Before I get into anything, I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend! My husband and I agreed that this year was the best Christmas we’ve had as a family, since it was our first holiday in our own home. We bought our first house a couple of years ago, but with plans to rent it out as an income property. We’ve been in apartments and with family throughout our years together, and we’ve almost always traveled during the holidays to visit family. I was a little bummed about the thought of not seeing our family over Christmas, but waking up in our own home on Christmas morning was really special. I also spent the week starting to get ready for my 100k race in a couple of weeks, which has meant perfecting my ultramarathon fueling plan.
I haven’t always had the best results with my fueling, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way. But I do think I have a few pointers worth sharing, especially for anyone who has struggled with hitting the wall or having the absolute nightmare of GI distress on race day. On the topic of fueling, I hope you took a peek at my last post, Diet Culture & Athletes. It’s something that has come up in so many conversations, especially with the holidays and all the pandemic baking that’s been happening (which I am fully here for).
This week, I took the day off work on Monday, which meant I really only to log in on Tuesday and Wednesday. I took full advantage of all the extra time to spend as much time on the trails as possible, even though my mileage is starting to slowly decrease. Sunday, I met up with a couple of running buddies to explore some trails at the state park in San Antonio; Government Canyon. Later that evening, the boys and I checked out this super sweet ranch in Boerne that has a great Christmas light festival. Enrique had a blast walking around, making s’mores, and doing their scavenger hunt. Monday was pretty quiet, with working out and wrapping presents.
We hadn’t planned to have anyone at our home for Christmas, but my grandparents asked if they could spend the night Christmas Eve at the last minute. I got in an early workout Thursday morning, since I had reservations for the trails at the Government Canyon State Park again in the afternoon. It was the perfect way to start out the long weekend. My grandparents came in in the early afternoon, and my husband grilled some fajitas for us. We played La Loteria (Mexican bingo) and watched the Christmas Chronicles afterwards.
Christmas morning, we woke up, opened presents, and made cinnamon rolls for breakfast. My grandparents headed out to my dads house after breakfast, and I started getting dinner ready. I made borracho beans with enchiladas, and we ended the night with the Christmas Chronicles 2 and some leftover Christmas cookies. After years of dreaming about having our own space to enjoy the holidays, it really was the perfect Christmas. I’m so glad I decided to take the day as a rest day. Saturday, I met up with my running group for our last powerline run, and then we celebrated the beginning of the taper with pancakes at Magnolia Pancake Haus. After such a great holiday, I’m really looking forward to more time with my boys over the taper weeks.
Ultramarathon runners are a unique breed of athletes. While many road runners can rely on traditional fueling sources like gels, ultramarathoners tend to incorporate a much broader variety of fuels. After 13 hours of running, choking down another sugary sweet semi-solid packet of carbs just might not be all that appealing. But lean too far into the aid station burritos, and you could find yourself doubled over on the side of the trails pretty quickly. Here’s a few ways to make sure you stay fueled, without finding yourself ducking behind every available tree and carrying toilet paper like a magic totem.
Related Post: Complete Guide to Running Fuel
- Have Options – Even if you are able to tolerate something on every single one of your training runs, you just don’t know how your stomach is going to hold up on race day. So it’s important to have options just in case your beloved Starbursts suddenly cause you to wretch just at the sight of their wrapper. Make sure you have a variety of sweet and salty options that come in different textures (think chewy versus crunch). And consider a liquid calorie option like Tailwind Nutrition that can be used to get in extra calories, even if your stomach can’t handle anymore eating.
- Test Nutrition on Long Runs – Your long runs should be used as a dress rehearsal for everything, including your fueling strategy. Use the weeks leading up to your race to test out different fueling sources and intervals of eating to see what works best for you. If you plan to grab chips from the aid station, make sure you eat a few during one of your longs to see if your stomach can generally tolerate them. Long runs are also a great opportunity to help your stomach learn how to break down more solid foods (like dates or trail mix) while running. Most runners have a hard time with digestion on the move, but it is something that runners can build up a tolerance for. So use those long runs to build up that iron gut!
- Know Your Triggers – Your long runs are also a great opportunity to identify what your “trigger foods” are! Foods that will leave you praising Jesus the moment you see a port-a-potty, or begging for Tums 6 miles in. On runs where you notice your stomach just isn’t pleased, take note of what you ate that morning and the night before. These are foods you’ll want to avoid leading up to your race. For me, it’s dairy and high amounts of sugar, for other runners it might be tomato sauce or caffeine (pray that it’s not caffeine).
