It’s going to be tough for me to describe all of this succinctly, but I’ll give it a shot. I’ve never been able to get any decent answers/advice about this, but I figure this forum is a pretty good place to try again.
I have done a bunch of ultra distance stuff. 18 ironmans and one long distance MTB race (11+ hours). In each, some variation of the same thing has happened to me: Relatively early on the bike my stomach ‘shuts down’, for lack of a better phrase. Food tastes bad, water tastes bad, and I have trouble taking anything in. This is occasionally, but not always, accompanied by needing to pee (a lot) over and over again (I once stopped five times in three hours during an ironman bike leg while barely drinking anything, peeing like a race horse each time).
Once onto the run, I ‘run’ for a while before finally succumbing and throwing up the contents of my stomach. I then continue to ‘run’ to the finish, possibly throwing up a few more times. In the majority of my IM marathons I have taken in very little in the way of water/calories. When I lose it, it’s just vast, vast amounts of liquid coming up.
I have always figured that I just keep ‘getting my nutrition wrong’. Except this last time I got an extra bit of data. I happened to be running with a nurse when I stopped to throw up. He said ‘There is no way it should have been possible for you to have that much liquid in your stomach’. That makes me think that there is possibly more going on here than just a few mg of sodium here and there. My thinking is that my stomach is ceasing to process water/calories relatively early in the bike, and then just filling up until it finally gets so full I have to throw up. I have in the past felt a bloated stomach (mainly characterized by my knees hitting it while in the aero position), but not every time.
I have tried pretty much every nutritional variation out there. High/low calorie, high/low sodium, all liquid calories, mostly solid calories, etc, etc. And yet the same thing always happens. Sometime I feel good to mile 80 on the bike, sometimes is starts at mile 40. Sometime I make it to mile 20 before puking, sometimes not nearly that far. Like I said, all these races have been variations on a theme. I think I am a moderate sweater and it is very rare for me to see salt stains on my kit after long rides.
As you can guess, this is all very vexing. However, I think the most annoying thing is that I can NEVER replicate this in training. My training is always awesome. Really. 4-5 hour ride followed by a 5-10 mile run? No sweat, feel great, stomach behaves like a champ. I follow my nutrition plan exactly in training and feel great, then race day comes and I feel like I’m out of it right away. At IM Texas last April I was feeling off by mile 40, needing to force myself to eat and drink.
This is one of those things that is so annoying that I keep trying to give up long distance stuff and just focus on events of 1-3 hours in length, where I don’t have to worry so much about nutrition. But I keep feeling the pull back to the longer stuff (much to my wife’s chagrin ).
I am a strong swimmer, a fairly strong cyclist, and a poor runner. Actually, I’m a pretty decent runner in training, but when I get to the run in an IM, I’m always so far off the cliff that I can’t actually run.
If anyone has help/advice/comments/questions, I would love to hear them. The only thing that I have thought of is the fact that I don’t do a lot of swim-bike bricks. But I do swim quite a bit, so I don’t know that I really believe swim-bike bricks are the answer to my problems.