Johann Peter may have lived in Hong Kong for 12 years, but he has not forgotten his beer drinking Austrian roots.
And he will be bring his beer-chugging antics to the world famous Western States 100 (WS100) mile (160 kilometre) ultra marathon in California, even if this time it is non-alcoholic.
His unique nutrition started at the Lavaredo 120km race in Northern Italy, his longest race to date. Peter was having stomach issues but decided to stop in a bar, not even an official aid station, for a shandy. It immediately solved the problem.
“Maybe Austrians are just meant to run on beer,” he said. “I have sips of beers when I’m out on the trails now and it helps, so I think the non-alcoholic will be fine at WS100 and a welcome break from the 7Up, Coke and other sweet drinks at aid stations.”
The WS100 is one of the world’s most prestigious ultra marathons, starting in Squaw Valley in Northern California, taking participants up snowy mountains and deep into boiling hot valleys, to Auburn.
Originally, it was a horse race but became a foot race officially in 1977 in conjunction initially with the horses. Runners now need to reach the end in under 30 hours to complete the race.
“No one talks about the tight cut-off,” Peter said. “If you are bonking and really hitting a low point, which can take a few hours to get out of, then it can be hard to reach the end in time.”
The forecast is predicting hot conditions for this year’s race on Saturday.
“I am used to the heat from all the training in Hong Kong, which will help but I’m sure everyone will bonk at some point,” Peter said.
“But I don’t have any experience in the dry heat,” he added. “It is a different challenge. You have to drink less but more often to beat getting a dry mouth.”
Peter has only once attempted a 100 mile race before, at the Ultra Trail of Mont Blanc (UTMB) 2017, but he had a nasty injury in the build-up when some thorns ripped a layer of his skin off, so he started feeling unmotivated.
With a lot of running under his belt, and the memory of UTMB fresh in his mind, he decided to take a break.
But to his surprise, he won one of the 369 places at WS100, which has a notoriously difficult application process that takes many people years to successfully gain a spot.
“I saw a few hundred [US] dollars had been deducted from my card and I though I must have lost my wallet,” said Peter, who then found out it was his entry fee.
“I wanted a couple of months’ down time so I was contemplating not picking my place up, but everyone I spoke to said I was crazy,” he said. “I don’t know what drove me, but I mentally committed it February.”
Now, he is confident he can draw on his tough experiences at races like Lavaredo and the 101km CCC in France, and of course his beer, to go the extra distance.
“Whatever works for you,” he said of his choice of race fuel, “you should go for it.”