I have learned quite a bit about what I need during training and races. However, some of those lessons have come from epic failures. For example, during my first half ironman distance race in 2005 I remember reading you needed to make sure you replenished yourself after the swim. I did that by jumping on the bike and eating an entire clif bar (about 240 calories) in the first 5 minutes of the ride. I was literally shoving it down my throat. Do you know what happened? It sat there the entire race. I continued to drink more gatorade and have honey stinger gels throughout the bike. Did you know that honey can have a laxative effect in large amounts??? I got to the run with a full stomach that sloshed with every step. The first 6 miles of the run I endured a jiggly stomach and then around mile 9 I had to find a bathroom immediately. This debacle taught me that while you do need to drink and eat when you get on your bike you have to pace yourself—little sips and little bites are key.
|PowerBar…gets me through training and racing.|
I have done pretty well with nutrition in training. I think we all have those days where we bonk or think we don’t need to take advantage of the one last chance to fill up our bottles but I have learned to keep everything topped off no matter what. I always try to remember to take “emergency” nutrition on all my rides and I don’t let the water bottles run dry. It helps me finish the workout in a good state and the less depleted you are at the end of the workout the less depleted you will be for training the next day. Training is most often not what you did today but what you can do the next day that makes you fit!
I first saw Powerbar products on deck at the University of Michigan when I swam and ever since then it has been my go to product. They offer a huge selection so I don’t get bored with just gels or chews or bars. I try to mix it up. Luckily, my stomach seems to allow this type of approach. I also think you have to train your gut. This past year I looked back at some of my races in 2010-2012 and concluded that my best runs had come after bike rides where I drank A LOT of fluid. I ran well in 2010 at Honu 70.3 and I distinctly remember taking sports drink at every aid station on the bike. I ran great and while I was fatigued at the end I was still able to push myself. Quite of a few of the races where I did not drink enough on the bike I found the last few miles I would struggle to hold pace and felt like I was just surviving. I figured it could not just be a fitness thing because I knew I was strong and quite fit. The effects of dehydration was quite obvious at Vineman in 2011 when I lost a bottle on Chalk Hill road and had nothing the last 13 miles of the bike. I ran relatively well through mile 9 but then I fell apart. My min/mile pace jumped up :30-:45 per mile abruptly. I remember it took me a few hours to pee after the race and I almost passed out waiting for breakfast.
I started to really hydrate well during my training rides to see how I felt on runs off the bike. While I was fatigued from the rides I had muscles that were willing to work when I asked them to. I trained my gut to accept 1-2 bottles per hour depending on the heat. The big test for this was Wildflower this past season. It was in the 90s and the bike was so hot. I remember climbing Nasty Grade and just baking in the sun. I drank 5 bottles of sports drink. My stomach needed and accepted all the fluid and while the run was hot I felt stronger than I had the year before. I even had to pee right after I finished! I also found that remaining hydrated allowed me to digest more nutrition. At quite a few races I would get a yucky/upset stomach feeling and just chalked it up to being the race, the effort, etc. However, I think when you are hydrated your body has the ability to digest what you put in your stomach. When you become dehydrated your body takes blood/energy it uses for digestion and sends it to the working muscles. Hydration aides in digestion which in turn keeps everything running smoothly.
Like I said, this needs to be trained. Some nutrition products might work better than others and you have to come up with a flexible (contingencies are good) plan for race day. Most likely, you won’t be able to carry everything on the bike unless you want it to weigh 1000lbs, and look goofy with 5 water bottle cages and 20 gels taped to the top tub. If you have a sensitive stomach it is probably worth it to find out what will be on course and train with it a bit to get used to it. I did a race in Australia in 2006 and they had a product (Enervit) I had never heard of so I scoured the internet to get it and try it before I drank it on the course.