(Week 12-25) Recovering from keto-path it was time to optimize the nutrition for hard training that needed to be done before the season’s first real test. And the intermediate result that promised quite a lot.
I choose IM Lanzarote in mid-May as my qualifying race for IM Hawaii, which was at that point only 13 weeks away. All heavy training was still lying ahead of me, so I really didn’t have much time to guess my way around nutrition. By decision to leave the keto-hopes behind, I gradually increased my carb intake first to 100 g and protein to 200 g per day. I immediately started to feel better, got my motivation back, feeling cold has gone to distant memory and my performance was back. I still haven’t performed as in the previous years at that time in shorter duration interval sessions, but at least it was getting better. As the intensity of my training increased, I further upped the carb intake to 150 – 200 g per day range, and got a couple of big workouts under my belt. I also needed to try my race nutrition, as I decided for a “train-low race-high” carb strategy. The reassuring workouts came in the form of long bike ride + tempo run bricks, all in carb loaded state. Which meant a little more carbs on preceding evening and training with “race-planned” dose of carbs. And it showed, just as in my wildest dreams. On the bike I was pushing wattage like never before in training, felt good and most importantly, I never faded at the end of rides. Before LC I would usually start dreaming of cookies and coke at about 90 km into the ride, and the final 50 km would normally be one huge struggle. But not this time. I was getting stronger as the km flew by, needing to stop only for water. Also when running off the bike, I felt stronger and have maintained my tempo easier than before.
After successful completion of a couple key training bricks, I was relieved and calmed, as I knew that I was back on the right path. The speed obviously wasn’t at the same level, but long endurance was much better. Which is what ultimately counts in Ironman racing.
In the final weeks leading to the IM Lanzarote I started lowering my carb intake once again, as the training become less demanding and I wanted to try specific nutrition tapering, described in scientific literature. Two weeks before the race I further lowered the carbs to under 100 g per day and in the final week even more, so that my final pre-race workouts were done in glycogen depleted state. Which of course wasn’t good for morale, as performance plummeted once again. On the day before the race I performed traditional carb loading, consuming approx. 450 g of carbs, the race morning breakfast was moderate carb and the race was on full carbs.
There was no sign of sluggishness for me on race day, as I had the best race of my life so far. Swimming went well, but the difference came on the bike. Lanzarote bike course is one of the hardest bike courses on IM circuit, having over 2500 m of ascending with winds that make Hawaii’s winds like a mild breeze. So even though the plan was to take the first part of the bike easy, I was maintaining very high power average with such ease, that I was almost enjoying the race. Unfortunately the battery of my power meter went dead after an hour, but the power in my legs remained! And by feel, it was even increasing as the race went on. The difference was apparent on the run as well, having been able to maintain the pace with great ease. OK, there is nothing easy in the last half of IM marathon, but my pace dropped very little when compared to the first part. I was even consuming less carbs during the race than I originally planned, so I was basically forcing myself to eat energy gels, just as some sort of backup.
Nevertheless, I haven’t bonked or had any GI issues and I managed to get a win in my AG and 9th overall, with splits of 56:32 for swim, 5:25:35 for bike, 2:56:15 for run, for a total of 9:25:05. Needless to say, I was over the roof with the result and with the LC nutrition path that I have chosen less than half year ago.
- I need approx. 200 g of carbs per day in my heavy training block.
- Interval time predictions are less indicative of longer steady state performance.
- The “train-low race-high” approach seems to work for me.
- Body needs a couple of days to adapt to lower carb intake, as I felt sluggish for a couple of days when going from 200 to 150 g, and then further down to 100 g.
- With increased carbs came back the increased urination frequency, very manageable and still far from the HC days.
- I was now starting to recognize and differentiate body’s signal for hunger and carbs.