This morning I was scheduled to run 12 miles. Before beginning I had my usual breakfast of oatmeal, protein powder and a tablespoon of all-natural peanut butter. I normally put half a tablespoon of pb in the porridge but since I was running 12 miles, I thought I’d go crazy and eat the larger amount. That’s about a 250-calorie breakfast, which seemed perfect…until I got to mile six.
I was starving. And I was feeling the effects of low blood sugar. I had taken one Gu gel at the 4-mile mark, which gave me 100 additional calories. I took another at the 8-mile mark. My run felt sluggish at best. Note: I’m a slow runner so 12 miles for me takes about an hour longer than it does for most people. I’ve gotten past being embarrassed about that. The point is, I’m running for a long time and I need to fuel properly. When I got home I checked my average heart rate and I know (from VO2 and metabolism testing) I burned 1464 calories…and I only took in 450. That’s insane.
I called friend and marathon coach Lynn and basically fessed up. I realize that on days when I run long (10 or more miles) I literally hoard my Weight Watcher’s points. I assume I’ll be starving for the rest of the day and I want to use all of those earned activity points towards real food post-run vs. Gu gels during the run.
Lynn helped me see the danger in this kind of thinking. She told me, “If you fuel properly during the run, you won’t be as hungry post-run as you think you’ll be.” Next week I plan to put her theory to the test. I plan to carry along apple slices, orange sections and a homemade oatmeal bar (five WW points), along with my Gu. When I begin to feel the effects of low blood sugar, I’ll eat. If I get hungry, I’ll eat. I’ve learned to eat on the run so it’s not like I’m going to pull over and have a picnic. Just a quick, light snack to keep me on my feet. I won’t be surprised if the additional fuel helps me run a bit faster. After all it’s hard to pick up the pace while fighting off a hypoglycemic swoon.
I’m learning that training runs aren’t just about putting in the miles. For me they are an opportunity for trial and error…a chance to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Making an error now means learning from it before race day.
Clearly, I’m still learning.