Long Run Fuel: Marathon Chunks

>> Tuesday, September 14, 2010

While I was training for my first marathon, I made sure to abide by the whole "eat as you will on race day" rule for all my long runs. I religiously ingested strawberry, no-caffeine Clif Shots at miles 6, 13, and 20. During the actual race, I listened to another runner's last-minute advice and took one (or at least half of one) at each "milestone" -- the 5K, 10K, 15K, Half Marathon, and 20 mile distances.

I often felt nauseous during my training. Especially gaggy on race day. All that gel sloshed around in my stomach. Ick. The texture and taste just didn't agree with my system.

UGH . . .

And I know I'm not alone. This time around, I haven't been eating the same thing every run. There were times when I chugged coconut water. Other times when I drank Gatorade. I had an apple once. I did some gels another time. I had a cookie on my first 20-miler. I decided this weekend that I needed to pick and stick with one method for the next couple weeks.

Of course, GU and other endurance energy products can be miracle workers. They've been tested by thousands of athletes -- pros and novices alike. There are gels, blocks, "chomps," and countless other types. They are infused with vitamins (like C and E, to protect muscles against free radicals) . . . full of electrolytes . . . some even feature herbs and other ingredients like ginger to ease the stomach. Still, they just don't agree with me.

But that's OK. Each runner is unique. It only makes sense that each runner's specific fueling needs/preferences are also unique. For me, it's a texture thing. And a taste thing. I figure that people were running marathons and long distances way before GU came along. Why not fuel my running with some homemade power? It may not be "technically" what you're "supposed" to eat for "maximum" performance.

But if I feel good -- if my stomach cooperates -- why not at least give it a try?

I came across this awesome homemade Larabars recipe (on Espresso and Cream) the other day. I loved the idea -- so I set to make my own version, using the recipe as a guide for my dried fruit-to-nut ratio. What resulted is not only delicious, but it also helped me feel full -- my energy was sustained throughout my run.


What you'll need . . .
  • 1 cup dried, pitted apricots
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds

Method . . .
  1. In a food processor, combine the apricots, cashews, peanut butter, vanilla, and maple syrup.
  2. This can be tough work for your food processor. I actually blew the motor out on mine, so I'd recommend using one that is larger (mine's only 4 cups) for this process.
  3. Then turn out the mixture into a medium bowl and fold in the sunflower seeds.
  4. You may wish to adjust the peanut butter and/or maple syrup to meet your desired consistency.
  5. Remove from bowl and press into an 8 x 8-inch foil-lined baking dish.
  6. Refrigerate overnight before cutting into chunks of desired size. Ours were about 1 to 1-1/2 inch squares.

Stephen and I each tested these chunks out for their long run legitimacy on this past weekend's 20-miler. And we return to you with four thumbs up! It felt good to eat "real food" on the run. Half a chunk is about all I ate at each of those milestones I listed above. I did still drink some (very watered down) Gatorade, if you're wondering, but not until after the half marathon mark.

TIP: Get some of those Ziplock 100 calorie bags. They are big enough to slide in 3 to 4 chunks . . . yet small enough to stuff into your belt (I have a SPIbelt). Opening and closing is a breeze.

How do you fuel on your long runs? Are you a fan of GU and blocks? Do you have your own special recipe for fullness and energy? We'd love to hear any tips or tricks you have up your sleeve (or in your fuel belt!). Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

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