Category Archives: nutrition

I didn’t quit drinking, except I basically have, and here is why

I don’t really drink that much anymore… (said the guy who went and had a pilsner yesterday afternoon in Uptown after a long walk).

Seriously, though, while I was never much of a drinker compared to others (especially in highly-alcoholic Chicago, where discarded beer cans are the City Flower)… I have since become a rare drinker. I say that rather than “quit drinking” out of respect to friends who have for their reasons seriously cut all alcohol and take pride in it.

I might have a beer or two, maybe a well drink, once or twice a month at most. Yesterday was the first time I went out of my way to have a drink in months: All the other ABV beverages I’ve had were either as part of events or with family.

I’m still open to having alcohol, but I rarely go out of my way to have any. I may have drinks more often during Loyola basketball season when I’m in reach of Ireland’s Pub 10 before and after games. But otherwise I could go weeks between a drink without thinking much of it.

This could be due to separation from people who habitually drink every weekend (and whenever possible on the weekdays). But being in Wrigleyville, there’s no shortage of opportunity. In fact, I have an unopened bottle of North Shore Aquavit that has sat in my fridge unopened for over two years. If I wanted alcohol it’s basically right there, all the time. But I hardly want it.

Sure, being a runner who trains daily might be a factor. But plenty of runners enjoy a beer on the regular, and other than monthly pint night events or races I still don’t really drink. And of course, because I’m burning thousands of extra calories a week it’s not like I couldn’t get away with a drink every few days, or even every day if I wanted.

So what steers me away from drinking? There are actually more fundamental factors, and none of them have to do with pious morality.

Snoring.

My family’s had a history of snoring problems, and I’m no exception. Laying in some positions, it can become a problem. Well, when you drink your muscles relax, and that includes the tissues in your throat. This gives your ENT airways more flappy tissue to make snoring noise with, so you snore more. Snoring indicates your airway is obstructed, and this can interfere with sleep… not to mention the noise can interfere with other people’s sleep. So, since I want to avoid snoring, I want to avoid things that cause snoring… like alcohol.

Alcohol disrupts my sleep.

Even if you’re tired enough to quickly drift off to sleep after a night of drinks, alcohol interferes enough with your circadian rhythms to prevent you from logging substantial periods of deep and REM sleep, the key portions of sleep to rejuvenating your body. Often, you’ll wake up during the night or otherwise prematurely. I usually don’t sleep well after having even one drink most of the time, no matter how good I felt from the moment I drank it until the end of the day. It has a ripple effect on the entire next day, like any day where I don’t get enough sleep. So, since I usually don’t want my sleep disrupted, I avoid drinking.

I have a lot of stuff I want to do the next morning.

I have a life, and I’m a big time morning person. I like to get up early and go have coffee, work on writing, walk through the hood and other things in the morning. Waking up feeling like garbage from drinking or from not sleeping well due to the drinking interferes with that. Most who drink want to sleep in and not bother with the morning. But I like getting up the next morning and doing stuff more than I like drinking.

Alcohol hurts my mood the next day.

Never mind that alcohol is a known depressant (a key reason I never under any circumstances drink if I’m in a foul mood or am dealing with trouble). I’ve found without fail that, regardless of how I physically feel the next day, my mood and outlook by the following afternoon has subtlely, mysteriously slid. I feel a bit sad for no clear reason and as most people do my mind starts fumbling for reasons why. But in all likelihood it’s the after-effects of the alcohol filtering through my body, and in turn my brain. I have the sense now to remind myself of that and notice when it’s happening so I can not take any negative emotions to heart. But generally I find it better to avoid the situation, and drinking in general, entirely.

It’s only enjoyable if you’re in a good mood and with people you like.

A key reason I drink mostly at runner pint nights or before Loyola basketball games is because I’m around good people and in a situation I enjoy. I’m not into drinking for the sake of drinking, for the sake of drowning sorrows or salving a tough day or week (whether or not I joke about needing a drink during a difficult day). It’s harder than we think to find those situations, and most of the time I’m not in good company or in high spirits. Drinking isn’t going to add a ton of value then, so why do it?

