Racing a triathlon is always a big deal - but especially when you race in the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
Romain Guillaume, professional ITZU-triathlete fueled by HIDDIT, is counting down the last days to the biggest triathlon race on the planet: the legendary Kona course.
Beautiful as it is challenging, this course presents athletes with the challenge of a lifetime. Rough ocean, hills, crosswinds, blistering heat and stifling humidity: this is one course to be taken seriously.
Planning becomes essential
Every pro starting in Hawaii will have a plan on how hard to push it in his personal zones, and will have planned his target heart rate and speed.
But what most people -especially novice triathletes - might forget, is that world-class triathletes also prepare a nutritional plan, to make sure their body is hydrated and fueled enough to perform at it's peak. And like any other great plan, it needs to be well prepared and executed.
So how does Romain do it?
Let's have a look at his actual plan for this Saturday:
10 minutes before the start, Romain takes a Hiddit Energy Gel. This makes sense: before the long swim, he gives his body fast and slow carbs, and a healthy dose of electrolytes to compensate for the sweating.
At the T1 (transit zone for swim to bike), he immediately takes another gel. This will keep his glucose levels high, and it will replace lost salt and other electrolytes. This salt is important to stay hydrated, but also to keep absorbing glucose: no salt, no hydration, no glucose digestion!
During the bike, Romain knows he needs a lot of energy and 1,2 liters of fluids. He knows this because he has done sweat rate testing before the race, in similar conditions.
Every 30 minutes on the bike, he will take another Hiddit Energy Gel, and use a total of 5 bottles (of 700 ml each) of Hiddit Isotonic during his ride.
He will also take extra salt every 30 minutes (the great heat and humidity in Hawaii makes him lose a lot of salt through heavy sweating!), and add water to reach his goal of 1,2 liters of fluids / hour.
In total, Romain will ingest 344 grams of carbohydrates during the bike ride, enough to keep him fueled and prepare his body for the full marathon yet to come.
This is where most problems arise: the run typically has higher heart rates, and higher sweat rates due to less ventilation (on the bike you still get a 40km/h wind!).
The impact from running also impacts the stomach and digestion more.
So Romain starts the race by immediately taking a gel in the T2 zone (transition bike to run).
He then takes a gel every 20 minutes, washed down with water from the aid stations. He will also take extra salt, diluted in water, from his stash at the pro personal aid stations.
So during the run, he is also taking in about 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour.
What can we learn from Romain?
First and foremost: you need a PLAN. Romain has based his plan on sound research (for instance, he took the time and effort to determine his personal sweat rate) AND on sound science.
Romain is able to fuel his body with 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour, because he uses the scientific principle of distributing his intake over a 2:1 ratio of glucose to fructose. This limits the chance of gastrointestinal problems.
He also pays a lot of attention to his sodium intake: a principle all too often overlooked by budding triathletes.
And, because it is a very long race, he avoids fiber in order to minimize the possibility of bowel cramps or unwanted toilet breaks. That is why he does not use Energy Bars or fruit.
And, last but not least, he has tried and tested his course nutrition plan repeatedly during long training blocks, actually adapting his gut to the high carbohydrate intake needed on race day. Yes, the gut needs to be trained too!