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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

100 mile eats

With 3-100 mile completions under my non-existent belt (with hips like these, you don’t need a belt!) this year, you would think that I would finally have the secret to eating and feeling OK at the end of a ride.

Yet, after Patriots in October, I was still celebrating my 100 mile accomplishments by vomiting – at least it would have been vomiting if I had actually managed to get anything down in the first place.

It actually surprises me that I haven’t figured this out yet – after all, I got most of my other endurance related issues licked by approaching them in a systematic, scientific way. I think hampering my problem solving skill is a disbelief this is actually happening to me! I’ve done 3 marathons eating whatever I wanted (except gummy bears), drinking whatever was available, and sailing merrily past my fellow runners who were sprinting to the bushes for one reason or another.

After the 20 MT debacle, I called in my Mother to help. After all, that’s what I usually do when it’s my health and welfare are in dire straits.

Anyways – this is what I’ve learned about eating for a 100. I haven’t gotten it all figured out, but I’m getting closer. Each 100 is like peeling an onion – I get one more clue that I can implement at the next ride, which reveals the next weakest link.

20MT – was a spectacular failure in rider management. Pain management and real food is the first layer of the onion.
• Pain management is important! I didn’t start taking drugs to manage stiffness and pain until too late in the ride, and then didn’t continue them appropriately.

• Eating is important. REAL food is important – having it conveniently available is a neccessity.

• I wasn’t actually sick on this ride, probably because while I was conscious, I was managing a horrendous amount of pain (I still have scars…).

Tevis – revealed the second layer: electrolytes and the importance of following up on any NSAIDS etc. once started
• Pain was managed through ibprofen, which I started taking at the first hint I was starting to get stiff. I also took a caffeine pill starting around 7pm.

  • My mistake was not taking any with me on the trail when I had 8 hours until I saw my crew again. I felt great until both wore off – then I felt sick, stiff, and tired.

• I ate great all day! I had taken special care to prepare a proven menu and eating real food really paid off.

  • What I was missing – any formal electrolytes. I tried relying on food to provide me what I needed and it was obvious the next day that I did not succeed because…
  • …I was very sick after finishing, and was still so sick and dizzy the day after, I had to have a family member drive me and the trailer home. I was confused – why was I sick if I had eaten during the ride? Mom pointed out that my symptoms could perfectly explained by an imbalance of electrolytes.

Patriots – revealed the third layer: continuing to support physically activity with calories is very important – in plain terms: eating into the night is essential.

  • After discovering at Comstock I can easily get down fruit juice in the morning, I was able to begin getting calories down earlier than ever before, and continued through dinner. I was also proactive about making sure I didn’t get stiff, taking OTC when needed, and made sure that I was getting appropriate electrolytes. All was glorious....and then I fell off the wagon.
  • After I ate dinner, in the evening I wasn’t hungry so I didn’t eat. Because I didn’t eat, my body decided to be nauseous. Which made me want to eat less and less, which made me sicker and sicker. And when I stopped eating, I also stopped taking NSAIDS (those on an empty stomach is asking for trouble). This of course culminated into me going slower and slower, and getting stiffer and more sore, and then more tired and more sick – until it culminated into a 3am finish and then me not being able to go bed because I was busy trying to eat crackers and keep them down because laying down made me way dizzy.
  • Unlike Tevis, by the time I got up on the morning, I felt fine.
  • Mom pointed out that I didn’t have anything substantial since 6pm. Just because I’m not hungry late into the night, doesn’t mean that I don’t need the calories. Nine hours without a meal is a long time….
  • Solution and plan for the next 100: After dinner, go back to “morning mode”. My stomach is very picky the mornings and very particular of what I can and can’t eat – after dinner I need to go back to those foods and not pay attention to whether I’m hungry or not.

Part 1 of the solution is peeling back the layers and finding the balance between eating, electrolytes, fluids, managing inflammation (especially important when it’s cold and raining), and the timing. I have confidence that eventually I’ll figure out the specifics.

But then there’s part 2….and part 2 is what worries me. Part 2 is actually finding stuff that I can get down and keep down. It doesn’t matter if I get part 1 completely figured out if I can’t get the actually calories down during the ride. Anyone on my crew will tell you that it’s a real problem for me to get ANYTHING down. I’m not being a drama queen about it, I’m not trying to be difficult. I’m usually grumpy and a bit snappish because trying to deal with the nausea well enough to keep eating is not easy and requires a lot of my energy.

