A few months ago, preparing for my first half Ironman distance event, I was briefed by coach Fi as to what I should be eating in preparation for the big day. Fi’s advice was simple: load up on carbs. Eat pasta, rice and potatoes, snack on bananas and bagels. Essential for replenishing your glycogen levels.

Two weeks before the race, and 38 bagels 84 bananas later, I was pretty much fed up with the routine. On my weekly lunch trip to the supermarket from work, I decided to go off tangent and buy bags of apples, clementines and raisins (as well as the usual suspects). The sweet and juicy nectar of flavour, at last. A few forbidden pieces of fruit later, it was time for my run. All revved up and ready to go, I left my work place and headed to Hyde Park for my usual one hour tempo session.

It was a warm day, and as the miles increased, layers started coming off. About 20 minutes into the run, my stomach started to rumble, a sensation I was not familiar with; I needed a toilet, fast. Clutching my abdomen, I went off road and into the tree lined edges that separated the path from the centre of the park. Frantically, I searched for a cafe or some sort of public facility, all throughout I contemplated: "worse comes to worst, you can go behind that tree, or by that wall away from pedestrians." Readers will be happy to hear that I did manage to find a more kosher outpost. “Cut off all fibre from your diet, that includes fruit and brown bread.”

Nutrition is a key part of an Ironman race, as a recent trip to the French Alps as part of Triathlon Europe’s Ironman Training Camp has taught me. Knowing when to eat what and how much is crucial in surviving the gruesome 12 hours you are going to put your body through. What should be consumed? Well, other than the generic rules mentioned earlier, it is all a matter of taste and preference. My routine is as follows:

1. Load up on carbs before the race (no fibre!).
2. A day before the race, sip on a carbohydrate drink, anything rich in maltodextrin will do.
3. On race day, have a decent breakfast 2 hours before the start (the usual breakfast your body is accustomed to, don’t experiment).
4. After the swim, take in some energy drink before getting on the bike and head off.
5. Throughout the bike ride, consume 3 energy bars and 3 bottles of energy drink, pacing yourself throughout the ride by cutting them into accesible pieces and setting reminders.
6. 20 minutes before getting off the bike, take in a gel.
7. 15 minutes into every hour of the run, consume a gel and drink water throughout the run (at every aid station) but not to excess.

Having ridden four major Cols in the Alps and watched athletes I admire bonk (some of whom have already completed an Ironman race), simply because they have not consumed enough calories, highlights how important having a nutrition strategy is. Having a time to test it out, like the excellent backdrop of the Alps, is also so important.

Nerves, excitement and the pure rush of adrenalin can be our friends if we let them. Until I reach that stage, I will stick to the plan but this time with a packet of Imodium at hand.

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