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Old 01-06-2014, 04:31 AM   #38
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Joined: Oct 2005
Location: Austria
Oddometer: 10,161
Originally Posted by neduro View Post
There have been a few questions about food, hydration, etc, and in the interest of procrastinating the work I should be doing, let me take a swing at answering.

I'll start by saying that the entry fee for Dakar is ~$20k, and in my opinion, that's a bargain. There is good, quality food waiting everywhere you want it (not easy to achieve!), and the level of support demonstrated with the iritrack/ sentinel system is amazing. This system allows the ASO to know precisely where you are moment by moment, and even allows voice communication and monitoring of your bike's attitude. So, if you stop to pee (like I did, others wear catheters) and forget to push the green button to let them know you are alright, it is an intentional stop, a french voice will shortly come over the intercom. "Mssr Suesse? Are you OK?". In addition, if the system senses a crash, or if the red button is pushed, medical personnel are automatically dispatched. My year, I think the average response time was about 7 minutes. That's better than it is at my home 8 blocks from a hospital, I am sure. Then, of course, there is all the work in making perfect roadbooks, finding great tracks, and the rest.

My point in beginning with this background is that the level of organization is several steps above any other event I have ever participated in, and they have certainly not skimped on the fundamental basics of keeping their athletes fed and hydrated.

The ASO maintains no fewer than 3 complete bivouac setups including kitchens and so on, and they leapfrog them forward so that you leave a fully staffed and set up bivouac, and arrive at the same. Each is near an airport, staff is flown mid-day while the crews and racers are on course- the same person checks you out in the morning and back in that evening. It is a finely tuned machine.

A shot of the food tent at the bivouac:

Now, food and hydration. My day started about 1 hour before my departure time for liasion. Since I typically finished upper-midpack, that was typically about an hour after the leader. They would often leave at 4:30 or so, I was more like 5:30 if I had to guess an average. So, I'd wake up and Deadly99 and I would head to breakfast together. This consisted of cereal, yoghurt, juice, coffee, tea, croissants (that varied in quality from decent to mediocre), toast, coldcuts, runny omelets, cheese, etc. There were plenty of calories available and plenty of variety, even if it wasn't always what you wanted exactly.

Breakfast with Chris Birch

This was one of my favorite times of the day. Some easy chatter, and you started to know the folks who a) were near the same speed as you and therefore eating at near the same time and b) spoke english (since I'm an ugly American who doesn't speak well in any other tongue). Chris and I ate with some regularity.

I'd head back to the truck and get dressed. I would have stocked my jacket the night before with water and Kate's bars (pretty much the most awesome travel food ever!). A big advantage of the Klim Rally jacket is that it can hold everything- tools, documents, food, water, etc. So, I'd just pull it on and head out.

Regarding fluids, I found that the key was more electrolyte balance than pure hydration intake. However, experimenting before the race revealed that all of the mixes that you can put in your camelbak water, made me nauseous. So, I used a ton of Hammer Electrolyte products- the pills, the fizz tablets around camp, and the recovery drinks when I finished the day. On the bike, I drank water.

On the liaison, there were gas stops as necessary, and the ASO would distribute water bottles there. At the DSS (and ASS), the ASO would have water. Any stop during the stage would have water. Typically, I drank a bottle of water every time there was one available, and my camelbak bladder would last the whole day, just occasionally sipping when I wanted to clean the dust out of my mouth.

At every opportunity, I also ate something, whether I was hungry or not. DSS was always a Kate's bar. Gas stops were either another Kate's or Clif Bloks or etc. ASS I would usually just try to get back to the bivvy unless it was a long liaison, in which case I'd have another Kate's.

As for unloading all of this intake, the race is so long that I never felt bad about spending a few minutes here or there keeping myself comfortable. I stopped to pee on stage if necessary (and always tried at the DSS/ ASS/ Fuel/ etc), and I would generally avail myself of the crappers at the bivouac. Hot tip: steal plenty of paper from the person guarding it (yes, really) and if possible, use the ladies rooms.

One special, I was not able to follow the normal schedule, and pulled into gas with an urgent agenda. Unfortunately, it was close by a road, so it was absolutely packed with locals. I didn't have time for modesty, so some South Americans got a show. I know they cheered and clapped, which is pretty much the only time I've been applauded for that particular activity, and I hope it remains that way.

When I'd arrive at the truck, I'd drink a recovery drink and chat with Tim about the bike. Then Deadly and I would go for first dinner, I'd do my roadbook, restock my jacket, and then we'd go have second dinner. Somewhere in there, I'd call Rally Raidio (I really miss that this year!) and then I'd go to sleep. It's a short list of things to spend time on at Dakar- your body, your bike, your roadbook, that's about it.

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