Fuel

Lots of people ask me about what I eat during ultras. Most assume I eat anything and everything that comes across my path – the vegan stuff, that is. That assumption is actually very far from the truth.

My biggest struggle during ultras isn’t the miles, it’s the nutrition. I’ve had a really hard time figuring out what I could eat or drink during a long run that would sit well in my stomach AND provide me the fuel I needed. I toyed with potato chips and M&Ms (before I was vegan), dates and almonds, GUs and Larabars. A combination of stuff would work on one run, but not another. I’d change my approach and would have success for another couple of runs but then I’d struggle again. In addition to the food I was taking, I would take S-Caps. These provided me with sodium and potassium. They worked, but I felt like I was on a roller coaster. I was a hot mess most of the time.

About a year ago I heard of a product called Tailwind. So many people were touting its benefits that I had to consider it. I heard that they would send a sample pack to new customers so I emailed them and asked. I received a response from them very quickly promising the delivery of a sample pack. Within a few days I had 5 stick packs (200 calories each) in my hand. The delivery came with a hand-written note, which was nice.

It took me a few weeks to nail down the right concentration for me, but then I figured it out: four scoops of the stuff (400 calories) mixed into my 70oz bladder was just right. Right after this revelation I injured my knee and quit running long distance for a while. I didn’t feel the need to carry anything beyond water. The large bag of Naked flavored Tailwind I bought sat in my closet, waiting to be used.

When I finally started getting high mileage in this year for Laurel I started mixing Tailwind into my bladder. Unfortunately this peak training only lasted 3 weeks, but during that time I noticed how well I was running. My energy level remained even, and I felt GREAT throughout. I didn’t have highs and lows like I used to. I didn’t feel hungry. I didn’t swell up after my runs, either. It was awesome. After my 30 mile training run I realized that Tailwind really was making a difference.

I used Tailwind as my primary fuel at Laurel with great success. I packed 5 4-scoop baggies and a 200-calorie stick pack. My crew had the 400 calorie (4 scoop) bags and I keep the stick pack in my pack. I ended up using 4 of the 400 calorie baggies and the 200 calorie stick pack. I learned that I need to finish the entire bladder and cannot “top off” a half empty bladder with plain water. I did that twice and realized that the calories and electrolytes were too low when I did it that way. As long as I was drinking that concentration (4 scoops to 70 oz water), though, I was good. I didn’t have much swelling, I wasn’t hungry, and I had a great, even energy. It was freaking awesome!

Tailwind will definitely be my fuel of choice in the future. It’s nice to get everything I need when I take a few sips from my hydration pack. I don’t have to look for a particular food when I enter an aid station, which is nice. If you find yourself craving a particular item and then can’t find it, it SUCKS. If your body needs salt but you can’t find the right salty food, you could be screwed for the next few miles or even the end of the race. It was great to enter the aid stations and just take the foods that looked good (watermelon, oranges, potatoes) rather than thinking hard about what my body NEEDED.

Overall, I’m really happy with Tailwind and what it does for me. It might not work for you, and that’s okay. There are plenty of other supplements out there that you can take to achieve your goals! In addition to really liking the actual product, I love their customer service. Each order is delivered very, very quickly. They send a hand-written, personalized note with it, along with stickers and temporary tattoos.  My last order even can’t with a bonus stick pack. You can’t beat that!

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2 thoughts on “Fuel

  1. I’ve given tailwind a try but use a slightly smaller proportion of water to tailwind. Now, coming to you as a seasoned ultra runner,how do you adequately clean the bladder after using? I’m just using a little dish detergent mixed with water then rinsing with warm water. Should I be doing anything else?

  2. ML – That’s what I used to do too. I got the bladder clean enough, but the tube was getting gross. I was at REI recently and bought a camelback bladder cleaning set. It comes with a brush that kind of looks like a small toilet brush for the bladder. There is another tool that is a flexible metal coil with a small brush at the end that you can feed through the tube. I have a Nathan bladder, though. I don’t know if the tubing in a camelback is shorter or not. I assume it is because the coiled tool doesn’t fit the whole way through the tube. I have to go in through each side. Some folks recommend storing the bladder in the freezer to prevent nasty crap from growing in it. I don’t have freezer space to do so!

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