Why Is Nutrition Important?
Nutrition becomes very important as the distance increases as you are out for hours sometimes days and it is so important to keep the carbs and hydration topped up during and then post race.
My learning experience from having run a few 100's and also long distance events I need to keep improving on my nutrition. For the Thames Path I had tried Maurten but found this very sugary in taste so I went back to my trusted tailwind having used from 2016 in the first Thames Path.
Normally I work right upto the end of the week as typically long ultra races tend to be on a Saturday, this race however was on a Friday which meant I needed to plan things differently. On a positive it was timed well with the school holidays so I went away to the New Forest with my son for a few days. For once without the work laptop and away from temptation of gym classes I had an easy week just running short runs with the dogs, relaxing dog walks and a bit of country air !
Despite the effort of respite everything was wonderful apart from the weather was heavy rain most days and a bed that wasn't fit for a " princess" only joking! it was a mattress where I could feel the springs in my back so for me very disturbed sleep,I was grateful to come home on the Thursday to at least have one night in my own bed.
Running wise on a "key race" the week leading up tends to be just ticking over, for this 24hr race typically my last effort session was the previous Saturday before the race. It seemed to work well but like many runners find taper week very stressful.
What I love about 24hr racing though is the pace can be much slower, more enjoyable and in a comfortable place ( changes in the latter parts). I was looking for during the race a 100 mile pb and British record and then a further distance of 220 km overall.
Interestingly I was less stressed in preparation for this track race mainly because I knew I was only ever 400m's away from my aid table. However what is tough and I did run 50 miles on a track in May is the aches and pains of leaning around one way for so long, only time would tell the impact.
If anything this was a massive benefit, having had a terrible time eating on the Thames Path I looked at introducing more carbs i.e. potato mashed with salt mixed in and then bringing a camping stove which was possible so I was therefore in control. Like with any 24hrs you have this amazing array of food but then as the races go on they all look less appetising! This time I limited the sugar and went for starch based and more carbs. Also the week before carb loaded as in general I do not take on as much as most runners and as stated every runner fuels differently.
Trusting my friends at X Miles and team GB mate Ant popped in a few days before the race to gain some assistance on other recommendations and tweaks.
This time I wanted to go back to Tailwind so I had this in all my bottles and love cola so I picked up " Colorado Cola" and then also made a decision to try gels again, I dislike them normally but wanted to give the Huma gels a go as they were recommended to be very similar to baby pouch food, this was a good decision as they tasted lovely and also vegan. Along with some mash potato with salt pre- cooked, a banana, 1 bottle of flat coke and gels that was it. I planned to have a warm pasta meal in a cup post 100 mile target. As an Ambassador for Revvies I used a caffeine strip every 4hrs in which worked extremely well for the race.
My strategy was to have toilet breaks when drinking fluid every 5 miles minimum otherwise it becomes a psychological battle with the " Bogs", and the longer you run the tighter you get. Again the benefits
General Products: Vegan Squirrel Nut Butter used for chafing, Deep Heat for aches/pains
Race conditions were very tough as it was on and off rain all the time and got heavier as the night and early morning kicked in. We battled with strong winds around one side of the track just to add to the challenge !
Along with only changing direction every 6 hrs was tough on the quads and feet, also the over taking on lane 2 made the distance add up to over 104 miles when I took my hot food break. We had no real atmosphere as spirits were dampened by the weather, Covid and also no music, timing/leaderboard. What was nice and I find this with all long distance races very friendly competition and for the 24hr on a track you see your crew and other runners more regularly than a point to point race.
Sadly for me I made a decision to not continue with the 24hr. With the cold unpredictable weather of October when I stopped for food I felt very cold and started to experience the same signs from my Anglo Celtic Plate 100k in 2018 with hyperthermia. I therefore put my dryrobe on and went into my tent but couldn't get warm despite a duvet over me and jacket, then my ankle started to burn, hip flexor tightened to a point I couldn't push myself back out to run.
Having just run a 100 mile PB in 14 hrs 54 knew that this was a good place to leave a great effort behind, the British 100 mile record was my target and was sailing close to this with a minute outside and then the track floodlights went off and put all the runners into darkness sadly which left us all fighting to see the light from our aid tables. This sadly killed the opportunity so my target despite every effort is to target this again next week. Also never under estimate how much things change and unfold in a race, however its key to reflect, learn and move on with something positive to aim for. I am still learning to respect this distance, with the ultimate target for me is to hit closer to 250km next time