This past weekend, I ran the Michigan Ragnar Road Relay. This is a race that is done with a team of 12 runners in 2 vans across the course of 2 days. Our first runner started in Muskegon, MI and our last runner ended in Traverse City, MI – just over 200 miles total.
The mileage itself was not the challenge – each runner did somewhere between 13 and 18 miles. What was challenging about this race was the steep hills, the long lag time between each leg (about 10 hours), and the lack of sleep. Most of us got about 2 hours of sleep over the 40 hours of the trip. With the stop and go nature and lack of sleep there was very little time for recovery.
Throughout the race, many of my family members that I ran with were asking for tips on how to fuel appropriately; specifically, before and after. Fueling for a race like this can be a bit challenging, so I thought I would share my thoughts and strategies.
The day before a race, especially if it is high mileage, eat a little bit more carbohydrates. You do not need to eat a huge pasta dinner; however, you can add an extra scoop of rice or another slice of garlic bread to your normal routine. This helps to top off glycogen (energy) stores to give you the highest amount of energy possible. Also, make sure to add in an extra cup or two of water throughout the day to ensure you are fully hydrated.
Eat a normal breakfast that includes protein and carbohydrates – scrambled eggs with toast or oatmeal with nut butter and turkey bacon. If your race is very early in the morning, consider eating a larger snack rather than a meal. Before every marathon, I ate a banana with peanut butter. And of course, drink your cup of coffee and water!
Throughout the day:
Snacks throughout the day should consist of mostly carbohydrates, in order to continue topping off energy stores. You can also include a small amount of protein with snacks. Some items I brought with me for this race included: bananas, peanut butter, trail mix, bagels, Belvita bars, Epic jerky bars, and Gatorade Zero. You will want to eat a snack about 1-2 hours before each leg.
After each leg, even if only running a few miles, I recommend getting some fuel and hydration in. Post run, increase the protein a bit and still make sure to include carbohydrates. Protein ensures you are repairing muscle tissue to help with recovery between legs, while carbohydrates replenish energy stores to prepare you for your next leg. The best carbohydrate to protein ratio for post activity is 3:1 or 4:1 – this is why chocolate milk is the “perfect recovery drink”. It has the 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. Another way to ensure you are getting enough protein is to eat about 0.25 grams per kilogram of body weight. So, if I am 120 lbs, that is 54.5 kg x 0.25 grams of protein = 13.6 gram of protein. Therefore, post-race, I want about 14 grams of protein and 55 grams of carbohydrates for optimal recovery. In addition, to replenish what’s lost through sweat, you should drink 2-3 cups of water for every pound lost. Since, we didn’t have a scale out there and nobody really cared what they weighed anyways, I would recommend at least drinking 16 ounces of water after each leg of the race.
If you are a runner or just enjoy challenging and adrenaline-inducing events, I highly recommend doing one of these Ragnar races. It was the most fun I’ve had a long time and it completely challenges your body and brain. We are capable of so much more than we think – mentally and physically. A race like this proves that.