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cropped_little_girlDownhill running may seem like a breeze, but runners hoping to do it effectively should consider a few tips before heading down the mountain.

Avoid stepping on the brakes

Instinctively, most runners heading downhill will extend their foot out in front of them on each stride, essentially braking themselves and preventing themselves from losing control.    If on a steep hill or an area with uneven ground, this may be necessary as a safety precaution, but if on a manageable grade, this puts needless stress on the knees, hips, and quads.  Instead of concentrating on slowing down via longer slower steps, try to land on the foot as similarly as possible to your regular stride.  What would qualify as good running form on flat ground also qualifies downhill.  Try to replicate it as much as possible.

Lean in!

It is difficult to make up ground or extend a lead over others on an uphill grade.  With such a steep cost required to extend or quicken each stride, the benefits may wash away in fatigue by the time you reach the crest of the hill.  On the downhill, the cost and effort is much less, and effective downhill running can provide an opportunity to change the dynamic of a race by the time level ground is reached.  To run downhill effectively, you must lean forward in the direction in which you plan to go.  On flat ground, the ideal body posture includes an ever so slight forward lean from the ankles.  Maintain this on the downhills.  This lean will also make it easier to take more frequent steps and avoid landing with your foot out in front of you, absorbing needless stress.

Pick up the cadence

The only way it will be possible to both land on your foot similarly to when running on flat ground and to lean forward at the same time is to quicken the cadence of your strides.  A more rapid rhythm in your stride will help you accomplish the form cues you need to minimize needless stress and possible injuries to your body.  It can also be a catalyst for you to implement these form cues to keep up with your stride rate once you have adjusted the mental metronome.

Confidence will take practice

Most runners internalize and repeat a more defensive downhill approach due to an understandable desire to stay upright and avoid just tumbling down the hill.  It can pay dividends in a hilly race to consciously practice downhills of varying grades to build confidence with the feeling of leaning into the descent.  Golf courses (when available to run) can be a great location to practice a more aggressive approach without a large contingent of observers and with a forgiving surface.

Although many races have famous hills – Boston’s Heartbreak Hill, Bay to Breakers 12K’s Hayes Street Hill, and the Doomsday Hill at the Lilac Bloomsday Run, many experienced athletes will cite the effective management of the downhills in these races to provide the crucial difference.  At the Boston Marathon, it can be seen some of the pros running with“reckless abandonment” while navigating the final five miles of net downhill from the top of Heartbreak to the finish.   This takes practice, particularly if “reckless abandonment” is not a typically appropriate description of your running style.   Choose some low key tune up races with hills, include hilly terrain on a regular basis during workouts, and stay mindful of your form.  This can help set aside some of the fear of falling and focus more on getting to the finish line as rapidly as possible.

Whether contending for a win at the Marathon Majors or hoping to just complete your first marathon or half, avoiding injuries and working out effectively is a shared goal by all.  Reckless abandonment may continue to prove an inappropriate description for your approach down hills, but by using just a few tweaks to your approach, at the very least your PRs might have a shot to improve!

 



As many of you come off successful spring race seasons let’s consider our recommendation for a return to training and racing. Previous blog posts have touched on the basics of the immediate recovery period, and now let’s focus on the transition back to running.

 

After the race and subsequent recovery period has come and gone, sometimes runners are left with a bit of “no man’s land”.   This period can be a dangerous time, as the temptations to jump right back into it are great and the exaltation or disappointment from the previous goal race are still fresh.  Rather than a curse, this period can also be a blessing, a time to lay tracks for the better runner you hope to become when things heat up again on the training schedule.

 

A time of recovery is a great opportunity to broaden your range of competency on a variety of fronts.  Even if cross training is a part of the weekly schedule and has been for years, switching things up can provide an opportunity to find an even better complementary activity to your regimen.  Always swim or water run as your go-to cross training activity?  Try cycling or the elliptical machine.  Sign up for the yoga or Pilates class you don’t usually have time for, but have been excited to try. Cycle to work or other daily destinations when you don’t have to allocate tons of time and energy for running.

