Nutrition For Ultra Endurance Cycling & Running Events

Topics Covered In This Episode:

  • Fueling ultra-endurance cycling and running events
  • Identifying the performance elements of your event
  • Altering nutrition during the hard and easy portions of races
  • Training your gut
  • Common nutrition mistakes athletes make
  • Nutrition beyond the 6-hour mark in events
  • Dealing with GI issues
  • The causes of cramping

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Episode Transcription:

Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.

Corrine Malcolm (00:06):

So today we’re going back to basics to talk about ultra endurance nutrition with the co-host of this show and the coach that got me into coaching. Mr. Adam Pulford, Adam Pulford is a pro-level coach with CTS, a level one coach with USA cycling, a level one coach with USA triathlon and a certified strength and conditioning specialist with the national strength and conditioning association. Say that five times fast. He’s been coaching for over 15 years and has been the team director and coach for both professional mountain bike and for road cycling teams. And is now the cohost of this podcast, the train ride podcast, Adam, welcome to the show.

Adam Pulford (00:45):

Thanks for having me.

Corrine Malcolm (00:46):

Um, for those of you who don’t know Adam, um, I’ve known Adam for a very, very long time. Um, I think you’ve been a character reference for me more than once at this point,

Adam Pulford (01:01):

Perhaps, and that makes me feel good to, to cure that character reference.

Corrine Malcolm (01:06):

Okay. So as I mentioned to you, before we hit the record button races are back. I’ve got athletes doing B races tuning up for big a events later this summer and fall. Everyone is super excited, but we’re also making kind of silly mistakes. I recently had an athlete completely forget to drop off his drop bags, which contained his key nutrition for a big long race.

Adam Pulford (01:34):

Oh yeah. That’s that’s, that’s not good, but it’s, you know, we’re, we’re just a bundle of habits, right. And when we’ve been, you know, racing year to year to year and you kind of like honing your craft, so to speak, and all of a sudden you have a pandemic where you don’t race, your habits get off. And I think that, you know, your athletes and in my athletes and even myself, it’s like the first few races back, it should be expected that there’s few cobwebs to blow off a little bit of Russ to knock off. And you know that that’s fine. So little grace along the way as we, uh, settled back into race mode, I think,

Corrine Malcolm (02:09):

Yeah. So we’re gonna, we’re gonna make mistakes, but to try to help mitigate and limit some of those mistakes. I think today is a great opportunity to talk about what we can do in training to get us ready for those bigs. Like for those big stage moments where all the chips are down and we have to be ready to perform. So one of those big ticket items I see with athletes is if they’re going to mess something up, it’s, you know, they’re, they’re, well-trained for the event, it’s oftentimes going to come down to handling situations out on the race course or messing up their race day nutrition. So I want to dive into specifically training or nutrition for these ultra endurance activities. And in my mind, we’re kind of going beyond the typical, the half marathon, the marathon we’re going, we’re going bigger. We’re on the bike longer. We’re in our running shoes on the trail longer. What does that look like? Say you’ve got an athlete and they’re stepping up in distance this year. They’re doing their first, you know, maybe they’re in Kansas this weekend during their first 200 mile gravel race. How do you approach nutrition and nutrition changes for that level of performance with an athlete?

Adam Pulford (03:22):

Hm, well, I’ll speak to, I’ll speak to this cycling and maybe even like triathlon side of things, I have a lot more experience rather than a, you crazy ultra runners out there. And maybe I can learn a little bit from you, uh, when it comes to those hundred mile runs, but you know, Unbound, uh, on Kansas is a, is a good example for this because it is super long, but it also has, uh, what I call performance elements to it. Meaning for off-road races, they’ll they all start hard. Okay. So the first hour is like super hard way harder than you’d normally go. If you’re doing a 200 mile or 150 mile race, you know, a hundred miles let’s face it. Um, I have athletes doing the a hundred and the 200, I have athletes going for the wind. I have athletes just go and finish and walking through the re the fueling strategies for everybody this week has been super fun.

Adam Pulford (04:15):

It’s a little bit of rinse and repeat because there are some elements that are the same. However, the individual athlete has their own uniqueness in terms of the type of fuel that they’re using, uh, the rate of fuel that they’re using and things like this, but from a, like a high level standpoint, I look at when those performance aspects are going to come into play from the racing, um, element. And then when would it mean by the performance elements is like, when you’re going super hard. Okay. When you’re going super hard, you’re burning more carbohydrates as a fuel source from muscle glycogen and from your liver. And, uh, you’re generally not going to take many things on board. That’s going to be hard to digest. So we’re talking more liquid and gels and things like this during those, uh, more intense time periods. And then in the time periods where it’s less intense, you can take on a fuel that is a little bit more complex, something that you can chew. We’ll get, we’ll get into these details a little bit later, but that’s where you can put, um, um, more interesting fuels into the system over time. And I’m sure we’ll talk about some, uh, specific parameters in terms of fueling per hour and things like this, but just from a high level, I’m looking at when athlete needs to burn it hot and go hard. And when, when they’re not, and that’s how I start to shape up fueling strategies for a longer event like that.

