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How to fuel for a night race

Posted Dec 06 2012 8:33pm
I was really excited to provide my insight on how to fuel for night races when asked by a member of the Palm Harbor Tri Warriors Club.   Although I don't personally enjoy evening races (unless it involves crossing an Ironman finishing line around 6pm), being married to a category 1 cyclist has given me many opportunities to understand how to to eat on the day of an evening race. There's nothing more thrilling than watching an evening criterium and for the past few years, Karel has taken part in some big National Racing Calendar races, which involve racing at your max for 75-90 minutes. With the Athens Twilight being the mack-daddy of them all (Karel has finished it for the past two years, 80K on a 1K course), the only way I can describe the intensity is imagine running 1 mile all out for around 90 minutes, with only a second or two rest here or there - if you are lucky.
With Karel racing at a high intensity in the evening, I always took mental notes on what worked/didn't work for him so that I could always help him out for his race day fueling plan, up until race start. Certainly, every sport (and distance) will differ depending on the athlete and intensity so it took several races to figure out exactly what worked best for Karel.

Here's a video from Karel's Athens Twilight finish last April after almost 1 hour and 40ish minutes of racing. The race officially starts around 9:15-9:20pm on a Saturday night.




I hope you enjoy the interview/article on fueling for night races (with permission from the club to feature on my blog).


Fueling for Night Races
By: Christie O'Sullivan
Some of the biggest running parties happen at night races and so many of us get trained and geared up to run them only to get sick afterward. Some of the biggest races are at night, from the Disney Wine & Dine 1/2 Marathon to the Rock N Roll 1/2s and Ragnar. Running a night race can be tricky because if you don't time your fueling right and fuel the wrong way, you could end up in the bathroom for hours. (Trust us.)

So WHEN do you fuel for it? And more importantly, HOW?

We wanted to find out so we went to our resident nutritionist Marni Sumbal from
TriMarnicoach.com to help sort it all out. Thanks Marni, for the tips!




One of the most important tips for fueling for a night race is watching your fat and fiber intake. Nerves combined with low blood sugar can cause a big GI problem, so eating a balance of carbs and proteins in small meals throughout the day will help you keep the blood sugar stable.

You should not be “hungry” or famished at any point during race day. That can lead to over fueling and high fat/fiber choices.

The meal that will actually fuel your race won’t be a meal from race day, but the day before. Eat a filling breakfast the day before filled with a balance of healthy proteins and carbs, then eat consistently small meals throughout the rest of the day and on race day.
Your last meal before the race start should be 3-4 hours beforehand and should be small and easily digestible, something you would eat before a morning workout. Piece of toast and peanut butter or liquid nutrition like a shake or drink. Food choices should primarily be from carbohydrates with a little protein/fat to slow down digestion. Be sure to consume at least 8-12 ounces of water with the pre-race meal to help with digestion of nutrients from the stomach.
Keeping your blood sugar consistent will also aid in your post-race recovery.
Be sure that your race day pacing plan is consistent with your current level of fitness. No amount of nutrition or the "perfect fueling plan on race day" can make you run 7 min/miles if you haven't trained yourself to do so in training!

Now that you’ve focused on pre-race nutrition, don’t throw it all out the window during the race. Make sure you’re hydrating and taking in nutrition consistently throughout the long races. During a race lasting more than 45-60 minutes, take in water every 10-15 minutes and 30-60 grams of fuel every hour for endurance races, ½ marathon or longer. Suggestion: combine a gel with water in a gel flask as an easy way to provide your body with electrolytes, liquids and carbohydrates every mile or 10 minutes as opposed to fueling every 30-40 minutes. The more consistently you fuel during the race, the more likely you will avoid residual fatigue and dropping energy as the race goes on.

Find what works for the race! Don’t let race day be the first time you tried the fueling regimen out. Practice fueling some long night runs several weeks before the race. Plan a long run or two in the evening 3-4 weeks out so you can get your body acclimated for race day. Schedule a couple interval workouts at night. It’s hard to fuel for that intensity, so this will help your body adjust to the change.

Be aware of your normal bowel functions. Keep in mind that a nervous stomach alongside a change in racing time can easily throw off your "routine." Even with the perfect race day nutrition and fueling plan, a body that is not comfortable with change may cause you to see the port-a-john immediately after (or during) a race. Understand that evening races are not for everyone and most importantly, as you train your body to cross finishing lines, be sure to recognize what races are best suited for your body.

Good luck out there!! Hopefully this will prepare you to be able to enjoy both the Wine & Dine aspect of the race after the run is over!

Thanks again to Marni for the tips! Find Marni on the web at
www.trimarnicoach.com and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/trimarnicoach

One thing that I forgot to mention is the excessive use of caffeinated beverages that you may be consuming to keep yourself energized and awake before a late evening race start. Although advantageous for the athlete who enjoys the cup of Joe to stimulate the  bowel  movements before a morning workout or race, a nervous belly alongside an excessive amount of caffeine in the evening may cause GI distress before and during your race (which will ultimately make it harder to properly stick to your race fueling plan). Additionally, too much caffeine may cause constipation in some which may cause you to feel bloated throughout the race (alongside overeating throughout the day). Be mindul of your eating and drinking before an evening race, likely experience and practice will be key to finding out what works best for you and your body.
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