The word wasn’t well enunciated due to the lancer I was holding between my teeth. It was a very cold, very early morning on a road just outside of Disney World. I was in a sea of fellow runners about to start the first Disney marathon of the year. But what set me apart was the pricking of my fingers for blood to apply to my Precision Xtra strips for both glucose and ketones. And unfortunately, the strips were failing.
As our corral moved slowly to the start line, waiting for our turn to be released, my head was tilted down trying desperately to get a solid reading. After a couple of failed strips, I managed to get a successful test from each.
Before I reveal that reading, let’s share what they were when I woke up two and a half hours earlier:
3:31 AM -- Glucose: 98, Ketones (BHB): 0.8
And right then, before the race began:
5:56 AM -- Glucose: 79, Ketones (BHB): 1.1
The shift in the numbers was as expected. I have an opinion of the “Dawn Phenomenon” you may have read about, but more on that later.
The plan was simple… on paper. At about every 5 kilometers, I was going to slow down and take both glucose and BHB. While I was excited for the new data, I was woefully undertrained, having my longest practice run before this day at only 6.5 miles. Ack!
To my surprise, I was able to run the first 30k with only slow downs to take my numbers.
About 5k : 6:45 AM -- Glucose: 71, Ketones (BHB): 0.6 About 10k : 7:17 AM -- Glucose: 101, Ketones (BHB): 0.6 About 15k : 7:53 AM -- Glucose: 70, Ketones (BHB): 1.1 About 20k : 8:39 AM -- Glucose: 68, Ketones (BHB): 1.3 About 25k : 9:06 AM -- Glucose: 53, Ketones (BHB): 1.8
In college one of my professors once said, “Successful experiments make for great data. Failed experiments make great stories.” In this post, I have a little from Column A and a little from Column B.
At the 30k mark I whipped out my iPhone which by this point was at just 30% power. I then reached for the lancer to my Precision Xtra only to find it missing. As I was running, the lancer had fallen out of my pocket.
A wave of frustration and disappointment hit me all at once. I was so careful to use the zipper pocket specifically to prevent something like this from occurring. Yet somewhere between the 25 and 30k markers the zipper had widened on its own and the lancer snuck its way out while I was probably listening to Jump Around by House of Pain.
After checking and rechecking my other pockets several times, I finally mustered a restart to my pace. But my rhythm was different now. I couldn’t keep from stewing as I made my way forward. If you’ve ever ran a half or full marathon, you know how in many ways it’s much more a mental exercise than a physical one. And unfortunately, this was clearly a moment when my spirit left me.
About 30k-40k : ? Finishline: ?
Over the next several miles, a few other key things went wrong which I won’t go into here. But regardless, I wasn’t able to resume my blood testing until after my wife joined me at the finish line and we returned to the hotel.
Back On Track
1:25 PM -- Glucose: 73, Ketones (BHB): 4.7
I was pretty hungry, so I had two bowls of AdaptMeal (4 portions total) while my wife was icing her legs. I planned to keep testing my blood every hour for the next several hours.
2:26 PM -- Glucose: 84, Ketones (BHB): 4.0
We then both went off to TGI Fridays where I had a salad and a steak with lots of butter. (Just an aside, running full marathons makes steaks very, very good!)
In the middle of the meal my alarm went off so I took my numbers again.
3:29 PM -- Glucose: 110, Ketones (BHB): 3.6
We finished up and went back to the hotel.
4:34 PM -- Glucose: 76, Ketones (BHB): 3.5
Both my wife and I laid down to watch a movie and found ourselves falling asleep (shocker!). I set an alarm for one hour, but my sleep self hit cancel when it went off and I instead woke up after two hours.
6:28 PM -- Glucose: 95, Ketones (BHB): 3.2 7:27 PM -- Glucose: 100, Ketones (BHB): 3.8
At this point my wife and I settled in to watch the Golden Globes and I decided not to take my numbers again until I was heading to bed.
(Bedtime) 12:27 AM -- Glucose: 92, Ketones: 2.1
I went to sleep, then woke up on my own at 6:25 am. Since I was planning to get my blood drawn for a full lab workup as part of this experiment, I decided to start my day.
6:29 AM -- Glucose: 95, Ketones 2.3
After a very long wait, I finally get my blood drawn and happily closed the chapter on this experiment.
What was I looking to find?
This was the final experiment in a series related to exercise that actually goes back to August of last year. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll note I’ve been adamant about trying to control for variables I assumed would affect my cholesterol numbers. The biggest of these variables would likely be energy demand from exercise.
One of the coolest things I’ve come to understand is that there is an anticipatory management effect with metabolism from regular, ongoing exercise. In layperson’s terms, the body is constantly figuring out what you keep doing with it and trying to front run those energy needs.
There’s clearly a global “priming” of cells with energy by the body. Yet there’s an equally strong counter regulation to preserve the energy you already have for survival. Use only as much as you need and save everything else.
So how much exercise and with what frequency drives this regulatory anticipation? How much of that is glucose vs fatty acids vs ketones? How much does this depend on sleep? Timing of the day? Warm ups, pre-exercise routines, or snacking?
Obviously there’s a lot to unwind and I can’t reveal the patterns I have discovered yet until I’ve gotten more of them reproduced and verified.
I’ve now done two very long stretches of exercise testing. The period from January to July of 2016 was low to moderate amounts of exercise. Then I started my training for the half and full marathons from August to now, keeping me at medium to high endurance exercise. (Note I was intentionally trying not to do any extra strength or resistance training as I believe this will affect many markers differently.)
- The next few months I’ll be… sedentary! Probably from now until about mid March.
- After that I’ll be shifting gears heavily into intense resistance training.
Extra credit if you know why I consider these the obvious next phases.