Corrine Malcolm (05:37):

Yeah. So I think you bring up a really interesting point, right there you say, okay, this is high level. You know, what is the general need for most athletes? And then stressing the individuality of every athlete. Training is very individual. Nutrition is incredibly individual. What sits well in your stomach. So say, um, you know, obviously these have been prepping for this event for months now. Um, maybe they’ve been prepping since 2019 for all. I know it’s been, you know, 20, 20 being a racist, racist, just being, you know, erased off the calendar. Um, how have you taken, you know, to meet those individual needs? What does that look like in training, in prep for these races? How can they, are they practicing this on the bike on the weekends? Or is their training fueling completely different than what they’re going to be doing on race day?

Adam Pulford (06:25):

Well, this, this may make me sound like a, like an old school, like jock coach guy kind of thing, but I used to wrestle, okay. And this is man, this even goes back to like high school. So everybody can judge me out there for quoting a high school wrestling coach, but he was a hell of a good coach. And he would scream to us that if you wrestle, if you practice like a dog, you’re going to wrestle like a dog and what he meant by then you can think about that because we’re like what? Cause we would always be like, and we would code them. You know, our friends would be like, we would say that in the locker room and all this kind of stuff, but what he meant was if you just laid around, if you practice, uh, if you practice weekly, right?

Adam Pulford (07:11):

If you practice like in a very lazy dog sort of manner, that’s how you’re going to compete up there. So if you slack off in practice, it’s not going to bring your a game for when it’s time to compete. And where I apply that to my coaching in the here and now is everything that we do in training, leading up to an event is pretty much the same as the day of event, which is why you’re, you know, if you’re, uh, if you have a coach out there, they oftentimes will say, you know, nothing new on race day, because we want things to be automatic. We want things to be, um, a known factor. And by introducing something, especially with fuel source in, um, that’s an unknowable to your stomach, as well as to your body, you could have some bad things going on. So I shake all that out in, you know, the months and weeks leading up to the event.

Adam Pulford (08:03):

Um, specifically the, the stuff that we can carry for the fuel, um, type in also, I like to play on stuff that’s long like this, or in particular stage racing, which is some of my favorite, um, stuff where you want to be adaptable to the food that you’re going to see out on race course as well. So whether it’s, you know, uh, pretzels or m&ms, or, uh, in central America, like Costa Rica, they have beat this, this soul, which is just, you know, a little boiled potatoes where you can Dunkin and Salton put it. And so you want your gut to be adaptable, to all different fuel sources. Well kind of hanging your hat on the fuel sources that you can carry and know that’s going to sit well.

Corrine Malcolm (08:47):

Yeah, I think that’s so important to know that they, that they have, they’ve tested it. They have shown up time and time again during training to make sure that what they’re going to see on race day is going to work. And that allows you to backup plans, which we can talk about more later, I find it so frustrating when athletes are willing to spend the time, spend the money, spend the resources to get to these events, but they refuse to practice that nutrition and they can throw their race away because they’re not prepared for that. Their gut, which is a trainable, Oregon is not prepared for the race day demands of eating. I see so many runners who maybe they eat a hundred calories an hour on their run on their training runs like they’re generally under, under fueled. I am guilty of that on many, a long run, but then we turn around and expect our stomachs to be able to take in 200, 300 calories an hour on race day. And there’s no way your stomach can be ready for that, which I just think it’s, it’s so frustrating as a coach. Um, I’m sure you’ve, I’m sure you’ve never seen that with any of your athletes.

Adam Pulford (09:52):

No, never, never. And I’ve never done it myself either, you know, or just perfect, perfect people over here. Um, not so much. Um, but, but yeah, you bring up the great point. I mean, the gut is trainable right in the, the, the athlete needs to consider that as an adaptable and trainable aspect because, um, if you get really good at fueling say, you know, you throw out two to 300 calories per hour. Good, good starting point. Um, when you start to do that and you’re not used to it, it may feel bad. You may have some GI issue and all this kind of stuff. And then you go back to coaching and say, oh God, I felt like throwing up. I was like, okay, go do it again. Because the second time, the third time, the fourth time you do it, you’ll realize that your body will start to absorb that. And then all of a sudden you start producing better powers, holding better pieces and having a better experience out there in you just becomes more fun, which is kind of the end goal from it.

