Practice Fueling Your Body

I was once told I was trying to outtrain my bad diet. That statement was 100% true. I’ve addressed my diet from an overall health perspective and now use it to my advantage fueling me in performance. Here I will share how I am preparing to fuel for my first long distance multi-sport race in over two years, the USAT Duathlon Long Course National Championship, November 10 in Miami, FL. The race will consist of a 2 mile run, 56 mile bike, and a final 13.1 mile run.

Over the past five years I’ve really gravitated to short to moderate distance racing for several reasons. Competing in the shorter distances allows me to race more often (I LOVE racing!) and there is something about going all out pushing the body that I just really like. The great majority of my run races have been the 5k distance while triathlon and duathlon races have predominantly been sprints (500 meter swim or 2 mile run, 12 mile bike, and a 5k).

Race day fueling for these distances is quite simple for me. Since I am racing about 20 minutes for a 5k and around an hour for a sprint triathlon or duathlon there really isn’t much needed. The day prior to a race I drink one extra bottle of my electrolyte drink of choice, Precision Hydration, and my pre-race favorite dinner has been an acai bowl 12 hours before race start. I may have a banana after that in the evening if I am still hungry and that’s it.

Race morning I will sip another bottle of Precision Hydration from wake-up till race time. 30 minutes before the start I drink four ounces of water mixed with Purium’s Can’t Beet This beet extract and Optimum Nutrition’s Essential Amino Energy including caffeine derived from green tea extract. For a 5k that is it. For a sprint race I will have Precision Hydration on the bike to sip and carry a Hammer Nutrition Gel with me on the run if needed (usually not). Pretty simple right? It really is for me. This year that changed a bit.

In April I raced the USAT Duathlon National Championship – Olympic Distance (6 mile run, 25 mile bike, and 3 mile run) which kept me on the course for just over two hours. Going all out for two hours is different than one hour from a fueling and energy perspective. I practiced a fueling strategy for the race and it went over well on race day.

I am now preparing for the long course race in Miami and fueling has really brought on new meaning compared to what I have already described. My Sunday workouts are now roughly six hours and the race should be about five hours. I have been practicing and tweaking my plan on each of my long Sunday workouts simulating the race over the last couple months. Yesterday I made quite the boo boo and boy did I pay for it in the last half mile of the workout.

To start the day, I did just what I will do on race day and what I previously described above…the exact same routine. With the race in Miami starting with a two mile run I want to pace it like I am racing a 5k so I will go into the race without eating anything in the morning. After completing that run is where the changes begin including eating food. When I come into transition I will immediately grab a banana to begin the bike portion. That’s what I did yesterday and it went well. I can eat fast!

For the bike segment (56 miles) I will consume 16 ounces of water mixed with Hammer Nutrition’s Perpetuem and sip it gradually over the two and a half hours. I will also drink 48 ounces of Precision Hydration over the same period. The Perpetuem fuels me with carbohydrates and other goodies and Precision Hydration provides the electrolytes.  The mix I take is specific to the salt loss I lose while sweating as well. I’m not only a heavy sweater but I lose a great deal of salt. Since I started using Precision Hydration matched to my needs earlier this year it has made a significant difference in my performance and feel during and after races.

Also while on the bike I have experimented consuming a Lara Bar at 60, 105, and 150 minutes. I bring a fourth bar if needed for an extra burst. I have done that a few times and haven’t noticed much of a difference on the final run. The times I have consumed the fourth bar was when I went over what I would be doing in Miami in terms of mileage and duration in practice. I will keep an extra bar in transition ready if needed on race day.

On the run I am planning on taking the Hammer Gels and I seem to do well with them when I take two during a 90-120 minute run post a bike ride.  When I have taken three I sometimes get a sour stomach but I have also found the sour stomach better to deal with than having my body and/or head give out on me…known as bonking.

This is where I made the mistake yesterday. I had a really good ride from Boca Raton to Fort Lauderdale (Ft. Lauderdale Beach Park pictured above) and back including consuming all the fueling as planned. I started the run with a six mile loop to Deerfield Beach and back. At mile 3.5 I consumed my first gel and at the end of the six mile loop back to the car I was extremely happy.  I was hitting the pace I am targeting for the race (adjusted slightly with the heat).

I stopped briefly at the car to get some electrolytes down and then went out for a three mile loop. Again, the pacing went really well and I came in equally as pleased. At that point I was finished with effort portion of the run at nine miles total and only had a three mile cool down to finish.

I felt so good at that point mentally and physically. I was in control the entire time on the bike and run feeling quite strong. With the high weekly volume I am doing currently the long runs on Sunday have been extremely hard but on this day I had it. My fitness is almost Miami ready and it was playing out on the run. I was trying not to take long at the car stops to simulate race conditions, grabbing drinks at aid stations while continuing to run, so being quick here I didn’t take my final gel with the drink and thought to myself, “it’s ok, I only have a cool down run left.”

Well, that cooldown went well for about 2.5 miles and then I began to feel light headed and knew it was too late. If I took the gel then it wouldn’t kick in until I finished. I quickly said to myself, “treat this like it would happen in a race and deal with it.” It’s really good to face this stuff in practice as at some point crap will happen in a race and you have to deal with it. As I was approaching the last tenth of a mile in about 90 degree heat I was just thinking, “get to the car and get fluids down quick.”

I did just that but I was a bit wobbly for several minutes. I bonked… As I reflected I was really happy it happened as a reminder to continue fueling no matter the intensity and/or time remaining in a workout or race. Even finishing with an easy three miles can go wrong…

I am really close to finalizing my fueling plan for quantity and timing. Practice, practice, practice…and tweak…

I leave you with a few FUELING TIPS for your longer workouts and races:

  1. Fueling doesn’t start the day prior to the race or race day. Fueling yourself is a lifestyle. Everytime you put something in your mouth has a consequence on your performance, good or bad.
  2. The day prior to a race drink one extra electrolyte drink and be full with your dinner 12 hours prior to your race.
  3. The morning of a race begin drinking an electrolyte drink as soon as you get up till you need to put it away prior to the race. Determine how much is good for you.
  4. Do your research on quantity levels for all of your fueling needs. Consult with a coach for assistance.
  5. PRACTICE what you will be doing in races. Do not try something for the first time on race day!

– Add Health to Your Life

Hammer Perpetuem on top & Precision Hydration underneath…Georgia is ready to go home at this point…

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