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Author: Heidi Strickler
On August 27th I did a point-to-point through run of the Enchantments in Leavenworth, WA. Just over 20 miles of epic beauty, brutal climbs, 40mph wind gusts, aggressive mountain goats, turquoise alpine lakes, boulder playgrounds, technical descents, and views to take your breath away. We climbed over 7,000ft and descended 8,000ft; 2,000ft of our ascent was in ¾ mile up well-respected Aasgard Pass.
As both a trail runner and registered dietitian, I frequently get asked “what do you eat the night before a race?” and “what do you eat on runs?” While running the Enchantments, I got ahead of my group and linked up with a couple local ultra guys and ran about 10 miles with them. And as usual, I got asked the “what do you eat” question. So in this month’s article, I am going to walk you through the 24 hours surrounding my run through the Enchantments.
Friday August 26th (the night before)
6:00pm: Dinner in the car on our way to the trailhead. We were starting the run at 5am the following morning, and I like to have at least 10-12 hours between dinner and race start, and to finish eating two hours before bed. This leaves me feeling light and adequately digested, and by having a 12 hour window before starting my run, and doing my morning nutrition correctly, I can tap into fat burning and preserve my carbohydrate stores.
It is the tradition of my husband and me to eat pizza, salad, and ice cream the night before a race. Yes – I am serious. Pizza for me was something that came about incidentally, but which I adopted after I consistently saw positive race results. My husband just really likes ice cream. We don’t eat Pizza Hut; usually artisan wood-fired pizza, or homemade pizza using Trader Joe or Bob’s Red Mill dough. This night I had picked us up a couple slices each from PCC, a local food co-op; I opted for the vegan pesto and roasted veggie. We grabbed ice cream at a gas station on the road – I always choose vegan ice cream or frozen yogurt due to my lactose intolerance (lucky for me, Seattle is full of vegan-friendly parlors).
6:00pm-10:00pm: Hydrate with water and Hammer Endurolytes. The Endurolytes help my body absorb more of the water I am drinking, so I pee less, and am more adequately hydrated going into the run.
10:00pm: bedtime. All of my fuel for the run and extra running gear is organized and packed in my running pack in order that I will use it, water bottles are filled, I am sleeping in my running clothes, and my headlamp, shoes, and socks are next to my tent. I sleep in compression socks.
Saturday August 27th (day of)
4:30am: Wake up. Water, probiotics, contacts, socks, shoes, headlamp. Pack up my tent, load the cars, drink about 2-4 ounces cold black coffee. Quick run debriefing with the group.
5:00am: We’re off.
Some of you may be asking, “did she not eat beforehand?” And no, I didn’t. Were I racing for money, I may have, but research shows that slight hunger does not hurt performance, and as long as you can fuel within 45 minutes, you can start the run fasting. This also helps my body use fat as fuel and saves my carbohydrate stores for the points when my heart rate will be spiking (Aasgard Pass). This is does not work for everyone, nor do I recommend you try it for the first time before race. If I feel my hunger is strong enough to mentally take my performance down, I eat a Larabar mini (Cashew Cookie is my favorite). Again – trial and error – I know this works for my body, but it won’t work for everyone.
5:00-5:45am: sip on water ad lib. I had 16 ounces in my handheld, plus two small 12 ounce bottles in the shoulder straps of my Nike Kiger Trail pack, both also with water.
5:45am: 4 ounces Hammer Strawberry Vanilla Perpetuem followed by a swig of water (35kcal)
6:30am: 4 ounces Hammer Strawberry Vanilla Perpetuem followed by a swig of water (35kcal)
7:00-7:15am: small banana, Larabar Cashew Cookie mini, 5 sea salt dark chocolate almonds (~300kcals)
I made the call that we should eat a more substantial amount at this time, as we arrived at Colchuck Lake, and were about 15-30 minutes from starting our ascent up Aasgard. Anytime you climb, your heart rate increases and digestion decreases. It is not wise to fuel immediately before or mid-ascent.
7:35am: begin our climb up Aasgard. Only water on the climb.
8:40am: I summit Aasgard and run around the Enchantment Lakes avoiding aggressive goats and waiting for my group to summit. Water.
9:20am: food break with the group. Small apple, a couple mouthfuls (about 2 Tbsp.) of mixed almond butter + raw honey from a Ziploc baggie I bit the corner off of. Six plain Lay’s Stax. A couple more dark chocolate sea salt almonds (~350kcal). I always have both salty and sweet options with me.
9:45-11:30am: just water
11:30am: arrive at Upper Snow Lake. Take my shoes, socks, pack, and trucker hat off and jump in the lake. Wait for my group.
12:30pm: ½ banana + Honey Stinger Waffle (~200kcal)
12:30-2:00pm: sip on water. Pour water on myself. Jump in the river. It is SUPER HOT and I know I need to keep my body temperature regulated.
2:00pm: Finish. Total running time (not counting waiting for my group at the top of Aasgard and at Upper Snow Lake) = 7 hours.
2:01pm: Sit in Icicle Creek at the finish and ice bath.
2:20pm: Go to the car and get in the cooler (I was given the key since we knew I would finish first). Drink ~8 ounces coconut water + 16 ounces BiPro Protein Water (135kcal, 20g protein, 25g carbohydrate). Continue drinking water the duration of the night. Add ½ Endurolyte tab to every other bottle.
3:30pm: Handful Lay’s Stax, peach, handful dark chocolate almonds, 8 ounces coconut water (~250kcals)
6:00pm: Dinnertime. Tradition also has us eating burgers and ice cream (sense a trend??) post-trail run or backpacking adventure. We stopped at Fresh Burger Café in Leavenworth. I don’t eat meat (just fish), so I got salmon burger, bunless, with side salad, and a ½ & ½ order of regular fries and sweet potato fries, and a split order of onion ring between my husband and I. (~800-900kcals)
8:00pm: Stop at Dairy Queen – I got a small chocolate sundae (280kcals)
I have no idea how many ounces of fluid I took in on the run, I simply took very small sips ad lib. I am a proponent of drinking according to sensation, as I have seen a lot of folks overdo their fluid intake to try and “keep up with the recommendations.” I chose to drink straight water rather than a more concentrated carbohydrate or electrolyte drink, so I needed to take in very small sips in order to help my body absorb the fluid. The body cannot absorb large gulps of water, so if you are into gulping, I recommend adding Nuun, Endurolytes, or something similar.
For calories, I totaled around 920kcals. The recommendation for my body weight is 150-180kcals per hour, which would put me at 1,050-1,260kcals. My rate of intake (I only included moving time) was 130kcals/hour. Heat decreased our calorie needs (the ability to digest solid food goes down) and increases our fluid needs. Running is also harder on digestion, so taking in the recommended hourly rate of calories may not be feasible. As I tell everyone who asks – there is science, but more than science is you knowing your body and taking in the conditions during the run; performance nutrition is a 1,000 piece puzzle. The takeaway from all of this?
- Try your nutrition out on training runs that mimic the intensity of a race.
- Take advice from friends, but know that what works for them, or what works for the pros, may not work for you.
- Read the science and research behind fueling your training – but take it with a grain of salt.
- Be willing to change your fueling plans in the moment – listen to your body.
- Eat pizza and ice cream the night before ☺
For specific questions on fueling your training, email email@example.com and tune in to our weekly Monday Blog Roll on TAUR’s Facebook page.