So you’re going large, 60km large. First of all, congratulations for booking your spot, and big ups for stepping up to the challenge.
The kepler challenge brings unique nutritional challenges to the table for both training and race day.
To cover 60km over mountainous terrain, you are going to need every ounce of “fitness” possible, so when you train, it needs to count. To get the most out of your training and maximise fitness gains, you will need to make sure you are optimally fuelled before, during, and after each session.
A carbohydrate loading plan will make a huge difference, and you will need an individualised nutrition and hydration plan to navigate the flats, the hills, stairs, aid stations, and mental highs and lows.
This article will explain everything you need to think about for training, competing, and racing the Kepler Challenge. You can skip to the sections most relevant to you by clicking on the below section headings, or read through the whole article at your leisure. Cheers for dropping in!
To get the most out of the effort you put in during training, you need to be optimally fuelled at all times.
Food: This meal is most important on long training days (>2hrs), but not as important for your shorter, high quality sessions.
- Have 2-4 hours pre-exercise.
- It should be high in carbohydrates, low in protein, low in fat.
- Try to be consistent with this meal so you can be sure you will tolerate it on race day.
- The overall carbohydrate content is most important (especially for performance and body composition management), but varies for each individual. Also consider the fibre content, glycaemic index, and liquid vs solid meals.
Water: Your requirements vary depending on personal factors, the type of session, and your current hydration status. Aim to be well hydrated at all times; ensure your pee is clear or very pale yellow. If you are peeing frequently and remain thirsty, it may be that you have not been using enough sodium in your fluid, and you will benefit from adding some (a pinch of salt to every litre) or using an electrolyte containing drink.
Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the body’s petrol, which is burnt quickly during exercise. For optimal training quality we need to top up our tank as we go.
We can get carbohydrates from sports drinks, sports gels, or whole food. During exercise, carbohydrates are most easily absorbed in sugar form (as opposed to starchy carbohydrates) although some ratios of sugar types work better than others.
Individual carbohydrate requirements vary greatly, and nailing a plan that works for you can have a huge impact on training quality, and can then be applied to your race day. Current recommendations are 50-90g of carbohydrate per hour so, for a four hour training run, you may need anywhere from 200-360g of carbs – not a particularly useful guideline! Fortunately a dietitian can work out your exact requirements with the right information, and both the Targeted Nutrition Plan and Trailblazer Nutrition Plan will supply you with specific amounts personalised to your needs.
In the Trailblazer Nutrition Plan, I use this information to create your Kepler training and race day nutrition and hydration plan by converting this carbohydrate/hour data into practical food, supplement, and drink recommendations by taking into account your hydration system, training goals, preferred supplements, and the course aid stations.
You are unlikely to tolerate the amount of carbs you require on race day when you first start training, so build your way towards your goal rate over your training programme.
Hydration: Drinking water will not aid performance in training sessions with a duration less than 60-90 minutes (depending on conditions and session type).
Individual requirements for fluid vary greatly and depend on a variety of personal characteristics and your fitness level, but you should aim to drink a specific amount of fluid every 15 minutes. Once again the Targeted and Trailblazer Nutrition plans can work this out for you, otherwise see a sports dietitian in clinic.
Most people cannot tolerate the amount of fluid necessary on race day for optimal performance when they first start training, so, as you progress through your training programme aim to increase your tolerance, so that on race day you can tolerate optimal amounts.
Electrolytes: Sodium plays an extremely important role in the body, so when you are exercising for long durations, you must replace the sodium that you lose when you sweat. Ensure that your drink contains adequate levels of sodium (at least 30mg/100ml, ideally >50mg/100ml).
Unless you have clinical issues or an inadequate diet, it is very unlikely that you will have problems with any other electrolytes.
Perhaps the most important aspect of training is in fact the recovery. This article I wrote on recovery nutrition for the Iconic magazine can teach you more about what you need to think about to boost recovery and get the most out of your training.
A personalised carbohydrate loading plan (which you have practised before hand) will make a huge difference to Kepler success. Research shows that by following a carbohydrate loading protocol, athletes can run about 20% further (if you could run 50km before you hit the wall, after carb loading you could run 60km). Could be worth looking into eh?!
For a successful carb load, you need to eat 8-12g of carbohydrate per kg body weight in the three days leading up to your event. So, a 70kg man needs to eat 560-840g of carbs per day. This is a large range, and whatever end of the scale you are at, this is a lot of carbohydrate!
Personalised advice from a dietitian who can work out your exact requirements and make a menu to match can be very useful. A Trailblazer Nutrition carbohydrate loading plan works out your specific carbohydrate requirements, and provides a menu plan with actual food quantities so you can carbohydrate load effectively. Each Trailblazer Nutrition Plan also includes a personalised carbohydrate loading plan.
The Kepler is on a Saturday, so you will need to start carb loading on Wednesday. Your final meal on Friday is important so plan this in advance. If you plan on eating out, book a restaurant early so you are not eating a large meal at 9pm. Choose a restaraunt wisely, think about a meal high in carbs e.g. pasta: Italian, or rice: Asian.
If you cook your meal yourself, make sure you take, or your accommodation has, appropriate cooking facilities and that you will be able to start cooking early in the evening.
