Long run, fuel belts, and Rice Krispies

Today I ran 18 miles (approximately, since I don’t have a GPS) as part of my New York City Marathon preparation. It’s been very hot in San Diego (September and October are the hottest months here), so I woke up at 5:30, ate a small breakfast of a bowl of Rice Krispies cereal (don’t judge me!) and a glass of apple juice (my favorite thing to drink!), drove to Mission Beach, and started running at 6:40. Sun was already out. I don’t have any pictures to share in my blog like other runners do because I never take my phone with me when I run. So all you get are words, although I do try to make them eloquent. Deal with it.

I ran along the Mission Beach boardwalk (it’s really a concrete sidewalk, but they call it a boardwalk here) through Pacific Beach, into La Jolla, through the La Jolla neighborhoods to La Jolla Cove (smelly with the seals!), to the La Jolla Tennis Center, turned around and ran all the way back. I saw a lot of runners out as part of the many marathon training groups. Most of them had those silly fuel belts around their waists. Someone should tell them how to do long runs properly. Most of the runners I saw were also overweight, which made me wonder why so many people attempt to run a marathon before they lose weight. Many of them do it because they think marathon training will make them lose weight, but (1) after the long run they eat themselves into oblivion and (2) most recreational runners in these marathon training groups only do the long run on the weekend and don’t run much (if at all) during the week, so they remain overweight. I think it’s great that the marathon has the power to get people off their couches and be active, but it’s hard not to think, as I see them run, that trying to run for so long while carrying that much extra weight is bad for their joints and their hearts. And then on top of that they try to rush the marathon training process and end up going to the start line ill-prepared for what’s in front of them. Anyway, I have to think of something while I’m on these long runs…

These long runs are difficult for me. I’m definitely not a long distance runner. I didn’t take any carb gels during the run today. I’ve been alternating long runs with and without carbs – with to get used to what I’m going to do during the marathon and without to force greater biochemical adaptations. People ask me all the time about this no-carb strategy, so here’s a brief excerpt about it from my book, Running a Marathon For Dummies:

“Ingesting carbohydrates during long runs maintains your blood glucose level and makes you feel better. However, doing so has the potential to defeat one of the main purposes of the long run, which is to deplete your muscles of carbohydrates. Ingesting carbohydrates during your long runs provides muscles with an accessible fuel, thereby blunting the three adaptations you want to achieve: (1) the depletion and subsequent resynthesis of more glycogen, (2) the muscles’ reliance on fat, and (3) the liver’s ability to make new glucose via gluconeogenesis. If you consume carbs during the long run, your liver doesn’t have to make new glucose; it can go on vacation, sitting back and watching as glucose enters your blood from what you ingest.

Not consuming carbs during your long runs, though effective for forcing adaptations, isn’t for beginner runners or the faint of heart. Running until you’ve depleted your fuel tank doesn’t feel good. Beginner runners just need to get through the long runs, which already provide a stress. If you’re a beginner runner and your goal is to finish the marathon without any concern for the time you run it in, feel free to consume carbs during your long runs so you can get through the runs. The carbs can give you both a physical and psychological boost. Ingest simple carbs, preferably glucose, so the sugar can quickly pass through your stomach and get into your small intestine, from where it’s absorbed into the blood. Gels, gummy bears, jelly beans, and sports drinks are all good, easily digestible sources of simple carbs.

If you’re an intermediate or advanced runner who’s run a few marathons before and your goal is to run your next marathon faster, try to go without carbs on some of your long runs so you maximize your physiological adaptations. However, be prepared for the sluggish feeling you’re likely to experience toward the end of the run.

Although not fueling your long training runs can help your marathon performance, the marathon itself is another story. In the marathon, you definitely want to consume carbs because maintaining blood glucose levels for as long as you can is important so you can maintain your pace.

Even though you use a different strategy for the marathon than you do for training, you don’t ever want to do something in the marathon that you haven’t done in training. So don’t consume carbohydrates in the marathon if you’ve never done so during your long training runs. Otherwise, you may end up with some gastrointestinal distress in the race and have to take some trips to the Porta-Potties along the race course! Try to balance the physiological purpose of the long runs with the practical gastrointestinal issue of consuming carbohydrates while running. To attend to both issues, I recommend alternating your long training runs during which you consume and don’t consume carbohydrates.”

If you want more insights like this, pick up a signed copy of Running a Marathon For Dummies! It’s worth about an extra 50 cents with my autograph.

So, now I’m recovering from my long run, writing my blog, and looking forward to having a rest day tomorrow. 55 miles this week, including today’s long run of 18 miles, a 10-mile solid aerobic run a bit slower than acidosis (lactate) threshold pace, and a workout on the track of 5 x 1 mile at acidosis threshold pace with 1 minute rest. One more solid week of training before a recovery week.

If you want to support my New York City Marathon run, which I’m doing in memory of my mom, please donate to the American Cancer Society at http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/DetermiNation/DNFY11EA?px=29614587&pg=personal&fr_id=54459.

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