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Energy Gels and CX Racing

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Energy Gels and CX Racing

Old 07-29-08, 09:23 PM
  #1  
jpearl
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Energy Gels and CX Racing

So this year marks my second season of cyclocross racing. Short of moving to Belgium, I'm looking for ways to up my CX game (which basically means placing in the 20s and low 30s of Cat. 4 racing instead of mid 30s and 40s).

One new approach is using energy gels, which thanks to Hammer Nutrition, is finally available in a kosher version. I didn't use gels last year, and this year I started using them for interval training and for blasting out fast commutes home before the sun goes down. So the question for this thread is as follows:

Does anybody use gels for CX racing, and if so, how many do you take and how soon before a race do you take them? As a Cat-4/C-class rider, my races last anywhere from 35 to 40 minutes, so I'm trying to get a good gauge of how many to take and when to take 'em.

Also, while I'm on the topic, any particular pre-race drinks or foods as well that you're all using?

Thanks in advance for your feedback.
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Old 07-30-08, 06:17 AM
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If I use a gel, I generally take it 15 min or so before the race starts. For a race that short, you might bump that to 30 min before- anybody with more nutrition or metabolism knowledge have an opinion on that? Assuming good nutrition, hydration, etc. leading up to the race, I don't think there's any call for more than one in a race of that length, but you might carry an extra with you in case you're not well fueled and need a psychological boost (I don't think you'll get much physical benefit from a gel taken at the halfway point of a 30 min or even 45 min CX race).

Since you're using Hammer, check out their Athlete's Guide to Nutrition (or something like that- I don't recall exactly what they call it). It details some metabolic processes and explains what, when, and how much you should take for different lengths of races. It's somewhere on their website.

Good luck this fall!
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Old 07-30-08, 07:51 AM
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what's up dc guys!

i agree that mid-race gels probably don't help very much. from what i remember, i was mostly trying to suppress the urge to puke. if you find they help you when eaten before a race, awesome. my only advice is to train like you race, i tend to just eat a normal light breakfast an hour or so before the race because that's what i'm used to.

jpearl, we're looking to start practices in the next couple weeks. i've got your contact info, sorry i've been slacking on the organization stuff. clearly it's not my forte.

good luck all!
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Old 07-30-08, 08:16 AM
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no body is going to like this, but for a 35 minute race, I was eating 3 of those clif bloks, a gel and drinking 1/2 a monster energy drink 10-15 minutes before the start.

Let us note that this was before I knew anything about racing bikes. I never puked. I still dont think it is that bad of an idea. And I placed pretty well. After the adrenaline wears off you have plenty of other crap flowing through your veins to keep you going. The drive home wasn't so good.
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Old 07-30-08, 08:45 AM
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Read the Hammer guide for success.

Taking calories in the three hours before the race can do more harm than good.
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Old 07-30-08, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by dirtyphotons View Post
what's up dc guys!

i agree that mid-race gels probably don't help very much. from what i remember, i was mostly trying to suppress the urge to puke. if you find they help you when eaten before a race, awesome. my only advice is to train like you race, i tend to just eat a normal light breakfast an hour or so before the race because that's what i'm used to.

jpearl, we're looking to start practices in the next couple weeks. i've got your contact info, sorry i've been slacking on the organization stuff. clearly it's not my forte.

good luck all!
+1

One GU 15-20 minutes before the race, and water during. If you're eating, and drinking appropriately all week this should be enough.
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Old 07-30-08, 10:12 AM
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Originally Posted by sfcrossrider View Post
+1

One GU 15-20 minutes before the race, and water during. If you're eating, and drinking appropriately all week this should be enough.
Water during a cross race? Do you guys use bottle cages? Camelbacks? Huh?
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Old 07-30-08, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by M_S View Post
Water during a cross race? Do you guys use bottle cages? Camelbacks? Huh?
Most bicycle jerseys have back pockets.
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Old 07-30-08, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by flargle View Post
Most bicycle jerseys have back pockets.


Yeah, but that bottle's gonna get tossed the second you get to the first run up...
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Old 07-30-08, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by drumbum View Post
Yeah, but that bottle's gonna get tossed the second you get to the first run up...
Nope. Stays fine in the left rear (if you shoulder in the usual fashion). The only trouble is the water getting warm.

In cooler weather there's no need for water, but early season here in the southeast, it's very hot and humid and damn skippy I like having water on hand, even if only to wet the mouth. Seems like folks drink water during crits, they last the same amount of time.
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Old 07-31-08, 06:48 AM
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i rarely find time to drink let alone try to eat in a cross race
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Old 07-31-08, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Lithuania View Post
i rarely find time to drink let alone try to eat in a cross race
truth. i've never had a drink during a race, but make extra sure to hydrate in the days leading up. i would take a drink if given a handup though.
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Old 07-31-08, 09:18 AM
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ive drank in races twice and both times I found it more of a hassle to get the bottle and put it back in my jersey. The second time I just threw the bottle away because it was too difficult to sort out.
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Old 07-31-08, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by M_S View Post
Water during a cross race? Do you guys use bottle cages? Camelbacks? Huh?
Feed from my team, wife, and friends. I keep em posted all over the course to quench my thirst (I do the same for them).
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Old 07-31-08, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by M_S View Post
Water during a cross race? Do you guys use bottle cages? Camelbacks? Huh?
Another option is simply keeping a cage on the seattube. Yes, over time you bend the cage from shouldering, but it doesn't get in the way of getting it on or off your shoulder. (Practice in training, of course.)

