brian cycling


fuel for 100 miles of leadville

You’ve spent countless hours sweating, training, and working hard to get ready for the Leadville 100. You’ve made personal sacrifices in your quest to perform at your very best for this event. You’ve set goals for yourself, whether it’s a PR or to just make it to the finish line, that have propelled you to the place you are now: ready to race. So why leave your nutrition plan to chance?

Here at GU Energy Labs we want to make sure you reach those goals and perform to the best of your abilities, so our Chief Endurance Officer, Brian Vaughan, has shared his personal nutrition plan to give you an idea of what it takes to fuel properly for an effort like the Leadville 100. Take a look at what this endurance racing veteran and product specialist has to share. Check out what Brian uses to fuel an effort like this, and get an idea of what nutrition might work for you and your unique physiological needs.  Consider it a nutritional road map, if you will, that will help you make choices and allow you to fuel to perform.

Brian vaughan's detailed plan

Editors note: The following nutrition plan was created by Brian Vaughan, Chief Endurance Officer of GU Energy Labs

This is the nutrition plan I’ll use for completing Leadville in a goal time of 8 hours and 30 minutes. Over the course of the race I’ll try and consume at least 3,000 calories, which comes to about 350 calories per hour, a great target for a long race like the LT100. Over the last 6-8 weeks I’ve been burning an average of 400-700 calories per hour in training. I’m expecting to burn somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000 and 4,500 calories over the race, or an average of about 500 calories per hour.

I’m planning to consume some solid food at the aid stations and during the flatter sections of the course, but I’ll keep it simple and only eat foods I know are easy on my stomach (low in fat and fiber).  I find it’s really easy to consume more calories than I intend if I don’t pay attention.  Keeping it simple means not exceeding 100-150 calories of solid food at a given time—small portions of pretzels and boiled potatoes are great choices.

brian cycling

Miles 0-40: Hydrate & Top off fuel

Start (0 miles): I’ll pre-hydrate as soon as I wake up race morning by drinking bottles of GU Hydration Drink Tabs, and continue as we stage for the start—this gives additional electrolytes without a lot of calories.  I’ll sip enough to stay hydrated, and use a ‘throwaway’ bottle so both bottles on my bike are full for the race. 15 minutes before the start I’ll have a packet of GU to top things off.

Start to Pipeline 1 (27 miles): Race Plan

There’s a neutral, downhill paved start that can be cold at 6:30 am, so I’ll tuck into the group so I can conserve energy and stay warmer. As the pavement turns to a gravel road the race begins to take shape, and the first climb of the day is negotiated. Everyone will be anxious to get in position on St. Kevins, so staying out of trouble is the goal.

Nutrition Plan

I’m planning to arrive at Pipeline 1 (the first aid station) within 2 hours.  I’ll have plenty of adrenaline at the start and throughout this segment, so I’ll only eat non-caffeinated GU products. My plan is to take in about 700 calories, and a minimum of 1.5-2.0 bottles of fluid by the time I arrive at the Pipeline aid station.

Estimated duration is 2 hours, consume 700 calories

  • 2 Roctane Gels
  • 1 serving of GU Energy Chews
  • 2 bottles of Roctane Energy Drink

Pipeline 1 to Twin Lakes 1 (13 miles): Race Plan

This next section is relatively fast and flat —riders will group together in pace lines and draft each other on this combination of gravel and paved roads. My plan will be to find and ride with a group at a good tempo, keeping the pace as consistent as possible.

Nutrition Plan

The terrain to Twin Lakes is flat-to-rolling hills, and there will be opportunities for me to lower my heart rate—these are the moments I’ll use to grab a bite or two of solid food and take in some fluid. Getting something a bit more ‘solid’ in my stomach seems to encourage blood flow to the gut.  The goal is to keep your stomach functioning throughout the event, and one of the better ways to accomplish this is to add small portions of solid food to your nutrition plan at key intervals.  I’ll take in about 300 calories and a half to a full bottle of fluid during the 40-minute trip from Pipeline to Twin Lakes aid station.

