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  • Julie C.H. Brake, MS, RDN, LD

Ultra Trail Race Nutrition

On April 1, 2017, I had the distinct privilege of being half of my husband's support crew for the Georgia Death Race (GDR). The GDR is a 68ish-mile trail race from Vogel State Park to Amicalola Falls State Park. This year's "68ish" miles totaled about 74 miles. Runners are given 24 hours to complete the course with cut-off times at certain points. In other words, if you don't make it to a certain station by a certain time, you are escorted off the course & do not finish. Runners were given an option this year to start one hour early, giving them 25 hours to complete the course. My husband, Mike, chose this option, so he had to check in at 3:30 AM with a 4:00 AM start time. Yes, it was appropriately April Fool's Day. My sister-in-law & I were his support crew, with drop bags at some of the stations as well. I'm going to focus on the nutritional aspects of this race, but if you want more details about the race in general you can visit & if you want Mike's perspective on the race you can visit*

*Positive Nutrition is not liable for content on outside sites.

WARNING: This post is lengthy! Read through when you have time!

Background: Mike has been doing trail races for about 2 years. He likes the longer distances & typically completes 3-4 races over 25 miles each year. He does not run to win but runs to finish & beat his own times. He ran a race in September that he struggled to finish & landed himself in the ER with dehydration. I won't go into details, but he learned from the experience. I have worked with him on trying foods & drinks during training so that he has plenty of options during a long race. He prefers Tailwind as his electrolyte drink but also uses Nuun and Gatorade at times. He uses Gu gels & chews, Clif bars, & an assortment of "real foods" on runs. In preparing for this race, he eliminated caffeine to help enhance the effect of caffeine consumed on race day.**

**Positive Nutrition does not endorse specific products & does not receive compensation from any food/drink manufacturers or distributors.

Here are our notes from the course:

Wake 2:25 AM - Race prep - Sips of coffee, sips of coca-cola

Check-in at 3:30 AM - eating ½ bagel with sunbutter

Race start at 4:00 AM - In pack: 60-65 oz Tailwind (bladder), ~40 oz water (bottles), 3 GU gels, 2 GU chew pkgs, 2 Clif bars

(est every 10 miles drinking 40 oz water + 40-50 oz Tailwind)

1st Aid Station @ Mile 7 – drank Tailwind, 1 GU gel, 1 Clif bar, 2-3 small boiled potatoes, refilled water

2nd Aid Station w Crew @ Mile 13 – 0-13 drank 50-60 oz Tailwind (500-600 kcal), refilled Tailwind bladder, took 2 more Clif bars, 2 more gels, Bottle Caps, fruit snacks, sips of coca-cola – ate fruit snacks on course but didn’t like how they stuck to teeth

3rd Aid Station @ Mile 15.5 – ate 2 potatoes, refilled water, wasn’t liking the course – ate Clif bar, gel, some chews on course

4th Aid Station @ Mile 21 – ate 2 potatoes, few oz coca-cola, few oz pickle juice, orange slice, slice of bacon, refilled water – had gel, chews, Clif bar on course

5th Aid Station @ Mile 28 – 13-28 drank 55-60 oz Tailwind (550-600 kcal), refilled water & Tailwind, restocked from drop bag, ate a few Sour Patch Kids, few oz coca-cola, few oz pickle juice, 2 potatoes – carried more food, ate Bottle Caps as left station – ate 1 gel on course

6th Aid Station @ Mile 33 – refilled water, ate 2 potatoes, few oz coca-cola, few oz pickle juice, tried to eat piece of bread but too dry & only ate ¼ piece – Clif bar on course, 1 gel, some chews

7th Aid Station @ Mile 41 – Tailwind almost empty, filled one bottle w water & 200 kcal Tailwind in other water, few oz coca-cola, few oz pickle juice – chews & parts of Clif bar on course

8th Aid Station w Crew @ Mile 47 – refilled Tailwind, restocked Clif bar & chews, few oz coca-cola, 3-4 oz ramen broth, switched to 26-oz water bottles (2) – ate Clif bar on course

9th Aid Station @ Mile 54 – 47-54 drank 40 oz water & no Tailwind (saving Tailwind for end), refilled water bottles, few oz coca-cola, few oz pickle juice, 2 potatoes – Tailwind, chews, water, ½ Clif bar on course

10th Aid Station @ Mile 65 – refilled water, drank 3-4 oz warm broth, might have eaten something – ½ Clif bar, Tailwind, whole pkg chews on course, water

Finish @ Mile 74 – felt good but didn’t feel like eating – ate some BBQ, 2 bowls vegetable soup (that’s what tasted good), few oz coca-cola, ~8 oz beer

Notice he was too jittery (& sleepy!) to eat much before the race, but he ate & drank continuously along the course. This is what gave him the strength to finish. At the end, he was worn out, hungry, sunburned, & sleepy. But he was well-hydrated & not lightheaded. He was tired for a couple of days but was able to function normally with little soreness. All of this to show that intuitive eating during an ultra race really works. He ate what he felt like eating & made sure to drink enough fluids, focusing on points in the race where he would need more nutrition vs. other areas where he would need more fluids. He ran when he could, walked when he needed to, & finished in about 23 1/2 hours.

I'll post about another one of his races some time, but maybe not in so much detail. Look for blog posts this coming week about Food Allergy Awareness! And eat well and prosper!

(Note: Photos taken by Julie Brake. Permission received to post pictures of Michael Brake from this race event. Permission granted to copy & post this blog entry as long as credit is given.)

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