This year’s Lakeland was a real family affair. In addition to my own attempt at my second completion of Lakeland 100, my wife Lea was running The Lakeland 50 and both our boys were also doing The Lakeland 1. I’m very pleased to say that it was a successful weekend and we all came away from Coniston with our t-shirts, medals and buffs!
Since the race, we’ve both been asked to share our nutrition plans, so what follows are our own personal perspectives. Nutrition is work in progress for us both, especially myself with a weakness for sweet foods. Hopefully the following will be useful insight though, for others planning these or similar races in the future.
Lea’s Lakeland 50 Race Nutrition
I am slightly embarrassed to be writing this, firstly because I consider myself a novice, this being only my second race of this distance, and I was, and still am, learning as I go. Indeed, in writing all this I have realised just how much I have to learn(!). Secondly, I remain disappointed with how little running I managed to do. The pain in my legs that I had struggled with during the Norfolk 100 in June took hold again early on in the race and I walked/hobbled my way around the rest of the course, taking over 21 hours to finish, so in my mind that means that this doesn’t really count as a ‘real’ ultra! Thirdly, but most importantly (for the purposes of this write up anyway), I had so many good intentions about making and carrying my own food for before/during/after this race – using some of the recipes that Helen has shared on the Core Club page and others that I’ve found – and I would have loved to have been able to share any successes or otherwise on that front! However, life was a little bit hectic in the weeks before the race, and the prep just didn’t happen. So on race day I was more reliant on the food at the checkpoints than I’d planned to be, supplemented by a few things I’d bought from home and a couple of bits that I’d managed to grab in Booths the day before. As it was it turned out ok (no stomach issues – which was a relief!), but I do wonder if I would have benefitted from eating more fruit/veg, and protein, both the night before and on the day, and how much of an impact that would have had on my performance and enjoyment on the day.
Nevertheless, it has been really useful for me to look back at what I did eat, and hopefully learn from it for future events, so I’m hoping the following may be of some use to others. It’s lengthy – so feel free to skim!
I’ve worked really hard to make some big changes to my diet since this time last year when I first spoke to John (Reynolds) about wanting to ‘try an ultra’ 🙂 I’ve drastically reduced the massive amount of sugar that was in my diet (not least from the chocolate that I used to habitually binge on 🙄), upped my protein and ‘good fats’ intake, and reduced ‘beige’ carbs to the minimum. I’m convinced that these changes have made a massive difference to my training over the last year, not least because my mindset has changed – I have realised that if I want to run these distances I need to look after my body All. The. Time – and not only just before I pull my trainers on!
So anyway, in the weeks/months leading up to our trip to the Lakes I had been on a fairly well varied diet, lots of colourful salads, buddha bowls, grilled meat, spinach, spinach, and more spinach, etc, etc, etc… I had also started taking a decent multi-vitamin for women (Premtesse), after a conversation with Helen, and later with my GP, suggested that I may be a bit low on iron, magnesium, and vitamin B12. I had been really fatigued after my attempt at doing the Norfolk 100k in June, so I paid particular attention to my diet after that as it seemed to be one way I could do something to improve my strength at such a late stage in the preparation for Lakeland. I took it so seriously that I managed to stay sober on a night out with friends the previous weekend, and even managed to stay strong when Giles suggested taking the kids to Pizza Express when we arrived in Kendal on the night before his race! I had the Superfood Salad (which was really tasty) while everyone around me munched on pizza. I did allow myself a plate of doughballs though 😊 Oh and we shared a bottle of Peroni, as I felt mean not joining him in his traditional pre-race drink!
