Ultraman UK champion Alvaro de la Camara Martin reached out to us for help with his fueling and hydration strategy ahead of his latest challenge – cycling 1,560km non-stop from London, England, to the iconic La Bicicleta Café in Madrid, Spain.
Alvaro completed the ride in aid of the charity ELLA’s and we caught up with him to find out how he prepared his body and mind for sleep deprivation during nearly 60 hours in the saddle…
Right, the first thing I’ve got to ask is how you coped without sleep for more than two days?
I broke down the time in my head in a way that felt pretty comfortable. France was cold, especially the north but it was sunny during the day, which provided a huge boost to morale.
For me, the worst hours are from sunset to midnight. That’s when your brain keeps ticking and you’re thinking about having to deal with the whole night ahead. Time doesn’t move during those hours. I kept telling myself once I was over those hours it was just a matter of layering up and keep pedalling.
I’ve learned how to put my brain in a state during the night shift where I just pedal and focus on the task. Kind of like an autopilot but focusing on what I’m doing.
Did you use any particular mental strategies to go into autopilot?
Every time I go on a big ride, I come back thinking I’ve cracked the best way to keep the stoke high, but then I go out again and realise I missed something during my previous ride. There are so many variables that can go wrong, or in a way you weren’t expecting.
If I’m in a bad situation or mental state, I tend to just keep pedalling and put myself in a previous situation I experienced where I wasn’t comfortable, then compare them both and tell myself if I got out of that, then I will get out of this one.
I imagine you’re experiencing of winning an epic endurance event like Ultraman UK prepared you well for your ride! Tell us a bit about your background in triathlon…
Around 6-7 years ago, I decided to train for an Olympic distance triathlon, then moved to middle-distance and then on to long-distance. Although I enjoy racing, there’s something about the trips that gets me super excited.
Ultraman caught me completely by surprise! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I put my heart and soul into training for it, but mainly because I was worried about not making it to the cut off times.
When I got there and saw the field it even scared me a bit more. I just wanted to be able to finish within the cut-off times. Once I got out of the water the first day, I remember asking my sister: “how many people have left already?” and she replied: “you’re the first one out!”
Amazing. So what did putting your heart and soul into training for ultraman look like?
For Ultraman, I was putting in 20+ hours of training a week. A lot of organisation and structure to my days. It was quite different than what I did for the charity ride.
For the ride, I just kept the base during the winter and increased the miles off and on road to prepare my mind for long days in the saddle.
And how do you fit those long training hours in with life as a new parent?
Organisation, structure and enjoyment of the whole process.
Sometimes it was very hard, I’m not going to lie. As a new parent, I had to wake up at 4am most of the days to get some work done before life started, then work, family, then more training. I have to say that my partner is my greatest supporter, and she helps me a lot when I train for things.
My advice would be to always remember the reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing.
And how do you approach fueling and hydration for a race like the ultraman?
As a plant-based person, I tended to fuel myself with homemade food in the past. Ultraman was a new game for me and for the 10k swim I went for a carb drink, that way I was getting the hydration in and carbs, whilst avoiding feeling very full or digesting being horizontal.
During the bike I used nuts, to sandwiches, bananas and obviously electrolyte tablets in my water.
For the run everything went out of the window. After three days my body was a bit all over the shop and ended up eating and drinking whatever I was feeling like. I went from water with electrolyte tablets, to coke, to coffee and ended up only being able to chew crisps.
I wish I had known of Precision Fuel & Hydration then as I found during my charity ride that the PH 1000 are gentler on your stomach than the ones I had during Ultraman. Plus the PF 30 Gels are handy when you’re out on the bike as they give you the right amount of carbs and are easy to manage.
And finally, what inspired you to take on this huge challenge and are there any further plans in the pipeline?
I’ve always tried to use the sports love as a means to raise awareness of things I believe need more attention. This ride was just another way of expressing my gratitude for the great work that Ella’s does in support for the victims of human trafficking. I always feel inspired by what other people do, especially when it means helping each other within our community.
Saying that, I told myself I wasn’t going to do much more this year as I’m getting married in a couple of months, but I’ve recently signed up to Dirty Reiver, which is a one-day 200k gravel race up in the north of England, and The Capitals, which consists of an 800km, self-supported gravel ride through Catalonia and the Pyrenees.
The latter would be more like this last ride I did which I’m planning to hopefully hit it in one single push without sleeping again…