Trans-Andes (Part2) - Nutrition & Fuel

A decade ago, I was obsessed w/all the little gel packs.  Like most people, I was persuaded by the media that gel packs and "sports" drinks were the only way to go.  Better educated now and knowing my own body and its needs, I use somewhat more of a holistic approach.  Although, frankly, lately it could also be considered a "wing-it" approach.

This approach works for me, however, may not work for everyone.  Perhaps I could do some tweaking to make me faster, stronger, better.  But if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  I'm super-stoked that I had consistent energy levels throughout the entire week at Trans-Andes.  Sure, I was tired and weak at times, but I totally attribute that to my fitness (or lack thereof) and the exerted effort at any given point.  All in all, my approach during Trans-Andes worked fine and I'm pretty stoked about it.

For some reason, mentally, I rebelled against my old triathlete-minded (ie. OCD) ways of committing to a specific fuel/feed plan for TA.  I wanted to try a more "tranquilo" approach to making sure I was well-fueled and hydrated.  Or, maybe I was just too lazy to commit to a plan.  I generally don't pay attention to exact calorie counting anyway....just play it all by feel, hunger and energy levels/demands.   

That said, I'm pretty much a creature of habit on a lot of things; as I travel so often, I have a few foodstuffs that I take with me...tried and true (pic).  Fortunately I tend to have a stomach of steel, at least compared to other racers I know.  I generally try to stay away from a lot of processed foods (gels, sugars, etc.) if I can help it...just to keep my energy and blood-sugar levels even.  Also, my belly is a loud whiner and it when it starts growling, I better feed it and preferably with real food, the chewier and crunchier the better! 

I carried around a bottle of water everywhere when "off the clock"...stayed well-hydrated.  Thanks Mayflower for the cool & tough bottle!  Kept my coffee hot and my water cold!

So, here's the loose breakdown of my nutrition during Trans-Andes...

-Nature's Path oatmeal packet (no sugar), fresh/local berries if avail otherwise Goji berries, add on a pinch of himalayan sea salt.  [about 60-90 mins prior to racestart].
-Banana (whole or half, depending on how I feel).  [10-20 mins before start].

DURING STAGES (stages 1-5...each ranging from 4-7 hrs?) ---
About every 30-50 minutes would have a few bites of one of my below tried & true options.  (I rarely eat on a hard climb (need to devote the energy/bloodflow to legs rather than digestive system; tried to wait until descents if possible).

- HOMEMADE ALMOND BUTTER/BERRY WRAPS -  Small multi-grain wrap/tortilla, glob on some Justins or Barney natural almond butter, sprinkle on some Goji berries and maybe a few raw almonds (good magnesium source), pinch of my sea salt and voila!  I tear it into a smaller bite-size portions, eating 1-2 bites at a time (hourish). 
- GRAB BAG MIX -  my messy sticky mix of "snacks":
  -a handful of almonds, 3-4 Clif Clifblocks (preferably w/caffeine), pinch of sea salt.
- HAMMER SOLIDS -  I used these on 2 or 3 of the longer stages, although definitely less than "suggested".  If I knew I still had a few hours of struggling in front of me (i.e. climbing, sustained flats), I'd take one.  They're an odd form of fuel and I would definitely not want one in every day life.  Basically, you put the thick chalky tablet in your mouth, chew on it for a bit (sometimes it can take up to a minute, even longer when it's hot and you've gotten cotton mouth already ha), then when it then turns into a cotton candy texture, down it w/some water.  I found during La Ruta that this was a good compact source of needed calories for me w/out all the sugar in most options.  Am definitely a fan of of the few "manufactured" foods I do like (but only for events, not training or otherwise).  All in all, I didn't even go through one whole "pack" of Solids all week.
- GELS - I'm stubborn and pride myself on avoiding gels when I can (see above: belly likes real food).  That said, sometimes gels simply are easier to carry/consume.  I do NOT train with them, and I avoided them up until around day 5 when I (like most everyone else) was growing fatigued.  And I definitely built gels into the final stage on Day 6 which basically was a loooooong fireroad ascent up a volcano, then ripping descent on a DH-lite course.  Heck yeah, I went w/gels only on that day.  It was more of an XC race -- shorter distance but harder effort.  I downed one about 10mins before the start.  I still felt rough on the 1-hourish climb but mainly my knee hurt more than anything else.)  Then I downed another gel around 5-10 mins from the peak of the climb.  
      - COKE/FANTA - I never ever ever ever drink fizzy stuff in my every day life.  I think the last time I had coke was at a half-ironman race a few years ago.  But at about half of the feedzones, I'd drink a half-cup of coke (or tangy Fanta if available!)...which had an immediate effect on me...felt like I could conquer the world as I started pedaling again.
      - Also, if available, I'd grab a salted POTATO "bite" or two at the feedzones.  Erica hooked us up w/some sour patch kid-like treats on day 5...the long hike-a-bike stage.  Heaven!! (...the sour patch kids, not the HAB).
- HYDRATION - This is the most important thing for me to stay on top of.  I feel like I have enough personal fat/energy stores to "survive" without food for a few hours if I were forced to (learned from experience and poor planning in the past...doh!)   Water on the other hand, a different story, of course!   On stage 1, knowing it would be a long and very hot/humid day and with ascents up near snow-capped volcanoes (potentially wet and cold), I opted to use my small camelback hydration system.  (I did NOT want a redux of my epic bonk up on the volcano in Costa Rica at La Ruta).  The camelback worked out fine, however, I just hate wearing it.  I find that I tense my traps/neck up too much, causing me to be a stiffer (clumsier) technical rider, as well as simply expending too much unnecessary energy.  So, for stages 2-6, I stuck to using only water bottles.  My bike is small and can only mount one bottle, so I used a large-size bottle on my bike and a smaller bottle in my rear jersey pocket.  The large one was water only, and I stocked the smaller one with a "weak" mix of extra calories/electrolytes...alternated between GU Roctane and GU Brew.  I wish I could say I had a method to my madness on which one I'd use, but I really didn't; again, I was sticking to my tranquilo/wing-it approach...depending on how I felt.  It all worked out quite well!