However, the next day things went a bit pear-shaped… We stayed at the Premier Inn that night, all 4 of us in one room, which, alongside the fact that 2 of us were rather anxious by this point, meant that none of us got much sleep. And a Premier Inn Breakfast is a bit of a novelty for our boys (“what, can I have ANYTHING I want??” and “can I go back for more as many times as I like??”) so temptation got the better of me in the morning while I was feeling sleep-deprived and I had a cinnamon and raisin bagel with my Greek yoghurt/fruit/granola bowl and then a hash brown and baked beans with my poached egg. All washed down with several cups of hot water to kick-start the hydration. (I’m terrible at drinking – this is something I still have to work on. I generally always drink boiled water rather than tea or coffee, and then sip on cold water from my bottle, but I am notoriously slow at drinking, so I never drink enough. I had started adding Nuun tablets to my water bottle the previous day, and I continued to do so up until the morning of the race, but definitely still didn’t drink enough given how warm it was too.)
As we’d all had so much breakfast there was never a call for lunch from the boys, and I certainly didn’t feel hungry until late afternoon – so I just had an apple, a banana and a handful of nuts before going to get the boys registered for their race and seeing Giles off on his.
I had signed us all up for the pre-race ‘pasta party’ in the marquee as I knew that I wouldn’t have time to make anything with all the dashing about, and I didn’t want to be queuing for fish and chips in the one tiny chip shop in Coniston the night before my race. The pasta ‘party’ was supposed to be a bowl of pasta and/or salad – which sounded like the perfect easy option for all of us – but I couldn’t have been more wrong! After accompanying my youngest son on his one mile race to the the Lake and back, I headed straight for the pasta queue as soon as we finished. Despite being first in the queue we waited there for ages, only to then be served a very small bowl of not-very-appetising soggy pasta, and no salad. First lesson learnt! I won’t do that again!
Still hungry after my bowl I ended up buying a crepe, out of desperation, as I was really cautious about not getting enough calories on board and being hungry overnight (I realised too late that I probably should have gone back to the cottage where we were staying and had a bowl of muesli instead) – I didn’t want my stomach to be waking me up as well as my nerves!
Back at the cottage I sipped at more water while putting the boys to bed and then had a Teahuggers ‘Chill Out’ tea and a dark chocolate and salted nuts Kind bar before going to bed myself. Oh and I also knocked back about half a bottle of Bach Rescue Night drops! Great stuff.
Unfortunately I was woken at 3am by our eldest son telling me he felt sick (probably the pasta!), and at that point all the nerves and adrenaline kicked in. No more sleep for me. I gave in and got up at 5.30, did some yoga, had a chat with John, and managed to eat a bowl of (homemade) muesli, greek yoghurt, seeds and blueberries. I also tried to have a half sachet of Mountain Fuel Morning Fuel – I’ve never tried this before but Giles swears by it so gave it a go – but couldn’t stomach too much of it as it was so sweet unfortunately. I would usually eat a banana as well before going out for a big run but nerves got in the way, so I took the banana on the bus with me to Dalemain, planning to eat it en route.
On the bus I managed to munch down a couple of handfuls of mixed nuts and dried goji berries, along with a bottle of Mountain Fuel (Raw). Still couldn’t face the banana, but forced myself to have half of it after eating some of my chicken/spinach/bean salad (ready made – from Booths) and a babybel while waiting for the start at Dalemain.
So I started with the following in my bag:
- 1 x apple
- 1 x satsuma
- Another babybel
- A salted Chia Charge bar
- A ziplock bag with a mixture of dry roasted and salted nuts and pretzels (I usually crave salt/savoury things and often find checkpoints are too full of sweet stuff)
- A Nakd bar (I know they’re easy to digest)
- A Stoats bar (this is a bit of a tradition/superstition – I’ve carried an Apple & Cinnamon Stoats bar on every race I’ve done so far)
- 1 x tube of Shot Bloks with caffeine
- 3 x 450ml soft bottles of water (2 of which had Nuun tablets in).
I would never usually carry so much water but it was still pretty warm at this stage and I knew I had at least 2.5 hours to go before I would reach the first checkpoint, so wanted to be sure I had enough. As it was, I drank less than 2 bottles, as was feeling well hydrated from what I’d had in the morning, but I now know that wasn’t enough. I do find it easy to forget to drink unfortunately. I didn’t notice feeling dehydrated at all, especially as the weather soon cooled down, but l realise now that that may have had a big impact on how the race played out.
