“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness”
Dickens may have written that about two cities during a national revolution, but they seem fittingly appropriate for this Tale of Two 100 Mile MTB Race Nutrition Strategies as well.
The High Cascades 100 Endurance Mountain Bike Race takes riders on a dusty tour through the vast network of Bend trails, looping all the way around Mt Bachelor and back into town. With plentiful singletrack and around 9k of vertical feet, it’s as challenging skill-wise as it is fitness. What does one put in the tank on race day to fuel through this punishingly good time? Lucky for us we had two brains to pick – who (less lucky for one of them) had vastly different nutrition stories to tell from their time on the course.
– 1 liter of water, .5 liter of Skratch Labs electrolyte drink mix, 1 sleeve of Clif Shot Bloks, 2 Picky Bars before Aid Station #2 (consumed from mile 1 – mile 43)
– 1 liter of water, .5 liter of Skratch Labs electrolyte drink mix, 1 sleeve of Skratch Labs energy chews, 2 Picky Bars before Aid Station #3 (consumed between miles 43 and 57)
– 1 quarter of PB&J sandwich, handful of potato chips, a few strips of beef jerky, one shot of pickle juice, one pickle, two calcium chews consumed at Aid Station #3 (mile 57)
– .5 liter of water consumed between Aid #3 and Aid #4 (between miles 57 and 70)
– 6 oz. of Coke, 1 quarter of PB&J sandwich, handful of M&M’s, one shot of pickle juice, 2 calcium chews, one Fig Newton consumed at Aid Station #4 (mile 70)
– .5 liter of water, one sleeve Clif Shot Bloks consumed between Aid #4 and Aid #5 (between mile 70 and 80)
– 6 oz. of Coke, 1 Fig Newton, handful of potato chips consumed at Aid #5 (mile 80)
– 1 liter of water and 1 bag of Skratch Labs energy chews consumed between Aid #5 and finish line (between mile 80 and mile 102)
– One can of Coke, 8 oz of beer, a few bites of chicken and salad
– Steak nachos, three slices of pizza, two beers @ 10 Barrel
“During the first part of the ride, I realized I had waited too long to eat. The first 15 miles or so were all climbing, so I only drank water during that time. I ate my first Picky Bar at Aid Station #1 and drank half a bottle of electrolytes. That fueled me until about mile 35 when I needed another bar. Picky Bars were exactly what I was craving early on in the day, and the texture and flavors were super appetizing and took care of my craving for peanut butter and chocolate.
[disclaimer: Ben was not professionally bullied into say this]
By mile 43 (Aid #2), it was heating up and I was starting to crave salt. I knew I had beef jerky waiting for me at mile 57, so I started to dream about pizza, chips, and beef jerky as I got closer to Aid #3.
After that point, my need for salt just kept climbing higher. A pickle and pickle juice at Aid #3 tasted incredible and quenched my need for salt. From that point on, electrolyte chews, Coke, and sugary food (Fig Newtons, M&M’s) was what I needed to simply keep me going and pedaling forward. Electrolyte drink continued to be clutch for me, as I started sweating a lot more during the heat of the day and the final climb (mile 80-90).
Crossing the finish line, I couldn’t really think about food as I had eaten so much during the race – especially sugary foods on the second half of the day – and my stomach was a bit overworked. Pizza eventually sounded amazing to me, but it took a couple hours to get my appetite back.
Next time, I would try and get more salt in my system earlier on in the day, stick with Picky Bars and less sugary foods for longer, and then rely on electrolyte chews and aid station food for the last 1/3 or 1/4 of the race.”
“The High Cascades 100 mountain bike race was my first endurance style event. I knew eating and taking care of myself over such a long race was going to be difficult and that I didn’t have much experience eating while mountain biking. I tend to ride mountain bikes for fun and that usually includes stopping for snack breaks, not eating on the go.
For shorter, more intense races (like cyclocross) I like to eat at least 3 hrs before the race start. This longer, lower-intensity effort meant more flexibility – and thank goodness because the race started at 5:30am. (Ouch!) Race morning I woke up at 3:40, drank a big cup of strong coffee and tried to get down two thick pieces of whole grain toast with almond butter and sliced banana, but only managed to get 1/2 of it down.
– 3 Picky Bars (2 Moroccan Your World, my new favorite! and 1 Cookie Doughpness)
– Small bag of Snicker bites
– 2 backs of blocks
– 2 gels
– small tool set
– a bag of M&Ms
– small cans of real sugar Pepsi
– Fishy Crackers
Even though I had done all my training with a hydration pack, I opted instead for a bottle on my bike and another in my jersey pocket. My plan was to keep one filled with water and the other sugar.
With many years of professional road racing experience, I knew I needed to start fueling early and often, but pretty much from the gun my entire fuel plan went down the drain. I didn’t feel comfortable taking my hands off the bars in the flat technical stuff or on the descents, and couldn’t get food down while breathing hard on the uphills. I managed to get 1/2 a Picky Bar down over the first 40 miles while battling between the 2nd and 4th spot. I stopped at the 40 mile Aid Station to refill and wipe the dirt from my eyes/glasses. By this point I realized fueling was going to prove much more difficult than I had anticipated. While I stood at the Aid Station wiping the dirt from my eyes, I moved from 2nd into 4th.
By this point I was firmly in race mode and was relying on brief stops at the Aid Stations for my calorie needs. My good friend met me at mile 80 for a quick sugar bottle handoff and a few welcomed M&Ms. Over the course of the day the only thing that came from my pocket was that 1/2 of a Picky Bar early on. I felt a bit nauseated and nearly cramped the last 20 miles. Both I believe to be poor self care during the event.
All and all this is what I remember eating over the course of my 10 hr / 100 mile dirt excursion:
– 1/2 Moroccan Your World Picky Bar
– 2/3 of a PB&J
– 2 small Pepsis
– a handful of potato chips
– a handful of trail mix
– a handful of M&Ms
– 1/3 of a cupcake
– 2 bottles of Gatorade / HEED
I ended up moving into 3rd late in the race and chased 2nd place down 5 minutes for the last 20+ miles, never closing the gap. The race was super fun, the support was truly fantastic and the course was beautiful, challenging and very well marked. I definitely learned how NOT to fuel during these types of races and will be much better prepared for next time!”