Corrine Malcolm (10:45):

I would hope so. I hope the end goal is to have, have more fun. Um, I know that I’m approached by several athletes and I think this holds true in the cycling side of things. Um, as well as that, obviously our training rides and runs, aren’t going to be necessarily as long or close to as long as our ultra endurance events, particularly if you’re going like 12 hours plus, right? Like if you’re training for cross country racing or shorter, shorter road, road, stage racing type stuff, you know, you might, you might train longer than you race, but for most of us in this kind of category of distances, we’re not hitting those distances on a Saturday ride or a Sunday run or something of that nature. And so I’ve got athletes that come to me and they say, every time I get past the six hour mark in a race, my stomach falls to pieces. Every time I get past this point and it’s not like, oh, we can say, okay, well, we’re going to go run for, you know, eight hours every weekend and get you to that point. So you can practice eating past that point. How do you, how do you deal with that as a coach working with athletes who are going to be racing unknowable distances or unknowable amounts of time when they kind of step out of, you know, these traditional distances?

Adam Pulford (11:59):

Yeah. I’m, I’m a little more fortunate to work with athletes in, in more cycling and triathlon where we have less pounding over an eight hour time period, right. The than runners. So I can, I can go to those durations a little bit more frequently than runners can, and you start to shake it out, you know, in those long sessions, at that point, in terms of, you know, how your body reacts to the long stuff versus the short stuff. So in, in, but in that area, the first couple of times where a rider or an athlete goes up to around six hours, and I’m glad you brought up six hours, because that is kind of a magical cutoff point to where the body does start to change because of the fatigue that’s occurring, the exposure of time that you’re out there and kind of the, the exponential fatigue that does occur after six hours for a lot of my athletes, even doing stuff like Leadville and all this kind of stuff, I mean, six, seven hours is going to be my topping out point for that.

Adam Pulford (13:03):

Um, for like hike out. I do have one guy doing the Unbound XL and we’ve gone longer than we blocked it up. I’ll talk about that here in a minute. But basically what you’re talking about is, um, you’re bringing an athlete up to the edge of what they’ve known before, in terms of, of fatigue for, uh, uh, you know, concentrated time period. You want to bring them up to their cause you, cause you want to see what happens and you don’t know really what’s going to happen in nor do they, because if you bring them up to an edge and edge, meaning they’ve never been there before, uh, you want to keep to what you know, to be true, meaning safe fuel in a two to 300 calories per hour, as you go and also tune into what your body needs. And this is where I call, like, it’s an emotional palette that we have throughout this long ride or long run, because you’re going to have all these cravings.

Adam Pulford (13:52):

Sometimes you want to feed those cravings. Sometimes you don’t because you want to stick to the plan, but also give you, give the body what it needs along the way. And so kind of to answer that question is like, um, bring them up to that edge, have them find out kind of who they are. And if they’re craving, you know, if they’re craving like some pizza or if they’re craving something crazy, like go for it, just don’t eat a ton of it, right? Keep it to around, you know, probably 400 calories or less for like a feeding type, because you still need to go. You still need to exercise and move and your body just wants to sit and hang out and absorb those calories, but you need to keep going. And that’s what we’re going to have some GI issues. Meanwhile, keep on the hydration plan. Very sequentially, if you need a dinger for a reminder or whatever, because your nutrition, your greatest nutrition plan only works with a great hydration plan. Food absorbs well on a hydrated gut. So you want to stay as hydrated as you can throughout. Don’t get too far behind. And, but yet play to that emotional palette over time. Meaning calories, calories are king at this point for fueling and feeling good for an eight hour day.

Corrine Malcolm (15:00):

Yeah. I’m really happy that you brought up hydration there kind of at the end of end of that, because you’re right. It really is important that if you’re, you can’t absorb anything, if you’re dehydrated and you’re kind of setting yourself back, um, we call it. Um, and this also, this happens a lot when we’re in extreme heat, extreme heat and extreme altitude as well. Right? Cause the blood wants to be anywhere, but the stomach it’s got other things to do. It’s got to cool you off. It’s got to go to those working muscles. Um, so you have harder, like you have more and more stress on those tissues of your stomach to try to bring anything in. So if you add dehydration on top of that, you have a really dysfunctional gut and all of a sudden you’re gonna suffer the consequences, um, out one end or the other. Unfortunately.

Adam Pulford (15:46):

Exactly, exactly. And I think so you like, we’ll go deeper on what happens in the ultra like distance sort of scenario. But I think it’s super important to revisit, like how to get to a point where you can eat a slice of pizza at seven hours, right? Because again, like you want it, your success leading up to that point is all the successes per hour to that point, which has shaken out and training. Like we just talked about and all this kind of stuff, we keep on throwing out two to 300 calories per hour. But like specifically for people listening and say, here’s how I do it. If you start ideally topped off and ready to go, meaning you had breakfast a few hours ago, um, you come in fresh to the event. You’re not blowing out. All the electrolytes are topped off all this kind of stuff.

