In 2015, I decided that it was time for me to step back into the world of Triathlon, after a string of good results in my early twenties I quit the sport, gave it up, jacked it in.
I was done.
But after over 2 years of doing nothing, I figured the way to get motivated again, was to just enter an Ironman. Ironman Sweden; it was.
I had forgotten everything I knew and was starting again from scratch, so many lessons to be re-learned including how to avoid the dreaded “bonk” which I failed to remember on more than one occasion. After a few months of training I started to see my old form come back and realised that a possible PB was on the cards if I could hold it together and train consistently, obviously nutrition was to play a huge part in this!
I figured out my “Pre-race strategy” back in 2012 and it has hardly ever changed since. Back then, I would cut out all things red meat with a week to go, no chicken or white meat with 5 days to go and then no fish for the last 3 days. All food would be High GI for the last 3 days and water and salt intake would go up. However, in the last 6 months I have stopped eating meat altogether, so not much had to change in my final few days prep, I continued to eat a carbohydrate heavy diet and just swapped my “brown foods” for “white foods” to ensure there was nothing sitting in my gut come race day. I also very rarely drink caffeinated drinks to ensure the caffeine I use on race day has the desired effect. Every day for the final week I will have Electrolytes in my water, there is varied research on this but I know it makes me feel good, and 90% of the battle with endurance sports is to find out what makes YOU feel good.
The morning of the event is always the same for me, Rice pudding as soon as I wake up, and then move on to a Powerbar energy bar, I will have a bottle of energy drink to sip through the morning until the race starts also. 40 minutes before getting in the water I will take a pack of GU Chews and as I enter the water a double caffeinated GU gel will be the last thing I take in.
I'm always a worrier so I get to the event really early to ensure everything is ready to go, this gives me ample opportunity to fix any issues early, then go sit down with a coffee before zipping up the wet-suit.
My fuelling strategy hasn’t changed much over the last few years, as I mentioned, once you find something that works, stick with it.
On the bike I will consume energy every 20 minutes, and over the course of the hour I will have 1 gel, 2/3rds of a Powerbar energy bar and a mouthful of Super concentrated energy drink. This will give me around 350 calories and about 75g of carbohydrate. I always aim to get in as many calories as possible on the bike because I know I can't take in as much when running so try to build the stores up.
When on to the run I will take a gel every 30 minutes for at least the first 2 hours and then reduce the time between gels if needed for the back end of the marathon. Generally I will stick to drinking water on the bike and the run but later in the marathon the odd cup of coke goes down very well.
So over the course of the whole day I will go through around 11 gels, 5 bars of Powerbar Energize, 7 scoops of Cytomax energy drink and about 3 packs of Gu Chews. Looking back it's no wonder I can never sleep the night after the race!
My race plan was simple.
Find some good feet in the swim and remain comfortable, Aiming to swim around 65 minutes for the 3800m, I managed a good swim and came out in 60 minutes, 5 mins ahead of schedule already.
On to the bike; I race with a power metre so the plan was simply to stick to 215 watts and focus on the nutrition strategy to ensure I had the legs to run. 182 km completed in 5 hours and 26 seconds at an average speed of 36.4kmph.
On to the run; I knew I was in form to run a 3.20 marathon off the back of the swim and bike, my running isn’t where it was before I took the 2 year break (circa 76 minute Half marathon) but with 3 months of running back in the legs I was happy with where I was.
Unfortunately, I made a slight cock up on the bike in that I didn’t calibrate the Power metre, meaning the numbers I were seeing on the screen were not correct and led to me pushing a little too hard in the first 2 hours of the bike, and in a race that spans 10 hours, this will always come back to bite you in the ass.
So I ended up having to settle for a 3.34 marathon, not what I was capable of but am happy enough with considering how badly it could have gone after 2 hours of high effort early on. Without a strong nutrition plan, there was no way I would have even gotten to this point, let alone held it together for an ok result.
I finished the race in 9.45.45 placing me 134th out of just over 2500 finishers, which was my fastest time by 13 minutes.
This race could have gone better, but it could have also gone much MUCH worse, a proper nutrition strategy is the key to any endurance feat and without it, you can kiss goodbye to any sort of performance, the only way I got away with working too hard on the bike was by knowing what nutrition my body can cope with on the run.
POST RACE NUTRITION
At the finish line I stuffed my face with potato, vegetables and fruits, I am not one for keeping myself in check too much after a race, for sure I know it aids recovery much better but I like to treat myself.
The evening of the race I indulged in a halloumi burger and chips.
My diet is often very clean so going back to normal eating after this is easy enough and I find I can be pretty much recovered from a race like this within about a week.