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Quest for the Ultimate Rando Food
by Bob Goodison

   My recent bonk-fest at the 1/3 mark of the Interior 600 got me to thinking that I should write something explaining everything I know for sure about rando nutrition. Since a blank page is neither funny nor informative, I will fill in the large gaps in knowledge with speculation and experience.

   A local Ironman triathlete once told me I needed about 500 calories an hour. I suspect that to be based on a lightweight rider, which I am not, who is not packing the excess of stuff that I do. On an early spring training ride my heart monitor indicated I was burning about 1000 calories an hour, although I don't accept this as accurate either. One thing I have learned is that even if I eat enough, my digestive system will not process food as fast as my body burns it. This is not a problem on rides of 300 or less, but on the 400 & 600, it is. Sometimes the only thing to do is stop for a while to let your stomach catch up.

   I have found a partial solution, as long as I remember to do it before my brain gets to that familiar stage of decay where all reason is gone. Iron Fuel, available at stores that cater to runners, is more palatable than Gatorade, and will keep me going until my stomach has processed some food and I feel like eating again. I should have mixed a bottle at Peachland, but didn't because I was saving it in case I ran short later in the ride. The only fault with Iron Fuel is the cost. Similarly, energy gels can help when a short boost of energy is needed. I find the Powerbar chocolate ones to be easiest to use and least revolting. Free energy gels are available for the frugal among us. The red ones (tomato flavor) available at fast food outlets (apparantly also known as stompers) are not too bad, but the ones that you find in motel bathrooms should be avoided. They smell good but leave a soapy taste in the mouth.

   It is important to have as much variety as possible in your packed food. Try to keep it as healthy as possible, but some junk food is ok. I had chocolate milk and cheesies at the last control on the 600 and felt great to the finish. I favour peanut m&ms as a fuel source but be warned- if they get wet (I never ride in the rain- do you?), they look really disgusting. I usually pack a bagel or two with melted cheese to eat early in the ride. Later in the ride, I find them too dry and switch to things like dried fruit and whatever looks appealing at Tim Hortons or convenience stores. I also carry a few Clif bars, mostly for ballast as I find them distasteful after the first few hours of a ride. They seem to work ok on short rides. I have heard stories of strange things being taken on rides- mashed sweet potato to be squeezed out of a zip-loc bag like a gel, and cold cooked pasta. I have considered, but not tried, cold perogies.

   One thing is a given- on any given ride, the food of anyone you happen to be riding with is going to look vastly more interesting and edible than anything you have. My wife Susan has suggested a solution. Everyone packs a bag of food sufficient for the distance of the brevet. Before the start, everyone trades bags, sight unseen. Problem solved.

   In the end, rando food must only meet two requirements- it must be something you can stand to eat, and it must be available.

June 16, 2006