The importance of following a good fueling strategy is becoming more and more obviously important to me. I’ve experienced so many issues that I just wrote off as general fatigue or poor fitness, but in reality most of it has all been as simple as needing to eat more frequently.
On New Years Eve at the Purge and Splurge 30 mile run, we stopped around mile 20 to pick up some aid and add some layers. I had been been holding off fueling because I knew we’d be stopping soon. Once starting back up I quickly found myself in that dreaded walk/run trudge. If that were the case it was going to be a very long, cold, final 10 miles. A Gu and two mini snickers bars later and I was back to running and feeling strong within minutes. I was even able to close the gap that had been slowly increasing as everyone ran off ahead while I was wallowing in the caloric hole I had been digging for myself. My strategy for that day had been to fuel every hour on the hour. I had made some raspberry chocolate rice cakes that I had been experimenting with some success, and that was to be my primary fuel source, but I brought some emergency Gus as well. The snickers bars I just happened to grab at the impromptu aid station. I don’t normally carry literal candy, but it sounded great a the time. My one regret was only grabbing two. Once I was able to prove to myself how fast I could change how I felt with food I started fueling at 45 minute intervals instead of hourly for the remainder of the run.
My next fueling test/experiment was at the Tillamook Burn 20 mile Fat Ass. This time I was going to start fueling at 45 minute intervals and stick with it. I was alternating between Gus and some homemade power bars I made. It was an out and back course entirely covered in snow with just over 4000′ of gain. It was a tough day for sure, but I did my best to push the pace the entire way. Just after the 10 mile turnaround I was struggling after pushing the first 10 miles as hard as I did. Actually, out of respect for the carpool driver I had actually agreed to only run the 10 out and hop in the van because he had a time he had to leave, and with the conditions I didn’t want to be the one holding anyone up. Once I arrived at the van after making such good time he said I had plenty of time to do the whole 20 if I wanted to. Once again, after a short stop I found it hard to get things going again. a full 45 minutes hadn’t passed yet, but I went ahead and ate my bar, and not long after I was back to running strong. I was afraid that I had emptied the tank too much on the way out thinking this was a one way trip, but after digging back out of the hole I was able to stay on top of things and keep pushing at a strong pace. I even negative split the second half to my surprise. Given the difficult conditions and what I was able to learn about myself in the process, I was extremely happy with the day. It may have actually been the strongest 20 miles I’ve ever run.
Now that I have a much better idea of what works I’ve simply set an alarm on my watch to go off every 45 minutes to tell me to eat. Remembering time intervals on a long run can get tricky, and even getting 5 minutes behind the schedule can have consequences. My original method wasn’t even time based. I started out eating every 5 miles, an then eventually 4.5 miles. Pace can very so much though that that just isn’t reliable. So for now it seems I’ve solved for one more variable in this great experiment of one.