Since returning from Christmas in Picardie and beginning this current block of training leading up to the Town and Tube in just two days time I have been sticking to a strict No Sugar, No Grain (NSNG) diet. After a couple of rough days and a week or more of running below my regular speed and ability, I’ve kicked into fat adapted mode and am running as strong as ever. I’ve lost some weight, gained some strength, and feel more energetic, too, all of which will help me take on the first ultra distance run of the year.
Like any ultra, nutrition and hydration are key to a successful finish. On the hydration side of things I like to keep things simple. I’ll be fuelling with water and mixing it up with electrolyte mix to make sure everything is firing the way it should be. The Camelbak should work fine for hydration though I can always switch it up to a handheld bottle for at least some of the day if I feel like the change. The advantage of the Camelbak is that I’ll be able to carry some food with me, too, instead of waiting to arrive back at the start/finish to get some calories in.
But where hydration is a known quantity for me, the food is another matter altogether. This is the first ultra distance run I will have attempted where I am deliberately going without carbohydrates or sugars as fuel, and I’m a little nervous.
It’s not that I don’t think I’ll be able to run without carbohydrates. On the contrary, I know I will run fine as I have in training generally and as I have on the longer runs I have done in this training block specifically. But I haven’t run out past the 50K distance fuelled only with fats and I’m really not sure what I am going to find. I believe that, if I keep my pace down and controlled, I should be fine and stay firmly in fat-burning territory. The sugar burning territory – higher pace, higher stress – is something I’ll be doing my best to avoid. If I am smart then I should be OK.
What’s got me a little worried, though, is having seen a couple of other NSNG ultrarunners throw it all away on race day, get lots or almost all of their race day calories from sugars and carbs, and do just fine. The question is raised, is the change in nutrition on the day helpful or does it make no real difference to the performance recorded by the runner? I would hate to be 50 or 60 kilometers into the run on Saturday and find I just needed sugar to keep going. As much as I realise the Town and Tube is just a test for me ahead of the Saint Fons 12 Hour in April, I still don’t want to record a DNF.
Worries aside, though, I’ll be doing my best to stick to the NSNG options for food. Among the foods I’ll be packing:
- Mini Babybel cheeses
- Saucisson slices and sliced deli meats
- Black olives
These should be fine for the day and though I expect to burn through 400 to 500 calories per loop for a total of 6400 to 8000 calories by the end of the run, I won’t be trying to replace all of those with food. After all, I’m believe I am fat adapted now and there is certainly a kilogram of fat on my frame that can make up any calorie deficit I might establish.
The best case scenario for me? I get through the day fine, with no energy or stomach issues, and come out the other side confident I can fuel an ultra on NSNG. If that’s the case then I’ll feel extra confident going into the Saint Fons 12 Hour and, later in the year, my A-race at the Ultratour du Leman.