Early Season Practice Racing: Protect Your Gut and Your Checklist


It’s important to make some mistakes, that way you can learn from them. Those lessons are easier to remember.

The Lesson?

Avoid high fiber foods before a race. Save them for afterwards.

Be careful even afterwards!

I found that while high fiber foods are good on regular days, it’s asking a bit much of the body to split its energy between legs and heart at lactate threshold, and a gut trying to mow down the Amazon rain forest.

Following Maffetone’s methods, I don’t usually race until the end of March or early April, whenever the first XTERRA race shows up at Folsom Lake. I prefer to just build my base in the murky wintertimeExcept this year in California, it’s not murky, not at all. No snow, but gorgeous sunshine every day. I decided to change it up and so I lubed my chain instead of waxing my skis, and jumped into my first ever duathlon, a little sprint at Folsom Lake. I rationalized it as being short enough that even if I was really slow, it would still only take me a little over an hour to finish, so recovery would not be an ordeal. Fueling during the race is irrelevant. And, I could use it to experiment a little and learn from some mistakes where my performance wasn’t super important. This race also uses the same course as other races later this year, so I can compare times, which is hard with off-road racing.

The Race:

2 mile run, mix of singletrack and road, mostly flat

6.5 mile road bike, twisty, with short, punchy climbs and descents

2 mile run

The bike is one lap of the ICE Breaker Triathlon bike course later this spring, and the run is also about half. The easier half.

Beautiful weather. Tried using a little Tai Chi to get heart rate settled before the start, failed. Heart rate immediately spiked and stayed there for an hour, right between 175 and 180 BPM, so I’l continue to use 175 as my LT. Pace was embarrassing slow. I suppose I should get back to racing weight and train some? The bike course is super fun as it’s never flat for long and quite twisty, so you’re always shifting gears and tempo, in and out of the saddle, looking for a fast line. The second run hurt. I had never done a du before, but I’ve heard they’re painful because of that second run. I concur. But this one was short enough that recovery only takes a couple days.

Experiments Performed, Lessons Learned:

Here and over at the Training Table I’ve been experimenting with some high nutrient dense meals a la Dr. Fuhrman and the magic of beet juice. I also wanted to experiment with post race recipes to find the tastiest, most effective way to recover from a race and enjoy the day. I have been experimenting with making green juices and smoothies, thinking that this would be an ideal way to recover from a hard race, with the maximum nutrients possible in the fastest delivery method around, liquid. Well, I was a little too enthusiastic, and overloaded my gut with high nutrient, and therefore high fiber foods the day before. That led to more bathroom adventure than I wanted on race day. For a short race it was OK, but for my long races, I shudder to think about what I would be doing out in the woods!

The Day Before:

I ate normally, brown rice and veggies for lunch. For dinner, a salad with avocado, orange, radish, spinach, and arugula along with pasta tossed with arugula walnut pesto and grape tomatoes and zucchini. During the day I prepared my experimental post race lunch and recovery smoothie. I sampled some of the goods. See the problem yet? FIBER. WAY too much.

Race Day:

The usual pre-race breakfast, a baked sweet potato eaten on the drive. New was experimenting with beet juice. The research is based on 16 oz, which is more than I’ve had before. I got maybe 12 oz. I added in the usual carrot and celery, but also an orange, which was new. Tasted great! The night before. Not so much in the morning on the way to the race. I was choking it down the requisite 90-120 minutes prior until my tummy felt a little queasy. Then my colon went into full revolt. Emergency pit stop. I was sweating with a deranged look on my face, scaring people as I sought relief. ‘Nuff said.

Set up my transition, realizing I forgot my water bottle. DOH! It didn’t matter for this race because I wasn’t planning on drinking on the bike anyway, just water on the run course. But in a long race… Plus, my bottle had a serving of Brendan Brazier’s Vega Recovery drink, which I like. Oh well, today I had my Super Green Recovery Smoothie, AKA the Colon Destroyer!


