If you have missed the previous posts about UTMB preparation here are the links: Part 1 – Training Volume & Intensity, Part 2 – Nutrition. This week I want to explain and clarify the issues that relate to the gear that is needed for participating in the UTMB. For US-based ultra runners, this is subject to much torture because in the US I have yet to see an event that has a mandatory gear list. It stems probably from the fact that in the US no one cares if you die on the mountain in severe weather and also reflects cultural attitudes: in the US you’re on your own! In contrast, the UTMB organizers provide a list of clothing and safety items that participants have to carry – the bags are checked when bibs are handed out (a couple of hours before the race) and random checks can occur on the course. It’s a lot of gear to carry for a ‘running race – this sounds more like a fastpacking list. And it took quite some time and research to assemble most of the items. Please note that the list doesn’t include a backpack! I’ve had a great experience with the Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 Set so I got a Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 to fit all the gear that I need to take with me. On long runs carrying the UTMB gear the pack weights about 8 to 9lbs.
Over the years I have developed a nutrition strategy that supports the muscular and systemic training load. This can be broken down into three different components: routine nutrition, effort nutrition, and recovery nutrition. Routine nutrition is concerned with daily food intake (meals, snacks, hydration, supplements), effort nutrition is implemented during long runs and races (fuel, supplements, and hydration) and recovery nutrition comes into play when effort has stopped and the body needs to repair and regenerate. One thing to remember is that there are no hard rules here. Nutrition needs to be tailored to genetic make-up, athletic level, and circumstances. In other words my nutrition strategy is only specific to me but I do hope that the following points can help inspire many ultra athletes design their own strategy.
The most striking quality of what I eat on a daily basis is that it is made of organic, non-GMO and non-processed foods. That’s it! That is where the dogma stops. This personal guideline is not only important for ultra-endurance performance but also for a healthy lifestyle. Our ecosystem has worked for thousands of years to provide us with nourishment and medicine. What about sweets then? Although I love to make desserts I limit my consumption of processed sugar to a minimum (maybe 3 times a week). I tend to not understand when I hear runners at all levels think that because they are active they can just eat what the hell they want! The human body and spirit is both strong and susceptible to toxins. Typically I eat lean proteins and vegetables and a huge amount of fruits. I have the meat usually come from Niman’s Ranch (delivery through Spud) and the veggies and fruits delivered by Farm Fresh. My lunch typically is a huge salad and I add carbs with Udi’s bread (I don’t consider myself gluten intolerant but I feel better when I avoid it). For pasta, I have been very happy with quinoa pasta.
Last Friday I was filling the bladder in my Salomon pack and upon connecting the hose I realized it was leaking! Leaking fast! No 44 miles run over Griffith with no water in the pack (temp in the low 80s)… I found that the O-ring on the connector had gone (see picture). Luckily I also own an S-Lab 12 and I took the O-ring from there and the leak was fixed at least for the day’s run.
But I wasn’t totally happy. I usually don’t disconnect the valve during an event or long run, however, I could have been somewhere without access to a second o-ring… and it’s not like we have a lot of clear streams in these parts.
The day after the run I went to the local hardware store and bought a bunch of O-rings but they proved to be too large. I tried to boil them, pass a heat gun on them to no avail. Finally, I ordered a huge set of Buna-N O-Rings (how does that sound?) on Amazon and now I have a bunch of spares to have as a back-up. And tons of O-rings! The full bladder has passed a 24-hour leak test. Now hopefully it won’t leak while running.
I haven’t taken the time to contact Salomon – I will do so soon to test their customer service! I have to mention that I have been extremely happy with this pack. This is why I have purchased the S-Lab 12 for the UTMB. The packs are light and the pockets are well thought of. The bladder is really easy to have filled at aid stations.