Cycling

Allison’s Phoenix Challenge Recap

808 808 Emily Brinkley

Phoenix Challenge (160 miles completed / 200 miles)

Going into the Phoenix Challenge, I had been struggling to maintain the same level of training motivation as I had the previous year, so I was feeling a little intimidated about the scale and intensity of the ride. While my training hadn’t been ideal, I did participate in the ENverest Challenge this year so I was able to get some good doses of volume prior to the ride. My main goal for this event was mental training—to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and to recover more confidence in myself and my judgment (pacing, nutrition, etc.).  I was aiming for the full challenge (200 miles) as I am planning to do my first full Ironman in September (IMMD). I figured this ride would be a good reality check for my fitness and mental state, as well as a unique opportunity to meet amazing athletes and ride in a beautiful location.

What an adventure it was! I found the first day to be the toughest. Heavy fog made visibility throughout Skyline very poor, and it was raining pretty heavily in some sections. I wore three layers, but I still wasn’t quite prepared for how chilled I felt throughout the ride. I am endlessly grateful for my riding buddy (Carl) who patiently stayed near me. Having someone else with me throughout the ride made a world of difference for me mentally, as it shifted my focus to keeping up and getting through the ride as a team.

We rode the last few miles of Skyline in a downpour. All I remember is rain pelting my eyes, and Carl divebombing down the hills and disappearing into the fog. 

I actually felt better the second day. A good sleep and breakfast, plus warmer, drier weather left me feeling more energized and confident. However, I started to get shaky around mile 45, so we took a longer break at the mile 51 rest stop (and hung out with EB!).  I ate a full lunch hoping it would revive me enough to finish the ride, but alas – we made it to about mile 60 before calling it. I had mixed feelings – disappointment that I didn’t finish, pride that I took on a challenge that intimidated me, gratitude for Carl and the support team, and inspiration from the other athletes. I am so grateful that I could participate in this experience, especially after all the stress of the past year. I will cherish all the miles, the conversations, the laughs. I learned some great tips from my fellow riders as well, and deeply appreciate the opportunity to learn from them. 

Allison & Carl on Day 2

Some key takeaway lessons for me:

·       For a ride of this length and elevation, proper equipment is important. I want to learn more about gearing and ensure I’ve made the proper adjustments / upgrades to my bike before I attempt this challenge again. 

·       A few more long rides (with elevation!) prior to this challenge would’ve been helpful to physically and mentally prepare for riding on my own for this length of time. After all the isolation of COVID, I was feeling anxious both being on my own and being with people – but this event reminded me I’m capable of pushing through that!

·       While I prepared for the weather as best as I could, I think taking some nutrition tips from ultra runners may be something I’d want to try in the future if I can’t shake the chills (e.g. instant soup). 


Want in on our 2022 Phoenix Challenge? Request your spot HERE.

Drinking on the Bike

Fix Your Bike Nutrition Plan in Three Simple Steps [Video]

868 654 Patrick

Today’s topic is nutrition for long rides for athletes across the spectrum. Riders from experienced to total beginners constantly make nutrition-related mistakes early in the season. And that’s usually because we don’t have the recent experience of doing the volume. 

The long bike rides you are doing, and the experience of those long rides, help us refine our nutrition strategy. 

Skipping Mistakes

So how do we jump ahead? How do we skip that process of having a couple of really bad, long rides to make sure that we’re alright? We start with a sweat test. You can do this in your own house on your trainer. Or you can ride outside as well.

Let’s assume you are doing a two-hour ride. So warm up for about half an hour. And then we’re going to ride an hour steady at your target pace. Your long ride pace. So say your target pace is 200 Watts. You’re going to warm up, and before you start the Sweat Test, you will hop off (strip on down), and get on a scale to weigh in.

Solving Hydration with a Sweat Test

We start with the fluid first, don’t start with the food. It’s easy to shop for food. It’s sexy; it’s colorful, it’s got all sorts of branding, things on it and, low sugar, high fat — whatever it is you want. But what we really want is to start with the fluid.

Weigh yourself. Totally bare you. Great. There you go. You are looking good. Hopefully private! Bonus if you have a scale like a Tanita that can estimate the % of fluid in your body.

In my case, I am 180 pounds. Then I go get on my bike, and I ride my hour a steady-state. I capture everything that goes into my body.

So whether it’s food or fuel on the hydration side, I capture all that I get at the end of the hour. I go back, and I weigh myself again to see the delta. How much did I lose in an hour at race pace? Note it.

Then I review the fluids — how much did I consume? If the scale indicates that I lost a pound of fluid in that hour of exercise, but I also consumed 16 ounces of fluid (which is a pound), then I have actually lost two pounds of fluid (32 oz) in that hour. 

Knowing this will help me to fix my intake schedule to ensure that I’ve got the right fluids and enough of them as well. And now I have a target. I got to take two bottles an hour to pretty much offset the cost of my goal effort.

Second Step: Knowing the Calories

So nail the fluid losses that you have in an hour at your target effort – power, heart rate or RPE. Then determine the fluids you are taking. Are you drinking just water, or are you using a sports drink / drink mix? 

If yes to sports drink, then we can do some calories math. When you drink two bottles of sports drink, per hour, according to your sweat test results, you can figure out exactly how many calories you are taking in. 

For example, a bottle of Gatorade endurance — my long-ride fuel of choice — has approximately 180 calories per 24 ounces. Across two bottles, I’m taking in 360 calories per hour from my sports drink of choice. 

Step Three: Mapping Fluid Calories to Caloric Needs

In terms of my burn rate, I can look at my data…how many calories do I burn per hour while riding at my race effort? Hypothetically speaking, let’s say that I need to take in 390 calories per hour at my rate for my body and everything.

Since I am already taking in 360 calories from my fluid choice, I only need to solve for 30 more calories. That could be half a gel or part of chew. Easy! 

Step Four: Practice

There is nutrition that exists as a formula in a spreadsheet. Then there is nutrition as your body experiences it.

Executing a nutrition plan over the course of several long rides will help you synchronize those two realities. No plan is perfect until you have practiced it. This practice will give you a perspective on how, if necessary, you can adjust it when race day arrives. 

Why Fluid First?

We start with the fluid first. Even if we don’t have enough calories on the day, we’ll be much better off than if we were under-hydrated. If you are low on fluids but overfed, your body just won’t be able to function well.

If you fill your stomach with bars and blocks and gels and chews and not fluids you will be in trouble. Without enough fluid to operate, your body is basically sending a DANGER signal to your brain when you’re riding. And it says, “Hey, this is not good! Even though I have bars, I don’t want to eat them because I’m really thirsty and I need to drink.”

The Recap

So as you think ahead for your nutrition for these long rides, remember to start with your fluid first solve with a sweat test for your fluid losses. 

The fluids that you choose should include electrolytes. Use that fluid choice to determine, based on your hourly consumption rate, just how many calories you’re getting in.

And then you fill the gap on those remaining calories with foods of your choice to be successful. Don’t forget to always bring salt tabs with you just in case you need to help settle the stomach with a little too much fluid. And don’t be afraid when you stop at a convenience store and you’re in a dark place.

An Emergency Solution Example

Don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone and get some food from a store on your next ride. My go-to is a can of Coke and a Snickers bar. 

It has saved me on more than one long ride because I needed calories. 

I needed sugar. I needed caffeine. Problem(s) solved in a single pit stop.

Don’t be afraid to go outside the box if you have worked yourself into a corner. Convenience store snacks can save a long ride.