6 Make-or-Break Factors to Dial In Before Race Day — or Pay the Price!

For as long as I’ve written this blog, I’ve advocated treating your long runs as rehearsals for the big day. Hone in your nutrition, pacing, and even clothing strategies while it doesn’t count, so that there won’t be any surprises when it does.

Actually, I think you should go beyond just rehearsing: instead of just “sticking with what works,” use your long runs as a testing ground for potential improvements. I truly believe most runners have many minutes of improvement just waiting to be discovered, but instead they fall into the trap of never varying from a routine that works well enough.

Up until I started training for a 100-miler, though, I hadn’t actually done any of this.

Sure, I knew the basics, and wrote most of them in a post about what to eat during your workouts. But when it came to my own long runs, I was very nonchalant: drink sports drink, eat real food (usually fruits, but sometimes pitas with hummus) when you’re hungry for them, and basically just listen to your body and do what you can to complete the run. Chances are, I thought, if you listen to your body, you’ll be within the proper ranges for calorie, fluid, and electrolyte intake.

With the 100-miler, the stakes are considerably higher. I’ll likely be running for seven or eight times as long as a marathon takes me, so any nutrition, clothing, or pacing mistake gets magnified. Not to mention the risk of actually dying, which although remote, is nonetheless a bigger motivator than it has been in my previous races. (I honestly don’t know if death or serious health issue rates are higher in 100’s than in shorter ultras or marathons, but would be interested to hear from anyone who does.)

So I’ve taken everything far more seriously over the past few months, and learned a ton as a result. I know most readers aren’t planning to do a 100 nor have any desire to do so, but the experience of testing and learning has made me a better runner, period. When I return to marathons after this 100 (and yes, I think it’ll probably be a one-and-done foray at this distance), I’ll be better off for having learned what I have.

And that’s why I’m sharing it here. Hope you find it helpful.

1. Hydration

Do you have any idea how much fluid you lose through sweat each hour? For most runners, the answer is no. But really, shouldn’t you know at least that?

I didn’t — too lazy to test it, I guess — until a few weeks ago. I weighed myself, naked, before a two-hour and fifteen-minute run, ran with no food or fluid intake, and weighed myself naked again when I got back.

I was shocked — I had lost 4.4 pounds! Since each pound represents a pint of water (as I learned from Alton Brown, when it comes to fluid, “A pint’s a pound the world around”), this amounts to about 31 ounces per hour of fluid that needs to be replaced.

A few caveats here:

  • Your fluid loss rate will vary depending on the conditions of your run (temperature, humidity, etc.), so you want to test accordingly.
  • You should do several tests and average the results.i
  • It’s suggested (by Bryon Powell in Relentless Forward Progress) that you run for 60 to 90 minutes when you perform this test. I’m not sure if the 90-minute limit is for safety — I was definitely feeling depleted at the end of my 135 minutes — or because your sweat rate slows as you become dehydrated. Either way, I plan to do another test on a hot day before the actual race.

Powell says you can only process 24 to 28 ounces of water per hour, which is worrisome to me, considering the race (in Ohio, in late July) will probably be hotter than my test was. I can only assume that drinking more than you can process results in peeing it out, so perhaps it’s a matter of drinking a lot and simply accepting that I’ll gradually become dehydrated during daytime, and hoping to catch up as the sun goes down.

If I’m netting a loss of, say, 4 ounces of fluid per hour during the eight hottest hours of the day, that’s only 32 ounces of fluid (two pounds of bodyweight) in total, less than half the amount I lost during my short test run. Viewed in this way, the outlook isn’t so grim.

For my runs, I’ve settled on about 32 ounces per hour — one bottle of Gatorade, one bottle of water with Nuun electrolyte tabs. As I’ll explain below, I’m thinking of getting rid of the Gatorade and replacing it with more Nuun water and food calories.

2. Electrolytes

You can’t talk about hydration without mentioning electrolytes, and in fact, this is the area I where was most negligent before.

