Did it Work? – My Half-Ironman on Keto

It had been nearly two weeks since my race. Plenty of time to think of what went well and what didn’t. What I would change, and what I would do the same.

I wanted to do this race on my terms, my way. It was a bit of an experiment on myself in a way. I wanted to do the race entirely Keto… no carbs or sugars whatsoever. My training had gone well staying fat adapted, so why wouldn’t my race?

So the big question is…. Did it work?


I hate to admit it, but no… I don’t think it did. I felt just as crappy during the run as I did last year, but I had far more sugar/carbs last year. So I can’t base my run on lack of carbs, but I think the bike really suffered.

As I mentioned in my last post, I wasn’t too far into my bike before noticing my muscles just were not responding as well as they have in training. They were tired and achy and didn’t want to push up the hills.

A friend who was also doing Keto started introducing carbs back into his diet in the weeks leading up to the race and he had a fantastic race! So I reached out to Danny Vega from Ketogenic Athlete, a podcast that we listen to regularly.

I explained the whole scenario, and he agreed I should have introduced carbs back into my diet in the week leading up to the race and then took in however many carbs I wanted to on race day.

The reason is, because I am fat adapted and my body uses fat efficiently, I could also have benefited from the quick carbs since I would be using both fuels… fat and carbs.

For races under 2 hours long I should not need carbs.

But I am stubborn and have to learn by doing most often. So now I know that the next half Ironman I do will be utilizing carbs as well 😉

Am I Sticking With Keto?

Absolutely!! I don’t believe there is only one way to eat to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but this has been the only way of eating that has me feeling my absolute best.

The Ketogenic Diet was first developed in the 1920s as a way to treat drug resistant epilepsy. In the 1970s, Dr. Atkins introduced this way of eating for weight control.

Today, we know there are more health benefits to following the Ketogenic Diet.

-Recent studies show that ketones in the body can improve cognitive ability in people with Alzheimers. Studies are also being done to see the effects that ketones have on Parkinsons, MS, and other neurological disorders.

-People with severe migraines (not related to tension type headaches) have found relief on the Ketogenic Diet without the side effects of a lot of the pharmaceutical options.

-For people without major health issues, the Ketogenic Diet can help:

  • lose weight
  • improve memory
  • lower blood pressure
  • eliminate cravings

Many people claim that the Ketogenic Diet is impossible to stick to long term. That it is way too restrictive. This may be true for some people, but I have been eating this way for 6 months and I have no problems with it.

Maybe not having as many options in the food I eat makes it easier. I did best in my exercise regime when I had it planned for me by a professional that told me exactly what to do every day.

But what I love most is that I do not crave bread, or sugar, or chips, etc. I do not feel like I am “white knuckling” it, just hanging on until I can eat crap again.

I feel FANTASTIC! I have even energy throughout the day.

With the exception of hormonal zits once a month, my face has cleared up.

So What I am Saying Is…

If you have tried so many diets and nothing has worked for you, give this a try! You don’t know until you try, and give it an honest months effort. Then you will know!

There are a lot of people out there who are still pro-low fat eating. But obesity, cancer, heart disease…. none of these things have decreased since the introduction of the low-fat era!



Educate yourself. Do your research. Look up studies. Get blood work done before you start and a few months in if that makes you comfortable. Buy books.

I have 3 or 4 Keto Diet books. They give good explanations on why this diet works for many people, but also have many delicious recipes!!

My latest is a buy from Costco, by Leanne Vogel (a Calgarian), called The Keto Diet. She lays it out plainly, and has some fantastic recipes! *To all the Trim Healthy Mamas out there, I found some of her recipes very similar to some THM “S” recipes, with some tweaks “Iced Tea Lemonade Gummies”, “Toasted Coconut Marshmallows”. Eating mostly “S” recipes is very similar to eating the ketogenic way.

So, What’s Next?

Well, in a week and a half I will be doing the half-marathon at the Willow Creek Wilderness Walk/Run in Fort Macleod. That should be interesting given my serious lack of run training.

But I am looking forward to doing a lower key, fun, local event!


June 9 – Ladiesfest with Kiera (8 km)

June 16 – 83 km bike “Hope with every Pedal” for A-T







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Ironman 70.3 St. George -The Result

I finished the race. I have never been so glad to cross the finish line of an event as I was on Saturday. My skin was fried and my lungs hurt, and I was the very last person from our group of Southern Albertans to cross that line. But seeing my family and friends along the finish chute made me so glad I pushed through to the end and did not quit!

Race Day Morning

I actually slept OK the night before the race, which is sometimes hard to do. We were up bright and early at 4 a.m., and left for Sand Hollow Reservoir by about 4:45. I ate my eggs and bacon and drank some Powerade Zero. This is what race morning looks like at an Ironman event!!

