So it turns out that up until I read The New Rules last year, most of what I thought I knew about fueling before, during, & after a long race was at least somewhat incorrect, or at the very least incomplete. Here's a quick recap of the relevant points:
- At a moderate pace most people can tolerate 40-50g CHO per hour, some can tolerate 60g/hour or more, and some high-end ultra runners can tolerate 90g/hour or more.
- Generally, as you run faster, your tolerance decreases. (Ie, you probably can't consume CHO as quickly at half marathon pace as you can at marathon or long run pace.)
- Generally, thinner / more liquidy carbs are tolerated better than thicker ones at faster paces, with sports drink tolerated best. (Ie, the thicker gels that sit just fine in your stomach during a marathon may make you queasy at half marathon pace, & if you struggle with gels, you may do fine with sports drink.)
- In races shorter than 75 minutes, extra carbs are unlikely to do anything.
- In races longer than 75 minutes, 30g of CHO per hour is the smallest "effective dose."
- Above 30g/hour, consuming CHO faster seems to predict better performance, if your stomach can tolerate it.
- Many runners find that they can improve their carb tolerance with time & practice.
- There is evidence that a small amount of protein enhances the effect of consuming carbs during an endurance event.
I did the math & found that in half marathons I'd been consuming less than 30g CHO/hour (ie, not enough to make any difference at all) & in marathons, hovering right around the 30g/hour threshold (so enough to do something, but far from optimal). My long runs are getting long enough now that I need to start figuring out & practicing fueling (I've finally gone through an entire box of gels!), so recently I looked up the Santa Rosa course map & aid station / fluid situation & started trying to make some sort of plan.
So as to avoid another Berkeley Debacle, I contacted the race director & was relieved to learn that the course sport drink is Gatorade, like real, actual Gatorade (old school lemon-lime, apparently), and not some low/non-calorie bullshit like G2/Vega/Nuun/etc. (BTW, everybody knows that those things have few or no calories and thus don't count as "fueling", right? K, just checking.)
Based on where the aid stations are, I sketched out a rough plan to keep me somewhere around 55-60g CHO/hour:
- Pre-race: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
Mile 1: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
Mile 3.2: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
Mile 4: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
Mile 5: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
Mile 6.3: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
***Hour 1 = 56g***
Mile 8: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
Mile 8.5: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
Mile 10.5: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
Mile 11.1: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
Mile 12: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
Mile 13: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
Mile 15: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
***Hour 2 = 61g***
Mile 16: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
Mile 17: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
Mile 19: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
Mile 20: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
Mile 20.5: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
Mile 22.5: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
***Hour 3 = 56g***
Mile 24: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
Mile 24.5: Accel gel w/ protein -> 18g
Mile 25: 1 cup sports drink (~3 oz?)-> ~5g
***Hour 3.5 = 38g***
***Total = 205g***
So far I have been tolerating 40-50g/hour with no problem, which is a relief considering that I am grossed out by sugar/sweet things a lot of the time & as a result basically don't eat them. Over the next few weeks I'm planning to start trying to take the gels closer & closer together & see whether I can get to 55-60g/hour without feeling sick.
The next thing to figure out is the best way to carry 6 gels. (There will be some gels on the course, but none with protein, so barring emergencies I think I want to just stick to carrying my own.)
In my first marathon, I wore a spibelt & carried them there.
wrong no very bad no thumbs up AT ALL.
Screw that because a) getting a gel out of the spibelt took like 20 minutes & always made me feel like I was about to dump them all out all over the road, and b) horrific chafing. Also it kept sliding up to my rib cage, which was not comfortable at all.
In my second and third, I wore my Roga shorts with the zipper pocket & a top that also had a zipper pocket, so between the two of those I was able to fit maybe four or five, which was functional but not great because it's just still not that easy to reach behind you, unzip a pocket, & get out one gel at a time without spilling the rest everywhere.
|Roga shorts with their tell-tale "butt tumor" gel pocket.|
This past Sunday I took some internet advice & taped them to my wrists, which is a no-go because of how heavy it made my arms feel. Another piece of internet advice was to purchase some RaceReady running shorts because they have specially designed mesh pockets in the front made for carrying gels, but I checked out these RaceReady shorts & determined that they were too hideous to wear in public.
So far the most promising idea I've seen is to use an armband cell phone/music player case. I do have one & won't be running with my phone, so maybe if I stick two the Roga pocket & four in the armband case, that will work out. I haven't tried it yet but that maybe next on my list.
What am I missing here? How do normal people carry their gels?