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?