Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fueling During a Long Race (50 to 100 miles)

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.  For a runner like me, that is everything from a difficult 50 miler up to 100 miles.  This is an updated post from two years ago.  Substantially updated!

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 for runners in general.  Just about everyone uses carb type gels these days in road races of all length, 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.  Personally, 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.  As soon as you venture beyond a 50K your "mid-race" diet will change.

Aid stations in 50K races will typically have the following things:
    Water and energy drinks
    Peanut butter and  jelly sandwiches
    Potato Chips and Pretzels
    Cooked potatoes and a bowl of salt to dip the potatoes in
    Cokes, Sprite, etc...
    Cookies and Crackers
    Bananas and other fruit
    Energy Gels

 Here is a list of things you will typically find at aid station in 50 to 100 mile races:   
    Water and energy drinks
    Sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, etc (sometimes grilled)
    M&Ms, Gummy Bears, and other types of candy (hard and soft)
    Potato Chips and Pretzels
    Soup or Broth  (Usually over night in 100 mile races)
    Cooked Potatoes and a bowl of Salt to dip them in.
    Cokes, Sprite, etc.
    Several types of Cookies and Crackers.
    Energy gels
    Bananas and other fruit.
    Even Coffee  (Overnight)
    Several types of Burritos (chicken and bean, eggs and sausage or ham)
Some not-so-typical aid station foods found in 100 milers:
    Fried or boiled eggs
    Hummus roll-ups
    Chicken tamales
    Bacon and ham and eggs with pancakes  (I would sit down to eat that)
    Some aid stations have grills ready to prepare what you want.

At the Tahoe Rim Trail 100, Diamond Hill aid station is located at mile 30 and 70 and they kept grills going all day and all night.  They were ready to make about any thing you wanted.

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.  (It is important to try the new foods well into a long run, in my case it was usually 5 hours after I started with two or three hours to go.)  I also carried various snacks with me on the run.  Starting about three hours into the run I would start eating cookies, sandwiches and other "real" food.  Usually I just keep running or at least walking while I eat.  What I found out in training and in races is that I can eat anything that looks good to me at the time.  I have never really had a problem eating anything that 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 at least until the race is over!)

One other word on stomach problems.  Sometime during every long race I have run, my stomach starts to feel a little queasy.  I have learned two tricks that settle your stomach in a hurry.  I always carry  Ginger Chews candy and eat one when I start to feel sick.  You eat one and a few minutes later you usually begin to feel better.  I do not know of any local stores that have  them, but Zombie Runner sells them and they are cheep.  I also carry Enlyten strips with me all the time on long races, especially 100 milers.  They do a really good job of settling you stomach and work quickly.  You just eat a couple of strips like candy and in a few minutes you feel fine.  I usually try ginger chews first and if they don't work the Enlyten strips will.

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.  It is also a good idea to eat early.  The day before the Rocky Raccoon 100 I ate dinner about 2:00 PM at Applebee's in Huntsville.  I ate a bowl of Chicken Tortilla Soup and a grilled chicken sandwich.  If I had eaten later I would not have eaten that much, but dinner was 16 hours before the 6:00AM start.  I drank a "Boost" before I went to bed, as I recall, about 8:00PM.  I got up about 3:00AM, made a cup of coffee, heated some water and ate a bowl of oatmeal and drank another Boost.  I also ate a small muffin I had purchased the day before.  I was ready.

In addition to figuring out what you like to eat during runs you will also need do experiment with various energy drinks.  I used HAMMER PERPETUEM up until mid 2011, and really liked the way it tasted.  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.  I have a problem with the protein while running and I know others that have the same stomach problems with Perpetuem.  They say it works great on the bike segment for an Ironman, but they simply cannot run with it.  Try some of the energy drink mixes available at running stores and bike shops while training.  Try Perpetuem too.  It might work for you.  

Most of these mixes have carbs and protein plus a lot of other supplements.  I now use Carbo Pro which is 100% Complex Carbs.  It has almost no taste at all and I can drink it for 27 straight hours with no problems.  (Well, at least at Rocky Raccoon) I eat enough other stuff, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and other stuff at the aid stations to get the protein, I guess.  There are many brands and types of energy drinks to choose form.  Most are available in individual servings, so buy an assortment of brands and flavors and try them all.  Try the carbs and protein combinations and try straight "complex" carbs, too.  Experiment with different water/powder ratios.  I carry 10oz water bottles on a Nathan Speed 4R belt during long runs and races and mix the Carbo Pro 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.  In races, I add powder to all four bottles but only add water to one bottle at a time, (unless it is going to take a long time to get to the next aid station.)  As you approach the next aid station, pull out the next bottle containing powder and add water.  That way, you are not starting the race with 2.5 lbs of premixed liquid.

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, a banana, a cookie and maybe a cup of soup at the aid station.  Stick some in a pocket for later (soup is not recommended) and eat what you want or can while walking away from the aid station.  Continue walking while you eat.  That gives  you a break from running and gets you legs moving again after stopping a few minutes at the aid station.  It is easier to eat walking, so a little later when you hit an uphill segment, grab that cookie or banana out of you pocket and have another snack going up the hill.
  4. Always eat on the move.  Never sit down to eat.  Sit down to changing shoes and socks or while going through your drop bag.  (Take the time at "drop bag" aid stations to be sure you have pulled out what you will need to reach the next aid station with your drop bag.)  Once you have finished changing or gathering supplies, grab you food and head out.  There are exceptions.  Read my account of my stop at Winfield (50 mile turnaround) during the 2009 Leadville 100.
  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, where you are and what you are supposed to be doing.

1 comment:

  1. Nice posts, it gives us more ideas about the long run race you've done. Thanks for sharing this to us and looking forward always for more updates.

    Tough Mudder