Enjoy this Q & A style interview with Alex Wild following his 5th place finish at the "main event" of Sea Otter: the Fuego XL.
How did the Fuego XL event at Sea Otter stand out this year?
This year, I feel [Sea Otter] got a bit more attention from the athletes that we don't get to race with a whole lot. The Lifetime Grand Prix (LTGP) expanded to be this international thing with covid dying down, but it had also proven itself in the first year. There was just more interest from a higher caliber field. We had [athletes] such as Brendan Johnson, from Australia (Australian Marathon Champ), Connie Looser (the Swiss Marathon Champ), and Chris Blevins. So I think just a higher overall caliber field and a larger field than last year.
What were some experiences you brought into your race this year?
Last year I upped the volume, being in the LTGP, amidst this switch to longer-distance marathon-style stuff. It was a learning curve. I feel that I probably did too much and kind of slowly burnt out throughout the year. “You're only as good as your last race”, as they say, right? So for me, it felt like it'd been an eternity since I raced at what I feel like my potential is, but also at the front of a race.
So it was nice to go in with a mentality that I didn't really care about the result, I just wanted to be proud of the effort and it felt so good to be throwing punches at the front again. I think coming out of it, that's just the big takeaway. Answering the question, “Am I still fast?”, that you ask yourself every year after spending five months by yourself on a bike. My big positive takeaway is that I still have what it takes to race at the front and I'm stoked for the year to come.
Have you changed or adjusted your fueling strategies?
The first part that I changed was more holistically fueling-wise. After I got a sodium test done I found out that I sweat 2.2g of sodium per liter, which is like where the chart ends. So I've been messing around with different ways to get that sodium in. In training, I've done a double-strength Skratch Hydration so I have about 800mg per 750mL bottle in training. Then I'll pair that with three Neversecond C30 gels per hour. That'll be about 1400mg (of sodium) per hour.
For the race, as we got closer, I was testing more of a ‘lightweight’ race setup. I would do a C90 Neversecond satchel with one Precision Hydration 1500 tab inside of it. Which will be 750mg of sodium additionally. So, I'll get 90g of carbs but also 950mg of sodium for that 750mL bottle. Then, I'll pair that with one C30 per hour. So I'm still getting 120 grams of carbs per hour but doing 1100mg (of sodium) per hour as well.
The night before, instead of like your traditional pasta, I do pad see ew, which I guess is the easiest way to explain that it’s an Asian, higher-sodium version of pasta essentially. Then I used King Arthur's pancake mix in the morning with Nutella. From what I've understood in talking to Precision Hydration is that your body's pretty good at regulating sodium. You can kind of trick it closer to the time by getting a little bit more plasma, but it's mainly just about being sure everything's topped up and you don't go in depleted or deficient.
Along with that, I did sip on a double-strength Skratch Hydration mix bottle before the start just to thirst and to keep hydrated. Then I took one C30 gel as I started warming up and one within one minute of the start. So for the entire day, I did four scoops of Skratch Hydration, six C30 gels, four C90 satchels, and one and a half Hot Shots. That (Hot Shots), for me, has been the only thing that's worked for cramps.
From a sodium loss perspective, it can vary so much. It seems you could put many athletes on a similar fueling protocol (from a carb-per-hour perspective) but incorporating your sweat profile definitely adds an element to the entire fueling strategy.
For sure – especially as you go longer, right? You think about something like Unbound; if someone's losing 400 to 800 milligrams of sodium per hour, which tends to be pretty normal, they're losing 4 to 8 grams throughout the day. So I think it's not a problem unless you are a high-sodium sweater and those products are great for 85 to 90% of the people who fall underneath that bell curve of normal sodium loss. Not for me. It was funny because when I got it tested, the guy that tested me was surprised that I hadn't seen the inside of an ER after one of those long races because of how much I could lose in 10 hours – it’s pretty close to 20 grams.
What does the rest of the season look like for you?
There's a good confidence boost going into Europe. I leave on Tuesday (May 2nd) and I'll do the Elba Marathon HC in Italy, then to the Czech Republic for the World Cup, and then I'll finish that trip with a UCI stage race in Belgium before coming home. The goals are to get some points for Glasgow this year but also because next year the US has Marathon Worlds at Snowshoe. So the stretch goal would be a medal on home soil.
I have a two-pronged approach this season: I want to do well at the Lifetime events but also put my, bid in for the Marathon UCI racing as well. For me, it is a good mentality to try out because Europe is just a whole other thing and I don't want to go in thinking [just] about a results-based goal, but moreso that feeling of racing your bike well.
I've been doing a lot of work in training to address that. I started training and doing intervals without music, which is new for me. That is to really get in tune with your body of, ”What does this effort feel like?”.
Finding the fun in racing has been a big goal this year. I think that it can be a pressure cooker of all these emotions and you're so focused on winning or top five or whatever it is. I think I just want to focus on enjoying the race – like enjoying that fight for the front. Then enjoy when I get to the point where I can play that chess game well – that’s a big goal for me.