During my 4 years of preparation for the Tour Divide I’ve read tons of stuff and every time nutrition was a topic everybody was talking about calories, calories and once again calories. Of course, if you don’t wanna look like as thin as a rake after one week calories are important on the Divide, but much more important are carbohydrates. Without carbohydrates your legs are always done. That was what I suffered from on more than 60% of the days. And done legs have a direct impact to your mental power. Some math's: Per pound load on your bike you need 4 up to 5 Watt more power. A fully loaded bike what has a weight of about 42 lbs instead of 22 lbs needs about 100W more power in addition to the 100W that you need for your 22 lbs bike anyway. 200W on flat, paved terrain in optimal conditions is the basic performance everyone has to accomplish. Accomplishing 300W what equates an uphill gradient from about 6% with our full loaded bike requires 3oz (90g) carbohydrates or two energy gel packs per hour.
Decent sources for carbohydrates are potatoes, rice or pasta (noodles). Unfortunately the classical food on the Divide is fat but very poor at carbohydrates. In small towns there is often just one restaurant and the classical card reflects nothing else like burgers in all kinds of style. If you order a baked potato you get instant mashed potatoes formed like a potato (happened to me in
). If, after a 140
mile day, you can just choose between Cheeseburger with fries or fried chicken
breast with fries and the next day you have to accomplish 120 miles plus and a
lot of climbing with this spare food you exactly know what the day gonna be. Like
the five times I got pasta I felt always better the next day. Climbing was a
treat and not a torture. Still a mystery and an unanswered question to me: how are
the guys in front of the race dealing with the lack of carbohydrates? Or is it
just a matter of training? Maybe I made the mistake and didn’t train with gas
station food at home. Lima
I didn't have to be a fortune teller to see the disaster coming and would struggle with the lack of carbohydrates during the race. To cover at least a minimum of my daily demand I used PowerBar gel packs. For the mix with water I had energy powder from Xenofit called competition and mineral energy, overall 3lbs (1,5Kg) and a huge weight and space penalty at the beginning of the event. Normally the amount is covering the need for 4 days, but I had stretched it to 13 days, until Rawlins. In Rawlins I expected a parcel that I had sent 3 weeks prior to the race to the local post office with the same amount of energy nutrition for the rest of the race. But due to my permanent empty legs and the lack of carbohydrates I had used all the stuff up within the first few days after Rawlins.
Extremely tough were those days without breakfast. And there were some of them, just boosted by having no decent dinner the evening before or getting no breakfast even after some hours in the saddle. Going to bed or starting the day with energy or corn bars, some nuts and the dishwater in your bladder is simply frustrating. A lot of discipline is necessary for a motel sleeper like me not to wait until breakfast or till the first café opened its doors, especially in the north where it’s quite cold in the morning. The nights I camped stressed my legs more than in a real bed. Every time I had a camp my legs felt like concrete the next morning what the best nutrition was not able to compensate during the day. Those days were predestined psychological days where I fought tooth and nail to accomplish the climbs.
First in northern
I discovered the astonishing effect of these small bottles called “5 hours
energy” that were available at every gas station and I had been toting around for
some days. From that point on I used this boosting stuff just in an
"emergency" case. Ok, almost every day was a so called emergency
case, but I really used the bottles when I was badly off or during a night ride
to avoid falling off the bike. I also figured out that without a decent meal
the effect was limited. Wyoming
Breakfast in case of an very early start what looked every day like the same for me, Kelloggs Frosties in a plastic cup, milk or Nesquick chocolate, sandwiches, yoghurt (if available), cold coffee from Starbucks in a glass bottle, fruits. And for the day: chocolate bars like Kit-Kat or Snickers for the first hour (otherwise it was melting away), Oreo cookies, PowerBar energy bars (if available), nuts in all different styles, trail mixes, bananas, small cherry pies, sandwiches and sometimes corn bars. To drink: Water and Gatorade (I liked the white one the most) in the mix. Except for the sandwiches, a miserable sweet mélange that I was really fed up with, literally.