Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fueling during the race

Installment three from the How To Run the Run for Kids page.

In this section I often refer to "Long Races."  What I am talking about are races that will take at least 12 hours to complete.
In an ultra, especially the longer ones, it is necessary to eat and drink all during the run.  This is a foreign concept to most road racers and runners.  Just about everyone uses carb type gels these days and if you are not, you should start.  They really work.  Most runners can tolerate them for a several hours and you probably can run a 50K eating nothing else but I would not recommend it.  I can tell you from experience that after a while the thought of a GU will make you sick.  I suggest you start trying various other foods during your training runs.  Here is a list of things you will typically find at aid stations in 50K to 100 mile races:
    Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches (Races longer than 50K)
    Other types of sandwiches  (100 mile races)
    M&M, and other types of candy
    Potato Chips
    Soup or Broth  (Usually over night in 100 mile races)
    Cooked Potatoes and a bowl of Salt to dip them in.
    Cokes, Sprite, Gatorade, etc.
    Several types of Cookies and Crackers.
    Bananas and other fruit.
    Even Coffee  (Overnight in long races only)

You will need to figure out what you like and what you are able to eat while running, so start practicing.  When I started training for the Pinhoti 100 in 2008, I would take an assortment of food in my car to Oak Mountain for all my long training runs.  After several hours of running, I would stop by my car to refill water bottles and try a few new snacks.  I also carried various snacks with me on the run.  Every two to three hours I would have a quick bite to eat.  Sometimes I stop but usually I just keep running or at least walking.  What I found out is that I can eat anything that looks good to me at the time.  I have never really had a problem eating it if it looks good.  If it doesn't look good I just don't eat it.  (I have never tried a barbecue sandwich or a chili-dog, and furthermore, I will not!)

One other word on stomach problems.  Sometime during every long race I have run, my stomach starts to feel a little queasy.  One trick I have learned is to carry  Ginger Chews candy at all times.  You eat one and a few minutes later you are fine.  I do not know of any local stores that have  them, but Zombie Runner sells them and they are cheep.  We will have some at the Run for Kids Challenge.  The Enlyten strips also do a good job of settling you stomach.  You just eat a couple of strips like candy and in a few minutes you feel fine.

One very critical issue regarding food is what to eat, or more importantly, what NOT to eat the night before an ultra, especially long ultra.  Everyone that ever slipped on a pair of running shoes knows to eat carbs the night before a race and this is important.  Running ultras creates new issues, however.  Because you are running for many hours you do not want to have heavy, slow digesting food sitting in your gut.  Stay away from any type of ruffage.  A grilled chicken or salmon salad might be a great, healthy meal any other time, but don't eat it the night before an ultra.  Some people go as far as suggesting runners eat nothing more than soup or even a drink like "Ensure."  Just eat light and eat what can be easily digested.

In addition to figuring out what you like to eat during runs you will also need do experiment with various energy drinks.  I have been using Hammer Nutrition Products for the past two years and really like them.  Studies have shown that endurance athletes running for more than 4 or 5 hours need protein and carbohydrates.  Many of these mixes have a ration of 4 to 1, Carbs to Protein.  Try some of the energy drink mixes available at running stores and bike shops while training.  Most have carbs and protein plus a lot of other supplements.  I now use HAMMER PERPETUEM.  It taste good and I can drink it for 30 straight hours with no problems.  Like the electrolytes, there are many brands and types to choose form.  Most are available in individual servings, so buy an assortment of brands and flavors and try them all.  You may want to experiment with different water/powder ratios, too.  I carry 10oz water bottles on a Nathan Speed 4R belt during long runs and races and mix the Perpetuem at a ration of two scoops of powder to 10 oz of water.  At this ration one 10 oz bottle should last about one to one and a half hours.  
My eating and fueling rules:
  1. Experiment during training runs and know what you can eat.
  2. Eat a little at regular intervals along the run.
  3. Grab a sandwich and a banana at the and take it with you.
  4. Always eat on the move.  Never sit down unless changing shoes  or socks (in shorter ultras.)  
  5. Have your own supplies of things you like in a drop bag or cooler at the aid station. 
        (at the Run for Kids there is room for a cooler at the aid station.)
  6. Don't forget to eat and drink.  Don't Laugh, in 100 mile races you  can forget who you are.

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