The importance of fuelling for the long run

Here’s an honest post for you. Last weekend I was meant to do my long run, but for a few reasons I decided rest was more important and I delayed my long run until the following week. My first run of the week was on Tuesday – it was to be about 6 miles with Debbie from hers.
I felt a bit drained through the weekend and into Monday, so took three good rest day but felt I was ready for the long run on the Tuesday. The last long run I’d down was a good easy 15 miler a couple of Saturdays ago, and since it went so well I was confident in running 12-13 miles.

How wrong was I? From first off it started to go wrong. I was up for about 540am, and had a doubleshot iced coffee for the calories and the caffeine hit, but I conveniently forgot to have the banana if planned to eat.

I drank some water, and carried a water pack and two energy gels with me. I’d usually have a big bowl of cereal before a long run, to set me up. But I hoped that dinner the night before would do the trick. It didn’t.

The next bit going wrong was that I woke to find my garmin was uncharacteristically dead. I always keep it on charge, and I had 40 mins before I had to leave, so I gave it a boost of power that would eventually get it to last 10 miles / 1:30. (I had my Apple Watch anyway, which could track the distance if my garmin did die.)

Then as I was leaving I tried to connect my Aftershokz headphones to my Apple Watch for music and it wasn’t playing at all. I decided to ditch the music – I’d be running for about an hour with Debbie anyway, but it meant I wouldn’t get the verbal prompts from my garmin either (HR / pace etc). It meant I left a couple of minutes later than I wanted to, but I ran the 3.6 miles to Debbie in fine time. 31 mins.

I felt ok running, and it felt natural, but it felt a bit hard, maybe because of the weather – wind in my face and a bit of rain, plus the long road out and possibly as I was running a bit faster than I would normally. It was lighter at that time at last.

And for some reason I felt a bit of that thing in your throat when you hadn’t run for ages, the burning feeling as if you’re unfit. I’ve no idea where that came from, but it went away as the run went on. I was probably running too fast. I got to Debbie’s and had taken a caffeine gel… and was ready to run with her.

Then came 6-7 miles of a route Debbie chose, and there were a couple of times where I was trailing behind for some reason. Not like me. But again, it just felt a bit harder than normal. I clocked my heart rate up a bit higher than easy – around 162-165, but felt ok chatting. (It’s usually under 155-160 to be comfy).

I was trying to blame the weather and winter, but it was probably just me and my body not playing ball… and about 7 miles away from home, which I needed to get to. I had work to get to for about 930. I didn’t even look at the time as I knew I’d get there eventually.

I knew I had the experience and determination to get me home, and finish about 2 hours of running before the day started, but it all didn’t feel quite right. I had another gel. Then at around 10 miles in, I said goobye to Debbie and guessed I had between 3-4 miles to go.

I took a bit of a walk up Corkerhill Road as a reset.. and then my garmin died completely.

My Apple rematch was still ticking along. I gave myself a landmark / bus top to start running again by and I took it easy, one step at a time to get home. By about 2 miles to go I decided I would get to 13.1 miles and be close enough to home to walk the rest (a sour half a mile).

When I got home I had a shower and started my recovery. Some stretching, a big breakfast with some coffee. A walk to work and some water and a for goodness shakes milkshake (which took a while to get down). It was then I started to not feel quite right.

More water and then a big lunch of an omelette chips and beans. A coffee after lunch and a small mars bar… more water.

Then it hit me. The tiredness, the nausea… a million miles from what I’d been like after my 15 miler a few weeks ago (when in felt fine and even great after with no ill effects).

Then by about 4-5pm I felt totally hungover (remembering I haven’t had an alcoholic drink for over 10 years). I had drunk enough water on the run, and thought I’d eaten enough after the run, but my body wasn’t playing at all.

I got home and couldn’t face dinner. Then went to bed very early, around 7pm. I tried to sleep but felt so sick, then couldn’t sleep for a couple of hours but read to take my mind off feeling sick (I knew I couldn’t be sick). Then I got around 10 hours of sleep and finally felt a bit more human.

I was still a bit groggy, but the only thing I can think of is that I likely ran on empty for far too long in the morning and no amount of trying to replace the energy through the day was helping. My body needed to lie down and recover.

I’ve done this once before, when I ran 15 trail miles on hardly any food and I remember this was exactly how I felt – like the hangover from hell… I didn’t fuel but expected my body to perform. Duh.

Anyway, another run I have learned from. I usually eat to fuel and I didn’t fit it in before this long run.

I tried everything I could to recover, but there’s no getting away from my rookie mistake of not fuelling / eating breakfast before a 2 hour run. I burned about 1300 calories and my body must have been trying to stop me from about an hour in. Running on empty, is not a great idea.

Maybe it was worse because I had a full day of work after it (instead of a lazy Sunday), but either way, I’ll need to get better at this if I’m to train for a marathon to do at the start of June. That probably includes doing the majority of my long runs on a weekend morning, so I have time to fuel properly and time to recover better without impacting on work / life.

I’m going to take a rest day or two and see what happens next. You win some you lose some, and you’d have thought I’d know better by now, but sometimes you have a bad run, and usually they make all the good runs even better. Today a day later, I felt a lot better, maybe 95%… and the sleep and plenty food and hydration did me good.

Now that I’ve told that story of a sort of failure, here’s what I should have done:

– Eaten 200-400 calories of energy (a mixture of carbs and protein ideally) within the hour before running. Quite simple really.

My go to is fruit and fibre with greek yoghurt, blueberries and milk, but porridge and a banana is good too – a mixture of carbs and protein.

See more info / tips here – or quite simply, fuel before long runs!

https://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-weight-loss/a20853982/the-proper-way-to-fuel-before-a-long-run/

Lesson learned (for the second time in 12 years running).

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