A More Efficient Ultra

21 Dec

During our last race (read more about it here) I learned some very valuable things that I plan to integrate into future races. Most of these are logistical things, but there are also a few non-physical things as well, and hopefully there is a take-away message for both those of you looking to do your first ultra, or make your next ultra a more pleasant experience.

These tips are generally geared toward a multi-loop course where you have access to your gear at the end of each loop of, say, 20-30k (12-18mi).

What We did RIGHT

First, there are a few things that we did RIGHT, that I will continue to do in the future.

  • Arrive EARLY. Getting to the race with plenty of time allowed us time to use the bathroom, set up our stuff, and perform those last minute checks. This really helps reduce the anxiety level on race morning, especially if you don’t have a crew with you.
  • Start hydrating the DAY BEFORE. We started drinking electrolyte drinks the afternoon before the race, to make sure that we were as loaded up as possible before starting. There is conflicting research about whether or not this helps, but I am not aware of anything saying that this could hinder performance.
  • Eat solid food early in the race. We both started eating ‘real food’ early in our race. Lucy and I particularly like Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars!
  • Bring a blanket or Towel to lay out gear and supplies to make stops faster.
  • Use plastic baggies and Eagle Creek packing bags to keep things organized and easy to access when we need them.

What We Learned/Need

  • HEADLAMP — Always check the race time and conditions before heading to the start line. We should have known that we would probably need some type of lighting! Next race, I will be sure to have a decent headlamp and flashlight handy in my race-day bag.
  • GRAB-AND-GO BAG — One of the things that really slows me down is deciding what I want to take with me on every lap, and then finding what I’m looking for… I usually organize gels and food by type, and that way I can grab whatever I want. But, this gets harder as the race goes on, and the brain gets more and more tired. Next race, I am going to pack a baggie with enough fuel for one lap, plus some extras of each type/flavor. This way all I have to do is ditch what I don’t need, and take the whole thing with me. Hopefully this will save us a lot of time and fumbling in transition.
  • CHAIR — Man, sitting on the ground to change socks or shoes can be a real drag when your knees/quads are shot. Having a place to sit goes a long way! In the past, I have had supporters that had chairs but in this past race where we were on our own, there was no place to sit!

What We’re Eating

I will preface this by saying that Lucy and I aren’t affiliated with any specific brands, however, people often ask us what we eat, drink, use on the run, so I wanted to share what’s working for us! If you have any questions or suggestions, please let us know in the comments.

Energy Gel-ish Things:

  • Clif Shot Energy Gel has been working well for us. I particularly like the Double Espresso, Citrus, and Mocha flavors. Although, I find that the Double Espresso can really give you the jitters after a while, so I try to keep an eye on how many of those I’m taking! I also tend to have a few Vanilla ones on hand, as they are the most neutral tasting of the bunch.
  • Shot Bloks are also a good staple, and I really like the Margarita and Razz ones. I should say that Lucy is not a fan of these! She says they are too chewy.
  • Honey Stinger Chews are really tasty, and can be used in-between gels when you need a boost. I have had success having gels on 40-minute intervals, and eating these in-between when I really need extra fuel.

‘Real’ Food:

  • Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars -  I can’t say enough about these things. I eat them almost daily as a snack, but they are great fuel on the run. These keep me going when I don’t feel like eating anything else. They are really tasty, and don’t cause any stomach problems for either of us. It’s always good to be able to eat something that is actually healthy while running, instead of relying on junk food.
  • Happy Herbert’s Kamut Pretzels Love ‘em. Another one of those things that we eat all the time that also translates well into ultra fuel. Super crunchy, and not too bready like regular pretzels. Not hard to eat when your mouth is dry!


  • Nuun tabs. I had not tried it before this last race, but I experimented with throwing a couple of these guys into my hydration pack. I think it was a great decision. While it can be a little strange at first having a slightly flavored water, it adds extra electrolytes, which I really need. Of course, the nice thing about this, is since there are no calories, you can just use it as you would normal water and still take gels or whatever else you are using for fuel.
  • Endurolytes We have a couple of these about every 20 minutes, and they really help keep the salt levels up on a really hot day. I’ve never had any stomach issues, and I don’t know anyone that has. One thing I learned is that I need to just start with these at the beginning of the race, and keep intake on a regular schedule, as opposed until waiting until later. By the time you think you need them, it’s already too late!

What are you using for fuel/hydration? What has helped you get ready for races/long runs? Tell us below!


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One Response to “A More Efficient Ultra”


  1. » Texas Trails Endurance Runs 50 mile Team Shiba Blog - December 24, 2012

    [...] put in a forthcoming blog post. I think it could be helpful information for everyone! EDIT: See THIS POST for some great tips on race fueling, and [...]

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