Adam Pulford (16:34):

And in, in say my world of off-road racing or cycling and triathlon you, well, triathlon’s not there. Off-road racing. Let’s take that on belt. You start hard. Everybody’s going, I mean, it’s dark, you know, there’s some lights going on and it’s like, oh, I got the last thing that’s on your mind is really feeling at that point. So you want to start topped off and ready to go because you really can’t fuel like you should in that first hour, but you also don’t need to because your liver, your muscles, your blood is topped off of ribbon go fuel tank is full. After that first hour, things start to stabilize normalize. Now we’re onto our fueling protocol. Okay. Two, 300 calories per hour. Good starting point. But this should be again, like I said, shaken out and train. I like to look at those, you know, the total calorie count like that.

Adam Pulford (17:23):

And two to 300 good. I would say some people in, in also it can vary as well. You can go down to maybe like maybe like one 20, um, and be okay with that. But there also has, if you’re going to go one 20 per hour for a few, there also has to be more like the threes in the 400 calorie per hour to kind of shore that up later on. So on average, this is called two. Um, so after that first hour, then you’re starting with around 200 calories per hour in the form of primary carbohydrate. And also you can drink that or you can eat that in the Unbound or off-road races. You start generally with a little bit more liquid because it’s harder intensity. So you’re going to drink and eat those gels. And then once we get into three hours and four hours, that’s when the bar starts to happen or a little rice cakes and all this kind of stuff.

Adam Pulford (18:16):

And then it’s going to be, you still want a, at least 20 ounces of fluid coming into the body per hour. And again, you got to mix and match or calculate your calories per hour with sport, drink and water coming in. But I just say 20 ounces, minimum per hour and 20 to 30 ounces on average in the hot humid environments, you can go up to 40 ounces per hour and still be successful. And I’d say erring on the side of a little bit more. It’s definitely not a bad thing in that realm. So 20 to 40 fluid ounces per hour and anywhere down to like 1 22 all the way up to, uh, probably 400 calories per hour, that’s the broad range for people to start with or start at. Okay, now you do all of that for the first five hours. Five or $6. Okay. Yeah, exactly. Okay. But you have to do that super, super well before you can talk about this ultra endurance nutrition topic that we’re really going for here. And so for anyone listening, you’re like, whoa, five hours of all that, oh my God, I haven’t even calculated this in my life. Let alone like gone to a six hour ride, but yeah, that’s who we’re talking about. And that’s like the crazies out there. That’s who we coach. That’s what we do. We

Corrine Malcolm (19:36):

Love that. We love them. Yeah,

Adam Pulford (19:38):

For sure. But that’s the edge, right? So that’s where body PR potentially starts shutting down and gets a little more emotional or I want more salty food rather than sweet all going to say, okay, give it. But you got to keep on your hydration protocol, meaning 20 ounces of minimum per hour. If the, if the stomach’s feeling a little like, uh, bloaty or a little balled up, then give it more pure water. If you’re going really good, okay. Keep the sport train coming because the carbohydrate and the electrolytes that you want, those absorbing as much as possible,

Corrine Malcolm (20:11):

Right there. Super easy to get in because they’re so simple, right?

Adam Pulford (20:14):

Yup. Yup. And if everything’s good, stomach’s good. And you’re craving that slice of pizza. Okay. Go for it. But just make sure you take bites of it and all this kinda stuff. Like, let it be just this like warm hug and then you keep on going and you keep on going with your protocol, um, hour after hour after hour. And that’s, that’s how I do it.

Corrine Malcolm (20:34):

Yeah. That’s I mean, and it’s one of those things where it’s like, when it goes, right, it goes right. And when it goes wrong, it can go really, really wrong. And part of that, as you mentioned, like this has to be like fleshed out in practice on those long rides. I’m thinking back to all my cycling friends who, you know, they’re stopping for pastries or they’re stopping for pizza and they still do, you know, finish their ride out. And I’m like, okay, there’s, you know, it might feel funky in the stomach, but that’s one way to practice it. Right. I’ve got runners who they set up their car as their aid station and they do 90 minute loops or two hour loops. And they come back to their car and, you know, on, on their run, when they’re out there in the woods, they’ve got, you know, gels and their normal, their normal hydration product.

Corrine Malcolm (21:11):

And then at the car, it’s the aid station, food practice. It’s the potato chips, it’s the Coke, it’s the, you know, m&ms and all that kind of stuff, because, you know, that’s what you’re, that’s what you’re faced with. I think some people get some decision, not decision fatigue, but they get overwhelmed at an aid station and these big, long races to where it’s like, well, I’ve practiced with this stuff, but now I’m staring down, you know, crazy stuff in aid stations and I’m not sure what I should eat or could eat. And that gets even more out of hand. I feel like traveling internationally for racing. Right. And coming up against you that you’ve never seen before in an aid station and having no idea how it’s going to sit in your stomach. Um, so I guess one kind of another question stemming off of that, right.

Corrine Malcolm (21:53):

Is how do you best prepare athletes to besides, you know, it sounds like practicing this on these long on these long rides is how do you prepare them to course correct. When they’ve made a mistake during this race, maybe they got behind on nutrition or behind on a hydration or something is just a little bit off. It’s not going quite right. How do you prep them to course correct. From a nutrition and hydration standpoint in the midst of this long ultra event, when you know, emotions are high and you’re tired and you know, your stomach’s upset, what do you do then?

