Arriving in Boston for the 2018 Boston Marathon was exciting. Being handed a package by hotel staff which contained three bottles of the HVMN Ketone ester was equally exciting. While I have penned articles in the past about my experiences with the ketone ester out of Oxford University this is the first time I have been able to use an ester in a marathon.
Fact 1 – with a lung function so low blowing up a balloon is a challenge for me, so it’s fair to say the HVMN Ester is not going to put me on the podium of the Boston marathon.
Fact 2 – I have no idea if taking the ester for race performance will make any meaningful change to my day.
Fact 3 – there is a relationship between ketones and COPD (my disease) via the NLRP3 inflammasome.
My initial plan was to measure ketone levels and lung function before and after the race. However, this plan went a little pair shaped due to the horrific weather forecast for Boston on marathon day. Fortunately, having three bottles of the HVMN ester I was able to conduct some tests the day before race. Firstly, I wanted to see if taking the ester without having my morning medication would improve my lung function (fev1). Science has shown ketones have a suppressing effect on inflammation so can the HVMN ester do the same for COPD and can I measure it through lung function testing?
The morning before marathon day when I woke up I bypassed my daily COPD medication and took 1 (25g) dose of the HVMN ketone ester. Over the next 4 hours I measured my lung function every hour. What I observed was a gradual rise and fall of my lung function which correlated to the rise and fall of blood ketones. The rise of my lung function was .74L to .90L approximately 22%. Six hours after consuming the initial dose of HVMN my blood ketone levels were at 1.2 mmol. During this time as my blood ketones elevated my blood glucose lowered. Symptomatically, I felt a difference in my breathlessness while under the effects of the ketone ester.
When I measure my lung function before and after taking my morning medication and not in ketosis, I experienced an increased response to my breathlessness. My lung function measurements improvement by 25%.This doesn’t support, nor did I think it would, the theory a ketone ester would be able to replace my medication. But it does show the ester was able to positively affect my breathing and lung function.
On race morning I took my medication as usual and made my way out to the start line. About 30 minutes before the start I consumed one dose of the HVMN ester. Due to the inclement weather I was unable to bring any measuring devices with me. So, from here on in I can relay how I felt but cannot support my experience with statistics.
In my experiments at home the combination of my medication and being in a state of ketosis consistently shows a significant improvement in my lung function. This was certainly my experience as I made my way from Hopkinson to Boston. Within one hour of taking the HVMN ester I was breathing noticeably better. While I wasn’t going to challenge the front runners, I was happy with my progress.
To give some context into the challenges I was facing on Marathon Monday you have to understand my disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). This disease kills over 3 million people every year, there is no cure and the disease is progressive. COPD is characterised by a fixed airway obstruction among other things. What this means is my breathing is similar to breathing through a straw. My airways are very narrowed, so much so my lung function hovers between 23 & 40% depending on the day and whether I’m in ketosis. So, imagine the difficulty in running a marathon breathing like this. Add to this, rain, wind and cold weather which can worsen symptoms dramatically! It’s fair to say the 2018 Boston marathon was going to be challenging. I wasn’t looking at setting any PB’s, I was just wanting to finish.
As the race wore on there was more walking than running, mainly due to the amount of clothing I was wearing and how wet I had become. To protect myself from the elements as much as I could I had to wear multiple layers of clothing, extra weight. The extra weight, poor weather conditions in combination with the extra hills on the back half of the race made running safely not always an option.
At the half way point of the race I took my second dose of ketones as I knew things would become tougher. This second dose continued the effects of the first dose which was useful when tackling “heart break hill”. Before I started down the ketosis pathway hills were my enemies. I would more often than not have to stop when I reached the top and get my breathing under control and take my reliever medication. Nowadays I walk up the hills and run down the other side, no recovery needed. The back half of the race was easier than I anticipated as I was coping well with the hills.
When I crossed the finish line in Boston I felt exceptionally cold but otherwise I was in good condition. Did the HVMN ester make a difference to my race? Absolutely and here is why?
- In the past when competing in marathons I was very dependent on my rescue inhaler, a medication which relieves breathlessness. So much so there were races where I had the shakes from over use of this inhaler. The Boston marathon was the first race where I did not use this inhaler during the race.
- Generally freezing temperatures and breathing in cold air will irritate my airways and I will develop a significant wheeze. I had none of those symptoms. I can’t say for sure why this was so, but I suspect the ester in combination with my medication were able to keep my airways open through the reduction of inflammation.
- I carried two Quest bars on me for the race to use for fuelling, I finished with two Guest bars. For me fuelling during a race consists of keeping hydrated. I eat a ketogenic breakfast 4-5 hour before the race and need no additional fuelling during the race. Back in the days of being a carb burner I would consume gels, bananas, sports drinks, lollies. You name it, I’d eat it.
- In past races it would take days, sometimes weeks for me to recover. The day after the marathon I went for a run. No soreness at all, in fact you’d never know I had run a marathon the day before.
Ketone esters elevate ketone levels significantly, there’s no doubt. Is this a beneficial state? For me, yes. Any advantage I can get over my disease I’ll gladly take. For the elite athlete studies have shown ketone esters can be the difference between gold and silver in some sports.
But what about the weekend warrior, the age grouper trying to outperform their ageing bodies capabilities? One thing stands out to me. Recovery! The ability to increase training frequency without pain or soreness may just give them the edge they’re looking for.
Boston 2018 didn’t go according to plan but there will always be another race. For me it’s the Gold Coast marathon on July 1st. I will be powered by HVMN ketones and hopefully move a little closer to my goal of a sub 5-hour marathon. Try doing that breathing through a straw!