It costs money.

Oh, and of course, alcohol is not free (even drinking from alcohol in your home is drinking alcohol you paid for, and accelerates the need to buy more alcohol later). Go to a bar and buying a single drink is going to cost $5-10. That’s money I can definitely put to better use in just about every way, and I’m not in the economic bracket where throwing that much money down a hole is negligible in the long run. There’s got to be a good reason for me to spend that kind of money.


 

Again, all this runs the risk of seeming like I have some sort of moral piety against drinking. I like drinking when I do it, but the situations where I like doing it are fewer and farther between than for most.

If anything, I probably take issue with people building their lifestyle and sense of culture around doing it frequently, as a habit and for its own sake. This is of course very prevalent in Chicago. While it would be great if people made better use of their money and time, everyone should get to live their own life as long as they’re not hurting anyone or otherwise unduly impeding anyone else’s ability to live their life.

If for some reason I had to never take a drink again, I don’t think I’d be that upset about it. That said, I like drinking. I just don’t like it doing it all that often.

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My observed pros and cons of different kinds of running fuel on long runs

In many of my long training runs I not only experimented with fueling during runs as training for marathons, but also because given the scope of the run I needed to take in that fuel.

I have tried a wide range of fueling options, as recommended by various sources, and found that all have their particular advantages and disadvantages.

Ultimately, in a long distance race I prefer to drink Gatorade if they have it on course. Barring that (e.g. if they use a no-calorie sports drink like Nuun), I’ll bring Clif Shot Bloks. For anything shorter than 10 miles I’ll tough it out and drink water… maybe whatever sports drink they have if I feel like it.

But again, I’ve tried a variety of different fueling sources during workouts. Here’s my observed advantages and disadvantages for each:

Bringing small snacks (e.g.a protein bar or granola bar)

Advantages: Something like a protein or granola bar feels a lot more satisfying than other fuel sources while running. It’s usually closer to actual food! They often contain protein and fat, which are more satiating.

Disadvantages: Small snacks can make a mess, or worse yet fall out of your hands onto the ground more easily. Because they must be eaten, they can pose a choking risk, or to lesser extent make it hard to breathe when you try to eat them while running. Getting them out of the package can be more of a pain than the quicker consumption afforded by drinks and gels.

Verdict: While I’m never against bringing a snack with me, it’s something I won’t go out of my way to do. I definitely won’t turn down a protein bar for the road before or after a run, however.

Syrups

I have experimented with different kinds of syrups, such as honey and raw agave, mostly going with raw agave due to its viscosity making it easier to pour from a gel flask. I would consume these intermittently throughout the run.

Advantages: They are a dense form of quickly digested sugar carbohydrate, which provides much-needed glycogen during a long run. A single ounce can contain about 100 calories (25g) of pure sugar. This buys your muscles time and distance before exhausting  glycogen stores.

Disadvantages: These sugars are simple and the body may only use this fuel to maintain bodily functions rather than fuel your lower body muscles. Both are sticky and can create a mess even if you do not spill. Honey in particular is very viscous and may flow too slowly from a container during a run to be useful. Practically, you need a container to dispense these syrups such as a gel flask, and these typically only hold 5-6 ounces. For very long runs, this might not be enough fuel.

Verdict: I used raw agave on long runs for a while, but I’m probably done with using it as a long run fuel source. Thankfully I’ve built up the endurance to finish 15-20 milers without fuel, so carrying fuel for these runs is no longer necessary like before.

Gels

The most commonly used form of fuel in long distance races. These are typically sold in single use disposable 100 calorie packs.

Advantages: Unlike syrups and other sugars, gels are specifically engineered to quickly provide glycogen for your muscles rather than just general function. Gels typically come in single use packets and are more easily portable.

Disadvantages: Gels taste nasty (don’t @ me about the flavors having gotten better, runners. A better tasting version of motor oil still tastes like motor oil). Though portable, the gels are still messy, possibly more so than syrups. Gels are even more viscous, making it harder to extract from the package and consume. You typically need to wash them down with a lot of water. You also have to find a way to dispose of the used packets. In races, runners tend to do the worst: Dropping used packets on the ground behind them, for other runners to slip on. This alone turns me off of them, but the other stuff doesn’t help either.

