Paths through fields or woods and on gravel under warm sunlight. Or sometimeswith the wind, rain or snow – experience nature in a way that challenges the trail runner’s body from head to toe. Those who want to travel fast and enjoy it at the same time require sufficient energy.
Trailrunning Guru Stephan Repke, aka Gripmaster chats with us about the Do’s and Don’ts, and the right supplies for the journey in this interview.
You wrote the ’11 commandments of trail running’ to make the entry in the world of trail running easier for newbies. In these you recommend to always have some emergency provisions with you on solo and somewhat ‘wilder’ runs. For example, the 7th commandment: ‘Experience the trail, and – survive it!’. What exactly should be these emergency provisions consist of?
Alongside the obligatory kinesio tape for the ankles, and a survival blanket, it’s also beneficial to have at least some emergency supplies with you. What and how much depends on how wild and far you will actually travel. But an emergency-smoothie or gel in the backpack is definitely a sensible idea. They don’t go off and can be kept in the first aid box in the car. The day you do get lost, or simply miscalculate the distance or duration, you’ll always be happy to have one. You can be rescued by a performance smoothie – at least in relation to energy – for easily over an hour; hopefully enough to get back to civilisation.
To allow a constant level of performance it’s important to have a regular supply of fluids and energy. These should be adapted to suit the climatic conditions as well as the surroundings. Have you got an elaborate, individually created sports nutrition strategy?
When I’m travelling longer distances it’s not only important to eat and drink during the run because it makes you feel better, but also because it’s important for your performance. One shouldn’t forget that a trail runner can’t really carry that much. In addition, if you want to refill your water bottles on the go, it depends on whether you’re passing a drinkable source of water. Generally speaking I try to drink half a litre per hour, or even a whole litre if it’s very hot. Personally I don’t really like plain water, so I’ll always carry a few 5Electrolytes tablets with me. In addition, the body loses minerals through sweat, and they’ll get replaced this way. This is really important, as cramps during trail running are really unpleasant. As ‘food’ I’ll primarily take Performance Smoothies and PowerGel Shots. I tolerate both very well, even on the go, and they are small and ideal to carry. For every planned 90 minutes I take one pack. This has always worked well for me.
From errors one learns. So far, what has been the most influencing and severe experience in relation to the wrong nutrition before and / or during a trail run?
Before my first trail race I was obviously still very inexperienced. This become obvious when I started my career as a trail runner by doing the UTMB, which is 166km all the way round the Mont Blanc, as pretty much a novice. With such a long route you need a lot of energy, so I therefore had a big tin of pasta salad in my backpack, along with a fork from my kitchen, as well as a massive bag of M&Ms. Today I have to laugh at that. My race food didn’t just weigh a ton, which I had to carry through the mountains all day, but I also didn’t even touch it on the move. Hard to stomach food should not be on the menu for such intensities.
Eating and drinking whilst running on rough and uneven paths is not so easy. What tips have you got for trail runners?
First and foremost I like to be able to get to my food easily, i.e. it’s stored in the front or side pockets of my backpack. While running I mainly consume Performance Smoothies. These are quickly finished, even whilst running and without stopping. PowerGel Shots take a little longer to chew, but they are also a little more solid. And of course it’s better not to plan to eat on the more technical parts. It’s a lot easier to eat when going downhill, or on the flat compared to going uphill. I often calculate that I’ll have something to eat a quarter or half an hour before the next big ascent, so that the required energy is definitely available at the right time.
Fast recovery is especially important during trail run stage races. How do you make sure this is accomplished during events?
Stage races are a mental and physical challenge. The limited time between arriving at the finish and the next start should be used effectively. The first thing I normally do is to drink a litre of still mineral water: to quench the initial thirst, and because it’s refreshing. I follow that with a big glass of cold milk with Recovery regeneration drink powder. That tastes like a cocoa drink, but has more substance. And obviously the body also needs attention in other aspects. The daily massage is ideal, but isn’t always available. The minimum is extensive and calm stretching. Especially on hot days it pays dividends to lie down, or get the legs into a cold river or lake as soon as possible after the finish. This takes some mental effort, but you will definitely feel an immediate relief and more recovered as a result. Then the whole evening should be spent eating and drinking, so that the next day can be started with full energy and fluid stores. Ideally the recovery process is completed with an early night and a long sleep.
© Corinne Mäder Reinhard, Senior EU Sports Nutrition Manager PowerBar. International Olympic Committee post-graduate Diploma in Sports Nutrition