I originally started running marathons and to be honest I didn’t really put a lot of emphasis on nutrition, it does sound completely mental however bar having porridge for my breakfast, race nutrition consisted of having a chocolate eclair sweet every 4 miles during a marathon.
If I am honest that has changed and I knew I had to change that approach for triathlons, I couldn’t keep my level at an optimum level without the correct nutrition. With nutrition there is one rule I have stuck to, practise it during and don’t do something different on race day, you don’t want stomach cramps or having to run and find a toilet because you have changed something on race day which can spell the end to a race or worse a potential personal best.
During my last olympic triathlon in Belfast, a time of 2hrs 26 mins I followed the following on race day:
- Early morning breakfast at 6am (I was in the water at 9am) of porridge with skimmed milk, some raisins, a banana and two spoonfuls of honey. I have a cup of tea with this to help the system process.
- Prior to the swim and while putting my bike in transition (about 8-8:15am) I slowly eat a High 5 energy bar. I have used these before an know they agree with my stomach. It is purely some additional energy before getting in the water.
- As I put my bike in transition I put in a water bottle filled with SIS Energy/Carbohydrate powder. I will slowly consume this on the bike, I also place two SIS orange gels in my bicycle helmet to consume on the bike, and I will come to this next.
- After the swim I exit transition and straight on the bike and put my two gels in my back pocket. Almost immediately after getting on the bike I take a gel and every 5-10 minutes take a drink of the energy/carbohydrate drink in my water bottle, realistically every 10 minutes. About 10 minutes from the end of the bike, I take my final gel to ensure the energy has worked its way in to the system before the run.
- As I exit transition from the bike I take the water bottle with me and take a couple of final drinks running out of transition and then ditch the bottle.
- During the run I usually don’t take anything additional, just the odd sip of water or throw some water over my head to cool myself down.
During the 70.3 Ironman this didn’t change an awful lot:
- As per the Olympic, bowl of porridge a couple of hours before entering the swim. I was in the water at 7am for the Ironman so I had my porridge at 5am, with a cup of tea and some honey and raisins.
- I slowly ate the energy bar while checking my bike in transition, the only thing changed from olympic was an additional gel, energy bar and a soreen banana bread.
- Once I got on the bike, I immediately took a gel and then took a gel at 25 and 45 miles. At 20 miles I ate the energy bar and 50 took the banana bread.
- I didn’t take a carbohydrate/energy drink on the bike, instead two bottles with electrolyte tablets in the water.
- While on the run, I didn’t take anything additional bar a small sip of water and using the water to cool myself down by simply throwing it over my head.
With anything practise is the key, practise the gels, energy bars and drinks in training and on the bike. Brick sessions are perfect to train this as you experience what it is like to run having consumed an energy bar, drink, or gel. Energy bars/gels don’t cause me an upset stomach while swimming or cycling but it can while I am running hence brick sessions have been perfect to practise. Find what works and don’t change it for race day!