Marathon Training Week 16 : Race Fueling Strategy

9 Sep

3 weeks to go…

My Plan


What Actually Happened

If you remember from last week, I had a rather poor week of training thanks to my shin splints, and after a weekend of walking around Budapest I decided to give my sprints a miss on Monday.  I was happy to get to spinning on Tuesday as it has been a few weeks since I was at a class but boy did I have a sore butt on Wednesday 🙂

I decided to run a little further than the planned 8KM on Wednesday and managed a very comfortable 12KM with an average pace of 5:46min/km. Not too shabby at all.

If you’re following my blog regularly you’ll know that Thursday was actually a holiday in Geneva so no Pilates for me. Instead, we took a leisurely day trip to Yvoire, a medieval French town on Lake Geneva. It was probably the last day of summer too b

ecause the weather forecast for this week is for days below 20 degrees C!!

Now comes the long run. I felt really good on Saturday morning, full of energy, no shin pain, the clouds were clearing from the overnight thunderstorms and I had even planned a new route for my last long run. New route huh? Big mistake! I got lost pretty quickly, took one turn too early because most of the “roads” I had planned to follow turned out to be unmarked trails, and stayed lost until 13KM mark. I wasn’t able to get into a rhythm because I was constantly having to stop to read road signs or look at trail maps to figure out where I was and deciding in which general direction I should be running etc etc and at around 13KM, once I had found a road that was actually on my list and I had taken my first correct turn, I need a bathroom stop. Haven’t needed one for the past few weeks but can I just say that I won’t be eating beans before a long run ever again. Ever! Thankfully I was in a fairly secluded spot away from any roads and could easily take a quick dip into a field of Sunflowers and I am doubly thankful that I always carry toilet paper in my pocket. Moving right along, my getting lost added about 5KM to my route which therefore reduced my 13KM grass running to just 8KM. By the time I got to the rugby field at 23KM I knew I was going to have a hard time finishing the next 16KM. I decided to finish at 38KM instead of 39KM but by 32KM my pace had increased to 6:45min/km and I felt like I was dragging my feet and legs behind me. Nothing wanted to move. At 35KM I was shuffling along at 7min/km pace and called it quits at 37KM and 4h08m. I felt OK energy wise but my legs could just not carry me any further. I was disappointed to have not reached 39KM and was equally disappointed that I did not run as well as I did just a few weeks before. Can I run the whole distance on race day? I think I can.

That was my last long run and my last opportunity to sort out my race fueling strategy.

My Race Fueling Strategy

I’ve been doing some research on what is required in terms of pre/during/post race energy, what my body actually needs versus what the media tells me, and planning out how I can get the most out of my body on race day. The main topics that keep cropping up in my readings are about hydration, electrolytes, carbohydrates, glucose etc and then there’s the recommended intake of 200mL of sports drink for every 15 minutes of exercise plus 70g of carbohydrates every hour and so on and so forth. It really is enough to make your head spin.

Basically, a balanced and healthy diet will give you a good foundation. This is fairly straight forward and nothing new if you’re a runner / active person. However, when you’re running/exercising at a high intensity for more than 2 hours at a time, you need to think seriously about supplying your body with sufficient fluids, supplying your muscles with energy and at the end of it all, you need an effective recovery afterwards.  So let’s start with supplying your body with fluids (hydration).


This is something I’ve struggled with during my longer runs this summer, particularly when I was running in the heat of the afternoon. I learned the hard way about hydration. Did you know that a loss of just 2% of your body weight through sweating will cause dehydration and therefore have an adverse effect on your performance? After crashing out on two of my long runs, partly because of lack of energy and partly because of dehydration, I now know that having a mouthful of water every 3-5km is necessary for me because I sweat a lot and drinking up to 750mL during a 35KM run is what I need. On the other hand, my husband, who is 20kg heavier than me, will drink about the same volume of water on a 35KM run (600mL in total with a mouthful or two every 2-3KM). This is very different to the “200mL of sports drink every 15 minutes” mantra supported by most sports nutrition companies. I would honestly feel ill if I had to gulp down that much sugary drink so frequently whilst trying to run at the same time. Do these companies even test these theories on normal people? It’s true that in order to prevent dehydration, any fluids and sodium that have been lost through sweating must be quickly replaced but the amount you need is completely individual and you should determine how much is right for you. There is such a thing over-hydration! I’ve heard/read lots of differing opinions regarding sports drinks and for me personally, I have decided not to use them because I feel I get enough electrolytes, sugars and sodium from my gels. And that leads me on to talking about supplying your muscles with energy.


As i mentioned before a balanced and healthy diet will give you a good foundation of carbohydrates, fats and proteins needed for endurance training. Carbohydrates represent our most readily available source of energy and are required for high-intensity physical exertion and during endurance activities, small amounts of protein are also used as a fuel source. In general, however, proteins are needed to build up muscle mass and tissue in the body. Again, most information you read will tell you that during an intensive exercise period of over 2 hours, and particularly during competitive events, the body should be supplied with up to 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Ideally, the energy supplement you choose to take should be made up of both glucose and fructose as these release energy from carbohydrates at different rates and therefore having both sources increases the amount of energy supplied to your muscles. But 90 grams every hour? My gels that I have chosen to take, PowerBar, contain 24 grams of carbohydrates each. I’m still working on when to take each gel but for the last few runs it’s been at 40 minute intervals starting after 1h30. Again, this is very different to the recommended intake. I would need to be taking 3 gels every hour to achieve this amount of carbohydrates! Add the 150mL of water or sports drink recommended to be taken with the gel… you can forget about heavy legs, I’ll have a heavy stomach that’s full of water!! In my opinion, a 4/5 gel strategy for a 4-5 hour marathon is good. That’s what I’m aiming for, that’s what I’ve heard/read of others doing so let’s just see how that goes.


After the physical exertion of a training session or competitive event, the first priority is recovery. The body needs carbohydrates to replenish glycogen reserves, protein to repair and create new muscle tissue, and fluids and electrolytes for efficient rehydration. My dear husband provides me with a protein (27.5g) / carbohydrate (55g) shake after every long run with strict instructions to finish it within half an hour. Why? Because your metabolism is still running at “full pace” during this time period after exercise. You don’t have to have a fancy protein shake after your run, but the liquid variety of fuel at this point is probably going to be easier for you to stomach than chomping down on a hamburger and most definitely and most important is water. If you can’t get your hands on anything else straight after your run, then go for the water. You should then aim to eat a meal rich in carbohydrates 2-3 hours later. For me, I don’t actually feel like eating anything of substance for at least 3 hours after I’ve been on a long run. Yesterday I ate some flat bread and homemade hummus 3 hours after my run but my main meal was at dinner time, 6-7 hours after my run. The right recovery nutrition strategy is worth its weight in gold!

It’s all very personal and these are just generalisations and what works for me so I would encourage you to find what suits you and what helps you through your race and afterwards.

I hope it can help some of you with your race day preparation and fueling strategy. I’d love to hear your comments on what your race day fueling strategy has been and how it actually worked on the day.

Next week I’m going to introduce you to a new friend of mine. Intrigued?

One Response to “Marathon Training Week 16 : Race Fueling Strategy”


  1. Berlin Marathon 2013 : Race Recap | Cheese & Vegemite - October 4, 2013

    […] were absolutely horrid. I had just come off my last long run of 37.5km (which you can read about here) and the pain in my shins and right hip prevented me from running more than 5 kilometers during […]

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