March 5, 2018

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One of the challenges a distance runner faces is not to run out of fuel during a race. Most of us can run for 1.5 hours without the need for water or nutrients; you just run. However, when it comes to a race, you sweat more, you burn more and it is like turning a 4 cylinder car into a V8; before you know it you run out of fuel and you may come to a grinding halt.

This little section shares some knowledge about making it through a race with enough fuel. Commonly, you need to be fuelled up before the race, you need to take in water, electrolytes and fuel during the race, and you need refuel afterwards, because you cannot replace during the race 100% of what you use.

What and how much you need depends on the length of the race and conditions such as humidity and temperature and of course it depends on the person, how they are physically and what they prefer.

Before a race you need to be properly hydrated and fuelled up. If it is a very long race, you may eat some extra carbs or take in some extra electrolytes in the days leading up to the race. It is not only the fuel that keeps you going, the electrolytes keep your muscles firing and may avoid cramps.

During the race, you may have to carry your own water and fuel to meet their own demands. At many longer races there are aid stations that are stocked with general supplies such as water, electrolyte / sports drink, fruit and / or lollies. However, it is handy to carry foods/nutrition that you know you can stomach. At ultras there is often the opportunity to have someone at the aid station to hand you the fuels that you like and the aid stations usually have a greater variety of foods and nutrition, including, fruit cake, cola and potatoes! Many races also have sponsored items such as gels at aid stations and if that is the case, try the brand during your training runs, so that you know that your stomach agrees with them. This is a basic part of your preparation.

When you plan, you need to know how long the race is, where the aid stations are, what these aid stations stock and if you are allowed to drop supplies there, or have someone/crew to help you. You need to work out what your fuel needs are per hour and if it is a long race, make sure you start refuelling right from the start, keeping in mind that with the longer races your body will be under considerable stress by which the digestive system may not work optimally.This is where some of the so called ‘sports nutrition’ may come in handy, as it is often easy to carry and digest.

The refuelling part of the race is usually the most fun part of the plan. Many runners have their own special drinks and foods for after a race, particularly if it is an ultra, but this is usually complemented by fruit, cakes and a barbeque or morning tea at the finish line.

Article written by Hube Wichers, president of Trail Running Association of Queensland and World Mountain Running representative amongst many other running accomplishments. Hube is heavily involved within the running community here in Brisbane and is a wealth of information and advice for anyone out there at any level.