.  The largest component to mitigating this damage was my nutrition during training, racing, and recovery phases.  I will cover my nutrition in next week’s post. 

If I had to replicate this training block for these two races again one major change I would make would be to combine the track and hill sessions in the final 8 weeks.  I chose to do the hill sessions first for 4 weeks, then the track work for the next 4.  The benefit of this was that I had awesome leg turnover for the fast 50K.  Unfortunately I had zero ability to climb fast in the hilly 50 miler.  Going forward I will be utilizing more of a hybrid workout where I will do fartleks or track work first followed by hill intervals.  I believe the benefit from this work will be a refinement of leg speed as well as allowing me to run fast uphill with extremely fatigued legs.

I hope you enjoyed this look at how I trained and tapered for two races so close together.  If you have any questions regarding the exact workouts I was doing please do not hesitate to comment on this post or to contact me.  Stay tuned for next week’s post regarding how I nutritionally handled this challenge.

As always enjoy finding your own trail in life!