Having been cycling focused for much of the last few years with a dabble into triathlon at varying distances, I fancied a different kind of challenge for 2016 (and my 40th year) of a multi stage running event, less focused on the stop watch and more on the mental challenge of getting to the end across such difficult terrain.
My chosen event was the VOTWO Jurassic Coast Challenge (JCC), 3 coastal path marathons over a weekend along the stunning Jurassic Coastline between Lyme Regis and Sandbanks totaling 80 miles.
MY NUTRITION PRINCIPLES
I'm certainly no real expert when it comes to nutrition but through experience and what little knowledge I have on the subject, I rely on 3 basic principles;
Hydration - Plenty of water in the 24 hours prior to the event to ensure fully hydrated at the start and then plenty of hydration including electrolytes during the event
Carbohydrates - Loading little and often in the build up to the event with a good pasta feed up the night before and then plenty to eat during the event trying not to rely solely on gels and sugars.
Protein - During and after the event to aid muscle recovery ready for the next day from food and shakes.
MY BASIC NUTRITION PLAN
The expected calorie usage per day during the JCC was around 4000 - 4500 (according to my Garmin)
The day before - Complex carbohydrates little and often with a hearty chicken and pasta dinner, with as much fruit squash as I could drink.
THE ACTUAL EVENT
An early start was required each day with a road trip to Portland HQ for registration each day from Wimborne. With the adrenalin already pumping my appetite depicted my breakfast to some extent and so I opted for poached eggs on toast with a strong black coffee. I know eggs are known really for protein but I just really love them. With a good carbohydrate load the night before and with just a night sleeping in between I figured I would not have lost too much of the glycogen from my muscles anyway. Maybe the coffee/caffeine intake has come from my passion for cycling and its associated culture, however my little knowledge on the subject has told me that if you starve yourself of caffeine for a short time before the event and then take a strong coffee the day of can give you a real boost. To be perfectly honest, I'm not overly convinced at my level that any of this makes too much difference, but the mental effect it has on me is absolutely significant, heading to the start line safe in the knowledge I have done everything I could have done to prepare myself.
Because this event is a self navigation event it was mandatory to carry certain kit with me including warm clothes, water, compass etc. In order to carry this, I opted for a small rucksack with water bladder built in, which I would fill with just water and electrolyte tablets. Because I had this small backpack I decided to make myself a tuna roll to take with me which was a good combination of carbs in the brown bread roll and protein for recovery in the tuna. I do have a sweet tooth and at the aid stations (posted every 10k) there were plenty of treats on offer. I did enjoy some of these, but after a while I find too much sugary food can get a bit tiresome and so the savory roll was perfect, again eaten just a few bites at a time.
I did carry gels with me also, but found that the above was more than enough and I just didn't really fancy them during the run.
By the time I reached the last few miles each day, I found myself starting to feel hungry and ready for the hot soup and cake on offer at the finish line. It was great to discuss the days run with other finishers over some comfort food before the drive home (40 miles) with a protein shake for company. Once home the re-hydration and fuelling would begin again, along with a foot soak in hot salty water and a bath.
Days 2 and 3 were pretty similar really with just the addition at the end of day 3 of a pint of ale and a bowl of salty chips (replacing the protein shake) at the Banks arms at Studland to celebrate the finish line and completion of the event.
Day 1 - 27.1 miles, 2300 ft of elevation - 4:28:40 (moving time)
Day 2 - 26.2 miles, 3677 ft of elevation - 4:45:45 (moving time)
Day 3 - 26.6 miles, 3996 ft of elevation - 5:08:43 (moving time)
Total finish position - 45th of 233 finishers (despite some stops for feet repairs!)
My fuelling strategy worked well, always feeling like I had enough in the tank for a strong finish each day.
The one area I had problems was with my feet. Nothing had really prepared me for the battering my feet got, despite breaking in my trail shoes well for 6 months prior. The elevation was so up and down and at times very steep gradients, along with a mixture of terrain often including pebbles or rock. This meant that after just day 1 I had several blisters and my toe nails were already suffering slightly. Days 2 and 3 I opted for my road running shoes for comfort with strapping of my large toes.
Now 3 weeks post event and a short course of antibiotics later to heal the toe nail bed infection and the loss of 3 toe nails I am back out running and cycling training for my next big event, a long weekend cycling The Tourmalet, Hautacam and Aubisk amongst other famous Tour De France Cols in the Pyrenees.
I would certainly recommend this event to anyone, and am sure will be there again myself.