Fueling Plan for Portland Marathon

What I carried with me

One item that I spent quite a bit of time on when training and preparing for the Portland Marathon was how to properly fuel during the race. I used my training runs to find out the best way to get fluids and electrolytes back into my system.

From my research, I knew that the reason people bonk at mile 20 is because their glycogen stores are depleted. Your body can only store enough glycogen to get you to about mile 20 and then the body tries to convert fat to use as energy and it’s a much slower process. In order to delay that from happening,  that you need to replenish while you run before you are tired.

Fluids

I knew from the beginning I wanted to carry my own water. I like to be able to drink when i’m thirsty and avoid the traffic jams as much as possible at the aid stations.

I played around with handheld bottles, fuel belts and a hydration pack. Here was my take on them.

Handheld bottle – Was out immediately as it couldn’t hold enough and found during my training runs that it threw off my balance, I liked having my hands free during long runs. I still use for medium length runs (6-10 miles).

Fuel Belt – I’ve got to say, never been a fan. Maybe I haven’t tried the right kind or the fit was off, but having a bottle constantly hitting my ass for 4+ hours was not welcoming to me.

Hydration Pack – This appealed the most to me. It could carry plenty of fluids, had pockets to hold shot blocks and power bars, was comfortable to wear for long periods and didn’t throw off my form. I picked up the Nathan HPL #20  a month or so before the marathon to try out on the longer runs. It was a bit overkill for my needs, but didn’t want to get something too small only to have to upgrade later, the weight difference between the smaller and larger packs was minimal. The HPL has been a winner for me, has plenty of adjustment straps to ensure a comfortable fit and enough pockets to hold whatever I need to carry. Some people have complained about the valve, but I believe they have improved it in recent versions, no problems here.

I think i’m going to do some more looking at different fuel belts, while the hydration pack works well, the excess sweat it can create on my back is a bit of a bummer on hot days.

Fuel

Picking the right fuel was all about trial and error. Use the long and medium runs to find what you like, what taste good and is easy to open and eat. A few things I learned for myself.

Gu’s – Can’t stand them..hate the texture, hate the sticky feeling in my mouth, can be messy, just plain don’t like em.

Clif Shot Blocks – These ended up working well for me in training. I tried 3 flavors;

  • Black Cherry – Has Caffeine
  • Margarita – Additional Sodium
  • Strawberry – Regular formula

I carried all 3 flavors and alternated between them all.

I also found during my long runs that I was just plain getting hungry towards the end of my run, so I started to pack a power bar or protein bar with me and eating some of those around the 3 hour mark. This also helped me with digestion of the shot blocks, if I eat too many, I feel like my stomach is just full of sugar.

Electrolytes

I’m a sweater, no getting around that fact. I also seem to have a high concentration of salt in my sweat as evident by the white streaks I have on my face after a long run. This meant I was going to have to take in some sodium during my runs. The shot blocks have some, but based on my calculations, not nearly enough to replenish what you are sweating out. I played around with adding a bit of table salt to my water (not a good idea), or just carrying a few salt packets from Wendy’s or McDonalds (that worked great).

The Plan

This was the plan I had laid out before marathon day and made myself a promise to stick to it. I do think it helped, I didn’t get a huge bonk at mile 20 and felt relatively good at the end, I credit that with sticking to the following:

Breakfast
Plain English Muffin
Creamy Peanut Butter
Honey Nut Cheerios
Non Fat Milk
1/2 Cup of Coffee

30 Prior to start – Shot Block
:30 – Shot Block
1:00 – Shot Block
1:30 – Shot Block
2:00 – Shot Block
2:30 – Shot Block
2:45 – Power Bar – half
3:00 – Shot Block, Salt Packet
3:30 – Shot Block
3:50 – Shot Block, Salt Packet
4:10 – Shot Block

Water as needed, and with shot blocks

By and large I stuck to this schedule. I allowed myself to fluctuate based on how I felt. The important part for me was to be sure I was taking in fluids, fuel and electrolytes on a regular basis, small enough servings that wouldn’t blow out my stomach

Miles 22-25 things started to go a little haywire for me and I began drinking some of the ultima supplied by the aid stations and eating some of the pretzels that were supplied, but overall I was really pleased with this plan. Any changes I would make would probably be to tweak it include a sodium packet closer to the 2:00 mark, It was a warm day in Portland and that meant I was losing a lot of sodium

Anyway, that is what worked for me. Be sure to use your training runs to test everything before you apply it on raceday!

