Mt Buller Sky run – 50km of running and walking, 2600m metres of ascending and descending in less than 8 hours and only 25 to 30gms of carbohydrates consumed throughout the adventure.

Part one I talked about the highs and lows of my first ultra marathon. My rookie mistakes getting lost and running the course. Part 2 Is about Running on Fat, how I felt it worked, my recovery and what’s next.

People often ask me all the time why have I chosen Low Carbohydrate High Fat (LCHF) as my way of eating/fueling my body.

Example of LCHF foods

Example of LCHF foods

My reasons are fairly simple. Genetically the numbers are against me, no matter how much I run I cannot run from my family history. 3 years ago I quit all processed sugars and reduced my processed carbohydrate intake considerably. March 2014 I was introduced to the concept of LCHF. I began cutting my carbohydrate intake further only consuming carbohydrates from fruit and vegetables and experimenting with LCHF meals.

The Mt Buller Skyrun is my second race since making the switch, so the question remains do I believe LCHF – Running on Fat assisted or hindered my performance during this race? I believe it helped me.

Since October last year, I have been consuming a very low carbohydrate diet. Most non training days I consume less than 50gms of carbohydrates per day and on my training days I may have up to 100gms. Having trialed various combinations of meals and foods in the lead up to the race, I went into the Mt Buller Skyrun confident of my Pre-race nutrition plan. My pre race dinner for this race was Lambshanks with a good serve of roasted vegetables including sweet potato.

2015-04-22 22.03.46

My food for 8hrs plus a few macadamia nuts

Breakfast was a good two hrs before I started. It was never my intention to start the Mt Buller Skyrun in a fasted state. I know some people do race fasted when doing LCHF but I personally think it’s very important to consider the duration of the event when deciding to fast beforehand or not. Wanting to minimize any insulin spike resulting from a high carbohydrate intake. It consisted of

  • A high fat porridge with oats, chia seeds, lots of cream, butter and coconut oil.
  • A boiled egg
  • & half an Avocado drizzled with Olive oil and sprinkle of salt.

All up I had maybe 20 or 30gms of carbohydrates at best. I was going to have a coffee but time felt like it was against me so I didn’t bother. For the race itself I was carrying:

  • Salt tablets.
  •  2.5 litres of water
  • A Homemade runner’s gel of 50 maybe 60mls of coconut oil and 20gms of dark chocolate
  • Lemon & Macadamia Nut Bar Nutrient breakdown.

    Macadamia nuts & a Lemon and macadamia nut type bar.

My Emergency food was:

  • More Nuts
  • Another nut bar or two
  • & two gels if things got
    real dire.

My watch says I burned 5000 calories in this race;
I estimate I consumed less than 500 calories during it. I started well my energy levels were fine. I was neither hungry nor thirsty but I took a few occasional sips of water early as I knew it would be a long day. My plan was to take one salt tablet every hour which I did, from memory the first time I ate anything was around the 22km mark. I had, had about 2 possibly 3 salt tablets up to this point and in reality I was not hungry so I just had a little piece of the Lemon and Macadamia nut bar.

It’s hard to say when else I ate I would have had a little piece of that macadamia nut bar every hour or so after that. I do remember finishing it off just after the ”Thank Christ Corner” so around the 45km mark for me and at about 6.5 hrs. Would I use it in the future? As emergency food definitely. As part of my race nutrition plan possibly.

Going down the River Spur trail I did grab a few of the macadamia nuts out of the bag. That was like eating sand. I figured I wouldn’t do that again, might trial nut butter instead for future races. Along the River Spur trail and back up Mt Buller I also had the homemade gel. Didn’t need much, less than a teaspoon full and it was fantastic. The amount of dark chocolate in it would have contributed maybe 5gms of carbohydrates at best in the whole tube so it was negligible and wouldn’t impact on my fat adaption I believe. There was a point while going back up Mt Buller where I would have loved a full fat coffee. Was it the caffeine or fat I was craving hard to say, either way my energy levels were not dropping without it and that was the key.


Mt Stirling 8km into the race


Still looking fresh after 47km










Did I hit a wall? I don’t believe so. When you compare the photo on of me on top of Mt Buller after running 47kms to the one on Mt Stirling taken at about 8kms I still look surprisingly fresh. Physically my legs were hammered but mentally I was fine. In the latter half of the race due to a bad ankle, I was reduced to walking yet I still maintained a steady pace, and although I had lost over 40minutes to the field going off course in the end the runner in front only finished 6 minutes ahead of me.

