My first Watertribe event was the 67 mile Ultramarathon. Prior to this event, I had done several long distance biking events and a couple of half Ironman triathlons, so I felt I had a pretty good understanding of how to fuel for this event. I think it was 9 hours into the Ultramarathon that I “bonkered.” I was lucky that I was able to get to an island and had some idea of what to eat to get my body and my mind back into the game. I did lose some time sitting on that island but I was able to get back into the race and finish it. I had experienced bonkering before, but in each of those events I didn’t have a fueling plan and was just fueling as I felt the need. In the Ultramarathon, I had a fueling plan and had trained with it but never longer than 6 hours. This experience taught me that figuring out a fuel protocol for these long duration endurance events is a lot more complicated than one thinks. When you think about it, it makes sense. You are really changing your body chemistry and whatever you are putting into your body has to fit into the chemical reaction going on. As I get older, I have found that it is even more important to understand. That point was driven home to me a couple of years ago while training for a marathon. It was a long training run, in the heat, and I wasn’t taking any electrolyte supplements. I had never before, so why now? Unfortunately, I finished the run in a condition where my lower muscles went into spasms that were so bad my wife was ready to rush me to the hospital. Again, I was lucky in that I was able to get enough fluids and electrolytes into my system that things got better. Otherwise, my wife was going to override my stubborn objections, and haul me to the hospital. There is a tremendous amount of information and products out there and at first I thought I could figure it out myself. What I found was that the more I read, and the more folks I talked to, the more confused I got. One person said this product and fueling protocol was the best, and then someone else would have a protocol that was completely different. What I didn’t know then was that all the folks I talked to were probably correct in that they had found a fueling protocol that worked best for their particular body. It didn’t mean that it would work for my body chemistry. So I needed a protocol to start off with that would get 80% there and then fine tune it with my training paddles. I also wanted a protocol that had some experience and data to support it. That is when I turned to Hammer Nutrition. Why Hammer Nutrition? Three reasons. The first was that they are one of the few companies out there that has experience with multi-day, long endurance events. In fact, a lot of their initial research came from supporting the multi-day bike race called Race Across America. The second was that their products seemed to be made from high quality ingredients and each product seemed to be targeted for a certain benefit. I have always struggled with a product that supposedly does it all. I figure a product that attempts to address all aspects the body is experiencing might help some, but not very well. The third reason was the ability to discuss fueling problems with their staff who are also endurance athletes. This came in real handy around day 13 of the UFC. I was having problems with energy and slowing down my weight loss. This is a picture of me and man I really didn’t look good. My wife left this staging area crying because of the condition I was in. I was also having problems staying awake from 7-9 in the morning. Sleep paddling is what I call it. It was like my blood sugar just dropped off the chart. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and my head up but I was still paddling. Talk about the power of muscle memory. This paddle state is not a lot of fun when you are paddling with a very strong paddler who is a morning person. Ohhhh but the night will come and the tables will be reversed. Rod being the tough guy he is resorted to slapping himself during one of these periods. (I thought about offering to do it for him but figured he wouldn’t take me up on it.) Lisa, being the supportive wife that she is, got on the phone to Hammer Nutrition and explained the problems I was having. Now, when I call Hammer, I usually get one of the athletes on staff who are very knowledgable and very good. My wife, on the other hand, gets through to Steve Born! The guys resume is chock full of long distance events and he has been inducted into the Ultra Cycling Hall of Fame. He spent 45 minutes on the phone with her giving her several suggested changes to both my fueling protocol and the food I was eating. These changes were one of the many things that contributed to me finishing the UFC. Thanks Steve!! For the UFC, I used about every one of Hammer’s products. This is me packing for the UFC. Hard to believe that even consuming all this stuff I was loosing weight. The one thing that I did in this event that I hadn’t done in previous events is really hit the vitamin supplements. In an event such as the UFC your body is really consuming the reserves (body fat, minerals, etc.) it has stored up. In fact, part of the challenge of a participant in this event is to start off with enough reserves, but not too much, that with what you are consuming, your body will have enough to finish the event. Then there are the things your body doesn’t have the capability to store, but requires. You better be taking those in or your body will punish you. This is a picture of what I called my fueling station. I usually ate and drank something every 15 minutes. You will notice that there are two rows of holes. These helped me know what I had taken last. When you are fatigued you must have a simple way of keeping track of stuff and this is what worked for me.
It has been two months since completing the UFC. As I look back on what I put my body through, I am pretty amazed that my body did not have more problems recovering. I am not a doctor, but I really think it was due to the fueling and supplement protocol I used both during the event and post event. I am now back training for a marathon and a long distance open water swim and find that my energy level is almost back to normal. As I stated before, I think every athlete has to find what works for them but for me, the Hammer Nutrition products and staff worked.