I wasn’t planning to eat at CP1 but was feeling like I needed a ‘pick me up’ by the time I got there as my leg was already starting to hurt and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of what I’d taken on, so I grabbed a couple of big chunks of homemade flapjack and ate those as I walked on. I’m glad I did as the rain started to come down pretty heavy soon after, enough to mean that I had to get full waterproofs on, and I grabbed my poles at the same time. This was the first time I’ve used poles in ages, and I’d forgotten how having them in my hands means that I forget (or am less inclined) to grab my water bottle or food on the go. I eventually realised that I wasn’t taking on enough water and managed to squish one of my soft bottles in my hand alongside my pole, meaning that I started to sip at it again more often, but I didn’t eat much on this leg apart from working my way through my Stoats bar over a mile or so and also stopped during a break in the weather to take a couple of paracetamol to try to take the edge off the pain that was getting worse in my leg.
Four hours on, when I reached CP2, it was chucking it down and everyone was huddled inside the tent so I couldn’t easily get to the food. I managed to refill 2 of my water bottles but gave up on trying to open a sachet of Mountain Fuel to add to the water as my wet cold hands couldn’t manage it! With hindsight, I should have asked a marshal to help, but half of them were busy trying to keep the tent on the ground, and the others all seemed rushed off their feet (at this stage I was still thinking ‘I’m ‘only’ doing the 50 and what have I got to complain about next to all these 100 runners – they need help/food etc far more than me, etc, etc) so I just grabbed a bag of crisps which I ate half of while queuing for the loo, and then stuffed the rest in my pocket as I set off again. I also forgot about my Nuun tablets, so kicked myself as I headed over the next climb and told myself to be more organised at the next CP. I soon realised that I should have taken on more food too, and grabbed my Nakd bar to try to get some quick calories/sugar on board (which I remember really struggling to open as my fingers had completely stopped functioning – tearing at it with my teeth in the end) and that got me through to the next CP.
I had learnt my lesson and at CP3 was a bit more efficient – mountain fuel in one bottle, a small a bowl of pasta and a couple of paracetamol and off again. I’ve never eaten anything more than cereal bars, nuts and maybe a tiny sausage roll during a race before – but I was walking rather than running by this stage so felt less concerned about taking on too much, and actually really appreciated the sense of comfort gained from having some warm food at the point when the anxieties were kicking in due to the fading light and the increasing pain in my legs.
On this leg I remembered the Shotblocks I had in my pocket and decided I would benefit from the caffeine in them as much as anything else. I wasn’t necessarily feeling particularly tired, but I guessed I would start to feel it at some point seeing as I’d lost so much sleep over the last few nights. I chewed through half a pack of the bloks over the next few hours – I have no idea how much the caffeine did or didn’t help but seeing as I avoid all caffeine in my normal diet I’m guessing that they may have given me a bit of a boost.
After 3 hours on the move in the dark Ambleside checkpoint was dangerously warm and inviting! I refused to sit down because I figured it would be too easy to get comfortable, and I also suspected that my leg would seize up 🙄 I did accept the offer of some minestrone soup – again because I was drawn in by the offer of something warm. It was so hot that I burnt my tongue on it but I managed a half cup full and also finished the salt and vinegar crisps (from CP2!) along with the babybel that I’d been carrying since the start. I drank more water and refilled both water bottles, added a Nuun tablet to one, and then headed back out into the dark.
Ambleside to Langdale took much longer than I had expected/calculated. Again, I know I didn’t drink enough – only around 600ml. I ate half of my Chia Charge bar while walking – I was aware that I was not functioning well and at the time guessed that perhaps the calories would help, but actually would no doubt have benefitted far more from drinking my 2nd bottle instead. I was offered beef stew at the checkpoint and accepted a small bowlful, but didn’t finish it, and declined the infamous brownies that were on offer in favour of two chunks of orange. I had intended to eat far more fruit than I did during the race, but I’d been disappointed by what was on offer, this was the first time I’d fancied anything I’d seen. I must learn to be less fussy about green/bruised bananas!
