Nutrition

My Long Distance Nutrition Plan for Seattle to Portland

I’m planning to ride the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic next month.  It’s a 205 mile double century stretching from downtown Seattle Washington to downtown Portland Oregon.  I’m riding with a friend and we’ve decided to take it relatively easy, so I anticipate being on the bike for about 13 hours or so.

I’ve never cycled anywhere close to this distance in one day before and so I’ve found myself trying to anticipate the challenge that lies ahead.   I think it basically comes down to nutrition.  I’ve done the training and built the mileage base.  I’m almost certain that I can cover the distance unless I bonk.  So the object of the game from my perspective is simply not to bonk.  That means chowing down as I cross the great states of Washington and Oregon.  Afterwards, I can load up on donuts and beer.  They have some great IPAs in Portland.  It’s like a dream come true. Really.

But it’s also totally foreign to me.  Truth be told, I almost never eat anything on rides up to and including 100 milers.   I can’t think of the last time I took nutrition on a century.  I seldom go much further than that.    I did bonk once, years ago way up high on Vail Pass but I was young and bulletproof back then.  I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing.   It was ugly.  That can’t happen here.  There’s too much traffic and too many ways to get into trouble.  The last fifty miles are the worst, so bonking means not finishing.  That’s a long way to travel only to DNF.

So I’m going to eat like a little piggy.  I’ve been looking at a lot of articles online about how to do it and the best one I’ve found was written by Susan I. Barr, PhD, RDN and John Hughes.  It’s well worth reading.  Ms. Barr is a Professor of Nutrition at the University of British Columbia.  She has completed a number of epic rides such as the Rocky Mountain 1200.  Mr. Hughes wrote”Distance Cycling” so I guess you could say he literally wrote the book on what I’m about to do.

These experts say I’ll need approximately 350 calories per hour based on my body weight, the course, my bike and the pace I’m likely to ride.   That’s 4,550 calories over the entire distance.   Since I plan to burn close to 8,000 calories, I think that’s probably the bare minimum that will get me home with a clear mind and in one piece.

I went back and forth on this for a few days and came up with some simple rules to get me to Portland.  Here they are.

  • Focus on carbs, calories and what will digest easily.
  • Avoid high fructose corn syrup and other “artificial” sugars.
  • Electrolyte replacement, Dude.
  • Eat small.  Eat often.
  • Don’t overthink this.

I’ve decided to eat “real” food instead of packaged and promoted athletic “energy” food.  The biggest bang for the buck in terms of carbs and calories comes from granola.  As much as I’d prefer raw granola, I’ll probably go with bars.  I’ll eat Clif bars, too, just to mix things up.   It will make it easier to measure intake consistently.   They’re also convenient and hassle free.  At rest stops, I’ll eat fruit…mostly bananas but maybe some citrus and melon and berries, too.  Frankly, all of that stuff tastes better than shrink wrapped jock food.  It’s a lot cheaper, too.

The last time I ate on a ride was a year ago in Iowa’s 72 mile Bacoon Ride.  I had one of these.  I’m glad I didn’t need 14 of them.  This time it will be granola and Clif bars.

45 gr of carb, 250 calories, no high fructose corn syrup.

I’ll also add calories by splitting my drinking between water and electrolyte replacement drinks.  Most are laden with sugar, so  I’ll water them down.  I plan to replace most of my electrolytes with Hammer Endurolytes.  Everything I’ve read suggests that this is the way to go.

Will it work?  Beats me.  I hope so.  I’ll post a follow up after the event.  In the meantime, if you have any ideas, feel free to share them.  This is very much a work in progress.

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