Friday, 20 May 2016

150 km long Norwegian-Style (Nordmarka Rundt) road race characteristics and nutritional recommendations

This blog-post contains some nutrition recommendations in preparation for the 148 km Norwegian-style road-racing Nordmarka rundt. This information will be also useful for races of similar characteristics, which are very popular in Norway.

Race characteristics, the importance of relative and absolute power and intensity:

Nordmarka Rundt belongs to the Norwegian-style of road-racing where teams of ~25 people race rolling turns in a (big) team-time-trial-like effort to cover the 148 km as quick as possible to beat the clock competing against other teams.

As such, the race is a test of group strength rather than a test of individuals’ capacity. To succeed, logistics and team-work are essential. Due to the dynamics of the race and a mostly flat course, speed is relatively constant (compared to traditional road cycling where sudden changes in pace are part of the dynamics of the race), making the average speed of the race high. It would take about 3.5 h for the fastest teams to cover the 148 km. 

The intensity of the effort for each individual will depend on the relationship between the strength of the individual and the strength of the team. Id est for ‘weaker’ (usually smaller) individuals in strong teams, the relative intensity will be higher and hence the race harder.

The term ‘weaker’ is also relative, as the riders that would be in advantage are usually bigger riders or riders with higher absolute (‘raw’) power. Smaller riders with high(er) relative power (high W/kg) that could excel in climbs would be at a slight disadvantage compared to their counterparts provided that most of the race is in flat terrain. On the other hand, the few climbs of the course will be a ‘rest’ for smaller climbers with higher W/kg capacity.

This is important because even though each individual pushes at the front based on his/her capacity, in general terms smaller riders will need to push harder (higher intensity) to match the speed of the group. The intensity is not particularly high, but it is constant throughout the 3.5 h.

Provided these facts, and considering that both substrate (carbohydrate and fat) selection and development of fatigue are determined mainly by the exercise intensity and duration, it is particularly important for smaller/"weaker" cyclists to keep in check adequate nutrition before and during the event since these are the ones with more likelihood of running out of fuel or getting tired earlier.

Nutrition recommendations:

Most of the nutritional recommendations I’ve written for the 80 km long race with rolling hills apply for the preparation for this race, despite the dynamics of the race are completely different. I will, nonetheless, provide further information here and point out some specifics for this particular race.

You will be aiming at a 24-48 h glycogen loading protocol. If you do an ‘acute’ 24 h glycogen loading intervention, be sure that the carbohydrates you are ingesting are high-glycemic index. The shorter the glycogen loading intervention the more important it becomes the glycemic index to be high. Remember that glycogen-loading doesn’t mean over-eating. Weight control is a key factor for cycling performance and it is important to keep energy balance. Select high carbohydrate-low fat foods. If in doubt, look at labels of food you are eating, and measure using scales and log what you eat using a mobile-friendly app like myfitness pal. If you are a lean 75 kg individual aim at 750-900 g of CHO per day. If you are 75 kg, and not so lean, aim at lower amounts. Glucose will be stored in your muscles and liver, what is not stored in these tissues will basically turned into fat if not oxidised.

The race is longer than the one I have given recommendations for before, so you will also be needing more carbohydrates during the race. Regardless of body size, you can digest about 60 g CHO/h. This means that for a 4 h race you will be aiming at 240 g of CHO. If you ingest more than this, the carbs will just stay in your gut and not make it to the bloodstream and then the muscles. Since the temperature is forecasted to be relatively low (11 to 14 C) with likelihood of rain (making it effectively colder when on the bike) it is smarter to move towards concentrated sports drinks (I’ll be using a self-made 20% drink; figure 1).

Note that if you use glucose/fructose blends, you might be able to increase glucose ingestion some 50% during the race. So if you are using these blends, you can aim at ~90 g/h. This might be beneficial for this race.

Figure 1. Using just simple basic chemistry calculations it is possible to prepare the 'sports drink' you want or like best. In this case I'm preparing 900 ml of a 20% CHO solution with 20 mM sodium just using an extremely cheap cordial (54% CHO), half a lemon, salt and a scale. It tastes good too! This fluid will be put inside a single bidon and will provide enough carbs for about 3 h of racing.


The race starts early: ~7.30 hs on the start line means probably waking up at around 4-5 in the morning to get ready for the race. Aiming at 2-4 g/CHO per kg of body weight for breakfast would be advisable for this race, but it can be quite bit of bulk only so close to the start of the race, and probably you don’t want to wake up at 3 in the morning to have a big breakfast. Aim at low-fat carbohydrate-dense foods for breakfast (e.g. creamed rice, bread with hapå or jam, dense cereals with sugar, etc), and probably a ~2 g per kg of body weight is enough for that time of the day.

Keep in mind that you might be prone to reactive hypoglicemia, and if you eat 1.5-2 h before the race high glycemic-index CHO, you might feel a bit ‘heavy’ at the start of the race. Nonetheless this would be transient you will feel better either with a short warm-up or a few minutes after the race have started.

If in doubt of what to eat please check the nutrition section of the useful links/resources page.

Hopefully I'll have time to make a post with some recommendations of books with good recipes soon. I hope you find this post and information useful. If you like it and would like to give MetaCycling some little support, please give a like to its facebook page. Enjoy the race!


  1. Dear José, tx for providing us with the valuable informaiton. Keep up the good work, and good luck on Sunday. Oddvar

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