What works and what doesn’t

  • No - Anything that has any hint of bitter. Which is odd because in my everyday life I crave bitter.
  • Yes - Apple juice in the mornings. Again, very odd because I usually hate how sweet fruit juice is and I avoid it in my everyday life.
  • Yes - Pasta salad- no matter what the weather, this always goes down nicely. One of the only foods that is consistently good at every ride.
  • No - milk. Soy substitutes seem to be ok for puddings etc. Cheese and yogurt seem to be fine, depending on my mood. Not consistent and can’t be counted on.
  • Tea/Coffee – only work in the middle of the day. Too bitter to drink the morning or after dinner. I’m obsessive about drinking hot stuff, so if I can’t have tea or coffee because of bitter, I want apple cider or hot chocolate.
  • Chili – works as a dinner, onions and cheese OK!
  • Hot ride menu items – jello, puddings, potato chips. If it’s raining or cold I won’t eat any of this.
  • Cold ride menu items – Instant miso soup, cut up sandwiches, hot apple juice, ramen or undon.
  • No-vegetables of any kind. I actually start physically gagging if the conversation turns to the mere mention of any kind of leafy greens
  • Yes-Hardboiled eggs seem to go down well no matter what.
  • Yes-specific fruits. The best ones are bananas and canned peaches.
  • No-anything thing with cornsyrup in it seems to hit my stomach funny. All fruit juices need to be 100% juice if possible, and the jellos and puddings homemade so that they use table sugar.

Hopefully this helps someone else. In my regular, everyday life I’m not nearly this bad, although there are hints. In the mornings I have a really strong gag reflex and if there is cat vomit on the carpet, it stays there until I get home in the afternoon. If I let myself get very very hungry, then I do get nauseous and sick – especially if I’m moving, like in a vehicle. In my real life I try to stick with a low-carb diet of mostly natural foods with simple ingredients. I’ve tried to apply those principles to eating at rides and it’s ended in disaster, so my new policy for rides is that if it goes down and stays down than it works!

If anyone has suggestions, please comment! Some of the foods that work the best for me were suggested by my readers….The one area I’m really struggling with right now eating after about 8pm. I’m just not hungry…..

P.S. It’s not an option for me to give up 100’s. I love the distance too much and my horse is good at it. I will figure this out, even if it means going to a sport nutritionist!


  1. This reminded me that I need to reorder my "Gu" for upcoming rides - I ran out at Grand Canyon. I love the stuff!

    When I do a 100 I usually have a variety of stuff because I find my mood changes. Anymore though, I like egg salad sandwiches or even a hard boiled egg or two with whatever else I'm eating.

    At Foresthill during Tevis I had a BBQ beef sandwich and it really hit the spot. A few years ago I couldn't even fathom eating anything with beef when I was riding.

    I also like cream cheese on a bagel, or will put cream cheese o 1/2 of the beagle and peanut butter on the other half. Bagels are also an easy way to make a sandwich that you can carry with you.

  2. Something I would never eat in a normal day but is AMAZING during a ride is a mcdonalds dollar cheese burger, pickles, onions, mustard and all!!! Clearly, this depends on how awesome your crew is and how close to a town you are. My crew is awesome and most of the rides I have done are within 20 minutes of a town. John usually runs into town to get ice at some point and picks up a few burgers while he is out. I will eat a cold cheeseburger at a vet hold or after the ride. Doesn't matter.

  3. I grew up around some folks that did long distance bicycle riding, and a few things are rattling around in my head. Not sure if they'll help or not...

    One, they almost always had a spaghetti dinner the night before the ride, to pack in the carbs. Granted, you're not trying to complete 745+ miles in under 90 hours on a bicycle, but since you normally eat low-carb, and since pasta salad is one of your reliable foods during a ride, I wonder if your system isn't craving those carbs just as seriously. Maybe how you're eating the day before the ride is playing into this.

