Last year, I completed the trail system solo, and this year, I wanted to do it in the good company of my fellow badass running women! Read about my solo adventure here.
On this particular morning, it was 38 degrees, windy and rainy, a typical southwestern Pennsylvania autumn. The trail consisted of three inches of standing water at the parking lot, and we tramped through puddle after puddle after mud pit. As the hours flew by, the temperatures crept into the 40s, the sun was shining, the rain had ceased, and our soaking wet shoes were, well, still sopping!
What should have been a 14.5-mile section of trail turned into 17 miles because I had forgotten my vehicle keys, which we needed for my van at the finish, after completing the point-to-point run. Luckily, I had remembered only 1.25 miles into the run. Still, we added on enough mileage to turn it into a 17-mile run, making it the longest run we had ever done together. High five to Team Trail Run Tribe!
So, there we were, having to do 17 miles, with nothing but positive attitudes and can-do spirits! We were there to do something, and to do it with SMILES.
For now, let's focus on what I ate during a five-hour trail run, which looked like this: 17-miles, 2,500 foot of elevation gain, 17:18 per mile pace and actual duration of 4:54 (almost five hours!). Sometimes I like to run for DURATION, in the old school fashion, rather than mileage. The Hal Higdon 50K training plan that I used earlier this year had scheduled runs based on hours rather than miles.
Roadies, you might ask, why was the run so slow and long? Trail runners, you already know :)
Several reasons. Trails have obstacles. Such as downed trees (we climbed over and around five), narrow, slippery foot bridges (we crossed about 15), steep, muddy slopes, beautiful scenery to distract us (did you see the photos above?!) and a group of women whose mindset was not to run fast, even though each of us is capable of placing in races, setting PR's, winning races and running fast :)
With long and slow in mind, my fuel plan revolved around three things: one, I eat less food on colder runs; two, I eat more on trail than road because of the climbing and duration; and three, it has been proven that a typical person burns all their stored glycogen after about 15 miles of running, or two to three hours of endurance activity, so I did not bring some of my long-run favorites, such as nut butters or vegan bars.
To get things off to a good start and give myself a solid base for the day, I ate a warm, hearty breakfast. I know from experience that beginning with a solid foundation sustains me well. When I start with abundant stores, I only need to eat my favorite simple-sugar snacks throughout the run and refuel with vegetables and protein. Despite adding on MORE TIME of running, my plan went accordingly. Note, this is not how I would eat during a trail race, when my pace ranges from eight to 12 minute miles.
Below is the breakdown of how I ate to run over the rugged, beautiful, soul-healing single-track trail.
Two hours into the run: Around this time, I began sipping from the extendable tube flasks in my hydration pack, the Nathan Vapor Howe. One flask held Skratch Fuel Matcha Green Tea and Lemon drink mix and the other held water and Hyper-Lyte, a concentrated sea salt mix. In my 1.5-liter bladder on the back of the Vapor Howe was plain water.
2.5 hours into the run: I ate a handful of Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans (purchased from T.J. Maxx) and one square of Organic Dark Chocolate (purchased from Kroger). My thinking here was that I replaced the normal caffeine pills that runners pop with real food, one that tasted really yummy :)
3.5 hours into the run: I ate another handful of Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans and another square of Organic Dark Chocolate.
4.5 hours into the run: By this time, the two 12-ounce flasks were empty. I had one more handful (around five) of the espresso beans.
A NOTE ABOUT CAFFEINE: Some runners do not do well with caffeine and save it for races only. It can distress the digestive system. My body reacts both ways. If I am well-rested, I forgo caffeine. Yet, on this day, I had woken up at 3 a.m., my 18-month-old son had nursed every hour throughout the night, and I was just SPENT. So, I did not hesitate to grab those espresso beans! Yet, after the first handful, I was indeed searching for a bathroom. Luckily, a Port-a-John before the Turnpike bridge happened to be my saving grace! Thank you, Rachel, for capturing the moment - HA! I recommend starting small - do not eat espresso beans in your first race or during a remote long run as your only fuel source, if you do not know how your body reacts to them. As with everything, experiment and do your research.
Here's what I ordered and ate: From the Smoked Salmon Platter, I ate four raw radishes, cucumber slices and four ounces of smoked salmon. In my House Smoked Salmon Salad, I had cherry tomatoes, dried cranberries, spinach, sauteed Portabella mushrooms, eight ounces of smoked salmon, balsamic vinaigrette and a whole avocado, which I had packed and brought with me.
There you have it, folks! Another running/food adventure in the books!
Have you seen my previous Real Food blog posts?
The Real Food I Ate Before, During & After a 12.25-Mile Trail Run
The Real Food I Ate Before, During & After a 16.3-Mile Trail Run
The Real Food I Ate Before, During & After a 20-Mile Run on Dirt Roads & Pavement
The Real Food I Ate Before & During the Kanawha Trace 50K Trail Race
Runners, I hope you find enjoyment in your fueling and lean more toward real food than gels. May your electrolyte replacers be natural and your belly be comfortable!
Until next time, keep smiling, happy runners :)