How to Carb Load for a Tough Mudder, Beast or UltraBeast

Lots of people come into the obstacle course racing world through other avenues, outside of distance running. As such, this whole “carb loading” and “tapering” business is new to them – and they often skip it altogether. But… after putting in all that training for small gains every day, why not take advantage of these little tweaks that can make a big difference in your performance and enjoyment.

The studies are out there. Carb loading won’t help you run faster, but it will help you get farther. And let’s face it, in most instances, when running a marathon, the problem is pooping out, not running fast.

Carbs store water, so if you are a compulsive self weigher, either give yourself a mental high five when you gain a couple pounds or hide your scale. The marathon is a long journey, so having a little extra water on board isn’t a bad idea anyway.

I start carb loading 3 days out. The first day, I don’t obsess. I just try to eat less fat and protein and I end up eating more carbs. For instance, I usually eat oatmeal with raisins, vega, and chia. So I eat oatmeal with raisins. I eat dried fruit instead of nuts. I also hydrate little and often.

The next day I pretty much do the same thing with a little more attention to detail.
I’ll still eat fruit and veg since I know the fibre will be gone by race morning.

The day before the whole game changes.

I aim for 3-5 grams of carb per pound that I weigh. That used to be a total pain in the ass to add up. Now I just type what I ate in Livestrong, look up my macronutrient profile and do the math. Simple!

I wake up and do my shakeout run (20mins with some short bursts and drills). I do it on an empty stomach so that when I eat, my body is like a sponge. I eat a large carb breakfast/brunch. No fibre, no fat, no protein. Cereal, dry toast and jam. That sort of thing. If I haven’t hit the race expo, I go now. I wear compression socks and sit where ever possible (even on the floor in lines.)

I spend the rest of the day drinking coconut water and water. I eat dry corn or rice cereal and rice crackers since I find too much wheat hurts my tummy and is hard to digest.

I try to have dinner early and again, cut out all things not carbs. No spices either if course.

I used to try to hit my carbs without totally eliminating fat and protein. Either I ate way too much and felt like a balloon, or I fell way back of my carb goals.

One tablespoon of peanut butter on a roll just cost you 100cals. That’s 25 grams worth of carbs.

I feel I should tell you that this is far from how I eat most days. It’s far from healthy. But we don’t run marathons often enough for it to impact the total picture. And with all the training you did who wants a car with half a tank at an endurance event?

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Be Ready for a Beast, Tough Mudder or UltraBeast

You know there’s a big endurance event in town when you overhear super fit looking people discussing menu choices based on which have more white bread and less protein. I’m sure the locals wonder if a 1980s diet convention rolled in.

Apart from carb loading (which you can find an entire article on below), there are several things that I make sure to do in the days leading up to a big race.

1. Myofascial release. I carry a lacrosse ball (for my back, hips, chest and hamstrings), doubles ball (for my feet and calves), and a strap for PNF stretching. I pretty much have a ball in some terribly uncomfortable place every time I’m sitting, and am stretching every time I’m standing still. Sitting in the car/plane while traveling to a long race, gives me plenty of time to release tight areas. I feel like it does a pretty good job counteracting the tightness caused by sitting dormant in a little metal box.

My favourite new tool is the travel sized roller, it’s so small that it fits into my carry-on and it’s even high density foam. I can roll my T-spine and IT bands at the airport!

I cannot stress enough the importance of having a supple body and addressing any areas of tightness before heading out in obstacle course race.

2. Hydrate yourself (obviously). But start before breakfast and go light on the drink about three hours from bed – otherwise, race nerves and a full bladder will have you up all night.

3. Stay off your feet. Save explorations for postrace celebration.

4. Get pumped. Whatever movie, book, song or magazine that reminds you why you’re doing this. Get pumped up but don’t stress or go crazy. To paraphrase the mighty Prefontaine, unless you’re the previous years winner, you’re not good enough to be nervous.

5. Wear compression socks. Especially if you’re traveling, have bad feet or calves, or poor blood circulation.

6. Workout the day before. I always do a bunch of drills, jogging, sprinting and dynamic stretching. I have a pretty solid routine down but I usually mix it up a bit depending on what body parts need to be woken up. Taking the day totally off before a race leaves me feeling flat and stiff.

7. Bath and stretch. I like to have an ice bath, followed by an Epsom salt bath, followed by a long stretch and roll. Gentle stretching only. I’m old school – I know. Ice bathes are definitely falling out of vogue. Something about science and the fact the lymphatic system clears junk out of your pipes and ice water inhibits that, along with healthy inflammation. I like them though, they feel good after I do them. Or maybe, more likely, I just like to take on a poop-load of discomfort.

8. Set out all your race gear and nutrition the night before so you need to think of nothing in the morning. Preferably early: I do this right when I get to the hotel so I can relax the rest of the night. It’s also good practice in case you forgot something. Also, make sure your plans for the morning, waivers, etc. are all sorted out.

9. Don’t do anything you don’t always new. You’ve heard this in regards to race morning and racing itself, but this matters in the days leading up to an event almost as much. Never ridden a horse? Now’s not the time to learn.

10. Develop a routine. This follows the last point nicely. I have a day-before-race routine that I can just move through on autopilot. It really takes down the stress of a new place, new race and all that other unknown stuff that comes with OCR… especially the races themselves!

Remember: you can do whatever you want after you cross that finish line, and you’ll feel heaps better about doing it all with a successful race under your belt.

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