Thursday, June 16, 2011

EricG's Running Tips #21 Fueling

Just like a car, run out of fuel and you are done.  Too much or the wrong fuel, you choke.  I remember my first marathon in NYC back in 2001.  I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and when I look back on it I think it's a miracle I even crossed the finish line.  As I recall I drank a total of 40 ounces of water, 1 cup of Gatorade and 2 GUs.  That does not equate to much more than 250 calories and is less than half of what I would drink in that amount of time today.  The effects were obvious although I thought it was only because I went out too fast when it happened.  7:40 pace through 18 miles which rose quickly to 8:11 by mile 26.  Not bad but that translates to somewhere around a 9:30 pace for the last 8 miles, a huge crash in my mind.

Fast forward to 2011, I have gained significant knowledge in what fuel works for me and more importantly, I respect the importance of it.  Although I am still working on the right mix and will certainly learn more during my next endeavor the Catskill 155 which will take me significantly farther than I have ever gone before, I feel like I have a good handle on it.  Up to 100 miles that is. 

Hydration is probably number 1 when it comes to fuel and I discussed my thoughts on that in my Tip #19.  Nutrition however, I have found to be nearly as tricky, particularly in the longer distances.  One wrong move and you can be puking all over yourself or better yet on the person next to you.  Or perhaps slowed to a crawl with severe cramps and so on. 

"The Devil"
I would like to share my first lesson learned, a little bonus tip if you will.  Nearing the completion of my first 50 miler in 2009 I had been cruising along, actually way ahead of my goal pace when I came upon an aid station around mile 44.  One last orange slice and I was home free.  Then, there they were singing to me.....GUMMY BEARS.  I love gummy bears.  I instinctively grabbed a handful, shoved them in my mouth and off I went running, chewing and happy as a clam as they say (whoever that is).  And then within a few minutes I wanted to die.  I did not puke but I wanted to.  The cramps in my stomach were so bad I was forced to walk most of the next couple of flat miles.  Lesson learned?  Never take anything you have not used during training.

Here is my general race plan when it comes to fuel, always subject to change on the fly of course.  Consume approximately 300-350 calories per hour and try to keep it in liquid form.  I will grab the occasional orange slice, banana or potato at an aid station but otherwise I mix perpetuem and gels.  I rotate every hour as follow.
  1. One serving orange vanilla perpetuem and one vanilla hammer gel mixed with 20 ounces of water (360 calories).
  2. Three servings of hammer gel (usually huckleberry) mixed with 20 ounces of water (270 calories).  Every now and then I will only mix in 2 gels and eat an espresso for a little caffeine and to have something a little more solid if I feel hungry.
Anyway, as always keep trying new things to find out what works for you.  I hope these suggestions and stories are helpful.



  1. Eric, you should really give Vespa a try. The stuff has worked wonders for me on my last two races, basically helping my body convert from burning glycogen to burning fat. I felt better on the second half of my 100 last weekend after converting from primarily gels to Vespa and a fat/protein sandwiches. heart rate dropped from 150 to 130. I've been working a lot on my aerobic training (120 to 140 bpm) which has also helped, but I'm a believer in the Vespa concept now.

  2. Hey will. Thanks, I will take a look at it.


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