What you shouldn’t eat when you race.

Each person needs and wants particular kinds of foods when training and racing. Certainly, we can agree that we require very similar types of nutrients, but the form they take varies greatly. This post makes no attempt to provide guidance on this subject. It’s just a short story about how I learned what you should NOT eat when racing.

2008 was my first year of bike racing. It was in the discipline of cyclocross, a race that didn’t last more than an hour and where a quick gel shot and a few sips of water seemed to carry me (albeit uncomfortably panting and heart-pounding) to the finish line.

2011 was my first year of marathon distance mountain bike races. A new series of “epic races” emerged in Seattle, where I could test my mettle in 30 mile races, and then cap the season off with the final grueling race of 50 miles. Those races were a seesaw battle between bonking and cramping. I scoured labels of gel shots and electrolyte drinks to select those highest in sodium to curb inevitable muscle and mind failure. But despite those higher sodium contents, most performance foods are also sweet tasting and high in sugar, something I find unpalatable when riding hard. It is the savory I crave most when exercising. (Nothing better than salty French fries with a good beer and burger after a long days’ efforts!)

So, I turned to my local truck stop (see attached picture). Do you see them? Look closely. Closer…. Can you guess? Yep. Cheddar cheese flavored Combos. I remember eating them ravenously when I used to ice climb back east. Then why not now? I rounded out the racing buffet with some Clif Bar Roks protein balls (now discontinued, I think) and Clif Bar Shot Blocks. That was my “bento box” of goodies strapped to the top of my mountain bike for the 2011 Marathon Mountain Bike National Race in Bend, Oregon. And, the result?

The result was an insatiable thirst for water. I sipped and sipped on my Camelbak; I couldn’t get enough of it. Consequently, I was forced to stop TWO TIMES during the race to pee!!! In the end, I came in sixth place in my age group. I was over 4 minutes behind fifth place (certainly the amount of time needed to find an acceptable shrub, twice!) and 35 minutes behind 1st. Devastating.

I learned my lesson. So I focused on my riding and changed my nutrition regiment. Two years later, I was able to stand proudly on the second step of the 2013 USAC Marathon Mountain Bike Nationals in Sun Valley, ID in my age group, only 2 minutes behind first. You won’t be surprised to hear that Combos were NOT part of the nutrition plan.

(As a side note, I just went to the Combo.com website to see what’s up. Get this! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqB4QjFMfuc.  Ryan Lochte, 11 time Olympic Medalist, is peddling Combos!)

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