I talked to a coworker about running the other day, who told me that his own half marathon experience was miserable. I try not to let people’s negative experiences be a downer, but instead to try to learn from their mistakes, so I asked him to tell me the story. It basically read like a cautionary tale about overextending mileage. He had never run more than 6 miles, and he did one training run for 13 miles, and then a half marathon shortly after. He didn’t hydrate at all when training, and didn’t have any nutrition (not just no gu; not even the ‘too cool for technology’ solution of jamming a clif bar in your shorts). So he ended up exhausted, spent, and with blistered feet and hammered muscles. I suppose the main lesson I can take from his ‘mistake’ was that I’m happy I’m approaching my half marathon as a ramp to ride up, rather than a cliff to scale.
Speaking of proper nutrition, there’s a little vending machine at the RAC (our gym) that dispenses Peanut M&M’s, a handful for a quarter. It’s just about the perfect amount to take the ravenous edge off the post-workout hungries. So, I asked Steph to buy a big bag of M&M’s so I could ration them out as post exercise food. Unfortunately, I learned a valuable lesson myself by that mistake; an open bag of M&M’s, especially one left out on the counter for easy post-exercise access, will evaporate faster than rubbing alchohol. Scientific fact. Look it up.
So, with that bag of M&M’s mysteriously empty, Steph and I came up with a novel solution for the next bag, to keep them from sublimating quite as rapidly. We bought a bunch of tiny plastic bags (intended for pills) and turned the next large bag of M&M’s into a homestyle fun-size. Now, not only is evaporation staved off, but I avoid the tendency to eat just one or two extra. (I am certain it was only one or two extra. Stop looking at me like that. No, I don’t have chocolate in my beard and a sick smile on my face.)
My other post workout recovery fuel is chocolate milk. Our dairy (Calder Dairy) delivers us fresh milk every 2 weeks, and I get a quart of chocolate milk which I ration to myself throughout the two weeks, exclusively as recovery food. As a skim drinker since I was a teenager, let me tell you that even a tiny glass of whole chocolate milk is quite a surge of fat and protein, but I’m told it’s a good thing to give to my muscles in those first few minutes after I workout and before they realize what I’ve really done to them.
I tried GU Chomps for the first time this weekend, on my 8 mile run this Sunday, and my immediate response was “man, this is way more complicated than GU”. Whole packet of things to eat, felt like a lot of volume, even though it was the same energy. Having these things within a 6″ radius of the exothermic reaction otherwise known as “me during physical exertion” resulted in sticky, difficult to handle gummy-bear wannabes.
I think that chomps seem to primarily exist to protect people from the icky feeling that gel nutrition seems to give some people, but honestly, you could probably just hook me up with a backpack full of GU’s and tap water and I could live for quite some time before I started complaining. So I don’t think GU chomps are for me. I won’t turn them down, and maybe I’ll keep a pack or two of them on hand for variety (if you can call ‘a different state of matter but the same basic flavor’ variety.)
Also, it’s not really nutrition, but it goes back to what that unfortunate coworker found out. Water! I have been running with a Camelbak Rogue, a gift from my sister for christmas (Thanks Michelle!) and aside from a little bit of complexity (strap adjusting and getting used to not “shrugging up” to support the pack) I’m happily trucking along with the option of just tugging the Camelbak spout into my mouth. I don’t need it on shorter runs, and as I gain confidence, that distance increases, but it’s been a great help for my 1+ hour long runs, and I never really find myself regretting taking it out. As an added bonus, like all running and cycling gear, it has a badass name that makes me feel like I’m going to wear it while doing amazing/dastardly things, or perhaps wooing loose women and swordfighting. (Product name suggestion for Camelbak, the Camelbak Swashbuckler. Check or cash is fine for my commission on that one.)
Ultimately, I’ve learned a ton of stuff just from trial and error, which seems to be the only way it works in running. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had great advice all along, and also my cautious (some might say my ENORMOUS CHICKEN-LIKE) behavior has kept me learning mostly from trial and not too much from error.