My pre-ultra nutrition is simple and as well as providing the key energy requirements for the challenge ahead, it as much psychological, like your kit and warming up in preparing you for the race. I like to leave at least 2 hours after food before the race start, ideally more and before the MDC 33 this was slightly more as I wanted to complete a steady 3 mile jog to loosen the legs off before the start as I had been racing ultras the previous two weekends. Prior to the race training had been steady, however the legs were feeling rather heavy so I needed to get the blood pumping to help loosen them up.
Breakfast consisted of Nairns Gluten free oats, mixed with Soya milk and a spoon full of honey. This was followed by a strong, sweet black coffee. Typically, I drink unsweetened tea and cappuccinos outside of races so on the morning of the race this is welcome treat and helps get me into race mode with a nice sweet buzz. In the final hours preceding the start I sip water and the final hour I alternate between sips of water and an electrolyte energy drink. On this occasion it was orange Lucozade.
Over the course of the final hour this is typically only 250-300ml in total but also helps balance the bodies fluid and electrolyte levels as the tendency is to over drink water and spend the final hours back and forth to the toilet losing essential electrolytes needed for the race ahead.
DURING THE RACE
As it was a slightly shorter ultra race, for the MDC33 my nutrition plan was simpler than I would have for my longer ultra races. Though my routine is very clear regardless of the race I am running. I relied mainly on fluids for my energy and electrolytes. However, this was balanced with one energy bar in the initial hours which I believe helps in my recover post-race as well providing energy within. If I just rely solely on fluids for energy in an ultra my recovery has tended to be much longer. On 30 minutes I consumed between 125 and 250 ml of High 5 summer fruits energy drink and on the hour 1/3 9bar original with 125-200ml of water. This continued for the first 3 hours and in the final hour I switched to flat cola interspersed with sips of water to carry me over the final miles of the race. I tend to only rely on checkpoints for fluid top ups, particularly if it is hot day. As I am coeliac, I prefer to prepare all of my own race nutrition to help prevent any gastric issues that could arise.
The MDC33 is a great route along the Marlborough downs, with plenty of undulations, taking in picturesque views and some of the white horses of Wiltshire. Navigation is required on this route with only part marking. Despite local knowledge, I took a detour in the early miles which added to the challenge and a huge amount of stings on the pins trying to get back on course! I resolutely took the situation as it was and relaxed into just enjoying the race as I contemplated my place at the back of the field. However, as time went on I gained in confidence as somehow I found myself working through the field and the realism of making it back to the front became possible. After three hours this came to fruition and switching to cola in the final hour juxtaposed with making it to the front of the race gave me as much a psychological boost as well as physiological and I finished the race feeling very strong and pacey despite the previous weeks racing and the extra miles in this race!
The first half hour post-race is vital. However, as is often the case with myself feeding is the last thing I want to do in this period and electrolyte solutions are bottom of the post-race wants. However, for me it is a mindset and in this period. I typically consume the final liquid in my electrolyte bottle I have on my pack followed by any remainder of 9bars. This is an extension of the race to me and I make this habitual to ensure I get something in the body. In the following hour a hot sugary tea is a must and I find this also balances an often sensitive stomach.
In the first two hours, salted almonds are my go too food source, as I tend to crave salt post-race. I tend to consume a large bag 100-120g. The high protein levels help to start the recovery process and great energy source too and as I love them I tend to pick at them over the next couple of hours. As the MDC33 ended three weeks of solid racing, dinner was all about treat and taste and I went for bacon and egg butties (gluten free rolls), large mixed salad with spinach and loads of greens and homemade gluten free fruit cake! Although, I have to be careful about my food sources alleviating the gluten and wheat, I enjoy all food making my training and racing diet varied and enjoyable regardless.
OTHER TIPS & TRICKS
Obviously race day nutrition varies according to the distance, conditions, checkpoints and what the plans are post-race. On multi-days, my in race nutrition is not only fuelling myself for the day ahead but the following days of racing and it is important even on the shorter days to consume something solid and keep things balanced at all times. Having raced in extreme heat it is surprising what the body can tolerate and consume and I found it essential not to rely solely on fluids and S-Caps for energy and electrolytes as the intense conditions will cause tremendous gastric issues. Solid foods are needed regardless in small amounts you can manage. On longer ultras I consume a set routine but introduce tablespoon size lumps of cheesy mash to help fuel the race. I have just started using Tailwind Nutrition for my energy and electrolytes and this worked brilliantly in the heat of Sri Lanka and South Africa.