Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ultra Gear (P2): Nutrition and Hydration

Welcome to Part 2 of my Ultra Gear and Performance Series.
If you missed Part 1 where we discussed clothing, you can view it by clicking HERE.

In this installment I will be discussing the different types of gear I used to carry my nutritional and hydration products with me during races. I will also be discussing what those nutrition and hydration products are and how I utilize them during a race and by request, how I use them in training. I hope many of you will continue to find this beneficial to your goals of training to run your first marathon or ultra, or to refine the way you all ready do things.

Please keep in mind that what you are about to read is what works best for ME. We are all an experiment of one and YOU know your body more than anyone else. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa, so take what information I spill with a grain of salt. Most importantly, enjoy.

Above is a picture of the gear that I use to help me carry my nutritional and hydration needs through races and through training runs. Nutrition and hydration is by far the most important part of any race. It is the difference between finishing or DNFing, and can often times lead to various medical issues which could come associated with rather unfortunate and uncomfortable side effects.

The Camelbak HAWG pack (2004). This pack has served me well on many training runs. The amount of gear I can throw in this thing is unbelievable. Its pretty easy to throw my rain gear (jacket and pants), some gloves, hat, fill the 3L bladder with water AND carry some gatorade. You can see the bottom webbing which is a flexible cord with draw string. Perfect for keeping a jacket stored on the outside. This thing has pockets everywhere. The only downside to it is that I'm often times known for overfilling it. Deciding what to throw in there is important especially if I am going to be hauling a load for an extended period of time. It fits comfortably on my back and bounces around very little providing I have adjusted the straps properly. Probably one of the best packs I've ever owned. I wore it during my first ultra ever, the 2005 Damn Wakely Dam Ultra-marathon. The race is a 32.6 mile run through the Adirondack Wilderness which has NO AID STATIONS. Runners must remain self sufficient through the entire course. And although it was indeed overkill and overpacked during the race.. I'm glad I had it as it saved the day. I've also used this pack and it is IDEAL for Pemi-Loops, The Presi-traverse or any other training runs in the whites. It is also good for a crossing of the Kancamgus Highway.

The Nathan 2V Plus waist pack. This thing is great. I used to own an Ultimate Direction waist pack that bounced around so much I'd finish runs with the worst chaff on my hips. However, this nifty little pack doesn't bounce around at all. There are some plus and minuses to this thing and I'm going to lay it all down for you. As I mentioned, the HAWG can be a bit big on some runs, this is a great next step down and is going to be great during races where its quite a ways between aid stations and HOT. The pack carries two 22 oz. hand bottles on either lumbar side. It has a zippered rear pocket for gloves, food or a flashlight. It also has two removable zippered pockets on the front sides for gels or any other goodies. It has Shock Cord tie-downs on the front for gloves, a hat or anything else you can zip in there. So these are all the pros.. let me tell you the cons. I'm not a big fan of the Nathan Bottles which I'll explain later. And the waist straps can be a real pain to tighten. There is a loop on the straps so you can kind of tuck the access away. If you are not careful while continuing to tighten the straps around your waist... these loops will get sucked into and stuck into the buckles. I've had to stop running on a few occasions to get them unstuck and in working order so I can appropriately tighten the unit. Pretty annoying but a small price to pay to have everything around your waist. The pack bounces very little if at all and comes in quite handy. I like it and highly recommend it.

The Nathan HOL #028 Race Vest. You don't even notice this thing is on you. If the HAWG is too much. If the aid stations are so close that a waist pack is overkill, then the HPL #028 is the next best thing on the food chain. This vest is featherlight and quite handy. It comes with dual front pockets. One is a zippered and the other has a Shock Cord. You can use either one for gels but the one with the shock cord is great for those who like to run with a camera. There is a power stretch mesh back pocket perfect for shoving hats or gloves into or even a small hydration bladder if you have one. This vest is probably one of the more handy things I have and works great in races like the VT100 where aid is never too far away and you only really need to run with one or two hand held bottles.

Hand Helds:
Lets start by talking about the Nathan Bottles. In the photo you'll see the 22 oz. bottles in the waist pack and the other on the far right (yellow) is the Nathan Thermal Handheld. This bottle fits comfortable on your hand and has a sort of koozy around the bottle to keep your drinks either warm or cold. The sleeve also has a zippered pocket on it for gels. Now here is my issue with the Nathan bottles. When you pull the mouth piece up, there is no "cut-off." What I mean by this is, when you pull up the mouth piece or bite on it, water comes squirting out of the top. If you are running with the bottle, the fluid will come out of the top. Not just a little fluid.. a LOT of fluid. Its kind of like the old school Gatorade water bottles you see at football games or soccer games where the athletes are drinking while standing still. Well guess what.. I'm a runner and I drink on the move. I HATE getting the sticky drinks all over my hands and face. I HATE getting my white shirt colored in red power drinks. I really find this to be an annoying design flaw. This brings us to the handhelds that I LOVE.