Green juice: kale, cucumber, romaine, bok choy, lemon, ginger

Hibiscus tea

Spinach, arugula

Banana, date, 2 kiwis, blackberries, goji berries

Vega smoothie powder

A few alchemical snake oils I’m forgetting.

Tasted good after the race and did benefit recovery, which I could tell by my mental acuity.


My noodle salad was good, but all I did was carry it around, since I was packed up and gone by 10.30.


cooked rice noodles

baked marinated tofu

baby bok choy, shredded carrot, red cabbage, zucchini, cilantro, and Thai chili sauce.

Note the fiber issue continuing? Good, also note the colon issue continuing. This was a lot of high fiber food, too much for race day and the previous day. Too many pit stops.

Lessons Learned:

Taper off the fiber the day before. White rice for lunch and dinner, less vegetation for dinner. Make it flavorful with herbs? Maybe a rice noodle soup like pho? Worry about nutrient dense whole veggies earlier.

Dial in the beet juice dose. Part of the lingering gut issue was just from having too much beet juice. I am certainly not a pro racer, and apparently not a pro beet juice drinker either.

The green smoothie was good, but maybe I don’t need to throw in everything not bolted to the floor or wall.

Lunch was good, but was also a bit overkill for an early, short race

Pack the race bag the night before and triple check it. At least I got the cooler packed correctly.

There it is. Best to learn these things now and practice so I get it straight when I’m trying to qualify, or just beat Dave.


About vegpedlr

Plant powered off-road triathlete

Posted on January 20, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I enjoyed reading your humorous post! Actually, today I kind of overdid it with the fibrous foods myself and will be heading to a couple of exercise classes in about an hour and am not sure if I will be able to make it through these classes without having to run to the bathroom! Ha ha ha!

    I don’t really eat anything special for recovery after a heavy duty bicycling outing or race apart from my usual very healthy low fat plant based food. A few years ago I used to consume Brendan Brazier’s protein powder mix, but don’t do so anymore. I ran out of Brendan’s recovery drink last spring, which I do like to use in my water bottle on long rides, especially on hot days, but I seemed to be okay last year without the powder, although I think that you tend to go on much longer rides (plus runs) than my normally two hour or less cycling outings. I might pick up some more powder when I start bicycling again in the spring.

    I had intended to ride while I was at True North in Santa Rosa in December, but Santa Rosa experienced a cold spell during the ten days I was visiting. It was much warmer both before and after I left, but fortunately I was able to get in a few really good spin classes at the nearby YMCA and made some contacts with other bicycling enthusiasts which will be helpful when I return to the area.

    Anyway, it sounds like you had a good time at the duathlon despite the fibre issues!

    • I like the Vega Recovery Accelerator for its ingredients and how it feels immediately post race. I only use it after a race as part of my recovery ritual. I sip while continuously walking and monitoring my heart rate until I’m back to normal. It makes my brain feel like everything’s OK, the hard work is over and there are still calories coming in. After about 30 minutes, I settle down enough that my appetite comes back. When it does, I eat lunch. The recovery “window” everyone talks about is about an hour, not 15 minutes, and real food does just as well. For regular workouts, I just eat regular meals.

  2. Interesting. When I do my half marathons, I eat peeled, sliced, white potatoes cooked in the microwave the morning of the race. It seems to work pretty well. However, the half marathon isn’t a super long race. So, when I run my first full marathon, I might need to eat either more baked potatoes for breakfast or something else.

    For some reason, a juice drink prior to a race scares the daylights out of me. I am always really paranoid about needing to take a restroom break in the middle of a race. So far, I’ve never had to actually do that. Good luck this spring with your “A” races.

    • My typical prerace breakfast is a baked sweet potato, seasoned or plain. I can easily make it ahead of time, and eat it in the car on the way to the race venue. I just make sure I don’t eat anything within 2 hrs of the start. I want insulin and blood sugar evened out, and don’t want to feel heavy. You don’t really need anything in the morning, as your muscles are already stocked with glycogen. Breakfast just tops off your liver. You can wait until the start, and start fueling after, or take a gel minutes before. I’ve tried it and it works. I just gauge it by time: when I have to wake up, how long until the race start, etc.

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