Sunday, September 12, 2021

Refueling for a Marathon (or Ultra)

Today's workout was a 10 mile run in Farmville. 


I am training for my marathon in November and my ultramarathon next month right here on the High Bridge Trail. 


For any workout lasting longer than an hour I try to refuel during the run. As with shorter runs, I always bring water along, especially in warmer temperatures. The easiest way to avoid dehydration is simply to drink according to thirst. When you get thirsty, take a drink of water. 

On workouts that last longer than one hour, as with today's run (see below), I often bring a sports drink that provides sodium, electrolytes, and energy in the form of fast-absorbing carbohydrates. 


However, you can get the same benefits by consuming other fuels that come in the form of sports gels or sports bars. Runners use these in races to sustain their energy and keep them going. You can also squeeze them onto an ice cream cone. (I don't do that.) They are all about 100 calories apiece. You can even get vegan gels. Today I experimented with the GU brand -- a fan favorite you might say. 


They are not exactly cheap. When I consume a gel, I don't need to use a sports drink; water suffices. So far I've found the GU gels easily digestible and good tasting. My favorites are the Vanilla Bean and the Strawberry Banana. Each contains amino acids and sodium, but only the Vanilla Bean has caffeine. I consume one gel for every hour of running. 

The neat thing about gels is that you don't have to chew anything. You just tear it open and suck out the gel. For what it's worth, on my 32-mile ultra next month my "go to" plan is 7 gels (one per hour) with water along the way. At a couple of aid stations there will also be goodies like PBJs, bananas, and orange slices. You can't miss with a PBJ! But to each his or her own. At the end of the day, you have to do what works best for you, and if any of the above doesn't work, then don't do it. Be sure to judge a gel by the T & T method -- taste and texture. If you don't like either of these, then try something else or go back to using your sports drink. What I look for in a gel is something that goes down easily and doesn't give me any stomach issues. 

Anyway ... racing (like life) is all about problem solving. Fueling is a big part of that. Honestly, it's a piece of cake. (Sarcasm.) The key is not to try or wear anything in the marathon that you haven't tried or run with umpteen times before. If you do you might be in for a big surprise. During my very first marathon (the Flying Pig in Cincy), I tried eating an orange at one of the aid stations. I had never done that before. I ended up choking on one of the orange slices. When I finally coughed it up, I tried to thank the aid station volunteers (it wasn't their fault, after all) but all I could manage was a death gurgle. Lesson learned. That was long before I had discovered gels. At about mile 20 it felt like someone had just given me a 50 pound weight and asked me to carry it to the finish line. My motto now is "Know before you go." Where are the aid stations? What water and sports drinks do they offer? Which aid stations offer gels or other edibles?

Above all, don't try anything new on race day, oranges included!