Eating To Win On The Ride To The Clyde

ironmantra by Shannon Thompson

The plan called for a four-hour bike ride and a 35-minute run, so I mapped it out and set my sights on Port Clyde, with an Owls Head loop on the way back if I had time. My challenge for the ride was to run the first test of my preliminary nutrition plan–in short, to consume 250-300 calories an hour on the bike. I loaded up my bars and gels and filled my water bottles with sports drink, counted up the total calories and thought, this is my kind of challenge, baby. Consume 1200 calories by 10:00 a.m.? It’s a noble goal.

I’ve got liquid nutrition on board in the form of EFS Electrolyte powder (three 32-oz bottles), plus Vega raspberry flavored gels, and Vega energy bars. I love these Vega products because they’re all natural, they’re tasty good, and they give me the nutrition I need.



I turn down Route 131 and pedal down through St. George. At one point there’s a huge dark object in the middle of the oncoming lane, and I see that the fishermen who just passed me in their pickup truck have pulled over next to it. I slow the bike and circle around to investigate. The passenger gets out with a lit cigarette between his teeth, and says, “Gotta move that turtle or he’s gonna get himself hit.” As he picks up the 18-inch snapping turtle, it unleashes a violent stream of urine. “HA!” he snorts through his cigarette. “Little fuckah pissed on my sneakah!” He gently sets the massive creature down next to the roadside pond. I tell him he gets big points for stopping, and he informs me that after getting pissed on, he deserves a goddamn award. I thank him for saving the little fucker and roll on down the road.


OK, yeah, right away I get how ridiculous, and how sad, this is. My grownup successful Ironwoman self steps in almost immediately, and she laughs and she cries a little for that little girl who somehow got that horrible idea in her head, and she sweeps it all away and runs three and a half miles at a ten minute pace after a 62-mile bike ride and she feels proud all day. It’s all in there, and this training program is a microscope (or a magnifying glass, too tired to dissect the metaphor) trained on all the weaknesses, all the flaws, all the strengths. It’s all turned up to eleven.

Later in the day, I run into a friend and his 7-year-old daughter. Her eyes grow wide as I explain what the race would entail: first I’ll swim for more than an hour, then I’ll ride my bike for 7, maybe 8 hours, then I’ll run a marathon for I don’t know how long, maybe 5 hours.

“Will you get money at the end?” she asks.

“Nope, no money.” I answer, watching new layers of disbelief mask her face.

“Well, cake, then?” she asks. “Will they give you cake?”

We all agree that I can probably get some cake at the end. Now that’s my kind of race.