Dialing in your final race prep

It’s 2 days out from one of the biggest races of the year. The training has been done for a week or more, right now its just about tweaking; keeping the engine warm and the muscles prepped. Mumbo jumbo aside, the last couple days are where many rays go completely pear shaped, like my USAT Nationals last month. Lots of travel, too much riding, too little faith in the preparation. I was damn tired and no amount of eating or napping would fix it. But two days out from XTerra East, things look a bit different.

I went with a much lighter training week. You can only dial in trails so much. If you’re struggling on a section still it’ll come on race day or you’ll run it; when in doubt, dismount! I feel good there. The swim is technically challenging and affords me the best chance for a good swim because I’ve been on the course several times, including a last swim today. I feel like I’ve found my lines and hopefully will avoid the hidden boulders. But my insomnia has been dogging me again, so I’ve taken care to work in naps too.

However, one area I know best is nutrition. Sure I eat in the days before, but I just don’t obsess over carb loading. Why? Because there are tradeoffs I don’t like. Lots of carbs means more weight gain that will be used in the race, but it makes me feel bloated too. So I make an effort to eat carbs, but probably fall short of the mostly ridiculous reg’s of 8-10 g/kg/day. I’m probably 5-6 g at most. I drink lots! There’s no good reason to restrict water. Most of the erroneous data about dehydration has come from studies where researchers have pre-dehydrated athletes. The main lesson to learn? Going into an event dehydrated probably does hurt performance.

Start full and empty the tank!

Just like it says. Be fully rested, fueled, and hydrated, and empty the tank! To that end, I dial in my sweat rate and drinking during training. Discounting breakfast, here’s what my typical fuel and fluid plan looks like for a big event like this weekend:

  • Honey Stinger Chews 15 min prior to swim start – 40 g carbs + some water; if you over hydrate you can pee during the swim (hey, at least I’m honest)
  • Once I hit the first road section of the bike, I hammer hard and try to eat 1/2 a Honey Stinger bar (rocket chocolate-15 g carb) and drink from a near frozen CamelBak (did I mention staying cool?); this year I’m using Skratch Labs matcha with lemons mixed with 1 L of water and 1/2 L of black tea for extra caffeine. That’s 1.5 L and 60 g of carb.
  • I drink throughout the race, early and often. I also eat the other 1/2 of the stinger bar.
  • In the last 15-20 min of the bike, I take on 20-30 g of carb from a bottle.

Total, I aim for about 180 g of carbs during the race and drink 1.5-2 L of fluid over about 90 min. Sometimes I take in a few more calories, sometimes less. I try to drink regularly to get through my full CamelBak well before the end of the bike. While that exceeds some guidelines and maybe my own thirst, its still below my sweat rate (1.3-2 L/hr) and I don’t drink much of anything during the run. Again, this isn’t guesswork or chance, this is experimentation and experience.

All that’s left now is a good nights sleep two days out, a short pre-ride tomorrow morning (to check tires and equipment), a nap, and some good eating and drinking. Oh, and I need to pack plenty of ice; some for the CamelBak, but most for the ice sock in the run. If it all goes well I’ll still suffer, I’ll just be moving faster!


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