Thursday, July 19, 2012

Vineman Eats & Race Nutrition

Eating well before a big race is important for most us endurance athletes. Although, I know some guys who can get away on alcohol the night before followed by a Denny's pre-race brekkie. Yikes. In the days leading up to Vineman (btw, race report here if you didn't read), I was checking out nearby restaurants on Yelp, but it’s still hard to determine if what you’re looking at on an iPhone is going to be the same in person. My research helped a bit, but it we also just played it by ear a bit. It all worked out, so I must share...

For those unfamiliar with the area, Vineman is in Sonoma County, so you’re dealing with multiple little cities all within reasonable driving distance. The race start is probably the farthest thing away, out in Guernville. A lot of people stay there, and I can see why, it’s a great little foresty town, but there’s not a lot of options for food it seems, nor are there any big grocery stores so your gluten-free products, etc., might be limited. 
The race finish is in Windsor, and close by to the north is Healdsburg and south is Santa Rosa, in that radius you'll find what you want for quality pre-race eating.

Money-Saving Food Tips
We stayed in south Santa Rosa, which has a couple Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods. Score. I splurge on Whole Paycheck leading up to a race :) Usually when I travel I'll load up on groceries to cover my breakfasts, lunches and snacks, or in this year's case just eat out for lunch at WF. It keeps it simple and I can have stuff I'm used too, and more so, it actually saves money vs dining out somewhere quality.

To the left is my pre-race lunch from WF; chicken breast, quinoa salad and kale/cabbage salad:

Speaking of groceries and having your regular foods, I think one of the smartest decisions we made on this trip was our hotel. Remember how I was afraid of it as mentioned a couple posts ago? Well I was wrong! We stayed in an Extended Stay America and it was awesome. We literally had a kitchen, for less than $100 a night. This meant every morning we had a stove top for scramble eggs and oatmeal (vs. cooking those things in a microwave), lots of room to store food and prepare meals, and we could do dishes in a real sink not the bathroom sink haha. I also had a nice place for my Vitamix to make beet smoothies. Yup, I brought the Vitamix. I’d highly recommend going that route as a triathlete!

Pre-Race Restaurants
Our first night in town, Friday, was close to being a disaster. We went to the welcome reception to hear a chat with Mark Allen, Greg Bennett and Mel Rollison. While that was nice, we didn’t leave until almost 9 p.m. and hadn’t eaten! I had a place in mind up the highway in Healdsburg, a recommendation from Beth and seconded by Ryan. Why not? Well we get there and the damn place is closed indefinitely! Crap. Thankfully Healdsburg has a lot to offer. 

We randomly stumbled upon Mateo’s Cocina Latina. What a find! It was soooo delicious, and all fresh/quality. Many of their veggies are grown in their own garden, there's sustainable sourced seafood, local ingredients, etc. For apps (we were starving), we got a ceviche and guacamole. Came with some corn tostadas, so I was able to keep it gluten free; I skipped the deep fried chips. The apps were rather small and very gourmet-ish. The entrees were more substantial. I got the salmon special with roasted veggies in a pumpkin sauce, with a side of handmade corn tortillas. It was ah-mazing! I can’t remember what John got but it was excellent too. We both felt good about that meal. I’d eat there before a race again for sure.
Unfortunately, we were so hungry that I forgot to take pics of the food at Mateo’s, but I can assure you it was quality.

The night before the race I wanted to be even more anal about what we ate. Nothing too fancy (no exotic spices, etc), hearty and sustaining, and also gluten free/dairy free. I literally found the perfect place… a dream restaurant for anyone with special diets looking for the kind of meal you’d make at home. It was called East West Cafe, in east Santa Rosa, an easy drive. We love love loved it! They had everything I’d want before a race, making it hard to choose. I went with chicken teriyaki, with a hearty portion of brown rice, veggies, and a side salad (that had beets haha). John got pasta with chicken, veggies and salad (and it was the first time I've ever heard a waitress ask if the GF pasta was preferred).

