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Primal Europe Blogs – Fuelling for a Century
Fueling up for endurance sports? There’s so much information on how to do it right, how to properly load carbs, hydration, enough salt, enough sleep, suggestions for waking up at 2am to have a smoothie, pasta is good for you, pasta makes you gain weight. Conflicts in the media and proven methods are a minefield. But after running countless half marathons, two marathons, cycling long distances, and all the other events I’ve participated in over the years, I should know better what works for me and what doesn’t. . For many years I had a major intolerance to starchy carbs to the point that I had been on an elimination diet to see what was causing my problems, I had tests for celiac disease which came back neither here nor there and then spent 11 years eating low carb foods. and complementary diet foods that my friends said looked and tasted like cardboard. The intolerance was so sensitive at one point that even though my fork had touched mashed potatoes before touching my fodder, I clutched my left side in agony. Slowly I started to reintroduce starchy carbs back into my diet, on occasion causing discomfort, but now I can eat anything more or less. The choice to start doing this was just because I wanted to be more active, I wanted to run, I wanted to play soccer, I wanted to ride my bike but I couldn’t do more any longer and maintain myself without introducing the apple of dirt and rice on my plate and I had to try to make it work.
Fueling up and hydrating for endurance is something that’s easy to get wrong and even more so during a heat wave. If it’s not worrying that what I’m eating is unnecessary junk food (as I smash my way through the fries on the Fatboys plate while I stick my fork into my salad), it’s worrying that what I ate is even enough to sustain me along the next distance or fast ride, fueling my body with quality rather than cheap and happy and getting the right nutritional balance. Then there’s the conundrum of burning more calories than you eat and not eating enough to replace the calories burned. My head turns. There are times when I can go for a walk fasted or for a run and feel great, and then there was a weird occasion where I’m so busy with home life that if I’m out of the house to do groceries I forget to eat properly and I pay for it and that’s what happened in the days leading up to Ashby’s 100, a 105+ mile hike that last year had been a busy race just for fun within the cycling club and then became an official event this year. After spending several days before the event waking up at witches hour for ‘Gizzard Puke’, the youngest member of the family, I found myself in time to train for my upcoming triathlon, followed by shopping for holiday and keeping myself busy trying to pick up all the last minute essentials and help with maintenance on the bike ready for Ashbys 100 and so not only was I sleep deprived in the days leading up to the ride I had no not really eaten much let alone how hot the day would be.
The morning of the ride I was up and dressed in my Primal Ambassador Custom kit, ditched the Neon Crush arm warmers as it was a hot day and sat on the edge of the bed watching my pile of socks contemplating which pair to wear, Electric Shock socks or the Panda, it’s always a tough choice but it ended with the Icons. Sipping my black coffee, my brain and stomach couldn’t quite coordinate, I always woke up without finishing my breakfast. I had packed gels, flapjacks and salt tablets in my jersey pocket, enough to get me to the 50 mile pit stop and set off to meet the other riders for the start at 8:30 a.m. Twenty runners took part in the event. Coach Matt gave us a pep talk, including making sure we had an adequate breakfast. You know, when you were at the school assembly and the principal called the students on something, in an attempt to find the guilty culprit, that’s what I felt at that time and my inner me heaved a small “oh!” sigh. Following this, he reiterated the intervals on when to take the gels and stay hydrated, “If you’re thirsty, it’s too late,” he said, at which I felt relief because I was one on this and we only had 50 miles before the 1st power stop, how bad could that be.
We set off at a comfortable pace, chatting as we headed out into the open landscape towards St Ives and Warboys, it was starting to get quite warm for this time of morning. As we turned onto a road, a few of us slowed down to wait for a few others who were falling back to make sure they had seen us before trying to catch up with the peloton in front of us. Traversing the rural landscape with fields of bright yellow rapeseed, the riders looked like a snapshot of the Tour de France through the sunflowers. A few riders who had returned from injury were just starting to feel the effects at mile 40 of the race as we pushed into headwinds with some setbacks I felt good but my bike felt quite heavy and it was in partly due to changing the tires on my regular SWorks Gripton which was starting to wear out, to a set of temporary road tires that came as a spare set with my CX bike and I couldn’t get along with them. The tire rolling was noticeably different and felt heavy in comparison, which started to work my legs hard as the group started pushing into the headwinds. Although I was sitting in the middle of the pack I found myself suddenly falling off my back and then working harder to keep pace with the group who were now sitting at around 19 mph but nothing unusual about the speed. Climbing back down in frustration, I drove to the stopping point where everyone had gathered for a drink and regroup. We only had 4 miles to go until the pit stop and I thought that would be a good point to gauge what I wanted to do, continue or call it a day at 50 and I didn’t want to give up.