The Ultimate Direction Handheld Bottle with Kicker-Valve. The caps are leak proof. The kicker valve is leak proof, soft and pliable and VERY easy to open or close. The bottle has finger and thumb grooves. The verison of their bottle I like to use is called the FastDraw Plus. They come in 20 and 28 oz. The hand strap is made of Airmesh and Polyester baby Ripstop. It also has a large zipper compartment for your keys gels or whatever. The bottle is comfortable and functional for what we are doing here. I highly recommend this bottle over all others.

Also, keep in mind that I prefer to have CLEAR plastic bottles. This is so that I can more easily monitor my hydration by observing how much liquid is in my bottles. This is the best way to get a handle on how much I am or am not drinking in a race or on a run. Typically I run with two bottles at all times. One is filled with water (20 oz.) and the other (28 oz) is filled with my electrolyte supplement. In races where I am running through the night, I will dump the water out and substitute it for Red Bull. I've also been known to have Mountain Dew or Ginger Ale depending on the status of my stomach.

So now lets talk about what I'm actually eating and drinking during these races. Obviously the number one thing that we all need to drink during any activity is WATER. Not flavored water or water mixed in a drink.. pure water. Water is essential to your life. Your body uses it to regulate temperature, to flush out essential systems and to keep you sane. Your brain is made up of mostly water. So don't provide your body of what it purely needs. You can drink whatever you want but water is the most important.

Succeed! Clip 2. This is my main electrolyte drink. Since I started drinking Clip 2, my races and adventure runs have gone more smoothly, I have finished more comfortably and recovery has gone a lot better. SUCCEED! CLIP2 contains branched chain and other amino acids for Energy production, Prevention of muscle breakdown, Reduction of mental fatigue, Faster recovery after the event and Support of the body's immune system. It comes in a smooth raspberry flavor. Now, while it pretty mellow tasting and easy to drink, I like to kick it up a notch by adding Kool-Aid Mix. In the picture you see orange kool-aid mix.. its what we have in the house.. typically I add Fruit Punch cool aid mix to the Clip 2. This is my own little concoction which I just love. The main thing about Clip 2 is that it contains easily digestible carbohydrates. This is essential in long races. Complex Carbs take too much energy to break down and by the time you do break them down... you have depleted yourself and rendered the carbs useless. The simple carbs in Clip 2 are great. Your body absorbs them and uses them almost immediately. You will also see Glad Zipper sandwich bags in the photo. This is what I put every packet of mix with kool aid into. It makes it a lot easier on race day to handle and get into the handheld bottle.

While we are on the topic of Carbs, I also drink BOOST Strawberry Protein Shakes. At the Vermont 100 last year I drank 1 boost at every handler station. I really feel that this is what made my race. At McNaughton Park I'l be drinking one Boost every lap. Again, simple carbs and protein all rolled into one little drink. Easy to get down and not too chalky or frothy. There is 33g of carbs in one tiny 8oz bottle of this stuff. So Boost combined with Clip 2 and Kool Aid mix gives me a pretty good mix and source of simple carbs. The sugar in the kool-aid mix is also a simple carb which is broken down quickly for use by the body. Just think about it... ; )

Nuun. Nuun contains sodium, potassium, magnesium & calcium. Nuun contains NO CARBS and NO CALORIES. One Nuun tablet dissolves to create 16 oz of electrolyte replacement drink. While I do not use Nuun as my primary drink, it IS nice to have to mix things up late in a race when some things start to get really old. I mean.. how much of one thing can you possibly drink in a day before you need a change (sorry Succeed!)? While the drink contains no carbs or calories, I am still getting these much needed essentials from other products which makes Nuun a nice switch from the normal. The only downside of Nuun is that it contains sorbitol which is a diuretic. This can be good or bad.. I mean... how else are we going to get all the "junk" out of our systems in a race? I like it Nuun, it is refreshing, tasty, different for sure and a nice thing to have to switch things up. It helps prevent cramps and goes down pretty easily. I use it mostly in races pretty short in distance and on training runs where I don't want to waste my Succeed!. And even though I have a hard time personally with the Sorbitol, I don't mind having it in my system.

Red Bull. The ONLY time I drink Red Bull... THE ONLY TIME... is during a race, at night, when I am having trouble staying awake. It is an energy drink and it works pretty good at keeping me "wired." Taurine, Caffeine, Sucrose and Glucose.. yup.. all the good stuff you won't give to your kids before heading to church. I do not and will not drink this stuff anywhere else but in a race. It is BAD FOR YOU. But let me tell you.. if I'm crashing hard in an event. this stuff hits the spot and wakes my butt up enough to generate a better nutritional plan to get me BACK on track.

