I have struggled with nutrition on long runs since I started doing long runs. My usual go to meal is a bowl of oat meal but as you get into longer and longer run the one bowl of oat meal is not going to stick around for long. I have also struggled with an upset stomach from gels and guâ€™s. This usually happens towards the end of my long run and especially in the heat.
In 2019 I started using UCAN and taking a serving 45 minutes prior to the start of my run. I think this serves two purposes. For me the key purpose is to pre-hydrate me at the start of my run. In addition UCAN offers a super starch (or something like that – I will correct this later). This give me some energy to work on for the first 45 minutes to an hour in my race. The argument for UCAN is that most other gels are a sugar spike and if you donâ€™t keep up with the spike you crash. I am only going to talk about what works for my body and I am not going to get into the science of all this. During the London Marathon I did this then also had some concentrated Tailwind in (2) 16 oz water bottles. I donâ€™t remember how many scoops I put in, but I can say I had a great race! I did not take any gels or shot blocks. What I did was take water along the course in addition to the concentrated Tailwind. I felt great all the way through out the race.
In 2018 I ran the Honolulu Marathon. The difference between this and the London marathon were pace. My Honolulu marathon was 4:59 and my London Marathon was 4:10. The weather in London was 40f and the weather in Hawaii was 70f at the start and 85f at the finish. For nutrition I did not take any pre-race fuel or extra water. A hot race is a perfect time to pre-fuel and pre-hydrate. At mile 18 in Honolulu I hit the wall HARD. I was very nauseous and had a hard time running. I am sure it was heat related but I also think it was stomach related. By the time 4 hours rolled around I had nothing of substance left in my stomach and no hope on keeping anything down. My HR had also gotten to a point that I couldnâ€™t really digest food so I had to walk.
I did my first 50k race in 2020 and as I trained I did do at least one marathon. I knew I would be running slower and I was more bold on my food choice. For this I had my bowl of oatmeal but I also had a complete breakfast which included a Bagel and egg sandwich. My marathon training run was fantastic and I felt great the entire time. My race was just as good. In fact I had brought some peanut butter and jelly bagels and didnâ€™t eat them. The lesson I learned is having more food in my stomach the better.
My real test was my Mt Charleston race. Our start time was 6am so getting a full breakfast 2-3 hours in advance was a risk. I also chose to run with a run vest with a 2 liter hydration pack along with (2) 500 ml water bottles. (Yes true, I carried 3 liters of water with me!) This was a COVID race and I was worried about the amount of water on the course. (It turns out that they had water every 2 miles.)
For this race, I ate a bowl of oatmeal, then a egg bagel and 16oz of UCAN 45 minutes before start. I did not use any of the water on the course but relied on my hydration pack with had 6 scoops of Tailwind along with my two water bottles which had caffeinated Tailwind. (I will write a short post about caffeine later) The temp at the start of this race was 25f and it was 65f at the end. Everything worked out perfect for nutrition, weather and pace and I got a PR of 3:37.
The bottom line is that everyone has different needs and everyoneâ€™s body behaves differently. There is also a mental aspect that I will go into in later posts. For me the weather is the biggest factor then my nutrition. After 20 marathons I am still learning and finding new ways to be successful.