14 May 2014

how not to fuel for a long run

After years of running, you would think I would have some things down pat.

And I do, mostly—things like gauging my pace, when to get new shoes, and what kind of socks are best.

But then there's the whole eating thing—the fueling thing more precisely. Before a longer run, you quite obviously have to eat or you will hate yourself about 25 minutes in as your energy level nosedives. You will question why you ever thought running was fun, and you'll cry when you realize the only way home is on your already-leaden legs. Or by hitchhiking, but we're a wary culture now, and that doesn't work as well as it did in the 60s.

I know. I have been there {not trying to hitchhike on the side of a running path—although I have successfully hitchhiked twice, but that was in Europe and is a story for another time}.

From the moment you start to feel light-headed, the berating begins, sometimes mental, sometimes out loud, as you work through this incredibly poor choice you made to not fuel well.

I've figured out that the best fuel for me is a banana and peanut butter toast. I know this as surely as I know my Little Pug looks adorable in sweaters.

But in the early mornings before a run, that doesn't always sound good. In fact, food rarely sounds good right when I get up; I may be a morning person overall, but my stomach definitely is not.

My stomach is more of a lady of leisure. It prefers to wake up slowly, ease into the day {by reading in bed, maybe}, and then, with sunlight streaming through the thrown-open French doors, it prefers to have a light breakfast served to it.

In other words: I almost never want to eat until I've been up a couple of hours, and even then, I'd prefer my food were brought to me by a servant.

Ladies of leisure probably don't do long runs, though, and I need to eat as soon as I get up before heading out on a run.

This is what happened before I went on a 12-mile run the other day: I told my stomach, "Get it together and accept that you're going to eat now. If your biggest problem today is that you need to eat peanut butter, you're doing pretty okay in life."

Intimidation was the wrong tactic to take, and I barely got down half a piece of toast and part of a banana. Ignoring the feeling I was going to throw up, I headed outside, hoping against hope that it would be enough energy for the run.

It wasn't.

I made it the whole 12 miles, but I spent part of it scheming ways I could find sugar along the running path. Options included:
  • Stopping at the 7-11 along the way and begging for a Twinkie. Of course I didn't bring money with me on a run at 6am, but I thought that if I looked really trustworthy and earnest, they'd give me one, and I'd return later with the 63 cents I owed them.
  • Same plan as the 7-11, but this time at the French Market. I would beg a pain au chocolat from the nun who speaks mostly French. This plan would have the double benefit of allowing me to practice my French.
  • Licking candy bar wrappers I saw on the side of the path. That is disgusting, and no, I didn't really think of doing that, although given how your reasoning abilities disappear when your blood sugar is low, I'm frankly surprised I didn't consider this.
  • Stopping by my church and banging on the locked doors yelling "Sanctuary!" until someone let me in. Then I'd go straight to the cafe and drink all the dairy products we normally serve on Sunday with our coffee and tea. Heck, I would even drink the soy milk.

Scheming kept me going, step after step, and I made it 12 miles without fainting and in a pretty good time.

And as soon as I got home, I opened up a jar of Cookie and Cocoa Butter and ate it by the spoonful. I even put some on my leftover Easter Peeps and got a sugar influx so intense, I felt like I could run another 12.

Which of course I didn't. One of the food-related things I am good at in running is post-run eating, so after my sugar fest, I made myself a 2-egg omelet and went about the rest of my day.

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