How 100-mile training affects a masters athlete


By Henry Howard


How does training for a 100-mile race affect a masters athlete who is plant-based? That’s what I aimed to find out when I had my bloodwork analyzed by InsideTracker in June, then followed up three months later after the peak training.


Before my test in June, the weekly mileage averaged from the previous five weeks was 29.1 with a high of 41.1 miles. For comparison, before my September test the average was 51.7 miles per week with a maximum of 67.8. The buildup was for the Hennepin Hundred, which I will be doing the first weekend in October. (On a side note, I am dedicating the race to Bigger Than The Trail, a nonprofit group that raises awareness of and donations for those struggling with mental health issues. I’d be honored if you’d consider a kind donation to support BTTT and my 100-mile quest. Learn more here.)


After several years of testing with InsideTracker, the June results were the best yet. Of the dozens of biomarkers tested, only three were rated “at risk.” That was quite the improvement from a previous test in February when there were seven in that category.


InsideTracker tests reveal how all stressors — physical, emotional, etc. — and nutrition have an impact on an individual’s health. In addition to the scores, InsideTracker provides custom recommendations based on the individual’s dietary preferences, age, weight, goals and more. Get 25 percent off any InsideTracker test with my code: HENRYHOWARD.


My key takeaways


So how did my recent test compare? Pretty favorably.


In June, the three areas that fell into the “at risk” category were my inflammation group, lymphocytes and the magnesium group, specifically the level of magnesium in my red blood cells. Also, 38 of 48 biomarkers were rated optimized, up from three from the test five months previously; while seven were in the needs improvement category, up one.


In September, I also had three biomarkers deemed “at risk” while two were downgraded from optimized to needs improvement. My magnesium rating improved, thanks to changes I made since the previous test. The three areas deemed at risk are my inflammation group, the testosterone:cortisol ratio and Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG).


After analyzing the data, here is what I learned:


1. Inflammation group: My score has been unchanged in the past year due to a low white blood cell count. However, it did stay consistent, recording 3.5 for the second test in a row, improving from 2.9 in February. The optimal score is a minimum of 3.8. White blood cells are the driving force behind a healthy immune system. My increased consumption of nut butter, nuts, avocados and chia seeds is having an impact though there is room to improve.

2. Testosterone-Cortisol level: This indicates stress related to intense and/or prolonged training. So no surprise there. Also worth noting is this number has remained consistent since October 2018.

3. Magnesium: Based on the recommendations following my previous test, I increased my consumption of peanut butter, spinach and black beans (but not mixed altogether. Gross!). Additionally, I have continued to eat a cereal with amaranth, a recommendation from a few tests ago, as a way to boost these numbers.

4. Vitamin b12 level: It’s challenging for plant-based athletes to get enough vitamin b12. Among the recommendations to get enough of this vitamin, other than a supplement, are having chocolate almond, soy or rice milk. I’ve been drinking an almond-cashew chocolate milk regularly but have been reconsidering that due to the high added sugar content.


Action steps


After each InsideTracker test, I review the score, analysis and recommendations, and create a to-do plan for myself. Looking ahead, here are some areas that I will look to improve upon.


• Vitamin b12. Vegans and vegetarians face the challenge of getting adequate vitamin B12 in their diet. As mentioned above, I am reconsidering my choices for plant-based milk. Like so many other nutritional choices, it’s a balancing act. If I do choose another type of plant-based milk that has less sugar, I may need to supplement with this important vitamin.


• Yoga. Mondays are typically my rest and recovery day when I have been doing yoga more frequently. After my big goal race, my training load will recede and I will look to work in more yoga.


• White blood cells. I’ve been healthy in recent years, in large part to my plant-based diet, but it’s time to visit my doctor once again for an annual check-up that I’ve missed for several years in a row. It would also be a good time to chat about my white blood cell count, as recommended by InsideTracker.


Overall, I feel really good about how my well body fared, given the surge in training load since June. As the racing season heads to a close, it will be important for me to balance staying active with a necessary reduced load in order to let my body adapt for the next season. After all, I already have one race on the calendar for April 2022, twice deferred due to the pandemic.


More about that later. For now, stay tuned for a special contest I’ll be doing with InsideTracker in early December.