I received this in the mail yesterday…

huma gel variety pack

Flavors (from L to R): apples & cinnamon, mango, cafe mocha, raspberry, blueberry, lemonade, strawberry, chocolate.

New Huma gels! If you recall, I previously tried out their blueberry and strawberry flavors before deciding to use solely the strawberry during the Country Music Half. Now they have a bunch more flavors to try, including some caffeinated ones.

An article I read the other day (coincidentally, since I had already ordered the gels), showed some research that intaking more gels per hour can increase performance during marathons and that gels with caffeine also help. I’m not running a full marathon and I’m not about to start downing the amount done in the study (60g of carbs), but I figure it can’t hurt to see what happens when I attempt to increase my fuel intake.

For the Country Music Half, I kept it pretty simple. I took in one gel about every hour (just before the water stops at miles 4.6 and 9.2), which was about 22g of carbs per hour. I want to try adding in one more gel to my plan, so roughly every 30-45 minutes.

Luckily, I have two long runs coming up that can help me experiment with this before Tom King.

In my upcoming 12 miler this weekend, I plan to try out some of the new flavors and attempt one of the new caffeinated gels (I’m fairly sensitive to caffeine since I rarely ingest it). How this goes will determine how I decide to fuel the Cedars Frostbite Half next weekend, which I’m not racing but am using as kind of a dress rehearsal for Tom King. Cedars has three water stations (miles 3, 7, and 10), so that will correspond nicely to taking in three gels and making sure my stomach can tolerate that.

My 11 miler last weekend was done without any gels at all (though I probably topped off my glycogen with Oreos and milk before I headed out), and I managed to average just 11 seconds off of goal pace. It’s actually better* to do most training runs without fueling so that your body can learn how to use fat as a backup fueling source when you’re all out of glycogen. This is why I pick one or two long runs where I test flavors and strategy and ignore the rest of them.

I’m excited to try new flavors and determine what I’ll be carrying during my goal halves this year!

*Or so I’ve read. I’m not an expert.

Fueling the Half

I mentioned before that for this half I planned to have a fueling strategy. For the Disney Half, I didn’t really attempt any eating on the run. I was handed a vanilla Clif Shot at an aid station on the course, which I tried, but found it way too sweet and couldn’t finish it. Therefore it didn’t help me much when I felt like I couldn’t possibly run any more come mile 9-10. After suffering through a very hungry 12.5 mile run in this training cycle and experiencing a similar (actually, worse) my-legs-won’t-move feeling, I resolved to fuel!

running gels and chews

(First of all, I would like to say, I finally found the list of water/GU stations for the half. Just as my research showed, they would be providing GU at only one point on the half course, and way after I would need it, so I’m glad I decided to figure out how to do this on my own.)

I went down to Fleet Feet one weekday afternoon. I’m usually very salesperson-avoidant, but I was the only customer in the store and, since I didn’t really know anything about gels, I welcomed the help from the employee.

I told him about my experience with the vanilla Clif Shot, so he recommended that I try some fruit-based gels, instead of the vanilla and chocolate flavored ones. This is probably not something I would have done normally because chocolate and I are in a very close relationship. Then I recalled that piece of chocolate I ate during the Hot Chocolate 15k and decided he was right. Maybe sweet stuff and I just don’t get along while running.

They carried quite a few brands of gels in the store, and I was a little overwhelmed with what to try. I went for the classic GU, which is the brand most races seem to actually hand out on the course, and the employee recommended Huma, which he said was thinner and seemed to go down easier.

I also grabbed a bag of GU Chomps, which are essentially gummy things, just in case I had an aversion to gels period.

GU gels

GU gels

On my 14 mile run, I tried out the tri-berry at mile 5. It surprisingly tasted really good! I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was pretty yummy. It was thick, though, and I needed a lot of water to get it all down. Then the aftertaste hung around for another mile, which wasn’t great, so I kept drinking more water to try to get rid of it. I wouldn’t have access to this much water on the course, so I had to keep that in mind.

