Rocket Man…

Charles Corfield
The biggest buckle ever was Charles' award.

I’ve got some of this Mendocino Rocket Fuel, that’s supposed to be really… ~ Viv Savage

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Charles Corfield – LT100 3rd place finisher, Everest summiter, and all-around great guy. Charles took the time out of his busy schedule (I get the impression that he runs at 4 in the morning every day) to meet with me to discuss some ultra tips and tricks, his experience running and his famous Rocket Fuel mix.

Charles placed third at the 2007 Leadville Trail 100 race after being talked into running it by some friends. He had no real intention of running the LT100 and so just jumped into the fray and treated it like running two consecutive 50s. Apparently that worked pretty well as he finished without a crew or pacers in 19 hours 42 minutes. Solid effort.

During the course of our conversation, I learned a lot about how to approach racing, training, hydration and nutrition and discovered that Charles really thinks things through, does extensive research and, perhaps most importantly, experiments to find out what works. He is practical as well, often offering simple solutions to common problems vs. recommending expensive or cumbersome alternatives. He asks questions and then thoughtfully presents solutions. For example, when he inquired about my ’07 LT100 attempt and what, in my opinion, went wrong, I mentioned that blisters were an early issue that then escalated to other, larger problems. His solution: Superglue a sock into my shoes to work as a gaiter and superglue the tongue to the upper to keep dirt and grit out. Not particularly elegant but cost-effective, light, and efficient.

One item I really wanted to discuss was his hydration and nutrition regimen. Charles is very scientific about his nutrition needs and calculates exactly what he will need during any given race (or training event) to be sure that he is able to consume the right amount of fuel during the event. This keeps him from getting bogged down by too many calories or bonking from too few. Charles relies primarily (in fact, exclusively, I believe) on a mixture of amylopectin (Waxy Maize) and maltodextrin which has found the name “Rocket Fuel”. I started experimenting with the mix in January this year to see if the solution worked for me and I have found, thus far, for it to be a great supplement to, if not replacement for, my “normal” on-trail nutrition. Here is the formula for 3000kCals (~750g of solids):

  • 340g amylopectin
  • 340g maltodextrin
  • 25g protein (Charles uses whey. Being a vegan, I use soy.)
  • non-sugar flavoring to taste (cocoa, Kool-Aid, vanilla, almond, etc.)
  • some electrolytes (I take care of this with nuun) and antacids (ground up)
  • ~3 cups of water (to the thickness desired)

During my initial experiments, I was mixing about 3 Tablespoons in a bottle of water. Though this worked well, it was not concentrated enough to work as a stand-alone fuel source. I checked with Charles and he indicated that he mixes his to produce a fairly thick, gel-like consistency that then can be delivered via a fuel bottle vs. in a more “drinkable” form. I subsequently tried this as well and it definitely is the way to go.

During the Moab Red Hot 50K, I used Rocket Fuel from the start. I did make the mistake of mixing it a bit too thickly and this, coupled with very low temperatures, made the fuel a bit tough to work with during the race. I should have added water on the go, but in my hydration depleted state didn’t think of that. So really, had I been smarter about it, I know that the mix would have worked even better for me than it already did.

On top of all of this great information, one piece of advice Charles had for me was to listen to what your body is telling you. If you are craving salt, you probably are low on electrolytes. If you are feeling bloated and too “full” you probably have eaten too much too quickly (there are studies that show that we can only process 240-280 cal/hour). Just listen to what your body is telling you and you should do well.


Hungry for more…

I’ve got ants in my pants! I’m discombobulated! Give me a calmative! ~ Grandpa Simpson

Wed: 1:32, 10.5 miles, East Boulder tempo
Thurs: 00:40, 4.6 miles, Boulder Creek Path recovery
Sat: 00:40, 4.14 miles, Neighborhood surges
Sun: 4:12, 26.24 miles, North Boulder backroads

A crazy week got in the way of updates so I am playing catch up a bit. Things have been going relatively well… I am still nursing a tight hamstring and mildly sore knee but that doesn’t seem to be holding me back too much. Wednesday’s run was a bit of a cluster. My splits were okay but by the end, I was really just done and my knee hurt and so I cut that one a little short. Thursday was a bit faster than I should have been running but I felt okay so just cruised. Saturday was a squeeze run early. Went to the opera mid-morning so it was good to get out for a quick run while it was still quiet and calm. Sunday was the mad man of the week…

Headed to Boulder early hoping to get in a few miles before meeting up with the crew but that didn’t happen so we started together shortly before 9:00. We wound our way around part of the Backroads course and I ended up way north on CO66 before heading back to Boulder. Not too much to talk about other than really working on managing lingering ailments and getting in the miles. For the most part, I was successful. After 3 hours things started to get a little ouchy for sure but nothing that sparked tremendous concern – mostly just the standard fatigue and soreness that comes with the territory when logging that much time on one’s feet. These small increases every week are paying off, however. I am feeling super fit and recovery happens quickly.

People ask about nutrition during ultra running a lot and aside from some of the standard items (gels; “real” food like pb&js, wraps, fruit; etc.) I have started working in some fluid-based nutrition as well. I have been using nuun exclusively for the past year or so and find it to work really well. I recently started working Charles Corfield’s famous “Rocket Fuel” into the mix. I’m trying to get more info about that so check back for a full report. Thus far, however, it seems to be working really well for me both during and post running. I have been using a 1:1 mix of Waxy Maize and Maltodextrin coupled with a tab of nuun per bottle. I have the feelers out to Mr. Corfield (3rd place in the ’07 LT100) and will let you know what more I find out.

Most of the top talent whack down gels throughout the races. I am not quite sure how they handle this but it seems to work well for them. I will supplement with gels and do use gels exclusively during shorter, faster events like marathons (maybe that is the key – make 100 miles short and fast and you are golden!) but for longer runs, I tend to stick with more solid fare and try to work in as much real food as possible. When I did the LT100 in ’07 and the Silver Rush in ’08, I relied pretty much exclusively on real food. For the LT100, I relied on food my crew made for me: PB&J wraps, avocado wraps, bean burritos, fruit, trail mix, tomato/avocado soup and the like. I had decent success with this and found, for me, the avocado wraps worked really well (1/2 of an avocado and some pink sea salt wrapped in a tortilla). Being a vegan, I didn’t want to rely on aid stations and didn’t want to get into a situation where I needed nutrition but was unable to find anything that suited me.

I took a slightly different approach to the Silver Rush in ’08 (mostly because I wanted to approach this event more casually to take some of the pressure off) and actually did use the aid stations which provided chips, pretzels, fruit (melons and bananas) and soda. I made the mistake of filling up with some energy drink at one of the stations that did NOT go down well, so definitely beware. I supplemented with my own food for the start (pb&j and avocado wraps) and put more in my drop bag for resupplying at the turn. The best practice is to well… practice! Grab a burrito and go for a run. See what works well for you. Be prepared for wacky cravings during events but try to stick with foods and supplements with which you are familiar and have tried in training. Nothing worse than stomach problems during an event.