Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Last-Minute, Running-Themed Christmas (without much actual running)

Happy New Year's Eve!

I hope the holidays have treated you and your loved ones well.

As for me, I hate to admit I didn't get into the holiday spirit as strongly this year. No, I'm not sad. No personal tragedies have happened. I've simply felt...rushed this season.

As I've mentioned, I need to find better ways to manage my time. I just haven't figured out how to balance work, running, blogging, time with friends/family, and cooking/household chores in my day-to-day life. Add the holidays in the mix and it has felt like chaos.

December was a blur. There were a lot of good times, which I'm grateful for. However, I could only focus on one at a time.

I'm seeing this friend tomorrow - gotta buy them a gift. I'll put off addressing my Christmas cards...

Gotta get ready for this party tonight - I'll buy presents later...

Gotta pack for Kiawah, I'll clean my house later...

Next thing you know, it was December 20 and we had a third of our gifts purchased, none wrapped, piles of laundry, and no Christmas cards sent out. Sadly, our schedules with some friends just didn't line up, and I didn't get to see them.

Yikes. This was so much easier when I was a kid and all I had to do was show up and get presents.

And we couldn't just blow it off. We had plans to visit my family (an hour away) for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we were hosting friends Saturday the 28th, B's family for a belated Christmas on Sunday the 29th, and my sister and brother-in-law for New Year's Eve.

So the weekend of the 20th, we kicked it into high gear. I sent out my cards. We cleaned most of Saturday, finally showered around 3 PM or so, and we went out and knocked out the rest of our shopping, minus a few stocking stuffer items.

We did more cleaning and laundry Sunday, and I went out and bought 90% of the groceries I'd need to make spinach tartlets and this amazing white chocolate peppermint layered cheesecake to take to my family's celebration, dinner for our friends Saturday, fun appetizers for B's family, and fondue ingredients for our annual New Year's Day fondue tradition with my sister and brother-in-law.

We were getting there. I worked Monday, went to bootcamp, and started my cake. I didn't work Tuesday, so I purchased the last gifts, finished my cake, made the spinach tartlets, and wrapped gifts at 4 PM.

The peppermint cheesecake layers, white chocolate whipped cream topping, and white chocolate curls. I had WAY too much fun taking a vegetable peeler to white chocolate bark.


The finished result!!

Pure. Decadence.

Yes, we were that last minute.

Finally the car was loaded by 6 PM and we were off.

Then it felt like Christmas.

Once the hustle and bustle were over, we could relax and enjoy ourselves. I had vacation days at work that I would lose, so I took off through the end of the year.

I go back Thursday. I've been living in a fantasy land I don't want to leave.

We enjoyed yummy apps and hot apple cider Christmas Eve with my family, and French toast and a nice dinner Christmas Day with my family. We love games, and enjoyed some Catch Phrase. My family knows the way to my heart, and I got a few running gifts and an espresso maker.

Me and B on Christmas Eve

Best.gadget.ever. But more on that later...

A Road ID bracelet from B so I can stay safe. :) I feel like a puppy with my little collar so that someone can locate my family for me. :)

A running top from my sister. <3

My sister has started running (yay!), so I got her a few running essentials - Balega socks, a handheld water bottle, a clip-on light for visibility, and a neck gaiter. The winter air really hurts her throat and sinuses - so much so that it has discouraged her from running. I got her this purple one (we thought black might look like she might rob someone), and hope it will help.

She makes a cute purple running ninja, right? :)

We came home the 26th, and had NOTHING to do the 27th. It was awesome. I straightened up the house and went shopping for new jeans and accessories for my espresso maker - a frothing pitcher and espresso shot glasses. We also FINALLY made gingerbread cookies with my running cookie cutters!

You can find them here.

Just roll them out...

The finished result!

The runners in their cookie winter wonderland!

We like gingerbread, and this is a great recipe. You can use your favorite gingerbread or sugar cookie recipe. They are a great idea to share with your fellow runners or running group!

The 28th, our friends Sara and Terry (remember the birthday party?) came over for dinner. Their 10 month old daughter Audrey is ready to explore the world! She's a sweet, happy child, but she is a crawler! She had to check out everything in our home - including our cats! We had a blast, but poor Coco didn't know how to handle it!

The standoff...

The 29th, I made a plethora of fun appetizers for a casual celebration with B's family. We enjoyed food, open gifts, and spent a couple of hours playing Cranium and laughing hysterically at each other. What more can you ask for?

