Start With Fueling
We’re going to kill two birds with one stone here: fueling and hydration packs. We’ll start with fueling needs, as that will help determine what type of pack you will require.
In order to fuel properly for your championship race of choice, you need to identify three factors:
- How long you plan to be on course
- What your fuel needs are for that duration and intensity
- What your body can ingest efficiently while racing
Identify Race Duration
To identify how long you will be on course, I suggest finding a similar OCR that you have run before. For Tahoe, the most similar course is the Breckenridge Beast. Almost identical terrain, similar course design, and both courses contain a whole lot less oxygen than you’d hope for. If you ran the Beast at Breck, then take that time as your minimum time you will spend on course in Tahoe. You know they will make it tougher, which generally means longer. There are rumors of a 16+ mile race this year! If you ran the Sprint in Breck, take that time and multiply it by 3. That should give you a pretty accurate number. But again, that is the minimum time you will spend on course. If you didn’t race Breck, find a different race that you’ve run and make the calculation. If you are unsure about how to do so, please post below in the comments (Public or Private). I’m pretty much a savant at predicting race times. It’s a very real, yet mostly useless gift.
Calculate Caloric Need
Now that you know your duration, some simple calculations need to be made. Generally, racers can effectively ingest 200-350 calories per hour, depending on their size. You may not want to ingest that much and you may not even need to. However, this is a good place to start. For water, it is scientifically sound to take in between 15-30 oz per hour. Now, it is important to note that you may not need this much, and you may need way more! My first Championship race in Vermont took me 2:59:44, and I took in a total of 30 oz of water and four 100 calorie gels. That is pretty low compared to the recommendations, but I had tested my needs continuously during training and found that I could get by with that amount. If that sounds low, consider that Cody Moat only took a few sips of water and no gels en route to winning in 2:45:28! Obviously, talent and training go a long way towards determining fueling needs. Cody has more of both, thus the ability to fuel less. Regardless of which type of athlete you are, the only way to dial this in is to practice it.
So, during your long runs and long workouts, try out a fueling strategy. I recommend starting with the minimum you believe you can get away with, and then adding more in next time if you come up short. I feel that the less we have to carry, the better. So make sure to really dial it in so that you’re not wasting your energy carrying things you don’t need. Water is heavy! Throughout this fine tuning process during workouts, you will quickly find out what you can and can’t ingest. You may be able to eat anything. You may have to take in all your calories via liquid. Either way, that will determine what pack you need.
Gear for Hydration & Fueling
There are a lot of options these days for carrying nutrition and liquids during a race. The two most popular items for OCR are hydration packs and waist belts. Neither is better; it all comes down to personal preference. If you need a lot of water and a lot of calories, you probably are going to be looking at a hydration pack. If you are not going to carry much out on the course, you might lean towards a waist belt.
Either way, there are great offerings from every major brand. Some people like the feeling of the waist belt because their upper body is free and unencumbered. Some people don’t like the feeling of something riding on their hips, but don’t mind wearing a pack over their shoulders. Just like your strategy for fueling, you will need to test this out for yourself. When in doubt, pick out the pack and the belt that you like best, and train in both. Within a few workouts you will know which you prefer. And don’t worry about wasting money, as there will always be someone in this sport who will be quick to buy the other item off you!
One last wrench to throw into your plans for race day: there are now far more water stations on course than in years past. My first beast there was one water station.. A few weeks ago in Breck there were seven. This allows you to carry less water and refill on course if you don’t mind making a quick pit stop. If this seems like a good option for you, then make sure to practice making pit stops! Get quick and efficient at removing you bottle and filling it, and on race day you will sail right through.
Below are some of my recommendations for hydration packs and belts. I do not have affiliations with any of these brands. They are packs I personally own and have used. There are plenty other great packs out there, but these I can vouch for! My personal favorite is the Salomon vest. It is super lightweight and utilizes soft bottles located on your chest. I love it.
If you have any questions or comments concerning fueling, hyrdration, or gear please post a thread below.