Anyone that has done an Iron Distance race is well aware that nutrition is the end all be all when it comes down to having a good race. I realize that nutrition is particular to each individual, but also wanted to share what I have found to work since I’ve been asked this by many people. I’m going to preface this with it took me 7 IRONMAN to nail my nutrition and find something that CONSISTENTLY didn’t fail. Who’s to say mine won’t change at some point, however for 2 Ironman in a row I’ve been able to nutrition the ENTIRE race which has NEVER HAPPENED.
Week of nutrition I normally try to increase the carbs and the salt a little, not a ton. I also take Airborne Immunity Defense, Emergen-C, Garlic, and daily BeetElite. I only increased and added the Emergen-C and garlic due to a sinus/ear infection and strep (I had antibiotics as well). The illness left me with no appetite and weak so lets just say I entered race day probably a little under typical race weight. I also use Nuun’s (www.nuun.com )the week of instead of calorie loaded sports drinks. I also start my Salt Stick pill intake the day before the race, due to the hot weather I do one pill in the morning and 2 in the evening with dinner. I believe I even took one on Thursday due to the hot humid unexpected weather.
Morning of the race I start my day with coffee, BeetElite, Nuun’s, and my Saskatoons muffins. 30 mins prior to the race I take 2 CarboPro Motivator Tabs. 15 minutes to race start I take my Powerbar Performance Gel (I like all kinds for prior to race as long as it has caffeine). During the swim particularly at IM Florida you tend to take in a lot of salt water if it’s a rough day so I make sure to rinse my mouth out with water on the 1st loop and take some in as well. As I exit the water I rinse off and again grab some water to wash my mouth out. This year was pretty rough so keeping the tummy happy is important.
I exit transition and once on the bike I start drinking. I have 2 premade bottles (1 bottle is 32 oz, the other is the typical 26 ounces or so) those bottles should last me until Special Needs and they include the following:
1 scoop of Cytomax in small bottle 1.5 scoops in larger bottle (Berry Flavor, I wish they’d bring back Cranberry Grapefruit though!) All of which can be purchased at www.trisports.com (email me for a coupon code, firstname.lastname@example.org )
1 scoop of Carbopro (I will be trying Nuun’s Pulse during training next year, but didn’t get a chance to have real training with it due to ankle issue since it came out later in the year)
30 drops of Elete Electrolytes in small bottle, and 45 in bigger bottle (I did a little more than normal due to the unexpected hot weather)
I drink every 15-20 minutes. I normally set a timer for every 20 minutes, the 1st beep I drink, the 2nd beep I gel and drink. This is EXTREMELY beneficial if you haven’t tried it before, sometimes if you get tired, weak, hungry, or whatever it can get difficult to remember things. I prefer to write things down, and have reminders to take away the thinking. My 1st gel flask consists of the following:
6 Powerbar Performance Gel’s (3 Berry flavor w/1x caffeine, 3 Vanilla w/no caffeine) www.powerbar.com for more info on their products
So during the bike I keep my 20 min routine down solid, I don’t have to think about salt, the salts been added to my drinks. Once I finish my first bottle I immediately dump my 2nd one into the profile design so I can grab water and start chasing my gel with water. Until this point I’ve only had my mixed drink, unless I swig some water at aid stations. As far as gel goes I take as much out of my flask as I feel like I need. I by no means take a whole gel packet, which is the reason I have the flask. It’s much easier on my tummy for me to dictate how much I take based on the circumstances of the race. I remembered that I wanted to have atleast one bar down by 50 miles (I carry this in my tri kit), so I nibble on the Powerbar Berry Wafer which I’ve found to be not too sweet or flavorful and good to start with. I don’t eat it all at once I merely start the nibbling process (stick it in my profile drink top making it easy access) with one goal and to have it finished by mile 50. I know special needs is around mile 53, so my goal is to have all my drink bottles gone, most of my gel flask completed, and 1 bar down by then.
I rolled into special needs with mission completed. I grab 2 new drink bottles that are identical to what I started with (one frozen, the other had some ice), and I’m thrilled to say they were ice cold and perfect! I’ve also got a gel flask to trade out (this is mixed with Powerbar Double Latte 2x caffeine, and Vanilla no caffeine). I don’t forget my potato sticks, Bonk Breaker, Waffle Stinger, and my baggy of meds. Baggy of meds has 4 Advil (cringe, I know, but with my ankle I know this will save me when needed), GasX, and Motivator tabs.
My approach to the 2nd half of the bike is much different than the 1st half. I still gel on schedule, but I try to consume food every hour. I don’t necessarily eat everything I have, but I do nibble on most of what I took out of my special needs bag. This has proven to make my run more tolerable. If I eat a whole bar I might skip a gel, but I still try to keep sipping from the flask on my 40 minute schedule. I started to feel loopy around mile 80 due to the heat. I’d been dumping water on my neck and face every aid station to help and decided it was time to take my next 2 Motivator Tabs. My hopes are to finish the bike feeling strong with no sloshing of the stomach, and ready to live off gel for the next 4+ hours. I managed to accomplish this goal, and head off the bike ready to see if my nutrition plan will stick again.
The weather is rather warm, high 70’s, not any shade, so my plan is to gel, drink, and salt tab in that order at aid stations. I approached this not mile by mile, but aid station by aid station for multiple reasons. The weather was hot, and I needed short term goals just due to my ankle injury. I didn’t care how close the aid stations were, I followed the plan of gelling at the 1st aid station, 2nd aid station drinking, and the next doing salt tabs. I’d just repeat this process over and over. The only addition to this is dumping ice cold water over my head, neck, and down the front of my tri top at every stop as well. All in all, my nutrition plan was spot on. I had no stomach problems, I was able to nutrition the ENTIRE RACE.
This was Ironman #8, yet only the 2nd one that I’d nailed nutrition. Where do YOU go from here is the question…..nutrition needs to be customized for everyone. Nutrition is always a work in progress. I HIGHLY suggest testing it out in training multiple times, and knowing what you may resort to if it doesn’t work…..like using coke if you can’t consume anymore gel on the run. Have a backup plan. Hope this helps!