6633 Arctic Ultra: planning my food and hydration

 

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Much like my comments in one of my previous blog posts, 6633 Arctic Ultra: researching the route, prior planning is vital for my Arctic adventure and food and hydration is no different. Having spoken to previous competitors and after having done a fair amount of number crunching, I've come to the conclusion that I'll burning between 8,000 and 10,000 calories a day, depending on the amount of time on feet (which could be up to 18 hours a day), the terrain, the weather and where I am in the race (I mean whether it's day 2 or day 9). Unfortunatly it's not logistally possible to haul around this amonut of food, so I'll be aiming to eat between 5,000 and 6,000 calories per day; so it's fair to say that everyday I'll be in a severe calorie deficit. Managing this will be key, as the more cold and tired you get, the less likely you'll be to want to eat, hence the beginning of a dangerous downward spiral. Many very talented athletes have DNF'd this race due to this downward spiral, so this will be a huge factor for me to consider throughout the whole of the race. 

For hydration, I'll be carrying with me two 2 litre Stanley flasks which will hold my hot water (mainly for food, but also for hot drinks), one 500ml flask (for coffee and hot chocolate), 2 litres of water (either in a Camelbak or two 1 litre Nalgene bottles) and on one or two of the bigger stages (where we'll have no access to check points for well over 24 hours) I'll also be carrying two 600ml soft flasks with water in. If I run out of water at any stage, then I'll be forced to boil snow with my JetBoil cooking system (pictured above & right); this will be far from ideal, but I have to be prepared for that scenario. 

My food prepartion is 99% done and the back bone of my food will be:

  • FirePot meals: I've been testing FirePot meals for many months now and these dehydrated meals (made in Dorset) are extremely tasty. If you've ever used freeze dried expedition meals (any brand), the FirePot meals are on another level. I'll be taking their vegan range with me as taking meat through Canadian customs can be an issue. I plan to use 3 meals every 24 hours (approx 2,210 calories). 
  • Primal Pantry bars: I'll be using the Primal bars and the Primal high-protein bars in the Arctic. As I'll be eating a fair amount of processed foods (sweets, cheese, salami, etc) I need a bar that's as natural as possible (these use only raw natural ingredients) and with a decent amount of calories (approx 200 calories per bar), so these bars are perfect. I plan to eat 2 bars every 24 hours (approx 400 calories).
  • Huel: I'll be using Huel almost as a meal replacement drink. Huel (mixed with water) will be perfect for an on-the-go drink and a good way to get in 400 calories quickly (one serving) and stay hydrated at the same time. I plan to use 3 servings every 24 hours (approx 1,200 calories). 
  • Nuts and chocolate: I'll be mixing mixed nuts with chocolate M&M's and placing them in a drinks bottle which will be in my bumbag (worn to the front, rather the rear), each bottle will hold approximately 900 calories and I plan on using 2 bottles every 24 hours (approx 1,800 calories).
  • Jelly sweets (Haribo, Jelly Babies, etc): I'll be using a selection of jelly sweets (what I can buy in Canada), these will be used throughout the day as snacks but I'll also have some in my drop bags as treats for when I arrive at certain check points (you get 2 drop bags during the whole race). 
  • Beef Jerky/Biltong/Salami: like the jelly sweets, I'll buy whatever I can in Canada, but I would like a selection of dry meats, to use as snacks during each day of the race (approx 300 calories per day). 
  • Pringles: Pringles will act as a treat and as an easy way to get in some calories, I plan to eat approx 60g of Pringles per day which equates to roughly 300 calories. 
  • Cheese: I will buy cheese in Canada, but I hope to get hold of Babybel as it's easy to work out calories for each portion eaten. If I budget for 2 Babybel's each day, that'll equate to approx 120 calories. 

 For my hydration I will be using:

  • Water (carrying hot & cold water)
  • Electrolyte tablets (SIS tablets and some Precision Hydration powder as required)
  • Energy powder (Tailwind as required)
  • Coffee (sachets)
  • Hot chocolate (sachets)

image2You can see from the information above, a lot of research has gone into choosing the right products for me. I need a lot of calorie dense foods and foods that not only I like and are tasty, but foods that will be easily absorbed by the body. Another consideration when choosing food is whether the food will freeze when stored in the pulk (sled), as most foods will invariably freeze solid. This will certainly happen with some of my choices, however the plan will be to pre-place some of the food next to the body to thaw it out before planning to eat it (otherwise I might loose some teeth!).   

The photo on the left shows what a full days amount of food will look like and it works out to be approximately 6,330 calories. I'm pretty sure I will miss some planned food stops and not quite hit the full 6,330 calories during each 24-hour period, but if I get anywhere near this amount I should be OK. As the race is 9 days long, I'll have 9 times the amount shown in the photo, but I can split that up into three 3-day supply bags and leave two of those three bags with the race support team (to drop of at two of the check points), so I only have to carry 3 days worth of rations at any one point (plus some extras for emergencies).

And that's about it for the food and hydration required for the race. The only other items I may consider adding is some shortbread (full of calories and doesn't freeze) and a few more treats for the drop bags, which of course will mean some full-fat Coke and more tubes of Pringles!!!  

