The toughest pre-race prep for the Open24 turned out to be figuring out what food to bring along.
In a perfect world, at each checkpoint I would have support there to provide the best possible nutrition plan for me. In that case, I would choose to eat/drink cold banana smoothies, which in a warm race would provide hydration, nutrition, and a cooling effect. With a scoop of cocoa powder mixed in for taste and a hit of caffeine, they go down quite easily. Plus, bananas have a perfect mix of carbs, protein, and fat, and digest quickly to get energy back to working muscles.
Obviously, support wasn't allowed on this race, so I had to bring along foods that were easily portable, lightweight, fun to eat, and quick to digest. Some of those requirement are mutually exclusive, as I found that moist foods, which are naturally heavier, were much easier and quick to eat. This wasn't too much of a problem as we had multiple chances to resupply and never had to carry too much food weight.
Here's what I actually ate during the Open24:
3 Bananas: 180 Calories
1 Gel: 90 Calories
1 Snickers Bar: 300 Calories
2 Bottles of Coke: 400 Calories
6 Fig Newtons: 300 Calories (these were incredibly dry to eat)
2 Handfuls of Pringles: 300 Calories
1 Bag M'n'M's: 400 Calories
1 Bag Jelly Beans: 300 Calories
1 Bag Malt Balls: 150 Calories
1 Bag Ginger Snap Cookies: 200 Calories
4 Scoops Carbo-Pro (carb drink powder): 450 Calories
6 Nuun Electrolite Tables: 0 Calories
3 Flour Tortillas w/Cheese slices: 600 Calories
Total: 3,670 Calories
That works out to about 150 calories per hour, which is much less than I thought I would be eating, given that I had planned on 200-300 calories per hour. I had brought almost 8700 calories with me for the race, spread out through my backpack and kit bags.
The minimal eating was probably due to the high temperatures, dehydration, and the quick tempo that my teammate and I kept up for the whole 24 hours. Plus, we actually ran out of water during a trekking section, and although we were hungry at the time, we actually stopped eating until we found another water source, and then started eating and drinking again. Eating without water would have made us more dehydrated.
|Photo courtesy of James Kirby and Open Adventure|
Caloric needs for such a fast-paced 24 hour race probably range from 12,000 - 20,000 calories depending on the athlete and relative speed. Obviously 3,670 calories is not enough, yet a good percentage of expended calories came from stored fat, as our pace was more for endurance in each discipline rather than sprinting speed. We did tend to eat a few bites of food a few times an hour, which kept our energy levels up, and we never felt like we were bonking.
In talking with other competitors after the race, no one seemed to eat as much as they expected or as much as they had brought. Most comments reflected the heat and dehydration as a major factor.
This race was preparation for the longer Adidas TERREX "Sting in Sterling" Expedition Race in August 2012. Although I made it through the 24 hour race with minimal caloric intake, I don't think that I could continue to function for 5-6 days of racing without considerably increasing total daily calories. As the pace on a longer race is considerably slower, stomach digestion is actually quicker, allowing for greater intake of food, electolytes and water. However, the longer race means that we will probably be carrying more food with us with longer stretches between resupplies. Now the question remains about what lightweight, easily digestible foods I can bring that are still palatable and appetizing.
|Jon and I on Pinnacle Ridge -Photo courtesy of James Kirby and Open Adventure|