Adam Pulford (22:30):

So the two most common things that happen are, um, GI distress. You need like bloaty uncomfortable stomach and cramps. So I would say let’s, let’s take those two, um, examples and also take the approach that like we’re not necessarily going for the win overall. Um, so meaning from a pacing standpoint, we’re not like necessarily pinning it, even though you might’ve had a good pace going into it. Now you got some GI issue, slow down, drink, more pure water. And the reason why I say that is, you know, the harder you go, the more as Kristen said, the more the blood flow is going to the peripheral muscle to do the effort that your brain is, uh, trying to make it go. And so if you can slow it down and bring some, uh, blood back into the stomach and also just drink a little bit more pure water and just like sips at a time, you’re going to help rehydrate the gut and you’re going to help bring blood to help digest. And hopefully calm that situation down. If you’ve got major GI issues and you roll up to the, you know, aid station, plant the bike or whatever, go to the outhouse, do your thing, come back out and then go slower, drink more pure water away we go. And that’s, that’s kind of the go-to for,

Corrine Malcolm (23:53):

It’s not a super sexy answer, but it’s important. Honestly, even at the front of ultra is it’s like, if you gotta slow down for a second to get things under control to, to, thermoregulate better to get that hydration or nutrition. And that could save you time 20 miles down the road, 40 miles down the road, as opposed to, you know, death marching in. And I don’t know how you death March on a bike, um, because gears are involved, but in our, in running ultras, right, we can, we can death March for a very long time and it’s not a pleasant experience.

Adam Pulford (24:25):

Yeah. I Def Martinez, not con not a great thing. Um, but I’ll share a quick story about Cape epic. One year I did this with my athlete and it kinda, it applies here GI issues for sure. But it’s, it was coming from, it’s not from my fueling. Uh, but what happens there is, uh, your body’s not used to the bacteria, especially like in the water. Okay. South Africa. And, uh, this is my first year down there and it’s like 50% of the field gets something. Okay. And it’s, it’s the, in the water and you just kind of know and accept that there’s a few hacks that you can travel with in terms of like, uh, like a Cipro or there’s, there’s better antibiotics from the antibiotics, but you don’t want to resort to that necessarily. Anyway, had some bacteria going on. And I w had like sweat, just like I wasn’t sleeping.

Adam Pulford (25:13):

I was like sweating profusely, like at night. And I was just like, man, I need electrolytes and I need hydration. So I was, I was drinking as much pickle juice as possible and, and, uh, electrolyte, um, uh, drink in water. But I, a couple of times I just had to communicate to my teammate and I was like, Hey, look, just soft pedal. I need to go in the woods. I’ll be right back. Okay. Brought some toilet paper with me a few times. And I got to the point where I had to, it’s really dusty there. And luckily a spot gave us a free little neck above and I ended up having to cut the net buff in half, uh, in order to, uh, do get rid of a GI, uh, issue. But again, you communicate with your teammate a way you go and you soldier on you just get through. And then, but again, it was like, I knew that I was losing so much fluid and fluid. Like we’re just, you know, watery bags of salt. Right. And so I was just trying to consume as much water and salt as possible. Luckily I really enjoyed pickle juice. So I was just like loving.

Corrine Malcolm (26:16):

Yeah. Did you, so you’re obviously having GI issues during that experience. Did you also, did you experience exercise associated muscle cramping with that too? You can’t, you can’t freak out your adductors freak out.

Adam Pulford (26:28):

Yeah. Um, in that particular one, I can’t recall. I probably did. I mean, cause I was just losing so much, but I, I definitely have gotten cramps, you know, in the past. And it’s also the other common example. So in that situation, cramps or they’re multifaceted, so it’s not just electrolytes. I want people to realize that. Okay. And there’s a lot of specificity that goes on and the specificity of not only, excuse me, say, uh, uh, performance, meaning when you’re going hard and fast for long periods of time. And this is where it kind of like finding those edges come back in. Typically when you’re cramping, um, from a performance aspect, like you’re just time trawling your face off or, um, or kind of in this performance zone where you’ve never been before, you’ll start to cramp. Okay. Happens early season happens on like say he’ll climb really long.

