Fuel for the Leadville Trail 100 MTB Race

August 3, 2021

[Placeholder]Fuel for the Leadville Trail 100 MTB Race

The Leadville MTB 100 is quite unique – you start at 6:30am at 10,200ft, it’s 104 miles out & back and has 11,500ft of climbing. The scenic beauty is unrivaled, and that’s one of the things that brings me back every year, the awe factor of being out in this big country.” – Brian Vaughan, Chief Endurance Officer, GU Energy Labs

Brian has completed the Leadville 100 mountain bike race many times and has honed his fueling strategy over the years. Here’s how he approaches the race.

GOAL TIME: 8 hours, 30 mins.

EXPECTED TOTAL CALORIES BURNED: 4,000-4,500

GOAL TOTAL CALORIE INTAKE: 3,000+

CALORIE INTAKE PER HOUR: ~350

**Disclaimer: Brian has spent years dialing in his endurance fueling strategy, training his body to absorb the upper limit of calories and carbs. His plan is meant to be an example only. Our general recommendation for most athletes is to shoot for 200-300 calories per hour and most importantly, don't try anything new on race day! 

GENERAL PLAN

Consume about 350 calories per hour, complementing sports nutrition with some solid food at aid stations and during the flatter sections of the course.

Keep it simple, eating only foods that are easy on the stomach (low in fat and fiber). 

Don’t exceed 100-150 calories of solid food at a given time—small portions of pretzels and boiled potatoes are great choices.

RACE MORNING – HYDRATE & TOP OFF FUEL

Hydrate with GU Hydration Drink Tabs from wake-up until staging for the start for extra electrolytes without a lot of calories.

Take 1 GU Energy Gel 15 mins before the start to top off fuel stores.

START TO PIPELINE 1 (27 miles)

RACE PLAN: There’s a neutral, downhill paved start that can be cold at 6:30 am, so tuck into the group to conserve energy and stay warmer. As the pavement turns to a gravel road the race begins to take shape, and the first climb of the day is negotiated. Everyone is anxious to get in position on St. Kevins, so staying out of trouble is the goal. Arrive at Pipeline 1 within 2 hours.

NUTRITION PLAN: With plenty of adrenaline at the start and throughout this segment, only eat non-caffeinated GU products. Try to take in about 700 calories and a minimum of 1.5-2bottles of fluid by the Pipeline aid station.

2 hours | 700 calories

2 Roctane Gels

1 serving of GU Energy Chews (1/2 a sleeve)

2 bottles of Roctane Energy Drink

PIPELINE 1 TO TWIN LAKES 1 (13 miles)

RACE PLAN: This next section is relatively fast and flat. Riders will group together in pace lines and draft each other on this combination of gravel and paved roads. Find and ride with a group at a good tempo, keeping the pace as consistent as possible.

NUTRITION PLAN:  The goal is to keep your stomach functioning throughout the event, and one of the better ways to accomplish this is to add small portions of solid food to your nutrition plan at key intervals, to encourage blood flow to the gut. The terrain in this section offers opportunity to grab a bite or two of solid food at a time and get in some fluid. Take in about 300 calories and a half to a full bottle of fluid before the Twin Lakes aid station.

40 minutes | 300 calories

1 Roctane Gel

100 calories of solid food

0.5-1 bottle of Roctane Energy Drink

TWIN LAKES 1 UP COLUMBINE BACK TO TWIN LAKES 2 (20 miles)

RACE PLAN: This is an important one to get right from a nutritional standpoint. The climb up Columbine is long and sustained, rising over 3,200 feet to 12,600 ft in roughly 8 miles. The pace will be quicker at the base of the climb; hold this tempo as long as possible toward the top. There are a bunch of bottlenecks as the leaders begin their return trip and head back down the same trail, and the pace will naturally slow as people begin to walk.  Also, this is where the weather can turn nasty if a storm cloud is at the summit, so keep alert.

NUTRITION PLAN: Consume caffeinated GU products like Roctane Gels and sip 4-5oz of Roctane Energy Drink every 10-12 mins, as much of this section will be at threshold. Putting ice in bottles and hydration pack at Twin Lakes 1 really helps.

2.5 hours | 850 calories

3 Roctane Gels

1 serving of GU Energy Chews (full sleeve)

2 bottles of Roctane Energy Drink

1 bottle Hydration Drink Tabs (if extra hydration needed)

Electrolyte Capsules

TWIN LAKES 2 to PIPELINE 2 (13 miles)

RACE PLAN: This is a tough mental section of the course—you’ve just left the cheering crowds of Twin Lakes and the sun is directly overhead. If it’s a clear day it will be hot! Try to find other riders to join and take advantage of a pace-line over the rolling terrain.

NUTRITION PLAN: Focus on hydration before the return climb up Powerline. Take on additional water and/or Hydration Tabs. Aim to consume about 400 calories during the 50-60 minute segment, and about one and a half to two bottles of Roctane Energy Drink. Grab a sleeve of Energy Chews to eat in case hunger strikes.