Arriving at the pit stop, we met some of the club members who had baked cakes and sandwiches, offering drinks and a supply of sunscreen. It was even hotter and many riders were already sporting a cycling tan at 11:30 a.m. I felt much better after eating and was ready to finish the 2nd half. All was well until poor Bill, who was the event organizer, got a mechanical freewheel 10 miles into the 2nd half of the ride. While waiting for a replacement bike, the riders took a break and hit the grass, a good chance to top up the sunscreen, hydrate and crack some terrible jokes before heading off to our second stop in Denver, about 80 miles. I was starting to feel better after eating, so all I had to do was conserve my energy, ignoring the tire situation and the rising temperatures. 5 miles before reaching our 2nd stop, with the sun beating down on us and wanting to get to our destination, coach Matt was bored and I needed a distraction as the heat was getting to me so we started to playing I Spy, it’s funny how the most obvious thing takes the longest to guess. Finally arrived at The Jennings Arms, a riverside pub in Denver, we parked our bikes as a group and headed to the bar for snacks and salty drinks, then set off for the final stretch back at home.
Along the river bank we passed the river boats and traded waves, poor Bill suffered a 2nd and 3rd mechanical within minutes with a flat tire. When I left, I felt a little uncomfortable. The heat had hurt me a lot and I was losing the power to push off my legs and started backing up and pootling. The main platoon had taken the lead and there was only Bill and me for company. Coach Matt had been leading the pack, but I noticed that Bill and I weren’t in the group. Coming back to us, he could see that I was struggling. After saving his Cherry Bakewell Torq gel for a “special occasion”, he handed it to me with his half-pack of Dextrose candy and told me to eat it with the gel. During this time, as I pedaled and did as I was told, I was also expected to answer a number of his questions, including the answer to the letter ‘D’ from our I Spy plus early. Talking was made more difficult by the fact that the dextrose and Torq gel had started to mix together and foam up almost like a magnesium tablet. It made me laugh and laughing was all I could do. Handing me a Soreen Malt bread, Matt told me to eat this, in addition to digesting the Torq gel and Dextrose candies, I couldn’t help but laugh as the malt bread stuck to my teeth while the foam was decreasing. Within minutes the combination of all three started to kick in and Matt walked me through the three levels of energy reserve and probably coupled with the heat and my pre-start refueling had probably put me in pretty quickly the 3rd energy reserve. I kept riding for another 9 miles before the group called another pub for water, another puncture repair and the sweeper to take me home. I had well and truly hit the wall at 91 miles!!!!!!!
The next day I decided that I needed to make up for the miles I hadn’t driven the day before for the sole reason that it was unfinished business. Taking it easy on another very hot day, I headed out into the sunny countryside well fueled and hydrated in my Theta shorts and jersey with the intention of just enjoying the view and letting the legs spin on about 10 miles…27 miles later I got home. It was so hot that the rest of the week was all about relaxation. It was too hot to train with my triathlon training and I didn’t want to hurt myself. Sitting too long is not in my nature, but I took advantage of my down time on a sunny day and went shopping with the intention of buying a tri belt and some switchbacks, however, I arrived home empty-handed but had ordered a new road bike. It’s like the time I went to the stores with Fatboy’s credit card for coffee and tomato sauce and came home with 10 bags of groceries and no sauce or caffeine.
The following week my new bike, a Liv Envie Advanced 1 was ready for me at Rutland Cycles, after fitting the bike and adding the aero water bottles, I could then take the bike home. It was a real joy to ride the bike and practicing the swim-bike section for the triathlon made me smile a lot. So, with the lessons learned on good nutrition, taking into account the weather and with a refueling plan well underway I am looking forward to my 1st Triathlon, I just hope it’s not too hot otherwise I’m just going keep swimming.
Till next time…
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