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Jenn Hughes Tuesday, 09 April 2013 08:31 TWEET COMMENTS 4

A Conversation with Ray Zahab - Page 2

And what about key products that you rely on nutritionally?

I love Artisana nut butters, like their macadamia nut butter. In colder climates where it stays solid, I add coconut oil to everything. I’ll scoop out a chunk and add it to all my meals for an extra hit of quality calories. Plus, I salt all my food. It’s a small thing, but it really helps with your capacity to stay hydrated.

Do you use any traditional energy fuels?
I use about one gel a day. I can’t stand overly sweet food or drinks. I actually even make my own homemade ‘energy drink,’ mixing a combination of electrolytes, Emergen-C and maple syrup with water. Before an expedition I boil down pure Canadian maple syrup until it’s condensed into a solid hockey puck, then I just shave off slivers and add it to my water.

What about coming back from an adventure … do you have a favorite thing to look forward to?
Salmon, broccoli and potatoes.

Wow, no hesitation there. Not a shower or a beer or something less healthy?
Well as soon as we’re done, sure, a beer ... and I love to eat local. I really like to experience the traditional food of wherever we’re visiting, but as soon as I’m home the first meal is always salmon, broccoli and potatoes.

Beyond the required gear on stage race checklists, what are three things you recommend every runner consider taking along?
A camera. Even if it’s the smallest camera possible, you’ll want one because it’ll be beautiful out there and you’ll want to share that with people. Some kind of anti-chafe is really important, too; you never know when you get in the dry stuff and the wheels come off. The last thing would be a spare pair of socks. If you get a blister, changing socks can adjust the position of your foot in the shoe; changing the friction point can make a huge difference.

Small decisions like how many socks become a big dilemma during final packing. How many do you personally take?
For a week, I’ll take two pairs: a pair of Injinji toesocks and a back-up pair.

That is minimal. What about other ‘optional essentials’ like a sleeping pad? Do you use one?
I do, but to keep it light, I make my own out of foam, cutting out any parts that don’t touch the body.

You seem well versed in do-it-yourself adaptations; any other MacGyver recommendations?
In case my pack breaks, I always bring an emergency fix kit. I make a cardboard tube out of a toilet paper roll, about the width of a pencil, and put some sewing needles inside, seal it with Duct tape and wrap it in fishing line to use as thread. Simple, but it comes in handy.

That’s a great tip. Any other pro-advice for first-time stage racers?
If your goal isn’t to win, take your time to really enjoy the surroundings. You’re probably going to be in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. In the case of the Grand to Grand, the people of Kanab are incredible—so take time on either end of the race to enjoy the town itself and the locals.


Jenn Hughes is a Washington-based ultrarunner and owner of RunPrettyFar, a women’s running-apparel company.


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