Verdict: Hell no. As I say to people when Papa John’s pizza arrives, how do you people eat this crap?

Gatorade

The classic sugar and electrolyte solution, in a bottle or mixed in a container of varying size. You drink it while working out and it replenishes you.

Advantages: Drinking Gatorade kills two birds with one stone, hydrating you with water and providing glycogen-rich calories. When running races, most race hosts provide Gatorade free of charge just as they do water. Gatorade is also a lot more widely available at stores, usually at a cheap price. If you’re lucky stores sell bottles out of a refrigerated case, making it doubly refreshing!

Disadvantages: Gatorade is liquid, meaning it has more weight and takes up more volume than other fueling options. A typical bottle of Gatorade can weigh anywhere from 1-2 pounds, which slows you down during running until you drink it and it’s in you.

Also, Gatorade can only carry so many calories: A 32 oz bottle only has about 240ish calories. If you need 500+ calories in fuel for something like a marathon, that’s not going to cut it. You simply can’t carry that much Gatorade.

If the Gatorade mixed in person instead of bought factory-made (Hint: The Gatorade served at races is often mixed on-site), there’s a chance it may not be mixed correctly and you may not get the full caloric benefit… defeating a key purpose of drinking it.

If it’s hot outside, liquid warms. Gatorade tastes like a nasty sugar soup when it’s warm.

Verdict: I find Gatorade terrific and if it was healthy to do so I’d drink a ton of it after workouts (Hint: You’re supposed to drink it while working out, not after; it’s literally sugar water). If carrying it wasn’t too much of a burden I’d carry a bottle with me on every long or intense workout.

But if I want it for a long run I’ll have to find a way to get some during the run, then down it before continuing. Or pay someone to carry it behind me while riding a bike. (Hint: I’m currently NOT accepting applications for this role)

Chews

Clif Shot Bloks. Honey Stingers. These are gummy like things you chew before or during a workout to provide the same sort of sugar-loaded energy as gels or Gatorade. A typical small pack contains 150-200 calories, and some versions contain caffeine.

Advantages: Like gels and Gatorade, chews are engineered to digest quickly for use as muscular glycogen, and are a perfect fuel for races and key runs. A typical package provides 150-200 calories of workout-friendly sugars in an easily chewable pack. The packs are esaily portable, and in my experience they do charge up your workout quickly once ingested… even the non-caffeinated versions.

Disadvantages: Compared to other fuel options chews are not cheap: A typical pack of 6 can cost $2.50-3.00.

As with other food, eating chews during a run can make it hard to breathe.

Also, if you need more than one 150-200 calorie pack (which I certainly do in marathons and other similar long runs), they take up considerable space once you carry more than 2-3 of them. When I attempted Vancouver I had to wear two fanny packs, with one holding just my Clif Shot Bloks for the race.

Because chews are a solid (albeit soft) food, they can be a choking hazard if consumed while running. They don’t always go down easy so you sometimes need to chase them with water. I abhor stopping a race completely just to eat them.

Verdict: For workouts, chews aren’t at all necessary. I won’t consume them for any race shorter than a marathon. Whether I pack them for a marathon depends on what I feel my overall glycogen needs will be. The more aggressively I plan to run the race, the more glycogen I will need. And the less glycogen provided on course (e.g. if a race provides calorie-free energy drinks instead of Gatorade), the more likely I will go with Clif Shot Bloks as my fuel.

Eating a small meal ahead of time

Whenever I have time, on the morning of a race or a long run I try to have a quick breakfast sandwich with a shot of espresso before heading to the race site.

Advantages: This not only sates me but effectively pre-loads my bloodstream with some ready-to-use fat and glycogen, boosting my capabilities, saving the glycogen in my muscles to some extent. A bonk becomes quite unlikely when I eat right before a run.

