Executing your first 24 solo, part 1 (nutrition)

A long time racing bud shot me an email the other day with a great set of questions on how to make his first 24 hour solo attempt a success.  It seemed like a great thing to share here...so here we go.  Don't worry Yuri, I'll send you a few top secret details off-line :)

First of all, Yuri has been racing a long time at a very high level.  He's already a hammer, and that's a great place from which to launch your first 24 hour attempt.  I've read that Eatough doesn't do any specific training for 24s except maybe one 6-7 hour ride before the race...maybe Yuri is the next E?  The following responses are geared towards a rider who is already fit, fast, and has a good bit of racing under their belt.

Yuri:  I am going to be doing Laguna Seca on my single speed....just for a little more pain, and have a number of questions. First of all, I've only done a 24 hour event as part of a four man team, so I've never suffered for 24 hours straight by myself and  I'm wondering if you have any nutritional secrets that will help me out?? What is your favorite/most effective replenishing food? How were you feeding...did you take it on the run, or did you stop?

Dave:  Do I have secrets...hell yea!  I'm a blabber mouth though, so here we go.

Support:  You didn't ask about this...but your support at a 24 solo is the single largest factor for consideration.  My teammate Lynda did her first 24 totally unsupported (SITS last year, the sicko finished 3rd), and for her second 24 did OP this year with a killer support crew.  She thinks support make a difference of about 3 laps in a race.  3 laps!  Start dialing it in now.

On a SS, you might get by without a mechanic, but it's still risky.  A lot can happen in 24 hours.  At the very least, you'll want one dedicated, very patient individual.  I'd suggest more because it is very hard on that one person to do it all.  At OP Lynda and I shared pit; we had a professional mechanic and 4 support staff, 2 kids, and one dog.  Dogs not needed...

Feeding:   my normal feeding routine is pretty simple, and perhaps gross...in one back pocket I carry bananas already peeled and cut into 3 or 4 chunks.  Easy to grab and I don't tire of them.  In another pocket is an eGel flask.  Fluids are almost always eFuel and water.  I've used other drinks in the past, but can't tolerate anything else for long periods.  eFuel/eGel is high in electrolytes so you won't need additional supplementation unless it is really hot, or you are a heavy/salty sweater.  As a general goal, I aim for 350-400 calories each hour.  Eating that much is a challenge if your pace is too high - use that as one of your pacing guages.  No matter how fast you go, you're still going in circles for 24 hours. 

As the race progresses, the need for solid foods with a bit of fat becomes apparent.  My favorite is tortilla, almond butter, and honey wraps again cut into chunks.  At OP, Tinker was in the next pit - we saw him going for bite size snickers & oreos.  You'll probably want some variety in there - my taste buds were all over the map at the first couple of 24's I did, and at one of them I was eating enormous amounts - most of it what Anna (my support guru) had brought for herself.  Some riders need a lot more salt that can be obtained from drinks and will eat soups in the night.  Ever look at the sodium content of a can of soup?  It's like eating 20 enduralytes. 

For your first 24, I'd strongly recommend sitting down to eat at least twice during the race, once about 6-8 pm, and once about 4-7am.  Not too much, and easy on the fats/proteins, something easily digested, but you'll thank yourself later if you do.  I never planned these breaks in my first attempts, but they became mandatory anyway.  Planning them in will give you something to look forward to, and keep energy levels up.  It should only take 10-15 minutes. One of my favorites is instant oatmeal (maple & brown sugar, oh yea), I can down one of those in 30 seconds at lap transitions...In Steamboat last year, I cracked so hard I darn near threw in the towel.  3 instant oatmeals, 4 advils, and a jug of coffee later I was a new man and soldiered on (at the coaxing of one very persistent crew member, Jen Murphy.  She about kicked my a$$).

Most of the time, all this eating happens on the bike.  I'll have a table set up with some easily grabbed items in the pit to fill pockets and mouth. 

