16 January 2013 Note

Hello Beginner Runners,

I apologize in advance for what will be a very long email this week. Sorry! We have a lot of information to cover. Let’s start with Thursday’s run. We’ll be doing 70 minutes of non-stop running. It is a critical run this week and there are a number of other critical runs in the next few weeks. If you are training for the half-marathon, you will need to do these runs and it’s best to do them with your coaches (if at all possible). We will be giving you instructions as we run and will be ensuring you are running the correct pace. When you are not able to run with the group, try to pair up with someone else. You are all doing a great job of that (finding a buddy to run with). Thank you for that! The route tomorrow will take us out the canal in an easternly direction to Islington. At that point, we’ll come off the canal and head down Farringdon Road south. We’ll turn right (or west) on Theobald’s Rd (which may be called Clerkenwell Rd at that point – we learned that the hard way!!!). That road merges into Oxford St. and we’ll carry on running until we reach Selfridges. For those of you who have time, we can go up to Starbucks in Selfridge’s (on the 4th floor) for a coffee post-run.

Bratislava Half-Marathon
Shoot, I think I’m about to be fired as trip organizer! I thought I had done a good job of negotiating a great rate at the Sheraton, but now I see that the Bratislava Marathon has secured an even better rate! I’m working with our contact at the hotel to figure out how to proceed. The rate from the Bratislava Marathon also has a late cancellation option which is great for us (for any last minute cancellations due to injuries/sick children/etc). We did not have that option. I was managing our numbers with them to allow for a couple of cancellations. Once I hear back from the hotel contact, I’ll let you know what has been decided.

Information on Gels
Wow! The time has come to start talking more about mid-run fueling. Most runners can handle sessions up to 80-90 minutes without “topping up” fuel. Our long runs will be of those lengths in the coming weeks. Ladies, if you are not interested in understanding the science of exercise fueling – no worries. I’m serious about that. Your coaches will tell you what you need to do, when you need a gel, etc. If you want to understand why we must take in carbohydrates while we’re running, read on….. Let me preface this by saying the information that follows has been highly simplified for ease of application/understanding. I apologize to any doctors/scientists/nutritionists among you (you’re probably cringing at my examples and over-simplified explanations). Most female runners have approximately 1000-1200 calories of readily-accessible “fuel” for exercise.  Think of that “fuel” as being a tank full of petrol. Most of us burn between 600-900 calories per hour running (so we’ll need between 1500 and 2700 calories to fuel a half-marathon). So, we can go for runs up to 80-90 minutes without “topping up the tank”. Just like cars get different gas/petrol mileage per litre/gallon, no two runners will burn/require the same number of calories even if they are running the exact same pace (so these numbers are just guidelines).  As a general rule, if two runners are side-by-side running the same pace, the one more comfortable with that pace will burn less calories (or need less fuel) than the one who is pushing herself.  Weight and fitness levels also play into the equation as do your general well-being at the time. If you are feeling unwell or particularly anxious on race-day, your heart-rate will be elevated and you will burn more calories. This fueling issue is one of the reasons I constantly ask you to “find your pace”. If you are pushing your pace, your body will require more fuel (which can complicate fueling for a first time half-marathoner). As a runner develops and has more experience, there are some good reasons to push the pace, but beginners are best served by finding their “comfortable” pace and sticking with it. Once a runner has burnt through the 1000-1200 calories of readily-accessible fuel, it is necessary to top up the “petrol in the tank”. The easiest way to add fuel to your system is with gels. Gels are simple carbohydrates. They come in small packets, are made by a range of companies and come in a variety of flavours. Most of the gels have similar formulas so when deciding which gel to use, most athletes chose the gel that is most palatable to them. I’ll bring some gels to the run tomorrow and next week so you can chose one that sounds good to you. A lot of women chose the gel based on the consistency of it. The following is a description of some of the most popular gels:

