In no uncertain terms, the ‘food’ that is offered to athletes giving their heart and soul to an ultra race is, unfortunately the same as, if not worse, as what is offered to athletes during an ironman triathlon..
I say this from first hand experience; while I’ve only run 50 milers, my husband has run many ultras including the (infamous?) Western States 100 as well as the Angeles Crest 100. So I, you see, have quite a bit of experience being the Paleo-Sherpa-Crew for my beloved. He has trained and raced Paleo throughout all of it, but some of the fare I’ve witnessed other athletes eating is appalling.
Let me state up front for clarity that the two – ultra running and ironman triathlon- are very different beasts. The former, from my own observations, tend to be significantly less known about, less participated in and as such, there’s simply far less (to no) funding available for small details like food. Often, the kind hearted volunteers at (sometimes make shift ) aid stations supply what they suppose the runners would want, and often, they’re dead on accurate.
I’ve seen runners who are taxing their bodies to do the ultimate stop at aid stations and grab a little bit of this and a little bit of that…and sadly, sometimes none of it is not only not food, they’re sometimes things that will end up costing the athletes a great price in the form of GI distress, dehydration and nausea.
M&Ms and Skittles candies, all kinds of grain-based chips as well as hydrogenated potato chips, cookies and bagels, Goldfish crackers and, yes, even chocolate milk are just some of the options that athletes can partake in.
This post is not meant to be a diatribe against ultra running eating. As I’ve often posted my frustration with the silly messages that triathlon organizations send out about how Paleo cannot support endurance training, there’s no parallel governing body within ultra running as far as I’m aware.
That in itself is a quality I always found rather appealing. The sense was more such that there’s a group of people who just like to run… and run very far.
So this post, rather, is just hopefully a simple eye- opener for anyone who is an ultra runner, or any kind of a runner for that matter, that if you’re eating those things during your race, or any time, you’re not doing anything to help your performance, and you’re probably hindering it, in actuality.
We found food like yams with salt and sliced turkey, ripe banana made into a smoothie with egg, electryolyte tablets, some black coffee, plenty of water, both plain and coconut, were far more suitable to support any food needs my husband had, all of which allowed him to finish without any stomach distress to speak of whatsoever.
At the end of Western States, he mentioned he’d rolled and sprained his ankle at mile five but kept running for 95 miles, but that’s a story for another blog topic…