Monday, November 30, 2009

Nutrition for Ultrarunning 101 (Part 1)

I have been pondering over nutrition for endurance events (ultra-running in specific) for quite sometime, today decided to jot down some of my experience. Nutrition plays such a key role for any events > 4 hrs that narrowing down the right strategy for oneself is critical to success.

In this section I am mainly going to list some thoughts on calorific replacement during endurance events.

1. Events less than marathon or a flattish 50k:
For events which are less than 4-6 hrs for a 4:30hr marathoner likeme, relying mostly on gels for every 50-1hr is sufficient. Mainly because human body has about 1800-2000 calories in the form of muscle glycogen which is the easiest and quick source body digs into during endurance events. For marathon distance typically one requires about 100 calories per hr, so total required calories is around 2600 calories.

If we are running a marathon in moderate intensity i.e in range of 70% max heart rate, about 70% of the calories are consumed primarily through carbs and rest through fat store. So we effectively need about additional 400-500 calories in the form of gels. So a gel every 50mins to 1 hr works for average athletes like me.

2. Events ranging from 8hr-14hrs :
For a hilly 50k , 50 mile and 100k events, we need to understand which of the refueling sources works for one's body. A good source to understand calorific replacement and various options are:

i) Hammer Nutrition's refueling guide.
ii) Ultrarunning magazine article by Sunny Blende, sports nutritionist.

According to article (i) some of the keys issues to consider are:
1. What is the total energy expended during endurance events?
The total energy expended during endurance exercise, is of the order of 600-900 cal/hr.
But we cannot replace entire calories expended because body cannot absorb and process food at that rate.

2. What is the max that can be processed by the body?
The limiting factors in caloric replenishment are gastric emptying and liver metabolism of carbohydrates. For most athletes, this is in the 240-280 cal/hr range, and this, by and large, sets the limit of caloric intake. If you consume more than that, you will only get some form of stomach distress.

3. How is the difference of calories between expended and consumed is fueled fulfilled?
Mainly by fat store and if the difference is too high it will dig into muscle store(protien) that's when consuming protein during endurance events helps and prevents muscle glycogen loss.

So basically our goal should be to consume around 240-280 calories every hr in different forms. To do that we have host of different options. Specially during Ultra-running you have whole buffet of food at Aid stations, so which is the strategy one should employ, well to answer that one should experiment with couple of different choices during training runs and stick with one that works.

3. Events of distances 100mi :
Disclaimer, not very experienced with the 100mi distances, but same strategy as above has worked well so far. Along with regular energy source some solid food during initial half of the race works well. As the event gets longer we need to rely on some real food as well. Since we will be running at lower intensity digesting solid food should be possible.(specially during 1st half of the race).

Fueling options(not comprehensive)

Gel and semi solid options: Most of the gel options are listed in article (ii) above, they provide about 100 calories in 1 serving. taking 2 gels and some additional calories from aid station in form of PBJ or potatoes works well for many.

Powder based:
i) Perpeteum: Hammer nutrition product this has worked very well during biking events but not so well during ultra-running for me, but works well for some of my other ultra-running friends. (has Salt as well so consider that during electrolyte replacement)

ii) Clip2: my favorite energy refueling source by SucceedsCaps. Each packet has about 150 calories of complex carbs and along with 1 gel every hour works very well. I don't get any sugar highs, body feels great as long as calories are replaced regularly. (has salt as well)

iii) Spitz: haven't used this but heard this works well for multi-day adventure racers.

Protein drinks:
i) Ensure and Boost: works great as a supplement energy source, it has good amount of protein as well(about 13gm per serving). This is very concentrated drink so diluting the drink helps to avoid stomach nausea.

Energy Bars:
There are lot of energy bars like power bars, luna, clif bars etc, but bars has a primary source is tough on stomach to digest but works well as supplement. It has been found very effective for bikers though... since bikers don't work that hard anyways :).

Finally goal is to get about 240-280 calories per hour, one needs to experiment and find that works for you during training. As George Sheeshan has been quoted umpteen times "we all are experiment of one".

Saturday, November 28, 2009

2009 Bday run: Mission Peak to Rose Peak(and back)

I had been contemplating on different courses for a bday run on Dec 18th. Finally narrowed down to a run from Stanford Avenue entrance to Mission Peak to Rose Peak and back. A total distance of about 37 miles and Elevation gain of about 9200ft(approx).

I got all the required information for running this course based on past few runs with Padma(thanks) and Ohlone 50k trail directions.

