In the tenth week of her training our Online News Ed Rhalou experiments with ultra running fuel.
In the tenth week of my training for the Hoka Highland Fling the repercussions of sneaking a marathon in have started to show, but not necessarily in a bad way. In the immediate 72 hours following a marathon I am usually struck with an all-consuming hunger that just won’t leave me. But since I’ve continued to train through my marathon recovery, I’ve taken the hunger with me, all week long.
It feels like there just isn’t enough food in the world to sustain me and I can never stop eating. The only time I don’t feel hungry is while I’m eating, or immediately after I’ve finished eating. The rest of the time I am like a food crazed maniac shovelling everything I can get my hands on into my gob.
This week my training plan stipulated a 45-minute easy, an interval session, some strength and conditioning work, a 75-minute easy run and a 20-miler at the weekend. Given that I’d much rather be eating than running right now, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore race day nutrition.
Ultras differ from marathons because the aim is for steady endurance as opposed to speed, so I don’t want to rely on the quick fix energy gels provide. But with a 53-mile run to contend with, it’s important to consume lots and lots of calories. The problem being, I might technically feel hungry, but I also struggle with the idea of eating real food on a long run. Like a fussy Goldilocks refusing lumpy porridge, it turns out I am a bit picky. But have you ever tried to actually eat food while you’re running? It’s not as easy as it sounds, and people in the park give you weird looks.
My diet is also restricted by the fact I’m a lifetime vegetarian. I was raised on a plant based diet by my hippy mum. No I haven’t eaten meat or fish before. Yes I know this is a bit weird. No I don’t miss it; how can you miss what you’ve never eaten? And yes it is perfectly OK to never eat meat. I’ve run five marathons and two little ultras and I’m not dead yet.
After some trial and error, I have come to the following conclusions about ultra running fuel. (Please bear in mind I am about to run a 53-mile race so eating a load of crap is sort of justified).
Food I definitely cannot eat while I run
Fig rolls – Too dry.
Sandwiches – Too heavy.
Sweets – Too sickly.
Boiled eggs – No idea why I ever thought eggs were a good idea.
Hummus – This is a disaster. I LOVE hummus. But the garlicky lingering after taste is deeply distracting.
Food I can eat while I run
Snickers bars – Why they changed the name from Marathon to Snickers I will never know. They are perfect long run fuel. I could eat a whole party bag.
Salt and vinegar crisps – But only if consumed at the same time as aforementioned Snickers. On their own they are too dry and salty.
Cold pizza – The same theory that applies to hangovers works for ultra fueling. Any time, any place, any where, I will happily eat cold pizza. Give it to me in the rain, give it to me in the dark, give it to me right now. I love cold pizza.
Chocolate eggs – Sweets are too sickly but for some inexplicable reason, choc eggs are great. Especially the really gooey ones. This is just as well, as it’s Easter and they’re in all the shops.
Jaffa cakes – The little cakey biscuity discs of joy are just the right amount of squidgy and I could eat them all day long. In fact I have been. I keep eating them on my rest days and wondering why my running tights don’t fit.
As you can see my extensive race day nutrition is far from healthy and the search for the perfect running fuel continues. What do you lot eat? Let me know, I’d love to hear your race day nutrition tips. Find me on Twitter. @Rhalou