Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My plant powered journey into endurance - The top 5 things I have learned so far

Welcome to the new weekly UltraVeggie blog. If you just happened upon this page feel free to read up on what it's all about.

I had completed a handful of  road races in the past, but my adventure in long distance running began in earnest when I signed up for the Knee Knacker back in 2012. Here is the essence of what I learned during racing and training since then:

1. Keep your nutrition simple

There are a myriad of choices for performance nutrition out there. Many of these products taste overly sweet and artificial though and they also often contain a lot of additives and are basically high fructose corn syrup in disguise. I found that I do just as well if not better on simple plant products such as grapes, raisins, dried fruit and baby food pouches (or homemade pureed fruit or vegetables). On outings longer than 4 hours, such as peak bagging missions, I  will usually also pack a mix of raw nuts and dried fruit and maybe an apple, a banana and a wrap or a sandwich.

If you have more time and energy to invest into your endurance nutrition here are some more ideas:

Chia pudding, which contains dates and soaked cashews as a base and can be modified or amplified with blended fruit, berries, coconut water (instead of water) or even some coconut or MCT oil. There are plenty of recipes out there that can be modified to your liking. The one that I use is loosely based on Brendan Brazier's recipe from Whole Foods to Thrive.

Make your own fruit and nut bars with as much or as little liquid as you like to change the consistency.

My electrolyte drink usually contains:
1/3 water
1/3 coconut water (an excellent source of hydration and electrolytes)
1/3 apple or tart cherry juice
Electrolyte powder or lemon and lime juice and salt to taste

Overall I am trying to stick with all natural, easily digestible foods that provide me with quick energy for my endurance nutrition. At aid stations in races this means choosing fruit or potatoes and water to supplement your own food.

I was able to adhere to this strategy, during my last ultra, the 2014 Diez Vista 50k. I felt really good throughout the race and finished strong, which has traditionally not been my forté.

2. Don't leave your recovery up to chance

Since it is often tricky or even impossible to know beforehand what kind of food will be available at the finish line of a race (or even after a long workout), make sure you have some wholesome choices waiting for you to kick-start your recovery.

3. Don`t go it alone

One of the nice things about endurance sport is that it gives you a lot of freedom in terms of where or when you can practice, but training by yourself all the time can get boring and stale. Try joining a group or finding a few like minded friends to boost your motivation and enjoyment.

Easier said than done? A good place to start is your local running, bike or outdoor store. Check their message boards or website and talk to the staff. There are plenty of local clinics, group rides, runs or other outdoor activities.

In Canada MEC has extensive online event listings and so do Impact and Get Out There magazines. Many local races and events will also host free training sessions. Check what your local Rec Centre has to offer or search the web for Clubs in your area.

Joining Meet Up or Facebook groups can be another good option. Before you know it you will develop a network of workout buddies and friends to share your athletic journey with.

4. Make your post race shower a lot more pleasant by applying the personal lubricant of your choice liberally to all areas prone to chafing

Don't learn this one the hard way. Long, hot and / or rainy workouts can cause chafing in all the wrong places.

I am personally happy with good old Vaseline (although I would love an alternative from a local ethical small batch company), but there are plenty of pricier purpose-designed products available at your local running or bike store if you so desire.

I also noticed that many of my technical garments perform differently depending on conditions such as temperature, rain and humidity.

5. Race

Stay focused and motivated by challenging yourself with a specific event to train for every now and so often. You don't have to be fiercely competitive to sign up for a race. Whether it is a Gran Fondo, an orienteering challenge, a cyclocross race, a local 5k, an ultra, a triathlon or an adventure race. Every event has its unique vibe and meeting other active people and amazing volunteers who give their time to make everybody's day special never fails to make me happy. There also seems to be a special kind of supreme effort that your body reserves for the occasions when you pin on a bib. Compete or just finish, chances are you'll love it.