Recently James Elson and I ran 360km across Iceland over 7 days. It was great fun, even if the weather was atrocious, but we had to make sure we were eating the right foods to get us across in one piece.
Renee McGregor provided us with some great advice before we left and here are the five top tips I picked up from Renee and the adventure itself. We had the fortune to have two friends filming/supporting us along the way so weight of food was less of an issue but I’ll take it into account we don’t all have those luxuries. I usually don’t.
Think recovery. It isn’t just about having enough energy to keep putting one foot in front of the other, your body needs to recover between each effort and have the nutrients and fuel to do so. Renee wanted us to focus on a good level of protein each day and enough carbohydrates to keep the glycogen stores topped up. I ate an awful lot of Chia Charge Protein bars, during and after running each day. They were my go to snack when I was thinking of recovery
Think light or think calorifically dense. At university I used to check which foods had the best calorie/pence ratio to make sure I had plenty of money left for going on nights out, now I look at the calorie/gram ratio instead.
Coconut and Cashew Butter Coconut and Cashew Butter > 6 calories / gram
It’s a very simple way of looking at things and you don’t just want to take fat dense foods for the whole trip, 1kg of butter a day is no good to anyone. Dried fruits, nuts and freeze dried meals like Trek'N Eat are great value for the weight they are.
Have some treats. Having the most nutritionally balanced food in the world is great but does it really float your boat? After hours on our feet each day, with wind, hail and snow battering us, it was the treats we loved that gave an emotional, as well as nutritional boost. I nailed some sour sweets and James chowed down on Mars Bas.
Eat regularly, when you are running and when you are resting. Throughout the day James and I ate steadily. I chowed down Honey Trail Mix & Protein bars, as well as some Mulberries from Tribe. James used his tried and testing Gu gel method (If you know it works then stick to it) but also enjoyed a few Chia Charge bars to mix things up and get something more real in.
In the evenings we supplemented our evening freeze dried meals, Chana Masala my favourite, with regular snacks to make sure our bodies had the tools to repair and replenish of the next day. I may have eaten CC Nut butter by the spoonful. Well, tubful.
Start the day well. James had Trek and Eat Muesli, I had Gluten Free Porridge but both of us chucked in CC nut butter to get extra protein into the mix. If you start the day right, get some good miles in your pocket before lunchtime, then every day can be good fun. We didn’t want to be pushing to reach our finish each day in the dark so working hard early, with a good breakfast, made sure of this.
If you are lucky enough to have friends travelling with us it’s important to look after them too. Dan and Iain made the trip possible and I can’t wait to see the film. We kept them fed on CC bars too, because they needed a steady release of energy too, waiting for two little chaps to run into shot.
All in all it was a great trip and we both felt strong enough on the final day to trot 99km to the finish. This was down to both of us pacing well and understanding our own capabilities, something that comes from a lot of experience, but also from making sure we were well fed and ready to move when we needed to. An army marches on it’s stomach, but two ultra runners run across countries on theirs.
Thanks to Chia Charge for providing us with a good source of nutrition for our trip but don’t see this as some empty blog to promote CC because we got free food. I approached Tim because Renee and I knew it was just the kind of food that would see us through the challenge and it must have worked, check out James’ effort at the Autumn 100 just afterwards. Nice work Jim.