I've always been one of those runners that hates to eat before a run.
In fact, I've always looked forward to the post-run munch fest, and the fun that we have on Saturday mornings at The Bagel Place with fellow runners, eating bagels and hummus, and drinking super-hot coffee (particularly on those February mornings when everyone with any sanity is at home curled up under mountains of blankets). I'm ashamed to say that I've "saved" calories for these post-run-food-extravaganzas -- bargaining with myself over a 10 mile run (do this now, eat this later). I've carried that practice over to races, to a large extent -- fueled with the knowledge that I wasn't "racing to win" and was just "doing it for fun." Who needs to eat some gelatinous gooish substance (aptly named Gu) when you're just out to best yourself? Then I started getting a wee bit faster, and wanting to push myself. Really, really push myself. But, frankly, it's hard to hit top speed when there's no gas in the tank. I got pretty good at running on fumes. Still, I protested that the fact that I wasn't Going Fast had nothing to do with the fuel (or lack thereof) and everything to do with Ability or Training or Conditions.
(Keep in mind that I've done a marathon, here, folks. 26 miles, and only as many calories as went into a water-bottle filled with some glukos. I may have eaten a sandwich before. Before my most recent half marathon, I had two slices of bread and drank only water throughout the race. I'm not kidding.)
And, just to add a bit more flair, I've also always been one of those folks who gets a wee bit ... "cranky" ... when her blood sugar gets a little off. (Just ask SJV. Bless him and his patience.) I've honestly chalked my somewhat surly yet animated post-race-disposition to ... well ... the race. And, in case you don't believe that I could be so ... surly (I am a sunny person by nature, I like to think) -- I give you Exhibit A. From mile 24 of The Marathon. Again - look Mom! No calories!
No, I do not look like a happy camper.
And Exhibit B. This is from the Magellan Half Marathon.
Again -- fantastic time (a PR by 20 minutes). But see that expression? Here's a closeup.
See how I am literally almost elbowing that dude on my left? He's in my way (to get water, I think, but there's also food on that table). SJV took that photo to show me how my ... ahem ... attitude ... changes when I haven't had food and have really pushed it. Again -- this is how I look after 13 miles going all out, with only two slices of bread and water to get me through to a PR by 20 minutes.
Now, fast forward to Bigfoot. SJV's coach, Jen Harrison (here's the hat tip!) had suggested race fueling for him, and had explained how important it was. Now, could I really argue with an expert? Not really. So I decided to try to force a powergel down my throat after the swim, and after the bike. Nothing too fancy here -- just two gels through the race.
I had a pretty fast run. (The wind was most impressive that day, so the bike portion was ... not cool.) So I thought that maybe -- on account of the fast run -- on an upcoming Long Bike I would have some more calories. Just to ... you know ... see the difference. If there was one (I was somewhat dubious).
Two weeks ago, on a long ride in Barrington, I tried out EFS, which seemed like it would work because I sweat like a stuck pig (EFS has some good stuff for folks like me that perspire a bit more than others) and has some calories. And it doesn't taste too horrible. Still bad, but not awful. And it seemed to work -- I didn't feel like strangling anyone at the end of the ride (excellent!) and I felt like I could actually have done even more. The run was a bit off, but otherwise I felt great.
Now, fast forward to yesterday. I had a bagel with peanut butter in the morning. And I brought two bottles for my cages on the back of my bike (one scoop of EFS in each) and 40 ounces of water mixed with 2 scoops of EFS in my speedfill. My strategy was to use all of it by the end of the ride (seriously, guys -- I sweat a lot, so I'm not overdoing it). I was also going to force myself to use a powergel once every hour. Like clockwork, I drank down the first 1/2 of the speedfill by the first 20 miles, refilled with one bottle out of my cages at the first aid station, then drank the entire speedfill, and refilled with the last bottle at the last aid station. I drank the last swig of that as I was pulling into Jean Klock park.
And you know what?? It totally worked. I finished the bike waaaayyyy faster than I had planned (and 20 minutes faster than SJV had planned), and had one of the fastest 5 mile splits I've had in months -- after 55 miles on the bike. And I felt amazing! Who would have thunk it. I was smiling, and laughing, and other cyclists were commenting on how fresh I looked, as I ran by them to go and use the facilities. And I was smiling like Chrissy Wellington herself as I ran down the highway at a nice quick clip, saying hello to the ladies pushing baby carriages and commenting on the beautiful day.
SJV was so proud. And, frankly, so am I. So - a hat tip to Jen Harrison for having such a great influence on my race nutrition, and on the race nutrition for a lot of fellow racers. I can't say that the next time I'm out on a 5 mile easy run with the Clocktower Runners that I'll down a powergel in advance. But I can say that I now know how I should feel. And that's half the battle, isn't it?
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