What powers Geoff Roes’, Olga King’s and Rickey Gates’ long bouts on trails might surprise you.
While chomping on potato chips and slices of bacon during a race sounds unorthodox and perhaps counterintuitive to fleet-footed road runners, on the trails, anything goes. The rugged terrain, often dramatic shifts in altitude, swift shifts in temperatures and sometimes days-long competition of ultra trail races commands unique fueling strategies and a gear list that extends far past the run-of-the-mill road marathon uniform of dry-quick shorts and shirt, anti-blister socks and racing flats. Carrying a hydration pack, layering strategically, and arranging to pick up gear such as headlamps or changes of socks and shoes at drop-off points or aid stations, becomes a vital part of ultra trail race planning.
At trail races—even some whose distances don’t surpass the marathon—it’s not uncommon for aid stations to serve boiled potatoes and candy in addition to water and sports drinks. Combining sports foods with whole foods—particularly those with salt and refined sugars—during ultra races provides a balance of quicker-burning and slower-burning energy, and the sodium helps runners retain fluids. Below is a snapshot of the top-five nutrition and gear preferences of three leading trail runners.