A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Primal Diet...An Ongoing Success!!!

A lot of people who know me know that I keep a pretty meticulous record of the things I do, along with the things my athletes do. I find it's a good way to accurately go back and see the good and bad in my life.

In this case, it's really good. The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning that I'm doing this year has given me good reason to go into my past, to see the mistakes that I did and know that those mistakes can never be made when I finally attempt the Slam this year, because one big mistake on my part will very well mean failure for something as gruelling as the Slam.

Anyway, let me talk about diet. As an Italian living an American lifestyle, I  was very bad on my diet, even though I was doing well in triathlons. Even when I was hitting the podium in the 90's in triathlon I was a notorious soda-drinker, pasta and bread eater (thanks to my Italian lifestyle). My youthful metabolism and the punishing training I did tended to keep the weight off.

Time, of course, tends to expose the mistakes masked by youth. I steadily gained weight at the turn of this century, my training went downhill, and there was a time when I wasn't participating in races at all. I called it "semi-retirement", but in a way I was entirely too embarrassed to race, especially when I knew I qualified for the Clydesdale division.

Yes, the Clydesdale Division. I checked my logbook and in January of 2011, I weighed in at 215 pounds. That was the highest official weight I've recorded for myself and I was quite embarrassed wearing size 38 jeans. I did finish the Vermont 100 the year before but had no energy up the hills. Although I was proud to finish that race, I finished in a little over 28 hours.

 Oh, yeah, I was a porker back then. Soda and grains can definitely do some bad things to a body, just like it did mine.


January was right before the transformation started to happen. Due to my crazy soda consumption I had to get 2 root canals as my teeth were starting to rot. I decided right there and then to quit soda cold turkey, except for long distance races. I started to drop in weight a bit to about 204 pounds.

Again, I'm glad I keep a good history of my training, because 204 pounds was my official weight for the Leadville 100 in 2011. As I found out rather cruelly, the race took no prisoners. The race is perhaps one of the toughest on the planet due to its altitude and lack of oxygen. I died at the Hopeless Aid Station at mile 46 after struggling up the front side of Hope Pass.

Rather than blame it on altitude, which I knew I couldn't control, I blamed it on my weight, which I can definitely control. I was still very heavy and started to cut out any foods containing High Fructose Corn Syrup and start the long road back to success in these races.

That diet, along with the switch back to triathlon training, got me ready for the Vermont 100 last year (2012). I dropped a substantial amount of weight and officially weighed in at 189 pounds. What a difference it made from doing Vermont two years before! I was bouncing up the hills and, with the help of a great crew, finished at an impressive time of 21 hours and 24 minutes, about a 6.5 hour PR!

So where am I now?

At the end of last year I was starting to toy with the primal diet because, upon doing extensive research, it actually sounded like the best diet to take. Instead of blaming the obesity epidemic on fat intake, they actually blamed it on carbohydrate intake and the toxins found in grains, especially wheat.

 The primal food pyramid...there are no grains in this pyramid!


But I was an Italian. Although I cut down significantly on carbs, I still was clinging onto bread and pasta.

Then, I won the Western States lottery...

...and decided to attempt the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning...

...and have someone chronicle the Grand Slammers this year and turn our stories into a coffee table book (you can donate if you like, just click here).

That fear just drove me straight and went 100% primal. No breads, no pasta, no grains. Just raw food, nuts, some chocolate, fruits, and vegetables.

It is now about 13 weeks until the first race of the Grand Slam, the Western States 100, and I am glad to say that I am currently 179 pounds, I actually have my six-pack abs back, and I feel very, very agile running the trails.


I'm too sexy for my shirt...took this with an old camera, but the six pack is in there somewhere. Trust me on this. :-)

That's sort of better. There's a little definition on the abs this time. :-)

And the side view is great. No spare tire whatsoever. Primal diet rules!!!


I would have never thought that I would get my fitness back at almost 44 years old but here I am, ready to rock and roll!

What is also interesting is that my insides, my gastrointestinal tract, has never felt more sound in my entire life! No bloating, no bleeding, no stress, everything is running on all cylinders.

I still haven't run the Grand Slam yet, so it's too early to tell how it will impact my ultras, but I'm telling you right now that I feel that my age has reversed with this diet. I can definitely give those young'uns a race for their money!

Anyway, if you're interested in what I've done with my diet, you can definitely talk to me about it, either personally or over emails. I really think it's changed my life for the better and I know it can change yours also.

Some references you might want to take a look at with Primal or Paleo Diet:

Mark's Daily Apple - http://www.marksdailyapple.com/

Living Paleo - http://www.livingpaleo.com/

The Paleo Diet - http://thepaleodiet.com/

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