Friday, 22 April 2011

Marathon des Sables: NUTRITION

Photo (C) Mark Gillett

I'm covering nutrition and drink here as both combine to give an important diet while in the desert. The MdS rules state you must have at least 2000 calories per day (7) which obviously totals 14,000 calories.. you can get stopped at any time during the race or at camp and spot checked - this means you ALWAYS have to have the minimum requirements for each day..

Having said this i'm going to cover fluids first.. you are given aprox 10-11 litres of water per day at various stages - this water is used for everything including washing, cleaning, soaking, hydrating foods, cooling and of course drinking. Because you sweat a lot you are actually given 120 salt tablets to take - thats about 18 a day and they are just swallowed whole - you can't taste the salt.. I also took with me my trusted Enduralites Powder as it is fairly taste free and mixes with water easy - I mixed one (tiny) scoop with 500ml of water at all check points.. on hot days (40+) I also took plenty of salt tabs and never suffered with cramp.

Nutrition in one tiny scoop (about a quarter of a teaspoon)

Sodium (as Sodium Chloride) 40 mg.
Chloride(as Sodium Chloride) 60 mg.
Calcium (Chelate) 50 mg
Magnesium (Chelate) 25 mg
Potassium (Chelate) 25 mg
Vitamin B-6 (Pyrodoxine HCL) 6.7 mg
Manganese (Chelate) 1.6 mg
L-Tyrosine 17 mg
Glycine 50 mg

I decided not to take any flavoured drinks as in testing i found the taste to get on my nerves after a while.. However, someone gave me one energy drink while out there and if going again I would take one for each day - but no more. A lot of people complain and wished they had not bought as many...

I went out to get my 2000 calories with just 2 products a day..

1) Expedition Breakfast - 2 portion (a whopping 1,300 calories)
carbohydrates 153 g
protein 30 g
fat 72 g

2) Pasta Bolognese - 2 portion (1,000 calories)
carbohydrates 150 g
protein 38 g
fat 25 g

One in the AM and one at night.. easy.. Ok so the breakfast was ok all week but as the week went on I couldn't eat the whole thing and was forced to cut it in half and lose the spare.. My stomach had obviously shrunk - however the food still tasted ok - even though I was having the same thing everyday! The pasta was perfect all week - I only lost one packet - the 7th day as when we got to the finish it was not needed.
To make either of these you just add boiling water and leave for about 6 minutes..

Snacks were important on the go also.. I took the following:

Trek Peanut & Oat energy bars (7) one for each day - each bar is 68g

Per 100g: Energy 1472kJ/352kcal, Protein 16g, Carbohydrate 49g, Fat 11g
M&M's Peanut flavour - 250 Cl per packet - and NO they didn't melt. even with temps over 50C
SIS Go Gel - Tropical flavour (4)
Cl 100 ; Carb 22g Protein 1g Sodium 10mg
ZipFit ZV7c energy gels (3)
Calories 200 , Carbs 51g per sachet!!
Super trail mix (3) 125g per packet
per 100g:
Energy 447 Cl, Protein 9g, Carbohydrate 41g, Fat 30g
all the above products went down very well apart from the ZipFit gels - they were too sticky and sweet.. very tough to digest on a hot day! I had to drink a lot of water with them - great for carbs but just too thick and sweet i'm afraid - however, that's just my opinion. Trail mix and M&M's complimented each other very well and I would change anything only have SIS gels only and maybe 2 per day or at least half as many more.

After the race I'd have two recovery products...

Peporami (7)
126 Cl Fat 11g Carbs 0.6g Protein 6.1g Sodium 40mg

Muscle & Size gainer by Precision - 1.5 scoops mixed with 350ml water
aprox 400 Cl, 65g Carb, 30g Protein

I wrapped the Precision powder in individual bags - 7 of them. Both these products were brilliant!.. The Peperami was especially good - eating when you have a dry mouth is not east but this is quite fatty and therefore easy to digest.. might think of taking more in similar circumstances..
In all my nutrition was very good - i'd change a couple of things - maybe take single portion breakfasts only OR mix my own and take that... leave out the ZipFit gels and I'm good to go.. Nutrition was never a problem for me - I believe it's a basic need to just stick to the rules of balance and the body adjusts as you go on... Salt and Water and imperative to having a good run - even more so in this climate - test your products first - know your body and stick to these rules like clockwork.

