The Hillary Trail Race is a tough event, demanding strength and endurance from your body, even the 16km race. Russell tells us how he plans to fuel his body to meet the grueling demands of the not-so-short Hillary short course ….
I just looked at Outlook and realised that we only have four weeks until The Hillary!!! That’s just four more short weeks of training!!
I thought for this blog I would touch on my approach to food and nutrition but knowing that there are only four weeks left until the event I have given some thought to what my blog posts will be about up until then. I’m going to deliver three more posts (after this)before the event. One will be focussed on gear and I’m super pumped to be getting some new toys from UltrAspire. For the last two weekends before the event I plan to run both ends of the course to familiarise myself with the trail and its demands. My thoughts at this point are to base my last two blogs on my interpretation of the course and give some insight about the trail to the thousands of readers and fans who eagerly anticipate my weekly blog posts.
Segwaying just a little further away from my intended topic and proving that I practise what I preach (at least some of the time) I had a great training run on Sunday just been in Mangemangeroa Valley, Whitford, Auckland. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been out and exploring some of the local trails around East Auckland and this was definitely my favourite so far. The trail follows an estuary all the way in and the only downside was that the trail was only three km at best. I drew the rest of the run out on the streets to get back to my car. The upside was that it undulated most of the way and had some great stair and hill climbs throughout. I even took a wee pic mid track just to prove I was there.
Coming back to topic the focus of this blog is to share my thoughts on nutrition in terms of the event and how I’m preparing for the event. Just to re-iterate last week’s little disclaimer I am not a qualified anything to do with sports and nutrition. This blog does not constitute professional advice and nor should it replace it. These thoughts are mostly from my own experience and reading – take from them what you want and don’t be shy about doing some of your own research. Probably the biggest thing to remember is that the biggest variable is you. What works for me might not work for you so look around and make sure you consider your own body.
Is nutrition important? Bloody oats it is. Notwithstanding the normal conversation your GP will have with you when you have high blood pressure or hit the top of the BMI scale it’s critical to your performance on the day of the event. If you put diesel in a petrol engine it will seize up. Same result with your body – put the wrong fuel in or not enough of it and you’ll seize up. Crap in = crap out.
As I write this, you should know that I’m far from perfect. I generally don’t do moderation very well and some of my intake choices do need to be looked at so this blog is not preaching from a pedestal. I’m also pretty lucky in that I’m only completing the 16km event. The shorter distance is a little more forgiving on a more casual approach to race nutrition than someone who is running the 80km event or even the 34km.
The biggest thing that I’m aware of is the level of sustained energy that your body exerts in order to keep running. For example in an hour on a treadmill the little screen will tell me (depending on what I was doing) that I have used 800 odd calories. But I’m not going for a run on a treadmill. I’m running 16km in The Hillary. Those calories that I’m expending need to come from somewhere – especially if I don’t want to feel like I’m dragging my body kicking and screaming over hot coal to get to the finish. In contrast I would much rather feel fit and strong and enjoy the experience and get the most out of the event.
So what does this mean for me? In terms of the week directly leading up to the event alcohol is out in any form or quantity. I’m not against a beer or three but here’s the big reason why for me. Your sleep has four cycles (REM cycles) that you oscillate through during the night. The fourth level is your deepest where your body does 90 odd percent of its rest and recovery. Alcohol prevents your body from entering the fourth cycle and so whilst I still sleep through the night my body doesn’t get the total rest and recovery that I want for an event.
Race day starts with Breaki which for me will likely be porridge and raisins. I know that it’s a little hot still for porridge but it’s a high energy breakfast to kick start me into the day. I’ll probably lighten it up with just some fruit and nuts for morning tea but lunch will be the important meal for me. The race starts at 2:00pm so I want to get a high energy lunch in a good 2-2.5 hours before the event. I’ll probably be looking at something like a brown rice salad with some nuts and protein. I’m a fan of brown rice not just because it is high energy but because it’s a source of slow releasing energy. Around 30 minutes before the race I’ll have a small snack like a banana and then I’ll be carrying some snacks like a couple of handfuls of almonds for during the race if I feel like I need them.
There are a massive range of energy product out on the market but I’m steering clear of them for this event. My basis for this is that I believe I can give my body what it needs from natural foods but this does not mean that I’m suggesting energy products don’t serve a purpose or are bad. In contrast they are designed to offer an energy source that is released quickly into the body, is easy to consume on the move and is easy and lightweight to carry. Given that I’m only doing the 16km event I don’t feel the need to really plan to use products like this.
I really have two focuses in terms of my training for the next three weeks. One is to make sure that I’m doing a training run around the time of the event on weekends so that my body gets used to working at that time of the day. I’m normally a morning running person and I know from experience that when I’ve tried to run an afternoon event my legs have felt more like they have concrete in them.
My second focus and back to the theme of the blog is to test my approach to food on race day. I’ve been in situations before where I’ve taken an approach to consumption either in terms of what I ate or at what point I ate it only to run an event with painful cramps and stitches. This time I want to know that my body agrees with what I am consuming and my process – that way there’s no bad surprises on event day.
So that was it. My over simplified layman’s approach to fuelling myself for race day. Next week I’ll jump into gear planning for the event and some of my thoughts here. In the meantime enjoy your training!