Estimated duration is 40 minutes, consume 300 calories

  • 1 Roctane Gel
  • 100 calories of solid food
  • 0.5 bottle of Roctane Energy Drink

Miles 40-73: roctane and caffeine!

Twin Lakes 1 up Columbine back to Twin Lakes 2 (20 miles): Race Plan

This is one of the most challenging sections of the race for me, and an important one to get right from a nutritional standpoint.  The climb up Columbine is long and sustained, rising over 3,200 feet in roughly 8 miles.  My pace will be quicker at the base of the climb and I’ll hold this tempo as long as I can toward the top.  There are a bunch of bottlenecks as the leaders begin their return trip and head back down the same trail, and the pace will naturally slow as people begin to walk.  Also, this is where the weather can turn nasty if a storm cloud is at the summit, so keep alert.

Nutrition Plan

I’ll plan to consume about 850 calories during the 2.5 hour round trip to the top of Columbine and back, and 2 to 3 bottles of fluid.  I’ll consume Roctane Gels and Roctane Energy Drink regularly over the effort of the climb—much of it will be at threshold and the climb will top out at 12,600 feet.  This is where I’ll use the caffeinated GU products.  I’ll make sure to sip Roctane Energy Drink every 10-12 minutes or so, and not more than 4-5 oz at a time.  For me, cold fluid is best; so I’ll put ice in my bottles and Camelbak at Twin Lakes 1.

Estimated Duration is 2.5 hours, consume 850 calories

  • 3 Roctane Gel
  • 1 serving of GU Energy Chews
  • 2 bottles of Roctane Energy Drink
  • 1 bottle Hydration Drink Tabs (if extra hydration needed)
  • Electrolyte Capsules

Twin Lakes 2 to Pipeline 2 (13 miles): Race Plan

This is a tough mental section of the course—you’ve just left the cheering crowds of Twin Lakes and the sun is directly overhead, and if it’s a clear day it will be hot! I’ll try and find other riders to join so I can take advantage of a pace-line.

Nutrition Plan

Hydration will be key in this section of the course as you get prepared for the climb up Powerline (return), so I’ll take additional water and/or Hydration Drink Tabs as a backup to my plan.  I’ll want to consume about 400 calories during the 50-60 minute segment, and about one and a half to two bottles of Roctane Energy Drink.  It’s rolling terrain so I’ll probably grab a sleeve of Energy Chews to eat if I get hungry and need more to eat.

Estimated duration is 55 minutes, consume 400 calories

  • 2 Roctane Gel
  • 1 serving Energy Chews (backup)
  • 1 bottle of Roctane Energy Drink
  • Electrolyte Capsules

miles 73-finish: Cool off and charge!

Pipeline 2 to final aid station (17 miles): Race Plan

This is one of the most physically and mentally demanding sections of the race for most of the racers—the Powerline return.  During both of my other Leadville bike races I got off my bike and walked the steepest portions of the climb, simply to conserve my riding muscles.  There are a bunch of false flats throughout, so pacing and a positive mental state are key to success.  I’ll keep an eye on my heart rate and perceived effort, and adjust my pace accordingly.  It’s unlikely that I’ll  ‘win’ my race here, but most certainly I can ruin it.

Nutrition Plan

I’ll consume cold fluids during the climb (Roctane Energy Drink and water); this is critical for cooling body core temperature at the hottest point of the day—temperatures can hit 95-100 degrees.  I’ll plan to consume about 680 calories during the 1hr, 55-minute segment, and one and a half to two bottles of fluid. I’ll use the final paved climb up the back side of St. Kevin’s to recover a bit and get my rhythm.

Estimated duration is 1 hour, 50 minutes, consume 680 calories

  • 2 Roctane Gels
  • 1-2 bottles of Hydration Drink Tabs or water
  • 2 bottles of Roctane Energy Drink
  • Electrolyte Capsules

Final aid station to finish (14 miles): Race Plan

Race all out…the finish line is under an hour away!

