My alarm blared at 4:30 am. In 3 hours I’d climb on my bike for a long day in the saddle. I nudged my wife to wake her — she’d offered to make me breakfast as long as she could go right back to bed. I liked the deal — she’s a keeper!
I quickly ate my two eggs and three pieces of homemade, whole-wheat toast. Only water to drink this year, skipping the coffee as I’ve been trying to cut out the caffine.
After a little over an hour drive, my teammate and I arrived in Redwing, Minnesota with 45 minutes to check in, and suit up. Winds were light, but warned of hardships to come. Temperatures were nearly 50 degrees. It was shaping up to be a great day for a long ride. Minutes before the start, I crammed a banana in my mouth, applied my chamois butter (a must), pulled on my gloves and rolled to the start.
The night before the race, I measured and bagged the foods I would eat during the ride. Raisins, raw almonds, raw pecans, and salted pistacios were mixed and divided into about 500-600 calorie servings. Since my goal was to intake about 250-300 calories per hour, each baggie would need to be consumed over two hours. I also packed a large apple and a peanut butter sandwich on wheat bread.
A quarter of the way into the race, I had finished a bag of pecans and was feeling great. But I soon realized that while my food plan was well thought out, my hydration plan was not. My bottles were getting light and I had many, steep miles to go. When I rolled into the checkpoint at mile 55 I was already feeling the effects of dehydration. I dug into a peanut butter sandwich and downed a full bottle of water before heading back onto the course.
My stomach was feeling great, my legs decent, but I was dehydrated and feeling weak. Milder terrain in the second half of the race allowed me to re-coop a little and make good time. But it would be a few navigational errors that would be my next mistake. Before the end of the race I would add about 10 extra miles onto my day. Few things are more demoralizing than realizing you are not only lost, but now further from your destination. The only fix: get back on course and finish.
So, how did my stomach feel after 115 miles of rolling gravel? I believe my experiment worked. I felt better, enjoyed the food more and performed at least on par with last year. Getting lost obviously ruined any chance of a good finish, but I had a fun time. As far as I am concerned, the pros and cons of eating this way are as follows:
Pros: handily packaged, small and light, and quick to get in the tummy
Cons: very sugary, taste ranges from gross to acceptable, weird ingredients
Pros: tastes good, better for you, more comfortable digestion
Cons: requires a lot of chewing and handling, packaging is tricky, bulky
Obviously, personal preferences play heavily into this. Some will swear they do better when powered by performance foods, but then pro cyclists rarely eat those items during a race. My daily diet contains more whole foods and less processed foods, so this was a good fit for me. Whether it is truly better, I may never know, but I can say that I will hone my packaging methods and research even better ways to eat whole foods while racing. I’m hooked and so is my stomach.
Thanks to Larry for the use of the photos. To see more go HERE.