Congratulations to Enduro Bite’s own Sarah Musick for completing the Bailey Hundo this past weekend — her first 100 mile mountain bike race. Actually, according to the promoter, it was 102 miles with 12,746 feet of climbing. Not being one to set her sights low, Sarah accomplished this riding a single speed. Hardcore.
What’s even more impressive is that Sarah did this after suffering from major gastrointestinal distress early in the event. Not only did she ‘gut’ it out and continue on, she recovered and got stronger. Now normally it’s ‘game over’ once an endurance athlete suffers from GI issues during a race — especially one of this length and difficulty. The stress of pushing oneself to the limit is too much to allow the body to recover.
Ideally Sarah wouldn’t have started the race with her stomach in a mess, but it was her first race back after a several year hiatus and she was stressed about living up to her own expectations after her training having been compromised. You see, Sarah had just gotten married and was in the middle of changing jobs. That’s enough to stress anyone. On top of this she was making her competitive comeback at one of the most physically-demanding races around. Did I mention that Sarah likes to set her sights high?
So how did Sarah manage to recover and ride strong? The secret is I had her drop acid. Not exactly what you’re thinking, though.
While we didn’t plan for her early adversity, I did put together a unique nutritional program to help Sarah perform to her best. One of the keys was to eliminate the majority of acid-forming products in favor of alkaline-forming foods during the race. Sounds simple enough until you realize that the vast majority of sports-nutrition products marketed to endurance athletes have acid-forming properties. Not exactly what you want when you’re already inducing metabolic acidosis by pushing your body to it’s limits.
Enduro Bites were the core of Sarah’s race nutrition as they are made with easily-digestible, alkaline-forming foods for this purpose. Since this race was an all-day affair, Sarah would also have orange and banana pieces, both alkaline-forming foods, as well as an assortment of other available foods, in the feed zones for variety.
Hydration was accomplished with filtered water in her hydration pack and a prototype alkaline-inducing drink mix void of fructose, sucrose, maltodextrin, and synthetic vitamins and minerals in her bottles. Additional electrolytes were supplemented via Elete Electrolytes.
Of particular note is that Sarah did not consume any energy gels or traditional energy bars since both are typically acid forming and prone to cause GI distress during prolonged, intense activity. It’s unfortunate, but such products seemed to be designed more to satisfy the average consumer’s sweet tooth than to support performance.
Under normal circumstances, outside of intense training and racing, there isn’t as great a need to eliminate acid-forming foods. Still, it’s likely best to strike a balance or err slightly on the alkaline side.
John Berardi goes into greater discussion on this topic in his Covering Nutritional Bases including a listing of commonly consumed foods and a rating of their acid/base-forming properties.
How have we gotten so far off track? Well, the shift from net base producing foods to net acid producing foods comes mostly as a result of displacing the high bicarbonate-yielding plants and fruits in the diet with high acid grains. In addition, most of our modern energy dense, nutrient poor selections are also acid forming. Finally, high protein animal foods tend to be acid producing as well.
I’ve focussed on the pH effects of race nutrition here as this is one of the most overlooked factors amongst endurance athletes, but it’s important to remember there are other issues to consider when selecting appropriate foods for your race nutrition program — such as digestibility, caloric density, and insulin load.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
Finally, lets not lose sight of the fact that Sarah put in a monumental effort and deserves all credit for her performance. In addition to overcoming her physical issues and the length and severity of the course, she dealt admirably with the radically changing weather (cold, heat, wind, rain, and hail). I can’t wait to see her do it again.