    The other thing is drinks. Aside from apple juice, coffee, tea, apple cider, and hot chocolate - what are you drinking? It looks like you wouldn't be able to do Gatorade - corn syrup - but maybe you can supplement what you're already drinking with something. I know the guys I grew up around used a lot of powdered drink mixes of various sorts - most of them came from places like GNC, which I hate going into - during the rides, so maybe something like that would help.

  4. Horse electrolytes on Wonder Bread! Now why didn't I think of that? I'm making a list...

  5. Horse electrolytes on Wonder Bread! Now why didn't I think of that? I'm making a list...

  6. What are you currently using for your own elytes? You didn't mention that.

    I'll second Karen's Gu recommendation. Although I don't like to rely on them, they are *INVALUABLE* for when you get that "Ugh, I really don't feel like eating but should" feeling. They're easy enough to force down. I can't do anything too sweet during a ride, so no chocolate flavor for me (!!!), but the plain or vanilla aren't that bad. Zombie Runner (Google it) will sell them in a pack of one of each flavor, so you can sample them all and find which flavors you may like/tolerate. Also consider the non-Gu brands of the same type of product, like Clif shots or blocks, Powerbar, etc. Maybe the gummy ones, you get what I mean. I consider Gu to be an "emergency item" and always have a couple of packs in my saddle bags.

    The other thing I'd recommend to you is to put some sort of calorie beverage in your water bottles, at least one bottle. Fruit juice, a meat-based broth, a meal-replacement type drink, even soda, any of those. Bonus points if it's something you can chug down quickly and not gag.

    Although REAL FOOD is important to have to settle your stomach, as you found, calories are also hugely critical. Think of it like this in order of importance:
    1. Hydration
    2. Calories
    3. Electrolytes
    4. Substance
    Plan your meals and drink accordingly. I find that due to my natural schedule of eating and such, that I can't eat much before about 8-9 am, so pack a "breakfast" to eat on the trail, and then I also pretty much don't want to eat after about the same times in the pm (used to late dinners). So anything I consume during my "off hours" pretty much needs to be liquid or fake foods like Gu.

  7. I don't do endurance, but I do event, and it can be hard to eat enough in a day in between the three phases to a) not pass out, b) not get sick, and c) still have enough energy to drive safely home after a 12 or 14 hour day.

    For food, I can do the squishy chocolate Power Bars and the crunchy mint chocolate Zone Bars. I can take a single bite, wash it down with some water, and see how it does for a few minutes. Sure, it takes me 30 minutes to get through a bar, but at least I'm eating. I can also do nuts, grapes, and applesauce. Not much, but as long as I keep nibbling, I can make it.

    I have a hard time drinking anything other than water while I'm riding, but if you can do fruit juice, maybe try the V8 Fusion? It doesn't have any HFCS in it, and there's lots of good stuff in there for energy. It's a little thick, so you might want to cut it with water. Just a thought! It's hard to eat and ride - I can only imagine what it must be like on a 100 mile trek!

  8. As usual you guys have provided with LOTS of "food for thought" that I hadn't previously considered. Can't wait until my next 100 to try some of this stuff out.

    As far as the electrolytes go....I'm doing powdered gatorade. I can't stand the pre-mixed stuff, but for some reason can easily handle it if it's in a powder and I mix it myself.

    For those of you that use GU.....When I used it during long runs, I noticed once I started using GU (usually around 15 miles) I had to continue using it or I would "crash". I also ended up with a "GU stomach" after using it. When you use it at rides do you have the same problem? does it make you queasy or queasier? Is there another product that works like GU (easy to get down etc.) that doens't come iwth the "crashing" side effects or the "GU stomach?" (Maybe I should be asking this on a marathon/ultra forum!)

  9. I can't go anywhere near GU or powerbars. I have to rely on real food, having learned (the hard way) that chemicals and sugar and "processed" stuff make me sick, sick, sick.

    Best foods for me (not all at once):
    ramen, barbequed chicken, tuna sandwiches (sometimes I mix the tuna with egg salad, but only when refrigeration isn't an issue), and smoked clams packed in water, apples and bananas, cans of V-8. Heavy on the protein, lighter on sugar & carbs.

    Also: pasta the night before the event is good--I make up a sauce with tons of veggies and meat, and eat a moderate amount of pasta with an outrageous amount of sauce. Leftover pasta and sauce is very tasty for lunch the next day (or even breakfast)!


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