Sound Bites! Vol.2 #3

Sound Bites! Vol.2 #3


Unless you’ve been living under a rock (as opposed to on The Rock), you know that it’s that time of year for Vashon Island Rowing Club’s 3rd Annual Passport to Pain bike ride.  Coming up on Saturday, September 14th, P2P includes a choice of three routes:




This year, P2P has a Team category.  VIRC Women’s Crew has put together an 8+ with cox for the ride–kind of like an eight on wheels.  Each woman will ride 2 hills.  Not sure what the coxswain will do but a whip, uh, I mean water bottle, might be helpful.

Women from other rowing clubs are encouraged to put in entries and join us for this non-competitive “fun” event.  Vashon is lovely in September and the feast after the ride will be well-worth your time.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I feel compelled to reveal that I personally am not riding—I’ll be helping to sponsor the team–sort of a Pay2Pass maneuver).

Needless to say, the calorie and fluid requirements for such a long ride are pretty huge.  Add to that all the energy and sweat that the months of practice burn up and you’ve got a heck of a nutritional deficit built up if you aren’t fueling properly.  Now that there is only one month to go until the actual event, it’s super important you have a strategy for good nutrition–this will keep you feeling your best and able to enjoy the ride (or at least up your chances of  not keeling over before finishing the ride).  Over the next month, here are some suggestions on what and how much you should be eating and drinking.


Next to oxygen water is the most important substance for bodily operations.  On average, our bodies are 60% water–very fit men may have up to 75% water (muscle has a high water content) and fatter bodies may have as little as 50% water (fat has very low water content).  Our hydration status is especially important when exercising in hot environments (translate:  during the 2nd half of the P2P).  To estimate average fluid needs, use this simple formula:

0.5 ounces x Body Weight in Pounds = Daily Fluid Requirement in ounces

For instance, if you weigh 140 lbs., simply multiply 140 by .5 to estimate your daily fluid needs in ounces, then divide by eight to estimate your fluid needs in cups per day, rounding up to the nearest full cup.  [example:  140 x .5 = 70 ounces; 70 ounces divided by 8 = 9 cups of fluid per day].  Note that this is an estimate for the average adult and extreme exercisers (such as you!) will need more fluid to account for extra sweat and respiratory losses.  Fruits and vegetables are high in water content and can contribute to total water needs.

An important indicator that you are getting enough fluid is the “pee test.”  If your urine is pale yellow and plentiful, you are well-hydrated.  If  it’s dark yellow and has a strong odor, you are dehydrated and need to stop exercising, rest, and start drinking water.  Best time to evaluate this is during your practice rides.

Not only can you check out your urine (fun!) but you can weigh your self before and after your ride (without clothes is best, your sweaty jersey will be pretty heavy).  For each pound lost during the ride, you will need to consume 8-16 ounces of water or other fluids (eg, sport drink) to keep adequately hydrated.

Another reason to drink plenty of fluids is that dehydration may exacerbate delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), although this suggestion has not been proven and, in fact, has not been shown to be the case with moderate dehydration.  Personally, I experienced the worst case of DOMS I’d had in years after running the May 2013 Tacoma City Marathon.  I had trained well and was fit enough but the day of the run was hot and the last 10K was really tough.  All I can figure is that dehydration was a big factor in both declining performance and surprisingly sore muscles the entire week post-race.  Next time, I will drink more and I suggest you do the same for the P2P just in case.


Calories come next in the line-up of important nutritional factors to consider.  Calories  are a measure of energy, and you’ll be expending a lot during practice and the ride itself.  Calories needs vary among individuals based on such factors as age, height, weight, sex, activity level, metabolism, and environmental temperature.  It’s bit confusing for bike riders–some authors suggest that bikers often overestimate the number of calories they need (note:  for a super-funny article, be sure to click the link), while others chronically under-eat in an attempt to increase their power to weight ratio.  Both over- and under-nutrition can definitely contribute to illness and declining performance.

During the P2P, it’s not unreasonable to assume you will burn 4,000-6,000 calories.  Hopefully, you are heading into the race with a good month of proper nutritional intake that will set you up for a good ride. Eating a balanced, healthful diet for a period of time before the ride will keep your muscles and brain in top form so that you can enjoy the ride on the day of the event.


Another important consideration is when to eat during your ride.  There are 4 main opportunities to take on fuel during your ride:

  • Before the ride
  • On the bike
  • At rest stops
  • After the ride

Basically, this means you need to eat a good-sized breakfast with adequate carbohydrate and some protein and fat.  For example, 1 cup oatmeal with 10-12 walnuts + 2 Tablespoons raisins, 8 ounces low-fat milk, a banana, 1 slice toast with a Tablespoon peanut butter + jam, and 8 ounces orange juice provides about 900 calories + 30 grams protein.  Or you may prefer a 2 egg veggie omelet with 1 ounce lean ham, bowl of mixed fruit, glass of chocolate milk, and slice of toast with peanut butter + jelly for about 1,000 calories + 40 grams protein.

Rather than just eating power bars and drinking a sports drink on the bike, consider packing a couple PBJ sandwiches cut into quarters and stashed in your jersey pockets or bike bag.  You can drink high calorie/protein beverages like Muscle MilkBoost Plus, or Carnation Instant Breakfast (partially freeze them and carry in your bike bottle rack; have water in your camel-back).

In addition, when riding the P2P, you’ll hit the town of Vashon about half way through your ride.  This is the perfect place to stop for a  meal.  There are many great restaurants to fuel-up for the second half of your ride–which I am told is pretty rigorous (okay, grueling was the description Bruce gave me–hot, hard, and horrific).

After the ride, you can fuel up at the post-event meal sponsored by Vashon Island Rowing Club.

The Last Word:

The Passport 2 Pain is a fun day filled with hard work but also the camaraderie of a great crew of biker friends.  Enjoy the hospitality of Vashon and it’s resident rowing club, but be sure to be prepared for the hard work by putting some of the above suggestions into your biker’s tool-kit.

By Debbie Jackson

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