So we're driving in a motorhome through the very large (yet beautiful!) state of Montana... We just stopped at a gas station and for whatever reason I felt the need to buy junk food... B/c, you know, if there's ever a time when you're justified in eating crap it's after an Ironman, right? I couldn't actually find anything that looked good and when I asked Moana what she wanted to eat she said carrots (I swear I am not making that up!) but whatever- I bought Twizzlers. When I was in college I pretty much lived on Twizzlers and was sure they we're fine to eat because they are FAT FREE. Lol. Anyway, I haven't had Twizzlers in years and actually only ate one. It was nasty. Moana, on the other hand, ate four (I was being such an uncharacteristic push-over) and then she cried out "I don't want carrots!!" Perfect.
Anyway, yesterday somebody made a comment to me about how I was lucky that I didn't have any GI upset on Sunday. This actually was the first time I've done an ironman where I did not have debilitating stomach issues. Not sure if that was just dumb luck though. I did some things differently this time around that helped my cause so I'll share them with you here...
1. I had a nutrition plan and I followed it. And I didn't pull the nutrition plan out of my ass. There was no question in my mind about what/when I would eat because I practiced it every single week in training. I don't eat a bunch of crap on my long training days and then change it up for race day. Fwiw, I fuel my training with infinit, first endurance liquid shot, gu, e21, and vespa (more on vespa in a minute). Every time in training I counted out the total calories I thought I needed and consumed them all. I knew what worked for me and just did that same thing on race day. I didn't even have to think about it.
2. I did not ride outside my fitness level on the bike. This was the first ironman where I used a heart rate monitor on the bike and it almost felt like cheating. I did not have to guess about how fast/hard I should be riding. I just put in the effort that was required to get that garmin to show me the numbers I wanted to see (or backed off as necessary). Incidentally, this was pretty much the same effort I trained at much of the time. I was passed by *so many* men on that first lap... The mood felt frantic as many of them would just POWER up those hills. I dont think this is the only thing that causes GI upset on the run, but I think it is more commonly the problem than people like to admit. No one likes to think that they went too hard on the bike, but when you see splits that show a slow down of over a mile/hour from first half to second half, well, the data doesn't lie. And then later when those same athletes puking during the marathon, it's not rocket science to figure out why. If you're putting in an effort that is outside your fitness level for hours at a time, the result just might be that your stomach shuts down.
3. A couple months ago I found a new amino acid product called Vespa and started using it. (Google Vespa Amino Acids- I can't link it from this iPad right now.) It's an all natural form of amino acid that comes from wasp extract... Tastes a bit like honey or bee propolis. It's supposed to support your body's ability to access and utilize fat for fuel. I think it's more popular among the ultra-distance running community vs triathletes right now, but after my experience with it, I think it has its place in Ironman for sure. What I notice when I use it is that I just feel totally steady... No real highs or lows... And I'm able to think more clearly which allows me to make better decisions even late in the game. For me, it has not replaced my need to fuel endurance training/racing with carbohydrates, but it has provided a bit of insurance so I don't have to eat as much, which might have also contributed to my lack of GI upset during the marathon. While I was definitely melting down some toward the end on Sunday, I don't believe it was fuel related. As much as I hate to admit this, I think it was just a combination of needing more aerobic fitness and more muscular endurance. But that's another post. Anyway, I've used vespa on all my long/key training days in the last few months as well as at Honu and CdA. I'm not going to change much about my fueling strategy this summer or at Kona. Seems like a case of the If It Ain't Broke.... Anyway, if you want more info on it, contact Peter@vespapower.com. He's been very supportive and a huge help to me when it comes to understanding how to best use it!
Anyway, getting your ironman nutrition right is a huge challenge. It took me 10 tries to finally get it right. Hopefully this info will help you get it right quicker than I did!