My Adventures in Fueling

A few months ago, I wrote a post detailing how I fuel for long runs. Long story short, knowing how your body responds to long runs takes a lot of practice. Those of you who are blessed with sloshy stomachs (like me) may find it hard to figure out what works best for you, especially on race day.

So I am going to talk a little bit about fueling from my short list of race experiences. Now remember, this is just my “Amateur; I really like running races for the medals and t-shirts and expos; I’m not fast” perspective. I’m no Desi Davila. I just think racing is fun. It’s especially fun if you fuel properly.

Hey Desi! Wanna go for a run?

When I first started running, I didn’t give much thought to fuel or water before-hand. I would just lace up my shoes and roll. This worked for a while, but I found that once I started tacking on the miles, my stomach was not always cooperative. During this time, I was running after work on the way home. I found myself either cutting runs short, or running/waddling to the nearest porta potty during every run over two miles.

After a few miserable runs and stomach aches that would last for hours, I finally thought to change up my diet before long runs. This took preparation and thought. On days where I knew I was running after work, I kept my lunch bland – soup, a sandwich, nothing high in fiber. I also began to guzzle water all day long to keep myself hydrated.

As a softball player, I was well aware of the importance of hydration. But I did not carry on good hydration practices when it came to running and it showed. Running outside in Virginia in the summer is brutal. Water became (and still is) my favorite thing to drink throughout the day.

With experimentation and practice, I slowly learned how to fuel for longer runs. But for some reason, I threw these practices out the window come race day. I am not lucky enough to be able to stomach a lot of calories on race morning. I used to just survive on the 300 or so calories that morning and hope it got me through a race.

This worked ok until I ran the GW Parkway Classic last year. At the time it was my shortest race ever – 10 miles. In my mind I thought it would be the easiest. I was so wrong. Almost as soon as I started running my legs cramped up and I could not seem to get loose.

I felt hypoglycemic a few miles in and that was something I never felt before while running. It was the hardest race of my life even though it was home turf and an easy course. The reason behind it? Improper fueling. That 300 calories before the race was not enough, and it affected every part of my body.

Tensed up shoulders…from the pictures alone, my mom could tell I was having a rough time.

As soon as I finished the race, I chugged a Gatorade and told Marcus I needed food STAT. My face was caked in salt even though it was a cool day in April. My hands shook as I ate my post race banana. I was dehydrated and needed calories.

I was in such a hurry for Gatorade that half of it ended up on my shirt.

I used that race as a lesson. Because I couldn’t hold in many calories before a run, I never thought to ingest calories during a run. But after that race I started bringing either gels or sports beans with me on every long run. I also made sure to drink plenty of water before and bring a Gatorade for afterwards.

Now a days, on any run longer than five miles, I bring fuel. Even if I don’t use it I still have it in my pocket just in case. That 100-200 calories of sweetness is just enough to keep me going and keep my blood sugar stable.

I also make sure to stop at every water fountain along my usual trail even if I don’t feel thirsty. This is important no matter what the temperatures are because you can become dehydrated without even realizing it.

Since I started fueling and rehydrating during long runs, I feel as though I have improved. Fatigue and soreness aren’t as prevalent and I feel as though I can run longer.

I know I still have a lot to learn. But that’s the beauty of running. We can always improve.  I feel as though I learn something new with every run, even the small ones. And that’s why I love running. It’s always interesting. No two runs are alike.

Just run. Have a fab one!

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