Adam Pulford (27:18):

He’ll cleanse where you haven’t done that before. It could be bad, could be legs, could be at doctors, whatever. Um, so what you want to do is, again, it comes back to training. You want to keep on finding your edges and training, keep on pushing the boundaries of what you’re able to do. Meanwhile, there is an electrolyte and hydration component to it. So it goes back to our fueling per hour. You want 20 to 40 fluid ounces per hour. You want a couple of hundred calories per hour. And in particular we didn’t talk about sodium and electrolytes, but sodium is the main driver. Okay. Uh, 500 milligrams on average per hour is what I recommend. Okay. Plus, or minus a few, a hundred milligrams. And that’s going to be really helpful in staving off some of those, uh, cramped situations. I also like to use a couple products for preloading for a really hot humid environment or a really extreme, uh, like performance environment and a couple of products there. Uh, the Osmo preload, super good as well as scratches. Uh hyperhydration and all that’s going on there. And you got a little carbohydrate and you’ve got a lot of sodium citrate, sodium chloride, and a few other electrolytes specific against sodium is a primary driver. It’s about 1500 to 1700 milligrams of electric electrolytes that you’re pumping into the system

Corrine Malcolm (28:38):

To again, super

Adam Pulford (28:39):

Salt. Yeah. Vegas salient. Exactly. Um, but if you’re able to put that into the gut an hour ahead of time on a relaxed stomach, it’s then going to filtrate into the body and you’ll be topped off and ready to go. However, your question I believe was in the moment or in the five hours deep on cramping, Noah,

Corrine Malcolm (29:01):

So slow down.

Adam Pulford (29:03):

Yes, exactly. Slow down. I like to find sodium cause that’s definitely going to help. Okay. And that sodium can be sports drink. It can be food like the, uh, uh, potatoes and salt, but pizzas, diesel, um, or kind of what salt licks, salt tabs people that really is helpful. There’s another hot, uh, product on the market. I think it’s a, there’s like a S like a spicy pickle juice.

Corrine Malcolm (29:27):

Yeah. It’s a TRP agonist. So that’s kind of, it, it speaks to the, this is like something that I’m super nerdy about. Um, as you mentioned, which is really important. Yeah. As you mentioned, um, cramping in actually a settings is not, it used to be that we thought it was like very much only about electrolytes, but it turns out it’s very, multi-factorial, it’s a perfect storm of a lot of things going awry generally going harder than you’re used to. Like you mentioned like a hill climb much longer on something like that than you’re used to. Um, obviously environmental factors are stressful to the body. And so it’s more of a neuromuscular thing that’s going on. It’s this neuromuscular fatigue. And so there’s companies in the market, that’s why pickle, juice works, pickle juice. Isn’t necessarily about the electrolytes. It’s about the fact that it’s the vinegar.

Corrine Malcolm (30:13):

And so you have these things, um, throughout your mouth and your throat throughout your body, they help, um, tell you that things hurt. They help to tell you if something’s cold or hot and their products now, actually that are designed to trigger those they’re called TRP channels, designed to trigger those locations and basically reset the neuromuscular system to say, okay, we’ve been, you’ve been getting the signal contract, contract contract, we’re resetting that. So now you get contract, relax, contract, relax to break that cramping cycle. Um, they’ve definitely been there. I I’ve used them. I used them at Leadville, um, when I was cramping and they definitely helped to abate cramps when they’re in process. But the, I don’t think they’ve been proven to prophylactically prevent cramps from happening. Um, which is, I think one of the marketing claims initially, but yeah, if you’re, if you can handle some cayenne pickle juice, essentially, um, mid ride or mid run, um, cause you’re cramping, it’s definitely a nice little thing to keep in your, in your bag for emergencies.

Adam Pulford (31:15):

Okay. So Korean, you were just talking about the TRP channels and I wanted to go there as well. I don’t understand it nearly as much, but the literature that I was reading, even this is, was this a few years ago now when like, when, like it was like a really hot topic that so TRP channels happen, but it’s like this acidic and spice that happens over the mouth. They’re like, what, what mechanistically, like what is happening in the mouth in morning?

Corrine Malcolm (31:46):

So TRP channels, their, um, their pain receptors and their temperature receptors. And so they, we call them, we call things agonists if they can activate that channel. And so things that are agonists for specific TRP channels and they have numbers like TRP V eight or V1, um, agonists for them are things like cayenne with Sabi, menthol. Um, there’s a bunch of ginger, there’s a bunch of other things. Um, but so there’s a bunch of research that’s going to come out about menthol in the coming year. I would say probably the Tokyo Olympics, because akin to your body saying, recognizing cayenne at this channel, if it recognizes menthol and it feels, it tells that channel because that channel is associated with cool sensations, cooling sensations, um, recognizing cold. It tells that channel, oh, this is a cool thing. I am feeling cool. And so they’re using it in a heat settings actually to elicit a, um, a change in perceived, not perceived exertion, perceived feeling of the temperature. Um, so you could use it not to thermoregulate, but to elicit a more pleasant experience in the heat, for

Adam Pulford (33:05):


Corrine Malcolm (33:08):


Adam Pulford (33:10):

Yeah, that makes sense. Um, so yeah, that’s so the practical application here is like, like, like pickle juice, right? Um, it has some of those characteristics, there are some, um, you know, engineered products that you can buy out there. I personally have never done that, but for years, um, I have been using, and also recommend a pickle juice in how to do this is you get like a gel flask that can carry like, you know, three, four or five jails, whatever, and that pickle jar that’s in the back of your refrigerator. You just take that jar, pour some of that juice into your gel flask, but that your back pocket in, or have it at a feed station or something like this, where you know that you’re going to probably be a little bunkie, route four or five hours, something like this and take a hit of that tape, you know, try it and training, first of all. Yeah. Um, see how much you can tolerate. Yeah, exactly. But gosh, you know, all my long stuff, um, it’s, it’s always there. It’s always there. Um, and in particular, so say if you don’t have to your pee channel induced

Corrine Malcolm (34:14):

Yeah. We call them agonists in the, like in the literature and the science and call them agonists. Okay.

