So on a recent post Meg from Running Just As Fast As She Can commented and asked me what my fueling plans were for marathon training/the marathon. I thought it would be fun to actually do a whole post about fueling if for no other reason than to organize myself. Hopefully it will help someone else though! I'm probably going to somewhat follow what I did for my first marathon, with many tweaks now that I know what to expect and have a little more experience under my belt.
When To Fuel?
My general rule is that if a run is under 5 miles, typically all I'm going to have is water, and I will probably not carry that with me unless it is insanely hot. Usually what I do is just leave my water bottle in the car so I don't have to schlep it everywhere. When my runs were 5 miles and over, I incorporated bottles of water with Nuun tablets in them rather than drink sports drinks. The great thing about Nuun is that it doesn't have a lot of chemical crap in it, but of course the downside is that you would have to carry it with you if the race you're doing isn't using that. I *think* the Portland Marathon had Nuun so I didn't have to carry it with me, but I'm struggling to remember. The Seattle Marathon is using Gatorade Endurance, and while I'm not a huge Gatorade fan I think I might try using that as my drink so that I am used to training with it and won't have to carry sports drink up to Seattle.
What To Fuel?
When my run hits 7 miles, I will use fueling methods and sports drinks. Check out what your race is using and try to incorporate that as your options. If it doesn't set well with your stomach then you will have to experiment to find a better option for you. When I first started out I used chocolate mint Gu, and it worked well for me until it suddenly didn't, and started randomly hurting my stomach. I switched to Shot Bloks and tolerated those a lot better. I've used Shot Bloks ever since, and am especially a fan of the tropical punch ones. I also was a big fan of freezing coconut water to have mid-run. This go around I want to explore Stinger Waffles and maybe some natural options such as honey sticks or dates. Every fueling method you use that isn't what the race is using is one more thing you will have to carry on your person at race day, so bear that in mind. You'll have to balance how much you need, what you can carry, and when you fuel. It's basically one big experiment, but that's what training is for is to figure out what works best for you.
Make Your Own Fueling Station
So when I trained the last time I would use either my house or my car as a fueling station, and would plan to stop by every 5 miles or so to get whatever drink or thing that I needed. This was pretty sweet because I didn't have to carry everything on me, it would just be waiting for me just like it would be at an actual race. If I used my car as my "station", I just packed an ice cooler with nice cold water/sports drink, Bandaids, Glide/Vaseline and of course my Bloks or Gu packets. When I used my house as my station it was pretty sweet because I knew there was a bathroom waiting for me. Of course the wrinkle there is to not take too long of a break at home, even though that is really tempting. God knows I took much longer breaks than necessary and it made it really hard to get back out there, but it worked for me. Anyway, study the course map for the race and then try to practice stopping at the mile points that you reasonably think you'll need fuel.
Lay ALL of the crap you need out the night before. This goes for fuel, breakfast options, clothing, etc. It is a pain in the ass but you'll kiss yourself in the morning when you're stumbling into the kitchen at 5 am and hating the world. If you're using a cooler, have it ready to be filled with ice and get outta dodge.
Every weight loss advice thing in the world says to not reward yourself with food, and to instead go get a massage or a pedicure. And my expert advice courtesy of My Life University is...screw that shit. Marathon training absolutely sucks, mostly from the mental standpoint. Sometimes the only thing that kept me going was thinking about whatever sugary atrocity I'd bought for myself as a reward at the end of a long run. Obviously you don't want to go apeshit with it, but go get a special, treasured treat that you only get to have on long run days. Knowing some silly thing is waiting for you becomes monumental. My poison of choice is always something cold and sugary: a Frosty from Wendy's, an ice cold Mexican Pepsi, a single serving thing of ice cream, sorbet pops, etc. I did overdo it the last time I was training, but I feel like I'm in a better headspace this time and can plan my treats a little more wisely.
Anyway, that is really about it. If you have any questions or want to tell me about your fueling methods, sound off in the comments!