With Me­lanie McQuaid

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - DEPARTMENT -

What kinds of foods do you rec­om­mend eat­ing dur­ing a half-dis­tance event?

My answer will al­ways be: what you have eaten dur­ing prac­tices. Here are a few ideas on what you should try:

On race day, wake up about three hours be­fore the race and eat about 500 calo­ries of eas­ily di­gestible food. I like bread and al­mond but­ter, but oat­meal, ap­ple­sauce with pro­tein pow­der or eggs are also great choices. Then, sip an en­ergy drink while wait­ing to start and top off your en­ergy stores with a gel be­fore the swim.

You’ll have the eas­i­est time stay­ing hy­drated and wellfed while on the bike. I like to keep my drinks for hy­dra­tion and food for en­ergy. For my first half, I started with eat­ing a gel be­fore the swim, a bar first thing on the bike and then gels for the rest of the race. I com­bined this with en­ergy drinks for hy­dra­tion.

What you are able to eat and di­gest is go­ing to be en­tirely de­pen­dent on how in­tense your pace is and what you have trained your stom­ach to han­dle. The higher your heart rate and ef­fort, the more blood is di­verted to mus­cles, so less is avail­able to the stom­ach. Com­pli­cated food that takes longer to di­gest will stay in your stom­ach longer and will be more un­com­fort­able to race hard with. So, if you are go­ing at a very con­ser­va­tive pace, you can prob­a­bly eat more solid food. If you are rac­ing very hard, look­ing for a fast or best time, then you’ll have a harder time con­sum­ing solid food. The only fuel your body re­ally needs is car­bo­hy­drate to power your mus­cles; how­ever, you can prac­tice with some solid food and tweak your nutri­tion pro­gram as you gain ex­pe­ri­ence.

Most peo­ple find solid food hard to eat once they get to the run. I carry a flask with three gels mixed with some wa­ter for the run. You want a gel ev­ery 20 to 30 min­utes. Ex­per­i­ment with what you like eat­ing while run­ning to fig­ure out what is the best plan be­fore race day. Es­ti­mate how long it will take to fin­ish and then fig­ure out what you need to eat to get 60 g of car­bo­hy­drate each hour. That is a great start­ing point.

Are disc wheels good for be­gin­ners? Also, is it worth shav­ing my legs for the wattage?

Disc wheels re­ally don’t pro­vide sig­nif­i­cant drag re­duc­tion if you are rid­ing be­low about 40 km/h. Depend­ing on how fast you ride, along with the course pro­file, it may not be worth the money to in­vest in one. There is much more aero­dy­namic drag when you’re not down on your aero bars and are sit­ting up hold­ing on to the base bar. That prob­lem is not solved with a disc wheel. Fo­cus­ing on hold­ing an aero po­si­tion is a higher pri­or­ity than wheels. If you do have a disc wheel, it cre­ates a rud­der for your bike, help­ing you ride “straighter,” so it is al­ways worth us­ing if you have one.

Shav­ing your legs for wattage does not seem truly re­al­is­tic to me and I am skep­ti­cal of Jesse Thomas’ in­for­ma­tion to the con­trary. That said, shav­ing your legs makes a lot of sense as a proac­tive ac­tion if you crash. Ap­ply­ing ban­dages and clean­ing wounds on hairy legs is a night­mare. Shav­ing your legs makes road rash some­what less ter­ri­ble to deal with, and I be­lieve that is the main rea­son to do so.

What is your ad­vice to keep bath­room breaks to a min­i­mum dur­ing a full-dis­tance race?

That de­pends on whether you are ask­ing about #1 or #2. You want to pee at least twice on the bike. Pros will pee on their bikes while rid­ing and some­times again on the run. (Sorry, this is the truth.) If you don’t pee at least twice dur­ing the bike, you know you are in­ad­e­quately hy­drated.

To avoid an un­for­tu­nate and un­com­fort­able #2 stop, elim­i­nate the fi­bre from veg­eta­bles and whole grains from your diet for three to four days lead­ing into the race. This keeps your di­ges­tive tract mov­ing quickly. Dur­ing this time frame, white bread, white pasta and white rice are a per­fect choices. Sim­ple, easyto-di­gest car­bo­hy­drates should com­prise most of your diet lead­ing up to race day. Keep in mind it takes en­ergy to di­gest food, so keep­ing it sim­ple re­moves this en­ergy cost in the days lead­ing up to the race as well.

Sec­ond, prac­tic­ing with race nutri­tion helps de­ter­mine how much your body can ab­sorb on race day. Even if you have the cor­rect prod­ucts, con­sum­ing more than your body will ab­sorb leads to prob­lems. It is re­ally im­por­tant to fig­ure out what you can eat while train­ing be­fore the event.

How far over my FTP can I go on the bike be­fore it af­fects my run in a half-dis­tance race?

By def­i­ni­tion, FTP (Func­tional Thresh­old Power) refers to the amount of power you can sus­tain for one hour. Since 90 km of rid­ing will take sig­nif­i­cantly longer than an hour, you def­i­nitely can­not hold above your FTP for a half Iron­man.

Re­fram­ing the ques­tion, maybe you meant: how many times can I surge past my FTP in a half be­fore it af­fects my run?

Surges cre­ate lac­tate in the blood and, with train­ing, your body uses lac­tate for en­ergy. Train­ing your body to me­tab­o­lize lac­tate re­quires in­tense work above FTP.

How of­ten and how much be­yond your thresh­old ef­fort you can surge de­pends on how much work you do above thresh­old. Do­ing steady state and tempo ef­forts dur­ing train­ing will not build any lac­tate tol­er­ance. Ath­letes with­out this train­ing should stay be­low thresh­old dur­ing a race, or risk ac­cu­mu­lat­ing too much lac­tate and slow­ing be­fore the run. The metaphor of limited matches ap­plies – with no train­ing for surges you have one or two matches to burn, and then the box is empty. With proper train­ing, though, there will be the equiv­a­lent of a full pack of matches avail­able to you, so you ar­rive at the run ready to run fast, even if you went above your thresh­old dur­ing the bike.

Me­lanie McQuaid is a three-time Xterra world cham­pion. She lives and coaches in Vic­to­ria.

ABOVE Tay­lor Reid rides fast enough to take ad­vat­gae of the aero gains of a disc wheel

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