For the past year I have been training for the 24 hour Ultraskate held annually at the NASCAR speedway in Homestead, Florida. For those of you unfamiliar, it is an endurance competition where one pushes, pumps, or paddles a skateboard for 24 straight hours. Some people compete as a team, while other push relentlessly through the night. Since competing in 2015, my goal was to hit 300 miles. I maintained confidence in this despite the belief that this barrier seemed years away in many people’s’ minds. In February, I accomplished this goal, and while much of this was due to training, a lot of it can be attributed to diet and nutrition. I’m not saying my way is the only way(you can take whatever pieces you want and incorporate them in becoming a fitter, healthier you) I’m just putting this out there as a resource and overview of my journey. Feel free to ask any questions or offer me advice.
Let me first state that I am a currently vegan, plant based, herbivore. There are many names for it but I have decided not to eat meat, eggs, or dairy for ethical, environmental, and health reasons. Most of theses products, when found in America, come from factory farms, are laced with artificial hormones, and are just inflammatory in your body. Additionally, I try to eat as much produce as I can. Most things in the middle aisles of the grocery store are overly processed and often devoid of significant nutrition. Even the fruits and vegetables of today aren’t the quality they were 50 years ago because of monoculture, soil degradation, and the need to feed millions on a large scale. Because of this I try to buy from farmers markets when I can and forage food when I can find it. I still go out on occasion and have tried not to build a diet that is unsustainable or would leave me chomping on celery sticks all day.
As a vegan, people often wonder the classic phrase “where do you get your protein?” Rest assured, there is almost no protein deficiency in the first world even among plant based athletes. When it comes down to it, all one really needs are rice, beans, and greens! These staples are cheap and can deliver all of the amino acids needed to build protein in your body. A trick I learned from Andy “La Macina” Andras is sprouting, which makes nuts, grains, and beans more digestible and actually unlocks a lot of additional nutrients. All you need to do is soak them overnight, drain, and rinse twice daily until they have little tails. And while there are a few vegan, whole food sources of theses nutrients, I like to supplement my B vitamins, D3, taurine and Omega-3s.
In regards to training, I am working a full time job and I know lots of you are doing so as well or are in school. These sorts of time constraints don’t allow us to train like professional cyclists. Often the workouts are similar though with the essential need to build a strong base. This entails lots of long slow rides. Be it running, biking, or skating(I do all three throughout the year) these Zone 2 workouts keep your heart rate low, but over time allow you to make gains by having more mitochondria and being more efficient at using fat as an energy source.
Which brings me to my next point, intermittent fasting. If you’ve never heard of this you may be thinking “Eric, you’re skinny enough, you have to eat!” I do, however it is typically during a window between noon and 8PM. The reason for this is that your body is either in a fasted or feeding state. By the time most of us wake up and eat breakfast, we have haven’t even burned off the previous night’s meal. Starting about 7 months ago, I pushed back my morning smoothie to 9AM, a week later, 10am and so on until I wasn’t eating till noon or later. During this time your body starts to use more fat as fuel and also becomes more efficient at doing so. This also gives your gut a much needed break, which segways perfectly into…
The gut biome, this is where shit gets real! I learned this year that the microbes living on your body and in your intestines comprise almost 70% of your immune system. If you are trying to train on a regular basis staying healthy is key. The big players in this are probiotics and prebiotics also known as bacteria and fiber respectively. Fiber is the easy one, just eat more fruits and veggies. For probiotics though I drink kombucha and rejuvelac and eat kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, and plant based yogurt. With a stroll through the grocery store, especially an Asian grocery store, you can find most of these, but I’ve always found the highest quality and cheapest way to do it is by fermenting yourself!
Leading up to this year’s ultra, I actually had less volume of training than last year. I tried to put in the long slow miles when I could and fit in select high intensity workouts at times where I would have enough time to recover. These high intensity workouts may offer quicker gains but can wreck your body and lead to injury if you’re not careful. Anyways, my main point was that I started my taper 4 weeks out rather than 5 which I would have done if I had trained more. The week of the race I had some short workouts with a few sprints thrown in but nothing too crazy…just playing with other people’s board setups and jumping on Andy’s trampoline on the eve of the race.That day I also kept my food light, easily digestible, and with minimal solids by eating with chia, coconut water and fruits. The meal two nights before the race is actually the most important one, and I had a bunch of sweet potato and salsakraut.
On race day, it’s important to implement the three hour rule. This means that unless you can eat a meal three hours before a race, you are better off waiting until the start since the spike in blood sugar will cause you to deplete your glycogen stores quickly once you get rollin. This year I had used Tailwind successfully in in my training and it was my primary fuel source. Two scoops an hour almost every hour. I had some blueberries and Clif bars but kept it around 200 calories an hour. This is pretty low but but my fat adaptation allowed me to have a less taxing meal schedule throughout the race.
As a race report, I’ll keep it simple, as that’s how it was out there. Push, pump, flow. This year there was drafting allowed. Physically this made a difference when there was a big pack of amped up skaters, but the real effect came from the mental side of this. Seeing and knowing that there was a group aimed beyond 300 miles was incredible. I stayed with this group for about 4 or 5 hours when I decided I needed to skate my own skate.
This left me virtually alone for another 3 or 4 hours. Everyone had settled into their own groove, and here I did have to fight my own wind. Later when the pack had caught up and I was just trailing them, it’s energy drew me forward. I knew it was better just to stay there through the night. Even when Harrison said they were throwing down nearly 4 minute miles and fell back, I knew that wouldn’t last and I pushed on. One by one, people fell off. I don’t know the pain that left them in the pits, but the best advice I ever received about a 24 hour race is this “no matter how good or bad you feel, it won’t last”. Much of this race I was weathering a storm of pain. Whether it was my stomach, muscles, sunburn, the cold, or just my mind screaming out, I knew that if my heart rate was under control, I could continue at the pace I was on. Last year, I was doubling my salts accidentally and had to do a couple hours at 10mph early to get my heart rate settled. This year I worked out the kinks with the incredible support from my dad and Tina I was able to hit 305. Andy also ironed out his training and nutrition to achieve the impossible and together we broke the 300 barrier. It’s just now starting to sink in how far that actually is in miles and for the sport. Distance skateboarding is a way of gathering people, a form of transportation, and a place for athletes to battle in a test of strength and endurance.
Skate on folks!