Dragon's Back Race
Robyn'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.
Although we often see athletes taking on a greater amount of ‘real food’ during ultra events, Robyn was working at a high intensity across six days in the Welsh countryside, so chose to primarily use gels as she found them much easier to tolerate. Due to the multi-day format of this race, Robyn was able to refuel between stages with high-carb foods such as pasta and rice. On the days she felt her energy levels were highest, Robyn did well to hit over 60g of carb per hour with no GI issues; taking on ~62g/h, ~60g/h and ~65g/h on days one, two and five respectively. Robyn’s lowest carb intake came on day three where she averaged ~50g/h, by taking on a similar amount of carb to other days but over this longer stage (70km / 43.5 miles) which dropped her hourly average. In future multi-day races, Robyn should plan to adjust her fuel strategy for the longer stages, but overall her intake didn’t dip too drastically and she was able to average ~57g per hour across her six-day moving time.
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.
Sweat sodium concentration (mg/L) is largely genetically determined and remains relatively stable. Knowing how salty your sweat is enables you to replace a good proportion of your sweat losses, which can range from 200-2,000mg/L.
Whilst Robyn’s losses are on the low side, getting her hydration strategy right is still crucial when it’s hot and/or humid as her higher sweat rate in these conditions can result in significant net losses over the duration of a race.Learn more
In her first multi-day ultra race, Robyn preloaded and rehydrated effectively each day using PH 1500 to make sure she caught up on the deficit of a day's sweat losses and started each stage optimally hydrated. Robyn predominantly used three 500ml bottles, two of which always contained a relative sodium concentration of 1,000mg/L, each stage which she consistently refilled at checkpoints. Due to temperature highs of 26ºC / 79ºF, designated timeouts were also implemented at checkpoints. So, Robyn made the most of these periods to cool and take on additional fluids to effectively keep up with her sweat losses throughout. To achieve this successfully, she undertook sweat rate data collection and a Sweat Test in the lead up to the event, this uncovered her sweat losses to be up to 1L per hour at race intensity in warm conditions and a sweat sodium concentration of 573mg/L. Using this data, Robyn planned her intake accordingly to avoid too big a deficit each stage and any performance decline as a result.
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.
Despite Robyn’s total caffeine intake being over the recommended range, she fell short of the caffeine guidelines by solely using small amounts of coke during the first four stages. In comparison, Robyn utilised caffeine effectively on days five and six by taking on a couple of caffeine gels in addition to some coke to hit over 3mg/kg of bodyweight. To maximise the benefits of caffeine across all stages and help to reduce her perceived ratings of exertion, Robyn could look to implement a more consistent caffeine intake.
How Robyn hit her numbers
Here's everything that Robyn ate and drank on the day...
Robyn's weapons of choice
Robyn's full stats
There is good confidence in the accuracy of the data reported. An athlete feels that the numbers closely reflect what they consumed despite a couple of estimations which may carry some degree of error. The majority of what was consumed is recorded to a high level of specificity (most volumes are known through the use of bottles brands quantities flavours). The numbers are very plausible and align with previous data recordings (if an athlete has collected data previously).