Too often during marathons I’ve been clueless about my water/electrolyte balance, and as you’ve probably heard, it’s not terribly uncommon to become dangerously hyponatremic during a long race, where the electrolytes in your body are too diluted by all the water you’ve taken in.

Nearly everywhere I look, the recommended electrolyte intake is 400 to 800 milligrams per hour, more in extremely hot conditions. Most of this needs to be sodium; while there are other electrolytes like potassium, calcium, and magnesium, sodium is the one primarily lost through sweat and perhaps the only one you need to pay attention to during a race.

I had always assumed that since I drank Gatorade, I was getting enough sodium. Wrong.

A 16-ounce bottle of Gatorade has 220mg of sodium. So even if you drink two of these each hour, you’re barely reaching the minimum recommended amount. Especially during an ultra (where you’ll be out there and sweating for longer) in hot conditions, this is not enough.

I’ve taken three Endurolyte tablets (120mg total) each hour during my long training runs. But since I’ve started alternating sports drink with Nuun water (a 16-ounce bottle of which has 350mg sodium), I’ve wondered if the Endurolyte is necessary, especially if I do away with sports drink entirely and get 700mg sodium from the Nuun alone.

Most of all, I’ve learned that fluid/electrolyte balance is not something to take lightly. Too much of one relative to the other can be very dangerous, fatal even. Here’s a fantastic table, with information about recognizing and treating nine possible scenarios involving the two, that I’ll be printing off for my crew to reference as I’m reporting to them how I’m feeling. (Side note — I’ve learned that trying to think about anything remotely complex after 8 or 10 hours of running is hopeless.)

3. Nutrition

Prior to this training, what I knew about nutrition for marathons and what worked for me was “30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour, mostly sugar.” A little bit of protein (about one-fifth the amount of carbohydrate you’re getting) helps, but fat doesn’t do much for you during a race.

For ultras, the nutrition requirements are significantly higher — 250 to 400 calories per hour, according to Relentless Forward Progress. (The 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates above would represent only 120 to 240 calories per hour.) It’s true that ultrarunners rely more on stored body fat for energy than most glycogen-fueled marathoners and shorter-distance runners, but dietary fat during the race itself is only really helpful to satiate your appetite, again according to Powell. As the saying goes, “Fat burns in a carbohydrate fire.”

But satiation and satisfaction are important considerations — when you’re running an ultra at a non-competitive level (like I do), and the goal is not to win but to finish, at least some of the focus should be on staying comfortable and happy so that you aren’t tempted to quit. And in that case, the decision about what food is “ideal” involves more than just what’s optimal from the standpoint of pure performance.

I haven’t found this balance yet. In my 12-hour training race a few weeks back, I tried to get my calories from only fresh dates, along with some sports drink. I ate one medjool date (about 15g carbohydrates, mostly glucose) every 15 minutes — which worked great, until mile 25 when I decided I could never eat another date for as long as I lived. (Like most life decisions I make in the midst of long runs, this one proved dumb and fleeting.)

During a 50K run two days ago, my final really long training run, I adapted. This time, I ate one to two dates an hour, but incorporated boiled, peeled potatoes dipped in a little salt (about one medium, six-ounce potato each hour, 30g carbohydrates). Sixteen ounces of sports drink per hour added 28g carbohydrate, bringing my total carbohydrate intake each hour to roughly 80 grams, along with about 5 grams of protein from the potato and dates (340 calories total per hour).

This worked for a while — the salty potatoes tasted great in between dates. Still, after 25 miles I found myself wanting neither of them, or anything at all, really. I’m beginning to think this is simply a function of mileage rather than food — that no matter what I eat, after 25 miles of running in the heat, I’m not just going to be hungry.

That’s my challenge now. With the 100 only five weeks away, I don’t have any more training runs over 25 miles. I’ve got time to do some more research between now and then, but if I someone put a gun to my head and said I had to make a decision now about my fueling plan, I’d replace an equivalent amount of calories with half a pita spread with hummus or almond butter each hour for a little more fat and protein. I’d also consider that a very strange demand of a gunman.

