Everybody claims their products are the best and you'll surely perform at your peak potential if you switch to their brands. Over the past summer, I decided to do a little experimenting with different products leading up to the Furnace Creek 508, a 508-mile bicycle relay through Death Valley, Calif.
As part of a four-man relay, my contribution was to ride two stages that totaled 130 miles within five hours of each other. I'm still unclear as to how I got talked into this thing but, needless to say, I needed to figure out the whole nutrition plan.
Learning the hard way
I had been taking Carbo Pro from Sportquest which works very well for extended rides of several hours or more. But I found myself always having to mix something into the Carbo Pro to make up for the blandness in taste. In fact, Carbo Pro and Hammer Nutrition's Sustained Energy are very similar in this regard. I'd never really had a program mixing a flavored powder or gel with Carbo Pro or Sustained Energy.
Anyway, to make a long story much shorter, I took a combination of different products and stimulants (Sportquest Motivator and Vantage) during the 508 since I got a little freaked out about having to ride in the middle of the night and go without sleep for a day and a half. While I had taken all these products separately with varying degrees of success, I'd foolishly made the rookie mistake of mixing a concoction of different pills and powders right before my first stage and found myself so nauseous after a couple hours that I could barely finish the first 73-mile stage.
Worst part is that it was about two in the morning when I finished that first ride and I was thoroughly nauseated at the thought of taking in any food or liquid. I laid down in the van knowing I had to ride another 60 miles in four or five hours, yet I couldn't eat or drink to replenish what I'd lost in the first ride.
About two hours later, knowing I had to eat something, Mark Erwin, one of my teammates, suggested I try slowly sipping some leftover Perpetuem from Hammer Nutrition. I gave it a try and slowly found that I could drink it without feeling any sicker. In fact, I slowly started coming back to life and actually believing I might be able to ride the second stage. I finished all the Perpetuem he had but didn't have any for my second ride.
For those wondering, yes, I got through that painfully long second stage even though I fought a vicious headwind for the last 20 miles and cursed myself for being so dumb to have been talked into doing such an event.
A little experiment at El Tour
But that little bit of Perpetuem intrigued me so much that I decided I'd try a little experiment. The next decently long ride to enter was the El Tour de Tucson on November 19th and I figured I'd train very little during the six weeks between the 508 and El Tour. I was riding no more than 80 miles a week on two rides. Furthermore, I wanted to see if I could get through the entire 109-mile ride without eating anything solid. The plan was to just take Hammer's Perpetuem and water.
The plan was also to carry my digital camera and take pictures along the way and not worry about rubbing elbows with the boys in the front pack. And since I didn't have the right kind of pedals to get through the river washes (those who've done El Tour will know what I'm talking about), I was in no hurry to walk through the rocks and sand in my Speedplay cleats.
Although I still had an incredible base from my training for the 508, I didn't think I was going to feel that great after 80 miles. But not only did I still feel strong, I wasn't hungry at all. In fact I had a nice full, satiated feeling for the whole ride.
I had carried an extra plastic bag of Perpetuem powder which I mixed entirely into a second large water bottle at about 48 miles. I took roughly 10 scoops (five per large water bottle) over the five hours of riding time and only started feeling like I was ready to have the ride over with at 100 miles.
What I like about Perpetuem is the no-mess-no-fuss aspect of knowing you get everything in one fuel. I don't want to have to think about mixing flavored powders, gels, electrolytes and fattier fuels into my carbohydrate drink.
Feel free to read the Perpetuem's ingredients on Hammer's Web site, but suffice to say you'll find an impressive blend of complex carbohydrates, soy protein, healthy fats, and key auxiliary nutrients such as sodium phosphate. The orange-vanilla flavor also makes it very easy to sip without getting sick of the taste.
Hammer claims Perpetuem delivers consistent stable energy, hour after hour; that it's easy to digest, no stomach or GI issues; it reduces muscle fatigue and recovery time and provides unprecedented lactic acid buffering.
While I can't speak as much to lactic acid buffering since I haven't trained too hard since the 508, I did notice that I felt great the day after El Tour de Tucson and decided to go for a five-mile run and felt almost no effects from the ride.
My lesson in all this is that I learned to just go back to basics when doing longer efforts. To be honest, if you're doing anything less than two hours and you're fairly well trained, it almost doesn't matter what you drink or eat during your ride. But if you venture into territory north of two or three hours, I can assure you that you're going to want to look into something like Hammer's Perpetuem.
Check out their assortment of products at www.e-caps.com or give them a call at 800-336-1977.