After 8ish years I recently reached ‘peak gel’ at the OHV 3 + 3 event. I literally couldn’t put another gel in my mouth. I have no idea what brought it on – the heat, the general phasing of sweet foods out of my diet, who knows? Although I had used Shotz gels successfully through many events a lot of my clients were using Infinit. I’ve always been reluctant to go down the carb-solution road as it has been proved to be devastating the oral health of athletes, and I’m still currently cavity-free. It also didn’t seem to present the same opportunities to adjust energy and rehydration needs to suit the conditions (eg. The ability to take on sufficient energy when fluid requirements were low). Energy requirements during races of equal duration and intensity don’t vary much while fluid requirements can change wildly depending on temperature and humidity.
I defied all the advice I give to my clients and used the Singletrack 6 stage race in Canada to test out the new strategy. After competing and placing 3rd in this race 2 years ago I noticed that my fluid intake was a fraction of what I would have in Australia. Two and a half hour stages were completed on less than a 600mL bidon, which would have left me quite desiccated if attempting that in Australia. We were racing early in the morning where temperatures were struggling in the low ‘teens and it lacked the humidity of Queensland which meant that sweating was more efficient in cooling the body. I wasn’t thirsty indicating that this was an appropriate amount of liquid for my needs.
Considering this I placed all of my Infinit in a single water bottle and filled it with about 400mL of water. If I planned to race for 3 hours I put a little over 3 hours of Infinit in the bottle calculated on 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour, which is sufficient for endurance racing while not causing stomach upset. I then put plain water in a camelback which I would rely on for hydration and use to rinse my mouth after carb intake to save my tooth enamel.
I found several advantages in this system:
1. There was no awkward reaching into my pocket for a gel or flask, something that would have been quite difficult on the singletrack-heavy course. A couple of sips of my Infinit bottle and that was my energy needs sorted for the next 30 to 60 minutes. Also there are no gel packets to fall out of my pocket and litter the pristine course.
2. My fluid was easy to reach when required and I could drink on the downhills by shoving my camelback tube in my mouth. The plain water washed away any lingering sweetness so I wasn’t ‘sugar-fatigued’ at the end of each stage
Jason from Infinit did a custom blend so dialled the flavour right back and doubled up on the electrolytes as I’m a salty-sweater. Having the electrolyte separated from the fluid worried me, but ingesting too much sodium should have made me want to drink more, not less. As it was I found very little need for the additional water and lugged a camelback around for no point on many of the stages. But it was always there if I needed it so worth taking. Of course it would be ideal for bike manufacturers to start fitting small frames with a second bottle cage but I don’t see that happening soon.
Not having the thick gel consistency to deal with meant I was never reluctant for my next scheduled carb hit. It was just like drinking normally and not overpoweringly sweet. I also found that I was able to ingest MORE than the normal 60g per hour without any stomach upset which meant I felt stronger towards the end of the stages, particularly the longer stages. I think this definitely gave me the edge when I took the podium on the last and longest stage of the event.
I am quite impressed with the system so far and look forward to trialling it in the hotter conditions in Queensland for a more traditional marathon-style event. This is when I most struggle with nutrition in the back half of the race. Jason has also provided a mix specifically for ultra-endurance XPD events that I will be using in the upcoming XPD China race in Altay. I might test it out a bit more before then though as it would be a painful lesson to learn in a 72 hour event.
Getting your nutrition right is an essential part of a successful race. There are several ways (gels, liquids, solids) to get to the same place so it’s worth experimenting to see which works for you.