Post Race Recovery. I had the usual post marathon soreness but the worst of it was gone in two days and by Thursday I was moving quite well. The following Monday I ran a solid 15km at Lysterfield Lake on the bike tracks and was fine and the Thursday of that week I completed a full interval session in the morning and that afternoon was put through a leg strength and conditioning set with the new physiotherapist at work. I personally consider this as significant in regard to my recovery. In all other races where I have emptied the tank especially my two marathons, it has taken me 6 to 8 weeks to return to intervals. Also In all the years I have run at the Thursday morning interval sessions I have never followed it up with a strength session on the same day. So to do this two weeks after a big race is a definite improvement in my recovery. Yes I was sore afterwards and my Saturday run was a bit of slow shuffle, I still ran 16km comfortably on the Sunday. I now have my sights set on the Great Ocean Road Marathon in the middle of May. In the 7 years since I have returned to running I don’t remember ever recovering this well, this quickly. Nor would I in the past have contemplated running two big runs so close together.

So what’s next? All going well I will be running the Great Ocean Road Marathon and it goes without saying it will be run on fat again. I am also looking forward to the Low Carb Down under conference On June 7th at the St Kilda town hall where co author of The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance, Jeff  S Volek,PhD,RD will be presenting.

In the meantime I am refining my LCHF journey, it worked well for me on the Mt Buller Skyrun but I believe as in all aspects of running I can refine and improve on it much more.

I know LCHF is controversial, and it goes against all supposed scientific sporting nutrition plans. I have been told more than once that I am crazy; LCHF is far too restrictive and dangerous, that it will kill me and so on. However, at the end of the day, I feel fantastic and I have loads of energy. I feel I get stronger as my runs progress, especially when I am on track with my nutrition, my recovery from training sessions and this race have been fantastic and ultimately it works well for me.

Running on Fat – The Mt Buller Sky Run – Part 2

7 thoughts on “Running on Fat – The Mt Buller Sky Run – Part 2

  • April 24, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    interesting stuff. I’m a bit agnostic on all of this but finding my way a bit in endurance events. Lots of cramping issues at 2 to 3 hours so very interested in nutrition and experimenting Generally with eating a lot let bread and pasta. BTW I run in your dust on DTR runs but that would probably be the case regardless of diets!

    • April 24, 2015 at 10:42 pm

      Thankyou Richard, it is very interesting stuff. Has taken me a while to go this low and I still believe there is room for refinement. Have you tried Salt tablets for the cramping? Hope to see you out on a DTR run soon.

  • May 25, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    I just found your website David. This was really interesting reading, thanks so much for sharing it! I’m so looking forward to my first fat adapted marathon in July and will be taking some of your tips into my race.

    • May 25, 2015 at 11:43 pm

      Thankyou Jenni I am glad you enjoyed it. Please make sure to read the blog on Elite Athletes using LCHF as well my latest blog. Its very important to know what you are trying to achieve in a race and how you will approach your nutrition for it. Mt Buller Skyrun for me was never about how fast I could run the course I wanted to enjoy the journey and I knew that allowed me to also focus more on building my Fat adaption base and some experimentation. If the race was time focused I would definitely have needed to factor in some more strategic carbohydrates to enable me to access my top gear. Something I will cover in more detail in coming blogs

  • Pingback: 7 reasons for endurance athletes to fat adapt | ednr real foods

  • January 3, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    just listened to Prof Volek at Melbourne conference (via YouTube) and then stumbled on your blog. Interesting reading thanks!
    As an ultrarunner myself I found his studies on ultrarunners especially interesting. I’m going to give this diet a whirl!
    May I ask what your home made gels consist of? just wondering what to take out on long runs/races. I’m used to consuming commercial sports nutritional drinks etc

    • January 4, 2016 at 10:17 pm

      Hi Rebecca These days I use Vespa and some Strategic Carbs on race day. I do most of my training in an overnight Fasted State and can train up to about 3 hours on water alone. You might find the blog about my Surf Coast Century also very interesting in regards to race day nutrition.


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