by Jon (Mace) Mason, Head Coach MPMultisport
Long-Course Race Execution: All about Pacing and Nutrition
We’ve all witnessed the athlete that posts every workout on social media for months before their big Ironman. Epic days in the saddle over 140 miles, double and triple bricks taking up the entire weekend, runs that would make Alberto Salazar drool. They approach the starting line looking like a Greek god, lean, strong, and ready to take on the world. 14 hours later they have been limited to the “Ironman Shuffle”, hours from their goal just happy to finish. What happened?
Introducing the 4th and 5th disciplines: Pacing and Nutrition (not in any particular order)
Pacing or racing at a percentage of your threshold Heart Rate, Functional Threshold of Power (FTP), or pace/speed is absolutely imperative to crossing the finish line near the potential of your ability. If you don’t have a specific number in your head for the Bike and the Run as you read this it’s time to get evaluated. You can ask any qualified coach or sports science institute to have your threshold tested and determined on the bike and run via Lactate Threshold (LT) testing or as simple as a testing protocol on the trainer or treadmill. Besides LT testing, we have found great success nailing an athlete’s threshold level using the Wahoo Kickr™ trainers for the bike and a treadmill or the track for the run. Your threshold level will also change as your progress in your training so they need to be reevaluated at least every 6 weeks. Your pacing plan could be somewhere in the range of 75-88% of threshold for full-distance and 78-90% for half-distance but very individualized based on past race performance, training, and your discipline strengths.
With nutrition, there is no magic ingredient or formula for everyone attempting a long-course race. Most of us get in the habit of reading Elite athlete blogs or a race report from somebody that just punched their ticket to Kona and adapt to their plan of number of calories, carbs, electrolytes, and funky colored stuff in the water bottle. It is highly individual based on your body type, physiologically how your body processes and absorbs nutrients, race experience, training, and race day weather. What your coach or nutritionist should do is give you guidance to practice months out in the same environment of your race to develop a nutrition plan as important as a race plan and pacing plan.
- Avoid the gut rot of gels and chewables as much as possible by consuming solid “real” foods at least the first 75% of the bike. If you wouldn’t eat this stuff on a normal day in the office, why would you eat it during your most important race? My favorites are energy balls, pancake sandwiches, broth, and portables.
- Don’t forget liquids. Roughly one bottle of hydration (preferably electrolytes) per hour, more if the weather is hot or if you have a large stature or heavy sweater.
- Percentage of calories, carbs, and nutrients from liquids increases as you approach the run leg due to GI distress experienced by most athletes
- Percentages from liquids increase as weather heats up. Your body absorbs and processes slower as temperature increases.
- Aim for 200-600 calories, 30-50g Carbs, 500-1000mg of Na PER HOUR from solid and liquid on the bike.
- On the run, highly individual to what you can get in. The numbers above are reduced to the lower range. Keep the nutrition plan together as long as you can, be flexible and listen to your body. Sometimes Coca-Cola or a Red Bull is heaven’s nectar!
Original blog post here