  * GU - shout out:  We (Carmichael crew) were lucky to be stocked with GU products.  I'm not sponsored by them or anything, but I will say they worked out great for me!  
Stage 1...feedzone.  Obviously not in the "race" mode yet.  BUT...yes definitely having a good time...and happy to see Guido and Erica!


- Immediately after each stage, dear lil Erica and/or studly Leland would be onhand with a cold GU Recovery Brew  which of course has the needed recovery elements needed, but more importantly tastes like the best chocolate milk you could ever imagine!  Seriously, I would never be able to keep this stuff in my house...afraid I'd drink it everyday...very tasty!
- Small meal - I'd either fix a small plate of whatever they had at the camp (meat, potatoes, fruit).  Frankly, I was never terribly hungry so usually not more than 3-400 calories.
- Dinner - a normal meal for me...heavy on the meats, more carbs than my usual but still not a lot.  Mainly only "white" carbs were available...white potatoes, white rice, etc...not my favorite choice but it did the job.  A few of the nights I opted for red meat over chicken/fish.
- Snacks - Grazing in between meals:  avocados, yoghurt, Chia Bar, Vega or "greens" mix (as we weren't really getting a lot of fresh green veggies as I'm used to at home).  And as always, my ritual apple/almond butter right before I hit the sack.

Interestingly by day 4-5, I realized that I wasn't really consuming any more calories per day than I was the month or so prior in my "everyday" life, less in fact.  Odd?  I never felt particularly weak (other that I'm not particularly strong to start with :-) nor on the verge of bonking....moods/energy were actually higher than expected throughout the week.  I attribute this oddity to my supply of winter "stores" to extract some energy from plus it wasn't like I was regularly going above Zone 3.  Tranquilo!

Oh, and I can't neglect to mention another byproduct of my new tranquilo approach: I fully took advantage of the race directors' onsite free supply of local vino each night.  Yummmmmm!!  (I didn't even add water to my wine Y'ALL!!)   Seriously, at the camp dinners, they always had lots of local wines and beer.  An excellent perk to this race! Chilean vino!  Of course, I'm a lightweight but yummmm that 1/3 glass of red every night surely contributed to my anti-oxidant restock and hydration! :-)

I did not take this pic. of Chilean vinyard.  I grabbed from the internet as I forgot to take pics of vino bottles...or maybe was too tipsy/tired??
(Pic: Destination360)

People often ask me what I eat when I'm on the road, especially when overseas in locations where there aren't as many healthful options.  For Trans-Andes, I wasn't faced with too many of these challenges; in fact, we had it pretty darn good there.  The local avacados were amazing!!!  

For my other trips, I do try to stock up on a lot of local fruits/veggies/meats if possible, but sometimes they're overly "treated" (fertilizers, hormones, etc.).  So, there are always a few tried-and-true products I take with me (see pic) as well as a good food-sourced multi-vitamin and sometimes Omegas and D supplements.   I took some of those same items w/me to Trans-Andes (plus some), although I took full advantage of their local healthy options too!   Let me know if ya have any questions or want help planning your own nutrition...


1 comment:

MRC said...

Excellent writeup La!