Long Training Days and Longer Races

Long Training Days and Longer Races

Long Training Days and Longer Races

  • by
  • June 5, 2018

Long training days are necessary to prepare the body for any longer races you plan on doing this year.

I would consider 21k on the road short, however 21k on trails with incline is going to require some 2 hour plus training days. The longer the distance you are training for, the longer the time you are going to want to spend out there. You may not be working hard for the entire duration during training, however repeated bouts of ascending and descending elevation and time on feet will burn calories. Having some basic guidelines to follow is important to avoid bonking or becoming dehydrated when you could be a couple hours from your home or vehicle. It is also important to recognize when you are out in the mountains or on the trails surrounded by beautiful scenery and some good training partners, time seems to fly by. 3 hours can feel like an hour and if you are not paying attention to your nutrition and hydration status, you can really get yourself into some trouble and slow down the group.

For anything less than a hour and a half I don't bring water with me. This is of course knowing I am familiar with the trails and I have a couple options to bail to a highway or take a shorter route back. Anything between the 1.5 and 2.5 hours time frame especially on hot days I will bring 500ml of water with me in a Salomon soft flask or upwards of a litre in a bladder if I don't have access to water along the way. If you are new to trail running, bring water regardless. When dehydration creeps up it is hard to replenish yourself as quickly as you would like. Let's keep in mind water is the second most important compound next to air. You can go at most 3-4 days without it. Much less if its hot or you have been active. What's more important however is hydration leading up to a long day. It is important replenish your fluids while exercising as you can lose a litre per hour. However if you are dehydrated going into the effort it is going to be much harder to maintain a good balance. Dehydration puts more strain on your organs, and this will in return affect performance and slow down recovery for your next effort.

Couple days leading up to your long training day or race aim for 1/2 your body weight in ounces. A little more if you been active or it has been dry in your area. The morning of, I usually have 1-2 litres before I start the run. If I had restaurant food or a couple drinks the night before I'll have closer to 2. Yes there's usually a few pee breaks in the beginning but it makes a difference later on in the day in terms of how much water I actually have to consume.

For anything over 2.5 hours, I'll bring a litre in a camel pack and potentially another 500ml if its going to be more than 4 hours. That's of course scoping out a couple creeks or lakes along the way where I could refill using a hydration tab. In the winter if you are touring this could be more difficult as snow needs to be melted before you drink it, and most running hydration options will freeze. In this case you going to want to bring a Nalgene and aim for upwards for a litre for each hour you expect to be out there past the first hour. Another item to bring along if you have the room is a Life Straw. You can sit outside a beaver's dam with this device and suck the pond out from in under him without getting sick.

For someone who's experienced you probably won't need any water in the first hour. After that consistently take some sips aiming for about a litre per hour. You could drink to thirst however as mentioned earlier it's easy to lose track of time and if you been sweating it might be too late. 

I got dehydrated on a hot day in the Canmore area last year. It's not fun, and it takes a few hours to feel normal again as your body can't drink water fast enough. Don't let it happen to you!

What about electrolytes? This is more important the days leading up. If you are eating fruits and vegetables and putting a quality salt on your dishes you should be fine. Once you get into the 3+ hour mark you can add some electrolytes if you think it will help. But if you are eating more than just gels, such as fruit and bars you will get some electrolytes out of this as well. (Some gels contain electrolytes and this is fine as well.) Don't sit back and try to figure out how much you need per hour. That depends on a multitude of factors that you won't be able to measure. Most cramping is actually linked to a lack of the particular training you are doing at the moment then dehydration in general.

For food. On longer training days at a lower intensity I always make sure I have a big breakfast. 3 eggs with spinach, a bowl of oatmeal and some fruit. If the run is under 1.5 hours I don't usually eat during the duration and will just have a bowl of oatmeal, and some BCAA's prior. If you are new to running distance I would suggest a gel at the 45 mark regardless. For any experience level on runs longer than 1.5 hours, I would start taking 30-60 grams of carbohydrates every 45 minutes. I usually alternate between gels and larabar to mix it up and get a tiny bit of fiber and fat in my system. If the run is going past the 2.5 hour mark I always make sure to have a protein based bar thrown in there with at least 20 grams of protein. I'll also grab some gels with amino acids that are already added in. Fruit is fine to bring on these runs, however it doesn't pack light. If I'm going to be out there for greater part of the day I will usually squeeze a sandwich in my pack as well.

There's a lot of people out there trying to perform these runs on as little fuel as possible. There's no concrete evidence to prove this makes you more fat adapted. You will become more fat adapted from years of training regardless. One thing is for sure however carbs will give the greatest output of energy past 65% V02max as well as improve the quality of your training. And not training with carbs will affect how your body absorbs them on race day. Also if you wait until race day you don't know how your stomach is going to feel with the fuel strategy you selected. Don't expect miracles to happen on course!

Another option you can try for upcoming races that takes place over 8 hours plus is going for a 2-3 hour run, following your regular fuel strategy then coming back to your car or house to consume a larger meal. After you are finished head out for another run, keeping on top of your hydration and fueling as needed. You will be working at a lower intensity so there should be adequate blood flow reaching the stomach to help you digest the meal as you exercise.

What you do on race day should be similar to what you do in training. It shouldn't be anything that shocks the system other than a slightly faster pace over the course of your event and potentially sleep deprivation. (If you have an overnight event I don't recommend you practice running through the night in you're training as it likely won't have an impact on your race, and it will affect your recovery in a negative way by throwing off your sleep schedule.) Aim for 30-90 grams of carbohydrates per hour in a race setting. If you have a meal instead of a gel or bar at some point during the race that's not a bad idea provided your stomach can handle it. (You would know that because you practiced it in training!) Make sure to include some fat, and some protein. Don't over do it. And don't have anything that normally doesn't agree with you. (i.e milk products for the dairy sensitive indivduals.) Exact calorie consumption per hour is dependent on a lot of factors. If you want something personalized for you feel free to get in contact with me.

Good luck out there and remember to enjoy the training. In the end that's the best part!

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Josh Stryde B.Kin (Hons), CSNN Holistic Nutrition Consultantâ„¢, Precision Nutrition Level 1, PTS

Josh has been working and educating in the fitness Industry for over 10 years. He has seen his greatest success by arming his clients with knowledge and allowing them to active role when working towards their goals. Without knowing why you are eating the way you are eating, or why you are following a particular workout routine it becomes difficult to stay consistent.

Spartan Team Canada 2017
Team PVL 2017/2018
20+ OCR podium finishes


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