Sunday, January 13, 2008

Meal planning

Date: Jan. 13
Mileage: 25.8
January mileage: 312.4
Hours: 2:00
Temperature upon departure: 30
Precipitation: .22"/4" snow

I had a great short ride today. I felt the strongest I have since my left knee started acting up in late December. My actual moving time seemed exceptionally short (the ride took two hours, but I stopped for a while in two different spots.) I hope to put in my longest single ride yet this weekend if the weather cooperates. I won't ride for 12 hours in 35-degree rain. There's just no reason to suffer that much in the name of "training."

I have been spending a fair amount of my off time trying to decide exactly what I'll have in my "kit" during the Ultrasport. In some aspects, I still have quite a bit of testing to complete before I really get my gear dialed in. I have a list and an pretty concrete idea of the clothing I want to bring, but I'm still not completely sure if it's enough. Or too much? My testing isn't likely to yield enough confidence in the end result to shave much off my current list. But I feel like the ideas I have now are a good balance of "too much" for most conditions and "just right" for extreme conditions. As long as it all fits on my bike, I'll be happy.

Something I've been a little less sure of is meal planning. How does one prepare all the food they're going to carry in a endurance event that will consume an unknown number of days? For my food planning, I'm taking a page from the mountaineering book: Hope for five days. Pack for seven. Ration if it takes nine. That I will be on a well-traveled trail that crosses several winter lodges and a couple of towns will minimize the danger of starvation, so I'd like to keep food on the light side. But that still doesn't answer the question of how much to take.

What to take, though, for me is an easier question. As much as I'd love to just carry a bunch of light-weight fatty products like butter, there's no way I can ingest, let alone digest that kind of food. My experience has taught me in heavily active situations, I operate great for extended periods of time on simple carbohydrates, can tolerate protein and unsaturated fat in well-distributed doses, and can't deal in the slightest with saturated fats and really greasy stuff. This reality seems to hold true even after more than a day. My only multiday experience is cycling the Golden Circle in August. I went for three days eating a diet that was almost entirely nut/fruit trail mix, fruit snacks and Clif Bars. I never really became tired of that stuff. In fact, the opposite happened. Knowing I had the ability to process my food and keep going was a huge comfort, and I relished in eating it. The experience that finally convinced me that a repetitive, simple carbohydrate diet is best for me happened as I rolled through Whitehorse during a really hot part of the afternoon after logging more than 250 miles in a little more than 24 hours. I pedaled by a McDonalds and several other fast food restaurants. The smells wafting from the buildings were beyond nauseating in my condition. But I continued to crave my crappy walnuts and cranberries. I also had a similarly sickening experience with French fries after the 24 Hours of Kincaid.

So I have some good ideas for foods I know I can and will eat, that pack fairly small and are either edible frozen, or thaw fairly easily. I'm still at a loss of how much to bring. I figure I can balance the fats and carbohydrates to log about 2,200 calories to a pound of food. I don't think it's likely I'll be able to eat much more than 4,500 calories in a day, but I'll probably pack and ship as much as 6,000 for each day, and maybe even a little extra emergency food. There will be some trail food, but my Whitehorse McDonalds experience has me a little concerned about how appetizing it will seem. If I don't need to head back out on the trail right away, I can always force the "free" calories down. But getting sick is always a concern.

Here's a list of the foods I have been thinking about, and their caloric value per ounce. You can gag or marvel in my refined palette. Either way, this is the stuff I'm comfortable with, and I'm not likely to change it too much.

Clif/Power Bars: 250 calories, 2.4 oz
Pop Tarts: 400 calories, 3.6 oz
Walnuts: 183 calories per ounce
Almonds: 169 calories per ounce
Pecans: 196 calories per ounce
Soy nuts: 128 calories per ounce
Sunflower seeds: 165 calories per ounce
Craisens: 92 calories per ounce
Dried cherries: 100 calories per ounce
Dried pineapple: 92 calories per ounce
Chocolate: 152 calories per ounce
Turkey jerky: 100 calories per ounce
13” tortilla: 330 calories
Fruit snacks: 123 calories per ounce
Peanut butter: 167 calories per ounce
Fruit leather: 90 calories per ounce
Tuna package: 40 calories per ounce
Wheat Thins: 137 calories per ounce


  1. i love the pictures you take, they are just amazing. I can't give advise on what to eat, other than pack more. Just keep going, and keep posting.

  2. What! No goldfish crackers or Pepsi? Actually, have you considered oatmeal? Of course this would mean cooking and cooking gear which you probably want to avoid carrying. Do you take anything that has to be cooked?

  3. Jill,

    I'm rooting for you in your upcoming adventure, you go girl!

    If you want another source of protein for your race in addition to tuna and turkey, chickpeas is one good source. Boil and dry and you are ready to snack any time. Contains lots of carbs too, and dietary fiber.

  4. I like your food list! PopTarts, nuts, craisins and chocolate are the four basic food groups. Well, guacamole, too, but it's hard to carry.

    I might add instant coffee, cocoa and sugar packets: mix one of each together with just enough water to make a thick slurry pudding. It's disgusting anywhere but out in the wilderness; out there it's worth its weight in gold.

    Just out of curiosity, have you switched cameras recently? (Your numbering system seems to have changed.)

  5. I'm sure you have not forgotten water which unfortunately can weigh a lot. You probably will have a way to melt the snow (which is more stuff you'll have to carry) but at least you won't have to carry the water.

