Throughout my half marathon and marathon training and races I’ve always used gels, specifically Roctane and Gu. I’ve never felt that I’ve needed anything more. My rule was always if I was going over an hour and a half I’d use them starting around 45-50 minutes. For my half marathons, I would take one before the race, one around 4.5 miles, and one around 9 miles. I followed the same timing for my marathon training, and I never thought I felt like I was dragging or needed more energy, but taking 5 gels during the marathon plus one before was a LOT of gel. For me though, since I’m not a 3-4 hour marathoner, it was going to be necessary.
Now that I’m training for a Half Ironman, I’m in need of even more fuel during the race, and the thought of taking in more gel than I had to for a marathon is just insane! My coach suggests replacing half of the calories you burn during the bike portion of the race while on the bike. For me, I burn 550-750 calories per hour on the bike. Yes, I REALLY do. I’m not a small girl and my HR tends to run high, so my calorie burn is high. For the HIM, this means that I’ll burn 1925-2625 calories if I finish the bike in 3.5 hours. Coach Chuck also sent me a link ( http://lavamagazine.com/firstendurance-qa/ ) from Lava Magazine to an interview in which Robert Kunz said, “I’ll tell you what, I have one piece of advice that will fix 95-percent of people’s fueling problems that lead to gut distress: You have to calculate all of the calories you consume and then you have to look at all of the fluids that you consume before you race and go from there. You want to consume 100 calories to every 12 ounces of fluid, minimum. Never any less than that. Obviously formulas differ, but if your concentrations are higher it’s likely that the osomlality will be too high and you won’t be emptying fluid from your gut but pulling it from your bloodstream and into your gut. And that is when all the gut problems start. And that can start simply by having a 200-calorie bar and not having enough fluid with it. Osmolality determines which way fluid travels. You want the water to flow from your gut, not into it.” I’ve always drank plenty while running with the Gu, so I’ve never had GI issues, so this made sense to me. I didn’t know how much fluid I should be taking in on the bike, so this gave me a good starting point. According to my calculations, I needed to take in 275-375 calories per hour and 33-45 ounces of water per hour. Hmmmm…… that didn’t sound horrible until I started thinking about being on the bike for 3.5 hours. That would be 962-1312 calories and 115-157 ounces of water. Wow! That’s a lot of Gu and water. 9-13 Gu’s to be exact since they contain about 100 calories. Um, yeah, that’s not happening without me throwing up, so I needed something else.
Cliff bars have about 250, so I decided I’d give them a try and take in 700 calories (the lower end of the scale) on a 2.5 hour ride. Two Cliff bars and 2 Gu’s would be 700 calories. That sounded reasonable. I would also need 84 ounces of water on the ride if I went with the 12 ounces per 100 calories rule. At the time, I could carry about 75 ounces on my bike, and I hadn’t gotten any where near that amount drank previously (usual average was 24-35 ounces), so I figured this was a good starting point. The ride that day wasn’t terribly hot, and I managed to take in the two Gu’s and about 1 & 3/4 of the two Cliff bars. I had broken the Cliff bars into small chunks, so they were easy to grab. I felt like I was continuously grabbing something to eat out of my bag, and this wasn’t really what I wanted to have to do in a race with lots of people. I prefer to keep both my hands on my aerobars. Drinking was another story. I have regular water bottles, so I tend to only drink when I stop, so I only managed to get in my regular amount of 30ish ounces on the ride. I didn’t seem to have any GI issues from it though, so no problem there for that day, but on race day, I’d still have another hour to ride plus a 13.1 mile run. This probably wasn’t going to work. For me, the amount of eating and drinking I needed just wasn’t going to happen. Time to find another way.
Naturally, the best thing to try next is to just forget all that you read and were told, and just eat and drink when you feel like it. This would be the I’m just annoyed and too hard headed to listen approach, so I’ll just do what I feel like. Forgetting all that Coach Chuck had suggested and the info he’d sent, I had a sprint tri the next week followed by a long ride and t-run. Who needs to worry about this fueling non-sense for a sprint tri? Honestly, you don’t. As Coach Chuck says, “You can fake your way through short course races with no nutrition plan. You will be exposed in an HIM or IM.” I completed the sprint tri without any fuel other than my breakfast and water, and I felt fine. The problem that day arose later, on my long ride.
It was quite hot by the time we had finished the sprint, and I didn’t drink much water on my bike, and I didn’t carry my handheld on the run, so I only grabbed a cup of water at the aid station, so by the time I finished, I was pretty thirsty, and I quickly downed a 16.9 ounce bottle of water. As, we hung around and waited for everyone to finish and to hear the awards for the next hour or so, I drank 3 more 16.9 ounce bottles of water. I also drank a protein drink they had right after I finished, but I have no idea how many calories it had in it. I’m guessing not nearly enough for what I had ahead. After the awards, we headed to where we were going to start our bike ride. By this time, it was 11:00AM, and I’d eaten a fairly light breakfast, a protein drink, and a couple of orange slices along with drinking LOTS of water. I wasn’t veering a little off track for a nutrition plan. I had totally ditched any plan.
Needless to say, the ride that ensued was one of the absolute hardest rides I had done to date. At that time though, I hadn’t thought through what I had done that day or what could have caused it. I just figured it was because it was a different route, and it was after the sprint tri. I’m not saying that those two things didn’t have anything to do with how difficult the ride was, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t the main culprits, but I wouldn’t think about this until about 3 weeks later.
–stay tuned to hear more about my fueling issues