Fuel Up


Heck yeah! Marathon training didn’t have to have a shake-up this weekend! We ended up hitting the road home relatively early and arrived around 4:30 PM. After 6 hours in the car, I wasn’t necessarily stoked to hit the road for 12 miles – especially considering it was a solid 85 degrees. After seeing a recent article on an ultrarunner forgetting to wear sunscreen and getting some disgusting sunburn/blisters, I loaded up on sunscreen and stretched out the stiffness. My hydration belt was loaded up with water and Gatorade chews. Headphones charged.

I told Christine I had to run this at a good slow pace considering the heat – I was thinking 9:30-10:00 minutes/mile. Hal Higdon recommends 1-1:30 minute slower than race pace. Well, I ended up at an 8:36 / mile pace – which is where I think race may COULD be. But, it’s not like I was running to failure. I listened to my body, which kept saying I could maintain my pace.  I drank water at every mile (and sometimes every 1/2 mile). I took a quick break around 6.5 miles to refill water bottles and pop two Gatorade chews. I ended with an average heart rate of 154.  But my first 10 miles saw my average below 150, and a larger spike coming in my last mile that is loaded with hills. I was pretty excited because I was relatively easily keeping the same pace in which I got a PR in a Half Marathon last year, under ideal conditions. More reinforcement that progress is being made. The above highlights a couple lines of thought for today’s blog: nutrition and overtraining.

First up – nutrition.  On a basic level, this can be approached two ways. We always hear that nutrition is significantly more important than anyone thinks it is. Obviously, a diabetic needs to be mindful of nutrition on a daily basis. There is an enormous Catch 22 here. Carbohydrates and protein are the primary sources of energy for the body, and obviously carb loading is something runners research a lot. However, carbs wreak havoc on blood sugar numbers for diabetics so relying on this isn’t sustainable. You can supplement with the right kind of protein, whether animal or plant based, but if you rely too much on animal meat, you could experience cholesterol or kidney issues. So, carb up – mess you your blood sugar, protein up, jack up other organs. Awesome. Moderation is best, and to date, I’ve predominately relied on lean meats, beans, and leafy greens for protein, with much less reliance on carbing up.  I rarely carbed up before a long training run too, which makes it gastronomically risky to do that before a race.  It’s gotten me this far, but I should really sign up with a nutritionist to design some sort of diabetic runners program for me. I hate and dread going to any doctor so this may be more difficult for me to do than actually running the marathon. As a way to further commit to training, I will read more about carb loading for long runs and the race – even though I know it could mean waking up at 3 or 4 AM to eat, then trying to sleep for another few hours, and then hitting the road.

The other aspect of nutrition is in race fuel. I have now reached long runs that require energy during the run to keep the muscles satisfied. A great article here on why it is so vital to crossing the finish line. Anyway, I’ve gotten accustomed to Gatorade chews because that’s what the Chicago Marathon used last year.  The Columbus Marathon uses Clif Shots energy gels in a variety of flavors – so I’m going to go pick up a couple and see what flavor I like (probably Vanilla or Mocha) and start training with them.  If I don’t like any of them, then I’ll stick with the Gatorades and just plan on stashing a Spybelt with them.

Yesterday’s long run was actually the first time since training last year that I realized I needed the energy boost.  I ran through winter and spring, sometimes up to 10 miles, and even though I always ran with chews, just in case, I never actually needed them. Obviously the temps made me sweat a lot, losing vital salts and nutrients to a degree my body hasn’t experienced recently. What was incredible, was that I could actually feel the difference this time.  I don’t remember that feeling last year.  I didn’t carb at all before the run, or take a chew (like recommended). At 6 miles, I could tell I wasn’t feeling quite right.  10 minutes or so after taking 2 chews, I felt back to normal. Last year, I’d take a chew every 3 miles, and I think that may still be a good strategy, but I will do more research on fueling tactics this week. I may need to include some salt sticks in there too.

As I kept hitting about 8:30 minute miles during the run, I kept thinking about why I have such difficulty achieving a pre-determined desired pace for the run. I’d go back and forth on the macho side – I don’t want to run “slow,” and the thought that maybe I’m perfectly able to run even faster and being conservative with the goal/approach. I reached out to the IG running community for some insight on the question: Am I overtraining or am I underestimating what I can do? And how do I tell the difference? A buddy posted an article that had some great insight based on heart rate. I was actually performing pretty close to its recommendations (based on just my feel of my data), which perpetuated my confusion. Achieving a sub 4 hour marathon is a typical goal, it’s a nice round number and a major threshold for runners – but it’s also relatively arbitrary. The realistic answer is that for these long runs, don’t worry about pace. Gotta be injury free going into the marathon to maximize chance of being injury free coming out.

What’s your approach? Do you pick a time and train for it? Or run as hard as possible? When do you stop and compare performance to your goal and then re-evaluate your program or goal? And what is your favorite pre race meal to help reach those goals?


4 thoughts on “Fuel Up”

  1. Hey Andrew! Great post–I relate to so much of it. Sounds like you are finding out what your marathon pace is and it’s a little faster than first thought–especially since you seem able to maintain your breath and energy–so awesome! Interesting about fueling, especially as a diabetic. I am not diabetic but carbs have never worked very well for me as fuel and create a lot of inflammation in my body. Have you thought about fueling with more fat? I know some people are hesitant because of the way the american diet has resisted fat for so many years but there is a lot of good science out there that supports it (and a ton that denounces it too, I’m sure!). Anyway, I’ll be doing a post on it for sure cause it’s how i have been fueling and it’s going pretty well. Great read!


    1. I haven’t messed around with fat much. I love some good fat items like avocados and always have them in smoothies, but not as a tool to fuel. You have any favorite recipes or meals that you like to eat as fuel pre run?


      1. I don’t have recipes so much–my sister is big into making “fat bombs” and there are some pretty great recipes available online for those. I eat A LOT of avocado and nut butters and i add fat to a lot of things. So I eat veggies at least 3 times a day and I add mct oil or grassfed butter to them. I also use coconut oil and coconut butter often. I stay a lot fuller without eating any grains. Def not for everyone, but was just chiming in :). Hope you find what works for you!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Cliff Shots worked for me and Sandi. Also Cliff Bars. Fanny pack with 16 oz water bottle in back and pockets for jell and bars. We only drank water given out at the race. Always used our own mix of Accelerade. We trained at 2 minutes slower than anticipated finish time (jog x number of minutes, walk one minute); 3 miles 3 times per week. Saturday long run. That is it. Finish, injury free. You are doing great. Getting everything tweaked for a stellar finish.
    Andrew: “Hey, There’s Christine, Mimi, Pappy and the kids again”! Go Daddy!


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