I took my last paracetamol at the checkpoint and then finished my Chia Charge bar and drank another 450 ml as we walked. After being dry for most of the night the rain started again as the sun came up so I was less inclined to drink/eat or anything much really! I was in a lot of pain by this stage and pretty miserable, but knew I just had to keep moving. When we got to Tilberthwaite checkpoint I was wet through and really feeling the cold so accepted a cup of tea for the first time. I drank half, ate half a cheese sandwich and a couple of hob nob biscuits, and then plodded on to the finish.
I finished the race, but it wasn’t pretty, and I’m still recovering now. However, in writing all of this I’ve realised how much ‘junk’ I ate that my body just isn’t used to any more (crisps, biscuits, tinned stew, tinned soup, pasta, bread) and more importantly how very little I drank. I don’t know how much of an impact that had on me on the day, but I will absolutely consider carrying more of my own stuff in future and I definitely need to find ways to remind myself to drink more.
I know this is a really lengthy write up – and if you’ve got this far I applaud you(!) but I hope it helps others avoid some of the mistakes I made.
Giles’ Lakeland 100 Race Nutrition
The major challenge with Lakeland 100, other than running over a hundred miles in 24 hours plus, is the fact the race starts at 6pm in the evening. This means that you need to have a nutrition strategy not just for the race itself but also for the 24 hours leading up to it.
I don’t believe in carb loading and instead, focus on trying to eat as clean as possible in the days before. I am no way near as good as Lea at this but try my best to cut out the junk and keep the ingredients as clean and fresh as I can. One change I do make is to focus on hydration, so from 48 hours out I will be drinking plenty of water with electrolytes added, to ensure I have the right balance in my body.
Twenty four hours before the race, my nutrition plan starts. The night before I try to keep the meal fairly light. We were staying in Kendal, to minimise travel on race day, so we ate in the local Pizza Express and I had a small pizza, pudding (can’t resist a pud!) and a beer, to help calm my nerves and encourage some sleep.
Before going to bed, I drank a Mountain Fuel Night Fuel, which is kind of like a hot chocolate but loaded with various nutrients and amino acids. As previously mentioned, I am a MF Running Ambassador but have used their products for years and have found they work well for me.
The 6pm start throws the usual pre-race nutrition plan out of the window. My aim on race day, was to get the calories in early and keep them trickling in through the rest if the day, so I am fully loaded but not feeling bloated or heavy come the start. Looking back I think I got this pretty much bang on, in fact there was a point mid afternoon where I worried I had overcooked it, as I felt hungry.
To start the day I abused the “all you can eat breakfast” at the Premier Inn as much as my stomach would allow. The fact I am not a big breakfast eater, combined with pre-race nerves, meant I struggled to get food down. I did manage to get the following in:
- Granola, fruit, yoghurt and milk
- Poached eggs, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, slice of bacon and sausage
- Half a toasted cinnamon and raisin bagel – couldn’t face the rest
- Iced water
- Lots of black coffee
- Mango and pineapple smoothie
During the morning I sipped on a bottle of Mountain Fuel Raw Energy and then had the following
13:00: Small chicken salad, apple, carrots and hummus
14:00: Handful of nuts and goji berries
14:30: Small bowl of porridge and a banana
15:30: Mountain Fuel Morning Fuel
16:30: Another banana and sipped on more Mountain Fuel Raw Energy right up until I entered the race pen at 17:45
6pm came, the race began and I switched to my race nutrition plan.
Checkpoints come fairly regularly during Lakeland 100, every 1.5 to 3 hours, so I try to minimise what I carry and make use of the food on offer at the checkpoints. My race nutrition plan was to drink at least 500ml of Mountain Fuel Raw Energy between each checkpoint, with an additional 500ml of water with Nuun (electrolyte) if required.
