ATC 262: Counting Calories on the Bike, Recovering During a Race, Pacing Your Long Runs, Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, and more!

June 8, 2018


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On this episode of Ask The Coaches, with Coach Lucho and guest coach/host Brock Armstrong, we answer the following listener questions:

The “reset your relationship with food” program that Brock talks about in the intro can be found at Weighless.Life.

Allison Asks:

I am doing my first (and only) Ironman distance triathlon in Hudson valley NY My goal is to complete it not race it.

My question is about fueling for the bike portion. I have run over 170 marathons (4:10 average) and one 50-mile and one 48-hour, so I set plan on what I eat and drink for a marathon.

  • Oatmeal, flaxseed, cherries, and coffee 2 hours before.
  • 1/3 of a Clif Bar at 3, 6, 9, 12-miles. Gu at 15,18 and 24 miles. 1-liter of Scratch and water as needed. This gives me constant energy and a little something to do every 3 miles. The Gu has caffeine for a boost at the end.
  • Total calories is 730 (over 4 hours but the same if it is 5 hours) so 180 calories per hour/ 90 calories every 30 minutes.

I want to keep my nutrition the same for the run part of the race to make myself think it is just another marathon. The fall back will be Coke and pretzels.

For the bike, I want something different. Ideally, should I try to eat twice as many calories per hour on the bike? So 180 calories every 30 minutes? I did a 54-mile ride at race pace on the course and ate 630 calories in 3:30 hours (Alan Lim rice cakes and Scratch = 180 calories per hour). I was not hungry. At the end of the ride, a had a banana and 16 oz of Scratch (185 calories) and then ran 3-miles and it was fine.

Typically, I do shorter bike rides and don’t eat while riding so eating on the bike is something I need to work on. Do you think I should try and eat more than 180 calories per hour while riding?

My Garmin said I burned 2700 calories during a marathon and 1640 during the 54-mile ride. So does that mean I need less on the bike and 180 calories per hour is good for both the bike and run?

Thanks for any guidance. It is always great to hear you talk through different ways to look issues. Of course, it all depends.

The Coaches say:
– Brock is concerned about the amount of fibre you are eating pre and during the race.
– Don’t trust your Garmin – Check out Brock’s Get-Fit guy episode about smart watched.
– Always go with tried and true whether the math makes sense or not. We are not cars, even though the analogy is good.
– 1 gram carbs per minute is a good place to start.
– Push yourself to the point that you make a mistake.

Chris asks:

Hi, I recently discovered your show and am absolutely hooked! Great information!

Background: I’m 43 years old and I’ve been in the Military for 22 years so I’m no stranger to doing things I don’t want to do out of necessity. Winning battles against the central governor is required training.

Anyway, that’s all over now…I started running in my late 30s and have continued more or less consistently for the past 6 years (I’m 43 now). While stationed in DC for a year I ran six 50Ks, two 50 mile races, the Army Ten Miler, and a 20-mile race (all in ten months). Returned home in may of 2014 and then ran the MN Voyageur 50 mile that summer. Lately, I’ve been battling some injuries (Plantar Fasciitis, calf problems), and have had to reduce volume. Just ran a 3:40 Marathon on May 19th.

My training now is anywhere from 25 to 50 miles a week, long runs 12-18 miles (this will increase significantly very soon as I’m training to run the Lean Horse 100). With a goal of sub 24hrs.

50k PR = 4:45 (2013)
50 Mile PR = 8:50 (2013 JFK)
5k PR = 18 ish
10k PR = 41:00 (2018)
Marathon PR = 3:40 (2018)

Question: This happened at the 2013 Mesquite Canyon 50 miler (my 2nd ultra and first 50-miler)

There has been one instance where I believe I won the central governor battle but I have no clue as to how or why. To be clear I didn’t just deal with it and push through the pain and suffering…the pain and suffering and the urge to just lay down on the trail completely went away. I was at about mile 43 of the 2013 mesquite canyon 50 mile when it happened. Prior to this at mile 38 aid station I had been completely trashed, and severely dehydrated. I was at the point of a DNF but I sat at the aid station for 20 minutes and ate M&Ms and gummy worms and drank Gatorade until I felt like I could continue (very slowly). So I barely made it back up the mountain and felt like I was going to die the entire way…but at about mile 43 something changed in the way everything felt.

I suddenly felt a spring in my step and the pain went away. I soon was bounding down the trail like a dang mountain goat! I ran strong the last 7 miles and finished feeling ok. Although when I got in my car to drive to the hotel I felt horrible and I felt terrible for the rest of the night. But those last 7 miles on the trail were unreal! What was it? And how do I do it again? How do my muscles and entire body just “recover” in a few minutes like that. To me it seems like it has to me mental and not physical…it’s like my brain just told the “central governor” to give it up, he’s not stopping and flooded my system with endorphins or adrenaline.

Any experience like this from either of you? Or have you ever heard of this before?

