Posts Tagged ‘gear’

I just wanted to do a short post script about the nutrition and gear I used for London to Brighton. On both these fronts I was ultra (if you’ll pardon the pun) prepared, bringing three sets of clothes/runners and buying a whole heap of food (that I never used).

 Starting with gear, I went with my Brooks Cascadia trail runners as my footwear of choice. I’ve had these for some time now and found them to be perfect for mixed terrain running – I’ve done plenty of miles in them on the road as well as trails, bogs, fields, mountains, rivers. You name it, I’ve probably ran on it in these. The only area where they come up short is on rocks where they lack a little grip, especially in the wet. Apart from that though they’re fantastic, a real Jack of all trades. As the weather in England had seen a whole lot of rain in the week leading up to London to Brighton I brought two other pairs of runners in case my Cascadias were completely soaked, or in case there was a lot of climbing/rocky stuff (Salomon XT-Wings Advanced) or smoother surfaces (Brooks Glycerines). In the end though my Cascadias and trusty Hilly Twin Skin socks saw me through the entire day.

Moving upwards from there I went with my old reliable Under Armor compression shorts with Nike Dri-Fit shorts over the top, while on top I went with Nike Pro-Combat compression top and New Balance high-viz long sleeved top. Once again I had multiple changes ready to go but the first set I went with worked perfectly for the day, from the very chilly start in pitch darkness, through the beautiful sunny day right up to the blustery grey finish (for me at least) in the afternoon. I had a Nike Dri-Fit jacket tucked away in my bag in case of any downpours but never had cause to crack it out.

 Speaking of bags, my Camelbak Octane 3l turned out to be absolutely perfect for the job. I’d been really hanging out for a Salomon S-Lab Advanced, but they’re really tricky to track down (in human sizes anyway), and not exactly cheap at roughly €160. Whilst in shopping for a bike with my wife I happened across some Camelbaks that could possibly do the job, and after a bit of further snooping managed to find the Octane 3l. With Brid’s discount in the shop the bag worked out at less than €80, though with my ‘Fantastic Husband’ discount it worked out at €0 for me. In the bag I had my map, my compass, my jacket, gels, small amount of food, my mp3 player and usually carried about 1l of water (I only refilled once).

Apart from that I wore my Innov-8 hat throughout and somehow managed to get 10.5 hours out of my Garmin 305, which are apparently notorious for dying at about eight hours.

Having experienced what it felt like to have both nowhere near enough fuel on board for a race (Race to Glory 2011) and way too much fuel on board (Race to Glory 2012), I wanted to make sure I got my fuelling for my first ever ultra as close to correct as possible. This wasn’t helped however by the nasty stomach bug which I’d had during the week. Friday was the first day I’d eaten properly but it was Saturday (the day before the race) before my appetite returned. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to have a big breakfast before the race due to the early start (6am, so up at 4am) so I had a really big dinner (chorizo, patatas bravas, penne with vegetables and salad) about 8pm on Saturday night and then had a tub of pasta with spinach and pine nuts at about half ten that night while lying in bed, watching the mighty Liverpool FC crush Delia’s Canaries.

 As expected, I could barely eat when I woke up, just about managing to shove down some yoghurt and muesli as well as some sugar covered fruit cake thing. I was a bit reticent about eating too much carbs, especially sugars, before, and early in, the race as I wanted my body to burn fat rather than dipping into its glycogen stores but I hadn’t done enough testing to go carb free before the start of such a long race. I had a banana before the off and that was that in terms of breakfast.

I’d brought 14 gels with me, Powerbar apple (with caffeine) and had eight in my Camelbak, the rest were with Brid. I had bought practically every calorie/nutrient dense item I could find in Marks & Spencer the night before – Jaffa Cakes, muffins, flapjacks, dried fruit & nuts, bananas – and had the amazing baked cheesecake topped chocolate brownie my mother had made and gave me for the trip.

I had almost all of them left over when I finished the race though as I’d used far, far less than I’d envisioned. I’d used nothing until the first checkpoint, and just ate a couple of Jaffa Cakes there. After that I just had the occasional gel and a banana at one of the checkpoints, with the flapjack keeping me going for a couple of stages. I did have a couple of biscuits while I was moping around at CP 3, and of course one of Chris’ mini sausage rolls.

From a hydration standpoint I used, at most, 2.5l of water. I barely used any at first, I’d to make three emergency stops in various London lanes/side streets, and didn’t want to get left any further behind with interminable piss stops. After that I was just drinking whenever I was thirsty, but got a bit of a shock when I rubbed the side of my face and noticed my fingers were covered in salt. I had a tube of Nuun hydration/electrolyte tablets with Brid but she wasn’t due to meet me until CP4. There was supposed to be electrolyte drinks at some of the checkpoints but I never saw any, presumably the runners going through before us had polished it all of (potatoes too as I never saw any of them either). It didn’t seem to affect me though other than having a real hankering for an ice cold can of coke for the last 30km or so.

