Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Blackfoot Ultra Prep

The training is complete, now the big thing is to arrive at the start line well rested, relaxed ready to run. Continue to complete easy runs each day and make all your plans early in the week in terms of what you are going to wear and what you are going to use for nutrition and having everything set out ready to go so all you have to do is wake up, dress, have breakfast and then pick up your bag and depart for the race.
  • Monday - Regular run
  • Tuesday - Regular run
  • Wednesday - 30min recovery run
  • Thursday - 30min recovery run
  • Friday - 30min recovery run
  • Saturday - Blackfoot Ultra
  • Sunday - 30min recovery run, bike or swim


You will run out of glycogen between 90 to 120 minutes. Your body can store, at most, around 2000 calories of energy in the form of glycogen. No amount of carbo-loading will help you overcome this.  And, if you run a marathon in your anaerobic zone, you are burning mostly carbohydrates and cannot utilize fat effectively.  This is why the marathon is uniquely challenging – ultras generally remain aerobic so you can access fat stores more readily and shorter races aren’t long enough to run out of glycogen.
Possibly too much all at one time:-)
Target the rule of 15 – 15 g of carbohydrates, 150 mL of fluids every 15 minutes.  Since each gram of carbohydrate delivers four calories, this is 240 calories per hour.  Sports drinks typically provided at marathon aid stations contain around 14 grams of carbs per 230ml – this is not a concentrated enough form of carbohydrates and needs supplemented with energy gels.  Gels typically provide 20 grams of carbohydrates per package.
  • 1 150ml cup of sports drink - 10 grams of carbohydrates
  • 1/4 pouch of gel to increase carbohydrate concentration - 5 grams of carbohydrates 
The maximum fluids the stomach can absorb per hour is 700-800 mL.  This is three cups of water or sports drink per hour.  This also combines with the above point to limit the amount of calories per hour you can take in via carbohydrate and electrolyte drinks at ~200.  
Combining the concepts above, one can begin to plot a fueling strategy for their race, considering the location of aid stations thus the 15 minute timing may be a bit tricky and due to these issues bringing your own fuel belt with sports drink and gels to supplement the aid stations on course. 
The big thing here, the take to the trail message, "the rule of 15", 15 grams of carbohydrates every 15 minutes in 150ml of fluids.

Key Points
  • No difference in absorption rate for bars, gels and fluids
    • so you can mix and match to find what your stomach tolerates best
  • You can consume food like soups, potatoes but keep to the rule of 15
    • do not consume more than 20 grams of carbs in 15 minutes
    • do not come into transition and sit down and consume a pizza
    • have the pizza cut up into small pieces in a zip lock and consume in small portions
  • Start right from the start utilizing the rule of 15
    • so start 15 minutes into the race and continue to the end 

Mixing & Matching
Here is some numbers to help with planning;

  • 2hour loop
    • 120mins / 15mins = 8 x 150ml = 1200ml of sports drink 
      • with 8 x 15grams = 120grams of carbs
      • 1200ml = 2 regular sized water bottles 
  • 3hour loop
    • 180mins / 15mins = 12 x 150ml = 1800ml of sports drink 
      • with 12 x 20grams = 240grams of carbs
      • 1800ml = 3 regular sized water bottles


Simply look at the carb content of your favourite sports drink, gels and bars and then mix and match based on your requirements, i.e for the two hour loop you would need two handhelds with 60grams of carbs per bottle or two handhelds with 30grams of carbs and two 30gram gel or carry one hand held and obtain the equivalent of the second bottle from the aid stations.

Aid Stations

The aid stations for Blackfoot are located as follows and will have Hammer Heed, water, fruit and gels and some other goodies like cookies and chips.
  • 4km
  • 11km
  • 21km
  • 25km
You need to carry a hand held as part of the race rules so over and above that you need to decide how much nutrition you wish to carry and much you would like to use the aid stations. I would suggest carrying a hand held or small bladder pack and then supplement at the aid stations.

The take home message is not so much what you use as fuel but how you consume that fuel and if you can take small sips, small bites and start early you will stay well stocked and energy levels will remain even throughout your event. 

Shoe Choice

Your shoe choice will depend solely on the weather, if it is wet you will need a trail shoe with some bite, it can get slippery out there, trust me on this:-). If it is dry and hard packed you will want a fairly non aggressive tread patterned trail shoe or road shoe.

Good luck at Blackfoot and if you have any questions stop by the shop and we can guide you in the right direction.