Self-reliant racing

After a year of no “in real life” racing, we’re thrilled to be back out on the racecourse! However, we’re not entirely back to life as we know it out on the racecourse. We’re distancing more in transition, staggering and spacing out the start, and revamping the aid stations. Gone are the days of sticking your head into a communal barrel full of ice water. Gone is the ability to grab a fistful of pretzels from a sheet pan on the aid station table or an orange slice out of the sticky hand of a 12-year-old who has been high-fiving everyone on the course (some changes are more welcome than others!). So, how can we best address our nutritional needs out there on race day? Nutrition is called the 4th discipline for a reason; fueling your race matters! Long course triathlon has been called an eating contest that takes place while exercising. So, how can we best address our nutritional needs out there on race day, in a new world, where we need to be more self-sufficient than we ever have?

Let’s take a look at a few considerations:

  • What are your needs?
  • What are the aid stations going to look like?
  • What adaptations are you going to need to make to meet your needs?

What are your needs?

You sweat, you burn carbohydrates, and you lose electrolytes (sodium being the key player). Hopefully, you’ve been paying attention to what you are putting in and how you are feeling after. Write down what you take in per hour on the bike and the run. You should see a fluid target close to matching your sweat rate, a carbohydrate target that is between 60g-90g/hour, and it should include a number of key electrolytes, particularly sodium in the ballpark of 600-800+mg/hour. If you’ve been nailing this, jump down to the aid station info. If you haven’t, you can easily perform your sweat rate “test” this week and use our sweat rate calculator to get an idea of how many fluid ounces you sweat per hour. The goal isn’t necessarily to replace 100% of your sweat loss, but you do want to try to limit the losses to near 2% of total body weight, with a particular focus on being hydrated coming off of the bike to set up for the run. All of this can be dialed in with individualized testing, but with just over a week before racing, tweaking what has been working for you so it works as well as possible is the goal.

What are the aid stations going to look like?

Sun Multisport’s Covid-19 protocols state the bike aid stations will offer bottles of Gatorade Endurance or Poland Spring water. “For athletes in need of additional hydration, there will be bottle exchange stations near miles 12, 27, and 49 on the course where athletes will have an opportunity to get a Poland Springs water bottle or a bottle of Gatorade Endurance. If you want a bottle, volunteers wearing masks and gloves will jog alongside you, holding the bottle from the bottom/base for athletes to grab at the center.”

Run aid stations will be limited and will be self-service. “There will be 6 aid stations on the run course for athletes requiring additional hydration or nutrition. Aid station volunteers will be required to wear masks when unable to maintain 6′ of social distancing. Each aid station will have 2 tables: Table 1 will offer 8 oz. bottles of water and Gatorade for athletes to grab as they come upon the aid station. Cups with ice and energy gels will also be available at these tables. 

To minimize person-to-person contact and in the interest of social distancing, volunteers will not hand these supplies to athletes – athletes must take them from the table on their own. Garbage cans will be available approximately 0.5 miles after the aid station for athletes to discard any bottles or trash. LITTERING ON THE COURSE IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED. o Table 2 will have water in jugs and Gatorade in coolers for athletes who want to refuel their personal hydration carrier. Athletes that stop at Table 2 will have their carriers re-filled by volunteers with jugs of water or working a Gatorade dispenser. Volunteers will wear masks and gloves. ATHLETES ARE PROHIBITED FROM TOUCHING THE WATER JUGS OR GATORADE DISPENSERS”

You are not going to have the personalized catering that has been possible in the past. Therefore, you need to have a plan for how you will meet your needs while you are racing.

What adaptations are you going to need to make to meet your needs?

Take that list you made above, the one where you wrote out your fluid, fuel, and electrolytes needs for each hour. Now, add how you are going to carry it all. 

On the bike, how many bottle cages do you have? Which aid station will you put your mask up for and slow down to take a bottle from a volunteer? How are you going to manage your personal comfort with that contact? How are you carrying your carbohydrate calories? Are you wearing a jersey with enough pocket room? Are you going to add a waist belt? Do you have a top tube pouch to hold gels or blocks or your choice of snacks? 

Think through your bike nutrition carrying plan. If you haven’t been practicing it precisely this way, do so, especially for your last long ride this weekend. What may seem like a very reasonable prospect may become an absolute nightmare after a few miles. Practice, practice, practice. 

On the run, how are you going to carry what you need? Camelback? Carry a water bottle? Use a bottle carry backpack with pockets? Waist belt? Rely on your race kit pockets? Every run between now and race day, practice exactly that setup you are considering. You may be thinking it a bit silly to practice carrying a bottle or wearing a race belt. “Of course that will work,” you may be telling yourself. However, shit goes sideways on race day – Murphy is always there with his law – have a plan B for when it does.  

Racing in a post-pandemic era is a pretty special gift. So many of us say we race triathlon for the community and to test our limits. This move towards a more self-sufficient race support plan makes that test a little more our own, and it’s totally manageable with some planning and a bit of practice. The community part? That’s going to be the sweetest part of the return to racing. We’ve missed you and can’t wait to see you out there soon!

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