Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Ultra Running Nutrition & Hydration : Roy Yeow

All of us know the importance of hydration and nutrition in long distance running, but how do you plan your nutrition needs for ultra distance racing? Imagine being out on your feet for more than 24 hours, fighting fatigue and the cut-off timing, not to mention harsh weather conditions. Your hydration and nutrition could be the one thing that stands between you crossing the finish line, and you waving your hands and DNF-ing.

Roy gives us his thoughts on how he planned his nutrition and hydration for his recent Vibram Hong Kong 100km race.

Nutrition and hydration - a key area to endurance activities, yet, this is one area that is often overlooked during ultramarathons. This area is especially vital when it comes to trail ultra races when there is no easy accessibility to the route for supporters, no convenience shop along the route and chance of getting lost is there. Races of 100KM in the trail for most regular ultramarathoners can take from over 18 hours to 1.5 days long. Survival, apart from race performance is something that needs to be considered in these races. One of the basic needs for human obviously is water. There is a reason that race organizer insists for each participant to be able to carry a certain amount of hydration, and like it or not, water may be your life saver when you are lost in the jungle, dehydrated and delusional.

There is a need for participants to analyze each race and to come up with a plan for themselves. Having just completed Vibram HK 100K that took me almost a day, here is an example of how I planned for my nutrition and hydration need.

1) Firstly, analyze the race profile and understand the terrains that you are going through. 
Vibram HK 100K: Fairly smooth first 50K and lots of climb second 50K, this means I would probably slow down during the second half and need more hydration/nutrition to sustain me between checkpoints.

2) Estimate your completion time and then time you will pass through each checkpoint.
Vibram HK 100K: Based on estimated completion time of 22 hours, 10 hrs for the first 50K and then 12 hrs for the next 50K, I pinned point the time I would roughly go through the checkpoints.

3) Identify what is provided at each checkpoint.
Vibram HK 100K: This race is like a food haven - cup noodles, breads, chocolates, biscuits, soup, fried rice, noodles, coke, water, isotonic are provided at different checkpoints.

4) Identify your nutrition and hydration needs, and plan it out.
Vibram HK 100K: My needs are divided into 3 areas - Hydration, solid food and energy food. As the checkpoints served solid food, I will leave it to the organizer for that and plan to load up my bag with energy food and hydration. The selection is fairly simple for me as I will go fully on Hammer Nutritions. 

For hydration, I will load up 1.2l of water in my bladder + 500ml of Hammer Heed electrolytes drink in a bottle. I will ratio between 4 sips of Heed and 1 for water every 30 minutes. Once I ran out of Heed, I will replenish with the isotonic provided by the organizer. I left one pack of Heed at the 5th checkpoint dropbag to replenish at the half way mark.

For energy food, 1 Hammer Bar was consumed prior to the start of the race and subsequently, every 45 minutes, one Hammer Perpetuem Solids was taken to provide boost to me. With 4 Perpetuem Solids and 4 Hammer Gels in my bag, I have plenty of energy food to sustain me in case I am out in the trail longer than expected.

For solid food, I just stick to the time and will go for the food at the relevant checkpoint based on our regular lunch/dinner break. There is also a plan for a longer break and loading up of food at the half way checkpoint 5.
Complete race hydration and nutrition options from Hammer Nutrition
Obviously, a plan is just a plan and adjustment is required once the race start. Manage the changes as required and adjust the need based on actual situation. In Vibram HK, I ended up doing 24 hours instead of 22 hours that I was expecting. With the additional gels and solids that is available, I do not have any issue with that. I also make sure that I have enough water in my bag at every checkpoint before proceeding on.
In all, 1 fried rice, 1 noodles, 2 cup noodles, breads/chocolates/biscuits, 2 packs of Hammer Heeds electrolytes drink, 3 Hammer Perpetuem Solids, 2 Hammer Gels and 1 Hammer Bar were consumed throughout the journey.

Once the race is over, recovery food is vital and for me, it was the hot tomato soup at the finishing point and Hammer Recoverite before heading down to the city for a proper breakfast of Hong Kong Wan Ton Noodles.

Signing up for an ultramarathon is easy (what more with more ultra races in Malaysia this year), training for one is tough, but preparing for the unforeseen circumstances is vital. Do put in some thought on nutrition and hydration the next time you head out for an ultra race. Team 2ndskin is available here
http://www.team2ndskin.blogspot.com/p/ask-expert.html if you want specific advice on how to prepare for your needs. Till the next adventure, happy training!

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