Things are going well around the Fox Household! We’re finally seeing glimpses of spring that are rudely interrupted by another round of snow…but we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel! We’ve been investing some weekend time into rather involved yard and home projects and it’s starting to feel like we’re officially ‘adulting’!
Training has been going well after Desert Rats. I’m spending a little more time on bike and hope to continue to do so throughout the summer/fall. Ideally, this will decrease friction while transitioning into more winter-specific cross training options. I find it really challenging to kill momentum on the running front even when weather doesn’t cooperate and hope that year round cross training time will keep things feeling less beat up and fun.
Lastly, I’m going to aim to post these exclusively on the website blog over time (versus mailchimp, which is how I have been distributing these). Please keep me posted on if you’re having trouble accessing the posts, which you should be able to access under the ‘members’ tab on the homepage of wereprobablyrunning.com!
We’ve discussed fueling more than anything else in the newsletter. I think this is primarily driven by the fact that it seems to be one of the hardest, yet controllable, variables for us to dial in (at least, this has been my experience). I’m always tinkering with different fueling options and know that many of you are doing the same.
So… as many of us are entering ‘race season’, I thought today would be a good opportunity to go over how to think about race day fueling and how to best implement these strategies in training so that we’re best prepared for when it counts! I’ll avoid going too in depth with things we’ve discussed a lot, but will add some new ways that I’m thinking about all of this.
Fueling will benefit races of any distance, but becomes more important the longer the race is. Taking in fuel is becoming common in the half marathon, even for elites running <1hr. Taking in fuel in races lasting longer than 2hrs is practically mandatory (especially if you want to avoid ‘hitting the wall’ when glycogen stores are depleted).
Something that many of us find surprising and difficult to practice with or replicate on race day is that the best fueling strategy is the one that includes the highest rate of intake without creating gi discomfort that gets in the way of race performance. This rate of intake is athlete specific, but it can also be trained in each of us so that we can take on more and more.
You may ask…But, what if the goal of running is to manage my waist line?
I think we’re all somewhat guilty of this thinking (again, I’m partially speaking for myself, but have also had conversations with many of you along these lines). As a starting point, while running, it’s highly unlikely that any of us will be able to match calorie intake to the rate that we’re burning endogenous and exogenous energy ‘substrate’ without having performance impacting gi discomfort.
Most of us understand this, but it can still be tempting to just skimp a bit on the run fuel because let’s face it; post-run brunch is far better than that gel in our running vest. Again, I’ve been very guilty of this as well. However, there is rather interesting recent research looking at the impact of low energy availability (LEA) and its impact on endocrine health. I’ve discussed REDs (relative energy deficiency in sport) before, but one of the unfortunate impacts of skimping on running fuel or having longer windows during the day without ‘fuel’ is that we can actually reduce the metabolic cost of just being a person to balance out the outsized portion of energy that our exercise is requiring. This will impact our abilities to recover/stay injury free/have the energy to do the other things we need to accomplish each day…but could also be impacting our actual ability to metabolize food and put it to work - i.e. eating more during a run and having those extra pancakes at brunch is counter-intuitively the more productive way to ‘manage the waist line’.
Hopefully I’ve made a compelling case as to why we want to fuel, so let’s jump into ‘how’.
First, we need to practice with our strategies during some longer runs. Ideally, race day isn’t the first time we’re using a certain product or utilizing that specific rate of intake. I’d suggest (and do in the training logs):
Start deliberate fueling practice 6-8 weeks out on runs lasting longer than 2hrs (don’t skimp on runs 2+ hrs outside of those 6-8 weeks, but we can be more flexible with these)
Allow for 2x race rehearsals where you are using the same products and rate of intake that you plan on using on race day
On other LRs during that time, it’s ok to practice with different fueling options. Gels can be expensive and mixing in whole food options can be a nice way to save money.
An athlete recently showed me the book ‘Feed Zone Portables’ that has great homemade portable fueling options
I know of others making their own ‘gel concoctions’ and filling reusable softflasks with them.
Track what you’re using and any other relevant information
I’ve created a spreadsheet with some ideas on how to track everything. I’ll likely add to/modify this over time, but let me know if any of you would like a copy - just a tool for each of you that can organize everything listed above
Second, we need to create what those strategies look like:
As a starting point, carbohydrates are endurance gold and should make up the bulk of our fueling
Implementing some protein intake in longer races can help with nutrient absorption and spare muscle break down
Fueling strategies high in dietary fats are often a gi ‘disaster’ waiting to happen
Aim for 250 calories/hr as a starting point (working up to higher intake rates is the goal)
Start fueling 30-45 min into the run and then aim to fuel frequently - every 20-30 min after starting
On one or two LR’s, boost your rate of intake (300/350/400/500 cal/hr) - this may create some gi distress, but we’re looking for an upper limit to what’s possible
The body can quickly adapt to different circumstances and I know of some coaches/athletes that are adding fuel to every run in the final 7-10 days before racing. They use the specific product they’ll be racing with and there may be some small, beneficial adaptations to this approach.
Additionally, a quick note on fueling in altitude or heat. In these conditions, resources are often diverted from digestion and tasked with more important/pressing issues (oxygen delivery/heat management). If possible, practice in these conditions, especially if you will have them on race day. Going with more frequent ‘intake’ (more frequent bites/drinks/gels/etc..) at the same fueling rate is a good strategy as it doesn’t stress the gi system all at once!
Race Recaps! We have some catching up to do!
A couple of weekends back…
Greg H. set a 5 min marathon PR at Boston! I told Greg after the fact, but I accidentally scheduled a rather hard/big workout close to the race having the wrong date in mind…Despite this, Greg executed on a hard course to set a PR on!
Jim O. also got his first Boston finish! Jim had some mechanical issues surface in training and put his time in on all of the indoor aerobic machines. He maintained a very positive attitude and similarly ran a great race (there’s more time to shave, but getting to that finish was a win)!
Jeanette C. finished the Zion 50k! I know I sound like a broken record, but as many of us know, this was a really hard winter to train through. By getting out on very windy/rainy/cold days, Jeanette was able to get that finish!
Dan B. finished a hard fought day at the Napa Valley 50k despite the day not going entirely as planned! Dan has progressed a lot as a runner through the winter and I’m sure there’s a lot to come ahead.
Josh W. won the Norwegian Foot March and then went on to run a 3hr marathon the following weekend! Along these same lines, we wrote about Josh in the last newsletter after he completed the 6x6x60 challenge - not the ‘most’ conventional marathon training approach!
Scott A. finished a tough day at the Desert Rats 21k after some challenging training leading in and some terrible cramping during the actual race! Sally, Ellie, and I tried to make it out to the first aid station to see him come in, but despite having a tough day, he still beat us!
Jeff A. ran a 5 min marathon PR on a tough course at the Nashville Marathon and won his age group in the process! Jeff paced the day like a pro and stayed patient despite 100 or so people sprinting up the first hill early on in the race - he was rewarded by getting to pass most of them back in later stages (believe me, that’s a far more enjoyable approach to a race)!
Will B. raced his first race as a dad and managed to snag 7th in the process! Will signed up for the 20k rather last minute and is on the tail end of a big move - not a bad reintroduction into racing for the season!
Matt C. set a PR at the Forget the PR 50k and broke 6hrs in the process (I believe he was just 4 seconds shy of that a few years ago). The ‘cliche’ thing for me to say is that ‘times don’t matter’ but it’s still very fun to set PRs and achieve time goals and I’m always very excited when it happens!
Caitlin B. crushed a local 10k and then followed it up with a successful day of running, eating donuts, and raising money for a local dog rescue! A pretty successful weekend!