Finally, I’m thinking about doing away with the sports drink to make room for calories, drinking only water with Nuun tablets instead, as I suspect the sugar from the sports drink plays a role in my stomach’s closed-door policy after 25 miles.

4. Heat

As I mentioned, my race is in July and runs from Cleveland to Akron. The race website reports that 95-degree temperatures are not out of the ordinary, so heat is obviously a huge concern.

I tend to do pretty well with the heat, but again, with the 100, I’m not comfortable leaving anything to chance if I can avoid it. So I’ve started learning about heat, and specifically, how to prevent it from shutting your body down.

In my 12-hour race, where the temperature was in the 80’s, I experienced some unnerving symptoms towards the end. I felt fine when I was running, but after each 5K loop when I’d stop at my station to refuel, change socks, etc., I could physically feel my body temperature drop. By the time I started running again, I’d have goosebumps and chills, the way it feels when you’re coming down with a fever. Within minutes of picking up the pace, my temperature would return to normal. After the race, though, periodic hot and cold flashes continued all night.

I’m still not sure quite why I had such trouble regulating my temperature, but I suspect it’s because I did nothing to cool myself all day. I was hot but comfortable, and I just kept chugging along, my temperature (probably) rising, until it plummeted whenever I took a break.

In the 100, I’ll need to be more careful. I’ve since learned that ultrarunners cool themselves with ice in their hats, those cooling bandanas, or even submerging themselves in ice tubs or streams to cool their core. (Cool Off brand bandanas are popular but have a chamois sewn in, and I don’t know if it’s real or synthetic so I’m not sure if they’re vegan-friendly.)

There’s a fantastic article on iRunFar called “Peak Performance and the Selfish Brain” that touches on heat as one factor that your brain uses in determining when it’s time to shut your body down. I’m not quite sure the suggestion of “tricking” your brain by cooling mainly those areas near the head is a smart one (do you really want to trick your brain into thinking it’s safe to keep going at your current pace when it’s actually not?), but it’s worth a read.

5. Pacing

Too many first-time marathoners that I talk to are clueless about what type of pace they’ll be able to run on race day. It’s not their fault — training plans, especially for first marathons, have you running your long runs at much slower than race pace (for good reason), so there’s no chance to test how you handle race pace for more than a few miles.

So what’s a marathoner to do? Shorter tune-up races, in combination with a pace calculator like McMillan’s, are useful here. Monitoring heart rate during training also helps you to make sure you’re staying where you need to during the race, so that’s another option. And I do think every runner should train with a heart monitor for a few months; you’ll learn a lot during that time even if you decide never to wear it again.

With a 100, though, there’s much more uncertainty, mainly because the farthest you run in training is 50 to 60 percent of the race distance. Add to this the fact that ultras vary so much by terrain and other conditions, and it’s very hard to project what pace is reasonable for a 100 when you’ve only done up to about 50 in another race.

There’s another big difference between this distance and marathon-or-shorter: the idea of negative-splitting (running the second half faster than the first) or even-splitting a 100 is pretty much out the window.

Most people I’ve talked to (and mile-split data of past Burning River finishers I’ve looked at) suggest, if you want to finish your 100 in 24 hours, that you run the first 50 miles in 10 or 10.5 hours. “That way you can walk the next 50 in 14 hours,” someone told me during the 12-hour race.

It sounds absurd to me, but I can’t argue with the data. So something along those lines will be my pacing plan, obviously with the hope of at least shuffling during the second 50 instead of just walking. But while I’d like to finish in under 24 hours, that goal isn’t nearly as important to me as the main one: finishing. To increase the likelihood of that one happening, I’ll probably run a slightly more conservative in my pace early on, aiming to get halfway in 11 hours or so.

