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Starting W30 and marathon training - concerns and questions

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Alright. This might be long, so I really appreciate in advance anyone reading and responding!


I'm planning to start my (second attempt at) Whole 30 on July 6 - next Wednesday.  I have a trip to Las Vegas this weekend to visit family and have decided I'm not going to attempt it while traveling (which is what derailed my first try three years ago, ack), so afterward it is!  I'm feeling pretty good and fired up about it for a number of reasons, but a couple things have me pretty nervous..


I'm also going to be starting marathon training on the same day.


This isn't my first marathon (and I've been running for about 3 years now), so I've been through the training and the ins-and-outs before, but this will be a new experience coupling it with a W30 and I'm growing kind of anxious about my runs suffering as a result while I adapt.  During my last marathon training cycle (which was also my first), as my mileage peaked, I wasn't eating enough carbs during the week (and probably not enough calories in general) and my body got really out of whack - I actually lost my menstrual cycles for 3 months, *gained* 5 pounds, and basically had a whole host of hormonal problems that have finally started to sort themselves out this month.  Because of that, I'm maybe overly cautious about food intake, macros, etc... I don't count calories or macros, but I try to be mindful of them, especially now.


I already eat mostly paleo/grain free because through trial and error over the years I've found that way of eating agrees with my system the most, but previously I'd consume white rice the day before a long run or race, and I'd also enjoy a few alcoholic drinks on weekends, or small amounts of dark chocolate every so often (and very occasionally I'd splurge and eat something like a donut or a sandwich with 'regular' bread and almost always end up regretting it).  I also used Honey Stinger gels and coconut water with a pinch of salt as fuel on LR's, too.  Basically, I already eat pretty well so W30 isn't going to be a total shock to my system, but I am definitely a carb dependent athlete.  I've been interested in becoming fat adapted but have always been too skittish to commit to it, knowing that it can take several weeks to transition.  I've also been scared off fat-adapting by all the talk on conventional running forums, too.  


Also, I'm struggling to sort out fitting pre-WO and post-WO food into my schedule... I don't run at the exact same time every day due to my own variable schedule, but I always run in the mornings.  Sometimes I'll run fasted first thing, but usually I'll at least eat a banana and a boiled egg (plus coffee!) before a run, or a bowl of chia pudding with berries on top, which I count as my breakfast.  After my run, if it was longer than 4-5 miles, I usually eat a snack to stave off the "runger" until I can get to a proper lunch.


Basically I'd love to hear from other endurance runners/marathoners about how they fit W30 into their training cycles.  I figure that if I want to do this anytime soon, now is the best time as opposed to later in my training when mileage is higher, or waiting until after the race (Portland Marathon! in October) as the holidays are approaching.  How do you know when to respect the fatigue and take a rest day, versus pushing through it?  I have a tendency to over-train because I'm stubborn and sometimes ignore my body's signals when it's nagging me to back off... but at the same time, marathon training is a thing, and I need to stick with it.


Am I crazy?  Over analyzing?  Any other crazy, overly analytical Whole 30'ers to commiserate with me?


Thanks, y'all :)

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Sorry for delay on replying, this appeared on my Phone Free Friday so I couldn't reply  :P


"I'm growing kind of anxious about my runs suffering as a result while I adapt." Yes, your runs will suffer at first. 

"I've been interested in becoming fat adapted but have always been too skittish to commit to it, knowing that it can take several weeks to transition." Yes it will take several weeks and you may or may not transition in the end. 

"Any other crazy, overly analytical Whole 30'ers to commiserate with me?" I think I qualify as over-analytical, so here I am!!


First off, I didn't see in your post about WHY you want to do a Whole30? What are you goals for this? 


Second, I usually warn athletes off from Whole30 when they are training for an event. I've been doing this for years (whole30 and endurance training) and I don't put a whole30 anywhere near an"A" race. Some athletes are able to do this without problems, but I put my focus on the event and not on major nutritional, hormonal, and habit changes. I save all that for my off season. Personally, I rather do a Whole30 during the holidays. 


You say you're experienced with running, so I starting thinking about replying that if you're OK with balancing running against the challenges of Whole30 you'd be OK. But in re-reading your post you say you have a stubborn streak, have previously failed to recognize over-training, had nutritional issues that led to other problems in training for a previous marathon, and so I get a sense that you aren't honed into listening to your body in terms of running yet. I could be wrong about that, and please feel free to correct me and give more insight. But I'm concerned initially that you're mentality (much like mine it sounds like!) will have you pitting the stress of the marathon build against the stress of a Whole30. Why do I think this? Because I ruined a major race a few seasons ago thinking I could do a Whole30 while preparing for it. My body did not tolerate it, I could not get my training done as I wanted, and it turned into an obsessive battle of mind over body. Both lost. 