 

If you worked through a manageable but bothersome injury while race training, now is the time to rehabilitate.   If the goal race period seemed like the wrong time to introduce yet another routine into the mix, now is the right time.  Begin a maintainable core strength routine and work through any initial soreness while you don’t have your hardest running workouts to recover from as well.  Do the rehab exercises on that balky ankle you have been ignoring or regularly roll the IT band that always causes trouble when you begin to ramp up mileage.  In other words, prepare your body to handle the challenges of your next training cycle better than ever.

 

Running stores will have lots of options for shoes and injury prevention tools, but time and interest are needed to identify the current risk level of a shoe change, the addition of a foot care insole, or other “gear shift”.  Now is a great time to incrementally adjust to new things that can be highly beneficial long-term.

 

Most importantly, a period without a looming goal can be a perfect time to build the good habits that will serve you well when the schedule requires more strenuous efforts and careful timing.  Whether you are changing shoes, adding a new cross training element, or focusing on good nutritional or sleep patterns, practicing these good habits now will allow them to effective  with your regular routine.  While your fitness level may fluctuate as you move toward your eventual goal, good habits developed in transition can assist you in reaching each rung of the ladder in a sustainable and confident way.

 

 



On Boston...

April 17, 2013

Boston_StrongFor many of us, running is our escape from the pressures of every day life.  A lot of avid runners find refuge in running for their clearest thinking and most meaningful conversations.   Running is often the longest stretch of peace we have all day.

 

Running the Boston Marathon is the closest many of us will get to the other side of the coin, the running experience had by the world beaters and the elite, appreciated by hundreds of thousands of cheering, screaming, and even kissing fans along the route from Hopkinton to Copley Square.   Our solitary or locally shared, mind clearing pursuit becomes the chance to enjoy the solidarity felt among those thousands who also wear their bright yellow or blue race shirt or jacket (and even their finisher’s medal) the following day in the airport or walking through the neighborhood in the days before.  Boston is the one race the folks in your neighborhood understand is a big deal.  They know that to go and compete, you must be very dedicated, fast, or both.

 

For the city of Boston and the towns of Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley and its wall of screaming students, Newton, and Brookline along the way, the marathon is part of a larger and most American of traditions in the form of the Patriots’ Day holiday, a ritualistic morning first pitch at Fenway Park, and the pride of an entire region in hosting an event so steeped in the identity of the roads it travels that the mile markers and start line are permanently painted on the black top all year round, and Heartbreak Hill has become one of the most famous stretches of pavement on earth.  It is a day where every year, the world turns its attention to their city and appreciates the traditions they have grown up holding dear.

 

The Boston Marathon will always be known for all these things, but as of yesterday, it will of course now be known for something entirely different as well.

 

The events of April 15 will remain seared indelibly into the memories of those who ran that day, those who witnessed the unfolding tragedy, and those who traded pride and hopeful waiting for anxious delays of minutes and hours while waiting for family and friends who never were able to enjoy the triumphant crossing of the finish line on Boylston Street. However, no loss of innocence or disappointment in the broken promise of a day dawning with such hopefulness will compare to the losses of the victims or their families.  What has always been an afterglow of accomplishment and celebration was yesterday and will continue to be replaced by mourning, nagging fear, and bitterness at the havoc wreaked.

 

Yet, both Bostonians and the marathoners who make the ritual pilgrimage to these streets are made of tough and tested leather.  Undoubtedly, both will greet the days to come with stiff resolve, and an unwillingness to let those who would strike fear in the hearts of all of us gain the upper hand.   As those gathered for the race return home and to the regular routine, we can all be a part of the process of healing, being mindful of the peace that running can bring to ourselves and those close to us, and the community spirit of a city that has welcomed those hoping to test themselves in a pinnacle of their running lives for 117 years.   For thousands of runners and the nearly 200 victims, the finish line remains uncrossed.  Let us continue to cross further finish lines in the weeks, months, and years with confidence and mindfulness, with each one reinforcing the power of collective good to overcome those who would have it otherwise, and to return the finish line itself to a place of triumph rather than loss.



url

A few thoughts on stress fractures and training

Stress fractures are one of the most common injuries treated in sports medicine clinics.  Normally labeled as overuse injuries stress fractures occur when muscles and ligaments are not able to bear the loads placed on them.  They then transfer those demands to bones, which develop a small crack as a result.

