I was asked a few times how I recuperated during my participation in the six days mountain marathon multi-stage trailrun of the Pirineosfit Jaca Trailweek. Combined with talking that week with other runners and triggered by a article about multi-stage trailrunning on the MudSweatTrails website I thought it may be interesting to write about my own ideas and hear your experiences.
So what is my ‘Secret’? Not really earth shattering but summarised:
Anticipate – Recuperate – Prepare
ANTICIPATE. It all starts already during the trailrun itself. You need to keep yourself well hydrated and energised. This will save your body to overcome first the shortages of that day before building up for the next day and it will also help your result of the race itself!
For this reason I ate approximately seven energy bars and four gels (from different brands, pending the appetite I preferred one or the other) in order to during the long days in the mountains and drank 1.5 – 2 litres of energy drink / water (depending the mountain streams available). This may sound a lot but consider what you normally eat during an 6 – 8 hour period a day.
Good and motivational moments for me to eat and drink where climbing not to steep parts and also promising myself a treat when reaching the top of a mountain or when reaching a mountain pass.
I had time to unwrap bars (leave nothing behind) and allowing them to digest, drink something and maybe switch water soft-flasks – even adding some electrolytes tablets when I felt that I drank too much only water without any needed salt / minerals. This is all much more difficult when going fast down hill or really pushing your body. When i felt I needed something in those stages I took an energy gel (also from different brands pending my taste at the time).
RECUPERATE YOUR ENERGY SYSTEM. After finishing, besides celebrating the completed challenge of the day with the other trailrunners, recuperation was on directly on my mind. Focus was on drinking to first of all get rid of the build up body wastes and secondly to reload ‘a mountain of proteins and carbons’ by whatever I liked at that moment – indulging & motivating myself a bit.
I drank approximately 1,5 litres of sports drinks directly after finishing and continued drinking through the rest of the day / evening with a mix of carbo and protein drinks. The proteins drinks are needed to support the recuperation of the muscles. That is probably one of the most important things to do when recuperating. On average you need at least to take in 1,5 times your body weight in proteins grams. Just check the packing and you will find out that this is difficult to get only out of food in the few hours left before going to bed and be ready for the next day, also because just after finishing I am not always very hungry, although I really enjoyed the cold pasta salad they served at the finish.
I personally use a in the first few hours fluids to reload. At first TriSportPharma RECUPRO (an specific, optimal mix of proteins / carbons / Leucine especially made for quick recuperation) and later a mix of Vitagro carbo with tasteless Bodylab 100% whey
mix – these brands are OK for my stomach but everybody has to find out themselves what serves best, as long as it contains a high level of proteins and carbohydrates (check the links for more specific information).
Solid food I like is the Icelandic SKIR yogurt or cottage cheese, both with a lot of proteins, together with fruit muesli, fresh fruit etc. And for my ultimate motivation I spoil myself with a large 1 litres Ice-cream with fruit! Maybe not the healthiest part but inspiring for an Ice-cream addict like I am.
RECUPERATE YOUR MUSCLES. Besides the motivational Ice-cream, I took a nice long shower cleaning my running clothes from the sweat at the same time – I do not have sixsets of running gear -, put on after-sun cream, massaged and creamed my feet and self-massaged and foam-rolled my legs. I always felt a bit ‘reborn’ after these actions!
PREPARE FOR THE NEXT DAY. Rest, drink and eat. For me that meant … feet up on bed, sleeping (with my calves lifted via an additional cushion under the mattress), reading, looking at the great pictures that where made during the trails, drinking carbohydrate / proteins drinks, eating and an occasional stroll in and around the hotel using the stairs or stroll through the town to stretch and loosen the muscles.
I ate quit a lot in the evening – things I liked where: Ice-cream, yogurt with muesli, sandwiches with cheese and chorizo – allowing my body to recuperate and reload during the night. The additional advantage was that I only needed a small breakfast of two coffees and two slices of toast with jam. I had breakfast around 0600, much later than for a one day (road)race. Normally for an 0800 start I would have breakfast around 0400 and don’t drink anything anymore after 0500. It also gave me two hours more sleep every night, which was really welcome!
The slower and relaxed pace at the start of the multi-stage days, literally be ready two minutes before the start (!), I used to warm up the muscles and let the digestion to continue – maybe with a ‘wee’ break. This is impossible in a road race where you have to go ‘max’ from the start.
OTHER OPTIONS. My Portuguese roommate Pedro Marques did more or less the same but also had some interesting ideas. He finished in third place overall at the end and is a experienced ultra-runner so at least it works for him.
- He used baby milk combined with a protein drink after the finish. This went well with his digestion system.
- He ate some handfuls of nuts and tablespoons of honey.
- He also ate some baby food products like fruit mixes. Again very light on the stomach and relatively inexpensive when compared with specialised sport supplements.
- He made some ‘energy cakes’ in the microwave.
During some multi-day trailruns in the Netherlands I also really enjoyed the cakes directly after the finish together with the alcohol free Erdinger Beer. Both I think are good for general carbohydrates reload and motivation (!) but more specialised drinks and food are needed to fully and quickly recuperate.
There is no magic solution but some options are better than others – experiment, investigate, discuss … enjoy!