This is the first post in a series dedicated to those areas in my training that I’ve had to work through some trial and error to find out what works best for me. Many of us know that we need to go through the trial and error process with certain items; which food can I eat before a run? Do gels mess with my stomach? Etc. As I worked with my coach and started planning for the 50k, I had to take a lot of time to work through some of these aspects and a bunch more that I never thought about. Honestly, a lot of this was a first for me because truthfully, I was too lazy to properly investigate all the options. So hopefully this helps someone out there because I know it was pretty eye opening when I actually went through the process.
Today’s Topic – Fueling!!
Background – When I first started running, I was literally putting my workout clothes on and running out the front door. Eventually I purchased a waist belt for hydration but water was the only thing I was taking in during my runs. As I trained more and moved up in distance, I started to run with gels as my primary source of calorie intake. As long as I’ve been following blogs, I’m fully aware that I’m blessed because I have a pretty strong stomach so I can slam down some gels and it doesn’t faze me at all. But I also had two disastrous marathons and a tough half marathon trail run using this plan, coincidence?
Frequency – When it comes to the gels, at the marathon distance and now training for the 50K distance, I feel comfortable taking a gel about every 30 minutes to keep my calories up and to also give me a boost of energy throughout my run. I never really felt like I was getting hungry and never really felt like I was over consuming calories. To this point I have never adjusted that time frame because it seems to work out pretty well and to he honest, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it right…lol!
Negatives – Speaking with my coach, I had the right mindset trying to keep calories in my body throughout a long run. Problem is that I was taking in the wrong types of calories. The gels offer general calories to keep your body fueled, a good amount of sugar/caffeine to give you a boost of energy, but really lack the electrolytes that I needed during these runs. During my long training runs, my two marathons, and the half marathon trail race, I ran into very similar symptoms related to this: cramping and salt deposit on my arms and face. (Side note, I firmly believe that lack of training leads to cramping but lack of electrolytes played a huge role in my terrible performance at these races).
Trial and Error – First thing my coach told me is that I would need to look into different calories for the ultra. He had three suggestions: 1) endurance fuel which is powdered calories you put in your water, 2) solid foods similar to what would be provided at the aid stations during the race, and 3) electrolyte powder.
1) Endurance Fuel - My coach was able to get me some samples of Tailwind to try during my long runs and to see how they work for me. You take one of these tailwind packets and mix it with about 24 oz of water and drink throughout your run. One of these packets provides about 200 calories which is to be taken throughout an hour of running. The positive is that the Tailwind didn’t mess with my stomach and I actually felt like the calories were keeping me well fueled throughout my run. The first negative that I had was the process of intake. I’m a schedule person, give me something to take every 15 or 30 minutes and I can knock that out like clockwork. Give me something I have to monitor throughout a period of time, well that gets annoying to me. The second negative is that I naturally discard water throughout my runs. If I take a drink of water there is a certain portion that I end up spitting out, can’t explain why. So the thought that I HAD to keep the Tailwind and couldn’t spit any out got annoying real quick. So the powdered calories were not high on my list.
2) Solid Foods - This is where my good old PB&J sandwiches come into play. A basic PB&J sandwich is about 175 calories. I like to take the sandwich and cut it into quarter sections then during my run I consume a quarter every 15 minutes. Essentially I’m right around the 200 calories per hour that is recommended with the powdered fuel. Pretty east to see that this is my preferred method of calorie intake. It’s on a schedule like I prefer and who the heck doesn’t like PB&J LOL.
3) Electrolyte Powder - To assist with the solid food intake, my coach suggested electrolyte powder. This also fits in perfect with my preference for schedules during my run. I ended up purchasing BASE Performance electrolyte salt. It comes in a round container and you get smaller salt vials to be used during your runs. The suggested consumption is to lick your thumb, place your thumb over the vial top, turn the bottle over so the salt sticks to your thumb, then consume the powder that’s on your thumb. Schedules vary but I’m doing this after every mile because it gets a little hot here in AZ. First trial run was this past weekend and man oh man does this make a difference. Similar to the other fuels, no stomach issues with the electrolyte salt. The biggest take away was that I didn’t have salt deposit all over my arms and face after my run. This is a game changer right here!!!
Race Plan – I think there are a few items I need to iron out but for the most part this is what the plan is for the 50K. I’ll be wearing my UD Hardrocker vest with two Nathan hydration flasks in the front pockets. I am preparing PB&J sandwiches to consume quarter sections every 15 minutes, I will have Clif Gel Shots to be taken every 30 minutes, and I will have my electrolyte salt to be taken after every mile.
You can see, there is a ton of planning that goes into racing for roughly 5 or 6 hours. I’m pretty sure my two marathons were water, gels every 30 minutes, and let’s see what happens LOL.
I’m always open to adjusting and trying new options so let me know if you have any tips or tricks that have worked out for you. At this point my plan is pretty locked in as we near the race but I doubt this will be my last ultra marathon lol.
Where do you get your race tips and tricks, internet? Friends? Blogs?
Are you a trial and error person or do you find what works and stick with that