Race Reports and Fueling Insights
People are way too concerned about pre/post exercise fueling and taking in calories while exercising.
I’ve posted on this before, but I tested it out in two races.Two trail half marathons, pre-race breakfast of potatoes or sweet potatoes. Black tea or yerba mate. Very little fueling during the races and I felt fine. Except my legs.
You don’t need to. Just eat your regular meals and snacks according to hunger. Feeling like you’re “running out of gas” during exercise is an incorrect metaphor. You’re not out of gas, you’re out of fitness. You don’t need more fuel, you need a bigger engine. It’s not that the gas tank is empty, it’s that you’re trying to tow a trailer with a Smart car instead of a diesel pickup. You can put as much gas as you want into the Smart, it won’t increase its horsepower or torque.
Same with our bodies. As long as you’re fueled up on starch, your carbohydrate and fat stores give plenty of energy. It’s the fitness that needs to improve, and it will, with regular training, and as it does, more can be done with that stored energy. Trying to eat your way out of the fatigue doesn’t work, but it might so upset you stomach that it ruins your race. Ask me how I know.
I’ve been seeing how little I can fuel my workouts, and found I don’t need much. Usually just water up to 2 hrs. But I usually train at low intensity 140-145 BPM. What about high intensity, like a race?
I recently ran two trail races, one lasting 3 1/2 hrs, the other a little under 3 hrs. In one I had two small rice balls, two dates and a gel. Far from the conventional recommendations. of a gel every 20-30 minutes. Yesterday I ran 3 hrs on 20 oz of an experimental amino acid drink with negligible calories and one gel at about 2 1/2 hrs. No hunger, no bonk, felt great. The only suffering was in my legs. Heart rate in the 160s. I don’t think I really needed that gel. Sorta like a security blanket.
Build fitness, not the GI tract. Don’t fall for the sports nutrition industry’s sales pitch about what you need. Pushing the limits of your fitness can sometimes be a little uncomfortable, but food won’t solve it. It is true that at some point, some fuel will be needed, but my experience is that it is less than I thought.
So yesterday’s race was good because I met my goals. I was slow, but that was OK. My goal was to finish in under 3 hrs without killing myself, and focus on learning about pacing, perceived exertion, and heart rate for running, which could be different than mountain biking or triathlon. I was pleased that I kept a consistent effort, around 165 BPM that felt good for hours. This is similar to what I’ve seen in both triathlon and cycling, so in this case, Maffetone seems to be right about the primacy of heart rate and not activity. I was very pleased that monitoring my heart rate led to a very even pace. The first and second halves of the race were very similar in pace. The last two miles were hard, and my heart rate came up, but I finished without feeling like death. The course was rolling, no huge climbs or descents, and somewhat technical, which made it good for practice with pacing effort. My legs felt trashed, but in a good way, as in muscles that were stressed and will now get stronger. Not having been running much, and still dealing with imbalance due to last summer’s hip flexor injury, I was happy that nothing hurt in a bad way.
I took a leap of faith that this distance would be OK this early on, and I stuck the landing on two feet. A lot of what I wanted to work on was the brain. It’s just as important to train the brain as the heart and legs. The brain needs to learn by doing that a certain effort is not life threatening. Funny that the brain shuts us down long before we must quit for reasons of physiology. So the group effort of a race and the excitement is the perfect time to try something new and convince the brain that the limits have now been exceeded. Now I just need to take that speed, and extend the endurance to do it four time in succession in Leadville. And find another lung to bring along to help with the 10,000 ft altitude.
I used electric stimulation for 15-30 min an hour or so after each race, and again in the late afternoon. I napped with pulsed electro magnetic field device to lull my brain into an alpha state or relaxation and shut down the adrenaline stream that a race effort involves. I slept all night with it, as usual. The results? My legs are sore today, but not outrageously so, in part because there were no long steep descents. My sleep was very good, so I feel good today. No workout today, but I’ll go for a walk and do some yoga later to loosen up and get some blood flowing. Unlike the past, I didn’t try some new recovery food recipe. I snacked on clementines, potatoes, and hummus. I bought a burrito for lunch. It all worked. No green juices, superfood smoothies or whatever. The supplement experiment was using BCAAs and essential amino acids before, during and after. The whole package worked well.
Well, time to zap my legs again, and plan the next race.