Training for the Krispy Kreme Challenge

Three of my athletes are training through the Krispy Kreme Challenge, en route to bigger events, including Ironman South Africa and a six-hour mountain bike relay. This is good, as they can afford the calories (2,400 of them!), and their training for their target races will even be served by running nauseated, as coping with nutrition issues is an important part of long distance racing. As I had the pleasure of explaining to UNC men’s basketball coach Roy Williams yesterday morning, and as I enjoyed hearing my older daughter tell my younger daughter at the dinner table yesterday evening, the race involves a two-mile downhill run from the bell tower on the North Carolina State University campus to a Krispy Kreme store, consuming a dozen original glazed doughnuts, and running back uphill to the bell tower—two more bucket-lined miles—all in under an hour. (Vivian was disgusted; Coach Williams was intrigued, and assured me he’d have no problem with the doughnut-consumption part!)

At the original Krispy Kreme store
in my hometown of Winston-Salem, NC

The event raises some issues about the specificity of training for a race. To really peak in a race, you need to be prepared for the conditions you’ll have on race day. If it’s a race with a lot of downhills, like the Boston Marathon, you should be ready for the stress. If it’s an open-water swim in rough salt water, getting into the chop in training is critical. And you’d better know exactly what your intended goal pace and effort feel like if you hope to hold them on race day.

But you don’t want to oversimulate, either, because (a) that will wear you out (remember: recovery, recovery, recovery!) and (b) if you can do the whole race at your projected intensity beforehand, you aren’t training hard enough! Race day is special—it’s when all the elements of your training converge with your perfect execution of your race plan. So I’ve been having Donnie, one of the athletes, enjoy up to three doughnuts just before his training runs. More than that would be counterproductive, I believe, and contrary to the season’s ultimate goal, as it would become a weight-gaining workout, and endurance athletes need to be at a pretty lean racing weight to have a peak performance (on which much more in Matt Fitzgerald’s book Racing Weight). But doing the race itself, as nasty as it might be, is certainly in service of the overarching reasons to train and race: because you can, to test the limits of your body’s abilities, and for sheer, sometimes sugary fun.