And yeah, I’ll walk every hill I see, from the start. And I’ll probably walk for 5 minutes after every 25 minutes of running, as a lot of ultrarunners who’ve racked up far more miles than I ever will have suggested.

6. Shoes

hoka 300x300A few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have said that shoes matter all that much. Find a pair you like, train in them, then run in them. If they’re worn out, it’s not a huge deal, because it’s quite possible that cushioned soles do more harm than good anyway.

Shocker … I was wrong again. I learned this at approximately mile 20 of the 12-hour run, when my feet started killing me. I was running in trail shoes that were over two years old, with well over the recommended maximum of 500 miles on them.

In fact, my feet were just about the only thing that hurt that day. My legs felt great, at least for an ultra. But every step I took, even when walking, sent dull pain through the balls of feet up through what felt like the ankle.

I noticed something interesting in that run though, something that’s not apparent when you’re not running on the same exact course as runners going much further than you are: a huge percentage of the 24-hour runners wore big, gigantic-soled, ridiculous looking Hoka One One shoes.

I’d heard of Hokas a few times but never took them seriously until I saw how many people wore them. When I got home, I did some Googlin’ and found that many really serious, top-level ultrarunners wear these shoes that I previously had assumed were a gimmick.

So I ordered a pair! Perhaps just replacing my old trail shoes with a fresh pair would do the trick, but I needed to know about the Hokas.

The 50K I ran Monday was my first long run in my Hokas — and there was no pain. And Tuesday, I felt zero residual soreness in my legs and feet. Fatigue, sure. But not an ounce of actual pain, and I’ve never been able to say that about any run over 20 miles before this one.

I plan to write a detailed review post soon, but for the time being, you might say I’m hookad on Hokas. (Wow, I apologize for that.) I did notice that the extra bounciness and cushioning required a tiny bit more energy with each step, and I missed feeling the ground that way I do in my Brooks PureDrift. But for the 100, I’ll be wearing the Hokas. It’s possible I’ll start out in a more traditional shoe and switch after 30 miles or so, but I might just wear them for the whole thing.

Ready? Set?

With that, it’s hard to believe I’m less than five weeks out, with only one more hard training weekend (a 24-miler followed the next day by a 14-miler) before taper time. I feel pretty well trained, but nothing like I used to imagine when I pictured a person capable of running 100 miles. I still feel like me.

Mentally, though, I think I’m just about there. I’ve got some detailed planning to do, for sure, and some more nutrition research and testing, but I feel like I can do this. I know for a fact it’ll hurt more than anything else I’ve ever done, and I’m sure there will be moments, maybe hours, where all I want to do is quit. The question is how I’ll handle those moments, and the answer will have to wait until race day.

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Comments

  1. Hooked on Hokas. Funny. I have a pair in my training rotation and definitely use them in 50+ mile ultras. Good luck at Burning River!

    • Chris, do you recommend wearing them for the whole 100, or switching to them halfway like a lot of people seem to do? I’d like to wear them for the whole thing, but I wonder if it’s a good idea to change shoes at some point, just to give pressure points and hotspots a break.

  2. Good luck! Have a great race. I will eagerly await your race report. :)

  3. Great post.. I am working my way up to a 50 next year and have a desire to some day try a 100 :)

    • Nice, Paul! You know, if you think you want to run a 100 someday and you know you’re going to do a 50, it’s not a bad idea to think about doing the 100 relatively soon (as in 2-3 months) after the 50. I don’t mean to jump into it if you’re not ready, but in my own case, I kind of let my 50-mile fitness wane before I started training for the 100 a few years later, and I felt like I had to build it all back up from zero. When you’re already in shape to run a 50, you’re over a major hurdle towards a 100.

  4. On the subject of hydration, I recommend “Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports” by Dr Tim Noakes. This will change the way you look at a Gatorade bottle!

    Best of luck for your 100 miler!

