I am officially over halfway through marathon training! This is Week 10 (out of 16). I cannot believe the big day is only a month and a half away. This month is the bulk of the training miles. Last week was 30 miles, this week is 32, with an 18 mile long run. I am realizing how true it is that this kind of running is 90% mental. But fuel is key, also. My first half marathon was the Philadelphia Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon in September. I had a great time and while running 13 miles still isn't "easy" to me, it felt really good. Yes, I was tired at some points during the race, and after, but never doubted that I could finish. My finish time was 2:34:57 - not breaking any speed records, but I'm really happy for my first half! There was Cytomax provided along the course, as well as gels at mile 8. I also had a few Clif Shot Bloks at the start, so I was well-fueled throughout.
The next weekend I attempted to do a 13 mile run on my own and had a completely different experience. I felt tired, dead-legged, and doubtful. I had about 12 oz of eLoad (another Gatorade type drink), and 3 Chocolate #9 gels throughout, and had some smoothie and 1/2 a sprouted english muffin beforehand. I ended up walking most of the last mile after my phone died (i.e. my music player). This run lead me to re-evaluate my fueling for long runs. Part of me had been wanting to train my body to burn fat more efficiently during long runs (http://team.firstendurance.com/page/low-carbo-training-1), which I still think has some merit. However, I was paying for it with dreadful long runs where I hit the wall. When I analyzed my carb intake and consulted the Runner's World Challenge nutritionist it became clear that I was taking in a much lower amount of carbs than recommended. While it might be a good training measure in some cases, it really drained the fun out of long runs.
So, last weekend I did two things differently: I managed to recruit company for the first half of my 16 mile run, and I made sure I had a bit higher carb intake. My Fuel Belt only has two bottles, holding about 12 oz of fluid total, but I filled both of those with eLoad. I had a couple of Shot Bloks at the start of the run, and I carried a bottle of plain water in addition to the Fuel Belt. And I carried along 3 Clif Gel Shots (in Strawberry Banana - no caffeine). I also had an additional 20 oz of eLoad in the car, which I looped back by twice. We took in a gel around mile 3.5 (about 45 minutes into the run), and again around an hour and a half in. I drank plenty of water with these, and sipped some of the eLoad in between - though it was a cool day and I wasn't feeling very thirsty most of the time. The last gel I took around mile 13. My legs felt very tired the last few miles, but I was able to carry on running at a steady pace without too many walk breaks. In all I drank about 20 oz of eLoad, the 2 Shot Bloks, and 3 gels. I estimate that to be around 170 grams of carbs, and the recommended intake is 30-60 grams per hour of running. Considering I finished in around 3 1/2 hours, this was pretty close to the guideline. I had a hot chocolate (made with coconut milk) and the other 1/2 of a sprouted english muffin as soon as I got back to the car, along with water. That seemed to help restore some energy (at least enough to get home) - I think hot chocolate is my new miracle recovery drink. ;)
That said, all those gels are pure sugar, in varying forms. I don't love that, but they do seem to work. The Chocolate #9 gels are nice because they are agave nectar and cocoa, but because agave nectar is lower on the glycemic index you don't get that nice bump of energy. I might try them again though, making sure to be more proactive in taking them. I also want to try the homemade gel recipe from Thrive Fitness again. I first tried it a few weeks ago on a somewhat shorter run, and used whole chia seeds instead of ground. It wasn't really liquid enough to easily consume, and I need to analyze the recipe to get an estimate of the carbs (primarily from dates) and plan accordingly. I know Clif gels will be available along the Philadelphia Marathon course, so if I don't want to carry stuff with me, I need to train with those to be accustomed to them. At least I've got plenty of long runs coming up to use to figure this all out!