Sorry I have been slack in not posting my racing tips like I said I would. Last week I had my first big race of the season and I was really focused on doing well there. You can read the race report, if you like, on my other blog: http://refusetoquit.blogspot.com/. Since then I've been very focused with work and family. Now that I have a few minutes I'll finally share some of my thoughts on fueling.
But first, a little math.
While this does not apply to everyone, the general rule of caloric burn while running is roughly 100 calories burned per mile. So think about it, during each leg of your Ragnar race you will burn between 350 - 900 calories for an estimated grand total of about 1800 calories for the entire race. The recommended intake is 2000 for the average person. Most athletes have a BMR (Basic Metabolic Rate) of around 1800 - 2300 calories per day just to maintain weight and sustain body functions while doing nothing. Anything less than that and you will potentially lose weight, anything more and you can gain. Add in an extended workout or long/fast run and your caloric requirements just went up a bit. So what makes you think you can go out and run 8 miles without eating before and not taking anything while running?
People think they 'bonk' around mile 20 in a marathon because they 'went out to fast' or 'weren't prepared'. While these can contribute, the most often cause for a bonk is simply the lack of calories. Twenty miles into a race and you've already burned more than your body requires to sustain normal functions for an entire day. Certainly it won't hold up in a race being completely deprived of all fuel. While many elites have been able to train their bodies to run calorie deficient it doesn't quite work for the normal person. Nor should it.
So what's the take-away? It's simple, teach your body to allow you to eat food before and during a run. Here are a few thoughts that will help you plan for our race:
1. 'Carbo loading' the night or day before the Ragnar is pointless. POINTLESS! It will help you during your first leg, assuming you have one of the earliest legs, but will add no value to any run after that. For those of us in Van 2 it serves no purpose whatsoever. OK, that's a lie. It will, but we would need to carbo load the morning of the race. and it will still only add value to our first leg. So here's what you do. Just bulk up on calories the few days before and the morning of the race. Seriously, eat eat eat. I would recommend food that is still healthy, but calorie rich. But enjoy yourself. I love to eat pizza before a long race. Throw in some yogurt, candy, steak, seafood, I could go on forever. The point is, you need to eat.
2. Now, how to eat during a run. As an ultra runner I've taught my body to handle just about anything I put in it during a run. Yes, I can eat a cheeseburger 30 miles into a run, as long as I haven't been pushing a really fast pace. Yes, there is nothing better than some chicken noodle soup in the middle of the night . . . while I walk . . . followed by running. While that's cool and all, it isn't necessarily practical for something like Ragnar. There's no need to eat solid foods while you are running a leg, save that for the long hours in between. However, you'll want to carry a gel or it's equivalent along for your leg. I have my own favorites out there; you'll have to try different options out during your training to see what works for you. I prefer gels personally - Crank Sports eGels (150 calories per gel and they taste like liquefied Sprees, mmmm), Hammer gels (90 calories, but good texture and mild taste), Shot Blocks (Margarita flavor is high in salt and you can kill two birds with one stone), and Gu Chomps (just seriously tasty). And this may seem really weird, but beef jerky. Oh my gosh, beef jerky has been a life saver on many an occasion.
3. Coke and Pepsi are valuable assets to a runner. They are a staple at every aid station in an ultra. Why the marathon world hasn't figured it out yet is just weird. Look at the side of a can of Coke or Pepsi and you'll notice a few things; calorie rich, high in sodium, and plenty of sugar. Doesn't that sound just like the combination of what I've been preaching you should intake? And to cap it all off, it settles an upset stomach. I'm not saying you need to carry a bottle of Pepsi with you while you run (and by the way, Diet won't work, you must use normal), but having a half cup prior to your run can be awesome. I have a friend who used to be one of the top cyclists in the state. He told me that for any ride that lasted longer than 2.5 hours all he would consume was Coke. He just put it in his bottles and that's all he had. And he won the Tour of Park City doing that. Wow.
So here's the end result and a little more math.
If you're planning on your next leg to take 30 min - hour you can probably get away without eating a gel during the leg.
If you're planning on your next leg to take 1 - 2 hours you should plan on eating a gel every 30 - 40 minutes. Staying ahead on calories will guarantee not bonking. I have an alarm on my watch that just goes off every 30 minutes for runs lasting over 90 minutes.
For everyone, eat something as soon as your run is over. I would recommend having a protein shake immediately after you're done (if you won't drink it within 20 min of completing the run it won't due you nearly as much good). I just have Muscle Milk or something like that from Costco and a Blender Bottle. 12 oz is all it takes to replenish what you've lost and it really helps your muscles recover quickly, which we all need. I can relate story after story of friends who have learned how to fuel properly during and after a run. And because of that they have been able to run farther without the negative impacts and recover faster because they haven't starved their muscles. Put it to the test and you'll become a believer too.
Next week - Pace Yourself!