8 mile nutrition experiment

Yesterday, I ran 8.38 miles. 8.38 glorious miles.

I hadn’t planned too far ahead, but early Saturday afternoon, I realized that I had both time for a two-hour run and time to prepare for a two-hour run. I packed up my SPIbelt (a chrismas gift from my sister) with two packets of fruit snacks, slipped my iphone into my armband, and grabbed a chilled bottle of water from the fridge (one of those throwaway 16.9oz bottles).

This was the first time I’ve ever run with fruit snacks. Truth be told, it’s the first time I’ve ever run with solid food. In my past half-marathons and longer-than-6-mile runs, I’ve relied on Gatorade for my nutritional needs. That worked. However, the more I run, the more I wonder about other options. I knew I couldn’t run more than about 6 or 6.5 miles without bonking, unless I had some kind of nutrition, and I wanted to try something different.

On this particular route, approximately every one mile, there are natural “stops” in the form of intersections and street crossings. My plan was to eat 3-4 fruit snacks at each of those stops, along with healthy gulps of water. At a QuikTrip convenience store just over 4 miles away, I would refill my water bottle.

I started out at a slightly faster pace than I’d intended – closer to 13:15. I tried as best as I could to slow down but largely failed. (I’ve told you before, I’m TERRIBLE at pace!) I was optimistic about the fruit snacks, and I knew that (based on my pace) this run would be either amazing or a disaster. I reminded myself, several times, that my goal should not be a particular pace, but just to complete the run and not bonk.

After one mile, I stopped to open a packet of fruit snacks. Between the sweat and the moisture on my hands from holding a chilled bottle of water, this was almost IMPOSSIBLE. I stood there for at least three or four minutes, fumbling the plastic wrapper. Eventually, I was able to tear it open with my teeth (apologies to the orthodontist who spent so many years making my teeth straight). I tossed a few fruit snacks in my mouth, washed them down with water, and resumed my run.

The next couple of miles went well. My pace was fast – probably too fast, close to 12:30, but I felt great. I continued eating fruit snacks and drinking water about once a mile, though I found myself struggling to chew the fruit snacks. Somehow my body just didn’t seem to have the energy for my jaw. I wound up swallowing the fruit snacks whole like big old pills.

 

two miles – feeling good!

The fourth mile went really well. I was in a more populated shopping area, and I just felt incredibly hard core. It was great. My pace dropped even more, close to 12:00, and I thought again that this was either going to be a great thing or a disaster – either I was going to finish this run at a really amazingly fast pace, or I would horribly bonk and barely make it home.

 

four miles. outside the QT, looking into the sun.

I stopped at the QT and filled my bottle with water. Special thanks to the employees at this location, who didn’t charge me for the water. I still felt pretty good – a little more tired perhaps, but good.

 

*of course* I stepped in gum outside the QT. sigh.

My fifth mile was also strong. I was able to pull my pace back, closer to 13:00, but I felt strong and I was pleased with that. I had to stop at one point to get a pebble out of my shoe. I knew that, if I was going to bonk, I would probably be feeling it soon. The fruit snacks were not going down very smoothly at this point. Though I was swallowing them, it didn’t feel good. Remarkably my stomach was handling the nutrition okay. They were just hard to swallow.

Mile six was (mostly) downhill, which helped to keep my pace steady, I’m sure. My feet felt okay. My body felt good. This far in, I felt great. Fruit snacks, water, and I was off again.

 

six miles. still hanging on.

Mile seven, unfortunately, was mostly uphill. I kept running, but my pace dropped off quite a bit – down to 14:00 or 14:30. I mentally cheered myself on (a LOT), but my legs were tired.

At the top of the hill, at the end of mile seven, I grabbed a stop sign and leaned over, putting my hands on my knees to catch my breath. I must’ve looked like a mess, because the drivers stopping at the stop sign were all giving me thumbs-ups and fist-pumps. 🙂

I really struggled to get the fruit snacks down. Swallowing them very nearly activated my gag reflex. I felt slightly nauseous. I honestly wondered if I would throw up during this last mile.

With only a mile left, I pushed myself as hard as I could. I had the odd sensation that my tired legs were barely moving at all, and I had to push through that several times. Every minute or two, I reminded myself to push and run a little bit faster.

I got home in one piece, tired but happy. I did not totally bonk, although I’m still definitely struggling with those last couple of miles. I’m not really satisfied with the fruit snacks. My stomach handled them okay but it did not feel natural to chew or swallow anything while I ran. I also feel like one of my challenges may have come from not taking in enough nutrition – in other words, that perhaps I needed to eat MORE than I did. Yet given the challenge of swallowing, this feels simultaneously impossible.

One of my complaints about energy gels has long been that I find them ridiculously expensive. I don’t like the idea of spending $5-$10 per run on fuel. At the same time, I wonder if my problem with the fruit snacks is the fruit snacks or the physical act of chewing and swallowing. If it’s the chewing-and-swallowing, then all solid foods might cause that problem. Gels, or at least some other semisolid food, might solve that problem. I need to research!!!