CORE helps Lauren DeCrescenzo set Everesting Record
Lauren is a former pro-cyclist who has an impressive cycling resume and has won races despite "winging-it" with nutrition. But on her road to Everesting, she learned how to properly fuel and that made the difference. After she set the world record for Everesting May 31, 2020, we interviewed Lauren about her experience with racing, nutrition before and after CORE, and about recovering from traumatic injury and dealing with disordered eating. Lauren is a former pro cyclist and is a research fellow at the CDC in Atlanta with a Masters in Public Health (Epidemiology).
Lauren's road to Everesting
CORE: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. What an amazing cycling journey you’ve had winning Crusher in the Tushar (70 miles, over 10,000 of climbing), 2019 Collegiate Nationals Time Trial, and even earning a Masters of Public Health degree in epidemiology.
LDC: Yes, it’s been quite the ride. I was a pro roadie for DNA p/b Visit Dallas Cycling Team in 2016... until disaster struck. At an early season race, I crashed in the final sprint and suffered a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) and spent 3 weeks at the ICU and 2 months at Craig Rehab Center in Colorado. I’ve come a long way since then and the Everesting World Record was a nice addition (at least for a few days!).
CORE: What motivated the Everesting.
LDC: My fiancé, Jim, was doing it to raise money for Grady Hospital, so I decided to join him and raise money for Craig Rehab Center . I had all of a week to prepare after coming off a 60-day emergency deployment for CDC COVID-19 response .
Nutrition Planning before CORE
CORE: In the past, before CORE, how would you plan nutrition for races and training?
LDC: I’d totally wing it. In 2018 when I raced Crusher in the Tushar, I won with a time of 4:56. In that race, I had about 5 gels, a couple mini cans of coke, and some electrolyte drink. It was probably about 800 calories total. Ditto for SBT Grvl (144 miles, 9,400 feet of climbing).
CORE: How did that work for you?
LDC: In all of those longer races, by the 5th or 6th hour my legs would seize. I had to fake it, which is challenging when your legs don’t work.
Nutrition Planning with CORE
CORE: How did the planning with CORE differ.
LDC: I was amazed at how much I needed to properly fuel. Before the Everest, I laid out my entire day’s worth of fuel according to the CORE planner. I couldn’t believe how much food I would actually need to maximize the effort; in total about 3300kcal and 9.5L of fluid. In the past, I would’ve viewed that as pretty gross. As many endurance athletes, I’ve suffered from disordered eating to get to “race weight.” CORE helped me shift my perspective to seeing my body as a machine and food as the fuel to maximize performance.
CORE: How did the plan work on “Everest” (24.5 times up Hogpen Gap near Helen, Georgia ascending over 29,029 ft)
LDC: I had to really discipline myself to take nutrition because it wasn’t something I was used to, but I had friends at the top of Hogpen Gap cheering me and feeding me. The amazing thing was that my legs didn’t start to seize until hour 9. This was literally the hardest day I’ve had on the bike and there’s no way I could have completed the Everesting without the nutrition plan. In a race, you can fake it because the other racers are hurting too. On the mountain, you can’t fake it. It’s physics vs physiology.
CORE: For this event, you had a week to plan and only 4 days to do the nutrition plan. You went from fueling at 30-40g/hr of carb to 60g/hr and from random hydrating to planned hydration informed by sweat rate measurement. That’s a big change that worked well. What will you do in the future?
LDC: As I’ve transitioned from a roadie to a gravel racer, I realized just how important it is to properly fuel my body. I can’t fake it anymore; it’s not a 2 hour race. In my transformation to a gravel racer, I’m doing a couple things. First, I’m going to do nutritional training once a week to increase my ability and my comfort taking on 60g/hr or more of carbohydrate. I will also do more sweat rate measurement; I want to see how my sweat rate varies with the temperature and my ride intensity so I can better dial in my hydration for each ride. So far, I have 3 datapoints- the 3 days leading up to Everesting. It’s amazing to see how much fluid my body loses from the calculation and reinforces the importance of proper hydration.
CORE: So, now that you've conquered Everest, what’s next?
LDS: I’m marrying my Sherpa. Also, I’m still raising money for great causes. If your readers would like to donate to a great cause, Craig Hospital or Grady Hospital, we’d love the support. Craig Hospital got me through recovery from an incredibly difficult traumatic brain injury and I couldn’t be more grateful. My Sherpa Jim is a med student working at Grady Hospital and donations to Grady go towards lifesaving trauma and emergency services, which are used by over 150,000 patients every year (400+ visits/day!). It’s a win either way!
Craig Hospital Foundation: https://secure3.convio.net/craig/site/TR/Events/General?px=1029827&pg=personal&fr_id=1130