Succeed! S-Caps. One an hour.. EVERY hour. Two during hot events. S! Caps are made of 100% electrolytes. The S! Caps label lists sodium as the element, 341 mg per capsule. If you
want to compare to other products that list the sodium as sodium chloride, S! Caps supply 867 mg of sodium as sodium chloride. These little buggers alleviate cramping, stabilize the stomach and protect against hyponatremia. Sodium and potassium for muscle contraction. Phosphate and citrate for energy production these things are better than lava salts or any other ridiculous electrolyte supplement on the market. THEY WORK!

PowerGels. I use this as yet another source of simple AND complex carbs. 80% complex and 20% simple. This allows for optimal performance during a slow burn. (yeah.. its not always good to have everything all at once.. so why not slow it down too?) These little buggers also have electrolytes in the as well. I typically start off the race with my favorite flavor, Vanilla. They taste like Vanilla Frosting. I also use two other flavors. Strawberry Banana which contains 1x of Caffeine and the other is Tangerine which contains 2x of Caffeine. Both are great late late in a race where every little bit helps to keep me awake and moving forward. I typically take TWO gels at each handler station and I'll put one in each hand held bottle and take them every hour to hour and a half along the way. This breaks it down to a pretty good steady balance.

Cliff Shot Blocks. Meh...I got them for free. If I see them on an aid table though... I'll eat em. I really prefer Sharkies. Shot blocks are made from soy, Sharkies from organic Rice. But the sharkies are easier to handle and much tastier. Besides... how cool is it to eat sharks?! So fun! Both taste pretty good, both do the same thing... Electrolytes. You'll also see some UP Time on there. Just another organic supplement to keep me awake at night. In the Grand Teton race I took 3 at once the day before the race.. WOW.... I highly recommend you take only the recommended single dose. It is a "Super Food Supplement that helps provide the body with more than 50 vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, antioxidants and the complete B-complex." You'll also see some Hammer Recoveryte in the Nuun box. At the end of the race its nice to just drink one of these to provide your body with some protein to help prevent further muscle breakdown and to enhance the healing process. It begins.. right at the finish line so start early and start smart.

As you'll notice above I keep everything pretty Organized. All of my gear is store in small tupperware containers to make it pretty easy for my crew to get what they need. Everything is organized and easy to find. My Succeed! Clip 2 will go into its baggies and put into the same container as the Nuun. The Gels are all in the deep bin. The S-Caps go in with the Nuun and Clip 2. Everything has a place. Everything is easy to find on the fly. KEEP IT SIMPLE The quicker you can get in and out of an aid station the better. Go Go GO! IN fact.. everything is so organized that it all fits into its personal container and then slides right into our Kelty Binto Bar. (See Below) The Binto Bar keeps everything organized and even gives my crew a little table to make their own meals on, place their drinks, play cards whatever. Remember.. your crew is much more important than YOU. They are your lifeline. The happier you can keep them. the more hydrated and fed you can keep them.. the easier you can make it for them.. the easier it will be for you.

Lastly.. my post race celebratory drink.

Long Trail Brewery is located in Bridgewater Corners, VT and are makers of the finest micro-brew I have ever tasted. Every man dreams of being sponsored by his favorite beer company... well.. I can tell you guys, it IS all you dreamed it was. Above is a picture of their Double Bag Brew which is 7.6% alcohol by Volume! Thats outlawed in some states! I've been known to drink some during a few races where I was REALLY having a rough go at it (Pittsfield Peaks). The other brew of theirs I am known to drink is the Blackberry Wheat Ale. Oh so yummy and I highly recommend both for your post race toast.

This weeks Question:
Tom from Connecticut wanted me to touch base on what I use for training. When I was growing up playing soccer, my coach had this rule. "If you don't do it in the game.. don't do it in practice." For running I have reversed the rule, if you don't do it in training... don't do it in the race. What I mean by this is.. do NOT show up on race day having never tried your own nutrition and hydration plan during training. This is why the back to back weekend 20 and 30 mile long runs are important. Not just to get your legs up to speed and turning over while tired... but to train your body to eat and drink on the run. To get your body used to these ingredients and to figure out what does and does not work. Keep what works and get rid of what doesn't. If I am running anything 13 miles or UNDER.. I typically do NOT carry water or electrolyte UNLESS it is a really hot day. This is what I prefer because it helps me prepare for the event in where I run out of drink while on the course and am quite a long ways from the next aid station. I want to know what its going to feel like to be deprived and depleted.. I want my body to know too and I want it to get used to it. Conversely.. on the longer runs and during a race, my body really reacts to all that I give it to succeed at any distance. I know that all of the above products for me and they work optimally. I've tested them during training. I rarely have Succeed! on hand so I drink Nuun most times on the long runs. So again... 13 or under... typically nothing. Anything over that and I'm testing it all out to make sure it will work on race day and that it still works at all.

In Part 3 I'm going to show you all of the medical equipment I have on hand at races as well as button up any miscellaneous gear. I really hope you find the information provided here both helpful and encouraging and look forward to having you read next time.

To Continue to Part 3: Medical and Misc. Please Click Here.