Hydration and Nutrition
In my final taper week and build up to the race I went with a 3 day carb starve, (fresh fruit, fish, salad) before a 3 day carb load (rice, pasta, baked potato, bread) – all normal quantities, no portions the size of my head. The idea of keeping a discipline on body weight seemed to make sense, together with the supposed efficient re-storing of glycogen supplies. On race morning; a bagel with jam, a banana and a cereal bar were evenly spaced and taken onboard well before the off. I am still searching for an in-race nutrition approach that works for me. Gels do not agree with me whatsoever, producing a gag reflex every time I have tried them in training. I went with trusted Clif bars once again. Swallowing and digesting them on the move on the one hand helps to force the consumption of water but simply takes too long and becomes even less practical later in the race when tiring. Sugary sweets were in plentiful supply from all those fantastic spectators and definitely helped beyond mile 20.
I need to be hard on myself here because I am confident that my hydration strategy ultimately cost me the option to enter as “good for age” in London 2014. I had badly underestimated the quantity of fluid I needed to take on board during the Loch Ness race in 2012 and became severely dehydrated by mile 23. Determined not to repeat the same mistake, I considered two options; race with a 3 litre Camelback or use the water stations in a planned sequence to ensure the intake and timing of the right amount of fluid. I had already concluded that part of my Leeds half success had been shedding around 10 lbs. in body weight during my build up plan and I didn’t feel like giving half of that back by carrying the heaviest weight for a period when I had chosen to make up the most time; at the beginning of the race. With a weather forecast predicting temperatures below 18 degrees, I opted to carry nothing but the snacks I needed. In the end, it made no difference. I took on board the 2½ litres of fluid I had calculated I needed to last me the race, in the form of water dispensed in 330ml bottles at stations. In solving one problem however, I created another. By mile 18 the volume of sweat I had processed had severely depleted my electrolyte levels and severe cramp in my major leg muscles struck. There were no fluid alternatives to water on offer during this race and I simply had no means to combat the onset of cramp other than altering my running form and reducing my stride length. I was stuck in a vicious circle in the closing stages, having to stay on plan with my hydration but realising that more water was further diluting my already depleted sodium levels. I was willing and did try anything on offer from spectators, everything from jelly babies to orange slices, when what I needed more than anything was a bag of crisps! Ultimately I was stuck with the frustration that although my conditioning and preparation seemed sufficient to hit my stretch target, limiting my stride was essential to ensure I avoided total cramp seizure and finished the race. Importantly, it would prevent me hitting the mile pace I had set myself for the finishing stretch. The next 26.2 mile strategy I attempt will be to carry a medium bottle of supplemented formula and alternate intake with the supplied water.