As runners put significant demands on the leg muscles with each and every step, leg muscles and bones are conditioned to bearing a high level of repeated stress.  Stress fractures can require 6-12 weeks of time off of running plus an incremental period of reintroduction to weightbearing activity, they are certainly worth avoiding if at all possible!

What are few common risk areas to be aware of when training?

Listen to your body

When running hard and long, muscles break down and begin a regenerative process with proper recovery.  However, shortcutting this process results in putting great demands on muscles.  If the muscles have not adapted, they are not prepared to again bear the new stress.  Your runcoach schedule is based on large amounts of data from thousands of training cycles by runners of all ages and abilities, and is intended to provide sensible recovery at every stage of training.  Even so, each runner’s body responds slightly different.  If you feel sore and tired for more than 3 days or before the next significant workout or long run, many factors can be at play.   Don’t be afraid to take a day off here and there as most training cycles are designed to be followed to 90% completion 

Bone health is important

Bone health is important for a variety of general health reasons and is crucial in the avoidance of injury for runners.  Females with a family history or personal past of osteoporosis, and / or an irregular menstrual history may be at increased risk for bone injuries.  They should seek preventative advice on how to improve these measurements through diet or other means before an injury requires more acute attention to general bone health.  Even if bone density is not a problem, both men and women can benefit from core work, plyomtetrics and other strength exercises to help the body’s stabilizing muscles decrease the stress passed on from muscles to the bones.  Check out our full body workout for a few simple ways to make a positive preventative impact in this area.  http://runcoach.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=itemlist&task=category&id=10:core-exercise-videos&Itemid=444

Avoid making several big changes to your training all at once

Enthusiasm is one of the greatest assets a runner can have.  After all, the miles can be long and motivation can wane at times.  Sometimes, a new trainee will embark on  a road toward an ambitious goal with the hope of turning the page or starting fresh on a new stage of life.   Even as that mentality is powerfully effective in helping an athlete out the door each day, raising mileage, while wearing a brand new style of shoes, while trying to adhere to a different diet, while scheduling a rigorous series of races one after another can be a recipe for setbacks.  If possible, pick one variable at a time to tweak – one knob to twist – and make sure your body has handled that change before next big adjustment comes.

The human body can handle a significant amount of activity.  Listen to your body and allow it to recover, maintain good health and healthy habits for the long term, and refrain from greatly adjusting more than one or two variables at once to hopefully stay one step ahead of the injury bug.


bench_croppedRunning a marathon or half marathon is by definition a long and difficult task.  After all, when we speak of anything long and difficult, we often refer to it as a “marathon,” or compare things completely unrelated to athletics as “marathons” instead of “sprints”.

 

Unsurprisingly, training for a marathon includes a wide variety of lengthy tasks, the difficulty of which make the journey arriving at the starting line at least half the battle.  Mentally, runners can be so committed to the audacious adventure that rest and recovery seem like cheating or wimping out.

 

Wrong.

 

Hard workouts and rest are like a Rorschach test for the body.  The outline or fitness created by all the hard work is defined by the shape it has created for itself, but the shape we see is also dependent on the negative space shaped by the remaining parts of the picture.  This is the rest and recovery.  If the rest portion of the picture isn’t well planned and defined, it makes it difficult to see the shape it has left.

 

From what are you recovering?

The motions of running require a great deal of eccentric contraction of the muscles.  That is, a muscle working in the lengthened position.  This type of demand, particularly over the repeated requirements of thousands of strides, causes a lot of trauma to the cells of muscle fibers, which break down and need to regenerate.

 

Among other effects, running hard also results in a sharp increase in the production of the hormone cortisol.  This hormone, which appears in a response to the physical stress of the quality workout, also suppresses the immune system, which may take a full few days to return to normal after a hard effort such as a race or a workout that breaks new ground.

