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High Altitude Fueling - Pikes Peak Sports Exclusive!

Do I need to do anything different when riding up to 14,110 feet?

For those of you who are taking advantage of the Pikes Peak Highway being open to bikes, you might have some questions about fueling for the trek up the "hill."

If you have run the Ascent or the Pikes Peak Marathon, you may be familiar with these tips, but here we go...

Eat a good breakfast with plenty of carbohydrates. Don't skip this! Get in a good meal 2-4 hours before you start your ride. Good options are oatmeal with banana and peanut butter. Or pancakes with an egg or two, along with a banana. It's not an easy trek so making sure you've got fuel in the tank before you start!

Hydrate before and during. You don't need to go overboard, but up at the higher altitudes you will lose even more moisture through sweat and breathing and not realize it. Stay on top of your water consumption the day before you ride. Then on the ride either use a camelback filled with water, or at least three bottles on the bike (put one in that back jersey pocket) and refill when you can. You are likely not going to want to drink, but do it anyway! I would say at least a 20oz bottle an hour. (This will vary by person - the bigger you are, the more you will likely need to drink.) And being up in the cooler temperatures and the altitude might make you have to pee more, but that may not be a sign that you are plenty hydrated.


Consume carbohydrates. Everyone will be a little different here, but when doing some research before writing this, I learned that our bodies tend to burn more glycogen vs. fat at higher altitudes. Add in exercise - you will get your heart rate up on this ride - and you burn even more glycogen, which is the fuel stores in your muscles. This means we probably need to consume a few more carbohydrates than normal. A sports drink will be great to keep you hydrated, give you calories and electrolytes. But gels, blocks, or any other high carbohydrate snack will help you get to the top. If you aren't used to using those products, you might either stick with a sports drink you like or just find a sugary treat you like. 100-200 calories an hour might be sufficient, but if you know your typical fueling needs, go with that and have a few more calories as a back-up.

Don't forget a few electrolytes. Sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride are the biggies. If you use a sports drink you probably are just fine. If you eat bananas and have some salty snacks, you are getting electrolytes. You can also supplement with tablets like Nuun or Nathan Catalyst, or Hammer Endurolyte Fizz or the Endurolyte pills. You probably don't need a ton, just make sure you are getting some.

All in all it should be pretty simple - drink plenty of water, get in some calories and throw in a few electrolytes and you shouldn't have any trouble getting to the top! 

If you want to try to ride to the top of Pikes Peak, but don't want to go alone, Randi (UpaDowna's Mountain Mama) is leading a group up the Peak on September 25th. (Get more info here.) 

Happy Riding!

--Coach Nicole

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