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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Nutrition/Hydration for ultra running

The magic formula for going several hours is Hammergel every 30 min, Saltcap on the hour and 5 oz of Perpetuem every 15 minutes.  Making that happen is not as easy as you might think.  After about 40 miles, you can't trust your own judgment.  What was routine in practice gradually becomes a lot trickier.  So you have to have systems set up to make it as easy as possible.   And practice on every run.

I used a GoLite double bottel waist pack with a GoLite hand strap. I used three 24oz bike bottles (Specialized) one Green, one Pink, one Blue.  Different colors are helpful in keeping track of what's in each bottle.  Also, green is my favorite color, pink represented my daughter and blue my son.  These bottles have a clear stripe on the side so you can easily determine how much fluid is left in each.
Measure and mark the bottle in 5oz increments. Since I'm 6'1" and 183 lbs (on race day) with a significant sweat rate, I was takin in 24 oz per hour.  That's a little over 100 cals per hour through the bottle. By using a hand bottle, you can have a visual reminder of your progress against the 5oz every 15min.  It's amazing how much you forget to drink if the bottle isn't in your hand.

Taking a Hammergel every 30 min gives you 200 cals through gels for a total of 300/cal per hour.  Amazingly this is all you need to go the distance. I used the messy plastic packages.  The advantages are you get portion control and a variety of flavors.  I would buy 100 at a time from www.zombierunner.com, pull out the caffienated mochas ones and then randomly draw them from my waist pack.  A fun game is to not look at the flavor but to try and guess it.  I keep the Mocha ones for night runs.  I'm not  a big fan of the banana or mocha flavors.  It would suck to get those back to back on a night run, but then maybe you'll get a Mountain Huckleberry and all will be well. I've since switched to the the 5 serving gel bottles. They are cheaper, cleaner and no trash.  One of those bottles and the Perpetuem routine above is a 'tankful' on which you can go 12-15 miles quite comfortably.  Even 20M.  On one of my 50M training runs I ran out of fuel and was able to go another 2 hours without incident until I could get back to my aid station.  Beware those bottles can get heavy.  I took three with me to Hawaii to attempt a self-supported ironman, and the weight was significant.

SaltCaps every hour keep the cramps at bay.  This rule works well for winter training in Colorado.  When I did a 50M race in warm temps in May, my legs cramped just past 25M.  I had forgotten to increase my consumption in the heat.  I would go to 2-3 per hour and the cramps cleared.  I find this also worked in Hawaii when biking long distances.  In Leadville, I erred on the side of too much salt in the first 50.  My hands had swelled and I even gained a pound or two at the 50M weigh in.  I skipped salt altogether for 2-3 hours until I felt better.  Then it was cool and nighttime so I went back to the 1 per hour until morning.

I found that running with a Garmin 305 was very helpful.  I would use it to track the .9/.1 run/walk breaks.  Also, with the clock I'd follow this pattern: top of the hour was SaltCap, hammergel and drink. by :15 it was make sure I was down 5oz on the bottle; by :30 it was hammergel/drink by :45 it was making sure I only had 5 oz left  and then top of the hour repeat (grab new bottle from the back).  It is fun to practice all of this while moving.  It should go without saying that all of these things are done while moving forward.  When you set up your aid stations, minimize your time there. I think of it like 'hot potato' I want out of there as fast as possible.  That's where failure (stopping) might happen.  Get back on the trial.  Ideally, you'll have a fresh set of bottles at the aid station so you don't have to mix and pour.  This is a great example of something that is easy when you are sober, but not so easy after several hours of running.  Come in, dump your trash, grab your gels and bottles and keep going.

Allen Lim, of Skratch Labs, is a professional at all of this.  I used his hydration formula at the aid stations in clear Nalgene bottles.   This is in addition to the Perpetuem above.  Allen talks about your 'clear rate' that is how much fluid can go from the stomach to your body.  5 oz is a good rule of thumb, but there are ways to enhance it with the right mix.  If you take in too much, it just comes out the top. :)
I thought dehydration was a big risk for me given my sweat rate, so I would drink as much as I could of Allen's formula at the aid stations to make sure that I wasn't getting behind.

Deep into an event, the perpetuem tastes not good.  I'd try using Allen's hydration (which is close to 100 cal); it is much lighter and better tastings.  Or do 50% perpetuem solution and make up the cals with more gel.

