The Ups And Downs Of Ultra Racing

Shaun and I were talking on the weekend, we talked a lot in fact as we were together for over 48 hours, but there was one topic that stuck in my mind. We mentioned that in each race we had done, we had never fueled the same way twice. Does this mean we have never been happy with previous efforts? Or does it just mean we are trying to refine things each time. I prefer the latter statement and as a person who strives for perfection in certain areas of my life, I always like to tweak things to see of they make a difference.

Previously I have tried powdered sports drinks, gels of various brands and flavours and solid foods. But this time for Buffalo Stampede, I think I had a really good combination. If I didn’t decide to go so hard on the downhills on the first couple of descents, maybe I would have had the quads to carry me through a bit stronger to the finish.

So here is how my fueling strategy worked through the race. We were planning on taking 14 hours to finish, so I took enough to carry me through to 16 hours just in case. Which was lucky as it took just a bit longer than that. Firstly was the Amazeballs, which I have used in the last couple of races I have done and I love them because they satisfy my hunger and I don’t get a sugar crash half hour later after taking them. I had enough to take 1 an hour. The recommended is about 3 an hour if that is your only source of fuel, but I like to mix things up a bit and alternate.

Secondly I was using something I had only gotten into recently called Ucan Superstarch. This is a modified corn starch that takes a fair while to digest. Meaning it makes it’s way into the system very slowly giving you a slow and steady release of energy. It is a powder form and anyone at an aid station would have seen me taking this white powder in my water which was messy and awkward to say the least. But it worked. You just have to be careful with it though. I was taking half doses as if you take too much it can sit in your gut for too long and cause gas. Half doses seem to work better for me.

Also for electrolytes, I was using Saltsticks which are a mixture (in capsule form) of Sodium, Potassium, magnesium and Calcium with a bit of Vitamin D thrown in to aid absorption. There were times my electrolytes were getting low, especially in the day when I was sweating the heaviest, so I started taking two and hour rather than one. But what I found worked the best was opening the capsules and emptying them into my drink bottle. The taste of the salt really seemed to help a lot and maybe allowed for better absorption with small amounts taken every 10 minutes as opposed to one big hit each hour. Just a theory. On hydration, I had roughly 600ml and hour on average, with more during the middle of the day and less later on when it got cold I wasn’t sweating as much.

I also took some branch chain amino acids out with me and I generally take a couple every couple of hours including an hour before the race. This stops the body going catabolic or scavenging energy from the proteins in the muscles when glycogen supplies get low. It has also been shown in studies to reduce the perceived effort of athletes. Which is great in theory, but I think they fell out of my bag at some point early on in the race, so I never got to take any! Ah well, I may have to rethink how I pack things next time. The Salomon bag was great, but I could definitely do with a couple more accessible pockets.

As far as other gear goes, the VIVOBAREFOOT Breathos worked brilliantly. I had so much grip on the downhill which gave me too much confidence to run down the steep clay hills near the beginning. Note to self – don’t hit the downs so hard early on! Especially when they are that severe. I wore Injini socks and the ten little piggies came out blister free!

I wore a singlet from Sub4 which is the only thing I will race in now as the material is just the best. Even when we were being pelted with rain in the latter stages.

So like all races, Buffalo was a learning experience and the jury is still out as to whether I would do it again. I would do the Marathon at the drop of a hat, but the Ultra was just brutal. Even some of the top runners agree with that statement. So I may see you again Buffalo, let’s hope you don’t beat me up as bad next time…

Run Well

Chris O’Driscoll

Leave A Reply (4 comments so far)


  1. Kate
    3 years ago

    Great read Chris. Thank you. And awesome job on finishing… sounds like a gruelling course!


  2. Chris O'Driscoll
    3 years ago

    Thanks Kate, I think anyone who even attempted that course deserves respect! It was certainly a challenge.


  3. Taz
    3 years ago

    Chris, you\’ve mentioned the branch chain amino acids before – can you point me to where I can purchase please?

    Congrats on conquering the Buffalo


  4. Chris O'Driscoll
    3 years ago

    Hi Taz, thanks!
    You can generally get BCAA’s from any health food store or chemist. I generally go to chemist warehouse as they seem to be cheapest. I’m sure you have one of those in your area.
    Thanks again
    Chris.

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