So you’ve got ONE duffel bag full of everything you need for a race weekend. You’ve thrown your morals out the door, you’ve refreshed yourself on the rules for Cleveland, Money, Salad, and you’ve decided to just hand in that paper late, because there’s no way in hell it’s going to get done in the van.
But then you realize…you’re hungry! What to do?!
Ahh…thankfully you’re reading Part 2 in my many part series on how to race bikes in college – what to eat.
When it comes to eating and cycling, there are more schools of thought than there are unhealed crash wounds on a D rider. Eat healthy! Eat organic! Foods low on the glycemic index! Eat only Burger King! Only carbs! High Life, followed by more High Life! Eat one Gu an hour while racing OR YOU WILL DIE!
But, it really comes down to what you like to eat, what doesn’t make you vomit during a crit and what you can afford. There are a few key items that many people seem to enjoy, and a few different “families” of foods that should probably be purchased/enjoyed during the weekend for a variety of reasons. Note – I will not get into food for centuries during this part.
The most important thing to remember is YOU NEED TO BE FUCKING EATING. Cripes. If you’re a D or an A, you’re plunging your body into a deep calorie deficit. There is no dieting during race season – your body is a machine, and it needs fuel. Do you see us filling the vans up with Diet Coke? NO! We fill that shit with delicious Zebra Cakes, which is precisely what you should fill your belly with. So, as long as you are putting some form of calories in your body, you’ll be good. It doesn’t really matter where they are from.
Case in point for the “calories are calories” hypothesis – Josh Lipka. He exists solely on Burger King, his mom’s meatballs (which are absolutely fantastic) and sleeves of Oreos. Now, you’d be thinking “THIS KID IS PROBABLY A SLOW FATASS.” Okay. Now go try to hold his wheel while he’s bridging up to a breakaway at Fitchburg.
I’ll save you the trouble of trying that and just tell you that it’s not easy. He’s super-strong. Now, a lot of that is natural athletic gifts. But a good portion of it is that he’s always eating, has lots of fuel on race weekends, and the bovine growth hormone in burgers from Burger King has caused his muscles develop to freakish levels.
I think I’m going to break this down by when you’re eating, and suggestions for that. Let’s start on Friday:
- Steal shit from the dining hall – With a large enough jacket, you can easily make it out of there with a bag of cereal, bagels, fruit, a half gallon of soy milk and probably some cookies. Don’t get used to this though, because eventually the dining hall staff will catch on that once five people come in wearing UNH cycling sweatshirts, that half of the cereal bags will go missing. Then they start watching you like a TV salesman watches Ryan Gray.
- Subway for dinner – Don’t argue. Go to Subway. Get a sandwich to go and get back in the fucking van because it’s still eight hours to State College. And so help me God if you take more than two minutes to order, you will be stabbed. Hurry up and get back in the fucking van.
Now, you’ll probably be enjoying this on the van ride. Make sure to not let other people know that you stole a bag of Life cereal, because inevitably it will be gone by the time you hit the New York border, as your entire van will just want “A bit”.
That about does it for Friday. There are only two main points for Friday – steal from the dining hall and HURRY THE FUCK UP WHEN ORDERING FOOD FOR FUCKS SAKE. WE HAVEN’T EVEN CROSSED THE TAPPAN ZEE BRIDGE YET AND IT’S ALREADY EIGHT O’CLOCK. GET IN THE VAN.
Saturday, though, is a bit of a different beast. Because Saturday is usually race day. Also, depending on what the schedule is like you may be doing your grocery store run Saturday morning on the way to the race. But lets tackle the grocery store first:
- COKE (or other soda) – Coke is great. It has sugar. It has caffeine. It comes in a can you can throw on the crit course after you drink it. Usually the team buys it. But it’s not a bad idea to have your own, or some of your own sugar filled soda. You should probably have one RIGHT AFTER YOU FINISH RACING. Because it gives your body sweet, delicious high fructose corn syrup. Which is what a post-race body craves.