There are some essential supplements in my 24 hour kit.  I make sure to take in a little protein each lap.  The research I've seen suggests that additional protein can mitigate muscle damage and also prevent/delay mental fatigue.  If it's cool I'll mix HealthFX whey with OJ; if its hot I'll mix it with V8 juice (the V8 provides a ton of electrolytes for the heat).  If this secret gets out there is going to be a lot more competition this year... Advil was the big revelation for me last year.  I honestly had never used it before.  You will probably reach a point where everything starts to hurt - back, neck, shoulders, and of course legs - every little thing seems painful.  That's your body telling you it's time to shut it down.  You can silence your body with Advil.  I go to a prevention mode with Advil at the 8 hour mark - 2 every 4 hours - then more if needed.  I've heard talk this interferes with proper hydration, so make sure that isn't an issue.  It hasn't been an issue for me.  I use something with some zip in the night to help stay alert and keep the bike handling sharp.  Things that have worked are coffee, yerba mate, and EnduroFX.  If you use enduro, though, don't get carried away - you can easily bonk on that stuff!  The idea is just to keep bike handling sharp, not necessarily to hammer.  More on that in pacing...

If it's a really tight race and you want to drill the finish, you might try defizzed pepsi or coke, either watered down or full strength if you have water as well.  That works well for me, and sometimes pepsi in the night will settle an unruly stomach.  Not sure how something that can eat pennies settles a stomach, one of the great mysteries in life...

I find a small, 50 oz water filled camelback to be the trick for 24s.  30 oz would probably be plenty big as well, maybe something like this .  Haven't laid my eyes on one yet, but hear they are awesome.  I'll also carry the eFuel water bottle.  Except for the first lap where I don't have a camelback, I use that combo for the duration.

Dang, this got long!  Let's call this the end of part 1 of ?  Stay tuned for the rest to include pacing, chammies, lights, and the big one:  training.

Don't ask me why, though ;)


Published Wednesday, March 08, 2006 4:11 AM by Dave
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# @ Thursday, March 09, 2006 11:57 AM

Ever try heavy dose MSM with ginger (I.E. JointFX) during a race in place of the deadly Advil? It belongs to a class of drugs that kills 16,000 per year - and thats a low estimate according to the authoritative JAMA...Even healthy people can be injured by this soothing drug.


# @ Thursday, March 09, 2006 12:27 PM

Yep, I've used JointFX plenty. It works great for typical "under the kneecap" joint pain, but for the all over muscle aches - it doesn't touch it. i've heard others use Excedrin with some success, but haven't tried it.

The systemic muscle pain in a solo 24 effort is really something you have to experience to understand. Everything becomes tender to the touch as though you are sick. I always used to struggle at the 18 hour mark and figured it was a bonk - but lo and behold, it wasn't - advil wiped the issue away. Something else may work...but probably not legally ;)

Years ago a question was put to Olympic hopefuls: "if you could take a magic pill that guaranteed a gold medal but would leave you with only 5 years left to live, would you take it?"

95% of the athletes came back with a "yes". Guess where that puts advil in the scheme of things.


# @ Thursday, March 09, 2006 2:34 PM

Great article and topic! I don't forsee myself in a 24hr event soon, but alot of this can be used for the ultra-endurance events. Thanks for sharing!

Guitar Ted

# @ Thursday, March 09, 2006 5:17 PM

Yep, you are right! I would have to experience it to understand. Im confident that the pain is so intense that something "synthetic" would be needed.

Sometimes the sacrifice is worth the risk. Ill have an advil in my pack during my "adventure race."

Keep rocking!


# @ Friday, March 10, 2006 10:10 AM

Shane - how long is your adventure race? I've heard crazy stories of hallucinations in those events. Something about pressing beyond the bonk and no sleep for days (daze!).


# @ Friday, April 28, 2006 2:48 PM

Hi Dave,
Do you gain weight before 24hrs events? A friend told me his coach has him gain 5lbs before a 24hr race and that he loses that and more during.


# @ Tuesday, May 02, 2006 9:47 AM

Hi Jill,

I don't intentionally put on weight before 24s, but this is one that might be good for some and not for others. Historically, the lighter I am, the better my performance, and I've never gotten so light as to see performance decline. Some riders do see performance decline when getting really lean, and for them, they should probably gain a few #s before the event. I lose 3 lbs after 24s, but it comes back eventually...to my chagrin :)