It's easy to lift weights. Lift them up, put them down. Easy. It's even easier to ride a bike. Spin your legs. Easy. Yeah your body works, and your heart works, and it is "hard" but the mental planning it takes is relatively minimal; I have a training guide, it tells me what to do, I do that. Easy. Nutrition thought, that's another monster completely. And I'm not talking about salad-eating "abs in the kitchen" daily type nutrition. I'm talking about race-day nutrition.
People who don't participate in this sport (at least the longer events) probably have no idea how involved the nutrition planning aspect is. I mean really, I'm not even sure I have an idea how involved the planning should be. An Ironman-distance race is not a max effort endeavour, it is a swimming and rolling and running buffet. You cannot survive these types of distances without continuously replenishing your body's fuel sources as you go. And I really do mean continuously. Brandon has been exploring these concepts in some of his own blogs: Homemade Potato Chips, Ham and Pineapple Rice Balls, Energy Balls, Almond Macaroons.
But it's not just calories. Man I wish it was. I would just ride with 6 footlong subs strapped to my bike in some sort of amazing Subway sponsored aero configuration. Spicy Italian FTW! But no the types of calories and the make up of those calories matter. You need just enough to fuel you through hours and hours of activity, giving your body exactly what it needs to perform, without starving or overload it. And the calories have to be easily digestible. And easy to carry. And not get you arrested by customs when they ask if you have any "fruits or vegetables".
Miss on the high side or the low side and your day will end prematurely. No doubt about it.
Today it was 38 degrees C in Tempe, Arizona. As a born and bred Canadian boy, that is just inhuman in my eyes. I couldn't stand outside in 38 degree heat. I'm expected to exercise outside for 16+ hours?
The only thing, and I really do mean only thing, that will get me through an Ironman effort in that kind of heat is a comprehensive and well thought out nutrition strategy. And here I am, the guy who 3 nights a week eats peanut butter from the jar for dinner because I forgot again to go to the grocery store to buy anything meaningful. So, how do I learn? Well, I get to practice. And this weekend I'm practicing nutrition during my 6+ hour indoor trainer session, with my house temperature turned up to unbearable levels, and likely an endless loop of Star Trek Voyager episodes on Netflix (they haven't made it home....yet).
- Friday: Pasta Friday. Because I like Pasta Friday. No other reason. I eat KD and I put stuff in it like spinach. Mmmmm stuff.
- 3am: Wake up and eat white bagels, peanut butter and honey. Why? Good easily digestible energy, some protein, and all readily accessible when I arrive in Tempe (no customs issues). Then back to bed.
- 8am: A bottle of sports drink. I use a product called Infinit. It's kind of like Gatorade on steroids. The key ingredients are a variety of easily digestible sugars (as opposed to just regular white sugar) and a very high salt concentration. Salt intake, I'm learning, can be the make or break factor in high heat. You need a lot of it, way more than you think you do.
- 9am: Ride starts. Bike is loaded with 3 Clif bars, One bottle of Infinit, One bottle of Water, with Spare Water and Infinit bottles on the side
- Why Clif? Because they taste good and have decent "fueling" characteristics. I also find them easy to digest. And they will have them on the course. So I can plan to pick them up at aid stations as I go rather than loading up my bike like a pack mule.
- Why Infinit? Because it's going to keep me energized and hydrated.
- Why Water? Because the Infinit tastes terrible, and at Arizona temperatures I think I will simply need more and more and more fluids to keep me alive. But this is a slippery slope, because as water intake goes up my salt requirements will also go up.
- Hours 1 - 3: One bottle of Inifinit per hour, One bottle of water per hour, One clif bar per hour, eaten 1/3 every 20 minutes. I am going to cut them up in advance and be very specific. Now this is probably too much food to start, but this is practice, so I want to find out how I feel being overnourished, because I'm well aware of how I feel being undernourished.
- Hour 3:30: Ham and cheese sandwich, made with white bread no crust, ham, cheese, mustard. All of these have longer explanations, but the keys are easy to digest, lots of salt, mustard to help with cramps (if any) and it tastes pretty good.
- Hours 3:30 - Finish: Stick to the Infinit and Water, one bottle per hour. Add in baked ketchup chips and some beef jerky to taste. More for a brain break than anything with the chips and jerky. As the workout comes to a close I want to ween off the Infinit, as the run I will be doing totally with on-course options.
So, that's the plan. Stay tuned, I'll let you know how it ends up.