Fueling up. / by Wookie Kim

My recurring nightmare has me twisting or spraining an ankle, but the bigger stressor--and the tougher day-to-day challenge--is ensuring that I eat well, and eat enough, throughout the trip. There's little left to do. I'm done packing. I'm done gearing up. All that's left, really, is gathering food.

While I have a decent amount of food stockpiled, and have a rough food plan set out, there are still too many unknowns such that predicting my food needs has been quite difficult. For one, I don't know how many miles I'll actually be running each day. I've picked tentative trails and routes for each park, but I don't yet know whether the mileage I'm setting for myself (15-35 miles of trails per day) is sustainable. Even if it is sustainable for a few days, can I do it for a few weeks? I also don't know how much of a "setback" the 100K trail race will be. I'll need at least a few days of recovery after that race, but how much, exactly, will I need? These are all things I'll have to play by ear. Depending on how these all play out, I'll have to adapt my diet and caloric intake accordingly.

Luckily, I have help when it comes to fueling. Three absolutely wonderful companies are supporting me with food. Here's a little bit about each, and why I think these foods will contribute greatly to the success of this trip.

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First is Birch Benders Micro-Pancakery. They make out-of-control, bonkers-delicious organic pancakes. They sent me a case each of six different flavors: original, six grain cinnamon, chocolate chip, gluten free, paleo, and protein. Unlike other companies, Birch Benders makes flavors that actually taste substantially different and use varying ingredients. No two pancakes are the same.

All the tools one needs to make these pancakes (measuring cup optional).

All the delicious flavors Birch Benders sent me.

Birch Benders pancakes are going to be the core of my on-the-road breakfast routine. Each morning, the first thing I'm going to do is make these pancakes (and then, of course, a cup of coffee). What makes Birch Benders so amazing is that, to get your pancake mix ready, all you have to do is add water and stir it up. A few minutes on the pan, and you have mouthwatering-ly good pancakes. Stacks on stacks of them. These pancakes are super quick, nutritious, and hearty--everything I need to start my day. I trust in Birch Benders to fuel me up strong.

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Second is KIND Snacks. They make similarly out-of-control, bonkers-delicious bars and granola. What makes KIND stand out is the quality of their ingredients. This is top-notch stuff that's inside each of these bars. Moreover, the flavors are as varied as they are delicious. Dark chocolate almond mocha, roasted jalapeno, Thai sweet chili. It's almost overwhelming. KIND was kind enough to send me three boxes of bars--a bunch of standard bars, strong & kind bars, and healthy grains bars and clusters--as well as some #swag.

KIND Snacks galore! (I was too lazy to take this out of the car.)

I see KIND as the core mid-run and mid-day snack. Not only are these things delicious, but they go down easily while on the run. The varied flavors add just enough "spice" to make fueling on the go fun. I also can't complain about the food composition--it's got a very even balance of carbs, fats, and protein. Perfect for long slow distance. I can't wait to be nomming on these soon.

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Third, and certainly not least, is Justin's. Not many people immediately recognize the company when you first ask "do you know Justin's?" But once you mention "nut butter" or "almond butter", that initial look of confusion transforms to true understanding. The name recognition might not be there, but Justin's makes, hands down, the best nut butter products on the market. I've always loved their maple almond and honey almond butters. They've sent me 3 cases (3 appears to be a special number today) of delicious fatty nut butter goodness. (I don't yet have them--they're actually sending them to my first friend-stop in Chicago.)

I didn't take this photo, but this packaging is reason enough to go out and get some.

I couldn't think of a better-tasting way to up my fat, protein, and overall caloric intake. Nut butter is always a great healthy complement to many foods. But to have the option of eating nut butter that tastes heavenly is a real privilege. Moreover, I'm receiving their nut butter in the form of 1.15oz squeeze packs. These will be incredibly convenient to eat and use while on the run. I won't have to stop, pull out a jar, unscrew that jar, pull out my knife, scoop some nut butter, etc.--I'll simply tear and squeeze.

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I'm really thankful for the support Birch Benders, KIND, and Justin's are providing. As an added bonus, these are companies with incredible origin stories, values, and people (thanks Matt L., Lizzi A., Christina B., and Garrison J.!).

I'll end by noting that I was not asked by anyone to make any sort of plug for any of these foods. Everything above is my honest, unfiltered opinion. As the summer progresses, I'll be providing updates on how these foods stand the test of time. Until then, I'll be nomming away!