Tag Archives: Maffetone

Two week test part II

I started the Maffetone two week test on Monday 4th July. The first few days were tough, and I found myself thinkig about food (in particular bread and cake) all the time. However after a few days, and certainly by the Friday I felt I was getting used to the change.

Running the North Downs Marathon with no carb loading or mid race gels was a challenge, but I survived, and recovered well afterwards.

This week I will continue with the strict rules of the test, and see how I cope on my next long run (a 6hr event next Sunday), and then as I start to reintroduce various foods.

This is also planned to be a big training week (>75 miles), but i’m continuing with the low heart rate Maffetone method for the rest of the month. 

Friday update- rest day, so no running, but feeling really good. Looking forward to an easy run tomorrow and then a 6 hour event on Sunday. I’ve made some Phil’s Fudge to try during the 6hr race. I’ll also eat sausages and some nuts.

Final update

The race went well and I suffered no nutritional problems or drops in energy. On Sunday afternoon we went to the Walled Garden music festival (great fun) but that rather limited my food options, so the carbs crept back in.

As an experiment the test was good and really made me think about what I eat. I’ve not lost weight or felt any different, and will bring back some carbs, but maybe not toast every morning.

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North Downs Marathon

I’m one week in to the Maffetone two week test – eating no sugar or refined carbs. My goal for this race was simply to survive and finish, using just energy reserves stored in my body. I had water, and an emergency gel, but was not planning on eating. Unusually for a race, I wore a heart rate monitor, to try and help ensure I kept my HR low and in the fat burning zone. The plan was to keep HR at 135 – 140.

The North Downs Way between Reigate Hill and Denbies Estate is amazing. The trail alternates between sheltered woods and wide open meadows with superb views to the south over the Surrey Hills. It’s one of my favourite places to run. Unfortunately on Sunday the  it was overcast and alternating between 100% humidity, drizzle and light rain. I had my sun cream and sun glasses, but during a few of the wooded sections I really wished I’d brought a head torch as it was so dark.

Sarah and the children had decided to come with me, although their plan was simply to play around Box Hill rather than try and follow the race. Race Registration and the start and finish was at the Reigate Hill Golf club, so after getting my race bib, I had a coffee and a chat with Bryan and Conrad. At 9, Dave Ross sent us on our way. The first mile was fairly flat, so I managed to run reasonably near the front, but then in the second mile the route climbed 300ft, and I had to slow to keep my heart rate from soaring. From Reigate Hill and along the ridge to Colley Hill is flat, and then there is a steep drop down a technical track to another flat section at the base of the downs.

After six miles the trail starts to climb again, heading slowly up to Box Hill. I walked the steps up, mindful that my heart rate had been pushing up to 150, and would be burning carbs for fuel, and I had no plans to eat any in the race. The steps down the other side felt fine, but in places the chalk path was slippery I saw a couple of runners slide and fall. The race route goes over the stepping stones rather than the bridge, which is fun and makes for a good photo. My family were here to watch, and the children had been running back and forth over the stones when there was a gap between runners. Fortunately no one slipped and fell in.


The Stepping Stones – Photo by Jon Lavis

The route briefly follows the A24, to go through the underpass, and then back up to the Denbies Wine Estate. It climbs 400 ft over the next two miles, but for the most part the gradient was not too bad, so I ran up slowly but steadily.  Finally I reached Ranmore Road, and then ran on a little way further to the turn around point, and began the run back.

The long downhill section through Denbies was fast and fun, but the section at the A24 was very crowded. In addition to our race there was the Badger half marathon and a cycling race, all sharing the same section of path and adjacent cycle track. Fortunately after the underpass, we had the route to ourselves again. I was starting to feel a little low at this point. My energy levels were down, and it felt like I had run much further than the 16.5 miles my garmin was showing. Normally I’d take a gel and push on, but instead I slowed down and tried to recover.

After the crossing the stepping stones again, it was now back up the steps to the top of Box Hill. Even though I walked the steep section, my heart rate still hit 152 here.


The long climb up Box Hill – photo by Jon Lavis

The run along the top of Box Hill was fun, as was the descent, but after crossing Buckland Lane at 21 miles I had to slow down again a few people ran passed me. The last big climb up to Colley Hill was slow and painful, and my right hip and glute were causing some pain, but with only 3 miles left now I was nearly done, so pushed on to Reigate Hill and then the drop back down to the golf club and the finish line. At the finish

My time (4:21:51) was largely irrelevant. I’ve been starving myself of carbs all week, and my body has not yet adjusted to this new regime, so I was just glad to finish. I did feel a little wobbly after the race, but fortunately they were serving food at the golf club, and after an omelette and salad I was feeling much better.


Huge Medal!


MAF training for Spartathlon

I first discovered MAF (Maximum Aerobic Function) also known as the Maffetone Method a few years ago. Created by Dr Phil Maffetone it advocates slowing down to improve your effectiveness in using the body’s stored fat as a fuel for endurance events. By running at a low heart rate (generally 180-age) your body is not forced to burn carbs as fuel. When I first tried this I found I couldn’t run quicker than 9:30 mins / mile without my HR going over 135. However after two months of almost exclusively running slow with a heart rate monitor, I was running at 7:45 mins / mile at the same 135 heart rate. Since then I have regular included month long blocks of training into my plan that focus on low HR. Only when I am aerobically fit do I start to add speed work and hill reps to build strength.

Phil Maffetone also writes a lot about diet. If you are training your body to be an efficient fuel burning engine, you also need to provide it with the right raw materials. I’ve always been a bit of a ‘foodie’, and I think I eat a good and well balanced diet, so in the past I have always skipped over diet recommendations.

4 mile MAF Test - 4th July

4 mile MAF Test – 4th July

However this year, with the thought of running 153 miles clearly in my mind, I have gone back and read some of the comments about nutrition, and decided to undertake the Two Week Test.

This is not a diet, but a test, to see how you react to different foods. It starts with a two week period where you eat zero sugar and no processed carbohydrates: no bread, pasta, rice. No starchy vegetables like potatoes or legumes. After the two weeks you can re-introduce these foods and see how they make you feel.

I’ll miss eating bread and pasta, and since I don’t suffer with random weight gain, bloating or any other GI issues, I’m not expecting to make too many long terms changes to my diet, but it will be an interesting experiment, and I’ll record my thoughts and findings here, along with a diary of what I have eaten.

One good thing – While a Gin & Tonic is banned because of the sugar in the tonic, a dry martini is fine!

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