 

How long should recovery take?

Over a period of time with adequate rest, the body adapts to the mechanical stressors by learning to absorb and consume more oxygen, synthesize more glycogen, absorb more amino acids, and more.   As the muscles are broken down in tiny little traumas, blood flow aids in bringing reparative ingredients to the site of these traumas.  This blood flow can also bring inflammation.  All told, plan on about 24-72 hours for the cycle to result in a muscle prepared to forge more new ground.

 

The soreness often felt on that “second day” is also known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS.  In the long run, this process results in an adapted muscle ready to go farther, go faster, or maybe even both.  However, if a runner repeatedly breaks down a muscle that is not ready once more for heavy work, a cycle of degradation without regeneration will almost always lead to an injury or an eventual period of recovery longer than would have occurred if regularly scheduled recovery had occurred along the way.

 

Notice how your runcoach schedule will not offer you three consecutive calendar days where you run a track session, then a tempo run, then a long run.   Life’s difficult weekly agenda might encourage back to back workouts, but it is almost always advisable to leave at least a 48 hour period between the toughest days of the week.

 

Does everyone need to rest the same amount?

Age, gender, experience, volume (30 miles per week or 90 miles per week?) are all variables which may affect how much time is advisable to wait between hard bouts on the schedule.  If your performance falters repeatedly on the workout following a particularly difficult challenge, it is better to organize the schedule to allow more rest in between than to dogmatically hold on to your current layout and risk injury or prohibitive fatigue from pushing too hard too close to the last time.  Likewise, if you repeatedly catch a cold or have a similar repeated response to upping your mileage or completing a sequence of very taxing runs, consideration of additional recovery is important to allow the immune system to do its job and keep you on the path toward race day.

 

Does recovery only mean sitting around?

Certainly, sleep and rest can help speed the regenerative process, but recovery is also when you remember to bring a snack for after the workout and can replace carbohydrates and proteins immediately.  Recovery is when you roll and stretch to leave the challenged muscles loose and in the best position to heal.  Recovery is rehydrating and replacing electrolytes both during and after a workout or long run.  All of these proactive things can help speed the time you need before advancing out the door again for the type of epic run or workout that makes marathon and half marathon training special.  Not every runner recovers at the same rate exactly, but rest assured, all runners do indeed take a rest.  Our job is to help you along the path that includes rest that is planned so the next training and racing vista can remain in view.

 

 

 



Race day is almost here! Remember to lay low and stay off your feet the days before the race. Your reward is race day itself and the challenge of running. . . .

Arrival

Make sure you get outside and feel the air. Go for at least a 20 minute walk or jog on either the day before, or two days before (or whatever is on your schedule).

Think about what you did, not what you didn’t do in your training. When you go to pick up your race number and run into old friends, family etc. everyone will want to ask about your training so they can tell you about theirs. Forget about theirs and don’t compare yourself to anyone. You followed a terrific training schedule and are well prepared.

Night Before, Morning Of

Have a full meal the night before. Try and consume some complex carbohydrates (pasta). Do not over eat, but make sure you fill up.

On race day eat a light breakfast of 200-300 Kcal of carbohydrates including the sports fluid you drink. If you have a normal pre-race breakfast then stick with it. Don't try any new foods before the race. Drink gatorade (or any sports drink that doesn’t include protein) and/or water frequently to assure you are hydrated (clear urine is a good sign). You should stay well-hydrated throughout the morning before the race. At some point prior to the race stop drinking so you can empty your bladder before the start. It is important to refrain from over-consumption of water alone, as that will drain your body of needed electrolytes.

I suggest you take some throw away warmups to the start especially if it rains or will be cold. This could be an old t-shirt or old sweat pants. Also old socks will keep your hands warm. Some runners will even wear a t-shirt for the first couple miles of the race until they warm up and then pull it off and throw it away. This is a good strategy to prepare for all temperatures.

Take a bottle with gatorade/sports drink to the start with you and right before (less than 5 mins) the gun goes off drink 4-8 ounces. This is your first water stop. If you drink close enough to the start you shouldn’t have to pee – the fluid should only drip through your kidneys because most of your resources (blood) will be in your legs and out of your gut as soon as the gun goes off.

