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Executing your first 24 solo, part 1 (nutrition)

A long time racing bud, Yuri, shot me an email the other day with a great set of questions on how to make his first 24 hour solo mountain bike race attempt a success.  It seemed like a great thing to share here…so here we go.  Don’t worry Yuri, I’ll send you a few top secret details off-line 🙂

First of all, Yuri has been racing a long time at a very high level.  He’s already a hammer, and that’s a great place from which to launch your first 24 hour attempt.  The following responses are geared towards a rider who is already fit, fast, and has a good bit of racing under their belt.

Yuri: First of all, I’ve only done a 24 hour event as part of a four man team, so I’ve never suffered for 24 hours straight by myself and I’m wondering if you have any nutritional secrets that will help me out? What is your favorite/most effective replenishing food? How were you feeding…did you take it on the run, or did you stop?

Dave: Do I have secrets…hell yea!  I’m a blabber mouth though, so here we go.

Support: You didn’t ask about this…but your support at a 24 solo is the single largest factor for consideration.  My teammate Lynda did her first 24 totally unsupported (the sicko finished 3rd), and for her second 24 did 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo this year with a killer support crew.  She thinks support make a difference of about 3 laps in a race.  3 laps!  Start dialing it in now.

On a SS, you might get by without a mechanic, but it’s still risky.  A lot can happen in 24 hours.  At the very least, you’ll want one dedicated, very patient individual.  I’d suggest more because it is very hard on that one person to do it all.  At OP Lynda and I shared pit; we had a professional mechanic and 4 support staff, 2 kids, and one dog.  Dogs not needed…

Feeding: my normal feeding routine is pretty simple, and perhaps gross…in one back pocket I carry bananas already peeled and cut into 3 or 4 chunks.  Easy to grab and I don’t tire of them.  In another pocket is an eGel flask.  Fluids are almost always EFS and water.  I’ve used other drinks in the past, but can’t tolerate anything else for long periods.  EFS is high in electrolytes so you won’t need additional supplementation unless it is really hot, or you are a heavy/salty sweater.  As a general goal, I aim for 250-300 calories each hour.  Eating that much is a challenge if your pace is too high – use that as one of your pacing gauges.  No matter how fast you go, you’re still going in circles for 24 hours.

As the race progresses, the need for solid foods with a bit of fat becomes apparent.  My favorites are salted mashed potatoes or tortilla, almond butter, and honey wraps again cut into chunks.  At 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, Tinker was in the next pit – we saw him going for bite size snickers & oreos.  You’ll probably want some variety in there – my taste buds were all over the map at the first couple of 24’s I did, and at one of them I was eating enormous amounts – most of it what Anna (my support guru) had brought for herself.  Some riders need a lot more salt that can be obtained from drinks and will eat soups in the night.  Ever look at the sodium content of a can of soup?  It’s like eating 20 endurolytes.

For your first 24, I’d strongly recommend sitting down to eat at least twice during the race, once about 6-8 pm, and once about 4-7am.  Not too much, and easy on the fats/proteins, something easily digested, but you’ll thank yourself later if you do.  I never planned these breaks in my first attempts, but they became mandatory anyway.  Planning them in will give you something to look forward to, and keep energy levels up.  It should only take 10-15 minutes. One of my favorites is instant oatmeal (maple & brown sugar, oh yea), I can down one of those in 30 seconds at lap transitions…At 24 hours of  Steamboat, I cracked so hard I darn near threw in the towel.  3 instant oatmeals, 4 advils, and a jug of coffee later I was a new man and soldiered on (at the coaxing of one very persistent crew member, Jen Murphy.  She about kicked my a$$).

Most of the time, all this eating happens on the bike.  I’ll have a table set up with some easily grabbed items in the pit to fill pockets and mouth.

There are some essential supplements in my 24 hour kit.  I make sure to take in a little protein each lap.  The research I’ve seen suggests that additional protein can mitigate muscle damage and also prevent/delay mental fatigue.  If the temps are cool I’ll mix whey protein with OJ. If it’s hot I’ll mix it with V8 juice (the V8 provides a ton of electrolytes for the heat).  If this secret gets out there is going to be a lot more competition this year… I use something with some zip in the night to help stay alert and keep the bike handling sharp.  Things that have worked are coffee, yerba mate, and Red Bull.  If you use caffeine, though, don’t get carried away – you can easily bonk on that stuff!  The idea is just to keep bike handling sharp, not necessarily to hammer.  More on that in pacing…

If it’s a really tight race and you want to drill the finish, you might try defizzed pepsi or coke, either watered down or full strength if you have water as well.  That works well for me, and sometimes pepsi in the night will settle an unruly stomach.  Not sure how something that can eat pennies settles a stomach, one of the great mysteries in life…

I find a small, 50 oz water filled camelback to be the trick for 24’s.  30 oz would probably be plenty big. I’ll also carry the EFS water bottle.  Except for the first lap where I don’t have a camelback, I use that combo for the duration.

Don’t ask me why, though 😉

Dang, this got long!  Let’s call this the end of part 1 of ?

Executing your first 24 solo, part 2 (lights)

Executing your first solo, part 3 (pits, chammies, the run)

Executing your first 24 solo, part 4 (pacing)

Executing your first 24 solo, part 5 (training)

How to pace your fastest 24 Hour solo mountain bike race

24 Hour solo mountain bike race training plans:

24-Hour Solo Mountain Bike – Personal Record Plan

24-Hour Solo Mountain Bike – Finisher Plan

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