I am sure many of my "ultra" friends have heard the same old questions: "What's your secret?" " Do you use gel"," Do you eat French fries" " Drink coffee?" Milkshakes?" etc, etc, etc.  Unfortunately there is no single recipe for success in Ultracycling. Even if it does exist, it is likely to fail from time to time. Without a doubt the formula for success is different from person to person, but I will outline what works for me most ( but not all ) of the time. 

Despite all the physical and mental training one has to go through, you still need the supply of ample calories to propel the bike. More than muscle bulk, slow/ fast twitch fiber ratio, " heart", etc. a cooperating stomach is the single most important factor in successfully completing an ultra event. This can not be emphasized enough. Stomach problems usually herald disaster, witness all  failed Furnace Creek 508 accounts.
In order to process the 500-700 calories required for a sustained Ultra event, the stomach has to work overtime. Anything which interferes with this process  is to be avoided. Fats, protein and carbohydrates decrease gastric motility in decreasing order. Fats are therefore to be avoided except, possibly, several days into an event such as RAAM, when your stomach has had the chance to settle down and you need the extra calories fat can provide. Gastric distention is the other major impediment to proper gastric emptying. The more distended the stomach gets ( the more bloated one feels ) the less the stomach is able to contract and expel/propel its contents. To avoid this, I use gels ( lots of calories in small volumes ) and limit fluid intake to the bare minimum. This has the additional benefit of avoiding  hyponatrimia ( overhydration ) and  decreasing the number of " pit stops".
My drink of preference is E caps  Energy Surge or Sustained Energy, as it is now called. Three scoops with ( lots of ) ice and water in a small water bottle result in 330 cals of mostly carbohydrates with some protein. I drink this ice cold in about 15-20 minutes , then let my stomach settle with gels, such as Hammergel, for another 300 cals while taking tiny sips of water. When I feel my stomach swell, I stay off  the fluids completely. Lately I have been successful alternating this with regular Coca Cola mixed with lots of ice and liquid yogurts ( Glen Oaks is my favorite ) again mixed with lots of ice. Cold drinks seem to  promote gastric and small bowel motility. Whenever I feel like it , I eat energy bars. Preferably protein rich, such as prefer PROMAX bars ( "cookies and cream" and raspberry flavors for their softness and taste ) with 20 grams of protein and 290 calories for less than a dollar at Trader Joe's. Other favorites are Steelbars, Cliff bars and Met-Rx bars. The latter are somewhat too sweet for my taste and too sticky when it gets hot, but you can't beat them for the whopping amount of calories. For fruits I prefer cantaloupe, water melon and the old banana.
When nausea sets in crackers and, if you have enough saliva,  bread are the traditional remedies. Personally I think it is better just to throw up and start over again with tiny amounts of fluid ( preferably plain old water ) and gel. I recall RAAM 1997 when I spent my first sleep break in pure misery trying ( ultimately unsuccessfully ) to keep it all in. After throwing up at least a gallon, I felt like a new person ready to give it my best. It took my stomach the rest of the day to settle, with  sips of water and gel.
I am ambivalent about supplements. They tend to be very expensive. I am concerned about free radicals and therefore use Vitamin E and C, multi-vitamins etc. I use off /on Chondroitin and Glucosamine. Co-enzyme Q10. Melatonin, another strong anti-oxidant. Now and then Iron supplements. For RAAM 2001 I will be using E-caps supplements. My team mate Bill Maida is quite happy with their products. I have followed Hugh Murphy's advice to use TUMS ( lots of calcium ) to help prevent muscle cramps. I am not sure if this is really helpful, but as with a lot of the other products, their use does not hurt and  I am apprehensive to change my "winning" regimen.
Some personal Do's and Don'ts:
  • Don't stuff yourself the night before with pasta and the usual ( read: cheap ) food which is provided by the race organizers ( often some volunteer organization which does not have a clue how to feed an Ultra cyclist ). Of course there are always exceptions. When crewing for Danny Chew in RAAM 2000, I saw Danny eat half a cheese cake  without ill effects the next day.
  • Do start your "race diet" well before the race.
  • Do eat a lot before the start and allow enough time for digestion.
  • Do try to keep a calorie count during the race. 500-700 calories/hr are necessary, at least for me, to avoid the dreaded "bonk". 
  • Don't follow the Mantra: drink, drink and drink some more. Instead don't force fluids on yourself and just check the color of your urine ( the white line on the road is a good background ) and you will be amazed how little  it takes to keep the urine light yellow.
  • Do make sure you take in enough Sodium ( Na ), rather than Potassium ( K ). I use salt tablets.
  • Do give in to your "cravings".   Often this is nature's way of telling you, that you need certain nutrients.

Good Luck !









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