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Endurace Racing with a Happier Stomach

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Riders Heading back onto the course in the 2009 Ragnarok 105

Almost a year ago I competed in the Ragnarok 105. It is bicycle race held in the Redwing, Minnesota area along the border of Wisconsin. The route climbed and descended 105 miles of beautiful, rural farmland. Jacked up 4×4’s, chickens in the road and an almost constant smell of cow manure were all endearing charms of the race.

This was one of my favorite races of the year and I vowed to return and try to improve my time and hopefully place better too (4th place in single-speed category last year). I also vowed to never again do an endurance race with nothing but sugary performance foods.

Climbing one of the dozens of gravel hills during the Ragnarok

The morning of the race, I ate my normal breakfast of yogurt and granola and later a banana in the car. During the race, my aim was to consume 250-300 calories an hour. This meant that every few minutes I was taking a bite of some sort of bar, squeezing a gel into my mouth, or chawing on a Clif Blok. It kept me fueled just fine, and I was never truly hungry. But about 45 miles into the race, I had begun to develop a gut ache . Were it not for the peanut butter sanwdich I had stashed at the halfway point, I think I’d have been in for a long lasting tummy ache. I was really sick of sugary— supposedly performance foods. For whatever reason, the sandwich helped settle the storm brewing in my stomach.

I’ve consulted endurance racers and former cycling pros to get an idea of what I should be eating. So, this coming Saturday I will attempt to improve both my overall finish and my digestive system’s comfort by shirking the performance food trend and eating only real foods during the race. By “real foods” I mean things that I will package myself, like salted nuts, simple sandwiches, fruit, perhaps even a bagel. I may allow myself to partake in performance drinks —I am not sure how much of a purist I will be.

A roadside flat repair.

Even if I do not place higher or go faster than last year, a more comfortable day in the saddle among friends and fellow bike weenies will be at worst a small victory to me.

—T.C. Worley

Read Stephen Regenold’s account of last year’s Ragnarok 105.

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