All Things Race Prep

As my taper winds down for the Ice Age 50 Mile this weekend; I want to explain a bit about how I plan for a race. I received a few questions regarding race day nutrition, rest, etc., so I will outline what I am doing, or in some cases will do, this week as I ready myself for IA50.

Rest is always important in endurance training, but it becomes increasingly important within the last week before a race. I am no stranger to the two-a-day training schedule, but when it comes to the week before a race, I will not sacrifice a single minute of sleep for an early morning workout. I set my alarm to give me just enough time to be ready for work. I only think about running in the morning if I naturally wake up before my alarm. Any running done within a week of a race is only meant to keep my legs familiar with running; there is no added fitness benefit of training in the final week. Mileage is all relative, but as a general rule of thumb, the final week is about one-third of the mileage of the peak week. Five days before the race, I typically include one speed workout, which consists of some form of short strides/sprints to run my legs through all the gears, but this is only to keep everything running smooth.

Race-day nutrition is something I have been striving to improve. I would like to be more prepared in terms of having it all laid out well in advance so I can relax the last two days rather than scramble to get everything set. For IA this year, I get all my bottles and fuel set three days in advance.

My race-day fueling strategy is something I acclimate my body to months in advance of the race. One of the reasons I eat a high-fat diet, for example, is so that, come race day, my insulin sensitivity is really high. If you constantly bombard your system with simple carbohydrates during training; you likely will be taking away from how efficiently your body absorbs simple carbohydrates on race day (at least this is what I have observed in my own training and racing). I have talked about this in-depth in the past (here and here), so in this post I will focus on issues that come up specifically in the final week before a race.

When I am one week out, I keep carbohydrates down to approximately 20 percent or less of my total caloric intake for the first 3 to 4 days of the week. Three days out, I begin to introduce more carbohydrates into my diet, peaking at approximately 50 percent of my caloric intake. This gives my muscle glycogen a chance to build up going into the race. Personally I do this by eating potatoes and sweet potatoes or yams, still avoiding grains and especially gluten.

On race day, I start out the morning low-carb. I want to begin the race burning fat so I don’t deplete my glycogen stores in the early stages of the race. Coconut milk is something I’ve found works great, as it doesn’t leave me feeling overly full at the starting line. I also start taking Vespa before the race starts. Usually this is a Vespa Ultra Concentrate 90 minutes before the start, and maybe a Vespa Junior at the starting line. This really helps my body stay in a fat metabolizing state.

Once the race starts, I wait about 30-45 minutes before I begin to fuel. At this point, I switch to nearly exclusively carbs, Vespa, and water, this year I am going to try coconut water in some of my bottles. In terms of numbers of calories, I take in between 200 and 300 calories per hour during the race.

I try not to take in all my calories as liquid simply because the temperature greatly impacts how much liquid I consume, meaning if all my calories come in as liquid, I won't be getting enough. In practice, I get about half my calories from gels, and half from sports/energy drinks.

I take a Vespa Ultra Concentrate or Vespa Junior every 90 minutes. The Vespa helps keep me in a fat burning state, and reserve the glycogen for mental focus and unpredictable surges that will take place during the race.

I do not shy away from caffeine during the race, but I do monitor how much I take in at once. If I take a gel with 35 mg of caffeine in it, I don’t worry. I am a coffee drinker, so my body is not unfamiliar with caffeine. I strongly believe you need to experiment with this in training before trying it on race day, as caffeine can cause digestive issues if your body is not accustomed to it.