From theory to practice – a case study

Typically I use gels on the bike for race day nutrition, and I planned to follow the same strategy for Ironman New Zealand – that is until I found out a single gel was going to cost me $5. That is NZ dollars of course, but when you take into account all the fees involved to access your money from overseas, it ended up being near enough to Australian dollars. I just couldn’t force myself to part with $5 for a gel. This would equate to a $70 nutrition expense for a single race.

I could afford it, but it was the principle of the matter. I just felt that I was being ripped off and it was another race expense that would eat into any profit I would potentially make at the end of the trip.

In my infinite wisdom, I decided to use jelly babies on the bike for the race instead. Not a totally outrageous deviation from the norm when you consider I use the particular brand of jelly babies on a routine basis as training nutrition. All I had to do was figure out the jelly baby equivalent to a gel, and bob was going to be my uncle. A quick glance at the nutrition facts chart on the jelly baby packet confirmed that 7 jelly babies was equivalent to one gel. This meant I would need to consume a total of 77 jelly babies for the duration of the cycle leg.

And then the “masterstroke” – I dusted each with a palatable amount of salt to aid with fluid absorption.

The one little dilemma I had was how I was going to carry them all on race day. I decided to pop them all into a bottle, much like I do with gels and hope they would come out in  abundance when I turned the bottle up as if to take a drink. After a few dummy runs, I was sort of confident it would work out on race day.

Of course, Murphy’s law rules – at about 40 km into the cycle leg, after the constant pounding from the rough kiwi roads, the jelly babies became jammed in tight at the bottom of the bottle and refused to budge, no matter what I did. After wrestling with the bottle for 10 minutes or so without luck, I decided to go to plan B (always have a plan B) and just grab a gel from each aid station. There were 11 aid stations and I needed 11 gels in total for the duration of the ride – perfect.

Of course, Murphy’s law rules – I could only ever get caffeinated gels from the aid station volunteers. To get a benefit from caffeine, the requirement is about 3 mg per kilogram of body weight, which for me, equates to about 200 mg. If I took in too many of the caffeinated gels, there was a risk of overloading with caffeine with pretty dire consequences. After my sixth gel, I was starting to feel a little bit funny – not “ha ha” funny, but, “I don’t feel so good” funny – and it was time to go to plan C (which I didn’t really have).

Plan C involved grabbing any form of non caffeinated carbohydrate source from the remaining aid stations, and this turned out to be an electrolyte drink – which fortunately, I was able to force down.

So there you go – a perfectly executed nutrition plan.

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