I incorporated many new philosophies into my training for the Chicago Marathon. I was lucky enough to have two great Nike coaches to assist me. Although I’ve been a runner for 20+ years, and have previously run marathons, much of what they taught me was new and helpful, and one item I have always neglected is fueling.
I have continually been 100 percent reliant on the course-provided hydration and nutrition. I tried new products on the fly and did not prepare anything for myself.
A combination of laziness and not wanting to carry anything as I run kept me from learning about the different nutrition available for adequate fueling. My most commonly run distance is a half marathon and I generally would not take any fuel in. I would alternate between water and Gatorade at the hydration stations but would not consume anything during the race.
Early in my training, my coaches addressed this neglect on my behalf. They suggested I begin to try some type of fuel during my long runs. I began with Jelly Belly Sport Beans. They were small and easy to carry. Plus they had a great sugary taste. My initial plan was to consume half the bag halfway through my race and the other half a couple miles before the finish line. I quickly learned that this technique did not work for me. I needed to consume three beans every 2 to 3 miles. The smaller amount was easier for my body to handle.
After mastering the jellybean, I moved on to Stinger Energy Chews. These also were small and easy to carry for races, plus I did not need to eat as many to attain proper fueling. I could eat one Stinger every 2 miles and feel benefits from the fuel.
Moving from the half marathon to the marathon distance, I decided to bring both the jellybeans and Stingers for my race. Alternating between the two different fuels worked well for my body.
Another amazing fueling tip I learned from my Nike team was to incorporate caffeine for the last 10k of the marathon. For me, this was the point that I always lost steam. The added caffeine was not only a physical boost, but also provided a little mental clarity for the end. I found Cherry Cola Stinger Chews that had caffeine in them. Using this technique really helped me to keep my pace during the last 6 miles.
It took a while for me to find the right balance. I went from not fueling enough to fueling too much and feeling that queasy stomach feeling. It definitely takes time to learn a proper fueling balance. This off-season is a great time to experiment with different products and find what works for you. Don’t just try new products, but try new combinations, as well as new amounts. You’ll be surprised at what this can do for your energy and performance.