I went for the peanut butter on mile 5 of my next 12.5 mile run. I highly recommend this one if you are a fan of peanut butter. Tasted just like it, but didn’t stick to the roof of your mouth. Again, though, it was thick and I needed quite a bit of water to wash it all down. If that doesn’t bother you, then I recommend the GUs, as I felt they were both slightly tastier than the Humas (although filled with a lot of artificial ingredients, if that bothers you).

Huma gels

Huma gels

I tried these at the 10 mile point on my longer runs. The first one was the blueberry one on my 14 mile run. It was okay. It was thinner than the GU, as the Fleet Feet employee had promised. The Huma gels are all-natural and infused with chia seeds, which I liked, but the flavor wasn’t quite as good. Maybe I’m just used to artificial flavoring.

I went for the strawberry one on my 12.5 mile run. I did like it better than the blueberry. I also liked that since they were thinner, I could down the whole package and then wash it all down with some water quickly. Not like the GUs where I felt I needed to eat some, then drink, then eat, then drink, which I could see being very hard in race conditions. Thus I decided to go with the strawberry Huma for the Country Music Half.

GU Chomps

GU chomps

I actually liked these a lot–to munch on before I started running. I got the watermelon flavor, and, while they weren’t really flavorful, I liked eating one or two just before my run to make sure my energy levels were up at the beginning. I will probably carry a couple of these with me as well to eat in the corral.

I never really tried eating them on the run. I was supposed to on my 15k progressive run, but since that didn’t ever really happen, I just ended up munching on all of them before runs.

Anyone got a favorite gel they really like?

Week of 3/24/14 – 3/30/14: Country Music Half Training, Week 11 (the one where I run 14 miles and don’t die)

I started out this week saying, “If I can make it through this week of training, the rest is all downhill.” It was my mantra. This is because this week was the highest mileage I had planned for the entire training cycle. (We’ll ignore that the next two weeks are roughly the same mileage before I start my actual taper.) And all capped off with the farthest distance I’ve ever gone (and ever plan to go, as far as I’m concerned, unless I get hit by a crazy truck and decide to train for a full marathon): 14 miles.

week of 3/24/14 to 3/30/14

Tuesday

I decided to move my goal pace runs to Tuesdays and my easy threesy to Wednesday so that maybe my legs won’t be dead for my Thursday runs in the coming weeks. This week was a not-too-terrible two miler. I will admit that my legs were still a little sore from the weekend’s runs. (“Sore means getting stronger!” – another mantra.)

I might have had another ulterior motive, since I needed to hurry up and get downtown for a Preds game. So the shorter, faster run won out over the slightly longer and slower run.

Oh, yeah, and it had been snowing all day. Really, winter, what is your problem? Go away. No one likes you anymore. I donned the tights once more (thought I was safely into shorts and skirts weather, sigh) and headed out.

Since I was kind of in a hurry, I didn’t do much of a warmup. I jogged while I set up my watch and then did about 0.15 miles of warmup after I started the timer. I just went into beast mode after that and quickly spit out 2 miles. And by quickly, I mean I didn’t stay in my half goal pace. I went to tempo and ultimately 5k pace. Oops?

mei running in my neighbor totoro

I envision chasing chibi totoros when I run.

Wednesday

Can this count for next week’s three mile goal pace run? Because that’s what I ended up doing. I really didn’t mean to. I just started out feeling so good that, even when I saw I was 30 seconds to a minute speedier than I should have been at the end of the first mile, I still kept going at that pace and didn’t stop to walk. I’m sure this won’t catch up with me at all…

Thursday

This week’s track intervals were 1200m (that’s three laps around the track) at 5k pace with 400m (one lap) of jogging recovery, repeat four times. And, yes, I actually made it out to the group run on the track this week. My goals for this week’s intervals were the first two at 10:30 pace, the third at 10:15 pace, and the last as fast as I could muster (at least 10). Or interval times of 7:52, 7:52, 7:41, and 7:30.

