I realized I haven't really talked much about my running strategy. Basically, I'm following Mark Sisson's heart rate recommendations for staying in low level aerobic activity range most of the time I'm running. For me this maxes out at about 145 bpm. It also means I am probably technically jogging, not running. Meh. The reason I'm keeping my heart rate around this level is that I don't want to be burning sugar (glycogen) as fuel while I'm covering long distances. I eat a relatively low carb diet because I feel better eating that way, and I also feel better when I use primarily fat for fuel during exercise instead of sugar. After my first couple runs at 150 to 155 bpm, I realized I was going to have to slow it down or start loading up on carbs. You can see which I chose!
For my longer weekend runs, I try to run the first half of my scheduled mileage at or under 145 bpm. After about an hour, I start pushing a little harder and that's generally the point at which I'll go for the sugary fuel. I've tried several different things, but this is what I've settled on. A variation of Brendan Brazier's Direct Fuel Bites. Here's the recipe with my modifications and measurements:
Coconut date direct fuel bites, adapted
4 oz pitted dates (medjool or deglet noor are fine)
28g (2 tbsp) coconut oil (softened or melted)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
zest from 1 lemon
1/2 tsp sea salt (I used Real Salt for extra minerals)
1 packet Cococeps (totally optional. I had this laying around and wanted to check it out for the adaptogen factor)
Throw everything in the food processor and process until a smooth paste forms. Separate into 8 servings. I found that it's easiest to portion it using waxed paper, and then wrap the individual servings in little parchment squares. I keep them in the freezer, and right before a run I'll tuck several in a zip lock and put it in the pocket of my hydration belt. They get soft during a run, but stay in the parchment pretty well and come off easily.
From my couple experiments with these, I have found that one every 30 minutes after the first hour is okay, but for the race I plan to eat one every 20 minutes after the first hour.
Other things I've tried:
Dark chocolate - I thought this would be great because of it's high fat content and little bit of sugar and caffeine. Maybe a little is good, but I wasn't able to stick to just a little. And a whole bar before a run is definitely a bad thing for the tummy.
Hammer gel - I tried this once and while the taste was acceptable, by the time I felt any type of energy from the darn thing I was already running way too low on fuel. Admittedly, this could have been my fault for timing it wrong and I'm sure it would work in a pinch, but it wasn't my favorite solution.
Coconut oil, raisins, cocoa powder, protein powder, salt - This one was okay, but coconut oil is hard to manage when it gets melty, which doesn't take long! Also, the protein powder during the run and the fiber from the cocoa powder upset my stomach.
Coconut water - I have used this as a sports drink on my long runs up until this last weekend even, but how well it works seems to depend a lot on which brand agrees with your digestive system. The one that agreed with me most was the O.N.E. brand, but last Saturday at about mile 7 I was just tired of it and refilled my bottle with plain old water. I am pretty sure I'll just stick with water for the race, too.
So, that about wraps it up for my running and fueling strategies. I have to say that as Sunday gets nearer and nearer, I'm getting more and more nervous! I know I will finish, but I think the nerves are inevitable =)