Distance running allows time for introspection. A place for life lessons and learnings to play out. And, sometimes the most difficult run, can offer the biggest opportunity to learn.
Coming off of a nasty cold, with zero days of physical activity, lots of sleeping, lack of appetite, and a less than optimal respiratory system – I still needed to find a way to run long. I was feeling better, but not great. I knew in advance my long run would not be a stellar run, but still – it would be better than no run at all.
So I stuffed my pockets with Kleenex, drank half a smoothie (100 calories), filled my carry bottles with water and brought 2 honey packets for my Carbohydrate fix in mid-run. I set my sights on 16 miles. Planning for the run transitions into “just do it” the moment I hit the “Start” button on my Garmin.
My run was slower than normal, but someway somehow – I knew I would reach 16. What I didn’t know when I started, was that I would bonk. I bonked at mile 12. Way too early to hit the wall. Not from lack of fitness, not from lack of respiratory and not from lack of will. In the aftermath of 16 miles on fumes – I began to seriously doubt whether I could achieve 26.2 in a little over 1 month. I wanted to believe that all of this was due to my cold and compromised “systems” – but maybe I was wrong?
Time to research. Time to read. Time to understand this problem. I discovered Matt Fitzgerald’s “The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition: A Cutting-Edge Plan to Fuel Your Body Beyond “the Wall”” and read it from start to finish in one day. What I learned was most illuminating. I re-read sections just to make sure I didn’t miss any important details. It was clear. And, it made sense. While I spent the prior 4 months focusing on lots of running and overall fitness – there is a second component that I had ignored. Nutrition. I was not optimizing my daily nutrition and “while running” nutrition.
I measured my current Carbohydrate daily intake – and it was WAY too low. Embarrassingly low. I was only getting 90 grams of Carbs per day on my current eating plan – yet needed to consume closer to 270 grams of Carbs to meet the needs of distance running. Then I looked at my “while running” nutrition – and realized I was getting around 8 grams of Carbs per hour (sometimes not even that) – and my body needs at minimum 65 grams of Carbs per hour. I also wasn’t drinking enough. Both my nutrition and hydration is seriously OFF-base for a distance runner.
Let’s just say – permission to eat Carbs (and lots of them) has just been granted. Now, I’m not talking the “bad Carbs” (cookies, cakes, processed foods etc) – but good Carbs. Good Carbs to be consumed in order of volume and priority (1) Vegetables (2) Fruits (3) Whole Grains (4) Dairy. I needed to find a way to push back “hitting the wall” – by training my body nutritionally. I had 1 week to overhaul my nutrition strategy. I also needed to learn how to eat, and drink Carbs while running. My final long run – a simulation run for the NYC marathon – is coming up 1 week from now — 20 miles. I need to know that I can do this.