Disadvantages: I don’t always have the time, space or means to prepare/eat a small meal before a run. In some cases, I may need to take a crap shortly after a meal… not ideal during a run! There’s some prep (that I won’t get into) the day prior I can do to avoid the possibility of this, but it’s still an unwelcome possibility.

Verdict: I always, always try to eat a meal a couple hours before a race. On occasion if there’s time and space I’ll try and eat breakfast before a morning long run. I’ll definitely make sure to eat 3ish hours beforehand if a hard/long workout takes place in the afternoon. But I just did my last 18+ miler early in the morning with no food in me and none taken during the run. So outside of races it’s certainly not necessary.

Breaking the run in half and then eating at halftime

I’ve done this more recently. Basically, I go on a long run, but at some point past the halfway mark I stop for a bit to eat and something to drink, chill out a bit, then resume shortly after finishing the meal.

Advantages: This can help ease the hard work of a long run, by breaking the run into two shorter runs. The fuel from a meal definitely feels welcome after several miles, and comes in handy for those last miles. It can help get a head start on recovery from the initial part of the run. Also, I get to take a rest.

Disadvantages: As mentioned before, my bowels may act up with food in the tank, especially if I resume running right after eating. It’s also possible that I cool down to the point where I need to once again warm up or ease into the 2nd half of the run. I’ve typically felt better after stopping (I tend to handle working out right after eating fairly well), but sometimes I do come out of the meal creaky.

Verdict: If I’m training for a longer race, especially if I’m late in the training cycle… breaking up the long run might compromise the value of that long run. I mitigate this by only stopping after having run for 2.0-2.5 hours, which is the back wall recommended for most long runs anyway. Extending the run after that isn’t a problem with a break. Otherwise, I have no problem breaking up a long run with a halftime meal.

In fact, I did so twice over the last few months! My first crack at 20 miles (which sadly only went 19.45 due to a miscalc) had a halftime where I stopped in Edgewater for food and drink at Whole Foods. And last month I stopped at a hot dog stand near Navy Pier during the back end a 17 miler, treating myself to a hot dog and some Powerade. Hit the spot.

Not eating at all

This is what I do most often! This is what most people do for most runs. You don’t worry about fuel, and just do the damn run. For most runs this is totally fine. Even for most longer runs this is totally fine. To do the longest runs this way can be challenging, and can also be rewarding training depending on goals for the run (e.g. running to deplete your glycogen stores to practice running in that state).

Advantages: Not worrying about fuel makes long workouts a lot simpler. I won’t have to worry about timing fuel intake or other distractions. I also train my body to handle glycogen depletion on longer runs, which better prepares me to handle key late points in races such as the marathon.

Disadvantages: If I’m training for a marathon, practicing fueling is valuable and this could be a lost opportunity to either practice or experiment with fueling in-race. Based on the length of the run, I could bonk during the run, perhaps increase the likelihood of injury, illness or some other setback. Not fueling could also compromise performance on some longer runs (maybe I want to practice some tempo segments), which depending on my goals could be an issue.

Verdict: If it’s not a race or a dangerously long distance, running without fuel is the way to go. If it’s very long or I need to practice marathon fueling, then I really should bring some fuel.

In Conclusion….

I’m hungry.

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Cleaning up my lifestyle (further)

With a career change came a shift in my lifestyle. I had also re-gained about 5-10 of the pounds I had previously lost during the last few months at my old job, despite a high volume of regular running. The resulting self-reflection led me to make wholesale improvements to my lifestyle.

Granted, my habits weren’t terrible to begin with: My diet and lifestyle at the start of 2018 was dramatically improved over 2015, let alone 2010-2014, let alone further back etc. But you don’t gain weight randomly. Even though I logged my food and found I was about even with my estimated calorie burn, I apparently was storing more than I could use. Along with my career situation, something clearly wasn’t right.


 

I cleaned up my diet in varying stages over the years, but over the past few months have really simplified it. At this point I’m challenging myself to eat as much whole food (cuts of whole meat, raw fruit, vegetables, rice) as possible. There are a lot of reasons for this.

