Every weekend my primary running goal focuses on the long run. I try to progressively increase it for a few weeks before i drastically reduce the mileage and rest for a week. Two Saturdays ago I had a simple 14-15 mile long run planned, a week after the Peach Jam half marathon. Because this fell so close to the end of the month I had very few gels or other running fuel I like to use. I figured I had some extra inches around the belly my body could fall back on if all else failed. I plopped some electrolyte mix into my running bottle and loaded up the second bottle with water, this one would be worn on my waist and provide extra water on my run. I headed out the door, leaving behind any extra electrolyte mix packages or tabs and only a few packets of gel. I saw the weather was in the low eighties to high seventies so I doused some sun lotion on. After a few miles I truly started to realized that it was hot.. I mean really hot.
Last year my longest run in the heat was no more than six miles or so, this run was supposed to be fourteen to fifteen miles. For me, the heat requires a bit of a slow down as the body has to work harder to regulate the body’s temperature. Half way into my run I was in bad shape. I had consumed all the gels I had and I had gone through both bottles of water. While I had a place to refill my water supply, I concluded I should have grabbed some extra electrolyte powder or tabs. My skin was roasting in the sun because several hours running had worn through the sunscreen lotion. I was covered in layers of salt and sweat and had to push myself to move forward, and I had barely covered ten miles.
The worst came at mile twelve. I had taken my the gels I had available already and I could tell that I was seriously depleted of carbs because the easy act of running this distance had became a struggle. I pushed on and as I went past mile twelve and into miles thirteen and fourteen I suddenly lost all energy in my system. I had to fight to keep myself walking forward and occasionally running.
From what I have gathered on the internet, our bodies are very efficient at using carbohydrates for fuel. Often this is the fuel source our bodies use during a run and they can be topped off by consuming calories with carbohydrates during activity. I have seen on several different places the recommended replacement fall in between 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour depending on the individual. When a person burns through all the carbohydrates available the body switches to the next available source, fat. The kick is that our bodies are terribly ineficient at burning this source of fuel and begins to slow things down to conserve its available fuel sources. From what I can tell our bodies go into a state of fear when they hit the fuel for fat mode.(This is based on my reading and interpretation, do not quote me on this). This was the point I hit, my body started to conserve as there were not enough carbohydrates left to fuel the system.
I limped the final miles, mostly walking. I was hungry and dehydrated and my skin was over baked. I found myself lying on the floor, hurting, sore and in the worse shape I had ever gotten myself since I started running. As I got home I wolfed down a protein shake, a bottle of electrolyte mix and tried to eat some food. It took hours before my blood sugars returned to normal and my body hit a happy equilibrium. This run was truly the hardest fourteen miler I had ever ran. I knew that with longer distances being covered and the increase in time running I was going to have to seriously rethink my nutrition/fueling strategies for the rest of spring and summer. Oddly enough, while suffering I started to plan the following Saturdays sixteen mile run and the things I could do differently.
This post will continue in part 2, if you are interested in how I adjusted my strategy read the follow up post.
Til next time.