Staying fuelled as a 24hr solo mountain biking vegetarian....

Posted by William 15/03/2018 0 Comment(s)

Active Root Ambassador Adrian competed in his first MTB event in 2012 and has since challenged for titles in various different distances and categories, including placing 3rd in the British 24hr Championships and 6th in his age class at the World Champs. He also regularly podiums at the British MTB Championships, winning his class in 2015. This weekend he will also be competing in the World 24hr champs in Fort William. He is a man on a mission! Below Adrian talks about what he has learnt about fuelling and hydrating for a 24hr event.

Being relatively new to 24hr mountain biking having only got seriously into it a few years ago its been a steep learning curve to learn to fuel correctly for ultra events. Although I have competed in many ultra walking events I often got my fuel wrong and although I finished I suffered and seriously compromised my recovery. I have no urge to be a hero and be suffering for 24hrs, this IS the most important thing to me and my motivation to train hard. Sure it hurts but I enjoy it and I don't suffer. Fortunately I'm not afraid to try new things and learn from my and others mistakes and talks to lots of people- you can often cherry pick some real nuggets just by being a good listener. For example, talk to your local swimming coach or ultra walker as to what fuel they use for their different races. As fuelling is such a personal thing, an open mind is essential. 

For all ultra type events the one mantra I hear again and again from champions at all levels is to be tuned into and listen carefully to what your body is saying. Learn especially to recognise early "carb bloating"  symptoms. This is the one thing that will seriously compromise your race performance AND more importantly your enjoyment. Lying in a hedge throwing up is not a nice way to spend valuable riding time- you've stopped, you're suffering and your body is now seriously compromised of energy reserves. Carb bloating and its extreme after effects will easily hamper your pace and enjoyment for a good few hours if you're lucky to be able to ride through it. 

Trying to fuel for 24hrs plus needs care and flexibility. Many times I have started an ultra event both MTB and walking with a veritable smorgasbord of tasty, energy packed treats, only to hardly touch them and end up eating my pit crew's biscuits and a portion of chips......

Obviously your expected pace will determine your energy needs (hi pace/high carbs, low pace/low carbs with higher fat burning). Pace versus fat burning is a whole other subject and one I will be looking at when I have time to try in training. The rule of thumb is that you can store enough carbs for up to two hours of high effort then the dreaded "bonk" will unleash a world of pain on you!

Again and again its so VERY important to never try anything in racing that has not been given a good coat of looking at in training. Make a note of how the ride went, pace etc, how you felt after and so importantly how well did you recover. It's not good smashing the ride, hitting the numbers then being ill or flat for a week after. 

I have never found being a vegetarian any sort of handicap to ultra events, in fact I feel it's a benefit to such an extent that being almost vegan while racing is even better. A light, easily digested diet while pushing the extremes makes for a really pleasant experience. I feel I am getting good bang for my buck as to what goes in. Try to tailor your food requirements in line with your daily food types, (assuming of course you eat a healthy, balanced diet..).. Don't turn up for a race with a locker full of foods that's 'alien' to your system. Been there, done that ;-). However a full roast dinner may be not quite the race food you envisage, elements of it may be....think about it. 

So to recap on some basics; 

- What are your distance and pace expectations, training workload and hence your energy needs?

- Have a good look at your day to day diet. Don't be afraid to talk to your local nutritionist.

- Talk to other disciplines and your fellow competitors.

- Try everything thoroughly in training or day to day life and try to tune in on how you really feel based on what you eat. 

Note I haven't really touched on any training techniques....Food's where it's at. Put diesel in a high nitro octane drag racer and see how far it goes.....