I was actually fairly calm all morning. I stood for 45 minutes in the porta potty line up (There were at least 20 of them, but the lines are always long!) and then started laying out my bike stuff.

All the athletes have to be out of the transition area where the bikes are before 6:45, so at about 6:15 I started putting on my wet suit. I think this was the first time I actually put it on all by myself! John or someone else has always helped me.

And trust me, even though I weigh 25 lbs less than I did last year, it is still like stuffing a sausage. And I didn’t see John trying to get my attention from the sidelines… he wanted to help but apparently I was too focused on what I was doing 😉

Swim Start

Waiting to start the swim was almost an hour long. The Pro’s start at 6:45 and 6:50 I think (Men and women start separate), and the age groupers start at 7.

While I was waiting, I just prayed for help to stay calm in the water. I felt relaxed as the line into the water slowly moved forward.

I met an 18-year-old girl from Arizona, who is graduating this year and wanted to celebrate by doing this event. She was so nervous for the swim! She has done triathlons before but never this distance. Her Dad was beside her trying to keep her calm, but you could see the panic in her eyes.

I started talking to her and told her I am always nervous before the swim too. She was worried about not finishing the swim in the 1 hour and 10 minutes allowed. I said I have had to do breast stroke for a big part of the race before and still finished in time, so not to worry.

When I looked her race # up after the race, I seen she finished the swim in great time, but sadly did not finish the bike. It is a TOUGH course!

I LOVE the way they did the swim start this year. It was a rolling start based on ability. So the fastest people start right at 7 and they let 3 people get in the water every 3 seconds. This spaced everyone out more and solved the problem of fast swimmers swimming over slow ones, or having their swim time slowed because they had to navigate around slower ones.

(I am in the blue swim cap, on the left)

This is especially awesome for people who aren’t as comfortable in the water, because you know everyone around you is similar in ability! The volunteers on the paddle boards and kayaks also pay close attention to the slower swimmers, in case someone needs help.

I felt comfortable in the water from the moment I got in the water. That was very strange for me but I embraced it gladly! Before I knew it I was at the first turn bouy.

I can’t really say why it went so well for me this year. I didn’t get a lot of swim training in, and didn’t even try out my wet suit until 2 days before the race.

During the swim, I was writing this blog in my head… I anticipated the rest of the day going as well as the swim was going…lol! But I was also remembering John telling me to breathe however I was comfortable, even if it wasn’t what I had practiced in the pool. Sometimes I took a breathe every 4 strokes, sometimes after 3 strokes, but mostly I took a breath every stroke.

I was also remembering Kathleen telling me to finish each stroke all the way until my hand comes out of the water. I remembered Alfredo telling me to think about where the water was on my head… if it is on my forehead, my head is too far out of the water. (Which, after watching the video John took of me starting, was probably most of the swim, but I did remember to tuck my chin in a few times)

All of these tips helped me!

I came out of the water feeling very positive and happy with how things had started out!

I finished the swim in 51:40, which is 8 minutes faster from last year!!

My transition to get on my bike took 4:52 which is a minute and a half faster from last year.

The Bike

I got on the bike in a great mood. I love biking!

I forgot that the first section is all chip seal… pretty rough road and hard to find smooth surface area. That was OK though, no different from last year.

Very soon after starting there is a short hill a bit of a flat and then a long hill. My muscles were burning on the long hill, which had me a little concerned. This wasn’t the toughest hill on the course, and it wasn’t going quite as smooth as expected!

A few days before the race I did a hill climb and felt great. I really don’t know why my muscles weren’t happy, but it was still OK. I was still enjoying it, and didn’t get any flats… which is a bonus considering how many people were along the road in the first 5 miles fixing a flat!

John and the kids were at the usual spot on Red Hills… I love knowing that I will see them there!! It is such a boost, even though it is just a quick wave and no stopping 🙂

The rest of the bike was pretty uneventful. As I was getting closer to the Snow Canyon climb, I decided I was going to get an energy gel at the last aid station before that climb.

Up until this point, I had been drinking Powerade Zero with 2 scoops of MCT oil powder. I also had bacon with me and baggies with coconut oil in them. So I was still 100 % Keto.

But before starting the race, I knew if I felt like I needed some quick sugar energy, I was not opposed to taking it. Plus I have never been able to eat straight coconut oil very easy, but everything I have read is that it is quick energy for a fat adapted athlete.

Anyways, about a mile before the aid station, I decided to try the coconut oil… and it was delicious!! I have no idea why I have hated it every other time I have taken it, but I enjoyed both the flavor and the texture this time!

When the aid station came around, I really needed to use the porta potties. But so did 8 other people! I decided I could hold it and kept going, forgetting about the gel.