GU – easily available in the UK, Europe and the US. Comes in a wide range of flavours – some ladies really like the Espresso flavour. In my opinion, GU doesn’t taste as sweet as some other gels (some other brands are sickly sweet to me). The Roctane gels within the GU line of products has a sort of time release on carb delivery so are particularly good for extreme endurance events. They were originally designed for athletes racing/training 8-10 hours but lots of runners love to use this gel for events like a half-marathon. If you are sensitive to sugar, the GU Roctane line is a good choice (you get less of a sugar high/drop). GU Roctane is not as easy to find as the basic GU gel and it comes in less flavour choices. The consistency of all GU products is mid-range (not real liquidy but not as firm as some other gels).

PowerBar – PowerBar Energy is hard to find in the UK but is readily available in the US. Some runners who prefer a more “liquid-like” gel highly prefer this gel. It comes in 4-5 flavours and I like them all. To me, these gels taste like the syrup poured over sno-cones. PowerBar Gel (not Energy, but just Gel) is a favourite of many runners. They come in a wide range of flavours and also are available with added caffeine and/or sodium.

Clif Shots – are the best choice for anyone who is gluten intolerant or needs to avoid maltodextrin. I understand the citrus fruit flavour is the absolute best for anyone with Celiac’s disease. I do not have any of these gels to bring on a run. You can find them in the UK, Europe and the US. They come in a half dozen different flavours and also are available in gel or shot blocks (blocks are between a gummy bear and jello jiggler consistency). Personally, I don’t like the blocks – they are too big; I feel like I’m choking on it (but that’s just me!!!).

Torq – I love this gel and most runners agree with me. They taste good, the consistency is like a runny pudding, and they are easy to find in the UK. They come in 5-6 different flavours and everyone seems to have a favourite. There are countless more gels to chose from. These are just the brands that I am most familiar with. All gels weigh about 40g, they all have 100-110 calories, 25-29g of carbs and about 10g of sugar. Those numbers don’t change much between brands. Some gels have added caffeine and/or sodium. If you sweat a lot, you might consider a gel with added sodium (or talk to me and I can give you some slow-sodium tablets to take while running). A lot of women love gels with caffeine. It seems to give them a bigger boost. With all gels, a runner should feel a lift usually 8-10 minutes after taking one. Gels work like magic. They don’t taste that great, but they give runners a boost that is fabulous. After they kick in, you’ll feel lighter on your feet as though you’ve just caught a second wind.

Here’s the deal…… it’s almost impossible for a beginner runner to complete a half-marathon without taking in carbs during the race. Some more experienced runners can (particularly those who are running a race slower than they could) because they have taught their bodies how to use fat as fuel. For example, your coaches who normally run at a quicker pace may not take a gel during our race. If they are running what is for them a very comfortable pace, they’ll be using primarily fat to fuel that exercise. So you’ll need to do at least one gel during the race (two for some of you). You really need to try gels before race-day so you know what to expect and you know that your body won’t “reject” it. As we discussed before, sports drink is an alternative to gels but is difficult to carry during the race, we don’t know for sure which sports drink they will be using, we don’t know what formula they will have used to make the drink (how watered down or concentrated it is) so we won’t know how many grams of carbs are in it. To take a gel, you rip off the top, put the gel between your lips and roll the gel package up from the bottom (like rolling a tube of toothpaste). You need to do the entire gel (not just part of it). It is best to drink a bit of water (50-100ml) after taking a gel which brings us to hydration systems. Our runs are getting very long! We all need to be carrying water. We can do another run to Runner’s Need if some of you are still needing to purchase a water bottle/belt/pack. Let me know!!!

Weekly Routine
If you are training for the half-marathon, a 3rd weekly run will make things easier for you on race-day. Ideally, you should be doing the weekly long run on Thursdays with the group, then doing a 45 minute run each week and a 35 minute run on the weekend. Beginning in February, the 45 minute run should be bumped up to 60 minutes. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow!

Happy Running,