I'm a runner, I get it. I am familiar with the idea of goals, must-do mileage, and push-through-it mentality. But are you sure that you are ready to put a Whole30 challenge ahead of an A race?  As a stickler for must-do's, will you be able to focus on both the running and habit changes? Think on that, let me, know, and I'm more than happy to help with ideas and theories and progress!! I love seeing other runners reach their goals, I really don't mean to sound like i'm being harsh or a b!tch.


Also, how many weeks until the marathon? There's probably time to squeeze in a Whole30 if you're still months out. What is your normal weekly mileage? And what is your training build peak mileage? 



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First of all, thanks for the thoughtful response.  I appreciate your insight.  To answer your questions..


WHY you want to do a Whole30? What are you goals for this? I want to do a Whole30 because I want to get myself out of this rut that I've found myself in when it comes to both my nutrition and my training/athletic performance.  I eat pretty well most of the time but I have periodic days (maybe once a week average) where that goes out the window because I get lazy/get tired of trying/whatever it is.  I have nothing keeping me on track, as it were.  I like to challenge myself and set goals (hence the marathons!) and then meet those goals.  I want to find out more about my body, my hormones, and my digestive system in particular because whatever I'm doing now isn't working. I figured W30 would be a starting point or a spring board for that.


As to not mixing Whole30 and racing, well, that'd be difficult to do because I've been "in training" for most months out of the year and will continue to be, with small breaks in between, for the next year.  I did a marathon in May, and then a half marathon last month, and I have my next marathon in October.  After that, I'll have a couple months off training for anything major and then right after the new year I'll be back in training for my next spring marathon.  So, if I don't try a Whole30 soon, I'd have to do it during the holidays and I feel like that would add more difficulty to it, for me personally.  I travel a lot during the holidays (family all over the country) and it would be exceedingly difficult to remain compliant, and I don't see myself even attempting it in that case.


Also, how many weeks until the marathon? There's probably time to squeeze in a Whole30 if you're still months out. What is your normal weekly mileage? And what is your training build peak mileage? My marathon is October 9, so 14 weeks until the race if I'm doing my math correctly.  I'm at the very beginning of my training so this is the lowest the mileage will be, and thus I figured it'd be the best time to try W30 if I'm going to do it anytime soon.  My average weekly mileage if I am not training is about 20, and during peak week I believe it is in the neighborhood of 40-45 (I don't have my training plan in front of me so I'm estimating).


You make a very good point about my "stubborn streak" and listening to my body - I'm actually hoping that Whole30 will help with that as well.  The last time I attempted it I only made it 16 days in but even by that point I had gotten a lot more in tune with myself, I felt.  In particular, currently my hormones are kind of all over the place because of not taking enough care of myself during my last training cycle.  My body put on weight and it won't budge, my monthly cycles were out of whack (I think they are getting back on track but I've only had one since then, the other is due within a week), my runs feel sluggish and my performance has suffered.  With or without adding on a Whole30, I learned from that experience and won't be repeating it again.


In a nutshell, I'm hoping to do a big "reset" and start off on a better foot this training cycle, and hoping to continue it going forward.

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I am a runner too (although training for a half, rather than a marathon) and started my first Whole30 at the beginning of the week (although I have been on similar plans before).


If your race is not until October, I would think that would be enough time for your body to adjust to being fat adapted.  With my previous plans I had become fat adapted (but have recently gone off the rails and back onto the carbs big time...which is the reason behind this Whole30).  Once you are over that initial adjustment period of 14 or so days, you will find that your energy returns.  


In my experience, I found that I felt I had more energy to race.  Often I'd have eggs, salad mix, avocado and 1/2 cup of brown rice...or a 'nut porridge' with coconut milk beforehand and either of those provided enough energy for a 10km.


I think in relation to your goals, you just need to be realistic.  I actually have a trail race coming up on day 17, so I am hoping that I have entered the 'tiger blood' phase by then, but if not, I am not going into it with any specific time goals.


All the best with your training!

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This all sounds good, thanks for being honest with us and especially yourself. Only you can determine if this is the best time for you, and 14 weeks out at low mileage is a good time to experiment.

