BY DEAN KARNAZES
Sometimes we discover new nutrition products through research and Google; other times, it occurs serendipitously. This is a case of the latter. And one I’ll never forget.
It happened in the most unlikely of places, the Sahara Desert. Actually, given the circumstances, perhaps it wasn’t all too unusual. The year was 2008, and it was day five of the Sahara Race, a grueling six-day, 250 km self-supported footrace across the Sahara. The fifth day of most stage races is the notorious “long day,” meaning that it is the furthest one-day distance of the overall event. This particular stage was 100 km, and it involved climbing and descending lots of sand dunes, hot, shoe-swallowing sand dunes.
This was following four days of tough competition, four showerless days of sleeping in a tent on the ground (or not sleeping), and eating reconstituted camping food for dinner. I was battling it out with an Italian Special Forces member, a Romanian ultrarunning record holder, and an emerging South African superstar, Ryan Sandes.
The stakes were even higher for me. You see, the Sahara Race is part of the 4 Desserts Challenge, a race series in the hottest, windiest, driest, and coldest deserts on Earth (the Sahara, the Gobi, Atacama, and Antarctica). Quick digression, most people don’t realize that Antarctica is a desert because it’s cold and covered in ice. But a desert is classified by the amount of annual rainfall it receives, of which Antarctica sees very little. I was attempting to be the first person to complete all four of the races in a single year; most people become part of the 4 Deserts Challenge Club over the succession of many years.
Adding to the pressure, the individual that has the lowest cumulative finishing times from all of the races—regardless of how many years it takes them to complete all four—is crowned the 4 Deserts Challenge champion. I was in the running.
And things were going reasonably well at the Sahara Race. That is, until the long stage. Ryan Sandes had set a blistering pace throughout the first four days and had a comfortable margin going into day five. I knew I’d have to perform well to contend. And I was, at least until about the midway point. That’s when the proverbial wheels came off. Suddenly I found myself depleted and flagging, seemingly running on fumes, and still with about 50 km’s to go! I didn’t exactly hear footsteps coming up behind me—we were running on sand after all—but Ryan caught up to me. We spent the next couple hours feeling each other out, but the kid was too strong.
A kid he may have been at the time, but a gentleman nonetheless. He could sense my exhaustion and offered a slug from his holster. I desperately obliged and took a pull from a little flask he offered, having no idea of the contents. Wow! It was smooth and delicious, thick and slightly warmed from the sun.
“What is this?” I asked.
“Perpetuem,” he replied.
I’d never heard of Perpetuem, but that single gulp added an amazing pep to my stride and helped get me to the finish line that day. I ended up with the Silver Medal at the Sahara Race, runner up to Ryan. But that didn’t matter, he’d turned me on to a new product that’s become an integral part of my training and racing ever since. I used Perpetuem at the remaining 4 Deserts events and successfully completed all four races in a single year, somehow winning the 4 Deserts Challenge in the process.
Since that time, Perpetuem has been reimagined and improved, with the corn maltodextrin replaced with a lower dextrose equivalent, tapioca maltodextrin. And Perpetuem comes in four delicious flavors, so there’s no lack of variety. For a special kick on those cold days, try Caffe Latte warmed, which includes 30 mg of caffeine to help rev the engine.
Thank you to Hammer Nutrition for making such a great product, and thank you to Ryan Sandes for making the unexpected introduction!
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Dean Karnazes is an ultramarathoner and Hammer Nutrition Athlete. He has raced and competed across the globe and once ran 50 marathons, in all 50 US states, in 50 consecutive days. His most recent book is A Runner’s High.