FUELLING FOR A STAGE RACE (IN 35 DEGREE HEAT)
This week, I’ll be lining up for the Epic Israel with Catharine Pendrel as a team of 2. 4 stages await, all in exceptionally hot and dusty conditions. We’re also starting quite early in the morning each day, which will impact fuelling. A lot of people have questions about how I fuel and what I eat for training and racing, so I thought I’d write a little post to share those strategies with you. I've experimented with a lot of different brands of nutrition, but I've been a GU convert for the last 3 years. Roctane (specifically lemon berry :) ) has fuelled every single one of my world cup races, and this stage race will be no exception. I trust the whole line unequivocally, so from the stroopwafels to the recovery mix, all will be GU this week.
This will be the fastest and shortest day. We also start quite late in the day, which means we have more opportunity to fuel beforehand but it will also be extremely hot (i.e. more water and electrolyte loss through sweat).
On this day, I’ll wake up and have a modest breakfast around 6 or 7 am. Normally I would have eggs/avocado/toast, but I’m going with the flow while here in Israel, so I’ll wait and see what’s available at the breakfast buffet. Whatever I eat at this time, I’ll make sure it is higher in protein than my pre-race meal will be. For a 1:30 start, I’ll have my main pre-race meal at 10:30 or 11. Usually it would be oats, fruit, and nut butter, but again, I’ll be going with the flow! A little heavier on the carbohydrate side for this meal.
I will start my warm up 45 min before the start, and will down some GU hydration as well as one cold brew coffee gel (70mg caffeine) during the warm up. Just before the start, I’ll take another gel and will race with a full bottle of Roctane. Though this stage is super short, it’s important to remember that in stage racing you’re not just fuelling for today’s efforts; you’re also fuelling for days 2, 3, and 4. You don’t want to dig yourself a hole before you even start!
After the stage - actually, after every stage - I’ll have a bottle of GU recovery waiting at the finish line. Then I’ll have a solid lunch and a regular-sized dinner before getting to bed VERY early.
Normally, my days start with a huge mug of earl grey tea. This week, I’ll be forgoing my morning cup of comfort (and I’ll miss it dearly…). Stage racing can be quite challenging on the stomach because you have to replace so many calories, and I find that too much caffeine off the bike can make me feel nauseous. Plus, the temperature at 7 am is already pushing 30 degrees, and I don’t want to elevate my core temp. any more than necessary before these big days. So, no tea for me :(
Breakfast the morning of a big stage is a tricky affair. You want to fuel well, but you don’t want to tip the line to “TOO full”. You won’t be doing yourself any favours. I’ll be looking for an easily digestible source of carbohydrate: likely oats, muesli, or sourdough, with fruit and nut butter. Probably an egg or two as well.
As for fuelling during the stage, I will likely have a hydration pack with just water and a large 750ml bottle of Roctane in my bottle cage. I’ll have a pocket full of gels (a mix of cold brew coffee and a caffeine-free flavour like s’mores), as well as a few stroopwaffles. The idea is to eat something small every half hour or so and to stay on top of hydration. There is nothing like dehydration to kill your energy and alertness levels. Lucky for me, the race is supported by GU, so I plan on refilling my Roctane supply at each of the 2-3 feedzone stops througout each stage.
After the stage, it’s the same routine: recovery mix, lunch, nap, dinner, and more sleep! I’ll also be adding a few Gu tabs to my water throughout the rest of the day to make sure my electrolytes are staying in balance.
Stage 2 and 3 (i.e. 3 and 4, once you count the prologue) will be fuelled in much the same way as the first long day. When I’m under extreme fatigue, my stomach is the first body part to let me know, so I have to be super on top of hydration and fuelling. No room for error here! As the racing progresses (assuming it’s at a high intensity), certain foods get the boot from me: high fat dairy, fibre, and cruciferous vegetables all start to become too hard to digest, so from this point on I’ll be minimizing these foods until the end of the final stage. It can be really tempting to eat a bunch of treats after long stages like this, but I’ve learned the hard way that I’ll pay for this on the next day’s stage. The best strategy is to eat enough and properly throughout the stage, such that I don’t feel the need to crush everything in sight after the finish. But of course, I can't say no to a bit of chocolate...
Again, this will be the same as the previous days. But fingers crossed the later start means I can fit in a tea during the morning preparation :) Hopefully it’s been a successful race by this point, but either way, I’m sure I’ll be enjoying some ice cream by noon!