The elusive 4th and arguably most critical discipline of long course triathlon!! In fact, I think we can safely say the discipline that can make or break an Ironman, Ultraman, 70.3, ultra marathon, 200 mile gravel ride and everything in between.
I have had many people ask me to help them with their “race day” nutrition and my 1st question is always write down what your race nutrition has been.
I know it is a very direct question but I generally always get a similar answer of X & Y pre-swim, this and that on the bike and a “plan” to get Z in on the run depending on how my stomach is feeling”.
All good answers and answers that are part of the puzzle for sure, but in my opinion maybe make up the central piece and we need to get the whole picture.
When starting a puzzle most of us start with the edge pieces and work our way in as the picture comes together. We should treat race day nutrition in the same manner and consider the following thought process:
Start with the corners - The corners would be your daily nutrition and what you are eating the two nights before your key training sessions while you are laying down the big miles.
Now onto the edges - This might be what you are eating the night before and morning off your big 6-8 hour brick sessions or that 140 mile ride or 40 mile run for an ultra.
Now that we have the corners and all the edges made we start to work our way in - This section is what you are putting into your body for the three days before the race. Have you practiced this time and time again? Have you put your body under stress with this nutrition to make sure it will sit well with you?
Then we have those final few pieces - This is what you consume on race day! If you have put together the corners, the edge and the infill correctly those final few pieces will fall into place and you will have no problems all.
I have seen many many times people "carb loading” like crazy when they have never done this in training. I have seen liquid consumptions 3X what people have trained using and 99% of the time it does not work out well.
In short, perfecting your race day nutrition starts 3-4 months out and we should treat it with as much respect as we do any leg of a triathlon or that last 10 miles of an ultra.