Monday, 18 April 2011

MDS: What worked and What didn't

When you take part in a challenge like the MdS you need to weigh up the pros and cons of taking certain items with you.. Remember, you have to carry EVERYTHING with you on route so you take what you need or might need only.. I've created two lists below of items I took - and underneath whether or not it was used and if it was worth taking etc... So first off the items you have to take with you as per MDS rules:

Compulsory Stuff!!

Backpack or equivalent (best suited to each participant)
I took the OMM 32l Classic with me and a Raidlight Front Pack.. I did find the front pack very useful but it didn't fit very well and gave me sore shoulders.. The OMM Backpack was excellent both for size and weight.. it was comfy too and what I had used most in training.. top marks!
Sleeping bag
Travelpak Lite - Snugpak Lightweight Sleeping Bag : Awesome.. light - cheap and with a base layer on was perfect for the night - it has a built in pocket and a net you can zip over your face to keep bugs out.
Torch with spare batteries
Petzl headlamp - had 3 settings, very bright, dim and flashing.. did well and used spare batteries also.
10 safety pins
don't get cheap ones as i did..
Compass with 1&degree; or 2&degree; precision
Easy enough - never used it though.
Used plenty.. I would take the camping matches next time though as a lighter is no good in the wind.
Attached to Rucksack, never used.
Knife with metal blade
Mtech Black Stainless Steel Blade Red Handle. Great knife - used plenty.
Tropical Disinfectant
Iodine.. used. worked.
Anti-Venom pump (insect poison remover)
Signalling mirror
One aluminium survival sheet

The rest is my own choice of equipment.
My Stuff...

Lumix FX700... great for photos and video! Small & lightweight.
2 * Camera spare battery
used both
Camera spare memory
used but i don't think it was needed (16GB)
Took my Timex Ironman watch - it has a stopwatch and night light.. worked well and was used plenty too.
Used to blog only - everything else was turned off.. lasted week without charging.
ZipLoc Bags
Very handy and good for sealing out the air.
Stickers & Pen for bags
Didn't use this or take with.
Took 2 x Inji's and 2 x Wrightsocks for daytime and a compression pair for nights.. After day two I only wore the Wrightsocks due to feet swelling up.
Nike compression 2 pairs. - I'm used to them - they work for me.
Nike compression - 2 one day one night.. again these work really well.
2 pairs one for day one for night.. perfect.
Short sleeve t shirt
HH Dryfit..Day times just the one.
Long sleeve t shirt
HH Warm : For the evenings - slept in this - perfect!
HH for cool evenings.. didn't use but would take again just in case - as they are so lightweight.
Trek Mates desert hat.. did the job well - has cooling crstals in rim - this helped too.
Silk - Sandbaggers.. they worked well as they could - need to be a good fit though and doen't kick rocks with them or they will get holes!
INVO8 Roclites.. Great shoes for climbing and didn't let in sand - I might get something with more padding under foot though if i did it again - as they don't make good walking shoes.. 1 whole size larger worked for me.
Poloroid with Strap..worked well on windy day but didn't wear them much as we faced away from sun most of the time.
Antiseptic wipes
Work well but then you do have a medical tent....
Riemann P20 Suncream
Blocks sun completely and only one application a day! Expensive stuff but worth every penny.
Toilet paper
I took 3 packets of Kleenex Handy tissues - 8 per packet - usually for blowing your nose.. they were perfect for the bum and other cleaning uses.
Gaffer tape
Essential! I didn't take much but i got away with it.. very handy!!
First Aid kit
I'd cut down on this next time completely.. Use Dr Trotter instead.
Brilliant anti chaffing gel!.. worked very well - one application a day!
Water purification tablets
Didn't use but good for an emergency.
Cooking tin & lid
Used the Blacks mess tin - fairly heavy but did the job well - ate from it too and its fairly easy to clean.
Wind Buff
These are great as they have a few uses.. GET ONE!
Flip Flops
Took my Baffin slippers! BRILLIANT MOVE.. used as shoulder straps too..
Cable ties
Don't bother.
Large Needles and strong thread
Used on gaiters.. handy, light, so take it.
Toothpaste & Brush
Essential bit of kit.
Ground mat
I took a blue thin thing.. not again! Carpet is in tent but rocky underneath.. take something comfy for sure!
Ear plugs
Used one night but kept falling out due to sand in ear.. hmm.. take them they are light - you never know how is in your tent...
spray hand sanitizer
from the pound shop - Detol hand gel - alcohol based - does the job.
walking poles
I left these out and would do again.

I'll cover food on another day as it gets quite intricate ;)