Adam Pulford (34:20):

TRP agonists. Okay. If you don’t have those in your back pocket, what do you do then? Um, man, you, you gotta be gritty and what, so one, one race in particular. So I, I, I, uh, used to race and then I just like started coaching and then didn’t raise for like six or seven years. And then it got back to racing, uh, long story short. And so I got myself a peer pressured into this race. I got off the front and we’re off the front of the 60 mile road, race seminar. I dunno. I was off in front of like ever with one other guy were going, I was feeling good, whatever. And all of a sudden, like it was just like Adam’s level of stoke comes dropping down and the cramps start ratcheting up. I’m like, oh my God. And I bought you a bottle in the feed and I’m just like running low.

Adam Pulford (35:11):

I had double electrolyte, uh, sports drink going on. And I was like trying to get all of it. I could, but I was just like counting off the miles. And at the end of the day, like I didn’t have enough fuel. I wasn’t well prepared. It was not a great, like, I, I want to say w should have been like a pandemic that botched me off my habits or whatever, but I just had to grit my teeth and bear it and get to that finish line guy out sprinted me. And I just, I, I like stood up for the sprint, almost locked up and I just,

Corrine Malcolm (35:38):

It was, so it sounds like everything that could go wrong in preparation and then in the race itself did, did go wrong. And the only thing that could get you through it is just grin and bear it. And a lot of ways.

Adam Pulford (35:51):

Yeah. But I mean, I’m, I’m like a two hour champ, you know, uh, like for two hours, I’m good. But for this was pre pandemic, Adam, by the way, I actually did some training and some volume and stuff, and now I’m pretty good for the longer stuff, which is way better. Cause it makes my life way more fun when I get invited to the long stuff. And then you show up and you actually don’t die. Um, it’s a primary goal, but yeah, this was like, I just didn’t do my training. Like, so I didn’t do my training. And then I also botched, uh, you know, the fuel game and then I had all the bad things go, go wrong, you know? So it happens to the best of us.

Corrine Malcolm (36:25):

Yeah. It does happen to the best of us, but it sounds like, you know, I think the biggest, the big takeaways here kind of the overarching theme, right, is that practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect or permanent, but it makes it pretty darn close. Right. It’s all that pre-race time. That is so crucial and so important. I think if we could stress one thing to the listeners, it’s, you’re not figuring this out on race day. You’re not figuring this out during the race. You frigging this out in the months and all your previous race experiences to have it come together on race day.

Adam Pulford (37:03):

Yeah. I’m glad you brought up previous race experiences because that’s also important in problem-solving when stuff goes sideways out there. And if we’re zooming in on the ultra endurance rumble things, um, it’s like the more epic events that you do, the more stage racing that you do, the more exposures you get to all the different foods, like situations out there and also a bunking situation to where it’s like, you just, you figure out if your body can handle this like kind of gelatinous sugar looking thing at the aid station that like all the locals are eating. So it can’t be terrible. So let’s just start with like a little bit at first pretty tasty, but okay, now I drink more pure water and all this kind of stuff. Right? And so you figure out like what your body can tolerate over time in also you’re training your body to be adaptable on the fly like that. And I can’t, I can’t stress that enough in terms of having an adaptable gut and adaptable like mindset between the years. The stuff always goes sideways.

Corrine Malcolm (38:03):

I go sideways, but practice and experience go a very, very long way in creating a successful, happy, not death, March race day experience

Adam Pulford (38:19):

A hundred percent, a hundred percent. Um, I could go a death March. I could go death March as well, unless, unless he had something else to add to that. If you want a death March, like example

Corrine Malcolm (38:33):

I’m, I mean, I’m always thrilled to, I think all of us have had, I mean, I hope not everyone who’s listening to this has experienced the death March situation, but I am happy to listen to you. Tell us about your death March situation.