Early Miles

I suggest that you start 5-10 seconds per mile slower than your goal pace. By the 2nd mile you should be running at around goal pace while listening to your body. I recommend this approach as it may activate (and utilize) a higher percentage of fat fuel over the first couple miles. Remember we are trying to conserve glycogen and muscle for as long as possible.

Stay on top of hydration. Fluid stations will be located at 4 stations throughout the course. Take note of these opportunities to rehydrate and plan to drink 4-8 ounces every 20 minutes. It is better to consume enough fluid early and sacrifice the later stops if necessary.

Remember the 3 ‘C’s’

Confidence: Have confidence in your ability and your training. Remember all those hard workouts you did. Remember those early mornings, late nights, sore calves, tight hamstrings etc. - they weren’t in jest.

Control: You must relax yourself early in the race. You absolutely must go out under control for the first half of the race. We want to save a little bit for the final miles.

Collection: Keep your thoughts collected and on your objective. There will always be lots of distractions on race day. The further you get in this race the more you need to focus on yourself, goals and race strategy. Don’t let the fans and competitors into your zone.

The Ebb and Flow

I said before that I can’t guarantee anything about the training or the race itself. Well, I can guarantee this: you will feel good at some point and you will feel bad at some point within the race.

Races usually ebb and flow, runners rarely feel terrific the entire way. We always hit little walls. If you hit one just focus on the next mile, don’t think about the end of the race. If you take each difficult moment one mile at a time you will usually feel better at some point. It always comes back because. . .

You Always Have One Cup Left

That’s right – you always have one cup of energy left. The difference is that some people find it and some don’t. Remember what normal, untrained people do when they feel discomfort – they slow down and feel better. You are not a normal un-trained person.

You are a runnining machine!

You are programmed to give your personal best so. . .

Go get that last cup!


nervousWhat differentiates a race from a workout?  The chance to run down the middle of the road, the mile markers, the thousands of other people alongside?  Externally, perhaps.  Internally, on the other hand, a big difference maker is often adrenaline.

Races are a test – a test of fitness, a test of wills, and a test of your ability to handle the elements and the unexpected.  All of the variables, both known and unknown, coupled with the anticipated pain that may precede the finish banner, combine to generate the butterflies that turn stomachs in the day or two before the race.

On the surface, it may seem preferable not to be nervous at all – to feel calm, cool, collected, and carefree heading into a race.  Then again, the term “adrenaline rush” is familiar to many as a performance-enhancing asset.  What is going on?

Adrenaline, or epinephrine, is a hormone released in response to stress  - it increases heart rate, aids in the conversion and use of glucose from glycogen for energy, and relaxes the bronchial muscles to allow for greater respiration needs (among other effects).  Oftentimes, adrenaline is associated with the “fight or flight” response to great danger or acute stress, e.g. the mother who lifts the car off the ground to save a child, etc.

In a race situation, adrenaline can be helpful – increased release of energy, greater respiratory ability, blood flow increased through the arteries – all these things are good for performance and result in noticeable increases in strength and ability to withstand pain.

While adrenaline can be helpful, nervousness can also be debilitating if it takes over completely.  It is important to maintain a balance that allows the utilization of the positive effects of adrenaline without succumbing to the fear of the unknown.

For runners, one oft overlooked aspect is how well we manage this balance.  Develop some loose routines that can provide a road map before races.  Without being to tense and specific, having a series of repeated tasks (lay out clothing, pin on number, tie chip to shoe, set up morning coffee, etc) can help distract from the difficult aspects to come on race day.  Keep up with your log on runcoach or use a written tool to keep track of training and provide a welcome reminder of all the hard work put in – your success won’t be a fluke and your preparedness can be verified.   Familiarize yourself with the course and its topography – any tough hills are far less intimidating when expected. Practice positive self-talk in workouts so you are prepared with encouragement to yourself when the going is difficult and the pace comes less easily.