I think you've answered some of your own questions from you're first post? If not keep asking. My advice is be patient, be observant, be flexible, be accepting. Roll with the initial ups and downs as they will happen. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

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I'm also training for a half marathon in August. I'm on Day 22 of W30, and so far I'm doing OK. I felt very sluggish the first two weeks. My first long day of 6 miles was very rough, but the next week 8 miles was typical of an 8-mile day for me.


I am experimenting with fueling and electrolyte replacement on the longer days. I tried coconut water on my 8-mile day and it didn't bother me, though it made me thirsty. I wouldn't want it to be my only hydration.


I tried a date with almond butter to replace Clif Shot Bloks, and that worked great!


The night before my long miles I'm eating a sweet potato with dinner. Before my long walks I'm eating an Epic bar because cold chicken didn't work for me.


I did a 5K race a couple of days ago. Pushing as hard as I could for 3 miles was harder than usual. I finished 1 min slower than my previous 5K, but I finished feeling good.

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Thanks for all the additional responses!  Sounds like a lot of us are training for events and can support each other.  


Fastwalker, I really like coconut water for hydration on runs, and for longer ones I also add a pinch of salt to it! I'm going to try salted dates or dates with almond butter as my training runs get longer.   I can run 9-10 miles on only water or coconut water, presently (though typically really need to fuel shortly thereafter, but with W30 that happens anyway!)


So today was my day 1.  I just got back from Las Vegas last night and woke up with a horrible sinus infection!  As I was laying in bed this morning I thought "screw this, I'll start Whole 30 tomorrow, I really want a cold smoothie on my sore throat." But by the time I got up and had a little coffee, I decided to power through and made myself a nice compliant breakfast.  I was supposed to run 5 miles today but I don't know if that's going to happen with me feeling so lousy.  Might make today my rest day and do the run tomorrow (which was supposed to be the rest day before Friday's LR)


I'm diving in, lol.  Wish me luck, y'all.  

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Hope you get to feeling better soon! Bone broth for the win!!



Oh, good call!  I've got a nice stash of bone broth in my freezer, I'll pull some out right now.  I'm also going to grab some kombuchas at the store today.  Not sure if they actually make a difference but the psychological effect certainly helps.

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An update for those still reading - Just finished my day 3 and I am finally recovering from my sickness.  It was *brutal*.  I woke up today and didn't feel like complete death (Wednesday was the worst day, so bad I couldn't even walk because I was in so much pain with body and joint aches, Thursday was still really bad but I could tell I'd passed the peak).  So, naturally, I decided I needed to run.  Originally today was going to be LR, but since I skipped all other training runs this week due to travel and then illness, I decided to do a mild 2-3 miles just to test the waters.  I thought I was going to vomit and die at the end of the run.  Zero energy, and I was sweating an abnormal amount (during this illness I have been sweating a whole lot... at first it was the fever, but I have no clue what's causing it now).  


I'm telling myself that maybe the symptoms from the sickness will overshadow/mask the first few days of "carb flu" of the Whole 30?  Haha. 


In any case I think I'll be better by tomorrow, but the jury's still out as to whether I will run in the morning or just write off the whole week and start fresh next week.

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  • 1 month later...

I finished my first Whole30 a few weeks ago. Though I am mostly eating Whole30, I am reintroducing foods. Grains I've had limited success with. Small amounts are OK. I've had very little dairy, and so far so good. I have not tried legumes yet, and will not add in sugar. I am taking my time with it.

So, I did a half marathon Sunday. The temps started in the 60s but rose to the 80s during the race. Typically heat does not bother me -- I've had personal records on hot and hilly courses.

The night before the race I ate a huge sweet potato with butter, pork roast and a variety of fresh veggies. Before the race I ate two compliant hot dogs. I was trying not to eat carbs before the race. (Before W30, I would eat two pieces of whole wheat toast with peanut butter before a race.)

Even at the start before it was hot, I was a good 60 to 90 seconds per mile slower than my typical half marathon pace. As the temps rose, I slowed down even more.

I drank water at every water station -- about every 2 miles. At mile 5 I ate a date with two almonds. (Almond butter was too messy during my training miles.) At mile 9 I had a second date with two almonds.  (I forgot to salt the dates.) Around mile 10 I started to have leg cramps. Luckily they were not bad enough to prevent me from finishing.

Before W30, I would taken Clif Shot Bloks during a race. Though they helped with carbs, they also have electrolytes, which the dates and almonds do not. The last few races I used the Shot Bloks, they caused mid-race stomach cramps. I never take Gatorade during a race because it doesn't agree with me. I certainly would not take it now for sure.

