If you were lucky enough to attend the Boulder premiere of the film “Leadman: The Dave Mackey Story”, then you likely have a newfound appreciation and respect for what it takes to tackle the Leadman race series. Go here for the movie trailer if you aren’t familiar with Dave’s story and here if you aren’t familiar with what the Leadman/Leadwoman series entails over the course of about 8 weeks. The Leadman series is a tough 8 weeks of trail running and mountain bike racing at high altitude with short recovery time in between events.
Now, some ultra athletes “only” have the Leadman/Leadwoman series on their event calendar for the whole summer. However, other athletes (like Dave Mackey!) have many more races squeezed into the Spring, Summer, and Fall to make for a jam-packed and lengthy racing season.
While it is exciting to see athletes challenge themselves with multiple adventures in a relatively short period of time, the body needs to be well-prepared for the training load and the short turnaround time between events to bounce back strong for what’s next.
So, this is quick reminder (or plea?) to all of you who do have a chock-full season ahead of ultra races to:
- Get your daily nutrition in line pronto. Assess how you feel on a daily basis with your current dietary pattern. Questions to ask yourself include: Do you sleep well and wake up feeling supercharged for your day? Do you have steady energy throughout the day? Are you free from caffeine/sugar cravings or periods where you feel like a ravenous animal? Are you confident that your chosen dietary pattern is optimal? If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, it’s time to take a deeper look with a nutrition professional (I advocate for a Sports Dietitian, of course!).
- Figure out how to prioritize recovery nutrition and what that looks like for you. There have been several updates in this area of sport nutrition and combined with the “one size does not fit all” mantra, it behooves you to take a fresh look at what you are doing from a nutritional standpoint to recover from your training sessions optimally. No one likes the feeling of being energy-trashed day to day and not being able to check the box for the training on tap.
- Ensure you have no nutrient deficiencies or other health issues that could impact your ability to train and recover to the best of your ability. This is particularly important for those who have any medical conditions, who have a history of iron deficiency anemia, disordered eating (or a clinical eating disorder), restricted diet, or simply any athlete who hasn’t had athlete-specific blood testing done in the past 6 months. The mantra “Test, Don’t Guess” applies here.
- Assess your past race nutrition and hydration strategies to determine areas of improvement. If you’ve had gastrointestinal distress during previous races (vomiting, diarrhea, etc.), major energy bonks, or suffered from over- or under-hydration episodes, it’s time to figure that stuff out. You don’t have to put up with that anymore.
- Build your performance team. Most athletes think of a training coach as the “be-all end-all”, but having other experts on your team such as a bodywork specialist, sport-oriented physical therapist, sport dietitian, and trusted training partner(s) can make for the best experience ever. Invest in yourself – you are worth it.
I look forward to following the adventures of the Suffer Better followers and supporters for this 2019 season ahead!
-Dina Griffin, MS, RDN, CSSD, CISSN
Sport Dietitian / Registered Dietitian Nutritionist