Recipe for Race-Day Success - Page 3
Rutberg concurs. "Your last substantial meal should be two to four hours before the event," he says, "which allows the nutrients to get out of the stomach and into the blood stream. If [you eat too close to starting time], you're more likely to experience stomach distress."
Jones-Wilkins depends on a solid race-morning meal, and his experience dictates a different timing. "I eat an eight-ounce yogurt with granola and a banana about an hour beforehand, then an energy bar a minute or so before the starting gun."
"The last 90 minutes or so before the event, have smaller snack food, like an energy bar or gels," says Rutberg. "Also, have water or a bottle of sports drink to top everything off." Rutberg explains that the body will burn through about 80 percent of its carb reserves the night before the race. "If you don't replenish it, you could bonk really fast on race day."
Before her 50- to 100-mile ultras, Africa goes big. "I eat oatmeal with blueberries, a banana, maybe some decaf coffee, and a little Recharge drink," she explains. "If there's any room left, I'll have a toasted PB&J sandwich."
For two-time USATF Mountain Runner of the Year Laura Haefeli, it's a different matter. Haefeli, 39, focuses on shorter distances—from 10K to 10 miles—and more intense bursts of energy. "I usually stick to toast," says the part-time beekeeper, "and, of course, Haefeli's Honey!"
After the starter's pistol cracks, nutritional needs change. "I don't need to eat during, and water has always worked well for me," says Haefeli.
"The key in the race is to keep the fuel burning steadily," says Wyatt, who also coaches trail runners through www.zombierunner.com. "Most people do well with a gel or a another easily absorbed simple carb every 30 minutes."
Says Rutberg, "During the race, the old rule of thumb was to ingest 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour." As a reference point, the average gel contains about 25 grams. "It was believed that your body could utilize only about one gram of carbohydrate from the gut per minute."
However, recent research by Dr. Asker Jeukendrup, Professor of Exercise Metabolism at University of Birmingham (England) has cast this time-tested rule in a different light. "If you combine sugars in a certain way—two parts glucose, one part fructose —you can increase your body's carb intake by as much as 25 grams per hour."
More runners are relying almost solely on energy gels as easily digestible carbs. The average gel packet contains about 100 calories, which means you need two gels per hour—a ratio that translates to some astounding figures over the long haul. Kulak, for example, consumes between 40 and 60 gels in a 100-mile effort and half that in a 50-mile trail race.