Found on RunnersWorld and written by Pamela Nisevich bede, M.S., R.D.
What to Pack for Fueling on Race Day
Worried you’ll forget something? Here’s a fuel packing list to keep you nourished for your big event.
Many people assure me it’s not strange to have a recurring nightmare. They insist they too suffer from such nightmares, and then dive into a tale of a college course they forgot to drop until it was too late or a classroom they couldn’t find on the day of the final exam. Being a sports RD and a runner, my recurring nightmare is a little bit different: Race day has arrived, but I can’t find my ticket for the Metro or Staten Island Ferry, and I forgot to pack my gels, blocks, and pre-race breakfast. Covered in a deep sweat, I thrash about, wondering, “How will I finish my carbo-load, if I didn’t pack my pre-race bagel!?”
Even seasoned racers occasionally forget their gels, bib, clothing, shoes—you name it. I’ll openly admit that I once arrived in Manhattan days before the New York City marathon only to find that I left my gels sitting on the kitchen counter at home. I kicked myself the entire way to REI, where I picked up some packets for the next day’s event, and as I did so, I came up with a “packing list” so this angst never strikes again. As marathon season heats up, I’m giving you my race day packing list to check off as you get ready for your big event. Hopefully it will save you some lost sleep.
1. First of all, consider the conditions in which you’ll be racing. These conditions may determine how you’ll transport your gels. From shorts with pockets to a lightweight jacket in case of rain, be sure to have options in case of a last-minute weather change. Along with the perfect outfit, remember your fuel belt if you’re using one or some safety pins to keep those gels close at hand.
2. Experts recommend you try nothing new on race day, so pack food items that are familiar to you and that you experimented with during months of training. This includes items for a pre-race breakfast and possibly even a pre-race dinner the night before. Over the hours and miles of training, you likely developed a pre-run eating routine that successfully fueled your muscles while being kind to your stomach and gut. Make a list of these foods to pack, and then pack them!
3. Pack your fluids! This is especially important for races held on hot, humid days. Your goal throughout the race is to avoid excessive weight loss due to fluid losses. Sports drinks are an excellent resource to meet carb, sodium, and overall fluid needs. Practice your hydration strategy during training. On race day, you want to head to the starting line well-hydrated but not overhydrated. In the 2-3 hours before the race begins, sip on 16-20 ounces of water or sports drink, and then top off your tank with approximately 8 ounces 20 minutes before the starting horn sounds. Rely on aid stations throughout the race to meet your hydration needs, or pack all you need in a hydration pack.
4. Are you a salty sweater? If so, you need to pack food and fluid that helps replete your sodium loss. An added benefit of sodium-containing foods and beverages is that if chosen correctly, these items can also supply much-needed calories and carbohydrates. On race day, pack the following in your bag: High-carb, high-sodium sports gels; electrolyte supplements, salty, easy-to-digest snacks for before the race; sports drinks; and sports bars.
5. Don’t forget about carbohydrates! Carb-containing foods will power you through the grueling moments in an endurance event. Consume enough carbs, and it’s easier to quiet that voice in your head telling you that you won’t finish. Avoid hitting the wall by consuming 30-60 grams of carbs every hour. Mimic your training, and pack whatever fuel you’ve been using during your long runs. Pack more than you think you need. You never know when your running partner might forget their fuel, or you might need more carbs to make it over the wall. Do the math: Make sure you have AT LEAST enough fuel from gels, blocks, or beans to supply 30+ grams of carbs an hour.