By now you should have practised your pre race meal many times, and have a routine that you are familiar with and confident will provide you with the necessary fuel for a large exercise effort. The race starts at 6am, so you need to have finished eating by 4am! A lot of endurance athletes will get up even earlier than this, eat a pre-prepared meal, and then go back to bed to maximise their sleep. I recommend trialling this in training before hand.
Race build up
There are various recommendations for what nutrition you should have in the race lead up. Personalised advice is necessary.
Your race day plan should be an extension of what you have been doing in training. To finish an event such as the Kepler, knowing the following is essential:
- How much fluid you need per hour, and every 15 minutes.
- How much carbs you need per hour.
- How much carbs your drink will provide.
- How much carbs your own gels/food will provide, and when you need to take them.
- How much carbs and fluid you need from each aid station.
A Trailblazer Nutrition plan provides all this information for you in an easy to understand way, and links this with your training plan so that you can build towards this during training.
I strongly recommend training and racing with a camelpack that can carry at least 2 litres of fluid.
Depending on your goal time and how long you are prepared to stop for, you could manipulate how much you fill up your camelpack to start with so that you are not carrying too much extra weight up to the Luxmore Hut. You could then refill it and add sports drink powder you have carried with you at the Luxmore Hut, Forest Burn shelter, or Hanging Valley Shelter after the big climb. Your Trailblazer plan can work this out, or talk to a dietitian.
There are ten aid stations located along the Kepler. Each one will contain Leppin, water, and bananas and some will contain muesli bars and oranges.
Aid stations are located at:
1. 5.6km: Brod bay. Just before the big climb starts.
- Even though its only early in the race, get some nutrition on board here, you don’t want to be mucking around with this when you are in the thick of the climb.
2. 13.8km: Luxmore Hut. You have now broken the back of the ascents although there are two more to come.
3. Approx 19km: Forest Burn Shelter.
4. Approx 24km: Hanging Valley Shelter. Sweet, no more sharp ascents, you are approaching the big descent.
- Again make sure you are well fuelled here, you don’t want to be trying to chomp back some nutrition when you are running down stairs.
5. 28.4: Iris burn.
- Watch your pacing along here, it’s consistently downhill but you still have over 30km to go so don’t get carried away.
- It’s about 8km until the next aid station, one of the longest stretches without aid.
6. Approx 36km: Rocky point.
- Another 8km stretch until the next aid station.
7. 44.6km: Moturau Hut.
- You’ll be really digging deep along here, the slow descent is finished, so ensure that you are still drinking regularly. A 15 minute countdown on your watch can be a useful reminder to drink or eat, you may be too tired to remember!
8. 50.6km: Rainbow Reach.
- You are probably approaching new territory in terms of distance travelled. There is not far to go now but keep on chugging back fluid and fuel, this is where you will reap the benefits diligent eating and drinking early on in the race, and can expect to start passing people who haven’t read this article.
- If you are starting to get sick of the taste of gels and sports drink, try the muesli bars, oranges, or bananas. You could even pack a chip sandwich, often the body is craving something savoury at this point in the race.
9. 55.6km: The 2nd to last aid station has 5.5km to go. At this point who knows what you will crave, but if you have trialled the full range of aid station foods in training then you can be more confident that you will tolerate them.
10. 57.9km: 2.2km to go! You’re nearly there! Keep going!
It is a good idea to train with Leppin gels so that you get used to using them, and will know whether or not you tolerate them. If you think that you will be out on the course for a long time, then you may want to trial using the bananas, muesli bars, and oranges, as they will offer variety that you may crave after 6-7 hours of sports drinks and gels.
It is best to wash down gels with fluid, so take this into account in your fluid and nutrition plan.
For most of you, it’s game over, the moment you cross the finish line nothing else matters. However, with a little effort, you can save yourself a lot of pain over the next few days.
Following a personalised recovery plan will reduce muscle soreness, restore muscle integrity, fill up your fuel stores, and re-energise you faster. I can make you a personalised, one off recovery plan that you can use in training and on race day, and the Trailblazer Nutrition Plan also features a personalised recovery plan.
There won’t be many people the world over who deserve a celebratory drink more than you once you ahve crossed the finish line, so feel free to celebrate responsibly. Be aware that alcohol dehydrates you, so avoid drinking alcohol until after you have completed your rehydration plan. Alcohol can also distract you from your recovery meals and snacks, so plan these in advance.
Well done on reading this far! Hopefully by now you will realise the importance of planning your nutrition for both training and race day and will formulate an individualised plan well in advance. Because the amounts of the key nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, water, and electrolytes) vary for each individual, a personalised plan can have a huge impact on your success and enjoyment of the Kepler Challenge.
If you think that you will benefit from a personalised nutrition plan, Trailblazer Nutrition can quickly create you a comprehensive nutrition plan specifically for the Kepler Challenge, that is completely personalised to your training and race day needs.
Each plan comes with the Trailblazer Guarantee, and as these testimonials show, is highly recommended by those who have used them in the past.
$20 from every Trailblazer Nutrition Plan sold will be donated to the Kepler Birdsong Project. The money will be put towards purchasing more stoat traps.
After payment you will be directed towards our questionnaire so that our dietitian can create your personalised plan.