My nutrition/hydration requirements seemed to really fall away on the last stage, unsurprisingly as I was barely moving by that point. Even later that evening I wasn’t particularly hungry as I think my body was, not quite shutting down, but definitely slowing down. In total for the day I consumed five gels, two bananas, about half a dozen biscuits, a flapjack, about 2.5l of water and of course one mini sausage roll.


So today I had a physio appointment booked for after work to see whether I’d be able to race this weekend.I knew that doing the Wicklow Way trail was out of the question but I had some other options depending on how well healed up I was – either the Naas Duathlon (3.5km run, 20km cycle, 3.5km run) or the Lap of Laois charity cycle (60km). Before that though I called into McLoughlins Cycles as I’d spoken to Alison earlier in the week and she told me they’d have some lovely spanky new sponsored kit for me.

I’d seen some of the McLoughlins branded cycling gear in the shop and hoped mine would be the same as it looked great, primarily black (always the best colour) with white and red trim, so needless to say I was delighted when Alison presented me with the very same. She game me the cycling jersey to try on first, and then the matching shorts. Obviously I was delighted with those, but then to make things even better she gave me one of their trisuits as well. Due to the figure hugging, unforgiving nature of trisuits some of them can look a little gimpy at times, however I happen to think these ones look fantastic, all black with just a smattering of red lettering. Before I left the shop Alison sorted me out with some electrolyte drinks and arranged getting my bike in for a service as soon as it suited me. This really is fantastic. I’m being treated like a proper, legitimate athlete and I really can’t thank McLoughlins enough for their support.

After that it was up to the physio for a once over and, hopefully, a pre-race massage. Realtin was the physio looking after me tonight and after a quick chat and examination she was happy enough to let me race this weekend. She said my calf wasn’t an issue at all now, but my right hamstring was a slight cause for concern. As is often the case it appeared that it was actually my lower back that was the seat of the problem, rather than the hamstring itself. We agreed that I should book a session of deep tissue massage for my back for next week, and today’s session would just be a rub down to get me loose and relaxed in preparation for Sunday.

So having got all my fantastic new gear, and the all clear to race this weekend, I thought that today couldn’t get any better, and I was absolutely right. It didn’t. I went for a swim when I got back from Newbridge and as so often happens, I seemed be right back where I was before last Wednesday evening’s session with Mark. No matter what I tried to do I got to roughly the half way point in the pool and then I just stopped – either out of breath or out of momentum or out of pure frustration. After an incredibly irritating hour, filled with setbacks, I eventually gave up and went to sit in the steam room for a while, just to have a think and try to figure out what exactly was going wrong. After some consideration I realised that there were a number of things slowing/stopping my progress:

  1. Over analysing everything I do. In the coached sessions I have I just do whatever I’m told to do whenever I’m told to do it and without thinking. I have a really bad habbit of stopping when I think I’ve done or am doing something wrong but I don’t do that any more with Mark. I do the drill he tells me to, then let him tell me what (if anything) I’m doing wrong at the end of it.
  2. Constantly stopping feeds into the negative mindset I have about my swimming. It becomes a vicious circle where I think I’m doing something wrong, so I stop, get frustrated that I’ve stopped and/or am doing something wrong and and making no progress. This is on my mind when I start my next drill or length and so I become fixated on the things I’m doing wrong, causing me to do more things wrong.
  3. The spectre of a 3km swim constantly looming over me. No matter what I do during a solo session in the pool whenever things start to go awry my thoughts will invariably turn to attempting to swim 3km. That’s 3,000m. Right now I’m struggling to swim 30m. How the hell am I supposed to swim 100 times this distance, or to spell it out a little more starkly, another 2,970m. I’m going absolutely nowhere here so the best thing to do is cut my losses now, come back tomorrow/the next day/the day after that for a good long session and get really into it then. Well I’m sorry but the 2nd of June is really not too far away and here I am still nowhere near ready. In fact to say I’m nowhere near ready for that kind of swim would be to employ levels of understatement and obfuscation that would guarantee me instant election to any political post in this fair isle. The delusion has to stop here.

Now that I’ve actually admitted that to myself it feels as if a massive weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I’m still going to do TriAthy, just not the Double Olympic. I could do it, or start it at least, but it would be monumentally stupid of me, not to mention ridiculously irresponsible, as someone, somewhere along the way would have to pull me out of the Barrow. It’s not like doing a really long run where you could just gut it out and keep plodding or grinding along. No one ever drowned on tarmac for a start. Anyway, as I said, I’m still going to do TriAthy, and I’m still definitely going to go long before the end of the year. In fact I’ve started making some tentative plans. Before I set anything in stone however, or more importantly before I actually apply for anything, I’m going to have a good long talk with some people far more qualified than I, and I’m going to make a rational, logical assessment of just what is and isn’t possible.