  • It’s easier to track whole food items in Fitbit, and a lot harder when you eat something complex/processed, especially from a restaurant where you’re not privy to the ingredients let alone.
  • Processed food typically costs more per serving than its whole food counterparts. You’re paying for, among other things, satiety combined with immediacy. Sometimes I need that for whatever reason (it’s convenient at the end of a tiring day with few prior meals to house an Eastside Cafe frozen pizza and immediately get that 80-95 grams of protein, plus a bunch of calcium etc from all that fatty cheese). But usually I can find the space to prepare a fulfilling meal from whole food myself at home.
  • Processed food lacks key nutrients… especially dietary fiber, protein, and the underrated potassium. Plus, there’s far too much inflammatory and water-retaining sodium in processed food, and in many cases far too much fat. Since I run every day and am active in general, I need all the nutrients and as little garbage I can get.
  • You have no idea what 90% of processed food’s ingredients are, what they come from, what it does to your body long-term, etc etc. To get into the nuances of this would probably send us both into seizures, so let’s leave it at that.
  • Processed food is engineered to generate cravings to eat more food, which defeats a key reason to eat food (satiety i.e. not feeling the need to eat more food).
  • Hormonal balance and healthy hormone production is predicated largely on getting enough nutrients. Processed food is nutrient poor and disruptive. Whole foods closest to their natural state are nutrient rich.
  • I’ve found more ways to efficiently prepare and port whole, natural foods. I’ve had an on again, off again relationship with canned sardines, and now that I’ve found I can combine them with white rice prepared at home, they’ve become a lunch staple at work.

One problem that emerged at my prior job is that I started buying lunch more often. Previously I had brought food and eaten that every day, but even eating that food I was also sneaking out for hot bar meals. Granted, as I ran at a higher volume leading up to Vancouver I needed the extra nutrition. But that nutrition was also highly processed and was probably a key factor in my weight gain… not just for insidious extra calories, but the processed food probably wreaked havoc on my biology with inflammation and compromised hormonal function.

Changing careers coupled with a break from marathon training allowed me space to experiment with my eating habits, with different food choices (which granted were limited based on what I was doing for work and when: you have more freedom in some work situations than others).

Currently I’m on work assignment in an area close to two supermarkets with hot bars. Of course, hot bar food is not only partially processed, but expensive.


 

I wasn’t getting as much sleep as before. I woke up more during the night, woke up earlier, went to bed no earlier. I had plenty of time to sleep, yet my sleep was being disrupted.

This is something I still work on, granted. It’s a matter of forming the needed habits to eliminate the habits and sources compromising my sleep:

  • Remember to shut off all electronics, as well as disconnect power sources to those electronics, before bed. When I shut down my mobile and turn off the power to the modem and router (my laptop is already shut completely down at the end of every night), I find I sleep better. And while the evidence is disputed, there is evidence that electronics do interfere with sleep even when they’re off.
  • Call it a night during the 10pm hour. If I let my attention span drift and keep me awake through 11pm, that’s when sleep becomes a problem. Not only does it limit the hours I can sleep but it means more blue light later in the night, which is known to interfere with sleep.
  • Eating a satisfying meal within a couple hours of bed that doesn’t leave me wanting once I do lay down to sleep, since I know that hunger keeps me awake and can wake me up during the night.
  • Using my window A/C to keep the room reasonably cool during the night, as summer warmth does interfere with my sleep.
  • Making sure I get in solid exercise, usually at least a run, because I notice that on days I don’t exercise much I also tend not to sleep well.

 

Even though I avoided it because I run and need plenty of calories, I started intermittent fasting again. Basically, I skip breakfast and my first meal of the day is lunch, usually around 12:00 noon or 1:00pm. Along with the obvious tendency to eat less since I’m eating one fewer meal a day, going 12-16 hours between dinner and this 1st meal also improves fat burning during that time while helping to reset hormonal function. I definitely feel a difference, more so than hunger pangs. I’ll have black coffee and water in the morning at work, and that’s usually it.

