So while other riders packed Clif Shots and Hammer Gels, and downed gallons of Heed , Perpetuem, and Spizz, I packed my bags with boiled potatoes, baked tofu, PB & banana sandwiches, muffins, and trail mix (and, in the pre-vegan days, I also brought boiled eggs). I did make the exception for the occasional Clif Bar; at least those give a person something to CHEW. The closest I would get to Science Diet was Clif Shot Blox (aka Gummi Bears for cyclists).
Yes. Well. That was all well and good when the longest ride I did was less than 200 miles and when I was not racing a clock. The extra weight that "real" food added to the bike load did not concern me, and I always had time to unpack and repack complicated concoctions. And last year, when I did two 600-kilometer rides (approx. 375 miles), I continued to pack "real" food with no obvious detriment, but I did begin to question whether I could afford to be pushing the extra weight and taking the time to pack and unpack on the longer rides. It may have only slowed me down a little, but was it possible that without the extra weight I would have been the minimal increment faster that would allow me more than a couple hours of sleep on a 40-hour ride?
And then last month I rode the 600 XTR. In my front bag I had some tofu, some licorice, a few apricot bars, a few packs of Shot Blox, some trail mix and cashews. I decided not to bring potatoes and sandwiches, figuring I'd also be foraging along the way.
What I did not factor in was that the extreme heat on the ride would switch off my hunger switch. It was not so much that I could not eat what I had with me, it was more that it simply wasn't something I thought much about. As a result, I finished the ride with almost as much food in my bag as I started with; I hauled it for 376.1 miles and took it back home with me. And since I was trying not to spend too much time at controls, I also was not purchasing mch food or taking time to eat it. When I tallied up what I had eaten over the 38 and a half hours it took for me to complete the ride, I realized that I had taken in somewhere around 5,000 calories. I had probably expended twice that many. Not good.
Now I am preparing to ride twice that distance - something I have never done before - and the terrain and temperature will be equally unforgiving. So I have begun thinking about Science Diet again. Factoring into the consideration is that Hammer Nutrition is supplying the riders on the Gold Rush with gels, Perpetuem and Endurolytes, gratis. But I did not want to just show up in Davis and start ingesting any of those products without seeing if I could tolerate them. I did not want a repeat of the Heed/Clif Shots experience. Since I was signed up to lead a long, hilly climb for Portland Velo this past Saturday, and with the ride to the start and back would have almost a century in, I decided I would use that ride as my test run.
First I investigated the liquid supplements. I've had good luck with Cytomax, but it is not a complete supplement. Obviously, anything dairy-based was right out, so no Ensure, Boost, Spizz or Accelerade. That left Perpetuem. I picked up a pack of the Orange-Vanilla. I also collected a variety of gels - Hammer Chocolate, Apple Cinnamon and Rasperry; Gu Orange Roctane and Blueberry-Pomegranate. I also picked up a packet of the Gu gummies.
Saturday morning I mixed up a bottle of Perpetuem and gave it a taste test. It tasted okay, but the texture was less than appealing. In fact it was downright nasty. Like drinking silty river water. Dreamsicle-flavored silty river water. Oh well, I thought, perhaps if I am thirsty enough and drink it quickly enough, it will be alright. NOT. On the one hand, it did not make me hurl. On the other hand, it made me want to hurl. So I am skipping the liquid nutrition concept and going with water and Endurolytes.
I had better luck with the gels. The Hammer Chocolate was like thin pudding or thick syrup, and the Raspberry was sweet but not too sweet. Lynne had not been very enthused about the Apple-Cinnamon, but it wasn't that bad. I don't think I'd want a steady diet of it, though. The hand-down winner, however, was the Gu Orange Roctane. It tasted good, and I could definitely feel a difference shortly after downing it. And none of them made me hurl. So I'll be packing some gel this time around, just in case.
I don't think I would try to do any ride on just gels and Endurolytes. I will still pack some light and calorie-dense foods (Trader Joe's flattened bananas, perhaps), and I'll throw some avocados in my drop bags. I've been in contact with the ride organizers and they are making an effort to ensure that there will be vegan-friendly items at the food-controls (I just hope the faster riders don't eat it all before I get there!). Now I just need to remember to eat.