- Take What You Need – It’s 100% fine to grab something at the aid station that you haven’t tested out before, if it sounds good in the moment. Don’t toss back an entire grilled cheese sandwich if you plan on getting up in 10 minutes, but don’t feel like you can’t have a few bites of salted potatoes. Just keep your portions small if it’s something you haven’t experimented with. But always be sure you are not relying solely on aid station foods, because you just never know what they’re going to look like. If you know that your stomach does really well with dried fruit, make sure you bring some in your pack or drop bag. Always have a few staples that you’ve found work well, so you won’t be in a bind if you come in to an aid station slightly nauseated.
My UltraMarathon Fueling Plan
Nutrition is completely different for every runner, but I love reading other athletes fueling strategies to see if there’s anything I might want to try out myself. So I’m sharing my 100k fueling plan, not to tell you this is how you should fuel, but just to give you some idea’s if you’re still figuring out your strategy.
- Breakfast – I try to eat breakfast about 2 hours before race start. Lately I’ve been sticking with banana, oatmeal, and chocolate chip breakfast cookies, but I have a whole list of recommendations on long run breakfast options to check out if you want some pre-race options.
- Tailwind – For anything over a marathon, I always carry my 1.5L bladder filled with water, and a second 20oz bottle that has water and 3 servings of tailwind nutrition. I drink a few sips of water every mile (more if I’m thirsty in between), and then a few drinks of my tailwind every 3rd mile until I hit 10 miles. For those first 10 miles, that’s about all I’ll take in.
- Gels/Chews – Once I hit 10 miles, I usually take my first HoneyStinger chew with some water. At that point, I’ll keep drinking every mile, and taking in solid fuel every 5 miles. I also drink some Tailwind about halfway between solid fuel (so roughly 2.5 miles after I eat, I’ll drink a few drinks of tailwind).
- Solids – Beginning at mile 15, I start to eat something that’s more food-based than gels or chews. I alternate every between solids and gels every 5 miles. So miles 15, 25, 35 and so on, I’ll eat something like pretzels, trail mix, a mini Larabar, a babyfood pouch,, or candy. At miles 10, 20, 30, and so on I’ll take a chew or gel.
- During the hotter hours of the day, I tend to rely more heavily on Tailwind and gels, since my stomach has a harder time breaking down solid foods if I’m also hot. I always drink a few drinks extra drinks of water with my fuel to help my stomach break things up. And I generally carry a chewable Pepto tablet just in case my stomach goes south. For those times that it’s just not breaking things down, I’ll stick to tailwind and soda at the aid stations as fuel, and just hope for the best. Trail racing is unpredictable, so get used to problem solving now!
Is there a fueling strategy that’s worked well for you? Because I’d love to hear it!
This Weeks Workouts
Total Miles: 66
Total Workouts: 4
100k Training, Week 7
How the Runs Felt
I was really excited to get out to Government Canyon state park this week. It’s only about 20 minutes away, and has a lot of trail options. The trails are beautiful, but not technical, so I haven’t really spent much time out there while training for this technical race. They’re also requiring day pass reservations right now because of COVID, and I don’t love having to buy passes weeks in advance. Because of the holiday, they didn’t sell out during the week, so I took advantage. I got out there with my running group on Sunday, and again with a friend on Thursday afternoon. It was a lot of fun exploring some new trails, especially since we’ve mostly been out on the powerlines recently.
Tuesday and Wednesday, I lowered my miles just a little and stuck to the roads. Saturday, we were back out at the powerlines for one last round of up and downs. Taking my double digit runs down to ten milers and eliminating the additional afternoon miles brought down my total for the week to the mid sixties. Overall, I felt really good and fresh throughout the week, and I think the decreased mileage and time off work did wonders for my energy levels.
How the WODs Felt
Most of the strength work this week was similar to last weeks, with just a little more weight on the bar. It wasn’t quite the same shock to the system, and I think the lowered mileage helped my body recover a little quicker. I definitely wasn’t nearly as stiff or sore this week. Thursdays workout was a tough one, but I decided to try to stay as steady as possible, and kept a consistent pace throughout.
What I’ve Been Listening To
I haven’t stumbled across many new podcasts this week, though I did start listening to a new series called Gaining Ground. It’s way outside my usual wheelhouse of true crime, running, and athletic-related stuff. It’s a deep look into Georgia’s political history, voter suppression, and what went into flipping the state from red to blue. It’s so interesting, and probably very controversial.
What Went Well
This whole week was really fun, relaxing, and I felt great overall.
What Went Shitty
I honestly can’t think of anything I would have wanted to be different.
Plans to Improve Next Week
Next week, I’m gonna keep decreasing the mileage, focusing on stretching and core work for the race.