Well we are now into Week 11 of 21 of our Rottnest Channel Swim campaign and for the Solo guys and girls in particular the weekly volume and long swims are really starting to ramp up!
Around this time each year, many of you start to turn your focus towards nutrition. When the volume is on the low side at the start of the program you (like me) have probably been surviving your workouts with basic things like water and bananas etc and whilst some of the worlds best athletes do tick along on basic nutrition too, most will opt for something a little more advance to keep them going.
If you're going to be doing this type of volume in training, it makes sense to fuel yourself as effectively as possible to sustain your effort during each session, but also to allow you to recover quickly enough to consistently back your sessions up time and time again - and as we all know, consistency is key!
I've experimented with practically every product on the market with my favorite strategy up until now being:
2km swim + 250ml of Gatorade from a Pop-Tots bottle (this ensures you can quickly and easily get that amount in you without wastage)
2km swim + either 250ml water (or Gatorade - if I'm starting to feel the "pinch" a bit - but be warned, some people can become nauseous with a too concentrated hit of carbo drink and gel at the same time - it pays to experiment!) and a GU carbo gel which gives me about 22g of carbohydrates in a small hit
...I then repeat this all the way across to Rottnest (or France!) and have a few less technical food sources with me (ie a Cadbury Boost) just in case I feel like something different!
Speed is very important during your fuel stops - practice getting it in as quickly (but as effectively) as possible with the thought in your head that "whilst I'm stopped, my average speed is slowly slowing" - the swimmer with the fastest average speed gets across to Rottnest the quickest and the really fast guys can take on nutrition in under 10 seconds - crazy!
It might sound pedantic, but you really don't want to be spending any real time chatting to your crew when you've stopped - I come across as being really grumpy when I race (because I'm very short with any conversation) but in fact I'm just trying to get the job done!
So one of the things that I've battled in previous races is trying to avoid big spikes (and dips!) in my blood sugar when I'm doing a long endurance event. I had a friend (who eventually became a Pro cyclist in Europe) announce that he was going to ride home to Derby from Bath in UK during our February "reading week" at University (think freezing temperatures). This was a distance of 150 miles (240km). He was a bit of a geek to be absolutely fair (in the nicest sense!) as he'd worked out that he would be able to average about 18km/h on his fully laden mountain bike (whilst wearing jeans, boots and a lumberjack shirt for warmth - he was about as far removed from being a "Pro" at this point as one could be!) and his calorific expenditure for the proposed 14hr ride would be nicely satisfied with eating something in the magnitude of 17 Mars Bars washed down with 10 small bottles of fizzy Lucozade (like Gatorade but gassy). What James didn't realize was that the high "simple sugars" content of these products would bring on a massive surge in blood sugar followed by a huge crash about 15 minutes later. Needless to say the ride was a disaster! He did make it (in about 18 and a half hours) but I vividly recall a phone call at about the halfway point where James was crying down the phone saying that he'd "bonked" (hit the wall) massively and was so angry with himself for attempting such a stupid thing! We did try and warn him...!!
Of course, we now tend to refer to the sugar content of a carbohydrate source as its "glycaemic index" (or "G.I"). The types of foods that James had were extremely high G.I which caused his massive crash. You've probably heard of some breakfast cereals being advertised as having a low G.I for sustainable energy during the day? Well an innovative new sports nutrition product from South Africa have built their entire product range around the notion of this sustained release of energy, so much so in fact that they've actually branded their name "32Gi" to reflect the lower glycaemic index of their products.
I have been sampling 32Gi's products in the last couple of months and have been literally blown away by their ability to keep me going. This stuff has been a real revolution for me and I put it to the true test this morning with a really hard 10km river swim. I had my best swim of the season and felt like I had perpetual energy the whole way around - no nasty spikes and dips!
Being quite stubborn and a believer in "better the devil you know than the devil you don't" I have been very reluctant in the past to breakaway from my Gatorade formula (as described above) as it has worked so well for me since 2009. In 2004 I started the Busselton Ironman in super fine shape but had to pull out 95km into the ride as weirdly I too felt like I'd hit the wall. The so-called recommended magic recipe of carbs per hour is 1g of carbs per kg body weight per hour, which for me back then (in my stealth body mode) was about 66g per hour. During that race (despite what I had successfully done in training) I decided to keep taking on extra for fear of blowing up. In retrospect I was taking on in excess of 100g per hour (as crazy as that sounds) and this resulted in massive bloating of my gut and the inability to absorb anything further, hence I "blew up".
For me now, my best formula is more in the range of 50-55g per hour (I'm now 75kg), but everyone will be different, hence the need to experiment. My chosen nutrition source going forwards will hence be 32Gi as its given me the confidence to try something else, something better, than what I already thought was pretty good.
Nic Italiano from 32Gi has kindly offered to pop along next Wednesday to our 530am pool session at Claremont Pool to allow those in this long endurance squad to test out some of the products (drink, awesome jelly chews and energy tablets) for free and give them a whirl.
Hope you can make it!