Figuring out the right way to fuel along the way during your races can be tough. For my first few marathons, I honestly had no clue and no plan. I just drank the water and Gatorade along the course, and well, there was that Kit Kat Bar I basically stole from some guy at mile 18 of my first marathon!
Eventually, I smartened up and got a better understanding of how important it was to give yourself some fuel along the way. What a difference! My stomach is usually pretty strong, but I still had a tough time figuring out what to eat since I can be a bit picky. I remember just taste testing a Gu once that came in a bag of post-race goodies and thinking it was the grossest thing ever. That was probably in 2003, but I wasn’t about to give it a second chance so I started looking elsewhere.
I tried breaking a peanut butter Powerbar into pieces, but it could be really dry and tough to get down, especially later in the race. When various gummy type energy bites started to come out I got very excited. I used the Gu Chomps at first, but they could also be tough to chew through. PowerBar blasts were my savior. They were a lot easier to take since they are juicy in the center.
In my last two marathons though I haven’t taken my last set of planned bites around mile 21. The first time I felt sick to my stomach and the second time I just couldn’t stomach the idea of eating more of them. My plan this time is to have some variety so I’m not eating the same thing. That means trying something new though.
I’ve been practicing with things during my long runs and I noticed Gu has flavors like chocolate and peanut butter, so I thought it might be time to drop my decade long grudge against them. I’ve tested out the chocolate Gu twice now, and not only does it taste alright, but my stomach handles it well and it’s actually easier to down the Gu then fumble with 5 or so PowerBar blasts. I have some Honey Stinger gummies to try out soon too, and I’m going to keep experimenting till I’ve found just the right combinations.
How do you fuel your long runs and races?
Just be sure to take your Gu with water, not Gatorade!
On Saturday, the DC Capital Striders hosted a seminar at Lululemon in Georgetown called Successful Race Execution – Preparation, Fueling, and Pacing Strategy to Run your Best Race featuring RRCA certified running coaches Lisa Reichmann and Julie Sapper. Lisa and Julie are both experienced runners themselves and are also co-founders of local running company, Run Farther & Faster, coaching everyone from those doing their first 5k to runners looking to PR in a marathon.
They covered the right way to taper, nutrition both while your training and racing and pacing strategies. Some of it was new and some was info I’ve heard before, but it’s always great to be reminded. They highlighted the importance of the taper, which is good for me to keep hearing because like most runners I go a little stir crazy during that time and have trouble trusting that I won’t lose all my fitness in the week and a half or so before the race.
Their info on fueling was great. They talked about avoiding sugary foods so you don’t crash, embracing carbs and making sure to eat a protein/carb snack or meal within 20 minutes of finishing a run. They also gave some good advice on in-race nutrition including the invaluable – don’t ever mix Gu with Gatorade!
Gatorade and Gu – Do not mix!!
The top takeaway for me came when I asked Julie about her long runs. I have a tough time doing them one to two minutes slower than race pace as most training plans recommend. I always worry that there is no way I’ll be able to run the pace I want to come race day if I do that despite what a lot of the science says on the subject.
She said she used to have similar concerns at a point where she was about a 3:45 or so marathoner before hooking up with a coach and a running group and following the long-slow distance method. (You can run the last few miles of some of these slower runs at race pace as a confidence booster too.) That helped bring her down into the 3:20s. Since I’m just under the 3:40 mark now and the 3:20s is where I want to be, this was exactly what I needed to hear. Granted the same things don’t work for everyone, but hearing it form someone that it worked for as opposed to reading it in a book makes a big difference for me.
I’d love to hear about your training – what plans do you follow? How do you fuel along the way? Does the taper drive you crazy? Let me know in the comments!