“Ultra marathons are just a big eating and drinking competition with a little bit of running thrown in.”
I wish I had come up with that myself, but the quote is from the great Ann Trason, multiple Western States 100 winner and super speedy ultra lady. It’s a great quote though.
Too many people train their socks off, get all the best kit and then turn up on race day without any idea whatsoever as to their nutrition plan for the miles ahead.
Checkpoints at races can really vary, from full on buffets to a car boot with a couple of Jelly Babies.
Having worked with sports dietician Renee McGregor, I aim for around one gram of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight for every hour of my races, give or take a wee bit depending on how much I have to carry, race condition and how you take your food on board.
Taking that on via liquid food would require litres and litres of fluid.
There is no right or wrong answer for the best food, it can be a very individual choice and what works for 99% of people might not agree with you.
The key is to practise in race conditions, long runs and every other opportunity you get. Before running the 200K Ice Ultra in 2016 I was freezing all my food to see what it would be like in the Arctic circle, which my teeth appreciated.
One thing that has jumped up in popularity recently is liquid food, like TailWind and Mountain Fuel. While I’m a fan of real food when racing, I can see why some people go for these options, but what I don’t understand is the cult-like following of such products, where everything else is seen as Devil’s work.
Variety and options are key as you will get sick of it after a certain amount of time, be it five miles or 83 miles.
Those who put all their eggs in one basket for food often come unstuck, as great as [insert favourite product here] is, eating it for 15 hours will make you hate it. Unless it’s jelly meerkats, of course; no one can hate their little faces.
The main thing, though, is to test everything and have a plan, even if that plan goes out the window halfway through, as starting without a plan is just plain stupid.
Ultra running is hard, so make it as easy as you can come race day.