The Coaches say:
– Sounds like a bonk rather than complete fatigue.
– It’s amazing what some mainline glucose/fructose can do for energy levels.
– Don’t mistake bonking for lack of fitness. Bonking happens to even the most badass athletes.
– Central Governor doesn’t necessarily stop it is just managed.

Kristin asks:

Hi Lucho and Brock, first off, please give my love to Tawnee.

Thank you for the valuable resource to athletes you all provide through this Podcast!

My priority race this summer is the San Francisco Marathon. My goal is to run a 3:30-3:35, which puts me right around an 8 min pace. My long runs have ranged from 14-20 miles, and while I feel pretty good running them, I can’t seem to go much faster than a 9 min pace. My tempo runs and interval work suggests I am in the 3:35 neighborhood, but I just can’t get the speed I am looking for during the long run days.

I guess my question is what should my target pace for the long run be? I know I can’t expect to run them at race pace, but 9 min pace seems too slow. One thing to note is that I am running at altitude (6,500 fasl) and the marathon will be at sea level.

A little background: This will be my 7th or 8th marathon, my PR is a 3:33, but this is my first marathon back from having a baby 13 months ago. I would like to qualify for Boston but am beginning to wonder if I need to readjust my goals.

Thank you so much!

The Coaches say:
– Check out Dr. Daniel’s VDOT calculator for some pacing suggestions.
– VDOT calculations show that your easy run should be 08:53 – 09:25
– This also means you need to do runs at different paces to work on the systems.
– Closer to race day, incorporate more and more time at race pace.

Kirsten F asks:

I hope you’re well!

I am a 21-year-old girl, from Cape Town South Africa. I just have a few questions to ask, or would just like some of your advice 🙂

I have been doing sport for most of my life, mostly lifesaving competitively, and marathon paddling/canoeing, both I in which I have represented my country a couple of times. I run a lot, and swim a lot too, for training. Last year, June 2017, I did my first half ironman with picking up cycling about 2 months before that. So I did a lot of emergency training for the bike, along with my swimming and running – however, I didn’t have a coach and so was not doing a lot at all, or at least not nearly as much as most triathletes I know would normally do.

After the Ironman, I began to get a sore (left) knee. It got progressively worse, until August when I actually had to stop running. I haven’t run since.

It has been diagnosed as patellar femoral pain syndrome, which is very broad and it does not seem to be getting much better at all. I am so frustrated, and almost always feeling down and upset, mostly in fear of never being able to run again. Being active is part of who I am, it makes me happy, and not being able to do anything really, really sucks. I have also spent so much money on physio/doc appointments over the last year. I know it is worth it, but it is not normal for it to take this long.

I have seen 2 physios, a biokineticist, 2 surgeons… I have been doing rehab exercises, mostly strengthening glutes, for months and months. There has been the slightest improvement, but walking up and down stairs is still quite sore, and any weight bearing movement on a slightly bent knee is painful.

Another thing I have to mention is I have amenorrhoea. For well over a year now. I feel like I have upped my energy intake and of course, lowered my energy expenditure due to my injury. I currently swim 2/3 times a week and gym upper body once or twice a week. Just to keep me sane. I know you will have some advice to give to me on this. I am struggling to get my period back, and I am not sure what I am doing wrong.

I am really losing hope. I’d really appreciate it if you have any advice for me, even if it is just a few tips on how to get over having such a long-term injury mentally.

Thanks so much and I hope you have a super day.

The Coaches say:
– The article that Lucho talked about at
– BMJ talk medicine – Is education more important than exercise in treating patellofemoral pain? Episode #322
– Some really great info about your knee pain at Kinetic Revolution.
– Glute strength is important but so is watching how you move.
– Leg press, lateral lunges, leg lifts, glute bridges.
– Watch for hyperextension, overstriding, collapse of the knee in or out on impact.
– Check out the podcast Tawnee did with Dr. Nicola Rinaldi called No Period, Now What?

One Comment

  • cjenright says:

    Kirsten, your experience with patellofemoral pain syndrome really resonated with me – I had similar struggles and had to take 1.5 years off from running because the pain would not go away, no matter how much strengthening I did. I was very worried I would never be able to run again.

    Finally, out of desperation I paid $20 for an incredibly in depth and well-researched ebook at Pain Science ( that analyzes all the available evidence on how to treat and prevent patellofemoral syndrome. It was the best $20 I've ever spent. The biggest takeway – you have to completely rest it! Anything that causes pain in the knee is preventing the irritated tissue from recovering, which is why it doesn't get better despite plenty of strengthening exercises and mobility work. Once I took 6 weeks off, avoiding any type of irritant (I just did walking, light cycling, swimming and upper body work), the pain was gone, never to return again. I'm now training for my second Ironman with no signs of knee pain. I only wish I had discovered this ebook earlier so I wouldn't have lost over a year of training to an injury that simply needs thorough rest. I hope this helps you like it helped me!

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