Getting Downesy to the Desert: Dreaming of Carbs….

16 weeks to go… and all I seem to be doing is running, eating lettuce and starving.

Running skeleton

When I entered the Marathon Des Sables I knew I’d have to put the miles in and that was fine with me.  My not-very-clear plan was to drop some weight before I went and that was about as much thought as I had given it.   Then I attended the Rory Coleman training day where I was basically told “Hey Fatso, lose weight. “The End”.

(That might not have been his exact words but it’s what I heard).

I have often said that I run because I love food and being told, bluntly, to drop 15 Kilos by Christmas by someone who has been there and done it went down like a large cup of cold sick but taking the weight off has a number of benefits for the event.  It is generally more comfortable to run and I can move faster and more flexibly but being lighter also allows me to better control my core temperature which will be important running in the heat but also dealing with the cold desert nights where it can reach -5 degrees.

Back home, I focused on eating a high-protein diet – all potatoes, bread, pasta, rice and bananas were out and salad was in.  After a week of fairly brutal withdrawal symptoms I turned the corner and a typical day now consists of:

Breakfast:  Porridge or eggs

Mid-morning snack:  Piece of fruit or a handful of nuts

Lunch:  Chicken or fish with veg/salad

Snack:  Piece of fruit

Dinner:  On a training day a handful of brown pasta or brown rice with chicken or fish and vegetables.  On a non-training day I skip the carbs.

The Dream
The Dream

I can have one cheat meal per week but I don’t always use it.

The Reality
The Reality

I am working with a great nutritionist, Alan Williams from Nutrition Fit Sligo, who I found the way runners find everything, through word-of mouth.  We meet every 2 weeks and he listens and advises based on where I am in my training.  My body fat at the start of my training was 27.9% and it is currently at 20.3%. Our goal is to get it down to 18-19% with a view that I have 3% to support me through the event and ensure I don’t go below 15% overall.

During training I use Elivar Endure in Orange and Mango. They specialise in nutritional products (carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals) tailored specifically for athletes and active sports people over 35 so it is perfect for me.  I also carry a couple of Accel Energy gels and their 2nd Surge gels – usually in chocolate.  Post-workout I am using the Elivar Strawberry Recovery Drink and I highly recommended it – lovely taste, no after-taste, easy to drink and easy to digest.  The sachets, which I can just mix with water, are a strong contender for the Sahara.

Elivar Endure Orange & Mango
Elivar Endure Orange & Mango
Elivar Recover Strawbery
Elivar Recover Strawbery

In hindsight the advice, although unwelcome at the time, was absolutely spot-on.  I am ramping up my training now and it would be a lot harder to do that and lose the weight at the same time.  Knowing I can have the occasional weekly cheat with a snack-box is great and my plan is to continue to work hard till Christmas, take a short breather and then come back for the last push in the New Year.