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My world-beating race nutrition strategy & tips for Mooloolaba Triathlon race nutrition
By Richard Thompson
Triathlon can be an incredibly complex sport with so many different elements affecting an athlete’s race-day performance. Elements such as preparation and managing injury spring to mind, amongst others.
At T:Zero Multisport, we do everything possible to get you to the race in your best possible shape. But once you arrive at the start line, you can’t possibly get any fitter. Only three things can impact the outcome of the day for any athlete:
Nutrition is something we certainly hold dear to us at T:Zero Multisport. Head Coach and Co-Founder Scotty Farrell is a qualified nutritionist and I was so grateful to have him in my corner for the Ultraman World Championships, particularly when it came to developing a plan of attack for my race-day nutrition. Further, having such a wonderfully long-standing relationship with CLIF Bar Australia, it wasn’t difficult to find the right nutrition within their extensive range to suit the plan that Scotty had developed for me. Indeed, their help enabled me to live my potential in Hawaii last November.
Fuelling during an Ultraman is different to a standard Olympic distance triathlon in that you have the opportunity to fuel during the swim with the assistance of an escort in a kayak paddling next to you and further, there is no run off either portion of the bike leg; the result being that you can afford to eat heavily in the backend of the ride knowing that you won’t be running until the Day 3 double marathon. For Ultraman, our fuelling plan was based on grams of carbohydrate per hour.
SWIM – DAY 1 (10km)
In the swim, our plan of attack was to hit roughly 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Following the adage that one should consume small amounts often as opposed to a large amount at once, I was aiming to fuel myself with 15 grams of carbohydrate every 15 minutes (versus having one big hit of 60 grams at the one-hour mark). There are obvious benefits to this, most notably not overloading the stomach when you want your blood to be directed to other parts of the body as opposed to your digestive system only.
Obviously, it’s pretty difficult to chew under water and I didn’t want to stop swimming completely so the Citrus CLIF Shot Energy Gel (with 25mg caffeine) was my go-to here. To prepare, I squeezed the required amount into a drink bottle and added water, shaking it up until it became one consistent liquid. I then marked the bottle, indicating where I’d need to drink to for each 15-minute increment. This had worked perfectly for Ultraman Australia where we broke the world record and again worked well in Hawaii at the World Championships.
BIKE – DAY 1 (145km)
Both Day 1 and Day 2 were very similar in that we were trying to hit 80 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Again, I was aiming to digest something every 5 to 10 minutes, following the principle that consuming carbohydrates when your body is working hard is a lot easier when they’re ingested in small increments as opposed to one large hit.
I managed to execute my bike nutrition plan with precision on Day 1, consuming only the CLIF Bloks in Mountain Berry, Strawberry and Margarita (extra sodium boost) flavours, aiming to take-in 1.5 packets per hour (roughly).
Once I crossed the finish line on Day 1, I went straight into recovery on the wind trainer to ensure I cooled down effectively, not dissimilar to how professional cyclists warm down during the big cycling tours. I also immediately consumed both carbohydrates and protein in the form of CLIF Bar’s greatest flavour of all time – Chocolate Almond Fudge.
BIKE – DAY 2 (275km)
We always knew Day 2 on the bike was going to be a long day, and during the first half of the ride my heart rate and effort was going to be much more controlled than in the back half. Therefore, whilst we were trying to maintain 75 to 80 grams of carbohydrate per hour, we were happy to consume some more solid food in the first hour of the day. This constituted a combination of CLIF Bars and the ever-trusty vegemite sandwich. Once I began climbing up the volcano (a 40km climb), I diverted to my Day 1 method of 1.5 packets of CLIF Bloks per hour. This continued until the latter stages of the day, whereby – for a complete variation - I changed to a bottle of diluted CLIF Shot Energy Gels.
This strategy and well-paced nutrition plan not only allowed me to feel full of energy but also maximised my ability on the bike without having sluggish side-effects at any point in time.
In the final 40 kilometres of the bike leg, I managed to average 303 watts; and this was after 7.5 hours of hard riding. I attribute a lot of this to both a well-developed nutrition plan and high quality nutrition products that complemented it perfectly.
RUN – DAY 3 (84.4km)
A much more difficult prospect came in the form of the double marathon run from Hawi to Kona (point to point) on Day 3. Again, the plan of attack was to hit 70 to 75 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Throughout the day I relied solely upon CLIF Bloks, moving to Coke only in the latter stages of the run.
Often, it’s not until the run leg that we as athletes get “found-out” on a nutrition level. On the bike, it’s generally always too early to know whether or not you’ve paced your nutrition well. Too much nutrition and you’re going to feel bloated as you head off out of T2, but too little and you’re going to feel lightheaded and despondent. Whenever I feel that my mind is turning negative on the run, my first thought is to my nutrition. In my experience, the mind turning against you is the first trigger that you may need more fuel and it’s a good reminder to ask yourself how well you’re fuelling at that current moment in time.
My race at the Ultraman World Championships was executed with precision by my entire team and we were thrilled to cross that finish line in first place, in such a great state. While I couldn’t walk properly for a few days following, at no point in the race did I feel like I had a carbohydrate deficit or surplus. We planned and implemented our nutrition strategy to perfection and I am so thankful to CLIF Bar Australia for helping me perform at my peak.
Nutrition Tips for Mooloolaba Triathlon
As always, when it comes to nutrition the overall principle is: do not try anything new on race day. Practice makes perfect so keep testing your nutrition and honing your plan until you’re 100% confident it’s right for you; then you won’t go wrong.
T:Zero Multisport wishes everyone all the best for their training. Stay safe, and have a wonderful race at Mooloolaba.
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