Nutrition Training

Multi-day racing: choosing your food

Wow, has it been ages since I’ve written on this blog! I would like to say that I just lost track of time, but my sister has kindly provided me with bi-weekly reminders that I’ve been dropping the ball. I know that you, like my sister, have felt this gaping hole in your heart as a result of my absence from the blogosphere… So in order to appease my fans (aka my sister, with the recent addition of my mom), I will be providing a six week countdown to my next race: Racing the Planet’s 250 km self-supported footrace in the Australian Outback!

The biggest challenge I faced this week in my training did not, in fact, have anything to do with running. In preparing for a self-supported footrace, one of the most important things you have to do is organize what you are going to eat during the competition! Sounds easy, right? The more the better? Well, that sounds like a great plan only until you realize that you have to carry everything on your back…

When I entered my first self-supported footrace in 2008 (Racing the Planet: Vietnam), I attacked the food problem with all the type-A, intellectual geekness I could muster.  I took every bit of knowledge I had acquired in my adolescence from reading Cosmopolitan and Seventeen magazines about how to pick low-calorie foods and went scouring through the grocery store aisles for the most calorie-dense foods possible. I collected pepperoni sticks, gels, chips (crisps for you brits out there…french fries just don’t pack well), jelly beans, carb powders, freeze-dried meals, porridge, you name it. With all of these wonderful “bad” foods in front of me at home, it took all of my concentration not to dig in immediately and devour all of my supplies right then and there! Thankfully, I stayed on task.

I created a chart to help me figure out which foods would be best to carry for the race. Okay, stop laughing – being a geek has its benefits sometimes. I divided the total calories of each item by its weight in grams so that I could compare the items by their calorie:weight ratio and see which foods were the most calorie dense. It was actually pretty interesting. The gels and gus that most runners use during a marathon weight were actually one of the least calorie dense foods, making it an undesirable food to carry through the race. Chips made for a particularly good snack as they are calorie-dense, salty (which tastes unbelievably good after sweating for hours on end), and they can compact down really well if you crush them. Pepperoni also topped the list. I then made sure I had an appropriate mix of salty and sweet, carbs/fats/proteins, cold and hot…

Are you still with me? I told you it was an elaborate process. After doing two of these week-long races, however, I felt that I had my system pretty well sorted out. Well, this upcoming Australia race has really thrown me for a loop. Due to the extremely strict import requirements, we pretty much can’t bring in ANYTHING we need to for the race. Ack! No jerky, freeze-dried foods, nuts… the list goes on. Racing the Planet has tried to help by allowing us to order special freeze-dried meals from New Zealand and ship them directly to the hotel in Australia to collect before the race… but this still leaves us in a bit of a pickle. Normally, for my freeze-dried dinners at the end of every stage of racing, I eat Mountain House’s delicious Teriyaki Chicken. For some reason, this particular meal always appeals to me and has the perfect amount of calories. Now I will be forced to eat only from the Back Country range of meals…

I know what you’re thinking – so what? But trust me – it is a huge deal! How do I know whether or not the Thai Chicken Curry will satisfy my cravings? What if the mashed potatoes in the Roast Chicken meal make me want to vomit? EEP! For once, I wish I could just throw my type-A-ness out the window and marvel at how I have the option of enjoying a classic Indian Chicken Masala (gluten free no less) in the middle of the outback. Hmmm.

And don’t get me started on my breakfast routine….

Off to Wales for a weekend of training! Stay tuned for more updates! (I promise Kim!)

1 comment on “Multi-day racing: choosing your food

  1. Thank you. As I was doing my nightly internet "checks", I went to the various blogs I regularly follow. (Yes, I'm an addict). When it came to your turn, I almost fell off my chair to see you had updated. And lo and behold, a promise of future updates! :PI remember your stress in planning your meals for other races… I'm sure this will also pose a challenge, but your organizational 'type-A-ness' will sort it out! Looking forward to reading more. 🙂

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