Whenever I follow this routine, things go well.  Through 40M of Leadville, all went well.  Then at the TwinLakes outbound station, I grabbed chips, cookie, coke and whatever.  I'm not sure why.  It looked good and I figured, 'couldn't hurt'.  Wrong.  Halfway up Hope Pass, I was in big trouble and unable to continue.  I eventually walked up to Hopeless, got some soup and then the adventure began. :)


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

How to Build up to 100

Deciding to do Leadville as my first 100 ten months in advance of the event had two flaws. One, Leadville should not be your first 100. With the hills and the altitude, you are stacking the deck against yourself for completing your first 100. Secondly, I should have started a full year in advance. With ten months to go, I was already behind schedule.

Ideally, starting in August, I would have built up my fitness to do the Rocky Racoon in Texas in Feb. A flat course, at sea-level consisting of 5x20M loops makes logistics a lot easier. And you can focus on just going the distance. Then you can work on hills, altitude and logistics of an out-and-back course like Leadville.

So, while I had 19 seasons of triathlon and marathon training in my body, I had taken off the previous year. My weight was up, diet poor and training base consisted of a few runs and some mountain biking. And I was about to start running 40M weeks. Even as a marathoner, I was a low mileage trainer and could run low three hours on a peak week of 40 miles, but usually I'd do 25 with some swimming and biking thrown in. I have also found that to go from a cold start to 25M/week is a significant effort on the body. To get to 40, I'd have to add 10% per week to keep from injury. That would have taken 5-6 weeks that I didn't have time for. The key was to start with the .9/.1 run/walk pattern. It was amazing how that allowed me to dramatically increase my weekly mileage without injury. Also, in ultra running, those walk breaks are essential for dealing with clothing, food, navigation and most importantly emotions. When you are feeling good, they calm you down. When you are feeling like crap, the walk breaks are a chance to regroup. If you are having a hard time restarting your run after a walk break, use your hands. Just start with moving your hands as if you are running and soon the rest of your body will follow.

So the annual plan for mileage has you running 40M weeks in Nov and Dec. They are done as follows: 5/10/5 rest 10/10 rest. This gives you two clumps of twenty miles each. The next week is 5/10/5 rest 15/5 rest. This maintains the same weekly total, two days of rest and bumps your long effort to 15. The third week is 5/10/5 rest 20/0 rest. Again you maintain the same weekly mileage, but lengthen the long run and pick up an extra day of rest. Speed does not matter. Do the run/ walk patterns and start practicing your nutrition hydration plan. Repeat the pattern for the next three weeks. By the end of Dec you'll have your second 20M and it will feel a lot easier than the first. A key is to make sure you can run 20 easily at this point.

On race day, you have a half-marathon in the dark to warm up, then a nice trail marathon followed by a 20 mile double cross of Hope Pass, followed by another trail marathon likely in the dark and then a final half marathon after sunup. So you need to start thinking in terms of another twenty is no big deal. With the food and water I was able to carry I could go 15 comfortably. So I started to think of runs in terms of how may times I'd need to reload.  Kind of like thinking of long driving trips in terms of the numbers of tanks of gas you'll need.

Now that you can do 20M comfortably by Dec, the next step is to add ten miles to your long run per month. So by the end of Jan it's 30, Feb 40 and March 50. Stop there. As a general rule, if you can train at half the distance and feel ok at the end, you'll be able to double it on race day. And running longer wears you out more than the corresponding benefit. This makes practicing food and hydration over 60 miles difficult. Just as what works in a 50 is different than a marathon, your stomach may not like your tried and true formula for 50 miles at 75 miles and beyond. I found a chafe free way to run to 50, but had trouble after 70.

To run 30 on Jan 31, run a 15/15 pair on Jan 14th and 15th. On Feb 14/15th run a 20/20 pair so you can run 40 on Feb 28. Similarly, on March 14/15, run a 25/25 pair so you can run 50 on March 31. I would do these runs on these exact dates. Even if it means running through the night and skipping sleep (good practice). I also found that doing them alone makes you resourceful. Although it was great to have Huybert's company on a very cold 30M in icy conditions in Feb.  In between these runs, do the 5/10/5 pattern and lots of rest days.

Once you can run 50 comfortably, add in a 50M race or two, then start adding hills, altitude and specific work on the course. It takes a surprisingly long time to fine tune your gear, learning to run at night over trails, do stream crossings etc.

Many of these lessons I've been able to appy to other adventures (roll you're own ironman) so enjoy.
Next, let's talk about that nutrition/hydration plan.