If you’re looking to master Leadville on race day, you not only need a Leadville specific training plan to gain and maintain your fitness prior to your event, but you also need to master your Leadville 100 MTB fueling plan as a part of that. The fact is, as events get longer, nutrition and hydration become more and more critical. Finishers of the Leadville MTB 100 range from 5 hours 58 minutes to 13 hours with finishers under 12 hours receiving that prized belt buckle. Therefore we certainly classify Leadville as a long event and your nutrition and hydration strategies will play a huge role in your performance.
Before we embark on this odyssey of creating and/or at least learning about a dialed Leadville MTB 100 fueling plan, we want to say that you should not look at it as something unique to Leadville. Your strategy at Leadville should be something you practice and refine in all the days of your preparation for the event. Your strategy will differ very little from any other event of this length. Knowing this, understand as well that it is massively important that you practice your nutrition and hydration strategy in the months prior to the event, and that your race day is no different from any other day. In short, practice your fueling. Fueling consists of water, electrolytes, and calories balanced in a ratio that your gut can manage.
Also understand that we are all different, therefore; what we say is a good starting point here is just that; a starting point. As you train and near the event, it’s your job, and the job of your coach, to refine your fueling strategy as you get closer to race day.
We separate nutrition from hydration and we would like you to think of them separately. These segments of your fueling should have their own strategy. Hydration will affect you first, so let’s talk about it first:
To refine your hydration strategy it’s best to do a series of sweat rate calculations so you can determine your individual sweat rate. This is done by weighing yourself before and after your ride, then doing a simple calculation. Follow that link above to the calcs and further detail on the process. Don’t skip this initial step!
This calculation shows you how much sweat loss you experience and from this, we determine how much you should drink to maintain hydration levels. This amount will differ depending on your environment (hot, cold, sea level, high altitude, etc…) so it’s best to take multiple calculations to get an average or, best, even doing some testing on the Leadville course if that is possible for you.
In general, most people require 20 to 25 oz of water per hour. 20 oz is the size of a normal water bottle. So if your modeled finish time is 10 hours, you will need 10 water bottles. You need to practice that and you need to have a logistical plan on how you’re going to carry and/or receive 10 bottles through the race.
So what is in your bottles? Some have water. Some have water with electrolytes and some have water with electrolytes and carbohydrates. Again you will need to experiment with what works best for you. You absorb water best when it is combined with a salt and a carbohydrate.
The main salts you lose are sodium and chloride (by far) with Sodium being the most critical of the two. Normal athletes can lose between 600 and 1000mg of salt per liter of sweat. By calculating your sweat rate, you can then calculate how much salt you should take in for each hour of exercise. Because we are all different, you can also complete a sweat salt test to discover the amount of salt you have lost through sweat. Typically, if you ingest 400-600mg of salt per hour, you will be replenishing your lost salts. This salt can come from your drink mix, your ride food, or even a salt tablet. Check the ingredients and make sure there is enough sodium in whatever method of salt intake you choose.
To review the best hydration and salt strategy for each person is to test yourself. If that’s not for you, then I would begin by taking in 20 to 25 oz of water per hour and 400 mg of sodium per hour. Practice this along with weighing yourself before and after a few rides and see if this amount works well for you.
Once you have the data recommended above, the next step is to create your Leadville MTB 100 fueling plan… which is the same as your fueling plan any time you’re on the bike for a long event.
Your main energy source for exercise is carbohydrates. At lower intensities you can also burn fat. The best method of determining how much of which fuel you are able to use is to get tested. You can find a local quality lab to conduct a metabolic test or you can remotely test with a software called INSCYD. Many coaching companies use INSCYD including Tenac Championship Coaching. Contact us for a test.
Again you will want to test at least twice but three will provide the best dataset for your preparation. This test will tell you (and/or your coach) how much carbohydrate and fat you burn at a specific heart rates and specific power outputs. This will change as training progresses. This is the reason why you want to have multiple tests with the last test being 4-6 weeks prior to your event.
Combine this information with your goal time, HR, and power and you can model how many calories you need and can consume. If you start the event with your glycogen carbohydrates fully topped off you have about 90 minutes (or 300g) to burn without eating anything. Therefore, you need to continually fuel yourself to keep your pace even at very low intensities.
If testing isn’t an option for you, use these general rules: We recommend experimenting with 50-60 grams of carbs per hour and see how your stomach tolerates this amount. This is approximately equal to 2 gels per hour or 1 sports nutrition bar per hour. Elite athletes have been shown to be able to ingest up to 100g of carbs per hour. Indeed, you can train your gut to be able to absorb more carbohydrates. First, however, determine how many grams of carbs you need per hour, and then begin training to eat more or less depending on your goals. Realize that eating and drinking are a critical aspect of training and use your calculations to optimize your intake.
Where’s the best place to get these carbohydrates? There are many options in the forms of gels, bars, drinks, and real food. With the Leadville MTB 100 being a long endurance event, we recommend mixing in real food to most athletes. Real food can be satisfying and filling and give you a lift in spirit when you get very tired of gels and other sugars. Also, real food can be prepared to be savory which can be a good break from all the sugar. What are some of our favorites?
With any carbohydrate intake, you do need to be aware of the concentration. If you ingest a carbohydrate concentration above 8%, you will not be able to absorb it without the help of water. For instance, many gels have a concentration of about 13%. You must drink water with the gels to allow absorption. Another example is soda which can be about 10% concentration. Other examples of concentration are Skratch at about 3% and Gatorade at 5.5%.
This is critical as you need to always be aware of what you are ingesting and how much. Being in the moment, mistakes are made and you will want a strategy prior to the event. Another typical mistake is taking in a highly concentrated sports drink and a gel. That’s sugar on sugar and is too much for your stomach to absorb. This leads to GI distress and ultimately affects your performance.
Comprehensively, what can be garnered from this information? First, Leadville puts a greater strain on your physiology simply because of its rarefied environment. It will sneak up on your and give you a bonk or shut down your gut without warning if you fail to heed these realities of racing at altitude.
In the meantime, as you gain control and optimize your diet and hydration (for any of your cycling goals), below is an example of a nutrition strategy that will work well for many, and the goal is to finish both your hydration and nutrition by the next Feedzone.
|Start||00:00||1 bottle H2O, 1 bottle Skratch||1 Bar, 1 Untapped waffle, 1 gel|
|Pipeline||02:30||1 bottle H2O, 1 bottle Skratch||1 Bar|
|Twin Lakes||03:30||1 50 oz Hydration pack H2O, 1 bottle Skratch||1 Bar, 2 Untapped waffle, 1 gel|
|Twin Lakes||06:30||1 bottle H20, 1 bottle Skratch||1 Untapped Waffle|
|Pipeline||07:45||1 50 oz Hydration pack H2O, 1 bottle Skratch||1 Bar, 1 Untapped waffle, 2 gel|
|Finish totals||10:45||240 oz Hydration||2180 calories|
If you’re still uncertain or if this seems like too much data to infuse into your training, take that pressure off your planning and goals for Leadville. Instead, contact us below and hire a Tenac Championship Coaching coach.