Dragon's Back Race (Day 3)
Gary's headline numbers
Carbohydrate is the main fuel you burn when racing. Failing to fuel properly is a leading cause of underperformance in longer races.
After having GI issues during recent ultra races, including at Lakeland 100 five weeks earlier, Tea and Trails podcast host Gary spoke to the PF&H Sports Science team about potential solutions ahead of his six-day trail race across Wales. Gary opted to separate his fuel and hydration strategy so that he largely relied on his drinks for hydration and more solid nutrition products like Chews, Gels and bars for his carb intake, which meant he was less reliant on carb-rich energy drink mixes (which can overload the gut if used too heavily during long races). His average intake was towards the top end of recommendations for this multi-day ultra, whilst experiencing no GI distress.
Taking on board an appropriate amount of fluid and sodium is essential to maintaining blood volume and supporting the cardiovascular effort needed to perform on race day.
Whilst the absolute amount of sodium and fluid consumed per hour is important, it’s critical to consider these in relation to each other. This is known as 'relative sodium concentration' and it’s expressed in milligrams per litre (mg/L). How much sodium you’re taking in per litre of fluid is more important than the absolute amount taken in per hour.
With surprisingly hot weather for Wales, day three of the Dragon’s Back Race reached highs of 27ºC / 81ºF. Adjusting for his higher sweat losses in these warm conditions, Gary was proactive with the volume of fluid he was drinking. He started with 2 litres of PH 500 which he replaced at a support point half-way through the day, and he consistently refilled 500ml bottles of plain water. Although Gary hasn’t had a Sweat Test to determine his sweat sodium concentration, he took on a very low relative sodium concentration of ~352mg/L during this stage. Over the course of a multi-day ultra, and especially in hot conditions, Gary was likely fighting a losing battle with his sweat losses, so may have benefitted from taking on slightly more sodium to help retain the large volumes of fluid he was drinking.
Beyond the Three Levers of Performance (carb, sodium and fluid), caffeine is one of only a few substances that is proven to improve performance for most endurance athletes as it can help stave off mental and physical fatigue.
Gary had a large cup of tea the morning of each stage to deliver caffeine into his bloodstream in an attempt to increase his perceived energy levels. With a half-life of 4-5 hours, this caffeine will have been in his system for the start of each stage, although his levels will have dwindled towards the second half of each day. He topped his caffeine levels up slightly with a small amount of coke, but could have benefitted from using more caffeine (3-6mg/kg) during each stage.
How Gary hit his numbers
Here's everything that Gary ate and drank on the day...
Gary's weapons of choice
Gary's full stats
There is an adequate level of accuracy in the data collected and the numbers reported. The athlete manages to recall what they ate and drank including most specifics (brands flavours quantities plausible estimations of volumes). However there are estimations made within the data which affect the overall confidence level in the data reported.