Of course, all of these strategies may not always account for the complete list of potential unknowns on race day, nor do these remove the painful physical demands very possibly required to yield the desired result.  Adrenaline, however can close that gap, and should be welcomed as a bi-product of the stress / nervousness that produced it.    Combat fear of the unknown with preparedness and facts, and celebrate the arrival of nervousness as the precursor to the adrenaline that helps make race day special.



urlWhether your running style more closely resembles the tortoise or the hare, an efficient stride is a goal we all share.  It is very difficult and sometimes counterproductive to completely overhaul your natural form.  However, here are a few tips you can try out on your next run to help you get to the finish line with less fatigue and a few less ticks on the clock.

 

Avoid taking long, bounding strides

When attempting to speed up, many runners try to take big long strides.  Sure, when traveling quickly, the space between each footfall will increase due to that speed generated by a more powerful push off.  However, purposely increasing the length of each individual stride often results in a harder more abrupt footfall, greater forces landing on the heel as it extends out in front of you, and a longer time spent on the ground (slowing down) before transitioning to the push off phase of each stride.

 

Instead of decreasing the frequency of your strides when attempting to give it some gas, quicken your cadence.  Taking more frequent strides results in smaller landing forces and less time on the ground absorbing them.  A quicker rhythm also allows your body to stay aligned over your feet, which helps you line up all the power producing muscles (glute, hamstring, quad, calf) for more production out of each stride, without straining the stabilization capabilities of those muscles and ligaments.

 

Keep your hands loose

It is not uncommon to feel tense, tired shoulders after a long run, but that tension and the mid-run fatigue it may cause can be reduced by keeping your hands loose.   Rather than a tight fist or fingers fanned rigidly straight out from the palm, loosely curve the fingers back toward the thumb on each hand, as if lightly holding a very thick rope.   With your thumb, pretend to hold a saltine or a potato chip to your loosely curved fingers.  Squeeze too hard and it breaks, too open and it drops.  Tight hands reverberate tension through the arms, up to the shoulders and the neck.  Loose hands help dissipate that tension and helps runners avoid draining needed energy from the hard working lower body.

 

Swing your arms north and south, not east to west

If running forward, avoid movements that deter your progress.  When your arms are swinging backwards and forward, they are helping propel you along the desired direction.  When they swing across your body, they are acting at cross purposes with your goal.  Although arms naturally may have a slight angle inward that causes the elbow to stick out slightly, neither hand should cross the imaginary line down the center of your torso.   Let them hang down from your un-hunched shoulders with an elbow bent at about 90 degrees, and keep them swinging “north and south”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Guest Blog Post from Heather Tanner

Heather Tanner is a 3-time Olympic Trial marathon qualifier, 2004 USA World Half Marathon Team Member and decorated NCAA Cross Country and Track & Field Athlete during her time at the University of North Carolina and Stanford University. Tanner is currently preparing for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials and offers her advice on fueling for the marathon to runcoach and movecoach trainees. 

There are many things to worry about in the final days leading up to a marathon. Like mapping out a race strategy in line with your fitness so that you don’t end up becoming intimately acquainted with the “wall”. Like taking care of the not so little things such as sleep, nutrition and stress management to ensure that you can get to the starting line healthy. Point is, fueling strategy really shouldn’t be one of those worrisome things. As long as you practice your fueling method in the long runs leading up to the race and have figured out a way to ensure regular carbohydrate replenishment during the race, you will be ok on this front.

During my first marathon experience (Columbus Marathon, 2003), I was a novice on many fronts and broke some major cardinal marathon rules (most importantly: don’t start a marathon injured, ever!). I had no idea what I was doing on the fueling front either and recall being alone at the expo the day before, trying to decide what type of fluids to try (water or maybe that new, strange-tasting Accelerade?) and how many gels I might need (is 1 or 2 enough?). As was inevitable, my hip injury helped me avoid hitting the wall, by slowing me down in the form of 8 stretching breaks. Not pleasant, for the record. Let’s just say fueling probably would have gotten the better of me had something else not have gotten there first.

Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some amazing runners over the last 10+ years and have since followed a few simple yet important guidelines in order to avoid the “bonk”:

1.) Take fluids as EARLY as possible – Do not pass the early water stations by. I typically try to take fluid at every station available, sometimes both water and the race-provided electrolyte beverage. This often means fluid consumption at least every 2 miles. You may only successfully take in a couple of ounces per cup, depending on your speed and your ability to coordinate moving and drinking at the same time, so it’s better to focus on frequency of water stops.

2.) Take your gels SLOWLY – Your digestive system can only absorb about 1-1.5 grams of carbohydrate per minute. An average gel contains 20-22 grams of carbohydrate. The quick math here means that your body can’t keep up with you very well if you down the whole gel in one second. In addition, gel consumption becomes even slower if you do not consume it with adequate fluids. I may take a gel every 4-6 miles during the course of the marathon (4-5 gels in total), but I take each one in slowly.

Note: Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, US Olympian and VP of R&D for Gu, told me about me this slow Gu consumption method after she had a successful marathon in cold “frozen Gu” weather (CIM, 2001 – 2nd: 2:37:57). Her Gu had formed into a cold, solid state and she was only able to consume small amounts at a time as it thawed. Despite this, Magda felt properly fueled.

Logistically, slow gel consumption can present some challenges. I prefer to hold onto the packet and take a small amount every minute or so, i.e. “sipping” on the gel. It can become a sticky mess, and the only helpful thing I can offer here is that this is all less annoying if you are wearing gloves. If you prefer other types of fuel, there are options that are already conveniently partitioned into smaller caloric chunks. Think Sport Beans or Clif shot blocks. Always intersperse gel consumption at or near water stations and practice this slow fuel consumption method in training.

3.) Ingest electrolyte-based drinks, not just water - This is another fairly obvious one, but not always followed. Research has supported evolution of sports drinks over recent years and many are purportedly optimal for electrolyte replenishment during the marathon. If you have the choice, it’s best to use beverages backed by science and your own experience. Osmo, UCAN, GuBrew and Nuun are some good newer beverage options with solid science to support their use. The more common beverage choices serve their purpose for most of us too though (Gatorage, Powerade, etc.).

The same slow carbohydrate absorption rule may apply for your electrolyte drink, but remember that these drinks are often significantly diluted, which can be a good thing. If the race-provided drink tastes too concentrated, try to balance it out with more water consumption at the next station. This may help your digestive system to absorb the carbohydrates more easily.
Also, if you are at all at risk for hyponatremia, or essentially over-hydrating, counterbalancing your fluid intake with an appropriate volume of electrolytes is even more important. The risk threshold for hyponatremia is known to apply to those who consume approximately 8 oz of fluid (any type) every 20 minutes (a lot!) and this risk is even higher if that fluid is water alone. Don’t over drink.

4.) Adapt your strategy for weather conditions – Heat and/or humidity will of course greatly increase your rate of sweating and will necessitate increased fluid consumption. Stay on top of that early. Potentially equally damaging in a different way, extremely cold conditions may interfere with your desire to consume fluids. You could then be at risk for dehydration and subsequent muscle cramping if you do not drink according to your normal plan, despite your perceived lack of thirst.

5) Don’t worry if something goes wrong – If you miss a water station, or an untrained child volunteer throws the cup all over your shirt at mile 16, do not panic. It will be ok as long as you’re following rule #1. Make it up for it at the next stop by grabbing both water and electrolyte drinks. 

I try to remember these themes as I race, but do so in an unscientific way because, in most cases, there are many other elements you cannot control over the course of 26.2 miles. You don’t want to create an overly specific fueling plan in case it becomes difficult to execute. One missed water station and you could find yourself in an unnecessary tailspin of distraction. Based on your individual body composition, it is certainly possible to estimate the precise amount of carbohydrate, electrolyte and fluid you should consume over the course of a marathon. It is extremely difficult to make that precision happen in real life, particularly if you are not fortunate enough to have the luxury of elite water bottles placed at regular intervals over the course. Fortunately, by keeping these general guidelines in mind, you can still get pretty close to optimal fueling and feel good come mile 26!



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