OK. So here is a little math problem for you to ponder. (I promise the math will be simple, and quick!) A 100 mile road bike ride will take me about 5:30 to complete. Let’s just take that as a round estimate, since not all century bike rides are created equal. Some will be faster, and some will be slower. But if you are riding with me budgeting time 5:30 is a good number for you to keep in mind.
If you start biking in the morning (I am a morning person, but again the math works equally as well if you are not) you would probably have a nice big breakfast to power you through the day. So for the sake of my little story problem you eat at 7am and leave for your bike ride. (OK here comes the math) That means you will finish at 12:30pm. What did you miss during your bike ride? Probably a bunch of things, but the important thing here is you likely went past lunch time.
Why is this important? Well for a biker food is fuel. And what this post is really about is the importance of eating while doing long bike rides. The problem of eating becomes compounded when you ride a race (presumably you are biking harder when you race since you want to go fast and don’t care about the beautiful scenery, or dropping your friends who are riding with you), and becomes even more compounded when the race is REALLY REALLY long (say 100 miles on a mountain bike over really big mountains that will take you about, oh, 10:19 to finish). You just cannot get enough calories on board to be able to ride that long without going into deficit. (Aside: you probably could eat a HUGE breakfast and consume those calories, but I would drop you like a bad habit, even on a friendly ride, while you are rolling on the ground puking your HUGE breakfast up shortly after we start. Its not a good idea is what I am saying.)
Its important to eat while you are biking long distances. That awesome breakfast you had is not going to be enough to finish quickly or may bring on the dreaded BONK. (Pst. if you don’t know what bonking is read that last link, it will tell you, then search for “bonk” on Fatty’s blog and see how many hits you get. You will get the idea. Its a problem.)
This past weekend I rode in the LiveStrong Philly Challenge. In my last post about the Importance of Riding With Friends you will eventually come to the last line in which I declare then when the gun went off I rode hard (just to see how hard I could ride). OK. It wasn’t a race, but hey that’s me and my friends expect me to do that. I had a plan for this ride. An experiment lets say to see what would happen if I followed “The Plan”.
The Plan? Well I was going to eat every 30 minutes regardless of if I was hungry at that time. Honey stinger waffles and gells, PBJ, oranges whatever. The Plan is important, nay crucial, in being able to finish Leadville next year and I wanted to see how my body would react. And because I had ridden LS Philly twice before I had a reference on how well I was doing. (This is especially true since I went very very hard last year.) I was also following The Plan because I was pretty sure I had faded when I rode the Willminton Whiteface Qualifier this year due to lack of food.
For reference here is the course profile for the Philly ride.
That’s about 9000 ft of climbing in 100 miles. I think it qualifies the ride as a “hilly” ride.
So off I went. Every 30 minutes down went a honey stinger. I stopped at 3 rest stops and had PBJ, oranges, and jelly beans.
I finished feeling strong (not as strong as when I left, but strong enough to keep riding for a long long way). On all but 1 of the climbs I was faster this year than I was last year. And on the one climb where I was not faster I was only 10 seconds slower. I ended up finishing with a 18.2 mph average where last year I was at 17.6. And I finished 15 minutes quicker (which is really a lot more since last years course was 5 miles shorter).
Bam! Success! The Plan is a good one and will work for me.
There is an addendum to this story. A cautionary tale if you want to follow “The Plan”. A, umm, side effect to eating like this while you are riding. When I finished I went to the hospitality tent to have some “real” food. One bite and I realized that was NOT going to happen. And by “happen” I really mean “stay down”. I had really put a strain on my internal system and real solid food was not an option at that point. I stopped at a Wa Wa on the way back to the hotel (umm, Wa Wa hot dogs, ohhhhh…..Nope not an option) and picked up a quart of chocolate milk. That worked. A little while later some yummy apple pie in the room (thanks Jenni!). Then when dinner came (4 hours later) so did my ability to eat normal food (yeah Philly Steak Sandwich and cheese fries!).