Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Marathon Training, Week 3: In Which I Attempt Eating & Drinking On The Run

bars&gelsI'm not in the habit of carrying fluids or energy / nutritional supplements when I run. People often seem surprised by this. Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying I don't find it pleasant to be able to quench my thirst during a run. On the other hand, I am a lazy ass muthaf**** and will do pretty much anything to avoid carrying things in my hands while I'm running.

Sometimes it's unavoidable. I used to pin my house keys to my shorts when I ran in the neighborhood. Then one night the safety pin managed to pop open at some indeterminate point during my first couple of miles & the keys went flying into oblivion. Once I realized they were gone, the only thing I could think of to do was run to my boyfriend's house, borrow his roommate's computer to log in to my email and find my roommate's phone number (because seriously, why would I know that??), leave her a message using his phone, wait for her to call back, then run to the bar where she was to borrow her keys so I could get into the house & then make new copies in the morning. Sheesh. To this day, unless I have a zipper pocket, I carry those bitches IN MY HAND. And even then I periodically check that they're still there. At a few smaller races with no sweat check I've also run holding my car fob.

Most of the time, though, I can get away without carrying anything very big. On a reasonably cool day, I can run eight or ten miles without water as long as I down a couple of glasses before I go. I'm not saying I'm not thirsty when I get back, but not that miserable, cotton-mouth-ey, boy-that-stranger's-garden-hose-sure-does-look-tempting kind of thirsty. If I'm on a longer run than that, Golden Gate Park is likely involved in some capacity, and there are enough water fountains there to keep me from reaching the afore-described level of thirst.

The concept of ingesting something non-liquid during a run is a foreign concept to me. On my first-ever half marathon, I carried a package of jelly beans in a little fanny pack (don't judge). For every one I managed to get into my mouth, probably at least three or four ended up on the ground. Plus they made my stomach feel kind of funny. On every half since then I haven't bothered to carry anything & just made sure to eat a solid, carb-ey breakfast & grab some Gatorade (or whatever) at every aid station. That's always worked out pretty well for me.

Of course, a marathon is a different story so I am going to have to get this drinking / feeding myself while running situation handled sometime in the not-too-dim-and-misty future. Hence a trip to Sports Basement, where a hand-held water bottle and various packages of gelatinous substances were purchased. (Full disclosure -- I didn't actually purchase the Gu Roctane; those, I won in a giveaway from the inestimable Rad Runner, along with some tasty, tasty nuun & a few packs of Gu Chomps. The flavor was peach tea, which sounds weird but was actually quite good!)

I won't embarrass myself by telling you how much time I spent staring blankly at the racks and tubs of water bottles of every conceivable shape, size, and price. Eventually, I'd examined enough of them to figure out what features I wanted (compact, hands-free top/nozzle/sucker/thing, roomy zipper pouch, key ring clip, reasonable price). Unfortunately, it seems as if the hand-strap water bottle industry has yet to create a product that meets my requirements. So I settled for the Camelbak one, which, although it's a little taller and the zipper pouch isn't quite as roomy (maybe two gels' worth at most), does have the hands-free top, the key ring clip, and was only $16.00 (which I still think is a rip-off but what are you going to do).

Friends, I have to say that I just don't know how this hand-held situation is going to work out for me. I've taken the bottle on three runs so far, just to get some practice holding & drinking from it -- an easy run last Monday (6), my MP run last Thursday (2 wu + 7 MP), & my long run Sunday (14). When it's full I feel like I'm trying to run with a dumbbell in one hand. I have to tense some of the muscles in my arm to support its weight, which really throws off my upper body form (I can feel my shoulders twisting back and forth, which is really bad). Also, drinking out of it while I'm moving has been extraordinarily difficult -- I have to slow down considerably to actually get anything out of it. (Then again, this could just be lack of coordination on my part. It wouldn't be the first time...)

I'm also not sure how great it is for me to have unfettered access to fluids at all times. I feel like a lot of the time I'm just drinking out of it because it's there, not because I'm actually thirsty. I feel like this could very quickly lead to a sloshy stomach, emptying the bottle within a few miles, and/or needing a pee break (which I'm hoping to avoid).

I'm not sure if ingesting gels really counts as "eating," but I took two Gu's with me on my Sunday long run as an experiment in logistics & digestion -- one Tri-berry and one Jet Blackberry. I was going 14 miles so I decided for no particular reason to eat one at five miles and one at ten miles. (As I suspected, those two Gu's barely fit into the bottle's zipper pouch, and I still couldn't close it all the way.)

The good news: I did manage to get both packages open & to get just about all of their gelatinous contents into my mouth & down into my stomach without stopping or making a giant mess.

The bad news: I cannot tell you how appalled I was at the texture / flavor of that stuff. Oh my god. WHY DID NONE OF YOU WARN ME??? (Boy that sounds a bit tawdry out of context...)

You know what it tasted like? Faintly berry-flavored chocolate ganache. Now, I've got no beef with chocolate ganache, but it is NOT at the top of the list of things I want to taste while running. EW.

awesome fuel beltClearly, there is no God. I just can't believe that a just, benevolent deity could allow such a disgusting substance to exist in the world. (Seriously; I almost choked, stumbled, & spit it out onto the ground. Probably only the knowledge that I paid a freaking buck twenty-five for it kept it in.)

The first one seemed to sit fine in my stomach once I washed the tasted out of my mouth. I managed to choke down the second one at mile 10 for the sake of science, and that also seemed to go fine, so at the very least, I've learned that regular Gu agrees with my digestive system while I'm running well enough. I am hoping that some of the other flavors are less revolting, though.

So there you go. My first foray into on-the-run fueling / drinking. Next week: Will she give the dorky fuel belt a shot? Eh? Eh? (Hint: Only if I can look this awesome. Thanks for the pic,!)

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