Part way into Snow Canyon, I knew I was going to need more energy to get up this climb and took another Tbsp of coconut oil. But I should have taken more, because….

Snow Canyon beat me again.

I made it so close and it was literally the last 50 meters or so before it levels out that I simply could not turn the pedals anymore. GRRRR!!!

This was so frustrating because I had trained so consistently on the bike, but obviously I still did not incorporate enough hill training to be strong on this course.

But after this is a very fast 10 miles downhill back into town. This is so fun!!

My bike time this year was 3:37:08, about 17 minutes slower than I had hoped for, but about 5 minutes faster from last year. I should be happy with that, but considering I had a lot less weight to push up the hills and trained more, I was disappointed.

My bike to run transition was a long 11 minutes… last year was 7 minutes and I had hoped to be faster this year. But I decided to put on my compression socks, and I spent a few minutes in the porta potty.

The Run

I was still feeling positive at this point, but it was so hot. And my hamstrings and calves were feeling pretty tight from the bike ride. I started out running but this quickly turned to walking.

I should have been able to run at least a good part of the first bit… it is a false flat, so a little up hill, but if I got a rhythm going it would have been fine.

I think I started mentally turning off in the first 2 miles of the run. The sun was beating down, no shade anywhere, and the climb up Red Hills seemed harder than I remember.

Most people run the risk of getting dehydrated in hot weather while running. My mouth was so parched I drank at every aid station, and had some more water in my fuel belt for between aid stations. (There is an aid station every mile, so I shouldn’t have needed even more fluid). And I had to pee at every second aid station… this is not normal in 35 degrees!! Lol

If it wasn’t for all the bathroom breaks I would have broken the 8-hour mark 😉

Also, I forgot to bring anti acids with me, and by mile 4 or so of the run, I kept burping up hot stuff. I just wanted to throw up because I knew I would feel better, but I couldn’t seem to do it. I normally will run all the downhill sections, but I had to stop a few times even on the downhill because everything kept coming up.

Nearing the first turn around, I knew John and the kids would be there. I wanted to put on a smile and pretend it was OK, but I felt horrible. To make matters worse, John had got my run splits from the first couple of miles of the run, and it wasn’t good.

He told me I should probably try pick up the pace or I might not make the cut off time. I was mad. Even though he was right, I was not in a good head space to hear that. I told him I didn’t care if I finished.

(This picture is of me sulking like a 2-year old because John told me what I didn’t want to hear… hindsight always gives me better perspective 😉

When I came to the second turn around which is in the same area, John said Becky had texted him to tell me she was cheering for me… I told him I didn’t care. Sorry Becky, at this point I didn’t even care if I finished the race!! LOL But thanks for cheering us all on!! 😀

Even at mile 10, with 3 miles to go, I told myself I didn’t care if I didn’t make the cut off time of 8 hours 30 minutes. I didn’t have a watch on so I didn’t know how much longer I had.

But then I remembered the shirt.

Ironman brand has a huge marketing ploy. They take all types of clothing, put their name on it and sell it at the Ironman events. Not a bad thing but I usually refuse to spend extra money for these things.

But a light purple long sleeve tshirt with a hoodie had caught my eye … the style I like, and a colour I like, and on the back is the M dot with all the names of this years participants. I bought it and my name is on it, but race etiquette is that if you don’t finish the race, you don’t wear the shirt…

And I love the shirt.

So I started running cones down Diagnal Street. Run 2 walk 1 or run 3 walk 2…

I was so happy to see that finish line, that despite the horrible half-marathon, I had a smile on my face coming down the finish line….

And I said I will NEVER EVER DO THIS RACE AGAIN!!!! At least for a few years….he he.

My run time was 3 hours and 18 minutes… 10 minutes slower from last year 🙁

Total time was 8:03:39, 1 minute slower from last year. That doesn’t make me happy, but being done triathlon training for a little while does make me happy!! I will take a break for a few days and then start with weights and running again as the half-marathon in Fort Macleod is coming up at the end of the month!

I want to say a huge thank you to John and the kids. In my opinion, it is just as hard being a spectator/support crew as it is doing the actual race. They were up at 4 in the morning, spent the entire day in the hot sun getting hauled from place to place, just to wait forever and see me for a few seconds. John is so awesome at staying positive, and buying the kids milkshakes, and being so supportive. I can honestly say I never do as good of a job when he races…

I get grumpy and irritable and may even whine a little.

When I finished the race, he already had my bike and the rest of my gear in the van ready to go. Even though I didn’t improve my time at all, they were all so proud of me… it even brings tears to my eyes as I write this. Thank you and I love you guys!!

It is also so great to do this kind of thing with a group of people you know. I can confidently say next year I will be in the cheering section for whoever decides to do this race… but I will not be doing it. I have it here in writing. Hold me to it. LOL!!!

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