I have been running and racing since age 11 and through the years I have learned a lot about the right and wrong ways to train for various distances. Some of this “education” was through trial and error either personally or with the athletes I have coached and a lot of the good stuff has come from coaching education (USA Track & Field Level 2, RRCA, etc.) and learning from the amazing coaches who still contribute to our sport by sharing their research. I feel like I have done my homework in the training part of running and racing.
Where I struggle is with pre-race and pre-training run nutrition and nutrition during a run or race. I have tried many pre-race and pre-run foods over the years and something always gave me heartburn, especially during a hard training run or a race…until I discovered Sharkies Organic Energy Sports Chews. They are amazing! Not only can I eat a bag then immediately go for a run, they also make a delicious and nutritious snack any time of day. They’re pretty cool – “USDA Organic, Natural Source of Electrolytes, Real Fruit for Energy & Endurance, Gluten Free, Wheat Free, Vegetarian.” Sorry to be a bit of a commercial here, but many people have not yet discovered this treasure so I felt the need to get these details out there.
One bag of Sharkies is a serving, which is 45g, Calories 140, Fat Cal. 0, Total Fat 0g, Sodium 110mg, Potassium 30mg, Total Carb. 36g, Dietary Fiber 1g, Sugars 17g, Protein 0g, Iron 2%. Before a training run or short race, one bag and a lot of water and I’m good to go. But before a half marathon I eat two bags for 280 calories, which is usually just right to get me to the finish line with only taking water during the race. So when I returned to racing marathons, I stuck with the two bags of Sharkies pre-race and the same before my long runs of 15-20 miles. My last two marathons left me wondering why I decided to return to marathon racing.
I am currently training for the Space Coast Marathon on November 27, 2011. On October 11th I ran 20 miles and on October 18th I ran 21 miles. During both of those training runs I was starving by mile 12-13 and my knees started to hurt as I approached 17-18 miles. It was tough to finish those training runs. I was tired, my legs felt super heavy, and I had no energy once I approached 17-18 miles both times. So after doing more research about marathon training and reading an article that included the “myth of the 20 miler,” I decided that today I would run longer than 20 miles. Perhaps not the 29 miles that the article suggested, but definitely something longer.
Knowing I would run longer, I decided to try something other than my beloved Sharkies and eat 5 PowerBar Energy Bites (Oatmeal Raisin flavor, of course) which is 1 bite more than the serving size on the package. One serving (4 pieces) is 38g, Calories 150, Calories from Fat 25, Total Fat 2.5g, Sodium 110mg, Total Carb. 26g, Dietary Fiber 1g, Sugars 15g, Protein 5g, Calcium 2%, Iron 4%. These Bites are delicious and actually taste like oatmeal cookies. “PowerBar Energy Bites are a great choice for use before and during exercise. They’re made with C2 MAX dual source energy blend for more energy to muscles. In fact, C2 MAX was designed to have the same blend of energy sources shown in breakthrough studies to deliver 20-55% more energy than glucose alone, and in another study to improve athletes’ cycling times by 8%.” Those details are on the back of the bag. In addition to the 5 Energy Bites I had my usual 2 sips of caffeinated drink and about 20 ounces of cold water before I headed to the trail.
When doing a long run on the trails, I repeat a 5 mile route so I only get water and Gatorade at my car every 5 miles. Today I drank Lemonade Gatorade and water at the first two stops. When I reached 13 miles, I did not feel those hunger pains like I normally do. At the 15 mile stop I ate about six Sharkies which is maybe a third or close to half a bag and had the Gatorade and water. By the time I hit 20 miles and was heading back for my final refueling stop, I was a little hungrier than earlier but still not as bad as I used to be by mile 12-13 in the past. So I had a couple more Sharkies, a big gulp of Gatorade, and a lot of water since this was my last stop. I figured I felt so good that I would run 25 miles today, which would be my longest training run ever. Once I completed 25 I then thought about that article and the 29 miler that was suggested and figured that if I covered 26.2 today, I would be well trained and confident for SpaceCoast. Plus I thought it would be cool to tell people I ran a marathon this morning!
The coolest thing about today’s run was that I never felt tired and sluggish, my legs did not feel heavy, my knees did not hurt, and I did not run out of energy like I had on my two long runs in October. I was so excited! I ran slower (obviously) than I will when I race my next marathon, but I was on my feet for 20 minutes longer than my last marathon time. Now I feel ready!
We all know how important marathon training is, but if you’re like me and still figuring out the nutritional side of things, the main thing to remember is to fuel up! Experiment with some of the amazing products out there. I’m so glad I did. As the amazing George Sheehan said, “Each of us is an experiment of one. Each is an expert in the self, a witness of a personal truth, our own best authority.”