    I know that powdered drinks like Powerade and Gatorade have a lower freezing point because of its electrolytic content which is convenient. Plus it'll have some calories.

    I notice on my long jaunts that drinking a lot of water curbs the sensation of hunger for a little while.

  6. instant soup packs or just boullion.

  7. Check out ProBars or the Bear Valley Pemmican bars--lots of calories in a small/light package. Also, check out Hammer Nutrition; they have a number of products that might work for you (and they're pretty generous with samples and/or sponsorship... your trek is right up their alley of interest).

  8. I'm chilling with some frosted mini wheats right now, and thnking about how to eat a frozen can of pepsi.

    Nice photo Jill.

  9. Carnation Instant Breakfast!!

  10. And of course, plenty of Guiness!

  11. Jill,

    Have you considered pitted dates? They have tremendous good calories, and with a little peanut butter they really sustain with a good ratio of carbs to protein.

    Couscous also has a lot of bang for the buck in terms of weight versus good calories.

    By "good calories" I mean that the stuff is not throwing a lot of free radicals into your system to process.

    If you have not already done so then look at
    Ziplock has a new (to me) half-gallon size freezer bag that opens wide on the bottom so that it will sit upright while you eat a meal out of it.

    If you are eating wheat, then add some milk powder somehow to complete the protein.

    I know these are seemingly random ideas, but things to consider that may go along with your preferences.

    I will try to find time to get more information on my blog about my own nutrition plan for my upcoming Great Divide Mountain Bike Route tour.

    I will have stretches in New Mexico with 6 or more days between resupply stops. So the logistics have some similarities.

    The big difference is that I may be dealing with extreme heat. But the hydration aspect is actually very similar whether it is extreme heat or extreme cold.

    I hope this helps a little.

  12. Sorry, I got called to dinner. I have a couple more suggestions. The first is to try Bear Naked brand of granola. I am almost addicted to it. It sticks with you, and won't fill you up with free radicals. I buy it by the case straight from the company, because I cannot usually find much variety in stores around here.

    It seems more expensive, but I can definitely feel the difference. I bicycle commute about 15 miles early in the morning. I eat a bowl of granola and yogurt at 5 a.m. and I have to leave by 5:30 am. I use to feel famished by 7:30.

    Now that I have switched to the Bear Naked brand I just eat a banana around 9:30 and I am satisfied until lunch.

    Whereas, before I would buy a breakfast burrito and a chug of chocolate milk (on top of the bowl of brand X granola). So, I actually am spending way less money and do not feel hungry.

    I suspect that the glycemic index must be more moderate in the Bear Naked brand than in most cereals.

    The glycemic index indicates how much sugar is released into the blood stream and the subsequent insulin release from eating a particular food.

    If you need quick relief (i.e. starting to bonk), then eat foods that have a high glycemic index value. The penultimate high glycemic substance would have to be gel.

    For a slower, more steady release of sugars into the blood stream eat foods with a lower glycemic index value.

    The second suggestion is to learn about how to time your nutrition and hydration intake. Timing of intake is also a factor that can make a big difference in your preformance, endurance, and recovery. Unfortunately, many athletes consider timing to be too much hassle.

    If you have an interest in investigating this topic than look at "Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports Nutrition" by John Ivy, Ph.D. and Robert Portman, Ph.D.

    They also have a more condensed version of the topic in a little book called "The Performance Zone."

    The biggest criticism of their practice is that they have developed nutritional products based on their research. Many people feel that the fact that they make money off their products taints their science.

    That could be, but it is still worth a try to see if it works for you. I believe it works for me, but maybe it is just the placebo effect? Whether it is the placebo effect or not, it still works for me.

    My slogan is : Ride to Eat. Eat to Ride. Ride the Great Divide!

    Good luck!

  13. Hey Jill,

    Still amazed at your gutz to be doing this. I envy that.

    On the food note, I also find that I can endure long hours without much nourishment, if I know I have some coming at the end of the day.

    Your mention of the Golden Circle in August though got me thinking about a visit of my mom's from a few years back.
    It was winter, and cold, and we were all out at a meat restaurant, and my girlfriend at the time mentioned she was craving meat lately, which was unusall for her.
    We got on to that disscusion and came to the concensus that our bodies crave more red meat in winter than in summer.

    Now, I'm not saying you will be the same. After all, we were all, relatively, physically inactive at the time, and you're doing an endurance race, but you may want to take into account the fact that in cold weather, our bodies crave more red meat.

    Anyway, whatever you decide, I'm sure will be right for you.
    I wish you the best of luck and look forward to more reading in your blog.


  14. Jill, sorry but... whast about an spaguetti bolognesa?

  15. I too recommend instant soup or instant noodle mixes. You'll need the salt to balance all that you will be sweating out. This has helped me tremendously when backpacking.

  16. Jill;

    On long brevets I'm partial to that stale pizza pocket one can often score at the inconvenience store gas station late at night. Guess that may not be an option on some parts of your route.

    Seriously, just want to get my "good luck' wish in befor the last minute crush. I'm sure you'll do fine: You'll either finish, or not, you'll either have a fast time, or not, you'll either have a great time, or not. But I expect you'll give us a very enjoyable post event post.

    When your winding up that post ride video interview clip dont't forget to say, "I'm going to Disneyland!" with great gusto!

    PS: I've been looking for that post about your camera and can't find it. I broke my Olympus stylus 710 last weekend. I liked it but find now one year on that it is a dinosaur.

    Yr Pal DrCodfish


Feedback is always appreciated!