    • Steve, thanks so much for recommending this. I read the iRunFar articles inspired by Waterlogged (someone linked to them in the comments below yours) and learned a ton that has me rethinking hydration and salt strategies. Especially interesting is the “drink to thirst” rule instead of following a schedule like I have been.

      • Stacy W says:

        Matt-
        I second Steve’s suggestion. I’m working my way through Waterlogged right now and have completely changed my hydration strategy. My body rejects sports drinks and GUs (GI issues after consuming) so I had to find something else anyways. I now rely on coconut water as my hydration source and literally only drink when thirsty – and even then not much. Dehydration/Overheating is something our bodies protect us very very carefully from. So far, running in the humid, hot Chicago days has not been an issue. :)
        Good luck with your race!

  5. We think alot about electrolytes too running year around in the low Sonoran desert in Arizona, especially in June – our hottest month. We tried Nuun, but saw it was sweetened with sorbitol, which can draw water out of your colon (causing dehydration and possibly diarrrhea) see Nutrition Facts Dr. Greger’s http://nutritionfacts.org/video/a-harmless-artificial-sweetener/. It has been hard to figure out what to take. Tried Vega “Sustain” electrolyte water (stevia as sweetener) this morning – wretched!!! I’m going to try a Saltstik tab each hour with 50% diluted coconut water next run.

    • Farraday, thanks for this; I hadn’t looked that closely at the ingredients. I got an email from a friend about exactly the same issue after this post. I guess I’m not overly concerned about sorbitol right now as far as its impact on my general health is concerned, since I only use Nuun on my very longest runs (probably once a month) and ultras, which will be even less frequent. And as I told my friend, I don’t think ultrarunning is particularly good for my health either! But both of these things (ultras and Nuun) are rare for me, so I don’t expect negative effects to be big.

      But what you say about dehydration and diarrhea — things that could ruin the race and undermine the very purpose for using Nuun in the first place — worry me. Check out the Waterlogged links below; there’s really interesting stuff there and it sounds like we may not need to replace salt at all if we’re drinking properly (i.e., to thirst)!

  6. For the C&O 100 and the Mohican 100 I used dates and homemade pinole – dropped in both races just past the 60 mile mark due to leg issues but the fueling worked great. Every aid station I added a banana or potato. Used this stragedy for NF 50k in June too and it worked well. Just a thought and good luck!

    • Eric, I appreciate the reminder about pinole. I ate some homemade pinole waffles before and during the North Face 50, which to date has been my most comfortable ultra. I think I’ll incorporate that, sometimes in place of the pita with hummus or almond butter that I mentioned in the post.

  7. I’ve had a lot of success with HEED sports drink after the sugary taste of traditional sports drinks started to disgust me. Carried premeasured powder packs during my ultra and mixed with water at aid stations.

    • Nicole, I’ve never experimented much with the serious sports drinks like HEED and the Hammer Nutrition products. But I definitely know the feeling of being disgusted by the taste of traditional drinks after lots of miles. Maybe I’ll experiment with HEED during my last few remaining long runs to know that I have a good alternative if Gatorade gets gross.

      A lot of people like Perpetuem too, know anything about that one?

      • I swear by Perpetuem, Matt, and it’s even vegan friendly. I’ve used it on 150-170 mile cross-state rides, and consistently during most of my 50ks and the one 50mi ultra I’ve done. For me the mix of protein and carbs seemed to work wonders, and the idea of less muscle cannibalization seemed to hold true. As long as you can get pass the fruity / chalky flavor… ;-)

        • Jamie Ulloa says:

          FYI…Perpetuem made me terribly thirsty. I now use VegaSport electrolyte, dates, baked sweet potatoes, boiler potatoes cooked with coconut oil and either onion soup mix or taco seasoning, and a MetaSalt tablet every 30 minutes in hotter weather. I’m training for Ironman Lake Tahoe, btw.

          Good luck on the 100, Matt! Love your posts and info!!

      • I’ve read some good stuff about Perpetuem while researching HEED, but I haven’t actually tried it (my trainer just told me to stick with the HEED). I personally used mini Larabars for protein, and that worked well.

