Race nutrition – it doesn’t have to taste good (but it helps)

It doesn’t have to taste good, it just has to get you through race day.

My family does not like the taste of my cliff bars, gels, or energy drinks. That’s a good thing because that means they aren’t sneaking them out of the cupboard before I can pack them.

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I had no idea what my food intake would be for my 50 Miler but I knew I would be burning a lot of calories and would need to replenish. I had heard all the horror stories of not being able to keep food down on these events.

For the most part, nutrition intake went well enough, although I didn’t eat nearly as much as I thought I might. I started with 3 cliff bars, 3 gels, and 2 litres of water. At the end, after 13 hours, I still had 1 bar, 2 gels, and 1 litre of water left. I grazed at the 6 aid stations: a few chips, and gummi bears at each, plus a couple cups of soup (and some Gatorade and coke).

I must have burned a lot more calories than that. It was cold enough that perhaps I didn’t need more hydration but I though I would have needed more electrolytes. I was feeling low on fuel for the last hour and I should have had another cliff bar or gel but the finish line was so close, I thought I would go without it.

And I hardly ate after the race. My stomach just wasn’t up for it. But over the next few days, oh yeah, I downed a lot of food. I am still downing a lot of food and barely exercising.

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Nature’s aid stations – wild saskatoon berries

I understand there are people who have never heard of saskatoon berries. Wow, they are missing out. This time of year in in our part of Canada they are out in force. Many of my trails are lined with saskatoon bushes with these amazing quick snacks. They are just smaller than blueberries but so numerous and easy to find, and usually at chest height. It is so tempting to stop for breaks on the trail during saskatoon season that my training sometimes suffers a little.

But look out for the bears, they love them too.

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Coming up next? Raspberry season. That’s usually in August. Can’t wait.

One gel too many – Vancouver Marathon recap

Vancouver is a beautiful place for a run no matter the distance. 70% of the marathon route is along the ocean. For a guy who lives 13 hours from the ocean, this is a big deal.

We had amazing weather this weekend with no rain or wind which is definitely not a given in early May in Vancouver. The first 3/4 of the race went very well but I am trying to forget the last 1/4.

I had two full days before the race as a tourist desperately trying not to walk too far even though it was so nice down by the waterfront. I rented a bike for a few hours to see Stanley Park and joined the throngs of cruise ship tourists who were in town. I biked along the seawall to see what the route would look like. This portion was the end of the race route so I wasn’t sure I would be appreciating the view at that point in the race. And as it happened, at that point in the race I was not appreciating anything.

The first half of the route was much hillier than I thought it would be. However, I came through the first half thinking the hills hadn’t affected me too much. I was still on track to meet a sub 3:10 with minutes to spare. Even at the 30k mark, I was feeling good.

But then I had my second gel and within 1km I felt like throwing it up. I was reduced to frequent walks and much slower running, feeling dizzy and nauseous. It probably didn’t help that I also likely had too much sports drink on the route and not enough water. I will blame that on too many well stocked aid stations that just want to give you stuff that is hard to refuse.

The route was dead flat by this time but I had lost my momentum. So the last 10k was a nightmare. When the 3:15 pace bunny passed me at 38k I was suddenly utterly deflated. The last 4 km was the slowest by far and included a lot of walking and moaning (But I was not the only one moaning out there by this time).

But I got it done in 3:24 and am proud of finishing in the top 6% overall. The last 10k split was 16 minutes slower than any of the previous splits. You would think that after 12 marathons that it would get easier. Well, it doesn’t. It is still a long ways to run when a lot of things could go wrong.

I hobbled back to my hotel like everyone else and crashed for the afternoon. My stomach finally returned to normal just before dinner. Then I treated myself to all you can eat ribs. Mmm! Great way to end the weekend to help forget the pain. Now to hobble home and set my sights on something new.

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