Confession: Running epic ultra-marathons is my addiction. The harder the event, the more I want to run it. When I heard about how grueling a circumnavigation of Mt. Hood (Oregon) could be I instantly knew I wanted to run it. In a day. Forty miles, 10,000 feet of vertical gain, through rivers, up hillsides, through forest, mud and beach sand. What more could a girl ask for!? Hmm, feet up, vino and a magazine maybe??
I’ve been training for over a year by running ultra-marathons on some of the toughest terrain out there, so I was ready to conquer this mountain. Even though the views were spectacular and the hills awesome, I completely bombed the run and had to drop out at mile 26 (yes I know, basically a marathon). It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. One that left me sobbing on the trail, and super emotional for the next few days to follow.
But I'm a stronger and better runner (and person) for it. Here is what this failure taught me: fuel and hydration are key, no matter the difficulty of the route or how terrible you feel. Even if you aren’t an ultra-runner, use these tips to help you make it through some of those tough runs or workouts, especially in the heat and tough weather conditions marking the end of summer.
Key tips on staying fueled and hydrated:
- Consume 200 calories/hour: On a long run your body needs at least 200 calories/hour to sustain your energy.
- Mix up your food types and give your digestive system a break: I mix my calories up with GU gels, Trail Butter, pbj sandwiches, Cheetos chips and shot blocks.
- Figuring out a food combination each hour of 200 calories takes time. Find what works for you by practicing on your long runs. I find it hard to eat a pbj while I am running, but can down two while standing at an aid station. Find your mojo and stick with it. Carbo Pro or TailWind offer liquid solutions to solid calorie intake. I mix CarboPro in my hydration pack water and this helps substitute food when you go through some tough times. (I also add some lemon juice to give it some flavor. It tastes pretty nasty otherwise!)
- Drink tons of water. Most of the food you take in, needs to be processed with water. If you are battling to do this and find you are at a point you are dehydrated and not feeling so good, force yourself to have 4 big gulps of water every 15 minutes.
- S! caps: Some people swear by them, some people think they are just a placebo. I am the swear by them kinda gal… They definitely help pull me out of a funk, and I down 2 with water to get me going again. From swaying and woozy on the trail to back up and running, these guys pulled me through. Salt and electrolytes in these little tabs help replace what your body loses through sweat.
Mt Hood circumnavigation was the hardest run I've ever endured and I learned so much while doing it. I realized I still have a lot to learn on my Ultra journey, but being surrounded by my run group and learning through other strong women helps that journey go just a little bit smoother.
What challenges are you looking for or training for? I'd love some ideas. Please comment.
A big shout out thank you to Jeff Fisher for the photography! https://www.instagram.com/junebug2008/