Oh, the glorious challenges of endurance racing! As any athlete knows, the human body can only perform for so long with no fuel before breaking down. In the outrigger 9-man season - the true endurance portion of the outrigger year, it's not uncommon to be out on the water for over 3 hours, and thus it is very important to eat wisely.
If you have never been out for a significant amount of distance, the lack of preparation can be a shock to the system. One of the major differences in a long paddle is that DURING the race you have a significant amount of time to rest, refuel, re-hydrate, and catch your second (or third) wind over the long event.
Paddler fueling preferences come in all varieties - which one are you?
The Iron Stomach
Iron Stomach's can eat anything ... absolutely ANYTHING on a support boat and be totally fine. Hard boiled eggs? PopTarts? Tales are sometimes told of paddlers pulling out fully loaded ham and cheese foot-long sandwiches from their bags mid-paddle and wolfing them down. (The smell of mustard was intense.)
To keep balance in The Force, every Iron Stomach is likely accompanied by a teammate who can't handle eating anything. Watching Iron Stomach's feast away happily often make their situation even trickier... but be it the rocking of the boat or simply a tummy that gets picky during activity, it seems that only water, Dramamine and prayer may get these folks through the day.
The One with the Banana...
Let me first just say that bananas are a terrible support boat food regardless of any rumored superstitions because the change boat is a violent, volatile place. There are heavy water bottles, bags and bodies being rolled back and forth willy-nilly across piles of gear, and the delicate though delicious banana is bound to fair poorly in such environments. Squashed banana gets on everything - toes, boat decks, zippers, pockets - it's just slimy and gross. That said, don't be that guy who looks like a total Rookie. NEVER BRING A BANANA ON A BOAT
Every now and then you find yourself in such a feeding frenzy while on the support boat, you may have just enough time to eat a little too much. Just like Thanksgiving dinner, sometimes by the time you realize you've overeaten it's far too late, and you'll notice your wet jersey is just a little bit tighter around your belly than it should be. Mazeltov, you have a food baby! Word to the wise, a swollen belly is NOT a lot of fun while you're in a canoe, so be careful to watch your portions as you quaff. It may have tasted great going down, but it may also settle like a literal rock in your gut for the next hour.
Sugar Fiends are usually the pre-race carb lovers that only seem to function on gel and gummy packets, Coke and candy bars. A lot of sugar fiends will rotate seasonally between power bars because they tend to find a "favorite" brand for a season and quickly burn out on the flavor. Sugar Fiends are handy in a pinch when you run out of food, but useless if your body is craving something salty.
The Nutrition Nazi
This person is most likely some sort of professional in the fitness world, an athlete or a coach, maybe a doctor or a meticulous accountant of some kind. They organize, analyze, and plan out their nutrition for every moment of the race. Do NOT touch their stuff, this is part of their mental comfort so you don't want to throw them into a bad head space when they can't find their exotic specially formulated power gel.
You heard me, and you know who I'm talking about. Sometimes you find yourself slaving away in a canoe, fantasizing about that delicious chocolate chip cookie you have waiting for you in your support boat bag. You can almost taste it, you can hear it calling to you. You happily suffer a little longer just to be reunited, only to then have your heart sink as you climb into the support boat and open your lunch bag, and empty wrapper flutters out!
Filthy, dirty, rotten fuel thieves! You know who you are. They never come prepared and bring minimal or zero support boat supplies. Sometimes they are simply too lazy to find their own gear bag and decide to ransack one that is within arms reach. Slyly sneaking innocent sips of random fluid that does not belong to them or unabashedly raiding unprotected stashes, these monsters need to be kept in check!
So, which one are you? Did we miss anyone? Whatever category or hybrid you fall under, own it! Or maybe learn from it ... either way, big races are headed your way, so make sure you don't bonk because you didn't come prepared. You may not always feel like it, but you are an endurance athlete now.
Fuel wisely, paddle hard and have a great race!
Be sure to enjoy some more paddle diary entries from Paddy Paddler!
Team Writer Megs Phillips - Raised a Cali beach bum, playing in the sand and surf before she could talk, Megs has enjoyed white water rafting, dappled with OC1's, SUPs, and kayaks, and is a deep lover of all things ocean, river, rapids, and lake related. In 2010 she discovered outrigger canoeing and was instantly hooked; paddling with Ka Nai'a Outrigger in Santa Barbara. Her contributions to Cali Paddler are amazing and much appreciated!
Should you have an idea or topic for her, feel free to send it our way and we will pass it along! In addition to following her here at Cali Paddler, we encourage you, no implore you, to visit her personal blog: Paddler Problems, where you can enjoy more of her fun writings and comics.