Roadie giving a triathlon a go - GI problems

Hi all

Looking for peoples experiences with this. I had a go at doing the local sprint triathlon at the weekend. I am not a triathlete, and only really did 8 weeks of ‘training’ for it. I.e. a run and a swim a week around the cycling. Some brick runs, some just on their own.

However, what I wanted to bring up was this. after 1km of the 5km run, I started getting stomach cramping which was downright painful and caused me to walk a few times. My legs felt absolutely buzzing which was the annoying thing. I don’t think I went overboard on the bike leg, with an IF of 0.94 for the 22km ride (approx 36mins) so felt like I was holding just a little back. The brick training sessions I did were probably not quite as intense, in that I’d do intervals at threshold rather than a solid block of it. So maybe a slight difference there. Km pace in training was around 4.15 yet in the race I averaged 5mins so really lost out there.

My thoughts around this are with nutrition. I had a reasonable day the day before in terms of carbs. Nothing crazy, just a normal day of eating as if it was a training day the next day. It was some pasta, potatoes, chicken, veg, the normal stuff. The morning of the race I had a bowl of porridge (oatmeal for lots of you folk!) comprised of 60g oats and 300ml semi skimmed milk with blueberries, and an egg (approx 60g carbs). This was 2 1/2 hours prior to the start. Sipped on an isotonic energy drink in the hour before, probs in the region of another 20g carbs with the amount I drank. During the bike I sipped on more of the isotonic drink, here maybe 30g as I drank more of the bottle. Then as I say, about 5mins after that started to suffer. It was not pleasant!

What I had been thinking immediately post-race was that I had overeaten and drank both before to and during the race. However, I remember reading somewhere that 100g of carbs about 2-3 hours out from the race is optimal so I am well under that. It was also what I would typically have for breakfast on a training day too. Maybe its the amount of fluid I took on? Probably more so than a typical training day, especially of carb mix. It was also incredibly intense for an 8.30am start, again more so than a typical training day where early starts are usually longer group rides rather than this kind of all our hour effort. I am aware it could also be that I am not in a triathlon trained state and/or it was my first tri.

What has changed the game now is that in the two days since, I have had some ‘GI tract issues’. So maybe this was not anything to do with my nutrition on the day, but rather some stomach bug which inconveniently rendered itself on race day. Or, it could be the hangover from some bad nutrition on race day. I don’t know.

So looking for peoples experiences. Is this ‘normal’ on a bike to run bit of a particularly intense sprint triathlon. Do you think I went a bit overboard with the breakfast/too close to the race before something so intense? I realise this cannot be diagnosed fully over a forum but really peoples advice and past experience.

Ps. having had such a bad run, and being so close to the top 10 overall, it annoyingly makes me want to do it again next year which I just don’t want to do! I like riding my bike a damn lot more!

What was the swim like? Is it possible you swallowed some water that upset your stomach? That’s not uncommon for sure. To me, what you ate race morning sounds fine. And 2.5 hours before should be fine.

I think you might have just overdone it a bit on the nutrition.

If you’re racing for the overall in them they are very intense and it’s hard to take in anything. And especially if you are coming from a roadie background you are likely able to take in things that will sit fine while biking but cause distress running.

I am by no means an elite triathlete but am fast enough to generally be in the top ten at the local sprints I tend to race. I’ll sip something with salts in it before the race, usually take a single gel with me and some water in a bta bottle. I might take a sip of water on the bike, usually not. In the last four races I actually touched the gel once. This seems pretty typical when I look around at others I’m finishing with. The longer you’re going to be out there the more fluids and calories make sense.

Your legs blowing up is probably just because trying to run at 5k race pace seconds after a 20k tt is really hard to get used to. Even most brick workouts don’t properly prepare you because most folks take five minutes to change gear, and that five minutes makes a big difference.

Do it next year for sure. It’ll be easier. And remember you’re only burning as many calories as you would in like a 90 minute moderate ride. So you’re fine with less.

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I don’t take on anything during a sprint. Assuming 50-75 min, zero calories. I’ll eat a similar breakfast as you did, sip sports drink and take a gel 10-15 min before the start. Simply put, you don’t need it and I think it opens the door for more risk of GI issues. It’s not like a 60-75 min ride. That run makes a difference. I can do just about anything on a ride; it’s when I have to run after that I have to be careful.


Thanks all. Good feedback. I think I got it in my head to drink as much as I could so went a bit nuts. May try again next year to beat my time and get it right then :upside_down_face:

@BikeTampa I don’t think I swallowed any water. It was in in an outdoor pool so shouldn’t have the same issues as a lake etc.

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Nothing in the OP raises any red flags, sipping isotonic should provide no problems.

When you say drink as much as I could, how much are we talking? Sixteen pints?

How much water did you swallow on the swim? Hydration never an issue for me in triathlon, thanks to my (lack of) swimming technique :grinning:

When I did triathlon, I wouldn’t really take anything on board during it, bar water and perhaps a gel towards the end of the bike, which I think was more mental than anything. Even during an Olympic, I’d maybe just have a bar at the start of the bike, and a gel at the end. Never felt nutrition was an issue, even at my relatively slow pace (generally one of the last out of the water, top quarter bike leg, top half run leg).

I couldnt even drink 16 pints in my Uni days! Yes didn’t mention volume. I’d say 300ml before the race sipping and close to 500ml on the bike.

@Macy yep no swallowed pool water. I am a decent swimmer (fastest in category on the day, spent my childhood and teen years in a pool racing) so pretty well rehearsed on that!