Pt 2. Leadville 100 Bike Course Nutrition Tips from Dr. Lim
Select content transcribed, edited, and sourced from Dr. Lim's interview with the Leadville-100 Bike Podcast.
Please remeber numbers for electrolytes, carbs, fluid will vary based on individual needs, weather, effort, etc.
What do you have spread out on the tables? What are you handing up there, to your racers at Leadville?
I always bring rice cakes, they're easy to eat, they're very, very savory, they're very different than what you might find on course, and they satisfy this kind of urge or need for something really, really salty. And something that just kind of, you know, changes the profile of your palate. And this is a really simple recipe of sushi rice mixed with a little Bragg's aminos, some olive oil, some vinegar, and a little bit of maple syrup for the rice base. And then we add scrambled eggs and chopped up bacon to that, put it in a brownie pan, cut them up in little brownie squares, wrap them up in a paper foil, that's just kind of an in-case kind of thing at the feed zone, they just want to stuff their mouth and take some time to chew and eat something and have something in their stomach.
The other thing we have is we have regular sports drink at a 4% solution. That's four grams per every 100 mils. And we usually keep that at about 800 milligrams of sodium per liter. And then we have our high carb solution. Depending on the athlete, we know that they can handle anywhere from 20% to 40% solution of that carbohydrate that's, you know, 20 grams per 100 mils or 40 grams per 100 mils at that level, you know 20 grand per 100 mils that gives 800 milligrams of sodium per liter which is about equivalent to salt. But for you know, people who lose more at 40 grams at 1600.
We often find that some people can double our sports drink to get more salt in and that doesn't cause any GI distress. So we'll have that in either camelbaks for the athletes depending on how they want to ingest that liquid carbohydrate or have that in, you know, kind of a hydro pack soft flask in 150 mils doses as well.
I've seen athletes, you know get by just refilling bottles in the cages and going through, you know 150 mil hydrapak with 50 grams of carbohydrate per hour. That means they go through 10 You know they're starting in their pocket with three or four and they're just grabbing another three or four every time they're coming through the feed zone right for a total of maybe 12.
The last thing we'll have in the feed zone is we'll have chicken broth or bone broth, that's salty. And what's interesting is that we like soup, when soup starts to approach the same saltiness as blood, about 3500 milligrams of sodium per liter. So we keep ours at about 4000 ish milligrams of sodium per liter, that's a lot of salt. But if someone's in a bad way, and we know that they just haven't been getting enough sodium, during the event, we'll give them that broth. And it usually helps to really bring them back. And it's equivalent to almost giving them a bit of a saline solution in the feed zone.
Pro tip: Skratch High-Sodium Drink Mix, Campbell's single serve, whole top soups, the chicken instars all pack a sodium punch. In the race event, they are a convient solution for when your body is needing to replace severe amounts of electrolytes (mostly sodium)!
All Images from Skratchlete Greg Erwin.
Let's talk sodium and sweat
Most people will be losing about 1000 milligrams of sodium per liter of sweat. And at a race, like Leadville, it's so high and it's so dry, that you could easily be losing to two liters an hour of, of sweat. Alright, so that's 2000 milligrams of sodium, and some people can lose a lot more up to 1500, or 2000 milligrams per liter of sweat. Other people, you know, are lucky genetically that there may only be losing 500 milligrams of sodium per liter.
What's interesting is that if you are drinking to thirst, which you know, I advocate for, and you find yourself on your training rides, you are still losing a lot of body weight, meaning more than 3% of your body weight for a training session, that instead of trying to force yourself to drink more, add more sodium to your drink mix. If that corrects itself, then you're good to go. Because what will happen is that that extra sodium will increase your drive for thirst, and you will self-correct. Instead of telling athletes to try to drink more water.
For those who seem to be under-drinking wheat, just add more sodium, because the thirst mechanism during exercise, one of the things that it's responding to is electrolyte balance, and it will keep you from drinking in excess of water if you don't have enough sodium in the pool, and since you're losing sodium and sweat, and some people might be losing more sodium, than there's a reason why some people might be under-hydrated by thirst. And that's an important reason they're keeping themselves in electrolyte balance. And that's a good protective mechanism. And so we always tell people not to drink beyond their thirst mechanism. But if they find themselves really dehydrated, listen to that thirst to increase the sodium and let sodium lead to drinking, not vice versa.
Race day tactics for fueling itself.
Let's start at the starting line. I think it's really important, you've got to keep a couple of concepts in mind that while you want to have an even pace, there are going to be terrain situations that force you to go a lot harder, right?
Whether that's a big climb, or it's a race situation, you know, and even the start, you know, we always come out of the gates a little harder.
So at the start line, we always have the athletes start consuming carbohydrate about 10 minutes before they actually start and try to pre load. It's really cold at Leadville in the morning time and so it can be a little hard to do that. So we have this formula called our clear hydration, which is basically made out of the cluster dextran or the highly branched cyclic dextran but it has a sodium amount that is equivalent to our sports drinks. So the carbohydrate electrolyte concentration is higher on the electrolyte side for that product. We will put in about 80 grams of that in a half liter bottle. That group that gets the salt level up to about sailing about 3500 milligrams of sodium per liter. We have the athletes drink beer The whole bottle to half the bottle 10 minutes at the start line just to preload themselves with carbohydrate with a really salty fluid so that they don't need to pee. Right? It helps keep the kidneys from needing to kind of filter that excess water out, especially when it's cold. And so they kind of meter themselves. What that does is it gets their blood sugar up before the beginning of the race. And it also gives them a little bit of extra fluid at the beginning of the race.
