Question: I’m training for the LoToJa racefrom Logan, Utah, to Jackson, Wyoming. It’s a one-day event of 188 miles. I’ve ridden half-a-dozen centuries this year and nutrition isn’t an issue for that distance, but eating and drinking after about 120 miles is a pain. I tend to bonk and cramp because no food is appetizing. Can you suggest solids and fluids that work for really long rides? — Bill B.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: I haven’t ridden the LoToJa and would like to some day. But I have done double centuries and encountered the nutritional issues you raise.
Those rides confirmed what many endurance cyclists tell me: Nutrition and fluid replacement are the unsolved mysteries of long rides. Everyone has a unique physiology. What works for one rider will make another cyclist ill at mile 125.
So you need to follow the basic rules and then fine-tune when you find what works well for you.
This means swallowing one bottle of sports drink during each hour of riding (more in the heat) and consuming about 300 calories per hour. This includes the calories in the drink plus any energy gel or solid food you put down.
Admittedly, these rules ignore human variability in terms of digestive capacity, body size and temperature tolerance. They also don’t address food preferences. Some riders can go all day on liquid nutrition while others need solid food.
The answer to your question will be found during long training rides. Try liquids such as Tailwind Nutrition or Ensure. Try gels. Try ham-and-cheese panini and Krispy Kreme donuts. Somewhere in the range of food and drink items is a good mix for you.
Because what tastes good in normal conditions might be nauseating after seven hours in the saddle, the only way to know for sure is to reach that seventh hour.
You’ve already done some longer events that give you baseline data. Use upcoming training rides to decide which foods and drinks have the best chance of going down and staying down during LoToJa.