"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”

- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Friday, November 11, 2011

2011 Autumn Leaves 50 Miler: Nutrition & Refueling

Before it gets to be too far down the road I wanted to make sure I said a few words about my nutrition and refueling strategy during my recent 50 miler. You can read about my concerns prior to the race here, but basically it came down to two things:

1. Quite often I cramp in the final few miles of a marathon. Electrolyte depletion? Imbalance of nutrients?

2. How do I continue to replenish my energy stores after 20 miles and while continuing to run?

I wasn't sure what I would eat during the race, but figured I would just go with what my body was craving, particularly in the later miles. If you've followed this blog for any significant period of time you know I'm a huge proponent of a fruit predominant diet. I start every day with a half gallon of 100% frozen fruit smoothie goodness (oranges, bananas, strawberries) and try to eat fruit only (not including water) until dinner each day. Some days I do better than others, but I always start with a smoothie.

Running past the aid stations for the first few times I have to say, I was impressed. Heed, water, oranges, candy corn, bite-sized candy bars, gummy bears, pretzel/peanut butter bites, turkey and cheese sandwich bites, pb&j bites, and probably other things that I'm forgetting. It was quite the spread. Almost too much. I didn't know how hungry I would be as the day wore on and the sight of all the yummy, sugary goodness was actually a little frightening. I typically don't eat candy. Not because I don't like it, but because it feels like sludge in my stomach when I try to run on it.

As far as liquids go, I decided prior to the race that I would drink only Heed and no water. Scientifically correct or not, my thinking was that if I was going to need constant electrolyte replenishment during the day, that I had better start from the very first lap. From what I know about water, it dilutes things. So heed it was. (In the later laps I started mixing a Nuun Electrolyte tablet with the Heed in my water bottle, hoping it wasn't like mixing drugs). I also consumed 50z of EFS Liquid Shot after laps 1 and 2. I had more of this in my bag, but I just wasn't feeling it, so I left it alone.

Aid stations consisted mostly of orange bites. Lots and lots of orange bites. They tasted so good and I just kept craving them, so I just kept eating them every time I passed a station. Once I took a few gummy bears but couldn't swallow them (not sure why). Tried the pretzel/peanut butter bites once. Not bad, but left a bad taste in my mouth. After lap 4 I took about one half of a pb&j sandwich. It really tasted good. It sure didn't feel good 20 minutes down the road though, so no more of that. Other than that, it was orange bites, Heed and Nuun tablets all day.

No cramping.

No bonking.

My Garmin watch says I burned just over 6,500 calories during my run. That doesn't include calories burned just by existing the rest of the day. I don't know how many of those calories were replaced during the run, but I'm guessing not many. I don't know how many calories Heed has per 10oz, but I know how many an orange has and its not much, even with the number of oranges I consumed during the day.

Also interesting to me was the fact that post-race I never experienced the "I need a buffet NOW!" appetite that I often feel after a marathon. I waited for it, but it never came. The evening of the race I had a medium-sized plate of pasta, and then Sunday afternoon after church I had a 48oz smoothie. Another small plate of pasta Sunday night and that was it for the weekend. Monday came and I was back to normal.

I really was impressed by the Heed. It felt good in my stomach and I really felt like it was the difference in continuing all day without problems. That and refraining from the candy offered every few miles and sticking with the fresh fruit. Maybe that doesn't work for everyone, but for me, it was a winning combination.

This is kind of scattered-brained. I'm two weeks removed from race-day now and some of the details I wanted to include are starting to fade a bit. But I wanted to make the point that good nutrition really does matter. I'm not sure if things would have turned out the same if I had spent the day pounding down Butterfingers, candy corn, gummy bears and sandwiches.

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