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  • Writer's pictureJessica Jones

Fueling on the Run.

I've been traveling a lot (on a plane again as I start drafting this), so wanted to briefly mention the struggles of eating “healthy” during all this travel. I think everyone probably realizes that convenient food options are not always the best for you. As I’ve been trying to dial in my nutrition more recently, it’s become so much more apparent to me during these past few months of travel. What seems like endless travel. I’ve made many concessions, but have tried to not stray too far. After all, I know how much better I feel when I’m eating well. How much better I run. This has gotten me thinking about the overall picture of nutrition. I’ve talked about eating. But, I’ve only briefly mentioned fueling during a run. Or a race. Or in preparation for a long run or race. Arguably, this could be more important than how you nourish your body on a routine basis. I've long realized the value of proper in-run fueling. The necessity. Every marathon training and exercise physiology book talks about it. But it's only been relatively recently that I realized after a few years I had been doing it wrong.

Well, “wrong” is subjective. Maybe “not optimally” is more accurate. I didn't have this realization until I tip-toed into the world of ultramarathons. Everyone pretty much agrees that any time you exercise over 90 continuous minutes, you should have some form of nutrition during. What and how you get that nutrition depends. On a lot. There are many different camps. Sports physiologists can tell you what the optimal carbohydrate, fluid, and any other nutrient intake is. Theoretically. Elite and experienced runners can tell you what they do. What they feel helps them most. Ultimately, this is probably the single most individualized thing in running. And, you only figure it out by trial and error. Hopefully not too much error. When I started training for my first half marathon, I started paying attention to in-run nutrition. Took in the max recommended. Gels every 45 min. Sports drink along the way. I kept this strategy thru my first few marathons. As I gained confidence that I wasn’t going to crash, I cut back. My norm became two gels in a marathon race. Around 10 miles and 20 miles. The struggles at the end of races I assumed were normal. Exhaustion. Pushing to the max.

Then I signed up for a 50K, tip-toeing into ultras. Conventional wisdom says you can treat a 50K pretty much the same as a marathon, as far as nutrition is concerned. But, I had decided to plan a marathon for the day after. (Brilliant idea, BTW). So, I wanted to treat the nutrition more like a longer ultra event, to make sure I’d be good for both days. Enter long training runs with PB&J sandwiches, a stereotypical ultra marathon staple. And Cliff bars. Food. Real food. Eating while you are running is a learning experience in and of itself. You have no idea how much energy chewing takes, until you are literally eating on the run. I didn’t get vey creative with potential options. I could tolerate Cliff bars and PB&J well, so considered that good enough. 50K race morning. A Cliff bar and double-strength Gatorade for breakfast. The race was on a 4 mile trail loop, which made fueling easy. I started with some double-strength Gatorade in-hand. After loop one, half a Cliff Bar. Only 4 miles in. Never had fueled that early in run. Loop two, more Gatorade. Loop three, a gel. Loop four, half a Cliff Bar and Gatorade. Loop five, another gel. Loop six, more Gatorade and PB&J. Loops seven and eight, a little Gatorade to get thru to the end.

I felt good. I’d never run that far before, but I felt okay. Didn’t hit “the wall”. Ate smart the rest of the day and prepared for the marathon the next day. Figuring I might be starting a little depleted, I went with my 50K strategy of fueling early. Took a gel around mile 4. Then another around mile 12. And, a third around mile 20. This marathon was a course I’d run twice before. In a city that I know pretty well. Before this race, I could not have told you the course route from miles 18-23. This day, I was so aware. Didn’t come close to the wall. Felt good. I mean, other than my legs screaming at me because we just did 32 trail miles the day before. It was the most mentally aware I had ever been during the latter stages of a marathon. I completely believed it was because of my early and often fueling. So, I’ve kept this fueling plan for the three marathons since. All with equal success. Not to say I’ve run my best races. Not at all. One of those was the Boston struggle. But, the foggy mental struggle hasn’t been there like it was before. And, we all know running is a mental sport!

Training Log July 2-8, 2018: Planned 50 miles. All by feel. 50 miles.

Monday – 4.4mi @ 8:50. Glad to be home, but gotta get used to this humidity again! Oh, and getting healthy again would be a good idea.

Tuesday – OFF. Needed rest. Still fighting this illness.

Wednesday – 16.2mi @ 9:54. Still not 100% healthy, but wanted to get out and run! A bit of a late start, so it was hot and humid. Took a few walk breaks. Enjoyed just being out today.

Stability: 10x one-legged deadlifts, 10x side lunges, 20x knee crunches, 20x adductor leg raises, 20x leg cross-overs, 12x knee tucks, 12x discus-thrower, 12x leg swings

Thursday – 4.5mi @ 9:312. Feeling better.

Friday – 6.1mi @ 9:13. Nice and comfortable. Re-adjusting to the humidity, just in time to leave again!

Saturday – 10.7mi @ 9:41. In Salt Lake City. Started this run at 2PM. When it was over 90F. Why? I don’t know. I didn’t think this through too well. A few walk breaks here to cool off. No humidity, but the sun was brutal.

Sunday – 5.1mi @ 8:47 in AM. Much nicer in the morning here! Comfortable run. 3.0mi @ 8:53 in PM. Hotel treadmill. Felt fine. Just wanted to get in a few more miles.

Stability: 10x discus-thrower, 10x standing hurdles, 10x side leg raises, 12x firehydrants, 10x jackknives, 20x torso twists, 10x leg swings, 10x one-legged deadlifts, 10x leg swings, 20x hip raises, 10x side hip raises, 12x kickbacks, 10x stability ball leg curls, 10x one-legged deadlifts, 10x discus-thrower

Training Log July 9-15, 2018: Planned 70 miles. All by feel. 61 miles.

Monday – 5.0mi @ 9:41. Hotel treadmill. Nice and easy.

Tuesday – 8.5mi @ 9:12. Hotel treadmill. Easy going.

Wednesday – 6.7mi @ 8:58 in AM. Hotel treadmill. Bits and pieces this week.

Thursday – 6.2mi @ 9:46. Hotel treadmill. Starting to be a mental drain on the treadmill, but too busy to get outside.

Friday – OFF. Didn’t get home until after midnight. Could not drag myself out of bed to get some miles in before work.

Saturday – 13.1mi @ 8:59. Slept in. Really slept in for the first time in a while! Too hot to get outside, so did this on my treadmill. Legs feel good.

Stability: 20x side lunges,20x knee crunches, 12xadductor leg raises, 20x leg cross-overs, 12x knee tucks, 12x discus-thrower, 10x leg swings, 10x standing hurdles, 10x standing hurdles, 12x side leg raises, 12x firehydrants, 12x jackknives, 20x torso twists, 10x leg swings, 10x one-legged deadlifts, 20x hip raises

Sunday – 21.3mi @ 9:43. A legit long run! It was hot. Took some walk breaks to bring my heart rate down and help cool off. But, it felt good to get the distance in.

Until next week-ish. Own it. Live it. Be it.

(Pics from Salt Lake City runs)

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