How to fuel for a 24 hour obstacle course race
by Rea Kolbl
Unlike for ultra trail races, in an endurance OCR you’re on your own with your crew – there are no aid stations aside from an occasional hydration station offering water and, if you’re lucky, some electrolytes. But the format is different as well. Rather than it being a point to point race, both World’s Toughest Mudder and Spartan Race Ultra World Championship in Iceland consist of 5-6 mile loops, with the winner determined by the most completed laps. This means you meet with your crew ever 5-6 miles, making nutrition planning a bit easier.
What to pack
Since you don’t actually carry all of the food with you, I love overpacking for events like this. First of all, bring everything you normally eat on a longer outdoor adventure. Second, ask yourself what are the foods you crave when you don’t really feel like eating? It doesn’t really matter if some of these seem odd (I brought Triscuits and Popcorn), because any food is better than no food when your stomach stops cooperating several hours down the road. Third, make sure you bring a variety of flavors and consistencies. I found it really hard to eat sweet things later during the night, so I really appreciated salty options. At some point I could also no longer swallow dry foods so I was really happy we brought some baby food pouches as an alternative. I would stay away from foods that require heating up – while there are microwaves available, personal camping stoves aren’t allowed, and the lines for shared heat sources can be incredibly long.
When to eat
Even though you’re in the pit every 5-6 miles, I would strongly advise against eating in the pit. Take as much of your food as you can to-go; the goal is to never stop. I ate real food every time when leaving the pit, and I took energy gels and bars to go. I made sure I had an energy gel every 30-45 minutes and a granola bar/waffle halfway through the lap. One thing to note is that whatever food you open on the course, you better finish soon – mud soaked energy bars are not the tastiest out there.
Salt is your friend
Every lap I had salt tablets, and my crew put salt on literary everything they gave me. Even my oatmeal had salt in it. I never once cramped through the entire 24 hours of racing and doing obstacles.
Foods that worked for me
I tried many different foods throughout last year’s race and found out what worked and what didn’t – I’ll use this next year to pack a little less. It’s important that you figure out what works for you, but here’s my menu.
Coming out of the pit stop, I loved PB&J sandwiches, oatmeal with almond milk and honey, and rice with soy sauce. I loved rice towards the end of the race when my stomach could no longer handle sweet foods. I also really liked baby food pouches, but only the fruity ones; I tried chicken noodle flavor on of my laps and that was an experience I’d rather forget. As much as I looked forward towards popcorn and Triscuits, I couldn’t chew and swallow those because they were too dry. Same with beef jerky; those foods finished the lap in my windbreaker’s pocket. Nuts were delicious, but they made me poop – so cutting those out next year as well.
On the course, I found out I couldn’t finish the entire energy bar in one sitting, so I mostly got it soaked going through water obstacles. Next year I’m planning on making it through each lap on Spring gels alone; a combination of different flavors so that my stomach never gets bored.
At the end of the day, it’s important to have a crew that knows what you need and knows how to ignore you when you make bad decisions. I often said I wasn’t hungry, only to have food stuffed in my face a second later. And it was my crew’s insistence on constant food intake that got me through the 24 hours without a single bonk.
Professional Obstacle Racer
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