Adam Pulford (38:48):

Well, I guess I, and we can always, you know, edit this out too. So, you know, this is where we can just riff on it. But, um, I think that people, like, if you’re listening to this podcast and you’re like epic, curious, still

Corrine Malcolm (39:01):

Listening to this

Adam Pulford (39:01):

Podcast, if you’re still the same, that’s, that’s a good point. Um, then you should, you should not go out and seek the death marches, but allow them to come to you when they do. And I think it’s a pretty good experience to do that because, um, you realize that you’re not going to die, but when stuff goes sideways, there was a lead bill that I had my first lead though. And I had like five flats. My bike broke several times. I mean, the posts was slipped in my fork, uh, floppy. And so it had to like just pump it up to be a rigid for. And uh, I mean, there’s so many bad things going on. I thought it was gonna be sub nine. I ended up being like, just over 10. And like, this is back in the day when people were like the number of racers, like 700 people.

Adam Pulford (39:45):

So it, wasn’t not like huge anyway, uh, had everything go wrong. Um, people like impacted the people that were going to feed me, like at twin lakes, inbound, they packed up and gone cause was like, oh, Pulford, he’s done some like soldier and suicide. I had to go like neutral aids, which weren’t anything really back then. It was just like Ken Clover and a shotgun, like some Twinkies or something. And so we’re like going back, power line just kicks you in the nuts. And then I come flying down coop, he’s hanging out, uh, yeah, coop what an angel, uh, he’s hanging out at the very last place to like, get a bottle. And I’m like Def Martine, like with gears in a bike, but it’s like, your head’s like hanging. You’re like out of the saddle to like trying to climb, but like, you’re, you know, my hip is like locked up and I needed some TRP inducers or whatever.

Adam Pulford (40:39):

Um, and so then I see coop and I just like lighten up and he’s like, Pulford I thought, I thought you just like threw the Teflon, gives me a bottle. And I’m like, I like unclipped. I like put the bottle in. He starts pushing me. I’m like, oh my God. And I just didn’t want to go. And, but yet it he’s like he put the bottle in. I think he shoved some food in my pocket. Cause I couldn’t like think at that point. Right. But he knew exactly what I needed to do, which is like calories and keep going. Right. And through that whole process, I learned not to hit my microphone and throughout the whole process, I learned how my body like responded and in reacts when everything goes sideways, like mentally, physically, and then what I needed to do, which was eat, drink and keep moving forward if you want to finish.

Corrine Malcolm (41:29):


Adam Pulford (41:30):

It’s as simple as that.

Corrine Malcolm (41:31):

It’s as simple as that. And I think people stressed when they hear that they need to slow down. They need to eat and drink. It’s the last thing they want to do. But, and I’m saying, you know, chairs at aid stations and ultras are like very tempting. You sit down in a chair, you might not get back up, but if you need to take five minutes or 10 minutes right then and there to get that fuel in because you’re looking at 40 more miles, it’s probably worth it. It could probably save your race later on. I mean, or get you back into a place where, you know, you’re actually, you’re moving again. Um, so I think people write themselves off early when things go awry, but you can troubleshoot even near the front of these races, you can troubleshoot and get yourself back into a much happier position by taking five, slowing down, getting cool.

Corrine Malcolm (42:19):

If it’s too hot walking, if you’re at altitude and you need to get some fuel. And I definitely stopped at the top of hope pass to eat an oatmeal cream pie during Leadville because I couldn’t run an eat anymore. Or at least at that altitudes, I stopped at the top of hope pass, had not milk cream pie and then ran down the other side and it was great. Um, so you need to take that time to get that fuel in, um, because it’s gonna, I don’t know. I think it pays dividends at the back end of things. Um, so practice experience carbs are king, learn your body, practice it during training. Is there anything else that our listeners need to know when it comes to eating and drinking for these, for these super super long events?

Adam Pulford (43:11):

No, I think, I think you summarized and wrapped it up pretty good there. And it’s, it’s a matter of, like you said, fleshing it out in your training, but then also like sticking to that protocol like hour after hour and being religious about it because you’re not always going to want to do it. And that sport drink that you’ve been nipping on all day. Doesn’t really taste great at hour six, but it is still what you need to put in the system. So like trust it because it’s worked in the past and you know, at the end of the day, you’re, you’re trying to fuel your body to do the thing that you signed up for that you consider fun. So, you know, so just smile, eat, drink, and

Corrine Malcolm (43:51):

Awesome. Well, I know we could deep dive on any tiny facet of this for forever and ever. Um, but I think we’ll wrap it up there for today. Adam, thank you so much for coming on the podcast and sharing your wisdom with all of us.

Adam Pulford (44:07):

Love it. Yeah.

Comments 3

  1. Pingback: When to Start Training For Your First Ultramarathon - CTS Ultrarunning

  2. Pingback: 5 Reasons Fall Is The Right Time to Start Training For Your First Ultramarathon - CTS Ultrarunning

  3. Hi, I suffer from cramp after a few hours cycling and some times in bed just been to Majorca first 2 days bad cramp and at night weather was hot started drinking tonic water has well as water and didn’t get cramp at all for the rest of the week . I do drink tonic water at home sometimes before bed and this does help with cramp dose the quinine in tonic water help . Regards John

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