Tips for the Trail – Nutrition for Trail Runs – Xterra – 5-18-2012

By Rachel Cieslewicz

published in Xterra 5/18/2012

Training for races calls for proper training, sleep, nutrition, and life in general to all come together perfectly.  Nutrition impact is often severely overlooked.  Has it ever happened to you: your stomach feels great during training, but on race day gastric distress or bonking has kept you from reaching your race day potential?  Sometimes it is nerves causing the issue, but more often, we put in our mind that race day nutrition needs to be severely different than that of a hard training day.  In fact, the opposite is true.

Each person has individual needs when it comes to nutrition.  It is imperative to realize that what we put into our bodies is every bit as important as the actual running when training for events.  Just like a training journal for your workouts, it is a great idea to keep a food journal alongside it.  My favorite way to log it is in Training Peaks www.trainingpeaks.com  This website is amazing in that you can track all of your training, racing, and nutrition in one place. It has amazing analytical tools you can use to track and adjust progress for years.  When you log your training day details, keep in mind and report what affect the food and hydration you consumed before, during, and after your workout had on your ability to complete your training.  It is a great tool to have over time to help you with race day.

Generally, you might hear that pasta and other forms of carbohydrate loading the night before the race, along with massive quantities of sports drink will lead you to the best race ever.  This is not necessarily true.  Before hard training days, have you tried this?  What was the outcome?  Did you feel great and light and able to train at your full capacity?  What about during your races?  Do you all of a sudden in the race take in foreign gels and sports drinks you’ve never tried before?  This is asking for disaster.

I personally struggle if I eat pasta or bread. Most sports drinks and gels also lead to an adverse reaction.  Over time, I have learned to watch what I eat during training to help me know what my body will love come race day. For example, my favorite pre race meal is a hot Thai curry over rice.  But I eat it at lunch the day before my race.  This gives extra time for digestion.  I have a very sensitive digestive system.  The coconut milk and spices soothe my stomach and the calories and nutrients are perfect to set me up for the energy I need to perform well without huge quantity.  There is also no gluten, which for me is important.  Consuming a good meal early on allows me calmness in the evening if things get busy knowing I can eat a simple light dinner and race well the next day.  My favorite beverage is coconut water.  This is natural, has no chemicals or additives, and is full of minerals and electrolytes.

In the morning, I know that coffee is something I love. I sip it black while I am going about getting ready to leave for the race.  For some this might cause stomach issues. If you don’t normally drink coffee, it is not a good idea to start race morning!  As for calories, I know based on training that I can’t eat much before a race.  I absolutely can’t eat bagels, peanut butter, oatmeal or anything with bulk.

Instead my favorite way to get race morning calories is drinking a simple combination of First Endurance recovery fuel mixed with a tablespoon of Udo’s oil and chia seeds. Sound strange? It works for me!  For my ever so favorite XTERRA 21K events and other longer races, I know I will need more calories.  I simply add a bit more quantity to my drink than I would for shorter races.  During the race I carry my own gel in a flask and take in a teaspoon every 20 minutes.  I know the gel that works for me and I don’t touch anything offered other than water while I am racing.

Perhaps for you, oatmeal, eggs, or energy bars work the best race morning. What about the day and weeks before your event? Try different things along with your training before your next XTERRA race.  When you find what is awesome for your training days, stick with that for race day.   Learning what your body loves and giving it that will lead you to feeling amazing when it counts.

Coming back to the 21-day challenges, how is everything going?  Are you working on small goals to help you reach your big picture for the year?  My current 21-day challenge is logging every day what I put into my body and how it affects my ability to race and train with health.  Doing this is creating a positive impact while leading to my athletic potential and goal of racing XTERRA 21K Trail Run Nationals and Worlds faster and stronger than ever!