So, since starting W30, I am MUCH MUCH slower than I have been in years. I have been doing weekly speed and hill workouts, but I am still slow. On top of that, the only time I have ever had leg cramps during a race is on W30.

In my training, I tried carrying coconut water, but it just made me more thirsty. I could not do it instead of water, but maybe I should have carried some in this race for the electrolytes. Others have recommended Nuun, and I think I need to try it.

Another side note for the women on this forum. I am just now starting to have "side effects" of menopause. I've been experiencing long-lasting hot flushes (not flashes, they last a while), I'm having insomnia, I was gaining weight around my waist before W30, and my skin is breaking out like a teen.

So, why am I so much slower? Is it the way I'm fueling? Am I not really fat adapted? (I think I am.) Shouldn't I be faster if I'm fat adapted? Is it menopause?

And what is the best way to replace electrolytes? I will try Nuun during other summer training walks.

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Hi!  I actually meant to come here and chime in as the OP who has also finished Whole 30, but the week got away from me.  Sorry!

So, obviously ymmv and everyone is different, but I will just share my own experience here.  

As I said, I finished Whole 30 on August 4.  The entire time I did the program I was also training for a marathon (and still am).  The first couple of weeks SUCKED for me but once I got past about the halfway point AND increased my starchy carb intake (more on that below), my runs improved.  Over the past week or two my times have actually gotten a little bit faster, and I can do more at a lower heart rate.  Today's long run hovered between aerobic and low threshold for almost the entire 15 miles, though it did spike on hills or whenever I randomly pushed harder than I needed to.  I have noticed that, as opposed to my pre-W30 sugar-burner runs, my fat-burning runs take a little longer to... warm up the engine as it were.  The first couple of miles just feel kind of eh... like it takes me a while to settle in and find my sweet spot.  I was kind of like that before, but it seems to be more noticeable now.  That said, once it happens, I feel fine!  I've been fueling with baby food pouches (on today's 15 miles, I ate 1.5 pouches, drank plain water, and also took an electrolyte capsule because it was really hot and sunny out.  Have you tried those? The brand I use is called "Salt Stick").  I want to try adding in almond butter/nut butter packets, and I might also try some salted dates.  My stomach is loving the "real food" fuel versus the nasty gels that had a 50% chance of upsetting my GI pretty bad.

Your runs might still be sluggish from a combination of things.  Aside from your own metabolism (which could easily be affected if your hormones are in flux right now), the heat, humidity, sun/UV index all affect us more than we might realize, plus if you are suffering from insomnia that is also something that can work against you! 

You say you are pretty sure you are fat adapted... what are the signs that lead you to believe you are?  (not saying you aren't, just wondering).  Sometimes it takes a little longer for some people.  I know I personally had a problem during my first 2+ weeks of whole 30 in which I wasn't actually taking in enough starchy carbs and it was messing me up.  I felt like crap, and my runs were slow, I wasn't sleeping well, and I was snapping at everyone... I looked back over my food journal that I had been keeping and realized I was well below 100g carbs per day (I know that we aren't supposed to count macros on Whole30 but I did for that specific purpose... on typical days I'd be eating around 60g, on a "good" day it was around 90... oops!).  As an athlete AND a woman I determined I needed more.  I started eating starchy veggies like sweet potatoes and plantains and beets at almost every meal, plus I'd eat fruit once a day instead of just once every other day.  That's what worked for me, and I started noticing a difference in myself after just a couple of days.  

Sometimes it takes extra time to experiment and find what works for us as individuals.  Especially if you are approaching menopause, your hormones might be doing weird things that can throw you off balance.  I know my own hormones gave me issues earlier this year (I lost my period for 3 months during my last training cycle), which was a big reason I decided to try the Whole 30.  It can be disheartening, I totally get it.

I hope you can figure out what works for you.  Hang in there!!

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  • 1 month later...

Wish I had seen your response earlier! I had pretty much given up on the forums.

It's funny that you ask how I know I am fat adapted. The last time I said something about fat adaptation, the responder wanted to know why I thought I WASN'T fat adapted. I don't know if I am, but I have more energy during my training miles than I did in the first few weeks of Whole30.

My purpose in doing Whole30 was to determine which foods were causing me issues, and I think I've narrowed it down. Now I'm eating less processed foods, very few grains, very little dairy, no eggs, and no added sugars. I am eating lots of veggies and healthy proteins. I need to go back to eating more healthy fats because I am often hungry between meals.

