Nutrition is Key

Building a Healthy Body

How Suzie Richards fuelled her first ever Ironman

“You are doing a race that lasts longer than a working day?” 

That was my mum’s response when I told her I was racing Ironman UK, in Bolton on July 19th.
One thing was certain, It was going to be a long day out.

An Ironman Triathlon consists of:

  • 3.86 km Swim
  • 180.25 km Bike
  • 42.2 km Run

Two weeks before race day, it was confirmed, I had a place on the Pro start line, I upgraded from the age group category of my original entry, following my win at Outlaw Half. Why? I wanted to have a crack at racing the best athletes, starting when they started and having the chance to win some prize money and to see how I would get on in the pro field. I would rather be a little fish in a big pond, rather than a big fish in a little pond. Ambitious, yes, in hind sight the right decision? Yes,I learnt a lot in the race and from the other pro women, so it was a great opportunity.

A big perk of being on the Pro start was staying at a homestay with Philip, Lisa and their three daughters. My Leeds Bradford Triathlon club mate and fellow Pro Eleanor Haresign had arranged this. We had lucked out, Philip and Lisa were superb hosts and they made us feel right at home. We had full use of the house and kitchen which made race preparation especially cooking super handy. Instead of relying on restaurants for food which often happens before races.Staying with Philip and his family we could cook our own food.

We arrived on the Friday, as the Pro briefing was at 3.30pm. Here is a run down on what I then ate and drank before the race on Sunday and how I fuelled the Ironman.

Friday 17th July:

AM– Porridge and banana made with full fat milk

Lunch– Last nights left over chicken casserole in a lunch box (this is a regular occurrence, We cook big evening meals and have left overs for lunch). Convenient as I was working and travelling so handy to have some good food to hand.

Dinner– At Lisa and Philips house, Eleanor and myself cooked a mince chilli con carne style dish with rice which we enjoyed sat down around the table with Philips family.
We had baked up some cakes and shortbread for Philip, Lisa and their daughters so we also tucked into some of these.

This was the day I travelled to Bolton and what i have learnt is its always good to travel with lots of food in the car, I often make a big meal earlier in the week and then bring this with me, such as big stir fry or casserole. Then you don’t have to rely on sandwiches and snack type food in the days before a race.

Saturday 18th July:

AM: I did a short 20 minute run before breakfast and we planned on getting a quick swim in at Pennington flash lake later in morning so I had a small breakfast before swim.
2 slices of toast with Jam, banana, cup of tea, glass of water with OTE hydro tab.

Lunch– We had spent the morning, racking our bikes and putting run trainers in T2 (Ironman Bolton has a split transition so the bikes are by the lake and the run trainers are placed at the Macron stadium, so it requires a bit of organisation and driving around to sort everything out). Lunch back at Philip and Lisa’s house of Jacket Potato, baked beans and tuna.
I then grazed all afternoon on cake, flapjack and drank lots of water with OTE Hydro tabs in to help keep hydrated. Philip was also an OTE fan and had a big stack of Lemon hydro tabs on the kitchen counter!

Dinner– I am not too fussy about what I eat the night before a race.I know many people have a pre race meal they always eat, I tend to go with whatever is available. It was great having a kitchen so I could cook up something quick and easy. I had Chicken, vegetables and rice in a tomato sauce with some sticky rice. For pudding I had tapioca pudding that I had made up at home and bought with me. I am a big fan of Tapioca, its full of carbs so a great pre race fuel.

It was early to bed as the alarm was set for 3.30am on Sunday as the race started at 5.55am and Philips friend and right hand man Steven was giving us a lift to the start at 4am.

Sunday 19th July- race day

Breakfast 3.45am (Race day= A very early start!)

  • Porridge with banana and honey. 
  • OTE hydro tab in glass of water 
  • Cup of coffee (I usually only drink tea, but before races i go for a big caffeine hit with the coffee)

Race starts- 5.55am
15 minutes before the race starts I take an OTE gel and sip on OTE energy drink.

Swim: 1.03 for 3.8km
The rain began and the winds picked up so it got a bit choppy out there but i felt good and was happy to come out of the water 7th /13 Pro women.

Bike: 6.31 for 180km
I had predicted I would cycle the 180km in around 6hours, due to the wind and rain I was slightly slower.
I started the bike with the following food/ drink n my bike:

  • 2 x 750ml bottles with OTE energy drink
  • 1 OTE chocolate duo bar broken into bite size chunks
  • 3 x OTE energy gels (1 caffeine and 2 orange)
  • 3 Rice cakes (from The Feedzone Portable cook book)
  • 3 Sweetpotato cakes ((from The Feedzone Portable cook book)

I then replaced my water bottles at the aid stations during the ride.

I had calculated how many grams of carbs I would require, using 1g carb per 1kg of body weight per minute. 49 grams of carbs every hour. Fine, in normal weather conditions. The weather was not a nice summer’s day, it rained, a lot. From 6.50am onwards for the first few hours, it was windy, and pretty cold up on the moors. I was wearing shorts, sleeveless Triathlon top, arm warmers and a thin gilet. I thought I would be ok, I thought I was tough! I can handle some wind and rain I thought. I could, using a lot of calories to keep warm. More calories than I realised. I finished the 180km bike, feeling faint, light headed and not seeing straight.

The Run: 42.2km (my first marathon and longest ever run) 4 hours 5 minutes

The plan was:
Drink every 15 minutes, take a gel every 30 minutes
I had enough in my fuel belt to last till 9 miles where I would restock on drink and fuel from my support crew of Adam and Emily.

The reality:
I was not in a good state in T2, racking my bike, putting on my trainers, I knew I wouldn’t make it to the end of the road, let alone complete a marathon unless I had some fuel. I had a fuel belt, I put it on and consumed everything in it that was meant to last me till mile 9. 3 OTE Gels, 2x200ml bottles 1 of OTE energy drink, 1 of Coke, an OTE duo energy bar and a handful of jelly babies. Thank god my stomach is made of steel and OTE products are Ph neutral and kind on the stomach!! I downed all of this in the first 2 minutes, I perked up and started to see straight again. Maybe this was going to be possible. I reached half way in 1 hour 47 minutes. If I could just keep this going, all would be well. Bang! A sniper had jumped out and shot my legs. That was it, the most painful experience ever. I had officially hit the wall and there was no step ladder to get over it. The second half of the marathon was extremely painful! It was a case of putting one foot in front of the other. I continued to sip drink every 15 minutes and take a gel every 30 minutes and finally I reached the finish line.

11 hours 48 minutes.10th female Pro. I did it, I finished my first Ironman. And I learnt a lot in those 708 minutes.

It was a tough old day, but an incredible experience. Thank you to everyone who cheered me on out on the streets of Bolton and who has helped along the way.

Posted in: General, Nutrition Advice, OTE Fuelled Athletes


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