Ultra168 Beginners Guide to Running 100 Miles – Part 1 – Nutrition Tips

There are many reasons why we jump out of bed at 4am to go for a training run, but primarily the very act of running always means we are challenging ourselves. No more challenging is when attempting to run 100 miles. Now a few of us at Ultra168 are veterans of the distance and also pretty darn good at it. Others, like yours truly find the distance a new challenge and one that is filled with trepidation and excitement in equal doses.

It goes without saying that the great thing about our sport is the camaraderie and knowledge we all possess that keeps us constantly learning and sharing. We know from previous posts that even the elites are constantly experimenting with new techniques, strategies, binning certain things, trying new things. This process of adaption and learning filters all the way through the sport to those thinking about stepping up to ultra distances for the first time.

This was no more evident at this years Western States 100, where the very nature of the lottery means a proportion of runners are potentially running 100 miles for the first time. What makes WS100 so special is the close proximity and everyday interaction you have with legends of the sport as well as the first timers. How many sports let you stand shoulder to shoulder to Kilian, Roes, Koerner, Mackey et al.

So one of the awesome takeaways I was lucky enough to be invited to capture on film was an evening put on by the legend of the sport and all round nice guy Andy Jones-Wilkins, 7 times finisher in the top 10 at WS100. He was able to pull together a panel of 4 elite runners who between them have over 40 “under 24 hour” finishers buckles who were more than happy to offer some tips and tricks. Throughout the evening the main topics on show were focussed on what it takes to tame the WS100 course and more importantly how to finish a 100 miler.

Three main themes/reasons for failure  were covered in detail and over the coming days we will share these with you. AJW described what he calls the ‘Holy Trinity” of DNF’s :- Smashed Quads, Trashed Feet and Upset stomach. These 3 issues are the reasons the majority of us drop out of a race. Dealing with these in advance is ideally dealt with during our training, but what the panelist demonstrate on the video is how to deal with these issues should they come up on the day.

First cab off the rank is “dealing with a dodgy stomach” and how to dial in your nutrition.

In addition, we will also be posting the panelist views of pacers and also the passion you need to have to run a race successfully.

Ultra168 would like to thank Andy Jones-Wilkins for the opportunity to share his and his colleagues insights with us.


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10 thoughts on “Ultra168 Beginners Guide to Running 100 Miles – Part 1 – Nutrition Tips

  1. Nice – I’ll chip in with my experience and how I’ve done things for events that last ~24 hours. I keep it simple and go for real food, particularly around normal meal times. Marmite and Cheese sammies, jam sammies, soup and more recently bananas, melons and ice blocks if available. Coke has been staple to close out an event but has gone of the radar a bit. Perptuem has been used successfully, raro, poweraide and WATER. Chocolate, jelly beans, chips, mashed potato and gravey.

    I guess my point is that I do a little bit of everything and that is what works for me. Trying to have a nibble every 20 minutes or so and the same for water. Obviously it’s a bit coooler in UnZud so sweat rates are a bit lower and fluid intake is a bit less.

    In training I won’t take anything with me if I know I’m out for <2.5-3 hours and will find a creek or two to have a drink. I don't train longer than 4-5 so even then only take a couple of moros with me.

    Read all you can, find out all the options, then experience through training and events will be the way to find out what works for you. Everyone is different. eg I have never taken a salt tablet and have never spewed, maybe I have pushed hard enough. I managed the last loop of Northburn on a 1/2 jam sammie and 500ml fluid.

    Good work on the vid, keep the info coming. Here to Learn 🙂

    1. Thanks Matt, some great tips there. Having paced and crewed a few 100 milers I have seen my fair share of puking. I think it is so true what Craig and AJW say. Time to start over again as all those salt tabs, food, liquid and other supplements are spread all over the trail. Its funny how well you start to feel and run again after puking as long as the puking stops and doesn’t become repetitive. Depends I suppose on what causes the upset stomach in the first place. Sometimes its stale water leftover from your last run in the tube of your bladder, or that unlikely occasion the stream is filled with bacteria, although things like Giardia seem to hit later in the week. As you say, the learning never stops.

  2. The “Gel” and energy bar market is booming, especially recently as the long distance races are becoming more and more popular.
    I think gels are pretty okay as your stomach takes up liquids faster than solids, and leaves less residue. Also most of the gels are containing natural fruit sugar like fructose, D-glucose and maltodextrin. Some antioxidants like vitamin-e or C, maybe some caffein and guarane.

    Despite liquids are easier on the stomach, the human body is designed to chew, to digest, to take solids.
    So in my opinion the best is to mix up the too. For instance 2 hours on gels, 1 hour on solids tactic work for me fine.
    I like solids to be a natural as possible and with as small fiber as possible. Dates are excellent source of sugar, minimal fiber, easy to digest, gives a bulk to your stomach, so stops things rush through. Banana is an all time favorite, apple also as it calms the stomach – avoid the peel during training and racing.
    If you experimented with boiled potatoes and veg soup on the run, then do it on the race. But all the old and recent studies show that during cooking nutrition is lost from the food, and the stomach takes up less from cooked and non cooked food.
    If I take salty I like to take non-roasted salted nuts. I avoid peanuts totally. I prefer cashew, just love them, also pine nuts are excellent. Brazil, hazel or other nuts somehow hard on the stomach.

    Instead of salt tablets I prefer salt drops. For creating a tablet, special anti-caking and anti-baking also ‘glue-ing’ agents are used. E-Lite has convenient small containers what you can stick anywhere in your pocket and every time you fill up your bladder just 3-4 drops. Also Fitoform O’Marine or Shilajit are a lot better than conventional salts. They contain 92 minerals in IONIC form, very bioavailable, and gives you a long term boost straight away after taking it. They have healing properties too.

    That is my choice, what is your ?

  3. Levi, appreciate your recent comments immensely. I find if my stomach is getting a bit swishy on the all liquid fuels then a little nibble on a hammer bar seems to get everything working again.

    1. Nice comments Levi, you always gave great advice. I just did the GOW 100km purely on fluids, which is the first time I’ve done that in a race, plus some gels along the way too. It worked well, but I do think I missed some form of solid food along the way. Like Andrew, a Hammer bar now and again works well for me.

      1. You sure you are not sponsored by Hammer? I actually just ordered a bunch of Hammer stuff and will try it out between now and Kepler.

        My friend Terence Bell swears by coconut milk as his primary energy source for ultras.

        Ginger settles the guts down very well.

      2. Good point Charlie, I did contemplate just saying “energy bar” as the focus of this series of videos is on the actual advice not an advertisement for a sponsor. Generic advice is, all liquids are ok, but if the stomach gets sloshy a nibble on real food can sort it out quicksmart. Will be keen to hear how you go with the new products, let me know if you have any queries. AV

  4. Yes, even if one can manage a full race on liquids like soup, coco milk, and gels, somehow solid makes you more satisfied. Happy tastebuds can make difference between good and bad race, I would put it on the same level as music. A familiar taste can bring you back to life.

    I really favor dates. If you’ve seen the interview what Bryon Powell made with the winner of MDS:
    – What did you eat during the race ?
    – Dates, picked from my garden.

    Energy bars are good, but unlike food it needs stomach training, as you don’t know what can happen in a race environment. Also most of them contain some sort of crops, so the gluten can upset your guts even if you’ve never experienced anything allergic symptom.
    9bars are excellent. Gluten free, seed bar. Sponsor of the UK UltraRace series. There is even a Spirulina one, and they started an organic line. Full of hemp, pumpkin, sunflower…

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