I am still struggling with fueling during half marathons. My energy is better though I am still slower than I was last year. When I evaluated my training, I think part of my problem was I did not train as well as I have in the past. I hit all of my distance goals, but missed several mid-week training days.

Last Saturday I did a half marathon in Dayton, Ohio. I bought a ticket to the pasta dinner long before I knew I would do Whole 30 this year, so I ate the lasagna and salad offered. Dinner was very early, so later in the evening I ate an Epic bar and a pouch of sweet potato baby food.

Before the race, I ate half a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and had planned to have another Epic bar and sweet potatoes. (I stayed in a hotel and there was very little on the breakfast bar that I thought would be good for me.) The race was delayed for weather, so I waited until an hour before the race to eat them.

It wasn't hot at the start, but it did get very warm and sunny about halfway through. Luckily it clouded up again. I drank a lot more water than typical because of the heat. I carried salted dates with me and ate just two -- one about mile 4 and the other about mile 8. The second one gave me a slight stomach ache and even though I felt I needed the energy later in the race, I didn't eat any more. (I quit putting nuts or nut butter in the dates because that also caused stomach aches.)

I think carrying sweet potato packets might be helpful, or even a combo of a salted date about mile 4 (because that is where water stations typically are) sweet potato about mile 8, then another date about mile 11 or wherever the closest water station is.

Most of my walking friends were also a little slower Saturday, so I know the weather had something to do with it and as I said, my training was not as good as last year. I finished in 3:00:28. At mile 11 we decided to try to break 3 hours. I missed.

Even after two half marathons, I'm still struggling to figure out the best way to fuel a 13-mile race when I'm not relying on Clif Shotbloks, jelly beans or other prepackaged energy products.

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I have followed with interest as a half-Mara runner who is in the final days of w30. I liked the insight about needing to eat more vegetable based carbs and indeed found this to be true myself. The only run I have ever tanked (tunnel vision, heavy legs, felt like passing out) was my long run in Week 2.  After that I made sure to load up on sweet potato the night before and got up extra early to make sure I pre workout food.

Fastwalker my runs are significantly slower. I've not found them improving even in the final week of W30, though I now feel a lot better when I'm moving. 

I have also found I need a lot more water on my runs as I seem to sweat more freely now.  Weirdly I think my sweat stinks more too. But maybe I've become more sensitive to smells as well as tastes while on the program. 

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  • 3 months later...

Endurance friends, I hope someone is still around!  I started my first W30 and I'm on day 8.  In general, I feel much better, but my 2 1/2 hour run a few days ago was bad.  I felt week and nauseous.  Saturday is a half marathon for me.  I don't care about speed.  I'm realistic that I'm focused on W30 right now.  But my concern is what to carry with me since I can't eat or drink the fuel at aid stations.  On my last run, I made a smoothie of sweet potato, coconut almond milk, and grapes.  It helped.  But at this weekend's half marathon, I can't have that waiting for me when I feel weak.  I'd love some thoughts.  I start training for my first Ironman in 7 weeks so I'd love to figure out how to eat better before my training has to take 1st priority. :)


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I don't know where you live, but at my earthfare they have compliant electrolyte replacement little packs. I always have a fanny pack when I run for my inhaler, so I'm gonna use them in water at training stations and carry some salted dates if needed. I'm running at the end of January, hope your race goes well!

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I'm glad I found this thread!  I am on day 2 of my second whole 30.  My first was several years ago.  I started this one because I have gotten back into a bad rut of unhealthy eating habits and have not been exercising like I should.  I have run 3 half marathons in the past year and have my first full marathon coming up at the end of February.  I had not even thought about how this Whole 30 would effect my training!  Part of my problem is that I haven't been training and now I'm on an 8 week plan to get my miles in.  I won't be doing the Whole 30 on race day but I will be for most of my training.  I think eating sweet potatoes the day before long runs will be key for me but I hadn't even thought about race snacks.  I currently eat a pureed applesauce pouch but I'm sure it's not compliant.  I've read on here that a few people have found compliant electrolyte mixes and pouches, would you please share what they are?  Can I buy them on Amazon??  

Hearing that everyone's times are much slower while on the Whole 30 is a bit discouraging!  I'm not a fast runner by any means but I do have a time goal in mind for my runs.  I'm slower than I have been in the past right now due to not running for a while but I was hoping that would get better as I get back into it, however, it doesn't sound like that will happen while doing the Whole 30.  Has anyone out there increased time while on a Whole30?  During my last Whole30 I wasn't running but I was doing a lot of weight lifting and I got a lot stronger during my Whole30 so I was hoping to have the same positive effect this time.

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