Lots of folks ask me what I eat/wear while training every day. Here's a quick Holiday Season posting for those of you who have a runner on your shopping list and want to get them something useful....and by "useful" I mean something to help them run 100 miles. Obviously.
DISCLAIMER: I am not paid by any of these companies. I'm recommending their products simply because I've found them to be the best. Sure, I get free Carb Gel from CARBBOOM!, but that doesn't change my opinion of them at all. I think we can all agree they are the greatest group of people in the history of the world, regardless of their upcoming decision to extend my sponsorship into the 2008 year.
That said, I've separated my recommendations into 3 areas: Food, Shoes, and Clothing. Enjoy!
My regular diet isn't too restrictive in general. I just watch the amount of sugars I take in, and make sure to eat a ton of Whole Grains. Broccoli is easily the best vegetable out there (more Vitamin C than an orange), and a handful of raw baby spinach is great too. As long as I eat some of the above when I'm hungry, I never have a bad run the next day. The real key for endurance running is feeding your body what it needs DURING the long run.
Here's what works for me - Your liquid intake is obviously the most important element when you're out on your long runs. I generally skip the Gatorade/Powerade products for the most part. It's not that they're not great for replacing electrolytes, it's just that they have waaaay to much sugar in them. After a few hours of drinking all that sugar, your stomach will most certainly revolt...and no one likes to experience a Reversal of Fortune while running. Especially when you're in the middle of the woods and very very far away from the nearest toothbrush. I stick with mainly with a semi-underground product called Clip 2 which is made by a fellow ultra runner/scientist named Karl King in what I can only assume is some sort of secret cave/bunker in the mountains of Colorado. Am I certain this stuff isn't just 95% water mixed up with shredded programs from old Denver Broncos games? No, I am not. BUT, I do know it works - it combines the right mix of the nutrients you need to help your muscles repair themselves on the fly during long runs.
Clip 2 doesn't have enough electrolyte content for hot/humid days, so on those runs I'll keep sodium capsules handy in my running belt. I've had mixed results with various brands - some make my stomach upset - but the two best products out there are the S!Caps(also made by Karl King) and E-Caps made by Hammer Nutrition. Keeping your sodium/potassium up is essential on long runs. When those levels become depleted, your body loses it's ability to properly absorb and transfer the liquid you're drinking to the organs/muscles in need.
On long runs of 30+ miles, I usually have a bottle of chocolate flavored Ensure waiting for me somewhere along the route. It's great for runners for the same reason it's great for your grandma: it crams in more dense nutrients into 8oz than just about anything out there. Don't knock it until you've tried it at mile 65...the stuff is great. Just ask your Nana.
As soon as I get back from my daily run, I mix up a glass of Endurox R4, fruit punch flavor is the best. This stuff is so good for repairing hardworking muscles after a workout that Elizabeth calls it "The Clear" in reference to the Barry Bonds steroid of choice. I assure you it is 100% legal and safe, however. It has a great mix of vitamins (tons of Vitamin E) and a 4:1 carb:protein mix to help your muscles repair themselves after a run. Drinking it in the first 30 mins after a run is key since that's the time your body absorbs nutrients the fastest.
To cap off the Food portion of this list, I can honestly say the gels made by CARBBOOM! are with me on all of my long runs. I'll wash one down w/ water every 45 mins or so on runs up to 50 miles. In the Vermont 100, it was essentially the only thing my stomach could handle after that point, and it kept me moving along strong and steady for the last 50 miles. The Vanilla Orange flavor is my favorite, I highly recommend.
Everyone has different feet/strides/weight/pronation, so I can't recommend any one shoe for everyone. I've had success with Saucony (Hurricane) and Brooks (Trance) myself. My opinion of all the top running companies is if you're buying their top-of-the-Line running shoe, it's probably going to work for you. Some might not need as much cushion or support, but there's a reason why it's top of the line: It's the best they make. To keep costs down on these high-end shoes, I usually go to Shoebuy.com - They carry just about every running shoe out there, and about once a month they hold a 20% Off everything sale (including clearance). With no tax and free shipping, this is always the best way to go. To give you an example, I've picked up my last 2 pairs of Brooks Trance shoes, which retail at $129.99 for $72. You can't beat that.
When it comes to trail races, I try to find a shoe that I feel suits the specific terrain of that course. For trails with less rocks/roots to deal with (Like the Vermont and Umstead 100 milers), I've had success with the Brooks Adrenalin line. For more technical rocky runs (like the Massanutten 100 course), I recommend the Cascadia - sure, it looks like something a clown threw up after night of drinking, but the bottom of the shoe has something called a 'Ballistic Rock Shield' that really helps take the sting out of rocks and roots on a long run in the mountains.
No matter what the shoe I wear, I replace the factory insole with one from Sole. They make heat-moldable insoles for runners, hikers, and really anyone who wants to have a custom-molded sole in their shoe. I recommend these to people with all sorts of foot aches and pains, and they pretty much solve them all. I HIGHLY recommend checking out their site.
I'll include socks in this section and proudly say I've run every mile this past year (over 2,000) in Wright Socks. I should also mention I haven't had a single blister in that time. Is there any question that they make the best running socks?? The answer is no. That was a rhetorical question.
Ok, "fashion" is a term used loosely here since most lines of running apparel consist of short-shorts that would make NBA players in the 70s blush. I can say, however, that Sugoi makes the best shorts for running, and they also leave a little to the imagination when you wear them...Runners and spectators alike can appreciate that. In the last 9 years I've completed every one of my runs of 26.2 miles and beyond in Sugoi shorts and never had any chaffing issues, etc...This is a good thing.
Just about everyone out there makes a 'moisture wicking' line of shirts, and just about all of them are the same. I recommend the ones with the fewest/less noticeable seam lines on the inside to reduce friction burns. Sugoi, Brooks, Saucony all make good ones. In the winter you definitely want to wear a long-sleeve top of the thicker synthetic or "technical" material. Depending on how cold it is when you run, you'll need to find the level of warmth that works best for you. Under Armour puts out about 100 types of these shirts, but you can usually save some $$ by just picking up whatever 'Cold Weather' shirts are on sale - I've found that the brand really doesn't make too much of a difference when you're talking about the same synthetic materials anyway.
One Under Armour product I do highly recommend is their line of sunglasses. They have the best glasses for running I've ever used. Both light-weight and fixed with non-slip rubber on the nose and ear stems. No matter how sweaty you get or how bumpy the trails are, these babies don't move a millimeter.
I'll end this post with one last item which is perfect for folks who have to run long distances in hot sunny weather. The Sun Runner Cap by OR has literally saved me from passing out on the side of the road 3 or 4 times this year alone. Usually hats make me too hot when I run, but when the sun is really beating down, it's a better trade off to cover your head/neck from the direct sunlight. This hat is great because its lighter-than-light material dries super quick, and the neck portion can just snap on/off as you need it while you're running. Sure, you look a little odd to most people when you're out there running 30 miles in it, but since most people can't run 30 miles anyway, why should you care what they think?!
That's it for now...Happy shopping!