 

2012 Portland Marathon Recap

I should have written this closer to the end of the marathon, but I needed some time to decompress and relax a bit, so I apologize that it’s a bit late.

Start with the exciting news.. I finished! I had three goals when I was at the starting line. Finish around 4:30 minutes enjoy the experience and to finish strong. I’m glad to say I think all 3 were realistic and were achieved.

The morning of October 7th, I awoke about 4:30 a to get my morning ritual breakfast down my stomach; a plain english muffin and a bowl of honey nut Cheerios. It’s combination worked well for me in my training runs and I didn’t want to mess with success there. Some people can go back to bed after eating breakfast on marathon day, I was way to amped up and excited to think about it, so I laid down on the couch and did some resting/mediation/visualization for about an hour before it was time to head out.

On our way to the starting line, I asked my wife to stop at a coffee shop so I could get some coffee, I was on the fence about this, but glad I did in the end, no ill side effects from the coffee, and it gave me a little pick me up. Lisa was able to get me to within a block of my starting corral (F), then she was off to get some breakfast and hook back up with around mile 18.

Start of the Portland Marathon

About 7:00 am we could faintly hear the national anthem being unit in the corrals that were closer to the starting line and I knew it was getting close. I wish they also had installed speakers in our corral, would have liked to have been part of that.

About 7:15,they moved our corral up towards the starting line, the energy and excitement was awesome. I think it was Jeff Galloway who some some inspiring words (Don’t remember what they were, but i’m sure it was good stuff), then we were off.

The first mile or two take you through downtown Portland and Chinatown, the bands were a great way to get motivated, and feeling like you were in a real life Rocky movie. I was very careful not start off too fast, that was the one common major mistake I had read that people do. Getting caught up in the excitement and taking off too fast. I was constantly checking my Garmin to be sure I was on pace.

Splits for my first 3 miles was 10:20, 9:50 and 9:58. After mile 3, I settled into a nice easy pace of about 9:30, Miles 4-11 is essentially a long out and back some scenic sections, then it becomes a warehouse district, nothing too exciting, but a good section to knock out 5-6 miles at a decent clip.

Around Mile 11, the half marathoners split off to head back downtown while the full marathoners start making their way to the St. Johns Bridge. Another 5-6 miles of running through residential areas and commercial districts.

At mile 16, I came across my wife and son, was great to see them and say a quick hello. My calves were starting to feel a little tight, so I asked Lisa is she could meet me on the other side of the bridge with my compression sleeves, quick kiss, then it was off to tackle the St. Johns Bridge.

At mile 17, you start the incline to get to the bridge, I felt strong going up the hill and found it a welcome change from the flat constant pounding of the pavement, there were a lot of people who walked it up, but I felt strong at the time and made it up pacing about 10 min mile. Running across the bridge was very rewarding, It was such a beautiful day and to be looking out on the river it was awesome.

Mile 18

Mile 18-22 takes you through several residential neighborhoods, lots of support from the race crew and residents, the cheering and encouragement really did help me, not to mention all the signs, Chuck Norris never ran a marathon apparently.

Mile 22

Mile 22-26 was the hardest part. I had never ran more than 20 miles at one time before so it was unfamiliar territory for my body and my mind. I felt like I had plenty of energy, but my body physically was starting to wear down, sore hips, and legs. I did quite a bit of alternating run/walking for these miles. My splits start to show it, Averaged 11 minute miles in that span.

Mile 26-26.2. Now i’m not a very emotional person, but when I came across the steel bridge and knew I had about a half mile left, I started to tear up a bit. I knew I was going to finish and was happy to have accomplished something I set out to do so far ago, it was quite a feeling.

2012 Portland Marathon Finisher!

The finish line! The first thing they give you when you cross the line is a finisher medal, that was a hard earned medal and was proud to accept it and wear it. Then it was to walk the gauntlet of food to get some energy back, chocolate milk, bananas, grapes, oranges, I ate it all. Then it was off to a shower, some more food and the drive back to Bend. All in all it was an awesome day, well run event with excellent support.

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