Peaks Challenge Falls Creek 13th March 2016

By Rebecca Hay, Accredited Sports Dietitian and Cyclist

 Rebecca at the top of Mt Hotham - a 30km climb!  Photo courtesy of SportsFoto

Rebecca at the top of Mt Hotham - a 30km climb!  Photo courtesy of SportsFoto

I am not sure if I was brave or silly to attempt this event again.....but with a number of friends I ventured down to Falls Creek again last weekend to tackle this epic ride for the third time. There were ~1500 other competitors aiming to complete the 235km course with over 4500m climbing in under 13hours. There are many highs and lows experienced in endurance events like this one. There is a lot of self talk both positive and negative. You can see in the photo above catching up to a friend at the top of a mountain is one of those highs!

I have completed this event before, once in 40+ deg and the other in freezing conditions with rain and hail. We got lucky this year with clear conditions and light winds. It got pretty warm for the second half of the ride and this seemed to be where many competitors came undone. I saw many competitors walking , throwing up, lying down with dehydration and heat exhaustion. The event organizers did a fantastic job with medical support for those that needed it. There were many volunteers, ambulances and paramedics on the course to help those out where needed.

Planning your fluid and food intake is crucial in an event of this type. Practicing to work to this plan in training is also crucial.

Steps in developing a nutrition strategy:

1. Know your sweat rate to determine fluid needs.

  • Understanding how much fluid you need to consume each hour is the first step. Practice taking in what you need in small amounts regularly on training rides.
  • Decide what you are going to drink in the event - will you use sports drinks provided on course or bring your own.
  • Sometimes thirst does get the better of you - it hit me this year at the very last aid station where I wanted a cool drink and all that was left was apple juice - I drank it too fast putting too much sugar into my stomach in one hit. My stomach became slushy and I was close to bringing it all back up for several kilometers. So my strategy to overcome this....see point 4.

2. Be familiar with foods and fluids be be offered on course.

  • Is there a sports drink? Is it a carbohydrate containing sports drink? What foods are provided on the course? Is this food you have used in training?

3. Aim to consume ~60g of carbohydrate per hour.

  • This seems to be the limitation for the gastrointestinal (GI) system for the amount of glucose that can be absorbed in an hour. Using multiple transport carbohydrates (like fructose) will allow for more carbohydrate to be absorbed - it can also aid those that experience GI upsets in longer events.
  • This is pretty conservative but given the intensity that most of us would ride at an event of this length it is plenty.
  • Examples of 30g carbohydrate - 1 sports gel, 2 slices of bread, 1 sports bar, 500ml sports drink, 1 small slice of fruit cake, 10 dried dates, 7 jelly babies, 350ml soft drink.
  • You might wonder why I have listed soft be specific I am referring to Cola drinks. This basically got me through the last 50km of this event! Caffeine and sugar!! Magic!! Don't forget that Coke gives you carbohydrate - ~40g in a 375ml can. So keep track if you have a can - too much carbohydrate can cause GI upsets.

4. Know that what your body wants and what it needs don't always match up.

  • There may be points in endurance events like this where you feel you should have more food and fluid as per your plan - but if you do eat or drink anything else you will bring it back up .
  • Sometimes it is time that is needed for food and fluid to be absorbed - so back off the pace and wait until you feel there is space for more. Sip on small amounts of fluid and introduce food when you are ready. Remember - SMALL AMOUNTS OF FOOD AND FLUID REGULARLY.

5. Don't do any thing new on the day of your event.

  • I pack my food bags for events like this several days in advance with foods, gels, bars and sports drink powders that I have used in training. There is always variety in what I pack so I do not get sick of having the same thing for the whole event. I had a vegemite and cheese sandwich in one bag and different flavoured bars, gels and gel lollies in others.
  • No new medicaitons or products on event day - this applies to products like pain killers and caffeine.

6. Practice, practice, practice again.

If you need help planning a nutrition strategy for any sporting event make an appointment to see one of our Sports Dietitians. Don't leave it to the last minute though, you need several months to work on developing the best strategy for training and the event itself.

Check locations for a clinic near you.