1. Ohlone 50k course map clearly lists trails to take From mission peak to Rose Peak and beyond.
(I won't be taking the horse heaven trail instead will take main trail to top; shorter but steeper)
2. Also Dinesh Desai's site has some info on course from Sunol to Rose Peak.

mission to rose peak(turn back from maggie's half acre AS)

I think this entire run will be about 10hours so I Plan is to start by 6am and get done with run by 4pm in day light.

Mission to Sunol and more(C2M training run 2)

Another terrific run with Padma and Vinod. The plan for the day was to start early and get a 8hr hilly run. We started out at 6am, surprisingly parking lot of pretty occupied, it was pretty chilly weather to start with so we all were quite overdressed. The forecast called for sunny but windy weather so made sure we had a good Windbreaker and new jacket from Firetrails 50M was very useful.

This time we took a straight trail up to mission peak, it felt much harder today.. I was conservative to most parts keeping in mind a long day. As we reached summit it was very windy out there, just hiking up straight was difficult. We were glad to take trail towards Sunol which bright and windless, it was a pleasant run down to Sunol. We regrouped and refueled for another 2 hr run on Ohlone wilderness trail, it was a good reconnaissance run on this trail for my Birthday run on Dec 18th.( I am planning to run abt 36 odd miles from Stanford entrance of Mission Peak to Rose Peak and back, would be a good 10+hr run)

Elevation profile Mission to Sunol(back)

We ran until Sunol backpacking area and decided to turn back to Sunol visitor center for final refueling. Padma had got sweet potatoes for us, that was pretty tasty. 5hrs into run we had 1 more big hill to climb, I was hoping to run some parts of 5mile section. I was happy to run same splits as last time in about 1:15hrs. As I was waiting for Padma and Vinod got 1 more repeat of Mission peak, which was much harder due to wind conditions, in some sections I didn't have to work up at all, but just align myself to wind direction .. it was both easy and tough to be in path of the wind which was almost 55 mph.

Finally caught up with Vinod and Padma on the way down, both braved it very well. Vinod had just come back from Europe so was jet lagged but was determined to get a good run, Padma had some issues initially but was persistent as usual. Finally we got about 24-46 mile run with about 7500ft elevation gain in 7:30hrs. A great day out there.

I was testing quite a few things on this run for C2M 100, my experience so far
i) Firetrails jacket: Is a great windbreaker, but not sure how good would it be during rain, so far v good.
ii) nutrition stuff worked great, I am sticking to my usual formula, clip2,ensure,gels.
iii) Sugoi tights were excellent, held up very well during windy conditions and were very comfy.
iv) Ultimate Direction Diablo and Waist belt combo worked very well, back isn't heavy and waist belt offloads some of the weight. A 3 hour worth water can be easily carried.
v) Diablo offers some additional room for a fleece layer.(not a whole LOT though, something to consider)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mission to Sunol: Kickoff C2M training

Mission to Sunol run had been on cards for a long time, finally got to do this hilly and pretty course. Initially Padma, Vinod and myself were planning to do Double Mission peak or Triple, but Vinod couldn't join due to work.

Me and Padma got started with our run at 8am, enjoying a beautiful hilly course through dense fog. Fog was so intense I could hardly see few feet, moreover some parts of the initial course was not familiar so I was hunting for the trail and making sure I am on Horse Heaven Trail leading to top. Unfortunately the beautiful views from summit were missing during 1st time, but we enjoyed the perfect running weather and continued on to Ohlone wilderness trail a 5 mile downhill to Sunol regional park head quarters. At ranger office we had plans to refill and take a break.

Interesting Sunol ranger office stocks up 10Gallon water containers for though-hikers and backpackers, It is a very convenient service for the nature lovers.

3hr 5 minutes into our run, we turned back to MP summit, surprisingly running up in parts felt really good, I was at summit in 1:15mins, I decide use the extra time to do repeats on the last 500ft section, which worked out great. Soon padma joined at summit and we headed to Stanford Ave start taking a shorter (steeper) trail.

elevation profile Mission peak to Sunol(and back)

Overall my goal for this run was to do a run with atleast 7000ft of elevation gain and it was achieved.

According to C2M course 100M gains about 27000ft of elevation gain so going fwd my approach towards training would be to do runs of similar gradient. Atleast try and do couple of 10000ft + runs and atleast one 13000-14000ft run.

Some possible courses going fwd
i) Mission - Sunol and back 18 miles 6000ft (+ 1 MP repeat) time required 5hrs
ii) Mission - Rose Peak and back 38 miles 10000ft (+ 2 MP repeat) time required 9-10hr
iii) Quad MP 24 miles 8800 ft (time required 8hrs)
iv) Quad PG&E 32 miles 8400ft (time required 8-9hrs)