My fueling strategy for the Tamalpa 50K

I’ve got my Nuun tablets, Gu’s, Bonk Bars and Endurolyte capsules spread out in front of me and I’m putting together my fueling plans for my first 50K this weekend. I like to have a plan ahead of time because it can be too much to try to figure out what you need to do while you’re running.  And when I wing it I tend to under-fuel.

Overall Strategy

My overall strategy is to:

  • consume 250 calories / hour
  • replenish my electrolytes often enough
  • drink 22 ounces water / hour


One Gu gel gives me 100 calories and a boost of caffeine.  My Gu gelling strategy is very simple:

  • one Gu 45 minutes prior to the start
  • one Gu 15 minutes prior to the start
  • one Gu every 45 minutes after the race starts

This translates into a Gu at each of these time intervals: 0:45, 1:30, 2:15, 3:00, 3:45, 4:30, 5:15, 6:00, 6:45, 7:30 (hopefully I’m done by this point!)

Aid Station Strategy

Aid stations can be overwhelming with all the options.  Pretzels, M&M’s, Gu gels, PBJs and lots more.  I like to know ahead of time what I’m going to look for so I’m in and out pretty quick.  So at each aid station I plan to:

  • refill my 22 oz water bottle.  It should be close to empty if I’m drinking enough.
  • grab a couple of Gu gels to replenish my onboard supply
  • slam a Dixie cup size worth of electrolyte drink.  Usually this is something like Gu Brew, Ultima or Gatorade.

Protein Strategy – 2+ hours into the race

Once you start reaching beyond 2 hours into the race, it’s essential to give the body some protein to help fuel it, or else it starts taking it from your muscles which can lead to bonking and serious fatigue.  I like the Bonk Bar brand of bars.  They are 25o calories and taste great.

So starting at the 2 hour mark, and at each full hour mark after that, I plan to:

  • eat half of a Bonk Bar (125 calories)

With the Gu schedule above, this will give me 250 calories an hour which is what I’m shooting for.


I first learned how valuable electrolytes are when I somewhat accidentally drank a sports drink at an aid station during the Double Dipsea.  My body felt refreshed after that and I realized that I was not taking nearly enough electrolytes.  I would prefer taking a Nuun drink but that would mean carrying a second bottle, which I really don’t want to do.

Instead I’ll be taking Hammer Endurloytes capsules.  So starting at the first full hour, and every full hour after that I’ll take:

  • two Endurolytes capsules every hour at the top of the hour


If that seems like a lot of stuff to remember, it kind of is.  But after having done this for a few months, it’s not quite second nature to me yet but it’s getting there. I can definitely say I felt a huge difference in my energy levels when I made it a point to consume 250 calories an hour and began eating Bonk Bars during my long runs.

Less than 48 hours till race day.  Time to hydrate!

My fueling strategy for the Tamalpa 50K

Recap: At my first 50K

This past weekend a handful of our bada$$ team ran the Skyline 50k. For several of them it was their first ultramarathon (and marathon!). I decided to do my weekend long run along the same course in the hopes I could run with a couple of them.

One teammate in particular I joined around mile 23. She had just started walking a short while before as her right leg had tightened up big time. We tried several things to try and loosen it up – her pounding it with her fist or me driving my elbow into it – but nothing seemed to help. So we walked together, trying to run every so often. But it was soon clear that she would have to walk the rest of the race.

Steady climbing
I found a couple of solid walking sticks along the way and that’s how we made it in the last 8 miles. I saw every range of emotion under the sun while I walked with her but I never once heard her mention the word ‘quit’.

I saw her cry, saw her laugh at her frustration and pound her walking stick into the ground and also simply casually carry on a conversation. Slowly but surely we knocked out mile after mile, including two long uphills that seemed to never end. She rocked it and finished within the allotted cutoff time. I hope I can find half the grit she had when I run my race in two weeks. It’s gonna be gut check time!

Recap: At my first 50K

The Recovery Run

On our training schedule, Sundays are noted as ‘Run on Tired Legs’. On Saturdays we have our long runs (we’re now up to 12+ miles) and for the first month of training the last thing I wanted to do the next day is run again. So for the first few Sundays, rather than run, I counted my walking around the city as my ‘tired legs workout’. I mean, have you seen the hills in San Francisco? They’re a workout in themselves.

But these past two Sundays I decided to go out for a real run and I’ve made running from my place to the Golden Gate Bridge and back my recovery run. It’s a flat 6 mile run that never gets old as there’s always people watching and sailboats and the bridge to watch. And after running up and down hills the day before, it’s a welcome change of pace to just run flat.

A different type of Recovery
I can definitely say though that running on concrete and asphalt puts more shock and impact on the body, especially the knees and hips. Trail runs cushion a lot of that.

A couple of coaches and experienced runners I’ve talked to say the recovery run is one of the most important parts of the training schedule. It makes your legs work a bit harder before you rest them for the next two days and this process helps build up strength. It’s too early for me to tell that for myself but one observation I can share is that it definitely makes for a more tired Sunday. Both weeks I’ve come home and needed to take a nap.

A bit more from this article:

Additional research has shown that when athletes begin a workout with energy-depleted muscle fibers and lingering muscle damage from previous training, the brain alters the muscle recruitment patterns used to produce movement. Essentially, the brain tries to avoid using the worn-out muscle fibers and instead involves fresher muscle fibers that are less worn out precisely because they are less preferred under normal conditions.

As you may know, I am running an ultra marathon to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Please consider making a donation.

The Recovery Run