Last week I read a tip in Runner's World about consuming carbs during races.
The tip: 60-80g of carbs each hour will improve performance.
I was intrigued. So I tried it.
Now, I want to try it during the Long Beach Half Marathon. This makes sense to me, the reasoning behind eating as many carbs per hour as suggested, and I feel this could help me not only meet my goals in Long Beach but also help me just feel better during and after the race.
But I have a bit of a firm belief in this - nothing new on race day.
Nothing new. No new shoes. No new shirts. No new socks. No new gear. No new breakfast food. I don't like surprises and the last thing I want to do is to be surprised on race day. The last thing I want to happen is for something new to backfire on me and cause some sort of adverse reaction during a race. Of course, I put myself in a bad situation in San Francisco when I forgot my damn fuel belt and had to buy a new one and wear a new one on race day, but that's a bit of an extreme case where it beat the alternative of relying on the race to properly hydrate myself. I'm still mad at myself over that.
Anyway, nothing new on race day. I don't want to try this new 60-80 carbs/hr thing on race day for the first time. What if four GU packets in two hours makes me.... well, I'll let you use your imagination. I really don't want to find out the hard way how something works.
So I tried it out Sunday. We were running 10 miles, us Lopers, so I filled up two bottles on my fuel belt with Gatorade and grabbed three GU packets. Each bottle holds eight ounces of liquid (and there is roughly 14g carbs per eight ounces so it seemed to work out well). So my plan was to take two GUs and drink one entire bottle the first hour and then the other GU and the rest of the bottle the second hour. I figure we'd finish in about 1 hour 40-something minutes, so there'd be no time to get to the fourth GU packet.
My plan was to GU at 25 and 50 minutes, but we were at minute 24 something and I felt weird. I felt like a GU there would have been too early. It just didn't feel right. I was barely getting into a rhythm, barely breaking a sweat even and already I was going to GU? At minute 30, though, I forced myself to GU. I kinda made sure nobody saw me because it was pretty early even at that point (I don't think we were at Mile 3 yet, close but not quite there). I took the GU. I'd been drinking the Gatorade slowly before then.
I felt a little full. Like, my stomach was full full. I wondered if that many GU packets was wise.
At minute 50-something, I took the second GU packet. The whole first hour I felt strong. Very strong. I wanted to stretch my legs but we were going along at our usual 10:30 pace (okay, it was a little faster but still in the low 10s).
I took the last GU at around 1 hour 25 minutes. It felt way too early again but I wasn't regretting my decision by that point.
Towards the end, though, I definitely felt the effects. Here are the splits for the first six miles: 10:07, 10:50, 9:56, 9:47, 10:27, 10:07
The seventh mile featured a very long hill. I got stronger up this hill the higher I went and by the time I got to the top my legs wanted to open up. I contained myself though and when most of the rest of the group caught up I took off once more. The last three miles were disjointed as some of us wanted to run faster and others were fine with running at our usual pace.
The last three miles: 8:27, 8:54, 8:48.
Not only did I feel stronger as the run went on but I felt like I had energy to burn at the end. I felt like I still had some in the tank.
Did I burn more calories than I took in? Who knows? I'm not a fan of the 100-calories-per-mile thing as it just seems illogical to me that such a rule would apply for both, say a 110-pound woman and a 220-pound man. So, it's tough to say really how many calories I burned versus how many I took in. And to be fair I ate some pretzels at the water stops as well and also had some water there. The water obviously did not affect the calorie/carbs intake but the pretzels did I'm sure.
While burning calories may be a concern during midweek runs or Sunday runs, performance is my main concern during races. Therefore, this 60-80g carbs/hr appeals to me even more now that I tried it successfully.
I might be the only runner on the LB Half course sucking down some GU at minute 25 but that's fine by me. It'll be my means to my end.