      • I used Perpetuem on a 250 mile canoe race as a go to supplement. That and blue gatorade with potassium salt added in ended up being the only thing I could stomach and kept me going strong till my partner gave up after mile 100. The trick is to mix it with cold water and drink it quickly. It’ll sour after a while in the hot sun.

  8. I’m training for my first marathon in October am enjoying your posts. Thanks for the tips! Heat has been tough for me living in a super humid climate so I appreciate the cooling bandana idea. Love the vegan recipes too.

  9. “I can only assume that drinking more than you can process results in peeing it out”

    Drinking more than you can process does not just result in increased urination, because your kidneys also can only process so much at a time. You run the risk of over hydration, where fluid ends up in other tissues, resulting in things like swollen feet/ankles, and you also risk hyponatremia (not enough salt) through over dilution. At worst this can be deadly, and at the very best, severely unpleasant. Don’t try to drink more than a liter of water in an hour for a few hours in a row, especially if you have no added electrolytes.

    • Thank you Lynn. I’ve looked into this a lot in the past two days since people suggested Waterlogged, and yeah, it seems like drinking too much is worse (or at least, easier to do during an ultra) than not drinking enough. As I wrote in the electrolyte section, I’d certainly be supplementing with sodium if I were going to drink to a schedule, but even with sufficient electrolytes to avoid hyponatremia, it sounds like there are bad things that can happen from overhydrating.

  10. Samantha says:

    Super helpful tips even for me…just a regular marathoner :). Best wishes for your race really rooting for you!

  11. Very useful article! I’m currently preparing for my first ever race that is scheduled a couple of months from now. I plan to run 21K and I hope I will be able to reach the finish line without any injury.

  12. How exciting!! Can’t wait to read the race report. I know you think they’re boring but I’d love to read about this race.

  13. Hey Matt. Great job on your training. HEED works great. I just finished the Chattanooga 3 Day Staged Race and used HEED the entire event. It worked great in the heat and the taste is tolerable. As for the Hokas, I agree they feel great on your feet and legs, but beware if you are planning on running on technical trails. I love my Hokas for flat trails, but twisted my ankle in three separate races. The cushioning sometimes gives you a false sense of float.

    Good luck on your 100!

    • Joe, I’m going to try HEED, for the reasons you and someone else mentioned — taste, mainly. Have you tried Perpetuem? It doesn’t seem so healthy with the soy protein isolate, but for as infrequently as I do an event like this, I’m fine with that.

      And yeah, I’ve noticed the instability of the Hokas due to the thicker sole. A few times, even on roads that are slanted, I’ve felt my ankle start to go and I have to catch it. I think I’m just used to minimalist shoes. But I’ll have another shoe for technical trail sections.

  14. Nice post and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I will chime in with Steve above- have a read of Waterlogged, you will be surprised as to what the available ‘science’ says at this juncture. I put ‘science’ in this case in a different category from ‘hard’ science (physics, chemistry, etc.) because the data are so diffuse and although correlations are tempting, causation is rarely identified- at least to the standards that ‘hard’ science expects. Given that caveat, Waterlogged is a great source of information. If you are not up to reading 350 pages of rather dense (but well written) technical data description and analysis, then Joe Uhan’s summaries on iRunFar are a good summary (http://www.irunfar.com/2012/07/waterlogged-a-dogma-shattering-book.html) and (http://www.irunfar.com/2012/08/waterlogged-part-ii-trials-questions-and-suggestions-regarding-hydration-and-ultramarathons.html). The data on dehydration suggest that for optimal performance an endpoint dehydration level of about 3-4% is typical. The salt issue is quite the conundrum, but unlike water, too much salt is not likely to have adverse effects.

    As far as finishing BR- if this guy can do it so can you!! I really like this video as it is a raw, unpolished chronicle of a first 100. A lot of other such media have too much pain edited out.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZQ30o83TYw

    Good luck at BR!

