On my way to track practice on Tuesday night, I was in bumper to bumper traffic and decided to place a call to my closest childhood friend who still lives on the east coast. He is a former college football player who used to weigh 260lbs. Now, 6'3", 210 pounds and less than a month away from the Boston Marathon, Johnny has found a new passion; running. Although he and his girlfriend did not qualify for the race, they still plan to run the course after the main group of participants is underway. The two of them have found this training to be a great way to spend time together and work towards accomplishing a formidable life goal. When I asked him how their long run went this past Saturday, he told me that the 15 miles went alright, but he was completely spent and was close to failure by the end of his run. He felt as though he wouldn't be able to go on after that 15. I then asked him about what he ate, drank and ingested during his run. It turns out, he ran for 2 hours and 10 minutes in 60 degree temperatures without consuming any energy fuel, or water at the very least. Wondering why his muscles felt sore and his joints ached, I said to him, "Johnny, what I'm about to tell you is going to change your life."
I explained that running is just one of the elements in the equation of marathon. I used the example that when I run at my threshold, I burn 1,100 calories per hour. At this rate, I would have burned well over 2000 calories* *during that training run. I stressed that a well thought out nutrition plan must accompany his training plan in order to successfully reach the finish line.
Yesterday, he called me from a specialty running shop in Boston and listed off the range of endurance fuels that they had in stock. He checked out of the store with a water bottle with a hand strap, a variety of drink mixes, and a dozen energy gels. By sampling different varieties and flavors to use over the course of the next few weeks, he'll be able to see what will work best for his race. It's often said that one should not introduce something new to their training plan at this late of a stage. In this case, no matter what he chooses to go with at this point, he will be better off than he was before. I suggested that he keeps track of which fuels taste good, provide the most energy, and do not upset his stomach. Once the magic combination has been discovered, stock up and stick with it through training and on race day.
The lesson here is what is consumed before, during and after training and events is crucial for an athlete to unlock their potential. When it comes time to fuel during either training or an event, the 60 to 90 minutes of glycogen energy stores in your body will start you off on the right path. It is crucial to begin consuming calories, carbohydrates and electrolytes to maintain your optimal performance level well before these stores run out. If not properly fueled, you will experience "the wall" and risk the dreaded, "DNF" (Did Not Finish). To prevent this common mistake, remember to practice in training what you will use during an event. It's important not to try something completely new during the race because your body may not react correctly. Make sure you are in tune with how you feel at these important times. These fuels absorb very quickly and should make a noticeable difference within minutes.
What fuels you?