After my somewhat melodramatic post the other day about how I’ve been struggling with running since my half (well, struggling with running since I started running again two weeks after my half is more accurate), I thought it might be a nice change of pace to talk about something I liked and did well. So, consider this the second in a small series of what worked and what didn’t during my half marathon (the first being my post about race-day kit).
What worked? My fueling plan.
Pre-race, a.k.a. ALL the pasta!
To be honest, I had no idea how to approach fueling in the week or so before my half. I’d heard of carbo-loading, but didn’t really know what that entailed other than vague memories of hearing about my high school cross-country team having spaghetti suppers before big races. All I really knew was that I wouldn’t eat anything high in fat or otherwise questionable the night before my race.
Enter the Runner’s World twitter feed. It’s like they knew I had my first big race coming up (or, you know, fall is a popular time for many people to run their first)… first they posted a link to an article about how to taper properly for your first half marathon, then they posted a link to an one about how to carbo-load properly. That’s what I’m talking about… way to be there for a clueless newbie, RW!
The gist of the carbo-loading article is this:
-Choose carbs that are easy to digest – rice, pasta, potatoes, white bread, tortillas, oatmeal, bagels, pancakes, etc.
-Related to the first point, avoid carbs that are also high in fiber if you’re worried about GI issues
-Start loading up (as in 85-95% of your diet) on carbs 2-3 days before your race, not just the night before
-Make sure you take mid-race fuel
Well, anyone who knows me knows I love me some pasta. If I could eat some form of pasta for lunch and dinner every day, I probably would. So I embraced the advice of this article and stuffed my face with pasta (and a few other carbs thrown in) for lunch and dinner, starting about 4 days out from my half. It was glorious.
Mid-race, a.k.a. sting or be stung!
I started experimenting with different types of fuel as soon as my long runs started taking longer than an hour to complete, and the kind that consistently worked best for me was Honey Stinger Energy Chews. I tried out a fueling plan during my 8.5-mile training run, which involved stopping roughly every 30 minutes for a chew or two, some water, and a quick walk break. It worked well the two times I tried it during training runs, so I made the conscious decision to use that tactic during my race.
For the race, I carried my dodgy water bottle, mostly for “emergencies” between water stops; I planned to stop and take a cup at each water stop, and also decided that I’d take Gatorade at the two stops it was offered at. In the bottle’s zippered pouch I carried my iPod and headphones (I don’t usually run with music, but I was worried I might need some serious motivation) and a baggie with 2 pouches’ worth of Honey Stinger chews.
As I wrote in my race recap, my plan to walk and fuel every 30 minutes didn’t exactly go as planned – a few times I stopped before 30 minutes had passed, and a few times I was able to go a little more than 30 minutes. Despite the minor time discrepancies, the fueling itself went well (apart from honey stickiness, but that was to be expected) and I had enough water for the majority of the course.
Overall fueling report
I would call my fueling efforts, both before and during the race, a success. I did not bonk, hit the wall, faint, or do anything else unsavory. During my two longest training runs I did get a bit bonkish (is that a word? it is now) despite fueling as I went, so I give a lot of credit to my pre-race carbo-loading. Glycogen stores FTW! I’m definitely going to stick with this method for future races.
How do you prepare for big races food-wise?
What type of mid-race fuel to you prefer?