Eating on the go


‘Ironman is a bike race with a swim warm-up and a jog to the finish (wrapped around an eating contest)’
Joe Friel, triathlon coach, author and knower of things Ironman

Joe uses the above quote to demonstrate where your priorities should be when you are training for an Ironman.

The premise being that you spend over half the time on the bike, and you should therefore focus on the bike leg if you want to have an enjoyable / successful day. It just so happens that the warm up means swimming for an hour and a half, and the jog to the finish is a marathon.

But while the prospect of the distances involved is definitely daunting, it is the final part of the quote that I am struggling to get my head around – the eating contest. It is also the part of equation that can mean the difference between going the distance and making friends with the paramedics.

According to people who know lots more than I do (if it’s on the internet they must be experts, right?), Ironman competitors typically expend between 6,000 to 10,000 calories during the course of the event. To put that in context, the calorie requirement for your average day is between 1,500 to 2,500.

Burning calories at this rate is unsustainable, meaning that competitors have to aim to replace around 30 – 50% of the calories burned per hour, which equates to 200 calories at least.

This, if you do the maths (or math if you were born on the wrong side of the Atlantic), means eating more during the event than most of us would on a typical day. While doing exercise.

But what does that mean in terms of food per hour?

I am no calorie counter, and had literally no idea if 200 calories is a lot of food, because it certainly doesn’t sound like much. After some digging around, it turns out the Guardian have published a series of pictures of what 200 grams looks like in different types of food –

So, if I want to finish an Ironman, it would mean consuming the equivalent of the following, every hour, while racing:



Glazed Doughnut

Obviously you don’t actually eat a plateful of celery every hour, but you get the point. It goes to show just why refuelling is considered one of the key disciplines of an Ironman.

Which brings me to my next problem; I can’t eat or drink on the move. At all.

Twelve doughnuts over twelve hours, sitting at my desk, would barely register as abnormal. But trying to do that while on the road is a completely different ball game.

My current refuelling technique goes something like this: run up to the drink station, come to a complete stop, try to take on what I need while avoiding those who have mastered the drive-by method, before finally getting going again.

This is evidently going to need some work over the next couple of months.


Highlight of the week: I finally got back on my bike on Thursday after a week of inactivity, and it reminded me just how much I love it. After kicking off with a 6am ride I was buzzing for the rest of the day.

Lowlight of the week: Travelling to Brisbane for work. Conference food and staying in a hotel totally messes with my routine.

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