In early August I posted these pictures of my husband, myself and my bike computer to social media. The bike computer showed a distance of 100 miles and my face showed joy and pride. What I didn’t post, and what no one saw (except Mike) was me crying and dry heaving (sorry, but that is the ugly truth) at mile 55 insisting that I could not possibly finish the 100 miles. Forget that I have done it before, forget that I have ridden 60-70 miles more times than I can count and forget that my car was still 45 miles away - at that moment I fully believed that I could not ride one more mile. I was prepared to live in Osakis, MN for the rest of my life.
Luckily Mike knows me, knows that I am horrible at eating during endurance events and recognized my hypoglycemia for what it was. He mixed a concoction of gas-station vanilla soft serve and cold canned Starbucks coffee which he force-fed me and then I sailed through the rest of the ride like I had wings. I felt great at the end.
Training for endurance events like Century bike rides, marathons and triathlons/Ironmans is the “easy” part. There are training plans galore available online, in magazines, and from coaches. They are methodical and progressive and set people of all levels up to be successful. These plans will cover the preparation of the muscular and cardiovascular demands of the events.
But what most people still need to figure out for themselves is the hydration, caloric and mental stresses of the event.
Dialing in hydration and nutrition is the secondary purpose of training runs, rides, and swims, (after cardiovascular conditioning of course). As mileage increases so do the demands on the body. (See my previous blog post for specifics on hydration).
Nutrition is very individualized and depends on such things as
● Time/Distance of the event,
● Personal metabolism
● Personal preference .
But one thing is certain - you must have a nutrition plan in place before the Big Event.
I myself have only had two Century rides and some very long backpacking hikes in my endurance event credential folder, so I turned to some friends for more advice on fueling and mental preparation.
My friend Kristin Nelson, a veteran of endurance events (18 triathlons, a half Ironman, as well as multiple marathons):
NEVER EVER try anything new on race day!! We all know it; we all preach it, we’ve likely all done it. As methodical as we are with our training plans, we must be as methodical with our fuel and recovery. Take time during training to experiment, but hammer it down early what works and stick with it. Having confidence in your fuel and recovery can allow you to push through plateaus both physical and emotional for the best outcome and success.”
Fitness Evolution member Jill McNamara (completed over 25 triathlons, one-half Ironman and 1 marathon, as well as 10 duathlons) states: Fueling can be tricky. There are so many variables - how long is the event, what does your body use best, your age? I drink every 15 minutes on the bike, consuming a bottle of water each hour. I use solid food if it's over 24 miles, otherwise just honey or gels. I don't eat any solid food when running, even a marathon...just liquid and gels. During my half-iron, I do the same. My best advice: train! The long training sessions are good for experimentation with fuel.
Even if you are able to perfect your hydration and nutrition plan many athletes find that their biggest challenge comes from inside their heads.
Boredom, fatigue, feelings of being overwhelmed with the time left to go can all conspire to convince us that we shouldn’t be taking on such a big event or worse -- that we are not capable. I cannot think of a single time on the bike that my legs were telling me to quit, but my brain does almost every time I go out.
I have developed some tips and tricks to keep myself on task.
★ Music - for rides under 3 hours this is often all I need
★ Visualization - I picture how amazing I will feel when I am done. Conversely, I imagine how sad and disappointed I would be if I quit.
★ Inspiration - I want to be a strong positive role model for my children. I want them to be able to handle pain and difficulty. Modeling these things myself provides them with an example and a role model
★ Math - I do math problems in my head. This often involves har far and fast I have gone and have to go, but it distracts me enough to get through a tough period.
★ Treats - I love gummi bears, I keep them in my pocket and promise myself a handful after another 10 miles or so.
★ Prayers - if I am really struggling I think about someone who is in need of prayers and I begin to pray the rosary for them. It is meditative and comforting and helps me keep the focus off myself.
It is important to note that hydration, nutrition, and mental focus are three prongs of the same fork. If one is off it will affect the other two…as is clear in my example from the beginning. My blood sugar was low and it was taking a toll on my mental state. Once I fixed the food issue I felt much more committed and focused to be able to finish the ride.
If none of these tricks work for you, my friend Sarah, a distance cyclist from London, has these words of wisdom “ EAT. Often. DRINK. Often. Close to the end - a freezing can of full-sugar all the knobs on can of Coke.” (I don’t actually know what that means, but it made me laugh. It must be a British thing).
I would love to hear any of your tips and tricks, as well as your accomplishments. Please reach out to me with any questions, concerns or tidbits.
Megan Leipholtz , CPT firstname.lastname@example.org 763-439-3191