When it's so cold, cold can act as a bit of a diuretic, that's really kind of key. And so we're trying to manage a higher concentration of carbohydrate with the cluster dextran, as well as this really high sodium initially, to try to keep the athletes from needing to pee too much.
You still want to keep very consistent about say, if the goal is 60 grams of carbohydrate an hour to get that paste in per hour. But what we'll try to do is we'll also add the geography into account. So if they're about to hit a major client, like powerline, or whatever it is 10 minutes before they hit that, we'll do at least one of those little 150 mil flasks with 40 grams of carbohydrate, 20 grams of carbohydrate, just so that as they're approaching that claim that our blood sugar is also peaking, again, right. And it can take anywhere from, say, five to 15 minutes for that blood sugar to start to rise after you take on some liquid carbohydrate. So that's another part of the pacing strategy.
Basically, as you hit the pavement after descending down when you're about 10 minutes before you start the Sugar Loaf climb - That is a good time, both in terms of ease of taking something on board, because you're on nice even pavement for a minute. And you're about to start a big climb. Hagarmans wants to sugar loaf. That is a good time to go ahead and get that fuel on.
There's another thing that I've learned from the marathon is that even though these athletes are running as fast as they can, they know that feeding is so important that if something goes wrong, as they're trying to pick something up at one of those feed zone tables, they won't just bypass it, they'll stop. They'll take their time, though get on that carbohydrate, they'll stop enough so that they can actually lower the ventilation rate and fuel and then keep on going. Because preventing that bonk is way more important than, say, losing 30 or 40 seconds, right. So if it means that you actually have to stop mid race at a number of points and give up a minute, just so that you can properly feed yourself. Those five or six minutes could translate into what might otherwise be a lost hour... If you hit the if you hit the wall.
Second quarter of the race that is from pipeline. You've got 15 miles of more or less rolling, flattish riding, and then you've got one of the two iconic climbs of the day, the Columbine climb to 12,500 feet. You're right, you are riding uphill, more or less for 10 Miles 3000 plus feet. What is the feeding strategy for you know, these two vastly different kinds of riding linked up together?
I think for most people, the advice is STOP IT pipeline. I see the front runners, you know, always come through always grabbing a new bottle, their racing, you also see them as they're coming through that flat section, opening up packages, you know, taking in their, their gels, taking in food, trying to eat trying to draft, you know, taking care of themselves, etc. There is this kind of natural pause. I think that, you know, forcing yourself to do a bit of a reset through there is really, really important. But again, the idea that you are being consistent, as opposed to trying to do a whole entire lunch break there. It is important as well because you never want to take on too much at one time. You want to be consistent.
And then how about any fueling recommendations for as you do that? You know, the big climb of the day, the climb up to the turnaround at Columbine, where you're 12,500 feet and then rocketing back down?
If you have done done things, right, you're just gonna let it ride, right, you're just gonna ride those climbs, and you're not too worried about, you're putting anything in the mouth, you're just gonna focus on the climb. That being said, it could also be a point where you're also getting really hot, and the temperatures could be all over the place. And so another idea or another strategy might be that there could be an occasion as you're going through, you know, the last feeds out to grab just plain water to pour over yourself and to cool off before the climb, and finding some way to lower your body temperature for that climb. Because the climb ends up being just get over it, and you almost can't choose your pace.
And so besides nutrition, and making sure that you've been on track with respect to hydration, carbohydrate salt, you might want to lower your pace for a little while, just so your body temperature cools off, right, and so that you have some of that buffer to be able to ride a harder intensity and let that body temp come back up again,
What can racers do to ensure that basically, by the time they get to mile 75 and have what is it as far as we're concerned, the hardest part of the day, the power line and and then the pavement climb, that they still have something left in the tank...
My biggest recommendation is stop. Take a moment. All right, take some time, reset, cool off, slow down your breathing, have a rice cake have something solid that you can eat, that five or 10 minutes that you take to really reset could actually save the whole rest of the race, especially when you're that weird 60 to 75 mile point and you're ready, really, really fatigued. And you have a lot of challenging course left, right. And in that weird flat section to win can get really weird and swirly sometimes, right? Yeah. And all of a sudden, it's like, oh my God, I didn't even account for the fact that now, out of nowhere, there's some sort of headwind and head cross winds, so common in that section of the rail. So just stop, take a moment that 10-15 minutes that reset could change the whole, you know, next 20-30 miles
Getting up power line... It is, you know, just four miles, but you are exhausted, it is an intensely difficult climb, followed by a quick descent, and then another intensely difficult three mile plus road climb. So two climbs chained together, you are exhausted, how are any fuelling tips just for getting through to the end of the race?
I think the biggest fueling tip at that point is that remember, throughout the whole entire race, the fueling that you've done is going to provide you the energy for that last moment. So even in the first hour of Leadville, the fuel you take on is helping you for that very last section. Right. And so I can't emphasize enough how much consistency ahead of the day matters. And you're spending maybe nine hours or your day for that last section preparing for that last section. I don't think at that point that there is any kind of magic that you might be able to employ. If you haven't already been.
And maybe if you know that you're in trouble, the recommendation would be take 10 or 15 minutes to sit down. Drink, eat. Allow yourself kind of the blood flow All right to absorb all those nutrients right now there's not this competition for it to, you know, drive my muscles I need to drive, cooling, etc. So that you can kind of give all of your resources to absorbing that fuel and then going for it.
For more sports nutrition advice and recipe check out Dr. Lim and Chef Biju Thomas' cookbooks