Here are our dishes:

Before bed I had another snack, but I seriously can’t even remember what. It was something light I’m sure. Like an apple or something. So like I said, everything else I ate before the race came from TJ's, WF or was something we brought from home in the cooler.

Race Day Nutrition
Just as important as the restaurants, right? We woke up at 5. Right away got coffee brewing, but I only could muster down half a cup. Breakfast went down fine though… pre-cooked mashed sweet potato mixed with almond milk, ground chia seed, and scrambled egg whites. I had no problem eating, a good sign.
Before the race I didn’t even feel hungry (sometimes I will after that 3-hr gap), so I bagged my banana and just stuck to water.

Once in the race, on the bike I had three 20oz bottles of Skratch Labs drink mix (orange) with 120cal each, and I drank just over a bottle each hour. I didn't completely finish the third bottle. I also had 1 1/2 Corazonas Oatmeal Squares. You’re probably thinking wtf? I like to eat something solid, and the Corazonas are a better version of Clif bars I think (i.e. no soy). We got them at Costco and I just started bringing them on rides and found that they do well in my system on hard rides that include t-runs (I don't eat them on runs, though). Clif bars didn't do so well. Why change on race day? That said, I was done with solids by mile 30-35ish. For the last segment of the bike, I did all liquid calories. I got off the bike feeling nutritionally on track. GI system working fine, not bonking, but not over-full.

Bike, all together I had:
~300 calories of drink mix
~250 cals of solids

For the run I stuck to water, gel, banana. Had 1-2 cups of water at every aid station while on the fly (it was hot by then!), plus a Strawberry Banana PowerBar Gel over the course of the first 5mi. At the halfway I also had banana at an aid station, around the time I was hitting a rough patch. Felt like GI issues might be coming, but I was OK. 

Run, all together:
110 cal of gel  
70-100 cal of a cut up banana 
water ad libitum (1-2 cups per aid station + more for pouring on myself)

Calories on the run may seem low, but I felt fine with that. I’m very used to running hard without a lot of calories. Any more and I was risking GI issues.

Funny enough, I completely forgot about salt tabs! I had them, and forgot them. Didn't even dawn on me until after the race. Truth be told, it was a hot day and I don't think I suffered by not having them. Interesting!

Post-Race Eats
Now the fun part :) We ate a little after the race with what they had, but it wasn't that great. Back at the hotel I made some guacamole and had chips and beer waiting. That was a perfect snack. Then it was on to pizza!!! We hit up Jackson's Bar and Oven in Santa Rosa, and what a find! Just got lucky, as they happened to have GF pizza crust so we went for it and it was totally legit. We ordered two pizzas, and each was amazing; I couldn't even tell the difference of gluten free vs. gluten-filled. now, I'm an easy sell for that, but even John was impressed! They said they use Bob's Red Mill for the GF dough. We also got an order of Parmesan truffle fries and grilled calamari on a bed of greens (one of the most unique calamari presentations I've ever had). Pics below. It wasn't over the top gourmet food, but super quality that hit the spot. Oh, and I had my first glass of Pinot Noir to get in the mood for another couple days in Napa that lay ahead...

That amazing calamari dish
My all-time fav kind of pizza, mixed mushroom with truffle oil and mozarella

We got their "undecided special"... aka leave it to the chefs to conjure up something random, which changes every order. We ended up with prociutto, olives, grilled onion and a special, hearty tomato sauce. Mmm.

Last but not least, knowing that I'd be indulging in Napa for a couple days, my day-after-the-race breakfast was quite healthy as you can see below. Egg whites, avocado and broccoli. Cooked in the comfort of my own hotel room :)

Plus some snacks a la Whole Foods on the way to Napa, like this yummy kale/seaweed salad and an "alcoholic" kombucha, which was a first-time find for me. Had to be 21+ to purchase haha!

But once in Napa, we got to business. I think we came home with 5-6 bottles and a few extra lbs added on our waistlines ;)


  1. This is a great nutrition review and really helpful for me. Im currently trying to work out how to fuel for Olympic distance tris but im using some tips from your blog- thank you