This also improves the digestion and utilization of that 1st lunch meal, since your body is primed to get after whatever food you finally give it. At my current work assignment, it sets the metabolic table well for that 5pm run home from work. And that sets the table well for effective digestion of dinner later than evening. I definitely eat fewer calories, but I don’t feel at all broken down as I worried I would before if I ever went back to fasting. Quite the opposite.

There’s more I can say about Intermittent Fasting but I’ll save that for another time. Basically, I’m now at a place where it works well for me.


 

Since getting my act further together, my weight has gone back down to about 163-164 lbs, about 5 pounds down from where it had re-peaked during the end of my last career. My body fat has receded from 17-18% to a better 15-16%.

More to come on that front, but it’s looking good for now.

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A marathon dress rehearsal run, and discussing in-race fueling options

Yesterday’s 6 mile run wasn’t so much about training, because at this point of the taper I’m pretty much as trained as I’m going to get.

The goal of the run was to practice marathon fueling. Never minding that the Vancouver Marathon uses low-calorie Nuun as their electrolyte hydration at aid stations (which isn’t effective like Gatorade because Nuun is low calorie and the calories in Gatorade are important to avoid late-rate bonking)… even if they used a better solution, race mixed drinks are typically mixed on-site, often poorly so and leaving your cup short on the actual electrolyte solution.

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If I haven’t effectively implied it, one of my primary race goals is to avoid hitting The Wall, the moment of 100% glycogen depletion when you bonk and just have nothing left in energy. I’m obviously not a marathon expert by any means, but anyone who says it’s unavoidable is wrong.

For those wondering why they hit the wall late in a race… pretty much every resource points to a lack of effective in-race fueling. Your body burns mostly carbs when running at any pace beyond a recovery jog, and the faster/harder you’re running the more proportionally you burn carbs. At my size I burn about 120 calories per mile run, and at over 26 miles, that’s over 3200 calories burned.

Despite my weight loss and fitness, I still carry a good portion of fat. But fat burns glacially in exercise compared to carbs. While you can train your body to proportionally burn more fat, your fat will never burn anywhere close to as fast as carbs will during a run. Carbs become glycogen, which is your body’s primary fuel during a run. No matter how much fat you have… as soon as you tap out your available glycogen, you bonk. You’re running on auxiliary power and your body acts like it. So I have to make sure I get enough carb fuel to offer a chance of avoiding the wall in the final miles.

(Yes, your pacing and general hydration are also factors, but those are far easier to control. And all of this never minds that no matter what I’m absolutely going to be very sore and tired in the later miles. I accept that.)

According to the Hansons’ fueling formulas, my lower body stores around 1200 calories of glycogen, and should burn about 1000-1200 calories of fat throughout the race. If I properly pace myself I need about 600-750 calories in pure carbs to finish the marathon without hitting the wall. I also should ideally do it frequently in smaller portions rather than every half hour or when I pass the aid stations.

Even if courses provide nutrition, your best bet is to carry this nutrition yourself and consume it regularly throughout the marathon (which adds the benefit of allowing you to pick nutrition that works best for you). Plus, I still need to be able to physically get myself to a food resource and then back to the hotel, so I’m better off overkilling a little bit on what I carry and consume since my effort doesn’t end at the finish line.

Since I’m not Eliud Kipchoge with custom engineered drink bottles waiting for me every 5K, and point to point van service for transport… I’ve needed to figure out what to carry with me. I only have so much space in a belt pack, and carrying a 32oz bottle of Gatorade will obviously slow me down more than it’s worth, as every extra pound you carry adds 3-5 seconds to your mile time. What I use has to work effectively, and be portable.

Over the last few months I’ve worked on in-race fueling on various runs. I’ve experimented with gels (one packet is 100 calories), chews (one 6-chew packet is 200 calories), honey (a full 6oz flask is 568 calories), and for a while made a go with the minimally viscuous raw agave in a gel flask (6oz = 485 calories).

The agave is portable and easily consumable, but its simple sugars only replenish certain glycogen stores (albeit important ones for the body, like in the liver) and aren’t fully utilized by the body to run. I still found myself fading or even bonking late in 2.5+ hour runs despite consuming it every 10-15 minutes in-run… whereas the more engineered electrolyte sugars of Gatorade and similar drinks did keep me going.

