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Birkie 2021: No Aid Station, No Problem

Racing Birkie® but not sure how to manage your fueling strategy without aid stations? Don't stress. With a little pre-planning and the right gear, you'll be all set to have a great day out there. Here are the top 3 pieces of advice we took from our GU athletes:

  1. Use a water bottle carrier like a waist pack.
  2. Staple or pin your gels to your bib or pack. Or to keep them from freezing, pin them to your tights and tuck them in the waistband.
  3. Eat every 30-45 mins to avoid the dreaded bonk!
Check out more in-depth recs from our athletes below.



Sean Cooley

I have a water bottle waist belt that holds a 20oz-bottle. I use two scoops of ROCTANE drink mix and try to drink every 15-20 mins or at any time I don’t feel like I’m going to get stabbed in the face with a ski pole or accidentally stab someone else. Then I do gels with safety pins that I just rip off and take every 30 mins or when there is an aid station so I can dump my wrapper. With gloves on, I haven’t mastered how to eat much else.

I definitely wear my Garmin watch because did it really even happen if it’s not on Strava?! So I use that to keep track of time for fueling as well as a way to try to keep my pace rolling in the right direction.

I think in 2019 we actually got hit with a blizzard, which was awesome, but mid-race the snow became sandpaper. The snow falling down was worth it though! Time was around 2:40. Last year at about the same fitness I went 2:18 so snow conditions can play such a huge factor!!


Nate Ansbaugh

I plan to do a bit of pre-hydration the couple days before. I just try to stay mindful of making sure I'm taking in a couple tall water bottles along with a 2* BCAA capsule, 2* Magnesium capsule, and an Electrolyte capsule. For the race, breakfast will be some steel cut oats, honey, peanut butter, and a cup of coffee about 2 hours before the race. Up until the race, I'll take a full water bottle with a GU hydration tab (I like the Strawberry Lemonade) along with the capsules. Right before taking off, I'll take a Liquid Energy Gel.

During the race, I'll carry a 24oz bottle of Summit Tea ROCTANE drink mix, 2 Sea-Salt Chocolate Energy Gels, and one packet of Salted Lime Energy Chews. I'm like Matt, when it comes to the timing of taking stuff in, I just listen to my body at this point and carry a bit of a mix of stuff for the palate depending on what I'm feeling, and remember to hydrate.


Corrine Malcom

Do you carry water? Yes! In a normal Birkie® I would carry one water bottle with a GU Hydration tab in it and supplement with additional water along the course. In this Covid era you need to be more self-sufficient, maybe carrying more fluids than you normally would (a pack with a bladder) etc.
What do you use to carry water? Most years I carry a bottle in a waist pack, ideally an older school one that holds a traditional cycling bottle.
Do you put anything in your water? Usually I only put a GU Hydration tab in my bottle because I can drink a low/no-calorie fluid while I take gels on course. I've been asked by several athletes this year if they can switch to a higher-calorie sports drink like ROCTANE instead of carrying gels. IF you could supplement with water on course and additional supplies that might be perfect, but one bottle of ROCTANE is a little under-fueled for even the elite end of the Birkie®.
How do you carry your other fuel? Often my water belt will have a pocket or two that I can utilize, otherwise I go the traditional Birkie® route, jingle gels! Stapling gels to the lower portion of my bib means I can tuck the gels right into the top of my tights (which means they don't freeze either!).
How often do you eat? Generally speaking, it's every 20-30 minutes, using the terrain to my advantage when I can glide on a gradual downhill.
How do you remember to eat? The nice think about the Birkie® is there are markers every KM counting down your journey to town. So I try to check in every 5km to make sure I am eating and drinking early and often.


Matt Malone

I fuel very similar to a 1/2 Ironman. I just use a waist belt that holds a single water bottle and 2 gels. The water bottle is filled with 2 scoops of ROCTANE Grape drink mix, which is caffeine-free (since caffeine makes my HR spike like WHOA). I typically hydrate with GU Tabs for days leading up to the race to pre-hydrate. My favorite is the Strawberry flavor.

 During the actual race, I put the GU gels on my waist belt with pins so they can be easily removed. I eat and drink on straight downhills by spinning my waist belt quickly to the front for easy access. I take a gel every 45 mins (ish) and a drink on any straight downhill. I remember to drink through just muscle memory obtained during training and triathlon. I know that no fuel = death. I do wear a watch, but in XC skiing I just push it to my technical limit, which is usually what holds me back rather than my aerobic limit.


Ryan Vanderloop

Do you carry water?  Yes I will carry a large water bottle in a waist belt that holds the bottle at an angle for easy access. My belt also has pockets for GU gels and chews. There are plenty of hills so the top of a hill is a great place to pull over and refuel.
Do you put anything in your water? I'll have ROCTANE drink mix in my bottle, mixed lightly so the H2O concentration is higher than the calorie concentration since I'll be carrying gels and chews as calorie sources.
How often do you eat? The Kortelopet is estimated to be a 2.5-hour event for me...maybe faster if all is going well. I'll focus on fueling up pre-race so I have a solid fuel base and can eat at 1 stop during the event and drink every 15 minutes or so. I'll eat a GU gel right before the start to top off the tank.
How do you remember to eat? I wear a GPS watch for tracking but the course is well-marked with distance markers so I'll drink on the 2 mile marks and eat halfway unless I feel I need it earlier. The Kortelopet is 16 miles. 


Fuel Your Birkie® with GU

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