We discuss tips for fueling during the race and making strong transitions with a few M22 Challenge past winners and participants. #M22challenge



Some Challenge athletes swear by fueling during the race while others say the event is short enough that replenishing your fuel supply isn’t necessary. One thing they all agree upon: don’t try anything new on race day, including your pre-race meal.

“Don't change things up the morning of the race that you haven't tried before—that’s a recipe for disaster,” recommends Sean Kickbush, of M22’s bike team. This is what works well for him: “I usually get up, and eat a bowl of oatmeal and a banana right away. I snack on an ERG bar on the way to the race, and that's about it. It's a short race so nutrition strategy isn't very important. I almost always have a couple of dates in my pocket for emergency energy just in case. They're packed with natural sugars to give me a quick jump if I need it. Most people carry a gel pack of some sort. Same concept. Small and easy to digest.”

Jamie Endicott, the 2014 women’s winner, also has a small breakfast on race morning: “I eat something small, like oatmeal, two hours before the event. After that I stick to fluids like Heed,” she says. “I read that some elites drink Red Bull before their races, so I might give that a try! During short races, like the M22 Challenge, all I use is a sports drink (Heed) on my bike. I don’t worry about bars or gels unless I plan on racing over two hours.” 

Jake Flynn, a Traverse City athlete, physician, and M22 Challenge master dune runner offers this been-there, done-that fueling advice: “At the end of the day, I believe it’s important to find out what works best for you. The best way is try different things the night before long runs. For me, I still carb load and hydrate. Sandwiches, pastas, breads … keep in mind this is coming from a guy that won't look at a simple white carb the rest of the time. But gearing up for a race, I fill the tank with what has worked in the past. Hydration is key though. Three days out I start making an effort to drink more water. No substitutes and no additives. Just plain ol’ H2O. The day before the race, I drink 1 gallon of water. I start early, so I'm not up all night....Then on race day, 2 hours before the gun, I drink 2 liters of water as fast as I can, and eat 1 Powerbar. Powerbar is all fructose and some protein, so it's easily digestible. Don't eat anything with any fiber or fat. Those things don't digest, and you don't want them coming back at you during the race. 15 min before the gun I eat 1 GU pack. I like the ones with caffeine. Then, every 45 minutes I refuel with a GU and water. Don't mix a GU pack with a sports drink -- that makes cement in your stomach. Ugh.”




At least once or twice before the event, Sean Kickbush suggests spending some time simulating the event. “Go for a short hard run (15-20min), hop on the bike go hard for an hour, then paddle for 20-30 minutes in consecutive order,” he says. “I live pretty close to the lake so it's easy for me to just have all my stuff at the public access and do it there. It's important to know how you will feel on the bike and in the kayak when you are already fatigued. It may also let you know that maybe you can go a little harder than you thought. The only way to ever know is to do it, and take note of how you feel when you are doing it. This is a great time to practice your transitions from one sport to the next, too.” 

Jamie suggests getting to transition early to claim a spot close to either end. “I always walk the transition a few times and try to find ‘landmarks’ like trees close to my bike,” she says. “It also helps to have a bright towel (or bike, in my case). Last year I lost a minute looking for my kayak. Getting a spot close to the water is pretty important for this race.”

Being mentally prepared is essential as well. “People often think when they train to go fast that the pain will magically go away during a race—it doesn't. It gets worse,” Sean says. “You just learn to deal with it and hurt more. You might get a flat, you may trip and fall. You might tumble down the dunes. Things rarely go perfect. Be prepared to deal with imperfections and push through them.”   

The M22 Challenge is a race that people travel across the country to do; not because it’s the toughest, or most competitive race, but because it’s one of the most fun. (Not to mention the race terrain has awesome views!)

“First and foremost, remember this is a one of a kind, ‘fun’ event,” Sean Kickbush says. “We’re all amateur athletes in spandex, running around having a good time. Just finishing is a cool thing – try not to take it or yourself too seriously … I can't stress enough to go out and just have fun and enjoy the landscape. Be stoked you had the courage, health and follow-through to show up and finish. That in and of itself deserves a pat on the back.”


We’d like to thank Heather Johnson Durocher (of MichiganRunnerGirl.com) for supplying the work for this blog post, Beth Price (of Beth Price Photography) for the gorgeous photography seen in this post, and to North Peak Brewing Company for being the Presenting Sponsor of the 2015 M22 Challenge. #M22challenge


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