I find it hard to believe that 20+ weeks of my life have come and gone, especially through the lens of a long training cycle. I didn't know what to expect since I hadn't done anything like this before, but dedicating a large chunk of your time and your physical and emotional energy is intense. As in previous posts, this one has a theme. I don't make them up, they just develop over the course of a week or two and I notice them as I look over my training log. In case the title of the post isn't clear, this one is focused on fuel.
For a while I was able to do what always worked for marathon and half marathon training. Gels, sports drink, water. Lather, rinse, repeat. Until it suddenly stopped working. What I mean by stopped is that with little notice my body (mainly my mouth) no longer wanted gels. I could get the first one down on a long run but successive ones were a challenge. It didn't seem to matter the brand, it was just too much sugar. I had a strong feeling that I wanted nothing to do with sugar. I was craving anything savory. Bring on the salt. What the hell?
I've never been one to enjoy gummy candy so chews were out (also, hey more sugar). Waffles too dry and I was not comfortable chewing on the run. Gels had just been so easy, why did it have to change? Aid stations in ultras are generally a wonderland of food and I was looking forward to that, but it didn't occur to me that I might need to start incorporating previously unconventional fueling into my own training. I didn't even know where to start. I tried Fig Newtons but they were too dry, so I didn't get enough fuel in on my long run, and BONK. I tried Picky Bars but they were still too sweet. Tried Skratch Labs chews (I know, I said I don't like chews) and they were ok but nowhere near the amount of calories I need to be taking in per hour (200-300).
So, have I found anything that works? Sort of. Cheesy peanut butter crackers have sat well but I'm still not eating enough at one time to avoid bonking. Something more calorie dense and compact would be easier. Uncrustables peanut butter and strawberry jelly had a lot of potential, but getting to the center full of peanut butter would eventually make me gag and I wouldn't finish the whole thing. Dang it. After talking with my massage therapist (also a coach and endurance cyclist) I bought the Skratch Labs cookbook "Feed Zone Portables." I am not great about actually using cookbooks but this is a problem I need solved so I had to give it a shot.
So far, so good. I focused on trying the rice cakes in the book. Not dry crusty diet food rice cakes, but cooked sushi rice mixed with various ingredients. It has upped the amount of prep I need to do the night before a long run, but it is worth it. Having a rice cooker is clutch here, and this is definitely the most I've ever used it. I opted for a veggie version of the Denver cake the first week and then a fried rice-esque take of my own the following week. The saltiness is exactly what I seem to be craving on the run and they sit just fine in my stomach. Everything I have tried has sat well, to be honest. I think I just have a tolerant stomach, for which I am very grateful.
This problem definitely isn't solved, far from it. I'm still struggling to eat enough of what I carry to ward off bonking symptoms or ending up dehydrated. The heat and humidity have been winning, much to my dismay, but I'm fighting back. I'm not eating early enough in the run, nor am I eaten often enough. It doesn't sound like a hard problem to fix, but for me it has been. I'm not hungry when it comes time to start eating, so I don't eat. Stupid. I can't chew real food and run at the same time, so this new fueling routine requires me to take more walk breaks. I'm also not allowing myself enough time to get what I need into my body before running again. The issue here is being too focused on the clock, honestly. My ego doesn't like seeing mile splits above a certain time, and I've been giving the watch priority over my body, which is a huge mistake. I've paid the price over and over and over again on my long runs. I'm working on it, but it hasn't been an easy fix.
I know that come race day it will take as long as it takes. And I repeat that to myself on my long runs. It isn't like I'm going to stop my watch on race day every time I hit an aid station or eat something on the course, so why am I bothering to fret about it now? It's all ego, truly. Come race day my splits are going to be all over the map because the course will a big mix of elevation. This is what I signed up for. I keep trying to fit ultra trail racing into a road running box. It will never fit. Every week I am reminded of how different this is and how much I still have to learn. Checking my ego might be the hardest thing I do but it could be the key to getting me across the finish line. If I don't fuel well, I won't finish. Bottom line. Eat early, eat often. Now I just need to tell my brain to SHUT UP and do what needs to be done.
Week 19 summary:
Miles scheduled: 32
Miles ran: 32
Time on my feet: 6:22:22
Week 20 summary:
Miles scheduled: 44
Miles ran: 44
Time on my feet: 8:47:12
Week 21 summary:
Miles scheduled: 42
Miles ran: 42
Time on my feet: 8:21:25