After a couple months of testing, I’m pulling the plug and planning to use Tailwind Nutrition as my fuel source for 2013 races.
I love Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Drink mix, but it simply didn’t work as well in the MTB events. I need more calories than Skratch alone provides, so I’d eat a gummy or bite of a potato every 15 minutes, and either a rice bar or a Honey Stinger Waffle at the top of every hour. On this schedule I always stayed perfectly hydrated and well fueled.
While this worked fantastic in the gravel road races, it didn’t work as well in singletrack. It’s simply easier to keep reaching into a pocket every 15 minutes on a gravel road. Singletrack events didn’t afford this same luxury. Looking back, I think part of the reason I did so well at the Laramie Enduro was the fact that there is so much road. By contrast, the Dakota 50 was mostly singletrack and I had a very hard time drinking and eating enough (I used bottles there, which were harder than a hydration pack). I could tell during the event that this was happening. The trails weren’t super technical, but they also never let up. I just didn’t find many places where I felt comfortable taking my hands off long enough to eat.
Testing the waters
I was loathe to return to “robot food” after doing so well on real food and Skratch; however, I knew I had to find a different answer. Enter Tailwind. I’m not sure how I came across this, but I’m glad I did. Tailwind Nutrition touts their single product as “All you need, all day. Really.” That’s a bold claim and a lot to live up to. Tailwind offers their product in four flavors (Mandarin Orange, Lemon, Berries, and Unflavored) and in two sizes – a 4 serving taster and a 50 serving bulk bag. In addition they also offer their Tailwind Challenge. The Challenge consists of four large bags (in any flavor combination) at a 10% discount, and a guarantee that if you train with and use the product for an event and don’t absolutely love it, they’ll refund the event entry fee up to $150. I don’t know any other company anywhere that stands behind their nutrition product that well.
I began with a sample pack of Lemon, Orange and Berry. I was skeptical and scared of a thick, overly sweet hard to swallow everything drink after doing so well with the very light flavor and texture of Skratch. My first ride with the mandarin was insanely cold and brief, but I found the flavor and texture surprisingly drinkable. The second with lemon produced a bit of nausea. Uh oh. I ventured forth and tried the berry. No issues there, but the flavor is intense! It reminds me of the big blocks of grape flavored Bubble-Yum I used to chew as a kid. Yep grape. Still, I didn’t have any nausea and it seemed to go down just fine after I got past the unique flavor.
If you look at the ingredient list you’ll see “organic flavor”. I’m not exactly sure what they’re using but it’s nice that it’s organic. I’d like to think that, like Skratch, they’re using real fruit. What else could they flavor with that’s organic?
Mixing it up
A single serving of Tailwind is 100 calories. It’s designed to allow you to change the concentration to meet your needs on a ride. For the most part this would be 200-300 calories per bottle per hour. This meant I only had a total of 400 calories to try with the same flavor in the sample packs. If I was really going to test this I needed to try it for a longer time. Anything will work for a two hour ride, but the 4-10 hours rides are where things start to break down.
I went back online to order a big bag of Orange. In the comments I asked for a taster of the unflavored since I didn’t get that in the sampler. They kindly responded (rather quick I might say) to my inquiry and included a small pack of unflavored with my big bag of orange. It worked great and reminded me of a lighter flavored version of berry.
I’ve been using nothing but Tailwind on any ride over 60 minutes. Most of my weekday rides have been high intensity intervals that last around 2 hours. At a 200 cal/bottle mix this has worked perfect. For 3hr + rides I’ve mixed at 250-300 cal/bottle (200 wasn’t enough) and this has also worked very well. With the flavors that work for me I’ve had plenty of energy, and it’s been far easier to intake all the calories I need. Even on 4hr + endurance rides it has worked well. I have to say I’m very surprised at just how well it’s worked. It’s really a lot easier to work with as well. I no longer have to count out the number of gummies and waffles I need for a given ride, I don’t have to deal with empty wrappers or digging into pockets to find something to eat. The first few times I rode this way it was a little disconcerting – I kept feeling like I forgot something!
On a side note, I started working with Kelli of Apex Nutrition LLC a couple weeks ago. She hadn’t heard of Tailwind, but the ratio of ingredients is almost exactly her ideal recommendation. Perfect.
If you compare to Skratch the ratios of carbs to electrolytes are similar, if mixed in the same concentration. I did try mixing up a stronger version of Skratch, but it didn’t go down well. In a 200 cal/bottle concentration Skratch tasted simply too sweet. There’s no way I could stomach that on a long ride. If I had to guess why the difference existed I’d assume it has to do with Skratch using a cane sugar base while Tailwind uses a dextrose and sucrose base.
Tailwind is a pretty small company operating out of Durango, Colorado, and they provide exceptional and very personal service. Email responses have been super fast and each order has had a hand written postcard. These are little touches but they go a long way to fueling my desire to really want their company to succeed. With the success I’ve had with their product I’ve no doubt that they will continue to grow – rapidly. I hope they always retain an element of this personal touch.
So, 2013 is going to be a big year for me. I expect to do around 12-15 races this season with at least 10 of those over 50 miles. On the rides/races over 5 hours I’ll still probably have something solid every 3 hours just for variety, but for the most part it will be all Tailwind all the time. Right now I’m loving it and look forward to really great things this year.
If you’re interested in giving Tailwind a try, go to their site and order a sampler or even the challenge. Flat rate shipping is darn fast and very reasonable. And tell them I sent ya.