I planned to run a self-sufficient trail century (100 miles) in remote mountains of Virginia in the George Washington National Forest. I’d never attempted anything remotely close to this in scope, so I was assuredly going to fail, but I hoped to learn a lot from the experience so one day I could do it. I’ll take failure over not trying any day. Most of my successful undertakings involved gradual improvements and lots of failure. Success is just the measure of least amount of allowable failure. Improvement is relentless.
There was limited water sources and rugged terrain to contend with. Because of the steep ascents and descents, I imagined a lot of the experience would involve slow plodding, so I decided to go for fat style foods because I didn’t want to exhaust my pancreas with sugar crashes. Dehydration unraveled me, though, so in the end it didn’t really matter what I ate, because without water, I couldn’t really do much with the food.
So, I’ll list the combustibles first and the slow fuel last.
- 26 Carbohydrate supplement gel packs, each 100 calories and a bit of electrolytes, (16 caffeinated, 10 not)
- 12 Tbsp of electrolyte powder supplement
- 4 Tbsp of chia seeds
- 40 electrolyte/salt capsules
- 8 glucose tablets
- 1 lb. of gummy bears
- 3.25 oz. of teriyaki beef jerky
- energy balls
- 16 thick strips of hardwood smoked bacon, the good shit
- 1.75 cups oats
- 1 cup coconut flakes
- 1 cup natural peanut butter
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate baking chips
- 2/3 cup flax-seed powder
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1/4 cup raw honey
- 1 Tbsp instant coffee
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp. vanilla bean extract
- dash cinnamon
- dash allspice
- dash nutmeg
- dash mace
- 1/2 cup coconut flour
Equipment needed – a small food processor or a blender, a bowl, heavy wooden spoon, plastic container with a lid, 1 qt. size or larger, five sandwich bags with locking seal.
Procedure for winter energy ball creation –
- Put 1 1/2 cups of oats in processor (leave 1/4 cups aside) , along with spices, salt, and 3/4 cup coconut flakes (leave 1/4 cup aside) . Pulse mixture until oats are granulated,
- Combine almost everything together in bowl. Still leave aside the coconut flour, the extra coconut flakes and oats. Heat the honey in small dish before adding so it will bind evenly. The coconut oil will have to be worked into small lumps with your hands – do NOT heat it. Turn the mixture with a spoon for two or three minutes, folding in the extra coconut and oats. You want the stuff to be just a bit sticky and gooey, but not runny. It should be like warm cookie dough. The oats will soak up a bit of moisture as the doughy stuff gels.
- Place mixture in refrigerator in fitting container (should fill a qt. sized container exactly) and read a book, or go run a half marathon, or play with your kids. Or take a nap. Mixture should firm up like a brick.
- Remove from fridge, cut into five strips. Each of these strips will make four balls. Only roll out four balls at a time because they begin to get globby as they warm.
- Roll out a strip into four balls, transfer to qt.plastic container, add 2 to 3 tsp of coconut flour, replace lid and roll balls around until evenly coated with flour, put in plastic bag and back in fridge. Do this until all dough is rolled, powdered and bagged, and refrigerated. If this were summer, I would use less peanut butter, up the flax powder and add prune puree for emulsification. But I wouldn’t make this in the summer if you paid me. If you do, you’re brave and wily. Sorry about your lack of toilet.
- Keep balls chilled. I kept these in a duffel bag in the trunk of my car overnight. When I returned home, I put them back in the fridge, and ate four for breakfast while I wrote this. They’ll keep a week or two in the fridge.
Procedure for creating baconfruit – Preheat oven to 425. Place bacon strips in large iron skillet and heat on medium heat until they begin to sizzle. Place pan in oven until you like how they look. Bacon is perfect when you say it is. That’s the zen of bacon. I won’t judge your bacon. I believe your bacon wants to be free. When it is ready, transfer bacon to plate atop paper towel. Dab off the grease if you want. Place bacon in bag. I left enough rendered heavenly bacon fat on them so the bacon glommed into a mass that could be peeled like a banana a strip at a time. This is baconfruit.
My running plan was to run the Wild Oak trail, which is a 25.6 mile loop, four times. Each loop, I’d re-up with 4 to 8 energy gels, a bag of balls, 4 strips of bacon in its own bag, 4 oz. of gummy bears, electrolyte drink powder, a small container of chia seeds, and glucose tabs if I needed them. The electrolyte/salt tablets were small and light enough to keep with me. I shoved all of this into a small water bladder backpack.
Presumably, I’d be able to get water from the three water sources on the course. There was a small stream, a river, and a waterfall. I passed the waterfall with plenty of water still in my pack, so I thought to draw more later from the river. Another runner advised me not to drink from the river, and wait until I reached the stream later. That kinked my plan a little bit, but I adjusted. However, things turned to the worse for me right after the river.
I’d run out of water a quarter mile after ascending from the river below. I was going to have to run roughly eight more miles until I reached the stream, ascending and descending from a 4,300 foot mountain and traversing difficult trail the while. When I reached the stream, I found it frozen. I honestly decided I must be not be a runner, but just some sick man addicted to shame and I should get therapy. With no water, my confidence evaporated completely over the last two miles of the loop – took an hour to walk it – and I returned to my car, drank a gallon of water, changed into clean clothes and drove home, eating baconfruit in silence, driving through the night.