- Something to eat while racing – Ideally, this could have been purchased beforehand. But you can try to get some Gus (so you don’t bum them off a teammate), Clif bars or other easy-on-the-stomach race food at a supermarket. Best bet is going to the “organic” section for Clif bars. And if you’re doing any race below 30 miles, you probably don’t need any food. Or, watch what the A’s buy, and buy that to eat during the race. For the most part it’s probably good advice.
- Ensure – I just gave away my/Josh Lipka’s secret weapon. Sure, it’s expensive, often hard to find (look in the section with Depends), but it’s great. Have one when you wake up Saturday and Sunday morning to get you going, and one after the first event of a two event day as part of your snack/meal.
- Some sort of juice – Juice is yummy. It has sugar. And you’ll get sick of Gatorade fast.
- Tuna pouches/snack kits – These are the greatest things in the world. You can easily make a tuna meal out of them, while simultaneously grossing out the rest of the van – as now, the van smells like both dirty chamois and tuna! It’s especially great if an empty tuna pouch sits in a hot van in the sun. These make a great mid-day meal if you can’t get out to a Subway or something.
- Nutella – It’s euro. It’s chocolate. You can spread it. You can smear it on someone’s butt and eat it. There isn’t much you can’t do with Nutella. But, keep in mind, it is considered by the Department of Homeland Security to be a liquid (even thought it is really more of a spread), so if you try to bring a brand new, unopened container through airport security, they’ll make you throw it out. Fuckers.
- Peanut butter/jelly/bread – Easy snack. Probably a good idea to split these three items with someone else in the van so you don’t have to risk putting a half-full jar of jelly in your bag.
- Pop-Tarts: Brown Sugar Cinnamon – These rule. Buy them. Eat them. But you will probably hate them by the end of the season.
That is about it for my general suggestions at the supermarket, suggestions that I think many people can benefit from. If you’re curious, my usual supermarket run (plus what I would put in my bag to bring) contained: Croissants, Dole PineappleBananaOrange Juice, tuna packs, bread/bagels, peanut butter, jelly, Nutella, Triscuits, cookies, yogurt, and granola bars. A lot of that I brought from home.
Also, it’s not a bad idea to Coupe some food. That is, try to eat as much as you possibly can while walking around the supermarket. Typically, you can usually get away with drinking a soda and maybe having a muffin while in the supermarket. But try to be discreet about it. Put the garbage on a shelf. Or the garbage by the coffee bar. If you’re really skilled, you can eat an entire sub in a supermarket bathroom.
Oh, and one more thing: DO NOT EAT SOMEONE ELSE’S FOOD WITHOUT ASKING. Assholes. And don’t always assume someone wants to share. It’s not very fun to come back to the van to discover that someone has eaten all of your bagels.
Now it’s Saturday morning, and you’ve just been awakened by the specter of a naked, jumping Jerry Obey. Bleary-eyed, you shuffle with your bike and bags down to the hotel lobby. Here is where you need to once again STEAL. Take bagels. Muffins. Drink lots of juice. Have some oatmeal. Cold cereal. If they have a belgian waffle maker, JACKPOT. The poor guy who worked the overnight is going to hate his life when he has to make 40 gallons of waffle batter, but at least you’ll be satisfied.
Make up for the fact that you paid $40 to sleep next to someone who rolls over at night and shouts “I’m an A rider” by eating that much in food in the morning. If the hotel doesn’t have a “continental breakfast” (what makes it continental? The fact that it’s under-stocked, like breakfasts on other continents? Last time I checked, this is AMERICA. Home of the Baconator. Give me more food.) you may be going out to grab something before you race.
- Dunkin’ Donuts – This is the usual morning spot. Get a muffin if you’re a D rider (AKA, if you’re racing as soon as you get to the parking lot) and eat part of it. Hopefully you had a granola bar this morning. But your body will probably run fine in the 15 minute crit off of Thursday nights Keystone Lights. If you’re an A…well…you know how to eat by now (I hope), but get yourself a breakfast sandwich. And some OJ. And a coffee. And a muffin.