We started out jogging (okay, probably everyone else was jogging…this was faster than an easy run for me) down to the track, then everyone started out by doing a one lap warmup. Except their warmup pace is apparently my 5k pace (actually they were faster…I was already last), so I just used that as my first lap since I knew they’d be waiting on me in the end anyway. The first interval was a little bumpy, since I started a little fast, so I slowed down a bit about halfway through to come in closer to goal. The second one was a little smoother, and the third was as smooth as melted chocolate (and a little faster than goal too!). My recovery intervals were all a little faster than what I thought they should be (the last one was under an 11 min/mi pace!) but I did recover well enough, so I guess that’s all that matters. I really pushed on my fourth and had a nice finishing sprint while everyone waited for me to be done.

My final times? 7:56, 7:56, 7:39, and 7:15. Woohoo!

The plus side to being the slowest and everyone waiting on you is everyone cheers and applauds when you are done.

I do think it was a little easier this week than last because of actually being on the track and being able to say to myself, “Only one more lap!” We were also fighting against 20 mph winds (and it started to sprinkle on my last interval), so my times are all the more impressive to me because of that.

Saturday

I was in a hurry on Saturday. I thought I had to be somewhere at a certain time (turns out it was canceled), so I blasted through my mileage for the day. I had planned 5 miles easy, of course, but, in an effort to speed things up, I cut it half a mile short and basically did the whole run at 5k pace with one 2 minute walk break around the 2.5 mile point. Yeah…I’m not sure I can call that my 5k pace much longer.

Sunday

Fourteen miles. 14. How do people train for full marathons? How do people run ultras? I will never know because I doubt I will ever make that attempt based on the fact that I hate long runs and think they should all die.

Despite those lovely sentiments, I had spent the whole week visualizing the run in my head. This will be fun! I am going to kill this run! 14 miles? No problem! That’s less than the distance from my house to…uh, well, not work, that’s closer. And not downtown Nashville either. Um, well, it’s definitely less than the distance from my house to Disney World! I actually, at one point, had psyched myself up for this run so much that I considered signing up for a marathon. The brain is an odd thing.

I did, however, resolve to try out some fueling strategies during the three hours I would be pounding pavement. I looked up to see what they would be providing us during the half marathon and when so that I could mimic that during this run. (With the thought that if that didn’t work, I still had next week’s 12.5 miler to figure something else out.) Except the website doesn’t say. What the heck, people? The site doesn’t even mention how often water stations happen. Anyway, after a bit of googling I found out that last year it appeared there was possibly only one GU station on the half course, at mile 10. So I decided if I wanted to fuel earlier than that, I was going to have to bring my own.

I’ll detail this all out in a future post, but I basically just went to Fleet Feet and got a few things to try based on what the guy who works there told me. For my 14 miler, I decided to try a tri-berry flavored GU at mile 5 (roughly an hour in) and a blueberry flavored Huma at mile 10 (roughly 2 hours in).

In an attempt to see if the gels actually helped, I kept the same 5:2 intervals that I attempted last week. The first few miles were fairly uneventful with most of my running intervals done at easy pace. At mile 5, I trudged up the bridge that crosses the river from Shelby Park to the Stones River greenway and got my first taste of GU when I got there. It wasn’t bad. Mile six was pretty hilly, but I was flying by mile seven. If you recall, by mile seven last week I was practically dead, but here I was running 5k pace. Score one for the gels.

I kept 5k pace on my run intervals throughout the remainder of the run. That’s right. I actually sped up the whole run and ran the second half faster than the first. My legs didn’t even really start to feel tired (okay, they felt a little tired from the beginning because of my speedy run the day before) until about 12.5-13 miles in. That’s nuts. I ran through the 13.1 distance in 2:42:27. Considering my overall goal for the Country Music was 2:45:00, I’d say it’s time to set a new goal if I can best that in training. My final time for 14 miles? 2:54:16 or roughly the same time it took me to run 12.5 miles last weekend.

All in all, this was a HUGE confidence building week!