    • Le Manchot, thank you for posting this. I read both articles (and watched that guy’s BR movie!), and they’ve made me rethink a lot about hydration and sodium (well, not the movie, but I enjoyed it for the reasons you mentioned).

      An interesting point I realized about hydration is that I haven’t actually been drinking to a schedule. I’ve been drinking roughly the amounts I listed, but that’s not really on purpose; it just seems to be the rate at which I naturally drink in these temperatures. But, and this is important, one of the articles points out that simply by carrying a bottle in your hand, you’re likely to drink more than you would if you were truly drinking “to thirst,” just because it’s there.

      So I bet I could drink less than I do and be alright, or better. I’m going to pay a lot of attention to thirst during my remaining long runs. My big concern is that I’m never thirsty for the first two hours or so of an easy run, and it seems like I’d be encouraging a hydration deficit from the beginning if I didn’t drink anything … but I know Waterlogged says otherwise.

      I read the 3-4% figure in one of those articles — do you know how that’s calculated? Does that mean 3-4% of total bodyweight lost from dehydration? That would seem like a sensible amount of weight to lose in a 50 or 100. Or is there some “100% hydrated” level of water your body can hold, of which they’re talking about losing 3-4% of that?

      Thanks again for your advice.

  15. Good points. I have run quite a few ultras, and it looks like you are on track for a successful finish. Have fun.

  16. I am super curious about the logistics of your training runs… So you are doing 5k loops and just leaving your food and extra water there? Or are you running with any of this on your body?

    Good luck! Your posts are inspiring.

    • Hey Abby. The 12-hour race was what you described — 5K loops, and each loop I went to my little station and ate or changed socks or whatever else. There was also an aid station midway through the loop, where I refilled my bottle a few times. For other runs, like the 50K, I usually return to my car (if I’m at a trail) or house every 5-7 miles. Sometimes I go for longer stretches without a stop, but not usually. A gap like that requires me to carry a handheld bottle if it’s really hot and the run is long, and I carry a few dates on me at a time. Other than that, I don’t like to carry much besides my iPod.

  17. The heat is what I would be most worried about for the 100. If it’s 95+ it’ll be brutal after a dozen hours. Once it cools it will feel awesome though!

  18. Good luck on your first 100! Im a new reader and love the website :) im also a vegan ultra runner so I know how challenging it can be. It sounds like you are well prepared for your hundo! Have fun :)

  19. Hi Matt,

    I’d take those Hokas with a pinch of salt (if you’ll excuse the pun.) I suffered some really nasty connective tissue problems in my heels pretty certainly as a result of training big distances in the big sponges. That doesn’t mean you will of course. Like you I’d noticed a few ultra-runners wearing them. It’s interesting though that the real professionals tend to go the other way. I’m recently running in Salomon for trails – solid ground feel, excellent traction without lugs and perfectly responsive cushion without mucking around with the way your foot and legs are meant to work. That’ll be why the extraordinary Kilian Jornet wears them (Salomon S-Lab Ultra) and indeed had a big hand in designing them.
    I’ve ended up making my own power bars and cutting them up into chunks for the long runs, Mainly medjool but mixed with things like nuts, seeds, a little fresh fruit, sea salt, oats and whatnot. Delicious which gives you a lift with or without the calories and minerals…! Good luck with that 100 and go vegans go!

  20. Hi Matt, congrats on nearing your taper.

    For hydration during an ultra, especially when it’s hot, I really recommend drinking early and often. I typically don’t feel like drinking in the first few hours of my races, but if I don’t drink during that time, cramps and other dehydration issues really hit me by the end of the third hour. I found it useful to stick to a schedule in the first few hours and then drink when I’m thirsty after that. Of course everyone is different so follow what you’re comfortable with.

