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Fuel for Thought

I've only had a few 20 mile long runs that I finished and felt like I could keep going. Saturday I had one of those runs.

I was a little worried going into it because I hadn't run since Monday. I decided to take some time off from running to see if my piriformis and quad would finally stop bothering me. I cross trained all week instead, stretched every day, and took Friday off completely.

I think four days off from running may have been the reason my legs seemed to be questioning what we were doing about two miles into Saturday's run. I was a little worried when my legs felt so tired and sluggish early on but also reminded myself that it's been taking five or six miles to feel warmed up during my long runs lately.

My quad was a little sore the first five miles but felt fine after that. And I was aware of my piriformis but it was not painful, and the odd sensation I felt in my butt was only there off and on. I was definitely better off from having some rest and TLC the previous four days.

At mile six, my family met me with water, and I downed a Root Beer GU. Then they hiked a waterfall while I ran, and they met me again at mile 11. I had a Salted Caramel GU and told them to meet me again at mile 16.5. They brought me some water, which I downed. I debated taking another GU and decided to see if it would help prevent a crash during the last few miles. So another Salted Caramel down the hatch. I finally remembered to grab my headphones at this point but could have just as happily finished my run music-free.

I never felt my energy level drop and kept my pace pretty even all 20 miles. My slowest mile was into a pretty strong headwind and my last mile was my fastest. It was about as good as a 20 mile run gets.

Throw in the times I ran into my family and they scootered along with me for a few minutes and the times they drove alongside me and cheered me on, and it doesn't get much better.

As someone who once upon a time didn't fuel at all during long runs or races, I can now tell you it makes a huge difference.

When I first began trying to fuel, I always had stomach issues. Every time I would fuel during a run or race, my stomach would act up and I would give up trying to fuel the rest of the run. I got to the point where I wasn't even trying to fuel anymore. The only thing I would use during races was Powerade.

Then the first race when I was first trying to qualify for Boston, I had stomach issues (without any fuel to blame it on) and missed qualifying by eight minutes. So I decided to give the fueling thing another try. I was on a mission.

I knew super sweet things weren't going to work because I can't even stand the thought of them when I'm running. So I bought about eight different types of the least sweet fuel I could find to try, including gels, chews and nut butters.

I liked the flavors of the nut butters, but they were too thick and hard to get down while running. The chews ended up being too sweet, but there were a few gels that I could get down. The flavors I could stand were key lime, peanut butter and salted caramel.

I began using them regularly on my long runs and the Salted Caramel quickly became my favorite. I still had stomach issues sometimes but kept trying the GU in hopes that my body would get used to something hitting my stomach during my runs. And it did.

I have found that taking my first fuel within the first hour of my run seems to help with the stomach issues. For me, fueling every 5-6 miles works best. I feel like my energy level stays steady that way. To further help avoid stomach issues, I have been saving the GU with caffeine for later in my run. 

The moral of this story is you should fuel. Figure out what works for you. Then put it to work!


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