I am a big fan of the status quo. Change is not good in my book. I am very suspicious of new things (okay, everything). If I could have my way, I'd still be living at my parents' house on the north shore (sans parents, of course), riding my brother's Schwinn 10 speed bike from the mid-'80s, and listening to my new wave mixed tapes on my Sony walkman. So switching running fuel and starting protein shakes is kind of big deal in my world.
I only fuel for runs longer than 14 miles. I used to eat one gel during half marathons at the ten mile mark until one day I forgot it. Forgetting made no difference whatsoever in my performance. When I do a 20 miler, I'll have a gel at 10 miles and then one at 16. During a full marathon, I'll carry four: 1st at 10, 2nd at 14, 3rd at 18, 4th at 22.
I have been using Gu gels as fuel for long runs since my first marathon in 2004. Originally, I started with chocolate (yum!) until I developed a full blown migraine during the Philadelphia Marathon, my first. I had four gels in the first 13 miles (way too many), not realizing they contained caffeine. Caffeine is a huge headache trigger for me. I couldn't see and was one gag away from hurling on the half marathon marker. Luckily, I was able to find Pete after being separated from him since Mile 6. We then found a nearby ambulance. The EMT gave me an ounce of aspirin and poof! I was cured. (Even with this emergency interruption, I still finished in 4:18. Oh yeah!) Since then, I made sure I only ate the caffeine free flavored Gus. There aren't that many: lemon lime and strawberry banana. I carry the gels in a pocket on my shorts or pants or in my fuel belt. To say a warm gel is gross is an understatement. It's so gross, you almost would rather trudge through your run exhausted than have to suck down this warm, sugary, sticky, oozy substance.
In my search for alternatives, I found energy blocks. I went to The Vitamin Shoppe and saw FRS Healthy Energy soft chews. For about $15 you get a bag of 30 squares, a little larger than a Starburst. The Vitamin Shoppe employee told me there was no caffeine in the chews. I looked on the bag and I couldn't find caffeine in the nutritional information. Only when I got home and searched on the internet did I see that there is naturally occurring caffeine from the green tea extract. Hmmm, do I take the chance on tomorrow's 15 mile run? Maybe I'll just take one.
My other Vitamin Shoppe purchase was the Designer Whey protein powder (Gourmet chocolate flavored, of course). I keep reading that after a hard workout, you should consume protein within 20-30 minutes for muscle repair. I never really did this. Many times I would scarf down a bowl of Grape Nuts, only because I would be starving. Other times, however, I wouldn't eat for at least an hour because I had been gone for so long, I would need to take care of whatever business needed taking care of. The DesignerWhey powder has 18 grams of protein in each serving, 100 calories, and 3 grams of fiber. I'm not looking to get Schwarzenegger big. I just want to preserve what muscle I do have for my best performance.
I ran 4 miles on Thursday, 10 Friday at 4:30pm in the 40 degree mist, and took today off.
What kind of fuel do you use? Do you drink protein shakes?