Nutrition Plan

I’ll eat a few bites of food as I depart the last aid station and settle into the rollers and fire road descent.  At the bottom of St. Kevin’s, as the road levels out by the river, I’ll try to relax my legs and upper body, and focus on my breathing.  The challenge of this final section of the course is the “Boulevard” where the trail turns left and heads uphill.  I’ll take a Roctane Gel just as the pavement ends, and before the approach to the Boulevard.  My goal is to consume between 200-300 calories during the 40-minute segment, and 1 bottle of fluids.

Estimated duration is 40 minutes, consume 200 calories

  • 1 Roctane Gel
  • Electrolyte Capsules
  • 0.5 bottle of Roctane Energy Drink

finish line: Start recovering!

protein recovery drink mix


Finish Line Recovery Plan (100 miles): 

Endurance events like the LT100 take a heavy toll on your body, so it’s important to begin the recovery process as soon as you can after finishing.  I recommend that people immediately grab a bottle of GU ROCTANE Protein Recovery Drink and begin their warm down.  We all know the temptation after a day-long event—sit down and rest…and not move, but your body really needs to wind down slowly.  I’ll take a 15-minute spin at a recovery pace while drinking a bottle of ROCTANE Protein Recovery, then stretch, put my legs up and rest.  This process circulates blood, removes unwanted lactic acid, and restarts my stomach.  I’ll aim to have a light meal within 60-90 minutes of finishing. I normally take a week or two of light riding before resuming training or entering my next race.

If you’re racing Leadville this year, be sure to look for the GU Recovery booth at the finish area and we’ll have an ice-cold ROCTANE Protein Chocolate Smoothie Recovery Drink waiting for you.  We hope that you’ll cross the line within your goal time and with a smile on your face. Be sure to check back, to see how I ride and fuel for four days of strenuous, high altitude effort.

GU products

rules of thumb

As you can see, Brian’s plan is dialed. While we think preparation is key in all big races, we understand that everyone’s plan is different. So, here are some rules of thumb to keep in mind if you want to keep things simple:

Energy — Food is Fuel!

  • Rule of Thumb #1: Consume 200-300 calories per hour while riding. That’s the magic range that will work for most people. While it’s possible to train your body to absorb more than 300 calories per hour, if you haven’t practiced before race day, we recommend staying within this range. Start consuming in your first hour of riding since you are bound to go into a calorie deficit in a race like the Leadville 100.

Hydration — The Key to Powerful Performance

  • Rule of Thumb #2: Hydrate along the way by drinking between 16-30 oz of fluids every hour. Staying hydrated is one of the easiest ways to make sure your body is performing at its potential. When you’re dehydrated, your power output goes down. Don’t waste watts and keep the fluids flowing!
  • Rule of Thumb #3: You need electrolytes to absorb fluids — 500-700 mg of sodium per hour. Plain water does not absorb as efficiently as water with electrolytes, so make sure you’re getting enough salt to help you hold that hydration. We supplement sodium in all GU Energy products to make hydrating easier for you. Just sip some water after a Gel, Chew or Stroopwafel to nail your hydration plan.

Recovery – Don’t Waste Your Workout

  • Rule of Thumb #4: Recover faster by consuming a complete protein within 30 minutes of uploading your ride to Strava. By including recovery in your training routine you can bounce back faster and get stronger making you ready for your next ride.

BCAAs — Invest in Muscle Insurance

  • Rule of Thumb #5: Protect your muscles and stay sharp with 3,000 mg of amino acids per hour. Branched Chain Amino acids (or BCAAs) are the building blocks of proteins, and they essentially start repairing your muscles while riding. We help protect your muscles from damage by including BCAA’s in all GU Energy products. BCAA’s are a GU HQ favorite because they help fight muscle soreness — we believe any time is a good time for BCAA’s: pre-ride, mid ride and post ride!
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