Yesterday, I (barely) conquered the Bear... Located in the foothills of the Poconos Mtns (near Lehighton, PA), this was one tough bike ride!
The swim took place in a beautiful, cold lake. The two-loop, somewhat out-and-back bike course provided several huge downhills with the corresponding uphills including a very steep uphill at the 53 mile mark. I thought the bike course was well signed, but wish they had provided more mile markers - my bike computer broke within the first mile and I lacked the intel needed to pace myself. In 2007, I raced the Timberman Half and found that it took me an extra hour to finish the Bear, mainly due to a much slower bike pace.
The run course also was two loops of an out-and-back course that included running on the hot and windy dam top path. The race support included cold, wet towels which definitely helped!
Overall, I enjoyed the race and thought it was well managed, despite the late start time due to traffic backups. I'm training for IM Kentucky (13 weeks away) and this race showed me that I need to bump up my running distances again and throw in more hill workouts on the bike. I also need to fix my bike computer and upgrade my helmet since it lost its chin clip after the bike.
Also, in my attempt to find a good nutrition plan for the IM, I am trying gel shots again. Several years ago, I quit using gel when running marathons since it upsets my stomach and causes bathroom issues... Unfortunately, it continues to do so. I enjoy eating Clif Shot Blocks, pretzels, and Clif Mojo bars on the bike (+ Accelerade and water). However, those items take up lots of space for the calories provided and gel is much more convenient to eat. I've tried Clif Shot gel, Hammer gel and Gu gels with the same bad results. I'm not sure what it is in the gel that is causing the problems. Does anyone have a recommendation for gel that may work with a sensitive stomach?
You might be having stomach issues on the run because of too much protein on the bike. Clif Mojo Bars and Accelerade is too much protein. I would do away with one of those two and replace that with some calories that has a lower or no protein content. I have had really good luck with adding Carbo Pro to my drink on the bike. If you try this I would probably pick something other than Accelrade. Hope this helps.
About how much of everything are you taking per hour would you say? With how much water?
Perhaps osmolality is too high...
Thanks for your advice. I had to look up the term "osmolarity" and now recall it from HS chemistry classes...
The 56 mile bike took me 4 hrs yesterday. I'm not at all pleased with that pace, but here's what I remember consuming before & during the race:
5 - 6 a.m. - Clif bar, coffee & water
7:15 - 8:30 am - banana, about 4 oz gatorade, 0.5 L water, Clif gel shot
(Started about 9:15 am) 0 - 30 mins - about 1/4 bottle of Accerlade, Hammer gel + water. Stomach pains started shortly after this and I ate some pretzels and drank water, which seemed to make things better.
By the mile 15 bottle exchange, I had finished the bottle of Accelerade and about 1/3 bottle of water.
At mile 25, I ate half of my bar.
By the next bottle exchange (mile 30), I had finished a bottle of HEED and about another 1/3 bottle of water.
I also know that I drank another half bottle of HEED, a little more water and ate 6 Clif shot blocks sometime during the bike ride.
Started around 1:15 pm. Drank HEED or water at several stops. Ate 4 clif shot blocks.
I don't know if I have much to add, but... My coaches are of the mind that 200-250 calories/hour is all the body can absorb during an endurance race. I'm not sure how big your bottles of Accelerade and Heed were but it sounds like you may have been consuming more than that which can definitely upset your stomach. I also wonder if you can frontload some more calories during breakfast before the race so that you don't have to eat so soon on the bike. I can't eat until at least 45 minutes in because my body is too focused on resetting my heartrate and recruiting my legs into action after the swim. Add that plus some water that you inevitably swallow during the swim and you might have a recipe for cramps and upset. I also agree with the protein comment - you want simple sugars that will pass right through you and not stop up the works.
Finally, I know some people who have had success with Infitit, a powder drink mix. You can customize the content to get a unique balance of carbs/protein/electrolytes/caffeine, etc. I haven't tried it yet but I've heard their customer service is top notch so you can call them up and get advice on your formula.
I've been lucky to not have a lot of experience with stomach cramps but when I have experienced them, I've basically been able to put blame on the fact that I took in too much, too fast.
I hear a rumor very early on in my tri career that it was bad to mix different brands of nutrition products with each other. Specifically, those products with protein in them. Something about the synthetic proteins interacting badly with one another and quickly causing stomach cramps. I don't know how valid this theory is but I decided not to challenge it.
Based on your nutrition strategy, it looks like you mixed the following brands: Clif, Accelerade, Hammer and Gatorade. That might just be too much overload for your digestive system to handle in addition to the stomach duress that is natural during a typical 70.3 race. I'd look into choosing a brand that you like the best and stick to primarily using only their products.
I hope that helps. Nutrition is such an individual thing that it's very hard to find the right mix.
I think that is a great point, Travis...I, too, try to be very careful on taking in different brands/types of nutrition on race day in order to help minimize the chance of stomach distress. Big pre-race breakfast, then all gel or all liquid on the bike for half-IM distance or longer (with some protein to avoid that hungry feeling), and then all liquid on the run.
Is this where I plug my good luck so far with Infint? ;-)
Hi Andy, I did BlackBear as well! We should have met up. I saw Kevin at mile 5 or so during the run in the middle of the long bridge. I agree the bike course was just brutal and painful!! But, we conquered the Big Bear. Big Congratulations! This was my second 70.3 and ......what an intense course!! Cheers! Adriana
Bottom line - you most likely ate too much. The vast majority of us can only process 150-250 calories per hour, where you are in that range is a loose function of body weight and is something best determined by personal experimentation in training and race simulations. I echo Ryan's comments that you probably also consumed much too much protein. Without knowing how strong you mixed your bottle of Accelerade its hard to be certain, but most of us don't need more than 10% of our race day calorie intake from protein - again, your mileage may vary.
I can't comment on the issue of mixing brands, but I personally race with exclusively Hammer Nutrition products and they work well for me in both short stuff and ultras.
Lastly, stay away from Gatorade, just don't do it. And I think what Suzanne meant to say when she said "you want simple sugars" is "you want easily digestable long chain carbohydrates." You actually don't want true simple sugars like glucose or fructose for endurance events, you want maltodextrin - check the ingredients of the better gels and you'll see that's what you're getting.
Thanks for the advice. I ordered customized Infinit today, and will definitely pay more attention to my total calorie intake.
Just one more quick question - what do people eat pre-race and how far in advance do you eat it? If it matters, i'm 135 lbs and plan to race Eagleman HIM and Louisville IM this summer.
The standard recommendation for pre race is to eat AT LEAST 3 hours before race start and to take in somewhere between ~250 - 375 calories, mostly carbs, ~15-20% protein, little to no fat. Especially for a long race the research says you must finish eating 3 hours or more before race start. Since I find that unrealistic for most early morning starts, my practice has been to have a 100 calorie gel at the start of my pre-race warmup, which is usually 20 minutes before my start time. For an in water start w/o much warm up, you should delay your gel until 5 minutes before race time if you can. Again, since nutrition is highly personal I recommend you practice this in training where you simulate at least partial race conditions to see how your stomach responds. I've had success with the pre race gel at between 20 minutes pre-race to as late as one minute before my start, and I've done this for marathons, trail runs, road races, and duathlons from sprint to ultra distance. I've never had a 300+ cal solid food meal before a race - although many nutritionists will tell you its essential, that simply isn't true for me. FYI, I'm a 148 lbs duathlete.
Hope this helps.