As far as finding the time to drink, start/finish is the typical place. In heat, a bit of water once a lap gives some comfort and possibly better performance. (AFAIK the research on hydration for events an hour or less is ambiguous. Most of the research on extreme heat is on longer endurance events.)
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Old 07-31-08, 01:26 PM
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I eat a huge breakfast at least 3 hours before the 1st race and drink lots of Gatorade leading up to about 1 hour before the race. Right before the race (15 minutes) I have a few ounces of water with a gel and off I go for 45 minutes, masters race. Then I eat a nice big sandwich, bannana, apple or something, chill a bit hop on the trainer, drink lots pop another gel and race the pro/1/2 race for 60 minutes. I used to get hand outs of water but they don't allow that any more. All of the pro's and otherwise good cross racers I know taught me not to drink during a race. Practice during your training races, or even riding on the road not to drink for 1 hour, it's not that bad.

It's good to 'camel up' before the race and then stop drinking an hour before so you can pee a lot of it out, it sucks to have to pee 15 minutes into a race.

I've always liked the kick the gel provides and they are easy for me to digest so I don't cramp up. A post race meal burns up quickly and typically there is about two hours between my races.
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Old 07-31-08, 08:50 PM
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I've contemplated handups for drinks, but the way I see it, if you're taking your hands off the bars during a CX race, then you're not racing. I like the idea of hydrating up on the days leading up to a race, especially lots of bananas for potassium. I totally agree with jfmckenna, BTW, on timing that pre-race pee. Not that I've ever had that during the race, but having to go minutes before call-ups to the line is a pain, especially when trapped into racing suits.
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Old 08-04-08, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by jpearl View Post
I've contemplated handups for drinks, but the way I see it, if you're taking your hands off the bars during a CX race, then you're not racing.
I'll take handups once a lap and beat you. But I guess that wouldn't be racing.
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Old 08-06-08, 12:08 PM
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guys, you're racing in the C's for pete's sake. i'll smoke both of you and call it a warmup.
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Old 08-07-08, 09:00 AM
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Just practice the hand out and it's not that bad. Also make sure your persone handing out is on a slow nice section of the course, in fact officials usually choose the area which is appropriate, i.e. not on the fast down hill paved section
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Old 08-07-08, 07:12 PM
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Originally Posted by xccx View Post
guys, you're racing in the C's for pete's sake. i'll smoke both of you and call it a warmup.
but how many gels does that take you?

as far as pre-race, i eat pasta with brewer's yeast on it (gives it flavor, kind of) the morning of, and this was considering that the race start times were 2-3pm. This year, my races start at 930am or so. So I can get up at 5 and eat a waffle or two and drink some coffee, or gag back a nasty gel right before the race.

and in-race handups for 4s was not allowed last years, esp since it is a shorter race time. I doubt anyone really needs a sip of water half way through a 30 min race. You never know...
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Old 08-08-08, 05:09 AM
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most of the time i dont see a need for water but in some races last year in 90 degree heat and super dusty courses it sure would have been nice
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Old 08-09-08, 05:25 PM
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I honesty can't ever remember desperately needing water last season, which is a bit odd to me because I totally need it when I'm riding cross country. I guess in cyclocross races my body has more traumatic things to worry about than thirst.

I try to eat a good meal the night before (pasta + something that had eyes). The morning of I eat a liquid breakfast for old people (Carnation Instant Breakfast or a bottle of Ensure) just because my stomach doesn't like heavy food in it before I ride. Aside from that I'll try to keep well hydrated leading up to the race (during the days leading up to it and especially the morning of) and choke down an energy gel 15-30 minutes before the race starts.

Last edited by shapelike; 08-09-08 at 05:30 PM.
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Old 08-10-08, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by shapelike View Post
I honesty can't ever remember desperately needing water last season, which is a bit odd to me because I totally need it when I'm riding cross country. I guess in cyclocross races my body has more traumatic things to worry about than thirst.
Maybe your location in Canada has something to do with it, too.

We in the U.S. southeast have some pretty hot and humid conditions at the beginning of cross season.
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Old 08-12-08, 06:15 PM
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Originally Posted by flargle View Post
Maybe your location in Canada has something to do with it, too.

We in the U.S. southeast have some pretty hot and humid conditions at the beginning of cross season.

Agreed, a couple of the Virginia races last year were scorching!
There were a couple of races when I definitely would have liked a hand up.
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