My race start for the Toronto Triathlon Festival Sunday, July 13th, 2014 was 7:18 a.m. Breakfast needed to be at least 2 hours ahead of this start time, if not more optimally 4 hours. Since this is a “B” race, a not so important racing event, I decided to settle with about 2 hours and a half as I refused to wake up any earlier than 4:15 a.m.
The reason for having breakfast so early before an event is:
- to avoid gastrointestinal distress
- reduce blood flow distraction away from the muscles
- allow enough time for the food to exit the stomach completely
So, why not just skip breakfast and opt to eat a bar or a gel? The 2-300 calories of energy from the bar or gel would not be enough sustainable energy for a 2 hour plus event like an Olympic Triathlon. According to Matt Fitzgerald, endurance athlete nutrition expert and author of the book Racing Weight, an athlete engaging in an exercise session or strenuous event over two hours should ingest at least 100 grams of carbohydrate 2-4 hours before the event. This is why I added the extra chocolate chips and dried fig to my complete breakfast, pictured above.
When piling up your pre-race breakfast plate:
- it doesn’t matter if the carbs are low-glycemic or high
- studies have proven this
- high-quality carbs are however a better choice; focus on choices that will help you continue to be lean for peak performance, such as the GoGo Quinoa Hot Cereal
As for hydration, during the event, water is your most important form although several studies have shown that carbs + protein mixed with water will help the endurance athlete sustain a higher given intensity over a long period of time. Protein delays fatigue along with carbs by reducing muscle damage. Protein also signals the brain to reduce the release of cortisol, the “stress” hormone. The protein and carb drink duo also promotes new protein synthesis during the workout and as such regular use of such a drink during exercise will preserve muscle mass and thus further promote a lean body composition.
That said, I dutifully prepared my ActivFuel+, which has 5.6 grams of protein + 8.5 grams of carbs (including beets) per 20.4 gram serving, along with the electrolytes sodium, potassium and magnesium, plus taurine, creatine, Appleboost, Rhodiola, and Vitamin B1 (which have been formulated to help with not only just endurance, but to assist with boosting strength and speed). I prepared 500 ml for my Specialized Shiv Fuselage and another 500 ml for my Assos bottle that will go on my down tube bottle holder and an additional 500 ml which I will sip on all morning before the event. This will be more than enough liquid for this distance. To learn more about the formula in ActivFuel+:
I will do my best to only drink when thirsty during the race. Matt Fitzgerald has stated this the best route to go in his book. I will also heed the advice from my coach, Erik Seedhouse of Triathlon Pro and author of Triathlon: The Hard Way, who tells me that most of us drink way too much while out there racing anyway and it is Erik who always reminds me of the days when Gatorade didn’t event exist. Folks still ran marathons and ultra-endurance events and all they had was water and maybe some salty pretzels or quick noodle soup to help replace their electrolytes.
I had made a last minute trip to Sporting Life (by far one of the best all-around sport shops in the city of Toronto) to get some Hammer Bars as they are my favourite most natural gluten-free race day bar. While up there at Yonge and Eglinton I stopped at Noah’s (our local Toronto health food store chain) to get some salmon for my pre-race meal, some bottled water and a snack, which ended up being a small serving size of chocolate Blue Diamond almond milk. At Noah’s, I stumbled upon this great PH 9.5 balanced water called Vortex 9.5 and since it was reasonably priced at $1.99 this was the bottled water I chose to bring home with me. Having a higher PH can help to balance inflammation in the body among other things, so I figure I’d give Vortex 9.5 a try.
I duct taped one half of a Cashew Chocolate Hammer Bar to the top tube of my bike along with one Roctane Chocolate Raspberry GU Brand Gel. Roctane’s are separated from the regular GU gels as they have significantly higher concentrations of amino acids and citrates, plus a new amino acid complex Ornithine Alpha-Ketaglutarate (OKG) “that mitigates the energy-sapping effects of lactic-acid build-up, produces energy more efficiently, improves recovery through a decrease in exercise-induced muscle damage and maintain mental focus through delayed onset of fatigue signals from the central nervous system” (http://www.guenergy.co.uk/products/gu-roctane/ingredients-benefits_learn-the-science).
This again is more than enough fuel for the Olympic Triathlon, but I always bring a little extra just in case.
As I prepared my race belt, along with my lucky number 7-20 I attached one Roctane to the belt, along with an old container of Hammer Fizz, in which I put two MetaSalt Thermolyte capsules. My judgement here is that race day is supposed to be fairly humid with a real temperature feel of about 30 degrees Celsius and the salt capsules may just come in handy to reduce cramping on the run.
By around 9 p.m. I was feeling pretty relaxed and tired from a long day of running around so I didn’t need anything else to unwind me besides a Tazo Calm tea while preparing my gear followed by my magnesium citrate + glutamine bedtime drink, which I take regularly anyway. I added 10 ml of valerian root to the mix just to make sure I get to sleep right way and sleep straight through the night. Matt Fitzgerald does recommend magnesium supplementation in his book as it helps to relax the muscles and is one of the main minerals we tend to deplete with a lot of exercise and exertion. The valerian root is an herb that relaxes the nerves that I chose to use on my own demise, but I recommend before you try it, talk to your allopathic doctor and/or naturopathic doctor to make sure a: if it does not contradict with anything else you are taking and b: if it is really a good herb for you and your healthy composition.
The week leading up to your race is also equally as important as the night before so be sure to eat some additional sodium and citrus combinations as it has been said to be beneficial. Can you think of a better week to have chips and salsa? I had half a bag of Neal Brother Blue Corn Chips with President’s Choice Green Tomatillo Salsa between Thursday and Friday and the other half after the pre-race swim around noon today. Magnesium Citrate before bed during race week if not every night during hard training (as mentioned above) is great for replacing the depleted magnesium we lose from regular training and it also helps us sleep better while relaxing our muscles. On a side note, chocolate has a good amount of magnesium 🙂 But, I don’t recommend it before bed due to its theobromine content, which is a nervous system stimulant that may keep you up at night.
In the final 48 hours before your race, I recommend you reduce your roughage. Cooked vegetables are best favouring the starchier ones like carrots, squash, rutabaga and potatoes. Pictured below is my pre-race favourite:
This article is past tense, so you will see in my next article “Toronto Triathlon Festival Race Report 2014” that I did achieve a personal best time for the Olympic Distance of 2:31:29 which got me 3rd Place in my age category and 19th female racer of the day overall for the Olympic Triathlon Event. Pictured on the right, I am in the middle. I came back with a full 500 ml of Activ Fuel+, the half-Hammer Bar and the extra gel on my run belt. The breakfast seemed to hold up on its own really well, minus some belching during the swim. I may need to get up a little earlier and/or trim the morning meal back a bit in the future.
With regard to yourself, practice makes perfect. I recommend practicing your fueling and race-prep in race-simulation training sessions. Eventually, you’ll narrow down what works best for you and your body during race week and on race day. I have heard some pretty bizarre pre-race meals that have won some folks many events, so just roll with it and do the best you can with what have always! At the end of the day just remember to:
“K.I.S.S. Keep it simple stupid.”
Meaning, some of the things in this blog post may be useful for you, some may not. Take what you need and toss the rest. Feel free to fire me any questions you may have to firstname.lastname@example.org
“A healthy, active body promotes an active, healthy mind. Exercise IS medicine and YOU are only as strong as your weakest link.”
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