The cola and blood sugar mystery

Thomas on triathlete clichés and their effects

Not everything that’s black and sweet contains the necessary energy kick to mobilise your last reserves at middle distance. Former professional triathlete Thomas Hellriegel learnt this much as he drifted left and right, desperately fighting to hold on to victory. 

About 15 years ago I did a middle-distance run in the south.
The swimming went well and my legs were so strong on the bike that towards the end I was even in the lead. With a comfortable gap, I just had 20 km to run to win the whole thing. The distance would be covered in only two laps. So step on the accelerator and focus, focus, focus.
The first few kilometres went like clockwork.
Whether the thought of the well-earned after-work cocktail on the beach or the brutal heat got to me, I can’t rightly say anymore. All I know is that things turned rapidly for the worse after the first lap. As there were no cocktails in sight, I had to find another way to boost my blood sugar again.

A refreshing cola would definitely do it.

I grabbed the first cup from the feeding station. As that first cup didn’t really help me regain focus on the finish, the beach and the cocktails, I reckoned “the more the better” and took another cup at the next opportunity – sadly in vain, as my blood sugar level dropped even faster than I could run.


When I started getting dizzy I knew that drifting left and right in a competition isn’t going to make you faster. And my pace was finished. Luckily I at least had the time advantage on my side and just about managed to seal the win.
I could hardly stand up after crossing the line, never mind raising my arms and striking a victory pose. Cola, more cola! It had to help eventually, I thought. With a rather worried look, the organiser rushed to my side with a whole bottle!
But a closer look at the label told me just what the problem was. Somebody had actually told the organiser that triathletes are very careful about their weight. In big letters and with even bigger eyes I read what was on the bottle: “refreshing sugar-free diet cola – zero calories”.

I was still pretty exhausted, but at the same time relieved. It wasn’t just me...

All the best, Thomas

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