Continuing the idea on nutrition, I want to go through my nutrition plan and the thought process behind the choices I’ve made. Nutrition needs are very individual, so it’s all about trial and error. In this post I’ve broken my plans down by distance because needs change as the distance increases. So follow along and I hope you can get some ideas that will work for you! Like my blog’s tagline says, I’ll learn from my mistakes so you don’t have too!
This is something a lot of people skip over when thinking about their race plan. Pre-race is just as important is in-race nutrition. The night before I just eat like normal but I try to make sure there’s some good carbs from rice or pasta, but I keep things balanced. Carb Loading is a thing of the past! I like to have breakfast 2-3 hours before my race to let everything settle and digest before a race effort. The anchor of my breakfast is Oatmeal Custard. It’s got a good balance of carbs and protein, and it’s easy to make. I also have a glass of chocolate milk to add some more easily digested calories, and my normal morning cup of coffee. Nothing here is out of the ordinary for me, so my stomach won’t have any trouble turning this into fuel for the impending race.
Once I’m at the race venue and all set up, I like to get something else in my system like a Bonk Breaker bar or one of my homemade granola bars. This is just to top off the tank and get something solid in my stomach before the start. I may skip this for a short course race depending on how I’m feeling. I also make sure I’m hydrated during my warm up.
Short Course Races (Aprox. 1hr)
For short course races it’s all about hydration for me (You can check out my thoughts on hydration over at Trisports University). Since I’m use to workouts as long on longer that the total race duration, I don’t need any food during the race. Some people like to stick to water for short course, but I know that I need electrolytes; especially in hot weather. I use Skratch Labs mix because it’s easily digestible. One bottle on the bike will get me through the race.
Intermediate Distance Races (Aprox. 2-2.5hrs)
Intermediate distance races bring a little more to the table in terms of nutrition. A longer bike leg means I up the hydration to 2 bottles even though I may not drink it all. I also carry 2 Untapped Maple packets. For those of you not familiar with these, it replaces traditional gels with pure Vermont maple syrup. It gives that boost of energy without crashing as hard. I will try to take one on the front end of the bike once I hit a nice rhythm and one about 10 minutes from the end to give it some time to hit my system before the run.
Out on the run course I am right on the edge of needing extra hydration. I will usually take a new bottle from transition and carry that with me. I’ve had issues with cramping on the run without any hydration and most races do not have enough aid stations. I’ll grab water as I go through and dump it over my head, but I usually just run through them.
Long Course Races (Aprox. 3+hrs)
Long course racing is a whole different animal. Your body can only store so much glycogen (read:fuel) to provide energy for a race. The point at which a person “bonks” or runs out of energy is different for each person depending on genetics, build, and training, but it is safe to say that the 2hr mark is the magic number where you need to start fueling seriously for races. When I race long course I stick to the same hydration strategy, I just increase the quantity. That means 3+ bottles. I like to keep my hydration and my fueling separate so I’m not taking in to many carbs if the day is really hot and I need more fluid. I could have a bottle of just water to use, but that makes things too complicated. This way I can drink when I need to and eat when I need to, and there’s no getting mixed up.
For food I keep using the Untapped Maple packets, but the longer duration of the bike leg opens options for some solid food too. I like to use Bonk Breaker Bites or my homemade granola bars cut into bite sized pieces. I have trouble chewing a bigger bar like the full sized Bonk Breakers while keeping the intensity up. The smaller bars let me take one all in one bite and then focus on riding. As the distance goes up I just increase the amount of food I carry with me. Some people get all concerned about grams of carbs per kg of body weight per hour… that’s way too complicated. I usually like to eat something every 30-45 minutes. The bite size pieces are just about right for that and I can adjust easily depending on how I’m feeling and how the race is going. I don’t like to eat while there is a lot of traffic around (like there was for the first half of the bike course at nationals) so having options is good.
For long course races I will definitely take a bottle of Skratch labs with me on the run. I usually drink it all and grab some water at the last aid station or two. I have not ever needed more food on the run, but I also have not made the jump to a full Iron distance race. I may adjust that strategy depending on how my training goes for a marathon.
Post race… I pretty much eat anything I see! In all seriousness, once you cross that finish line anything if fair game. I usually eat whatever they have in the finishers area. I try to keep my eyes out for healthy things like bagels, greek yogurt, bananas, etc. But I also won’t hesitate on soda or pizza if it’s there. I always try to have some chocolate milk too. That is the best recovery drink there is!
The basic rule here is don’t over think it. Do what works for you. And practice, practice, practice! I like to keep things simple and focus on putting out the best effort I can!
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