I also carried a few of the Mountain Fuel Sports Jellies, which are their take on gels. I’ll be honest, I haven’t used gels for years but had heard good things about these since they launched in the Spring, tried them in training and decided to carry a few during the race. My plan was to time each of these 20-30 minutes before significant climbs on the course. I also planned to carry the cola ones for the second half of the race, to give me a caffeine hit as well. In all I think I used nine of these across the entire race.
Finally I carried a couple of Nakd bars just in case, two from the start and another two from my drop bag at half way. I ate the first two during the race but didn’t touch the second two. I also included a Mountain Fuel Recovery Shake in my drop bag at half way, as a way to get some energy and protein back into my system.
I had worked hard on my diet in the months leading up to the race and was pleased to stand on the start line 5kg lighter than I was last year and 3kg lighter than the year before. I had also worked a lot on minimising my kit and to that end, I only ran carrying 500ml of Mountain Fuel Raw Energy for each of the first two legs, as these are quite short and I was already well hydrated. The heat and humidity that evening probably meant that with hindsight this wasn’t the best plan and I did get some cramping around midnight but fortunately this was short lived, so I got away with it.
I stuck to my plan well for the first half of my race and felt strong and able to run throughout. During the second half, we were hit by some bad weather coming over the tops on the longest leg of the race and at this point it was a case of running to stay alive (a slight exaggeration maybe but it was epic none the less) and my nutrition plan came off the rails at this point.
Emptying my bag after the event I realised that on the second half I only drank 1.5 litre of Mountain Fuel, carrying powder to make up another 2 litres all the way to the finish. I did consume all my sports jellies. However the damage was done and at 90 miles my blood pressure fell and I had to stop at the Ambleside checkpoint for 20-30 minutes to try and pull myself together. I eventually left but my pace dropped right off for the next hour or so and with it went my hopes of breaking 30 hours 🙁
On the plus side I rallied in the final five miles and with my stomach settled and Cola Sports Jelly in it, I literally flew over the final long climb and down to the finish in Coniston, taking nearly 3.5 hours off my previous best time and finishing in 30 hours and 50 minutes.
In terms of the checkpoints, I ate food as I fancied it, only really consciously avoiding bread and the milkshakes on offer at Buttermere. My memory is a little hazy but here is what I think I ate at each checkpoint or carried out and ate during the next leg:
CP1 Seathwaite (7 miles): Oranges, Water Melon and handful of ready salted crisps. Carried some biscuits.
CP2 Boot (14 miles): Carried some biscuits.
CP3 Wasdale (19 miles): Cup of soup, two small pots of rice pudding and piece of pork pie. Carried some biscuits.
CP4 Buttermere (26 miles): Couple of slices of cheese and crisps. Carried crisps
CP5 Braithwaite (33 miles): Bowl of rice pudding, some fruit (strawberries, orange, banana and blueberries) and black coffee. Carried some dark fruit cake
CP6 Blencathra (41 miles): Handful of crisps, water melon and oranges. Carried some cheese, banana and nuts
CP7 Dockray (49 miles): Cup of soup, tinned peaches and half a banana
CP8 Dalemain (59 miles): Mountain Fuel Recovery Shake, Two small portions of meat stew and rice pudding. Black coffee
CP9 Howtown (66 miles): Half a banana, orange and flapjack. Carried nuts and banana
CP10 Mardale Head (76 miles): Cup of black coffee
CP11 Kentmere (83 miles): Two small bowls of pasta, water melon, orange and black coffee
CP12 Ambleside (90 miles): Nothing – see below!
CP13 Langdale (96 miles): Oranges and carried some rich tea biscuits
CP14 Tiberthwaite (101 miles): Black coffee and biscuits
Looking back at this race, I am extremely proud of the way it went, especially considering the injuries I have had to overcome in the last twelve months. That said, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t little frustrated to miss out on sub-30 by taking my eye off the ball when it came to my nutrition as the weather worsened after Howtown.
Oh well, its all about the lessons learned and it gives me an excuse to go back next year and try once again 🙂