This post on Sarah’s blog has, not surprisingly, generated lotsa lively discussion. And imma be adding to it over here. 🙂
The gist of it was that there is a possibility that some people may overestimate the amount of fuel they need to take in during runs/races. My response to that?
In both marathons I finished, I took 4 gels (once at 10k, then every 5 miles…but keep in mind my marathon is in the 3:45-4:00 range)…and never once felt depleted and still felt strong at the end. if it was a result of being properly fueled, it’s worth it.
While I had no issue with the post in general, this comment-which kind of looked like it was pointed to me and what I had said in mine-sorta rubbed me the wrong way. (sorry, Laura!)
But why would you want to finish a marathon feeling strong? To me that makes no sense. I want it to get tough so I can push through it and feel really accomplished, and I want to know that I put it all out there. If you finish feeling great, that just meant you should have run harder earlier (or not eaten as much along the way).
So I guess according to that logic, both of my marathon times need to be asterisked, as they are both “PowerGel-aided times” and not truly legitimate. And why would you want to finish a marathon feeling like you’re gonna bonk, if you haven’t already? And what’s wrong with going out easier and picking up the pace…don’t most coaches encourage negative splits?
Oh, and I had more to say.
I should also probably clarify that when I run marathons (and other races too,) I don’t run them “just to finish.” I run for time, I want to finish in the best time possible for me. And in order to achieve that, I have to make sure that I am fueled enough, because bonking in the last 10K will mean that I will have to kiss my time goal goodbye. I’m going for a BQ in Chicago and it could be a situation where even seconds matter-why risk being under-fueled and missing my goal?
To elaborate on that point even more. I was going for time goals in NYCM 2006 and 2008 (sub-4 and sub-3:45, respectively.) And in the last few miles of the race, I knew it was going to be really close. I was grateful that I was properly fueled enough to be able to pick up the pace-not to mention pacing smartly too-as if I had crashed in the last 10K I definitely would not have gotten my goal either time. (And for what it’s worth-I did leave all it out on the course. Both times. I was all too happy to stop running when I crossed the finish line!!)
Another example-last year at NYCM a good friend of mine made the mistake of not taking enough fluids early in the marathon and by the time he was thirsty, it was too late as hydration has to come before you feel thirsty. Unfortunately, that race-day error led to him missing his time goal (and it wasn’t training-related as he is a very accomplished runner and his training was impressive!)
As I said before-going for a BQ in Chicago could be a situation where it’s really close, that it could come down to mere seconds. If I do everything right on race day and still don’t make it-well, I’ll be disappointed, but will just have to accept that I don’t have a 3:40 marathon in me. If I don’t make it because of being underfueled-I would be angry at myself for missing my goal due to something totally preventable…why risk it?
Kara Goucher converted to the marathon after competing in track at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She placed third in her 2008 New York City debut and third at Boston in 2009. Her biggest struggle?
“Nutrition while racing,” she said. “I thought I practiced enough, and then on race day twice, I had not practiced it enough.”
Dathan Ritzenhein’s four marathons include the 2008 Beijing Olympics where he led the US with a ninth-place finish. In 2009, he ran personal best at the London Marathon (2:10.00) but his biggest lesson came from his 2006 New York City debut.
“I completely ran out of energy,” he said. “I went from a 2:10 [finish] pace to 2:14 and it all happened, really, in the last mile. I’ve never had a feeling quite like that.
“I totally underestimated how much fuel you need. I think I took in maybe a total of 200-300 calories and only drank maybe four ounces at each of the 5K bottle stations along the way.”
Since then, Ritzenhein has consciously increased his intake during the race. “Now I probably take in way more than anybody else in the elite [field]. I take up to 1,000 calories by dissolving gel packets in the bottles or just taking them straight out on the course. I try to drink more fluid, like six ounces at every 5K mark. I also try to drink in between [the elite water stops], at the other ones on the course.”
Ritzenhein’s advice: Find out what works for you and rehearse it. “It’s something I definitely practice a whole lot – even in shorter, faster workouts where I don’t even need that amount of fuel.”
And if fueling in races is no big deal…then why was it a big deal that the “B” qualifiers at the 2008 Men’s Marathon Olympic Trials didn’t get “elite fluid stations” like the “A” qualifiers did?
(And yeah I know some of you will say that elites are completely different animals than the rest of us…but don’t forget, they are just like us too! 🙂 )
So what’s the point that I’m trying to make…oh yeah, the marathon times of fat pigs like myself who take in 4 gels should be as legit as those who are able to get by on only 1 gel or none at all. 😛 Practice makes perfect on race day when it comes to nutrition and other race-day strategies!! As I am going to do this weekend at the 18-Mile Tune Up race. I will not be racing it, but frontloading beforehand by running to the start (2-3 miles) then use the race as a long run. I know a lot of people aren’t crazy about 3 loops of the park but I’ve actually grown to like this race! As long as you use restraint, it’s a great way to practice race-day pacing (some miles at MP, perhaps?), race-day nutrition, and having the water and Gatorade tables help me practice the “grab and go” method with fluids. And I will also be rehearsing the race-day outfit too…gonna be a little different than years past! Stay tuned… 🙂