On the 15th May 2016, I'll be taking part in Nuclear Oblivion. This is a 48km obstacle race, which we are given 9 hours to complete. Due to the extreme nature of the course, there is an expected finish rate of just 20-30%. Ouch!
The event takes place in the very muddy out backs of Essex, obtaining 300 obstacles along the way, including the world's longest monkey bars (115 metres if you're wondering...) As both an ultra runner and a seasoned obstacle racer, I am both looking forward to and dreading this event. Last year it won a Mudstacle award for being the U Ks toughest obstacle race. I only completed two laps last year, but was slightly distracted after Justin, my now fiance, decided to propose on the start line!
I train most days for my events, and my training involves being conscious about the nutrition I'm fuelling my body with. That said - I do think it's important to continue to enjoy foods you love. I'm always partial to a bit of cake - for want of a better term, it's my Achilles heel. By no means does eating well mean you have to cut out everything you enjoy.
My usual day starts with a big bowl of porridge, with some peanut butter mixed in. Then at about 11am I'll usually have a snack of some sort, more often than not, a piece of fruit. Lunch usually consists of a sandwich (brown bread is the healthier option here) with anything from jam to cheese to ham inside. I like to ensure that I have something nutritionally beneficial, such as avocado. My afternoon snack is usually dried fruits and nuts. Then I'll always tend to have a banana about half an hour before hitting my training in the evening. I find this fuels my body sufficiently and correctly for my session. I would always recommend some sort of recovery or protein shake within half an hour after finishing training too. Then dinner is my opportunity to refuel, so I like to ensure I get a good number of vegetables on my plate in my meal.
On race day, I will have to be very conscious of how I sustain my energy levels, as nine gruelling hours testing every muscle in my body, climbing in and out of water and mud will take its toll.
I always ensure I have a hearty meal the night before a race. Something like pasta bolognese or lasagna are my favourites, as you can supplement these with all sorts of vegetables. Then on race morning, my plan is to have my usual big bowl of porridge, with peanut butter mixed in, and sweetened with honey. I will aim to have this about 2 hours before the start of the race, with a banana about 45 minutes before setting off.
We have the luxury of this being a lapped course, so every 12km we will head back to the start line where we can store all our food and drink for the race. This means I don't have to worry about weight, as I'm not carrying my supplies. So I will take more than I need. That way I won't run out and will have spare food in case anyone else hasn't prepped quite as well and needs some support.
I will take a number of ham rolls and jam rolls to eat. I find the carbs in the bread keeping me feeling full, while the ham provides the protein I need and the jam gives me a quick sugar rush. I am also a fan of salted crisps or pretzels. My body will need the salt. Chia Charge bars are also brilliant! While there are water stations along the way, I like to supplement this with Nectar fuel electrolyte drinks. I'll have made some of this up ready to drink before I start. One of my favourite treats to boost my mood if I'm aching and tired is chocolate milkshake, so I will also have this waiting for me - can't beat a Shaken Udder!
With the sheer number of obstacles on the course, the food stops every 12km won't be enough to keep me going for 9 hours, and while the wonderful marshals will be feeding us jelly babies throughout, I will also take some energy food out onto the with me. Given the dirty nature of the course, it has to be in a convenient format, as it won't keep clean or dry. So energy gels are ideal, with SiS and Honey Stinger being two of my preferred choices. Anything in a sealable packet is also great, and a number of different sports jelly beans are packed this way now. If it's not sealed on an obstacle race, it will end up tasting of gritty mud and lake water. I will only carry around two or three of these supplements for each lap as I will be able to stock up again.
It will also be essential to stay on top of my nutrition post race, as my body will be very depleted for the next few days. Although I tend to avoid fizzy drinks, I will take a can of coke to have at the end of the race. Wading through water all day long leaves me open to all sorts, and although I'm not sure whether it's just an old wives tale or not, I always make sure I try to kill anything off with a fizzy drink on the finish line. I always like to have a recovery shake as well - For Goodness Shakes works really well and is a very tasty treat. Sometimes my stomach can't handle food straight after a race, once the adrenaline has worn off, so a shake is perfect. Weetabix breakfast drinks are another cupboard essential for me, so I will more than likely have one of these to hand too.
Then in the evening after a big event, I tend to reward myself by eating something I enjoy - two of my favourite options being steak rolls or pizza. I always feel that my body needs a little bit of fat post race to help recovery. I will always eat a little more than usual in the following few days as well to ensure I refuel sufficiently.