Trail Magic

Thru-Hikers, Section-hikers, Long Distance-hikers, etc. all know what I’m talking about… Trail Magic… Goodies left trailside by kind souls for hikers to take and enjoy. I’m no distance hiker, but I imagine finding a pile of cold-ones or popsicles in a stream would be enough to boost my spirits.

In this weekend’s 50k there will be (I’m told) well-stocked aid stations, but I plan to go a bit more self-contained. I’m preparing my own “Trail Magic” for this weekend’s trail race. Let me talk you through what I’ll take and why.

trail magic-2

  1. Hydration Pack: I’ve used the handheld bottle carriers before, but I prefer the backpack. Mine is women’s specific and fits like a glove. No flopping. With this I should not have to stop for fluids. Stopping for me is not so much about losing time but losing momentum. I really dislike the yucky stopping and starting feeling. The pack also has great little chest pockets for all my other necessities like my can of Mace and the following…
  2. Energy Gel: Honey Stinger gels are amazing. I can run a marathon on one or maybe two energy gels and aid station water/electrolyte drinks. For this run I’ll pack along two of these in addition to my homemade energy gels (read on)  once again, so that I will be able to keep moving.
  3. Nutrition Bar: Coconut Chocolate Chip Cliff Bars are where it’s at for a nutrition bar in terms of energy and taste. These are high energy. Not a pre-yoga snack. In fact, I read an article that called this very bar one of the top 5 worst nutrition bars, saying they were meant for: “endurance athletes who need 42g of carbohydrates and 22g of sugar to power through a four-hour hike or climb up the Andes Mountains.” Perfect. I’ll take two.
  4. Electrolyte Drink: I like Power Pak because they are fizzy and taste so good. I will carry this in a small 6 oz. bottle which fits in a backpack strap pocket. However, they do lose some of the fizziness if you’re running with them for several miles. All of that jostling is not good for the effervescence, but they still taste great. So I might just opt to put 6oz. of this down with my breakfast and get the rest of my electrolytes in the gels.
  5. Chocolate Energy: Snickers? Okay, these are really just comfort food and not so different from the other nutrition bars. Plus, they were on sale for 50 cents. I bought 10. Might actually give them out as Trail Magic as I run.
  6. Coconut water: This is more for pre-race because I’m not packing that can out. I’ll down one or two of these, with pulp!, in the days before the race.
  7. Cacao Nibs: Cacao has some health benefits. Do note that truly “raw” cacao would be white and nasty. These are fermented which means they were “cooked” by microbes during the fermentation process which is probably not too different from roasting them with actual heat. I donno? So I’m not touting raw cacao as a superfood or that it is in anyway superior to dark chocolate. Mainly it provides a caffeine boost, and I’m okay with that. No, I’m not packing this whole one pound bag either. These I’ll mix in my homemade energy gel. Here is my updated recipe:

Homemade Energy Gel:

  • 1 heaping T favorite all fruit jam/jelly
  • 2 t chia seeds
  • 2 t coconut oil
  • 2 t raw cacao nibs
  • pinch salt

Mix all together the evening before your run or race and place in a small plastic baggie. In the heat of the moment, don’t litter. Please, pack it out.

My prerace breakfast will be these slow digesting Marathon Dreamcakes…


You can read about them here and get the recipe.

This time I won’t need to wake up any too early for them as I normally do before a marathon. Gastric distress occurs for me when I’ve eaten within a couple hours of very hard/intense effort. For 31 tough miles, my pace will be relaxed enough (in order to last through the hills, snow and distance) that I should have very little GI troubles. One bonus of an ultra.

How ’bout you?

What does your Trail Magic look like?

Any race rituals that you hold fast?

4 thoughts on “Trail Magic

  1. Not really trail magic but… I was hiking the Long Trail in VT with a couple buddies and met a guy on top of some peak who was doing some tele skiing (it had just snowed and it was May…) He gave us a couple beers which after two weeks of hiking you can imagine were quite tasty. Good luck.

    • Oooh, that looks superior to my frozen hydration pack for sure! Does it work well? How is running going for you!? I’m finding the wheels a bit rusty after a baby, but maybe that’s just time catching up to me… I will look into this more if/when I hit my next long trail race. For now, I’m sticking to marathons and using the hydration provided. Going the ‘easy’ route. But Gen. UCAN looks awesome. Thanks. ~Susie

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