Monthly Archives: June 2013

Race Fueling Conundrum: Hammer Nutrition vs. Rice


So my experiment using real food to fuel training has been a success. But what about racing? When I’m training in my MAF range below 145 BPM, I digest the rice balls, rice cakes, and potatoes with no problem. I look forward to the snack instead of reminding myself to eat. But what about race intensity? Is a rice ball going to stay down when I’m charging at 165-185 BPM? Or will I see it again, flying through the air as I vomit? Can I manipulate these snacks while mountain biking on a rough course? Or will I wrap my rice cake and myself around a tree?

Therein lies the conundrum:


Never try anything in a race you haven’t tried in training

Racing feels totally different than training

What to do?

One way would be to try new things in high intensity workouts or race simulations. But I prefer to keep my training strictly aerobic.

Another way is to designate a race as a “practice race” to try new strategies without getting overly concerned about the results. So if it all goes down in flames, just practice recovering as much as possible and learn from it.

I will try the second approach in this weekend’s Lake Tahoe Mountain Bike Race, 4 hour solo event. Last year I went nuts and did the 8 hr solo event, but this year I will go shorter so I will be well recovered for the following weekend’s XTERRA. This year I will go shorter and test out my real food fueling strategy and see how it feels to fuel on rice, potatoes and dates while riding hard. Since it is a multi-lap format, I can set up a pit area with a cooler for food and drinks. I will fuel with real food, and hydrate with plain water in my hydration pack. I will bring a bottle of Sustained Energy and some gels, just in case the solid food doesn’t work. I will hydrate on the course, and refuel with rice and potatoes between each lap. I’ll carry dates in my pocket if needed on the course. Due to the length of this event, I think the real food will work great. In any case, it will give me valuable information for next month’s Leadville Qualifier at Northstar.

My goal is to ride 5 laps within the 4 hour time limit. If I miss it, I think I will just go out and ride another lap anyway to make it a good long day.

Fingers crossed!


Real Food Training, Racing, and a Conundrum

One of the benefits of the Maffetone Method, is that I need fewer calories on the bike. I can remember when I started out, any ride of two hours needed sports drinks and gels. I generally drank one hundred calorie bottle per hour along with a gel. And boy, did I need them! I can remember a couple of memorable bonks and near bonks when I finished later than expected, dragging my sorry carcass to the fridge. Building a steadily bigger aerobic engine means better utilization of fat for fuel, and staying at aerobic intensity means I don’t feel hungry, or desperately needing calories. When I do feel hungry, it’s because it’s lunch time! I would be hungry anyway, even without the bike.

But once I get into the three plus hour range for training rides I have to fuel. Going longer than about 90-120 minutes means that storage glucose will run out, and even the best Maffetone-built fat burning aerobic engine still needs some carbohydrate to keep it all in gear. So calories count. But I grew a little tired of fruity, sweet, expensive gels and drinks, so I experimented with real food and found great success! I found real food digests more slowly, gradually keeping up your energy. I really noticed this mentally. I didn’t realize that there was a “flash and crash” from gels and drinks until I tried real food. It is more of a mental experience where the sugar would make me feel energetic, then later my brain would get a little foggy and fatigued. It wasn’t dramatic, and I thought it was normal. But real food digests slowly and my mental energy is much steadier. What really worried me was my gut. How would it tolerate solid, savory food while still pedaling along for hours? Much better than I thought. But I found that smaller portions more frequently are important. Just a few bites, otherwise you get that “brick” feeling. And that could signal an impending disaster!

Another part of the experiment was real food’s effect on recovery. I’ve found that I really need very little fuel for long aerobic rides. But I wondered if taking in calories along the way would allow me to recover faster, since I would not be digging myself in as deep a hole. The result seems to be that I recover faster and feel better the rest of the day. It used to be that a weekend long ride before lunch would leave me trashed for the rest of the day. I would eat lunch, take a long nap, get up, eat another lunch and be pretty tired.  Partly because of the aerobic training and partly by refueling, I finish these long rides tired, but not exhausted and not famished. I eat lunch, take a nap, just like usual, but the nap is shorter, and I’m not as hungry. I still have energy to do other things. Sometimes I add in walks just because I feel like it!

Three consecutive long weekend road rides went like this:

Same route, about 3 1/2 hours

Went over tem minutes faster after three weeks

Fueled with two bottles of Hammer HEED sports drink

Ate six small onigiri (about a cup and a half of rice)

Ate three dates

Everything went down smooth and felt great. Everything was divided up equally into three snack size bags, one for each jersey pocket. With a little practice, I could eat and ride without too much fumbling.

Another alternative is small Yukon gold potatoes, cooked and cut in quarters tossed with salt and nutritional yeast. Very savory and very tasty! Disadvantage: they get gooey and are a little tricky to eat while riding.

Next up:

Perfect the wrapping of Allen Lim style rice cakes for cycling. They taste great, but I can’t yet wrap them in such a way that they stay together and be smoothly eaten while pedaling by a klutz like me!


While fueling for training is dialed in what about racing? How does intensity affect fueling? Racing and that conundrum next time.