A lot of marathon training is figuring out your body and learning the messages it tells you as you push it faster and longer. Every runner experiments to learn the right combination of fuel and hydration during training runs. But just when you think you've figured it all out, you realize you don't actually know much at all.
Here is the routine I've fine-tuned. Disclaimer: I'm probably doing it all wrong, but hey, I'm a beginner! My theory is that I'll keep doing whatever seems to work and adjust as it fails. I mean, before a quick tutorial at a recent dinner, I didn't actually know what an electrolyte is and simply envisioned a lime-colored Gatorade. And what's this new-fangled thing called maltodextrin people keep talking about?
- Night before a run longer than 10 miles - 2 ibuprofen, lots of water.
- On the drive to the run - water and one GU Energy (Chocolate Outrage preferable)
- On the run - water and a plethora of Jelly Belly sports beans (Lemon-lime).
That's it. Easy-peasy. I've been cruising along pretty well with this and actually felt a little smug about the simplicity. But what I realized on Sunday during my 17-mile training run is the same body is not the same on every run. There are so many factors that feed into how you feel. There's the amount of sleep you got, what you ate and what you drank. And then there are the external factors out of your control.
On Saturday I worked a 12-hour day and then had to deal with a broken car windshield. (What karmic return is due someone who breaks windshields just for fun?) At 10 p.m., I realized I still hadn't eaten dinner and shoveled down some leftover bean salad and a little rice. The highlight of the sad dinner was the last slices of a sourdough bread loaf care of The Bee's resident baker extraordinaire.
It was midnight by the time I got into bed, and when the two alarms (I whole-heartedly endorse this strategy) went off at 6 a.m., I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. By mile 2, I was convinced I wasn't going to make it. Then I got into problem-solving mode and decided the lightheadedness taking over my brain was from lack of fuel and ate all 6 pieces of boiled-and-salted potatoes the running fairy happened to be distributing to some of the runners that day.
By mile 4, I was cruising. I fueled with jelly beans and GU every hour after that. And when the training-run ended with my Garmin just shy of 17 miles, I did a couple laps around the parking lot.
It's all about being flexible and reading your body's signs. When in doubt, drink something. When in pain, eat something. Easy peasy.