Let me start by saying that Allen Lim has nothing to worry about. I'm not sure how long it took him to dial in his drink mix, but my first attempt was something of a failure. I should back up though. Over the winter I bought Allen Lim's "Secret Drink Mix." I liked the concept, bought into his science and liked the mild flavor of the drink itself. I also bought his cookbook, which I highly recommend. Over the years I've used a number of sports drinks, gels, bars, cubes, blocks, you name it. Some contained too much sugar which seemed to create energy spikes followed by drops, while others just didn't seem to work. In addition, regardless of what I took, I seemed to always cramp after a few hours at race pace. I tried drinking more, drinking less, adding sodium tablets, and at my lowest point read a study indicating that pickle juice would prevent cramps. Well, despite carrying and consuming a warm flask of pickle juice around a few races, the cramps continued to win.
Fast forward to last week and I run out of Allen Lim's Skratch Labs drink mix. I order a couple of pounds, but I know that it won't be here in time for this weekend's race. With a forecast of 85+ degrees, I'm concerned. I decide to just head to the shop and buy some Heed. It hadn't really worked in the past, but it was a known commodity. Then I got to doing some further research on the internet. That's usually a bad idea and that may have been where things took a turn in the wrong direction.
Long story longer, I decide I can "recreate" Allen Lim's drink mix to a large extent. 4 teaspoons of sugar, a little less than 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a little pure lemon juice for flavor. I took it on a test drive Friday night, and again for my openers on Saturday. I was still less than confident that it would work, but Sunday's race wasn't exactly an A race for me, so I figured I'd roll the dice. In a moment of clarity Saturday night I text Tim O. to get his 2 cents. He very diplomatically tells me I'm crazy to make a change like that coming into a 55 mile race that's full of hills and unseasonably warm temperatures. I don't listen and decide to go with my home brew. I also decide to bring 3 full bottles with me and force myself to drink more than I normally do. Allen Lim makes some excellent points about HOW you consume your calories and in what form, and subsequently I decide that I won't bring any gel packs and that I'll rely on the calories from the additional drink to get me through the race. I throw a Cliff Bar in my pocket for insurance.
After lap 1 of 2, the pace is high and so are the temps. On the start/finish climb I get gapped. When the road points back down hill, I get into a good group and we begin the chase back to the pack. It's then that I realize that something has gone very wrong. Maybe too much salt? Maybe the salt and lemon juice are conspiring against me? Flash back to a bad margarita perhaps? Who knows. All I know is that I promptly jumped out of groups rotation and throw up in my mouth. Then I projectile vomit about 6 ounces of Skinny Phil's Secret Drink Mix all over the road at 20 miles per hour. At that moment I reflect on reading how Jens Voigt has just done something similar in the Tour of California. The difference between Jens and myself is that he's a hard man of cycling, and I am . . . something less than that. I contemplate turning around and riding back to the start, but decide to press on. Apparently unloading the 6 ounces was enough to get back in the game, and a couple of miles later I'm feeling ok. I went on to finish relatively strong with no cramps. I have no idea what place I was in, and after getting dropped and taking a few minutes to roll along and puke, I don't really want to know where I finished, but I do know that I rode hard and didn't cramp at all even though I hammered up the last mile.
What did I learn? I should listen to Tim. I shouldn't let myself run out of drink mix. I should experiment more with ditching gels per Allen Lim's recommendations. I also learned that puking and rallying isn't just for college kids. Gotta love bike racing. Where else could you have this much fun in the name of science? Then again, I'm not sure what I was doing had anything to do with science.
Maybe next time I can avoid the cramps AND bypass the puking in the process. A man's gotta have goals I guess.