32k, heat, teddy bears, and sugar pills

First of all – thank you so much to everyone who has helped me raise money for Marie Curie by sponsoring me on my marathon run on 6th May.  With your generosity I have now raised a whopping £685.  This will go to helping families in their greatest time of need, providing nursing support at home to those with terminal illness – a highly valuable and essential service.  I am overwhelmed by the support and kind words – and the very generous anonymous donations too – thank you – whoever you are!!

£685 raised for Marie Curie

On 18th April I ran 32km – my longest distance so far – a new record.  I am also pleased to say that the fundraising goal of £500 is smashed!  Thank you to everyone who has made that happen!

32km in the heat

A nemesis

My greatest running nemesis was out in force – the heat.  It was around 18oC, but worse than that – not a cloud in sight.  It was very intensive, but unlike my 23km in the heat I was more prepared.  I had my new UV protective hat and t-shirt, and was lathered in sun screen.  The result was that despite similar conditions, I got 10km further than last time (but not the 13km I was aiming for).  This reassured me that my new gear worked well – but still leaves me really hoping that the 6th of May (42km) will be cloudy and not too hot!  I have concluded that running in the heat is 3 or 4 times harder than in the cool (my favourite running temperature being 2-4oC!).

A lost bear

Looping back to save the bear

As my wife happened to be watching my position on Garmin LiveTrack, she quite understandably wondered why – towards the end of my run – I had turned back on myself.  Had I decided to go again?

In fact, I came across a teddy bear, in the middle of the track – all alone.  Having a 3 yo daughter myself, I knew this could potentially be a huge tragedy.  I also remembered that I had passed a family with a pushchair about a kilometre earlier.  So of course, I had to turn around, catch up and return it.  Disaster averted, the bear did indeed belong to them and they had not yet noticed its loss.  I think the child slept through the entire crisis.

As for me, it merely served to add some more distance to my run and for now – that must be a good thing.

A sweet tooth

When I was about 13km in I also experienced an incredibly intense hunger which was unusual – not in the least because I had a craving for sweet things.  I considered this carefully, not only because it was unusual, but because this is one symptom of
hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) – something I have to be on the look out for given the nature of my experiment.  I was in my usual fasted state – with one exception – I had 30 ml of double cream in a coffee that morning (not something I usually have before a run).

In addition to “feeling hungry”, there are a whole raft of possible symptoms of
hypoglycaemia that include sweating, tingling, tiredness, dizziness, fast heart rate, weakness, blurred vision, slurring, confusion.  Given I felt fine and energised, and having no other symptoms, I wasn’t very concerned about this, but in taking my health seriously I did stop briefly to measure my blood sugar.

3.2 mmol/L – low blood sugar? Or normal?

If you have any experience with blood sugar levels, you may know that anything less than 4 mmol/L is considered “too low” (hypoglycaemic).  However, this level is based on the assumption of a typical metabolic state.  My metabolic state is far from normal, because I have been on a high-fat, low-carb diet for three years.  To put this in to context – yes 3.2 is on the low side for me, but it is not an unusual reading for me during exercise.  I was able to continue my run without problems, though as a precaution I did decide to consume a small amount of a glucose tablet.

There isn’t a lot of solid information out there about the blood sugar needs of those in a long-term ketogenic state as I am, but anecdotally it is generally believed that in such a state there is less need for higher blood sugar.  I personally believe this is because the major consumption of glucose is the brain.  In a ketogenic state the brain is instead mostly fuelled by ketones along with a very small amount of glucose.  This reduces the major sugar need, whilst other mechanisms such as gluconeogenesis (production of glucose from non-carbohydrates) supply everything else “on-demand”.  This would not – I imagine – leave excess sugar “free flowing” in the blood stream as the body conserves resources.

Most of the studies into this phenomenon are focussed on either diabetics, or people who have been deliberately driven to hypoglycaemia by injection of insulin, rather than dietary adaptation.  But if you are technically interested in this topic, then I highly recommend this article by Keith Runyan, MD who discusses this topic in a far wider context in addition to diabetes:

Ketogenic Diabetic Athlete


I will probably never know why I experienced this distracting level of hunger – after all it is normal for me to be fasted during a run.  This was different.  My guesses are:

  1. The small amount of lactose in the cream raised my fasted blood sugar levels such that it triggered a mild insulin response, which then resulted in a noticeable fall after about 90 minutes of intensive exercise (in short – a sugar pang!)
  2. I am still not fully recovered from my recent “lurgy”

Finally, I noticed an unusual pattern in my heart rate zones – inasmuch as I spent most of my time in zone 3 (the slow lane!).  However, I am quite sure this was to do with the heat more than anything.  It was one of my slowest runs.

I spent most of the run in slow-lane heart-rate zone 3

All the above seem to be isolated to this run.  I have not been having any problems with any of my other training, where my performance seems to be on the increase.

If the tiny consumption of cream before a run did lead to all these issues – it is a timely reminder for me to stick with my protocol!!

Just one week to go!

So, I am getting over my lurgy, my damaged shin and tired knees are on the mend, and I believe I’m over the heat stroke and hypothermia.  Training has been an adventure!  I must be in good shape now – for there is just one week until my first marathon on 6th May!

Find out more about my Marie Curie marathon in memory of “my third grandparents”

7km trail run in the sun

Lurgy, prep and unexpected personal records

30km running distance record achieved!

Running on fat without sugar

What the keto?

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