55 minutes | 400 calories

2 Roctane Gels

1 serving Energy Chews (backup)

1 bottle of Roctane Energy Drink

Electrolyte Capsules

PIPELINE 2 to LAST AID STATION (17 miles)

RACE PLAN: This is one of the most physically and mentally demanding sections of the race for most of the racers—the Powerline return. There are a bunch of false flats throughout, so pacing and a positive mental state are key to success. Don’t be afraid to get off and walk the steepest sections of the climb in order to preserve riding muscles. Keep an eye on heart rate and perceived effort, and adjust pace accordingly.  It’s unlikely that one will win the race here, but it most certainly can be lost. Use the final paved climb up the back side of St. Kevin’s to recover a bit and get into a rhythm.

NUTRITION PLAN: During this hottest part of the day, it’s critical to consume cold fluids to cool the core body temperature. Plan to consume about 680 calories during the 1hr, 55-minute segment, and one and a half to two bottles of fluid.

1 hour, 50 minutes | 680 calories

2 Roctane Gels

1-2 bottles of Hydration Drink Tabs or water

2 bottles of Roctane Energy Drink

Electrolyte Capsules

LAST AID STATION TO FINISH (14 miles)

RACE PLAN: Race all out…the finish line is under an hour away!

NUTRITION PLAN: Try eating a few bites of food departing the last aid station and settling into the rollers and fire road descent. At the bottom of St. Kevin’s, as the road levels out by the river, try to relax the legs and upper body, and focus on breathing. The challenge of this final section of the course is the “Boulevard” where the trail turns left and heads uphill. Take a Roctane Gel just as the pavement ends, and before the approach to the Boulevard. Consume 200-300 calories during the 40-minute segment, and 1 bottle of fluids.

40 minutes | 200 calories

1 Roctane Gel

Electrolyte Capsules

0.5 bottle of Roctane Energy Drink

FINISH LINE RECOVERY

Endurance events like the LT100 take a heavy toll on your body, so it’s important to begin the recovery process as soon as you can. Grab a bottle of ROCTANE Protein Recovery Drink and try to wind down slowly rather than immediately sitting down. This process circulates blood, removes unwanted lactic acid, and restarts the stomach. After a 15-minute spin, do some light stretching, then put your feet up. You’ve earned it! Have a light meal within 60-90 minutes of finishing.

Whether you’re racing Leadville this year or training for another endurance event, the most important things to remember are to stay on top of your fuel and hydration, and most of all, have fun out there!

FUELING RULES OF THUMB

When creating your own nutrition plan for a race, follow these basic guidelines to give yourself the best shot at success.

Energy — Food is Fuel!

Rule of Thumb #1: Aim to consume 200-300 calories per hour, the range that works for most people. While it’s possible to train your body to absorb more than 300 calories per hour, if you haven’t practiced before race day, don’t try something new. Start eating in the first hour of your race and KEEP EATING all the way through, even when you don’t feel like it. It could make the difference in your day.

“I tried fourteen times to finish the Leadville 100 in under nine hours (never finishing faster than 9:13), always making the same mistake: not fueling above 11,500 feet. I was breathing too hard and feeling too bad. By the time I got to mile sixty, I'd dug myself into a hole I could never dig out of.

Then, on my fifteenth try, I promised myself I'd eat a Roctane Gel every thirty minutes, no matter what. With that one change -- consistent calories I could get down no matter the altitude -- I stayed strong the whole day, finishing in 8:18 — almost an hour faster than my previous best.

The Leadville 100 is an eating contest disguised as a bike race.”

– Elden Nelson, 22x Leadville 100 MTB Finisher

Hydration — The Key to Powerful Performance

Rule of Thumb #2: Hydrate along the way by drinking 16-30 oz of fluids per hour. Staying hydrated is one of the easiest ways to make sure your body is performing at its potential. When you’re dehydrated, your power output goes down. Don’t waste watts; keep the fluids flowing!

Rule of Thumb #3: You need electrolytes to absorb fluids — 500-700 mg of sodium per hour. Plain water does not absorb as efficiently as water with electrolytes, so make sure you’re getting enough electrolytes to help you hold that hydration. There’s sodium in all GU Energy products to make hydrating easier for you. Just sip some water after a Gel, Chew or Stroopwafel to nail your hydration plan.

“Fueling (and hydrating) early and often was a commitment I made in my 2019 Leadville 100 MTB race fueling strategy with my coach Jason Tullous. I used a combination of Roctane Drink Mix in my water bottles, Gu Energy Gels, and homemade rice bars.”

– Rose Grant, Leadville 100 MTB Champion 2019

Recovery – Don’t Waste Your Workout

Rule of Thumb #4: Recover faster by consuming a complete protein within 30 minutes of finishing your workout or ride. By including recovery in your training routine you can bounce back faster and get stronger, making you ready for your next ride.

“I’m always adamant about getting calories in quickly after a hard effort. Chocolate Protein Recovery Mix was my go-to after finishing the ride on Saturday. I’m a fan of NormaTec Recovery Boots and active isolated stretching is always part of my daily routine, too.”

– Rob Krar, 2018 Leadville 100 MTB & Run Finisher

BCAAs — Invest in Muscle Insurance

Rule of Thumb #5: Protect your muscles and stay sharp with 3,000 mg of amino acids per hour during activity. Branched Chain Amino acids (BCAAs) are the building blocks of proteins, and they essentially start repairing your muscles while riding. That’s why we include them in all GU Energy products. They also help fight muscle soreness, making any time a good time to supplement with BCAAs.