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I run the occasional Ultra and have always fueled with Gels. I run fairly competitively so I don't graze at aid stations or stop for "real" food. I've never tried fueling w/ anything but gels and have built up a fairly good system. I'm wondering what kind of alternatives there are for races that last upwards of 7 hours where not eating just isn't an option, and, do you think that I could change my nutrition and become comfortable enough with an alternative solution before my next 50mi on April 27th.

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Honestly, doing a competitive endurance event during a Whole30 (assuming it's your first one) is generally not a good idea. As I'm sure you know, trying to mess around with pre and during workout regimens takes time to perfect, and the recommendations are usually something like, "if you haven't been doing X for two weeks of training, don't risk trying it in competition."

So. Given that and given that your body's already probably going to be going through a bunch of stuff just pulling out the grains and processed may not have the time to get to a level of comfort with workout nutrition.

Here's what my ultra-running friend, Shane, has to say on the topic:

I'm generally not a fan of ingesting calories during any session or race less than two hours. It's just not necessary and is more trouble than its worth. Even longer stuff I don't think it's entirely necessary unless you are racing.

On a hot day where I'm struggling with hydration I've found grapes and watermelon to be highly satisfying. Raisins are one of my goto sources of carbs whether I'm racing or not and they're especially good in races.

Sweet potatoes I know are a common paleo endurance food and they can be good mashed or in chips with salt. Leave off the skins though.

It might be worthwhile to make a gel consisting of mashed sweet potatoes [and] applesauce, and honey.

In my experience I prefer to have 75% of my calories in race coming from carbs. The rest split evenly between fat and protein. Those can be anything really. Nuts, turkey, jerky, porkchops, protein powder etc are all things ive tried. The point of the fat and carbs is NOT to provide fuel but actually to settle the stomach and prevent it from becoming overly acidic from carb overload, which can be a serious issue in longer events.

He's relatively competitive as well, but he's also running a lot of 100 mile, 24+hr races, so the "stopping for real food" thing may be different for events that long vs. 7 hr races.
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Caveat: I am not an ultra marathoner but I did just do a 40 mile bike ride yesterday (I'm training for a 160 mile ride in July). I wanted to maintain a nice even 15 mile per hour pace. Not fast by any means--just steady enough so I could get in the miles and not kill myself as I seem to want to do sometimes. I also wanted to start experimenting with foods on 2 hour plus rides as I start to get hungry and my blood sugar plummets quickly if I'm not careful.

I ate 6 figs (totaling about 210 calories) and a handful of cashews (also 210 calories) at mile 26 (figs) and 30 (cashews) and felt great my whole ride. I had a banana right before I left and prior to that I had 2 eggs and some bacon for breakfast that morning. I ate a giant sweet potato, broccoli and hamburger when I got back from my ride. I felt great the rest of the day--a little tired but I bounced back within an hour of so of returning.

That being said, Renee is right; I wouldn't try anything new on your Whole30. Your body and head are pretty funky for the first couple weeks.

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