August 2013, I found myself standing at the edge of Pennington Flash lake near Bolton lining up with a couple of thousand other competitors, waiting for the start of Ironman UK – not only was the longest triathlon race I had ever done, a standard distance, once, I had also never run a marathon!
One of my fears about competing in an Ironman race was running out of energy. It was going to be a very long day for me. As my bike rides got longer in training, I tried out several different nutrition strategies, gels, carb drinks and real food. Sometimes I got it right and others spectacularly wrong.
On race day, I got up at 3am and had a large bowl of porridge with banana. On the journey to the swim start I sipped on Lucozade Sport and about 15 mins before the swim start had a ZipVit ZV7 energy gel.
I have to say that on the bike I was almost religious in my nutrition and drinking regime. I had borrowed another Garmin and had set up alerts to go off every 20 minutes. When the buzzer went I sipped either High Five Zero or High Five 2:1 carb drink and had a bite to eat. Even if I didn’t feel like it. I had a variety of food in my pockets; two bagels with strawberry jam and peanut butter; a couple of flapjacks and a ZipVit strawberry chocolate energy bar. I also stopped at one of the feed stations for a banana. That might sound a lot but I was out there for over 8 and a half hours.
I saved the gels for the run. I favour the High Five electrolyte gels for runs as they are easy to take and don’t need water. I had a bite to eat while in transition and then took a gel as I headed out onto the run.
There was a 16 km route to Bolton centre followed by 4 laps of 8 km of the town. I took one gel toward the end of the 16km and then one per lap plus I always had a drink at each feed station, so every 4 km.
I never ran out of steam and finished IM Bolton in 14:31 which was about 2 hours quicker than I expected.
My stomach was in turmoil after I finished though. I couldn’t face the free pizza and nothing appealed much. In the end I had a McFlurry ice cream which had absolutely no nutrition value whatsoever but hit the spot completely. These days after long training or race days I have a banana/chocolate/peanut butter milkshake sometimes with added protein powder.
NUTRITION \ WHATS NEXT:
My nutrition strategy has moved on a bit since 2013 too. I am mostly taking part in Olympic/Standard Distance triathlons this year with a view to qualifying for a GB Age Group spot in either the World Champs in 2017 or the Europeans in 2018. I did manage to qualify for a spot in the European Duathlon Champs this year which take place in Soria in April which is exciting and daunting in equal measure.