Last week I bought some baby food! No, I’m not expecting a baby. However, I am starting to think about my ultra nutrition. Just putting that into words sounds crazy. Why would I buy baby food for my own nutrition? I’ve heard from other runners that baby food is used as an alternative to gels…
Since my last post, I have been thinking about my race day nutrition a bit more carefully. I’ve done a bit of digging online and judging my own experience when training for a marathon I have come up with a list of food items to try and practice with (see further down).
You may be asking, why I would be thinking so much about my race day nutrition? Surely it’s only 8km more than a marathon! Couldn’t you just stick to using gels or an energy drink? To be honest, the whole process is quite fun, but there is a bit more to it…
Unless you’re an elite trail runner, which I’m not…I will expect to be running for anything above five or six hours. I am predicting for my first 50k I will finish in around seven hours but it is hard to judge. Along with the time factor, you are adding considerable elevation gain compared to your traditional road marathon, which requires anything from 200-300 calories per hour to sustain the distance. Gels and an energy drink just won’t be enough but also after that amount of time it becomes quite sickly.
Variation is going to be essential on race day, not only to give me a break from the same thing but also to have options if something isn’t working. Gels will make up 50-60% of my calories, but I would like a hand full of ‘real’ foods to snack on while running.
To take on such a distance for the first time, you try to plan and trial many different variations so that you have a wider option on the day depending on how you feel. Conditions could change, and my body may act differently on the day due to the weather conditions or how I’m coping with the distance or terrain.
Training days tend to be far more relaxed compared to race day. We certainly can’t replicate the same adrenaline rush and anxiety of the event. Long training runs are there for you to rehearse every part of the race that includes running on similar terrain and elevation to try and put the body through the same physical challenges. You are then able to test nutrition with the same variables. Higher heart rates and anxiety can have quite an impact on appetite, and this can alter how easy something is to swallow and digest that we would find normal if we were only walking.
I know from experience when I ran my second marathon that solid foods are quite a challenge to eat on race day. All my training I was able to easily eat and digest cliff bars. On race day my heart rate was elevated, and I got cramps when my digestive system couldn’t keep up. Lesson learned.
In the past, I have tried energy drinks and powdered mixes to add to water such as Hammer Nutrition’s Heed, but I much prefer to keep my water clean. It is also hard to calculate your hourly calorie intake from a diluted source over an hour.
The same goes for electrolyte tabs and powders that are diluted in water. I will be experimenting during my runs with ways to consume the right amount of electrolytes using salt tabs and powders as and when I need. I’m expecting the Sun Mountain race to be hot and it will be vital that I have a descent salt strategy worked out before so I avoid the effects of Hyponatremia.
Here is my list of items to try during my long runs:
Baby food – apparently tasty and easy to eat – we will see about that!
Pretzels – something to try, could be quite dry but a good way to get back some lost salt and carbs.
Jerky – I’m going to try some salmon jerky as an option, but this could be tough on the stomach.
Dried fruit – a smaller quantity as I don’t want to take on too much fibre. Something like soft dried apricots, dried apple or mango could be worth a go.
Nuts – not too many but a handful of pistachios or almonds over the day could work nicely.
Rice/potato thins – could be too dry.
Chips – carbs, salty but could by quite dry.
Yoghurt – I’ve tried some of these convenient children’s yoghurts, and this is quite a hit, very easy to consume.
Banana – obviously a great way to get calories and potassium
Chocolate raisins – just because I know from hiking that they are drops of energy!
Watermelon – always at the aid station and easy to eat.
Rice Krispy squares – still sweet but could be an option in my drop bag.
Fig bars – so far these are going down well if consumed slowly.
Flat coke – I’ve had this at some races, and it seemed to work, going to try this out.
Coconut water – alternative to water and natural electrolytes.
Jelly babies – These are a candy from the UK, quite soft and easy to eat. Would be similar to having blocks or chews but far more enjoyable!
Jaffa cakes – I’ll get some of these in the UK to try.
I’m obviously not going to be having all these! I’m going to pick my favourites from the training with a plan to have some only in my drop bag to consume when I reach it. I’ll then have a ziplock in my pack with a variation of small items to graze on over the space of a couple of hours to add in the calories and break up the intake of gels.
I would love to hear about any other ideas to try!