I probably left it a bit late to experiment greatly with nutrition for my first ultra but never the less I still learned some valuable lessons and am sure I will learn more with each event.
Also, I can only tell you what did and didn’t work for me. Everyone may be different and there is a lot of expert advice out there too so the best thing I can tell you is to experiment and do what works for you.
I had never taken gels for any sporting event having never really had the need for them but as Jane, my PT reminded me – this wasn’t just any event! It was a long distance ultra. The Windsor Ultra was just one small part of the Thames Path Ultra – an event I could only ever dream about completing at 297km long.
As we undertook our weekly ‘long runs’ of about 30km or so we found we were starting to tire and so Jane was the first one to pop a gel! She had one at the 20k mark and then again at 30k and she found it gave her an almost instantaneous boost! I thought there must be something in this so I embarked upon a selection of different trials.
I found that plain water became boring and something that I put off until I was so thirsty that I just gulped down gallons and then found I was ‘sloshing’ when I ran so this was a definitate no.
I bought the SIS GO Hyrdo Lemon tablets and tried those but again at the 20k mark of my run home I found I was just bored. Fortunately, 20k is my local pit stop and refuel garage and so I popped in and bought a Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino and Volvic Lemon and Lime Water. Bingo – that did the trick.
The coffee gave me a well needed caffeine boost and the lemon and lime water had just enough sweet and sour to be refreshing.
I then found that the SIS Eletrolyte Powder worked better than the tablets and to my absolute delight, the running vest also appeared to be insulated and held cold drinks cool for the full 30km duration.
So I had my plan in place …
1. My resevoir was filled half with ice and then topped up with water and the appropriate ratio of SiS Lemon Electrolyte Powders.
2. I carried one small bottle of Volvic lemon and lime in my front vest pocket
3. I loaded up support and the car at the end with plenty of Starbucks Frappuccino’s drinking one at 30k, 45k, 55k and the finish.
4. I carried a couple of SIS electrolyte tablets for emergencies although I found I didn’t need it.
I remained well hydrated throughout the whole of the ultra although I may have deviated for a top of iced latte from Costa Coffee at the 30k mark and once we finished but that was only to use the loos and it would have been just rude not to buy a coffee whislt there?
With gels seeming the way forward, I packed my bag and set off on the long run. I waited until the 15k mark and then took my first gel. A couple of kilometres later and nothing happened. I ran to the 25km mark and took another but still nothing happened.
The packaging recommends that you take 1-3 gels every 60 minutes however, I tried this on the next run but again didn’t seem to they worked.
Protein bars were also suggested so I bought one chocolate & toffee and one mint & chocolate protein bar. I have to say I was quite looking forward to the chocolate and toffee bar at the 20k mark but after the first bite I found the bar stuck my teeth together making in almost impossible to breath let alone swallow the bar. The remainder was thrown in the first bin. Jane said she had better luck with the cacao bars so I took one Nakd orange and one SiS cacao and peanut bar! The Nakd bars were quite good but the Cocoa and peanut bar was like sawdust and instantly wicked all moisture from my mouth. So these were binned.
I’d seen a Facebook post advertising chia flapjacks in several different flavours and decided to give them a go. They are certainly worth checking out – they are called Chia Charge. I have to say they were much easier to eat but after 30k even these lost their appeal during 70k. I’m suggesting a mars bar type of flapjack with soft toffee on top and coasted with thick chocolate.
On the day of the race I had developed my game plan – chai seed flapjacks, boiled new potatoes and crispy crunchy streaky bacon, egg mayo sandwiches with crusts cut off and kitkats.
My plan was to snack on flapjacks every 10k, eat two lots of potatoes at the 20k and 50k mark, lunch at 35k and kitkats whenever I needed a boost.
The reality was a million miles from the planning. I ate the two lots of new potatoes and bacon before 30k and they were super yummy but then I lost all appetite. I forced down a kitkat at around 50k but with the exception of an apple stolen from the station masters lunch I had no appetite whatsoever.
So after all that, the best piece of advice actually comes from Lee who said ‘choose snacks that you absolutely can’t refuse’.
So there you have it. Your complete guide of what not to eat! Please let me know how you get on or if you have found any irrisitable snacks. In the mean time I will stick with my cold coffee and crispy bacon! Each to their own!