Kepler. What can I say. So many runners have this on their bucket list, yet I had never heard much about it. I had heard the name and that it was supposed to be good, but I can honestly say now, that it is worthy of any runners bucket list. I actually added it to mine once I got into Te Anau, the town where the race starts from. I was just lucky enough to be able to tick it off pretty quickly. The next day in fact.
Imagine a massive blue lake, surrounded by mountains, with snow capped mountains towering over the first mountains, trails winding through thick forest leading into exposed ridge lines with wind gusts nearly big enough to blow you off the mountain, views over the many fiords in the valleys below and a great atmosphere helped by all the crew who man the many aid stations along the way.
If a mountain run in the 60k range is something that interests you, Kepler Challenge is a must.
But for the full race and course wrap up, you will need to check out the next edition of Trail Run Mag. We were lucky enough to be asked by Chris, the editor of the magazine, to do a story on the event. So Shaun, armed with his laptop and me with a camera, we headed off to New Zealand to do a story on this iconic race. So keep an eye out very soon for the e-zine so you can hear the full story.
The real reason for this article though, is about my recent experiment, as I do so frequently, in fuelling. The last month, I had tried out a new energy gel. Which is quite rare for me as many of the gels out there contain too many chemicals and things that aren’t really necessary to your performance. Especially for the ultra endurance athlete who has different needs to the typical marathon runner.
What I have been experimenting with is a product called VFuel. There are many reasons for me to try this gel out with one of the first things that stood out is the fact that they are made by runners, tested by runners and used by many big name runners like Tim Olsen, Grant Guise and Vajin Armstrong (who actually stocked me up before the race).
The other main reason I tried them is due to the ingredients they use. Maltodextrin is the main source of carbohydrate and while glucose is the bodies preferred source of carbohydrate while exercising, maltodextrin is easily digested and converted to glucose quite quickly meaning very little chance of G.I. distress. They also have Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil which is the main type of fat found in coconut oil. A fat that gets converted straight to energy without being stored, is easily digested and stimulates the thyroid gland which is essential for energy production.
There are also low levels of electrolytes in there and the manufacturer states that they didn’t want to overload them with electrolytes as there can be varying situations that runners will experience. In cooler climates, you don’t need much of them, but warmer climates you do. So if you feel you need extra, there is the option of using a product like saltsticks to top up with.
Other ingredients include Taurine, an amino acid essential for energy production and cell volumising. There is Glucuronolactone which is a naturally occurring substance in your liver which regulates the release of glycogen from the liver leading to more sustained energy. There is L-ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate (OKG) that can reduce ammonia build up in your muscles as the cells break down while enhancing amino acid conversion to proteins, reducing the amount of muscle catabolism. Also a small amount of caffeine is added to aid digestion rather than as a stimulant. If you aren’t too big on caffeine, the levels here won’t be an issue for you as you need far more than the 10mg in each gel to get a stimulating effect. It is purely there to help digestion.
So after running for a little over 8hrs through the mountains of New Zealand and stopping to take heaps of photos for Trail run mag, my energy levels through the day were quite consistent. I even mentioned to Shaun, that after 5 hrs on the trail, I still felt better than I normally would after a 4hr training run. I used 1 gel every 40 minutes after the first hour with a cup full of water (roughly 250ml). I had no noticeable GI distress even after I had consumed roughly 10 gels and my stomach was even fine the next day.
The main reason I avoid gels is the effect they have on my stomach the next day. I generally have to make frequent stops to the toilets that aren’t that pleasant. If you know what I mean. The fact that we were flying back to Australia the following day after the race, it was quite pleasant to not have to worry about that this time.
Let me know if you give them a try, or have tried them and leave your thoughts below. I know what I will be using on next months Two Bays 56k. And by the way, if you haven’t run Kepler, get there and do it. You will not be disappointed!