- Diners – It’s rare that you make it to a diner. But if you do, avoid your inclination to get three pancakes, eggs, bacon, toast and corned beef hash. If you’re racing within the next three hours, you will be tasting this again. Oatmeal is a safe bet. Maybe some scrambled eggs and toast.
- Convenience stores – Yeah…you might end up eating there one of these days. Get juice. Granola bars. Maybe they have those individual bowls of cereal. Buy that. And get out before the temptation of Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches is too great.
So now you’re at the race. If you aren’t racing for a while, get out, cheer, and make sure you eat at some point. There’s no exact science for when you should be eating…or at least any exact science that I subscribe to. Everyone is different, and everyone needs food at different times. But you’ll quickly learn the timing of your eating the one time you have a sleeve of Oreos 45 minutes before a crit.
Maybe a peanut butter and jelly sandwich an hour and a half before you race. A Gu on the trainer? Try all sorts of stuff and figure out what works for you.
If you have JUST raced, get on the trainer, drink a Coke, start eating and start recovering. Because you probably have to race again later that day. Maybe enjoy a tunakit. Be sure to discover who hates the smell of tuna the most. Eat it in their van. Leave the garbage on the floor.
Fast forward. You’re done for Saturday. Now, on Saturday night, you’re either going to go back to the hotel to shower and then go out, or go straight to eat. If you’re going to straight to eat, that decision will be made by a combination of the coach, the loudest senior member of the team, someone who has raced in that area before and remembers a great pizza place, the whiniest person, or whoever is driving the lead van. It will likely be a pizzaish place, or at least some place that is cheap. Get some pasta. Get some pizza. It doesn’t really matter as long as it’s food.
However, if you go back to the hotel before you go out to eat, you have a whole host of problems to deal with. Because now you are dealing with your teammates. And, as usual, no one can make a fucking decision or get moving. Seeing as I’m impatient at times like these, and love eating, I’m surprised the team made it through my senior year alive.
At times like these, it is best to forget about your the rest of your teammates who are bickering over eating cold pizza they made in Durham three days ago or going to the rib place in the hotel lobby. Find five people that want to leave when you do, and just go. The hardest thing about a team like this is for someone to make a damn decision. Standing around and bickering doesn’t put food in your stomach. Get out of the shower, get in the van, and get eating.
Ideally, there will be an Outback Steakhouse nearby. In such a case, do not be afraid to cram six people in a four person booth, eat as much free bread as possible, and order a Bloomin’ Onion. Because you need those calories.
THEN BOOM IT’S SUNDAY MORNING. LAST DAY OF RACING. Hopefully, after dinner, you sat on your bed watching a movie on Spike eating your eight dollar block of cheese. But now it’s time to eat again.
Do what you did Saturday morning. Hopefully, there is someone else working the Sunday morning Days Inn breakfast shift…otherwise inspect your waffle batter for loogies.
The same goes for before your race.
After you race, though, you should try to eat everything that is left in your food bag. Because if it is not in a glass jar, it will be destroyed on the way back. And when you get back to the Whit at 11 p.m., the last thing you want to be doing is brushing bits of crushed rice cakes out of the van.
The way back from a race also gives you ample opportunities to eat – Gas stations…um….and more gas stations. Maybe a Subway. And if you pass through Scranton, there is a Waffle House off of I-81. Exit 182-B Westbound, 182 Eastbound. Go there.
There is one rule to keep in mind about eating on the way home from a race: If Josh Lipka wants Burger King, Josh Lipka gets Burger King.
For closer races, there is also the race to make it to Holloway. When it’s 8 p.m. and you’re still on 495, the driver has to make the choice to risk the lives of his friends with reckless driving, or miss the plentiful bounty that is free for grazing at the dining Hall. Holloway after a race is great, because usually everyone smells like ass, is still speaking in the vernacular of the van (dick jokes, rampant swearing with no regard for those that are around) and is tired to the point of delirium.
So, really, the main point of this overly long post is this – KEEP EATING. It’s fun. And you can throw rotten bananas out of the van window at highway signs as you’re speeding along.