Event - White Star Running OX Ultra, 22nd May 2016
Distance - Ultra 36 Miles
Taming the Ox – Ultra running and fuelling for success
May 2015 saw me step unwittingly into the world of ultra-running as I tackled White Star Running’s OX Ultra for the first time, and 12 months on it is safe to say that I have learnt many lessons about running long distance events and the nutrition strategy I require so that I don’t hit the dreaded wall. Pre, Post and in race nutrition strategies are the key component of any endurance event, however it is important to remember that one size doesn’t fit all and with a plethora of running publications available to us, we are often saturated with information and forget one simple message.
Find the strategy that works for you and stick to it……
In the build up to The OX 2016 as with any long distance run I used the same routine, sticking to my normal healthy diet but gradually increasing my carbohydrate intake each day from the Wednesday on wards. I do this by replacing my usual low carb salad lunch, with a bowl of cous cous and bulgar wheat, mixed with raw vegetables (carrot, pepper, tomato, sugar snap peas, onion) and add in either some ham or tuna, with low fat cottage cheese. Then on Friday and Saturday evening my meals will be primarily carbohydrate based, with homemade Tuna wholemeal pasta a firm favourite the night before a race and usually a vegetable paella dish on the Friday. This ensures that I haven’t overloaded my body with carbs which as a result would leave me feeling sluggish on race day.
The morning of the event, I have Protibricks from Fuel 10k as my breakfast, usually having 5 with skimmed milk as well as a hydration drink (High 5 zero tablets). I personally find that porridge sits too heavy with me, and these Weetabix style biscuits leave me feeling satiated and ready for the for the race. I always like to arrive early at the venue to ensure that I have plenty of time to do all the usual things us runners need to do prior to covering long distances, and this also gives me the chance to relax and get in the zone. Occasionally I will have an apple about an hour before a race, but more often than not I will just chew gum. 30 minutes prior to the start I will have a few sports beans extreme cherry flavour with caffeine just to give me a little boost. Whether this is psychosomatic I don’t know but as I very rarely consume caffeine at any other time, I think it has some positive effect.
My race fuelling strategy changes dependant several factors; The length of the race, where the aid stations are situated and the types of food they will stock, how fast I am running, and how hot the day is all need to be considered.
For The Ox I knew that it wasn’t going to be too hot and there were regular water stops, so I opted to carry a 500ml soft flask of water containing a High Five Zero Tablet for hydration and then supplement this with water as and when needed. I also carried 5 orange SiS gels, as well as a selection of mixed flavour sports beans including some caffeine ones.
I have found though if I just take sugary snacks I get a funny stomach, so I also use Trek Bars, either Berry Burst or Cocoa Choas, and I had two Berry Burst bars broken into 3 pieces each and individually wrapped in Clingfilm for easy access in my pack when they were required.
My race plan was to go off at a steady pace and put myself in a strong position to compete for the podium when we reached 20/21 miles, as according to the elevation chart this was when the route would start a long steady climb up to the Ox Drove at the far end of the course. This gradual incline was to continue for 6 or 7 miles and I knew that if I fuelled well I would be strong on the climb and still have energy left in the tank for the two brutal last hills at 33 and 35.5 miles respectively.
All this considered I decided that I would plan to take a gel at 12, 24, 36, and 48km and then supplement with sports beans and Trek bar as required, this turned out to be at 18km – square of Trek bar, 30km – handful of sports beans, 41km – square of trek bar, then 52 and 55km some more , all interspersed with sips from my hydration bottle and water from the aid stations which was more than sufficient.
I have found that taking on food at regular intervals helps in two ways, firstly you don’t run out of fuel and hence avoid hitting the dreaded ‘wall’ and secondly it gives you something to focus the mind on and also look forward to. I am far from regimented though and allow myself to adapt to the race and how I am feeling at the time, which is a reason I always carry a little bit more than I think I might need… just in case. This ensures that you always have fuel available for when you cross the finish line if needs be.
Luckily this year I had managed to execute my plan to perfection and didn’t need any emergency food at the finish, a lesson well learnt from previous events.
I finished this year’s OX 7:02 quicker than my first attempt (2015) in a very pleasing time of 4:35:23, and whilst tired I still felt that I had more in the tank if it had been needed.
My nutrition strategy had worked flawlessly which can only bode well for the longer tougher races that I have awaiting me later in the year.
Post Race Nutrition
After the race my nutrition consisted of another 500ml of electrolyte drink (high 5 zero) and then a superfood salad consisting of Quinoa, Bulgar Wheat, Cous Cous, Grilled Chicken, coleslaw, cucumber, lettuce, celery, radish, pepper, all washed down with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream and a mini flake from the ice cream van…..
Well after a successful race even those of us who are healthy deserve a treat……
Now its back on the healthy eating regime to prepare for the next event on the calendar. Remember ‘Eat well… Race Well…’
About Ian Hammett
Ian runs for Bedford Harriers. Check out the full race report on Ian's blog: FetchEveryone - Race Blog and follow Ian on Social media Twitter - @RunHammyRun, Power of 10 - profile, FetchEveryone - profile, Blog - runhammyrun