    An ultramarathoner friend recently suggested a mix of maltodextrin (Now Foods Carbo Gain) and electrolyte (First Endurance’s EFS which has one of the highest sodium contents on the market.) The malto is a great slow burning fuel and the EFS replenishes the salts. The mixture is a bit thick and salty at first, but helped fuel me through my first 50 miler this year (in 95 degree heat btw – ice in the hat is definitely helpful).

    Good luck on BR.

  21. I am not sure that weighing yourself before and after a run is a good measure of sweat loss. I have read in a few articles that using depleting glyogen stores will result in a 4lb weight loss. I think perhaps weighing yourself after 2 hrs of running and then again after 3 hours would be a better method to determine sweat rate.

    I too am loving my new Hoka’s. I went minimalist about a year ago and ended up with several injuries. Running in the Hoka’s definitely seems to make the legs less tired the next day.

  22. Cathy Fieseler says:

    Losing some weight should occur when running. Each gram of glycogen (storage form of carbohydrates) stored in the body is accompanied by 3-4 grams of water. This water will be used as the glycogen is burned and is considered metabolic waste. Losing a small percentage of your starting weight is expected.
    Hyponatremia (low sodium level) is often do to dilution from overhydration, diluting the sodium in the body. Some people excrete the excess amounts of fluid ingested, while others don’t. The latter group gets into trouble if the sodium levels drop significantly. One of the early signs of this problem is swelling – not just the fingers, but wrist band and socks will become tight. Ingest salt and cut back on fluids (sucking on ice helps with dry mouth) should result in urination within a short period of time.
    During ultras, it can get easy to suck down a lot of fluid when you’re moving slowly for prolonged stretches or due to dry mouth from sucking wind on climbs (lots of short climbs at BR). Watch for the swelling and ingest some salt and you should be fine.
    I am a big fan of Hammer products. Due to lack of crew at races, I use the Perpetuem solids, Heed and Endurolyte fizz. Perpetuem doesn’t stay in solution well for more than a few hours. I’ve used the mix on some training runs and like it.
    Good luck at BR100.

  23. Thanks a lot for posting this review! Got some additional hints about sodium, will keep it in mind at my 7hrs bike ride coming up! You are an inspiration!

  24. Matt,

    I just want to tell you that I’m pulling for you, and I’m confident that you can accomplish your goal! I wish you all the best in this challenge, and I look forward to hearing your results.

  25. I know I’m late to the game, but one thing I was really intrigued by was the thought of knowing how much water weight you lose with each hour of running…so, thanks for putting that in my head, Matt. I’ve been around running for a lot of years, and been coaching for a couple, and that had never even entered my mind.

  26. Matt,
    Not sure if you’ve heard of Tailwind nutrition http://www.tailwindnutrition.com/
    I just ordered their challenge pack. I’ve only tried it for a few times (2:15h run the longest) but I’ve got friends that have tried it for a 50k training run and loved it. They supplemented with a bit of extra calories. All the reviews I’ve read have rated it very highly.

  27. Kevin D. says:

    Great article Matt! And it’s particularly timely as well since I’m smack in the middle of training for my first ultra (North Face Endurance Challenge Madison 50 miler). Not as brave as you as this will probably be my ‘one-and-done’ ultra. But I too was looking to tweak my on-the-run nutrition to get away from the GU packs and Gatorade as it concerned me how I’d feel sucking on these 30-40 miles into a race. So I borrowed a page out of your book on my last 20 miler and cooked up somepotatoes (diced) and then mixed them with olive oil and sea salt (what I did for Ironman bike) and placed them in 2 ziploc bags. When it came time I just bit the corner off the bag and squeezed the mixture into my mouth playdough-style. I also took 10 dates and ate one every other mile. They worked great as far as not upsetting my stomach. I also used coconut water/honey/salt/green tea as my hydration. Just a few questions for you: What did you do for nutrition for your past 50 milers? And if you were doing the “real food” thing for these races, where on earth do you keep it all until you are ready for it (the nice thing about GUs is their portability)? Did you utilize your drop bag to keep extra fuel? Thanks!

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