Boulder Ironman Nutrition Report

Boulder Ironman Race Nutrition Report

 Ready to race!

Ready to race!

This report will focus on my race day nutrition since that is most likely what you are interested in and, I have to say, it may just surprise you. For those of you that know me, you know that I consider nutrition the first leg of triathlon when it comes to iron distance races. How many athletes do you know that had nutrition or gastrointestinal distress during the race, resulting in poor performance? I’m guessing many. In Boulder the heat is always a concern and heat makes it even more challenging to digest. If you would like to read more about the digestive challenges while racing, read my article on Fat Adapted Fueling. You will also get a better understanding of the program I followed for the past 1.5 years and why I make the daily nutrition choices that I do. 

Regarding Ironman nutrition, I may as well confess, I am one of those people that have dealt with severe GI distress in the past. My first Ironman was not bad, I had some stomach cramping on the run and had to force myself to get the food down, but that was about it. Compared to most, I was pretty lucky. Six years and a baby later, I did my second Ironman and it was a different story. I’d been struggling with diarrhea on some long runs leading up to the race so I knew it could be bad. Needless to say, taking 3 Imodium tablets throughout the day may have helped a bit, but I still ended up doing a number in my shorts coming down the finisher chute. I was in pain the entire run and that horrible ending pretty much ruined my race. That is one of many reasons why I chose to focus my thesis research on different alternatives to fuel exercise and embark on my Fat Adapted Fueling program.

As I do for all races, I prepared a detailed race plan that included all nutrition and lifestyle changes I need to focus on for my best race possible. I also plan out the meals I will eat the days prior to the race. Unlike most other racers, I do not “carb load” significantly. To top off my carbohydrate storage, I added 3 sweet potatoes and some sweet potato chips between Friday and Saturday night. Since my training volume is reduced, I know that I do not need to change my carbohydrate intake significantly. The other change I made was to reduce my intake of raw vegetables and move towards cooked vegetables to reduce fiber intake. 

 Sauteed veggies 

Sauteed veggies 

 Salmon with cucumber "noodles"

Salmon with cucumber "noodles"

My race day nutrition was thoroughly planned and I followed the protocol I had tested on many training rides. If you would like to see how I put together race day nutrition, watch for a video coming out soon. I tested flat coke at the end of the run during a half Ironman and discovered that it does not sit well with me. I also did some metabolic testing in advance of the race. The first test determined the amount of fat and carbohydrate I burn while riding. The second test was used to confirm that my plan for race day nutrition was adequate. 

 ME test on the bike

ME test on the bike

The second test was done while riding for 45 minutes and then running for 25 minutes. One disadvantage of the test is that it’s a little over one hour, whereas I know that I will be going for around 12 hours in the Ironman. Through my research, I know that the body becomes more efficient at burning fat, the longer I am exercising within my target heart zone, as long as I don’t take in any fast burning carbohydrates, such as gels, chews or drinks. Drs. Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney have recently done testing on fat-adapted and carbohydrate-adapted athletes running on a treadmill for 3 hours. They have not released a full analysis yet, but you can read a summary of results presented in an endurance conference by clicking on the link below.

http://n2finc.com/blog/2014/7/14/interesting-observations-on-endurance

Ben Greenfield was a fat-adapted participant in the study and released some of his specific data in the article linked below. If you scroll down you can see how his percentage of fat burned increased with time.

http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/2014/05/how-much-fat-can-you-burn-2/

With that in mind, I used the data in my ME test to confirm my nutrition plan, but also knew that I would likely be burning fat at a higher proportion during the run so could take in less calories than indicated in my plan.

My plan included the following (note that most of the calories are in the form of carbohydrates). The last bullet in each section shows you what I actually consumed during the race.

·       Bike

  •  2 packets Generation UCAN (220 calories)
  •  1 packet Vespa Jr. (amino acids and 31 calories)
  •  1 bottle X2 Performance (caffeine and 60 calories)
  • Amino acid capsules every 1.5 hours
  • Salt Stick capsule every 1 hour
  • Total planned nutrition: 311 calories, approximately 41 calories/hour for bike and swim portion of race
  • Actual nutrition: 276 calories, approximately 36 calories/hour for bike and swim

·       Run

  • 1-2 packets of UCAN (110-220 calories)
  • 1 packet Vespa Jr. (amino acids and 31 calories)
  • 1 bottle X2 Performance (caffeine and 60 calories)
  • Amino acid capsules every 1.5 hours
  • Salt Stick capsule every 1 hour
  • Total planned nutrition: 201-311 calories, approximately 45-69 calories/hour for run portion of race
  • Note that there is a range because I planned to evaluate my GI status and energy level and adjust my intake based on that. I also knew that my body would likely be burning a higher level of fat than indicated in my ME tests.
  • Actual nutrition: 100 calories, approximately 22 calories/hour for run
 Coming into T2

Coming into T2

On race day I executed most of my plan on the bike, but only took in about 2/3 of the second bottle of UCAN. I was feeling great and passing people continuously for the last 60 miles on the bike. My pace was consistent throughout the 112 miles, but others appeared to be struggling during the second half. I finished in 5:53 and moved up to 24th in my age group after a slow swim that left me at 76th in my age group.

In T2 I did my typical things and grabbed my run belt, which was filled with the Generation UCAN powder. 

 Excited to start the marathon!

Excited to start the marathon!

I added water to one of the bottles and didn’t want to take the time to add water to the second bottle. I thought I would do that later, if necessary. I took one sip around mile 5 and didn't like the taste. I took another sip at mile 8 and really didn’t want any more of it. I decided to test my body’s ability to burn fat and go without the UCAN. I continued with the amino acid and salt intake, per my plan. I also took in half of the X2 at mile 10 and the other half at mile 20. I had a piece of hard candy in my special needs bag, which I sucked on for a few minutes and then spit out. My legs were getting tired, but not more than the typical feeling after 10+ hours of exercise. From my ME test, I knew that anytime I walked, my fat burning increased significantly so I continued to walk every aid station.

Overall my energy level stayed pretty consistent and I never felt like I was bonking. I wanted to be sure I had something to get through the last section so I took some coke, swished in my mouth and spit it out at miles 24 and 25. That was it and before I knew it, I was turning the corner towards the finisher chute. I was so excited to finish strong without any GI issues! I finished the marathon in 4:36 and moved up to 9th in my age group.

My overall time was 12:14 and I ended in the top 10. That’s a 47 minute PR and a 15 place jump from my last Ironman. All on 376 calories (average of 31 calories per hour)… and my body fat, of course!  Race day was a big success for me!

 Here comes the finishing chute!

Here comes the finishing chute!

Since my caloric intake was much lower than normal, many of you may wonder how I felt after the race. I felt better than I have after any prior Ironman. There was significantly less inflammation and virtually no GI distress in the form of gas and bloating. It was important that I give my body fuel to recover immediately, so I ate some of the post-race food and indulged with some pizza and gelato. This was the first time that I was able to get food down after an Ironman and I loved every bite of it!

If you want to learn more about using your body fat and the many reasons why it is better for health, fitness and body composition, please watch for upcoming presentations or contact me directly.