The fuel to fire Sandes across the Drakensberg

Ryan Sandes takes us through his nutrition strategy for the DGT and what he’s packing for dinner.
Run Ryan run.
Ryan and Ryno will cover varied terrain. © Kelvin Trautman
By Jazz Kuschke

You can't race a car without fuel – and the human body is no different. When it comes to ultra-long distance, on-the-trail nutrition is name of the game. While ultra-runner Dean Karnazes has legendarily ordered pizza delivery while running, Ryan and Ryno Griesel aren't going to have such luxuries available so far from civilisation on the Drakensberg Grand Traverse (DGT).

My main concern is that we’re going to be out there for so long.

The main challenge for the pair is the dilemma for self-sufficient adventurers the world over — balancing the need for calories with the difficulty of carrying them.

Ryan Sandes' contemplates the upcoming attempt © Kelvin Trautman / Red Bull Content Pool

“The team's biggest issue is what they can carry – they need dense carbohydrates from which they can get a lot of energy, but that won’t weigh them down,” says Sport Scientist Adrian Penzhorn.

“My main concern is that we’re going to be out there for so long and my stomach is going to feel really empty,” says Ryan. The nutrition strategy for the DGT is significantly different than for a 100-mile race because of the distance and lower average speed.

He will be carrying a lot of Lama Bars which have 30 grams of carbs per 45 gram serving, plus meal replacement powder servings in Ziploc bags, each fortified with an extra dose of whey protein.

“I’m also taking GU chomps and mixed sweets just to kind of mix it up a bit… And nuts with extra salt!” he says.

Ryan Sandes training on Chapmans Peak in Cape Town, South Africa on October 23rd, 2011
Ryan Sandes trains in Cape Town © Kolesky/Nikon/Red Bull Content Pool

But more important than solid fuel is liquid fuel. Ryan and Ryno will get all their water from the pristine mountain streams, most of which are high after recent rains. However, dehydration is still a very real threat.

It's so technical you have to watch every step or else you’re going to break your ankle.

Ryan is taking Rehidrat sachets as well as electrolyte tablets to make sure he keeps his electrolyte levels topped up. These are the essential salts and minerals the body loses in sweat. Failure to replace these lost salts can lead to heat exhaustion and even death.

In addition to his hydration pack, Ryan's Red Bull drinks will help increase alertness when spirits flag. Adventure racers use caffeinated drinks and gels during long races to help ward off sleep. 

“Staying mentally sharp is crucial. On an open wide trail you can get into a zone, and just put one foot in front of the next but with something like this it’s so technical you have to watch where you put every step else you’re going to break your ankle,” says Ryan.

Ryan Sandes
Ryan Sandes, portrait © Kelvin Trautman

“I’m planning to take three short naps of about 20 to 30 minutes each,” says Ryan. “I'll drink the Red Bull just before my nap and then pass out for 20-minutes – I’ll be so knackered that I’ll just crash – and then will be good to go after that as it kicks in.”

I'll be good to go after the Red Bull kicks in!

Ryan has tested this plan in his recce's so far and has worked for him well.

Do you have a question for Ryan about the Drakensberg Grand Traverse? Ask in the box below and we'll get him to respond.

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