But what to eat during such a long endurance challenge?
Riding for over 15 hours food choices and timing are crucial for me to keep my energy level up for such a tough event.
(Just a disclaimer: This fuel strategy works for me and does not mean it works for someone else. I am still sharing my food plan as this might be helpful for others.)
My “fuel strategy” starts two days before the event. The reason is that I want to give my body time to digest and store energy. If I would wait until during the event, I knew it would be too late.
Two days before
I eat still “real food” focused on carbohydrates: rice, pasta, potatoes, etc and I tend to eat more than I usually eat. This day is a “real food” carb loading.
The day before
I eat easier digestible food which most likely comes in form of my favorite foods and might not be that healthy: Strawberry cake or any kind of cake for that matter. I try to eat the majority of the day’s food before 4pm so my body has enough time to digest. The pre-race pasta dinners don’t work for me as it is too late to digest. There are two reasons I eat my favorite food: It relaxes me calming my nerves and I don’t eat all the race food the day before the event. 😊
In the morning, I have coffee and something easy digestible. Since I ate a lot the last two days, I don’t need much today – at least for the beginning of today. I found if I eat a lot over breakfast, I just get tired – not exactly a state I want to be in before riding 330km. Thus, my breakfast is quite small, bread with marmalade is something I would eat.
Depending on how many food stations are along the route, I pack accordingly. As the Tour du Mont Blanc had plenty of food stops, I took one gel with me. I am able to ride the first few hours without any food if that is what I had to do. Maybe not recommended but it works for me. I filled my bottles with water only.
I just listen to my body when it comes to eating and drinking during the ride. I know there are several camps of thoughts out there when to eat and drink and what quantities and carb/protein ratios. I just eat when I am hungry and drink when I am thirsty. It works for me!
I got hungry 100km into the ride and I actually stopped at a gas station to buy a sandwich. I was craving bread with ham. And that’s what I got. I refilled my bottles with waters and kept going. At the bottom of the first “major” climb Grand St Bernard, I stopped at a café to get a diet coke (yes, I know it is hypocritical but I still want a diet coke instead of normal coke. Sometimes my blood sugar plays funny if I drink sugar and caffeine in combination) and a croissant. That stop took less than 5 minutes. I keep my stops as short as possible.
For me, stops are a fine line of refueling and my body deciding to get into recovery mode. The more I eat (especially when I don’t need it, even during such a tough ride) and the longer I am at the food station, the sluggisher and tired I feel. Thus, my motto is to keep it short and eat enough (Enough doesn’t mean to keep the portions super small but to listen how much my body really wants).
I stopped at every food station which were about 50km apart (most stops max 2 minutes). That doesn’t sound that far apart but if there is a 1000m climb between the two stops, the 50km could become quite long. Depending on where the food stop was located, I also chose my food. When it was at the bottom of the climb, I would tend to eat more easy digestible foods like salt sticks. If it was on top of the climbs with plenty of time to digest while descending, I ate sandwiches.
I never ate any gels as I prefer going with real food. I know it does not lead to any stomach or digestion problems for me.
Especially towards the end of the challenge when I start “smelling” the finish line and don’t focus fully on my body anymore, I keep eating a bite of something and not trying to tell myself that I don’t need anything anymore because I am almost there. I have learned this lesson the hard way once and I was completely out of energy 10 km from the finish line.
After Tour du Mont Blanc I wasn’t too hungry which means for me that I ate well during the ride. However, I didn’t say no to the post-race meal at the finish line. Although food is important, I focus more on rehydration. For the next two days, I had to stay close to a kitchen because I was constantly hungry.
This “fuel strategy” works for me, especially during the tough long endurance challenges. The days leading up to the challenge are the most crucial for me. I know I am not able to “make it up” during the ride if I don’t fuel properly the days prior.
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