Fuel your body well during long-distance races

Fuel your body well during long-distance races

It’s the time of year when many runners are logging 18- and 20-mile training runs, getting ready for a fall marathon. Cyclists may be gearing up for long rides in cooler weather.

Athletes who are putting in many consecutive hours of training or racing need to have some type of fuel to keep them going. Energy gels or bars and sports drinks are the common go-tos, but some athletes either don’t like or can’t stomach those options, or they want something with less sugar.

Bruce Hajek of Urbana is a triathlete who has completed 17 Ironman races, including the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, and mostly recently the Wisconsin Ironman in Madison, Wisc., earlier this month. He uses some gels and bars during his events, but his favorite source of energy is the homemade nori rolls -- rice with miso, wrapped in nori (dried sheets of edible seaweed often used for sushi) -- that he eats on the bike portion of his triathlons.

“The nori binds the rice and miso together. The miso is salty. The rice is a low-complexity carb, which turns into energy pretty fast, and there’s no fiber, which is a good thing too,” Hajek said.

He puts the nori rolls in a plastic bag and puts them in the pocket of his jersey to eat while riding, and he leaves some in a bag at the transition area of a triathlon to eat between the bike and the run. He got the recipe from ultrarunner Scott Jurek’s book “Eat and Run.”

Hajek also eats vanilla crisp Power bars, which are very sticky. He once tried unwrapping them and sticking them to his bike, then peeling them off and eating them when he was hungry, but he ended up with a sticky bike tube. Now he takes off the wrapper and rewraps them in nori so they don’t stick together.

“If I can eat four of each of those (nori wraps with rice and miso and nori wraps with vanilla crisp bars) plus a banana over six or seven hours, that’s plenty of calories,” for the bike portion of an Ironman, he said.

He’ll also take a banana, a gel and water at the aid stations, in addition to the nori rolls he carries. He looks for sugary fruits that are easy to digest, such as orange slices, bananas or grapes, and aims to replace about one-third of the calories he is burning during a race.

It’s easier to digest food on the bike than during the run, Hajek said, and his favorite fuel for the marathon portion of the Ironman is Coke or Pepsi.

“The carbonation helps settle my stomach,” he said. “The calories and carbonation and fluid all work really well. Sugar is good when you need a lot of calories. It’s all energy and no fiber.”

Ultrarunner Magdalena Casper-Shipp of Urbana runs races at distances from the half marathon to a 200-mile ultra in September 2017 at Lake Tahoe. During her longer races, when she is running for 24 hours or more, she needs to take in a lot of calories to keep her going but she doesn’t like the texture of gels and often doesn’t feel like eating.

Because she doesn’t eat full meals while racing, “getting real food in your system is important to make up for those missed meals,” she said.

At her 200-mile Tahoe race, Casper-Shipp ate hash browns with cheese, pad thai and chickpeas with masala sauce. She often eats potatoes, fruit, string cheese, peanut butter on bananas, and energy bars with dried fruit and nuts. Options she likes served at race aid stations are quesadillas with a variety of ingredients and hard-boiled eggs. She sometimes carries peanut butter cups -- but only if the weather is cool enough that they won’t melt.

One of her favorite foods to eat during an ultrarun is roasted bananas. Before the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100-mile race in Virginia in May, she sauteed bananas in butter over her camp stove. She was inspired to make them by the “Run Fast, Eat Slow” cookbook by elite marathoner Shalane Flanagan. Casper-Shipp also likes the superhero muffins and sweet potato breakfast cookies in “Run Fast, Eat Slow,” and for meals outside of race day, she recommends the grain-based salads in the cookbook.

Hajek recommends the vegetarian chili recipe in Jurek’s book. One of his favorite pre-race carb-loading rituals is having a beer the night before a race.


Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner and triathlete. You can email her at jheckel@news-gazette.com, or follow her at twitter.com/jodiheckel. Her blog is at www.news-gazette.com/blogs/starting-line/.


Rice Balls, from “Eat and Run” by Scott Jurek, with Steve Friedman

2 cups sushi rice

4 cups water

2 teaspoons miso

3-4 sheets nori seaweed

Cook the rice in the water on the stovetop or using a rice cooker. Set aside to cool. Fill a small bowl with water and wet both hands so the rice does not stick. Using your hands, form ¼ cup rice into a triangle. Spread ¼ teaspoon miso evenly on one side of the triangle. Cover with another ¼ cup rice. Shape into one triangle, making sure the miso is covered with rice. Fold the nori sheets in half and then tear them apart. Using half of one sheet, wrap the rice triangle in nori, making sure to completely cover the rice. Repeat using the remaining rice, miso and nori.

Makes 8 rice balls

Banana Chews, from “Run Fast Eat Slow” by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

3 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced ⅛ inch thick

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush it with about 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil (a silicone baking brush works great). In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon coconut oil, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt. Spread out the bananas evenly on the baking sheet and brush each slice with the lemon mixture. Bake in the center of the oven for two hours. After one hour, remove from the oven. Use tongs to flip each banana slice and return them to the oven. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool completely before storing in a mason jar or airtight container for up to one month.

Makes about 80 chews

Superhero Muffins, from “Run Fast Eat Slow” by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky

2 cups almond meal

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

½ cut raisins, chopped dates or chocolate chips (optional)

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup grated zucchini (about 1 zucchini)

1 cup grated carrots (about 2 carrots)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½ cup dark amber maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper muffin cups. In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and walnuts, raisins, dates or chocolate chips (if using). In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, zucchini, carrots, butter, maple syrup and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. The batter will be thick. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each to the brim. Bake until the muffins are nicely browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clear, 25 to 35 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins



Sections (1):Living


Comments for this post are inactive.