I have found Clif Shot Bloks useful, but there’s an obvious problem: Trying to chew and swallow something while actively running at a decent pace makes it a little hard to breathe, which in turn makes it hard to effectively run until you’ve swallowed (and hopefully washed down) a given blok.

And, as I’ve found out the hard way, you definitely need to chase anything you consume with water or the issue will become much more difficult. In a race that will already be very taxing, those little aggravations could more quickly exhaust my energy stores before the end of the race… which defeats the purpose of fueling in the first place.

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So anyway, I sampled the shot bloks once again yesterday while carrying 20oz of water. Perhaps active water use after consumption would help. Perhaps practice would help. They are the easiest and least messy of my fueling options, and if I can make them work it’s a better solution than gel, which is not only really messy and tastes like flavored motor oil but doesn’t feel good in digestion. I took one blok every 10 minutes and washed it down after swallowing.

The good news is despite attacking Cricket Hill (up and down) three times during the run, I felt energized after the run as compared to tired (as I often am when I take a similar run after work). The issue remains that, even with water, the moments between the blok entering my mouth and when it finally goes down remain difficult for my breathing and in turn my running. My heart rate did spike the first 3 times I fueled but stayed level the subsequent times… but my pace wasn’t great relative to my active heart rate, and I suspect repeating this process 8-24 times could slow me down and further complicate an already complicated marathon situation.

Now, I could just do it anyway, which I think is not a bad Plan A given this is already going to be a difficult race, and having usable fuel for the haul that works is better than not having such fuel. I think no matter what I’m going to bring Shot Bloks for the race, and if no better method presents itself I will just suck it up and pop one every 10-15 minutes until I cross the finish line.

I can also consider loading up a gel flask with agave and carrying it as well, saving the Shot Bloks for every 30-60 minutes or so, and just taking the agave on the regular. Both sources are palatable and digest reasonably well, and (though I will want to attempt using them together at home or in training to make sure nothing happens) I think having an adequate supply of both will cover my fueling bases.

The race has an interesting (possibly Canadian?) wrinkle, supplying bananas to runners at an aid station around mile 19. Aside from the concern of runners recreating a Mario Kart course with discarded banana peels, I think taking and eating one at the opportunity would also help. Bananas are my most common post-run carb-replenish fuel, so digestion is no problem.

And of course I plan to stick to a pre-race ritual: Eating a breakfast sandwich and chasing it with a shot of espresso a couple hours before the race. The nutrition from this must be important: Every time I’ve done this, I’ve raced well.

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Admittedly, a lot of the above is talk-it-through thought process on my part. I’ve given this a lot of thought, because being able to finish the race with dignity regardless of finishing time is a high priority for me, and I know fueling in-race is vital to that happening.

Random things I learned over my time running, with no explanation

The harder your feet hit the ground, the quicker you’ll get tired and the more you will hurt.

You’ve got to eat like a bodybuilder: A whole food minimally processed diet anchored by lots of clean protein.

Sleeping well matters a LOT more.

The quicker your feet can step during a run, the easier keeping a faster pace will be.

In cold weather you will warm up after 20 minutes of running.

To race great you have to go out slower than everyone else wants to, and resist keeping up with them.

If you take advantage, life will give you lots of opportunity to practice running in little bursts.

If you can comfortably run in them, lighter and less-cushioned shoes feel better.

If your body can handle it, walking and weight training will not only make you stronger but help you heal between workouts.

You’ll know by feel when you shouldn’t use a pair of shoes for training anymore.

Perfect temperatures can actually be too hot for running.

Most people don’t understand the importance of fueling during long runs.

Most people over-fuel on shorter regular runs.

Big races are overrated, and consistent high-volume training is underrated.

Most people do their easy/regular/recovery running way too fast and hard.

If someone runs or bikes close to you on an empty path, they’re intentionally harrassing you.

Beginning runners try to do too much right away.

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