This is not going to be a manifesto on what your pre race and race day nutrition plan should actually look like. The key point I want to make is to make sure you are THINKING about your nutrition plan, have planned ahead and are prepared to execute it.
That said, few thoughts on nutrition in general. I will be the first to admit I am not a nutritionist, but through experience I have a fairly pragmatic philosophy and approach to the subject. I liken race nutrition planning to selecting an approach to investing money or selecting a religion, there are a lot of different answers and ideas, and a lot of different places that preach their approach trumps all. Reality is, except for the most extreme ideas, many of the core themes are the same, and many will work, it’s just what you are comfortable with and what fits you best. The one gospel for all, always use something that you have already tried and is proven for your big events! Always try something new in training first, then at a minor race before springing it at the big show.
On to the key point of this entry, thinking ahead. If you have a fancy pre-race breakfast or dinner requirement you should investigate where you are headed and ensure what you need is easily available or bring it with you. If you are a “choosey” eater, don’t cause stress for yourself or teammates by being unprepared. Same goes for race day food, you don’t need to be scrambling around trying to find Chocolate Uber Gel at the local Wally World only to find out that all they have is Strawberry Supa Gel which you have never used before. Figure out your nutrition requirements well ahead of time and make sure you have the stuff on hand to make it happen. Recognize that a race you are traveling to may not have what you are used to readily available. If unsure, bring it with you.
In addition to pre race food, for races that have a feedzone you need to think ahead on that as well. Start with the basics, where are the feedzones? Are you going to have feeders with you? Do they have neutral support? Do you know what “product” they have in the feedzone and if it will be in format you can take with you?
While aid stations are common place in running and triathlon, “neutral support” for a feedzone in bike racing can be a dubious term. I have seen cases of water stacked on the side with no one to hand them out, all the way to full on bike bottles with gels taped on them and options for water or “mix” and everything in between. It can be really variable so you need to try to get as much good info on the reality of things and be prepared for any option. If you are staffing a feedzone with friends or family, make it easy on them, make sure they know how to do it and what to expect. Even go as far as to practice a few times so they are comfortable. Don’t blame you mom if you miss your feed and you never explained to her how to work it. If you have teammates in the race and minimal feeders, I highly recommend water only in the feedzone. Everyone can regulate sugar intake based on food in their pockets, but nothing is worse than just wanting some water and getting some crazy mix that chokes you but your buddy swears by. If you can’t supply your own feeders, you need to learn to compromise. Of course another option is to pack an extra bottle or two in your pockets. Sure extra weight, but by the time the race gets really grippy you will have cycled through and again, have to compromise, weight or dehydration or bet a friend to come out in the feedzone. All for now. Next and last entry is travel and logistics. As always, comments, suggestions or questions , please post up in the comments section.