Editor’s note: This is Reid Swanson’s race report on how his nutrition plan worked for the 2012 Ironman World Championships.
Leading into my race at Ironman World Championships in Kona, HI, I created a nutrition and race plan to finish the event in a time of 10 hours. Obviously, a solid nutrition plan is one that allows for a great race, while a poorly executed one can derail the best of plans. My definition of a good nutrition plan is one that allows me fuel to perform to my highest potential. When creating my Ironman World Championship nutrition plan, I looked at four components: calories (carbohydrates), caffeine, electrolytes (sodium, potassium) and hydration (water).
I realized in the final weeks of race prep training I was having difficulty processing calories from a solid (in my case I was eating a Clif MoJo bar). I chose to replace the 400 calories of solid nutrition with additional scoops of Roctane ultra endurance drink, which I spread out over 4 bottles on the bike.
My nutrition plan called for 2,600 calories to be consumed coming into T2 (6.5 hours, 400 calories per hour). On race day I stuck to my plan and consumed 400 calories per hour through T2 (total time through T2 was 6.75 hours, 2,720 calories).Those calories broke down like this: 4 Vanilla GU gels (100 calories each), 4 Cherry-Lime Roctane Gels (100 calories each), and 4 bottles of Roctane Ultra Drink with 3 scoops in each bottle (360 to 400 calories per bottle).
Two powerful variables in Hawaii are the wind and the humidity. These two factors can be race plan killers when it comes to the bike and run, particularly gauging proper electrolyte and water replenishment. During the marathon, the plan was to consume 200 calories per hour. To accomplish this I used Roctane Gels and GU Chomps (1 gel and 4 individual chomps per hour) and 2 bottles of water per hour, but, as I would discover later in the day, I definitely needed to be consuming more electrolytes and more water.
Throughout the day I consumed about 12 20oz bottles of water (24oz per hour, 240oz total) and 4,200 mg of sodium (420mg per hour). This felt right and supported my ability to race through the finish. What I did not realize was that I was losing significant amounts of water weight throughout the race and went into a moderate state of hyponatremia by the time I crossed the finish line. All told, I lost 12 pounds in 12 hours of racing. Obviously, if I’m to race Kona again, I need to modify my nutrition plan, particularly the addition of more water and electrolytes, to account for the devastating effects that the wind/heat/humidity can have on one’s hydration levels.
I crossed the finish line in a time of 12:09 which,obviously, was off the 10 hour mark that I had set for myself. Despite my initial disappointment in not reaching my goal, I was thrilled to be racing on triathlon’s biggest stage with my immediate family present, as well as having my GU family at the finish. I realized that what really mattered the most was the network of family, both immediate and work related, that supported my Ironman journey from its beginning to its ending. Speaking of journeys, Ironman World Championships was one of the greatest races I have ever participated in, one that I learned many lessons from. And, at the end of the day, isn’t it the lessons that we learn along the way that are the most important part of setting lofty goals for ourselves?