If you missed the first few blog posts in this 6633 Arctic Ultra series, check out the blog post "6633 Arctic Ultra.....setting the scene" (you can check it out HERE) this post lets you know what I'm doing and why.

My next 6633 Arctic Ultra blog update will be my last training blog update (detailing the training done in February), then I might be able to squeeze in one more post before heading out to Canada on the 3rd March. In the meantime,  if you have any questions about the 6633 Arctic Ultra, the training required for such an epic event or the specialist equipment required, please send them over to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

6633 Arctic Ultra: January training update

 

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As we enter February, the training for the 6633 Arctic Ultra is really picking up pace, with some serious mileage getting clocked! Here's January's update and some notes on the next training block and decisions that have been made (still some more need to be made) before setting off to Canada on the 3rd March.     

January's training hours break down as:

  • Running (pure running): 1hr 
  • Hiking: 92hr 
  • Strength: 8hr
  • Misc (research, testing equipment, planning food): 15hr 30mins

From the training stats you can see that compared to last month the pure running has dropped to almost nothing, the hiking specific training has increased from just over 52 hours to 92 hours and the strength training has increased from 2 hours in December to over 8 hours this month. From this you can see that the main focus is now on the long hikes (whilst testing and using different clothing, food & equipemnt), trying to simulate long days and lots of 'time on feet'. Some of the key fitness training sessions have been:

  • Bigger back-to-back training days
  • A 24-hour training day, covering 56 miles of hiking over 8 distinct periods during the day (followed by bivvying out straight after the session)
  • Strength training has changed to more core and single legs movements

I've also spent quite a bit of time finalising my systems and strategies for the event, especially surrounding choices of food, hydration, clothing and equpiment. Here's a very quick snapshot of the decisions made and a few reasons why: 

  • Food: I'll be doing a separate blog on the food I'll be using whilst in the Arctic (with a full breakdown of calories), but I have tested most foods and I will definitly be using FirePot dehydrated meals, Primal Pantry bars, Huel, jelly sweets (Haribo, jelly babies, etc), nuts & chocolate, Pringles, cheese, cold meats (salami, jerky, biltong, etc) and Skittles. Yes, I need to get loads of calories down my neck! 
  • Hydration: I'll mention hydration in more depth in the 'food blog' (mentioned above) but essentially my hydration will be made up of electrolyte and energy drinks (if they don't freeze), Huel, coffee and hot chocolate. 
  • Clothing: I've now tried and tested all of my clothing and I'm very happy with the range of clothing that I've got available to me. For the extreme and variable  conditons I need lots of different layers, from base layers to mid layers to outer jackets, but also lots of layers of gloves (up to 3 layers), socks (up to 3 layers) hats, balaclavas and trousers; I have it all and am really pleased with the combinations available to me. 
  • Equipment: I've tested my cooking equipment, footwear, nanospikes (small spikes that fit on my hiking boots), goggles, headtorches, etc and am really pleased with those items, the one area I need to work on is my pulk (my sled). I need to pack it (and repack it) and make sure I know exactly where everything is (my food, my medical kit, cooking equipment, sleep system, spare clothes, emergency items, etc) as I can't be faffing around at -40'c trying to find something, I need to be able to put my hand on that item straight away. I will do this many times, over and over to practise in the next 3 or 4 weeks, so I have this nailed before heading out to Canada. 

Screen Shot 2019 01 31 at 11.17.03I met up with Simon Webb (from All or Nothing Events) last week to talk about medical considerations and the medical equipment I might need for the Arctic environment. Simon is ex-Army and teaches First Aid courses, so is perfectly placed to brief me on potential emergency sitautions and how to reslove them; he even provided me with a complete medical pack providing all the neccessary first aid equipment I will need when in the Arctic. Many thanks Simon.   

I have a few things left to purchase, but these are mainly duplicate items (for some items I will need several of the same thing) and some more food care supplies (Fixomull tape, KT tape and 2 Toms blister powder) but I'm almost ready to go. The only thing left is another 3 weeks of 'big' training, plus more practise on my systems and lots of packing and repacking my pulk. 

If you missed the first few blog posts in this 6633 Arctic Ultra series, check out the blog post "6633 Arctic Ultra.....setting the scene" (you can check it out HERE) this post lets you know what I'm doing and why. In the meantime, watch this space for the next 6633 Arctic Ultra training update (there will be one or two more before I leave for the Arctic) and if you have any questions about the 6633 Arctic Ultra, the training required for such an epic event or the specialist equipment required, please send them over to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

6633 Arctic Ultra: researching the route


Likeys 6633 Arctic ultra 2Prior planning prevents piss poor performance! This was something that was drilled into me in my military days and it's something that will probably stay with me forever, mainly because I truly believe it. With anything I do, I never go into it half-assed, and with that in mind after I entered the 6633 Arctic Ultra I knew I would have to recce the course as much as possible (if that's possible from thousands of miles away!) to ensure I was fully prepared for what is coming my way in March. So I did my own fact-finding mission, I went through the 6633 Arctic Ultra website with a fine tooth-comb, I read every race report I could find (which wasn't many!) and spoke to past competitors; this is what I found: 

