Question: I am planning to race the Breck-Epic this season. How should I manage my nutrition during the race and for maximal recovery between stages?
Answer: During the race:
Hopefully you are doing some race simulation rides before the event. These simulation rides give you a good chance to dial in your race nutrition. Specifically, the products you will use, the amount you will use, the rate at which you will use them, and how you will use them (i.e. hydration pack vs. bottles..this is a personal decision and also depends on the course, length of the stage, temperature, etc.).
During the race, the most important thing is to stay on top of your fueling. Avoid digging yourself into a deep hole because this will make the post-stage recovery much harder and will likely affect your performance during the rest of the race. Work on your pacing and nutrition strategy ahead of time and do your best to stick to it. Carry some extra calories in the case things don't go as planned--for example, in case you get off course, have a mechanical, or if you just aren't able to maintain the pace you had planned on going that day.
Immediately post race:
Other than spinning your legs out, the first thing you will want to do is to drink your recovery drink. Have it ready and accessible immediately after each stage. Ideally, your drink will contain somewhere around 1.8 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of your body weight. A little protein in your recovery drink is fine.
Get indoors or into the shade as soon as possible. You'll recover your glycogen stores more effectively if you stay out of the heat.
It's a good idea to eat some solid food with carbs and protein within an hour of your recovery drink. Make sure to have some fluid with your food. Eat and drink every 2 hours thereafter. It's still not proven which is best for recovery--high or low glycemic index (GI) carbs. Both types of carbs have their own benefits so I'd suggest eating a combination of them. The most important thing is that you are getting enough total calories and carbs. Protein is also essential for recovery over the course of a stage race. If you are unable to get enough protein in your between-stage meals, then a protein drink can also be added with your meals.
While it may be tempting, it's best to skip the alcohol and save that beer for the Finish Line. If you must indulge, make sure you follow it up with plenty of water or an electrolyte drink.