  • Leg 1: start to CP1 (Arctic Circle) 23 miles
    • The first stage is the shortest stage of the race at 23 miles (yes, not really that short!). Once the race is started you immediately descend gently through an Arctic stunted forest for about 6 miles to the bridge at Eagle River. On crossing the bridge, the road ascends quite steeply at first and then undualtes for about 6 miles, where upon the landscape becomes more exposed to the notorious Arctic winds. This hilly landscape continues until the first checkpoint, which is right on the Arctic Circle.
  • Leg 2: CP1 to CP2 (James Creek) 48 miles (total: 71 miles)
    • On leaving the Arctic Circle, the route continues to rise and fall and is best described as undulating (although many veteran athletes of this event will suggest that mountainous is a more appropriate description!). As you approach Glacier Creek the route becomes open and flatter and much more exposed, this whole stretch is affectionately known as Hurricane Alley, and with good reason. The potential is there for extremely strong Katabatic winds, with the road often being closed to vehicles for safety. Next up is possibly the toughest part of the route, the 10 mile uphill stretch to Wright Pass which takes you to the border with the North West Territories; upon which you then descend down to the checkpoint at James Creek. 
  • Leg 3: CP2 to CP3 (Fort McPherson) 42 miles (total: 113 miles)
    • On leaving James Creek you’re straight into 4 miles of ascent, after which the route is undulating. After some more miles you catch the first sight of the McKenzie Delta below you and from this point the trail descends to the Peel River ice crossing, after which the route changes to relatively flat for the final 6 miles into the check point at Fort McPherson. You can collect one of your two drop bags here, so it’s a good opportunity to have a change of clothes, restock your food supplies and maybe grab a few hours sleep.
  • Leg 4: CP3 to CP4 (Mid-Point Peel River) 47 miles (total: 160 miles)
    • On leaving Fort McPherson, we'll now be racing on a new route to the finish line at Tuktoyaktuk (new in 2018). This is a remote section of Ice Road, so it's pancake flat, which meanders its way to CP4.
  • Leg 5: CP4 to CP5 (Aklavik) 51 miles (total: 211 miles) 
    • Leaving CP4 you're back onto the Ice Road. This area of the Northwest Territories is very remote, but the proximity of the wooded banks along the route should provide some much appreciated protection from the winds.
  • Leg 6: CP5 to CP6 (Inuvik) 75 miles (total: 286 miles)
    • From Aklavik, the route will again continue with solid ice underfoot, albeit a wider and more exposed section of Ice Road. With this section of the race being approximately 75 miles, this non-stop section all the way to Inuvik is probably the toughest section of the race. This section will take most competitors between 30 and 40 hours, so we will certainly be sleeping out on the trail during this section. Once arriving in Inuvik, we get access to our second drop bag, so this is our last opportunity to have a change of clothes and restock our food supplies.
  • Leg 7: CP6 to CP7 (Gateway) 43 miles (total: 329 miles)
    • Similar to the first 120 miles of the race, this road is a hard packed “forest” type trail that winds its way through the myriad of lakes strewn over the McKenzie Delta. Where any tree cover exists, they will be stunted by the cold and will offer little protection from the winds that can affect the area.
  • Leg 8: CP7 to finish (Tuktoyaktuk) 54 miles (total: 383 miles)
    • The final 54 mile leg is remote, barren, yet stunningly beautiful, which makes its way to the finish line at Tuktoyaktuk on the banks of the Arctic Ocean.

As you can see from my course synopsis, there will be many, many (many) solo, cold, windy, barren miles and this is something that every competitor will have to deal with; this is the mental side of the event, which is as important (if not more important) as the physical side of the race. There is no doubt in my mind that this will be like nothing I've ever encountered before! 

If you missed the first blog post in this 6633 Arctic Ultra series (6633 Arctic Ultra.....setting the scene) you can check it out HERE, if not watch this space for the next 6633 Arctic Ultra training update. If you have any questions about the 6633 Arctic Ultra, the training required for such an epic event or the specialist equipment required, please send them over to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

6633 Arctic Ultra: December training update

Tiberiu Useriu 6633 Arctic Ultra Marathon 2015

Happy New Year!

As we enter 2019 the training for the 6633 Arctic Ultra picks up pace, here's the December update and few notes on the training going forwards.   

December has been a bit of an odd month of training compared to last month, the rubbish weather meant training sessions had to be adapted and the Christmas break always throws a spanner in the works; but I still managed to get in some key sessions.

Here's the training hours break down:

  • Running (pure running): 4hr 30mins
  • Hiking: 52hr 30mins
  • Strength: 2hr 10mins
  • Misc (cycling, testing equipment): 4hr

From the training stats you can see that compared to last month the pure running has dropped (halved) and the hiking specific training has increased significantly (more than doubled) with lots of big back-to-back training sessions and spending as much time as possible 'on my feet', in all conditions, at different times of the day (yes, lots of VERY early starts).

Read more: 6633 Arctic Ultra: December training update

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