I should have taken this pic AFTER I placed the bacon wrapped chicken on the empty platter...

I don't usually use disposable dishes...but it has been a busy week!

On my menu:
Cocktail meatballs (in Crock Pot)
Bacon wrapped chicken - HUGE hit!! Not pictured (they went on the then empty platter)
Spinach tartlets (I use cream cheese instead of goat cheese and pre-made frozen phyllo shells)
Smoked bacon gouda (from The Fresh Market - so freakin good) and crackers
Shrimp cocktail
Veggies and pita chips with ranch dip and hummus

And then yesterday....we had NO plans!!!! The house was clean, and we could relax. I played with my espresso maker.

Seriously, I'm obsessed with this thing. 

I've made at least one skim latte at home every single day. It's not as hard as I expected and it is so delicious. I only use a half cup of skim milk and a teaspoon of sugar per latte, so it's low cal as well.

My precious....

I worked on this blog post and caught up on reading my favorite blogs, and we went to dinner at Bonefish Grill and saw Anchorman 2 like we had no care in the world.

I live for these quiet days.

Today, we'll meet up with our running group, then my sister and bro-in-law are coming for New Years Eve. Tomorrow, we'll continue our tradition of 5 years making fondue on New Year's Day.

And then it's back to the real world. Sigh...

Even though the holiday started out stressed and hectic, it all worked out. Doesn't it always? I'm grateful for the times I got to spend with friends and family, and look forward to seeing those I didn't get to see soon. I also LOVED the quiet moments in between celebrations. I needed this recharge.

I also must add that I did run a couple of times over the break. I ran 2 miles in my neighborhood on Christmas Eve, and I ran 3 miles with the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon training group on Saturday. I'll get back in the swing of things soon.

I'm looking forward to 2014 and all it has in store. What I desire the most is simplicity and balance in the new year - something I was desperate for this year.

I have some fun blog posts in the works - Part 2 of my Kiawah recap, how to make amazing lattes at home, and my thoughts on New Year's resolutions. Stay tuned!

I hope you have a happy New Year, and a wonderful 2014. Make it YOUR year and tackle those goals you've always wanted to achieve! I'll be back next year!


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Kiawah Island Half Marathon Recap Part 1: Second Half Marathon Jitters and the "Beachy" Thing I Did

So...did you know that it's CHRISTMAS EVE!!!???

I'm so behind. I didn't get my tree up until December 7, I just sent my cards Friday, and gifts....let's just say "in progress"!! It has been "Last Chance Weekend" for us, and we're busy little elves buying and wrapping gifts!! Hence why my Fitness Friday post is moved to Tuesday.

Hey, I've been, you know, busy. Busy doing what? Traveling to Kiawah Island, SC for my second half marathon (among other things)!

What Led to The Race

Over the last few months, I wasn't sure if I wanted to do a half marathon this year. I felt pretty bummed about not getting my 30 minute 5K goal this summer/fall, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to switch to half marathon training. However, I ran a 15K this October, and it convinced me to switch into half marathon training mode and sign up for the Kiawah Island Half Marathon that was held this past Saturday.

Brandon had signed up a while back, and he was happy that I was joining him. Kiawah Island is just outside of Charleston, SC, and about six and a half hours from Knoxville. We decided to make a long weekend out of the trip, leaving Friday morning and staying through Monday. Several of our RunKNOX friends were also going, and I was excited to meet up with them.

The Week Before the Race

All week before the race, I tried to eat healthy foods and drink lots of water. I started drinking 8-10 cups of water per day (admittedly I hadn't been drinking that much before). As a result, my lips were not chapped for the first time in months, and I felt energetic and great during my light training runs. Go figure! The Thursday before the race, we held a going away party for our coaches, and that was the only time that week that I really enjoyed some yummy holiday treats before the race.

Finally, on Friday, it was time to head to Kiawah. B and I took off work Friday, packed (seriously, I'm so last minute), and got in the car around noon. We took turns driving and sleeping, and we got into Charleston around 6:30-7:00 PM. We wanted to make it to Kiawah Island by 8:30 for our packet pickup. I'd been to Charleston several times before, as well as some of its surrounding beaches, Folly Beach and Isle of Palms. Kiawah was new to us. It wasn't far from Charleston, but there's a 2 lane highway to get there and it was stop-and-go for awhile. Finally we got into Kiawah just before 8:00 PM for packet pick-up.

It was dark, but I could already tell two things about Kiawah - it was beautiful, lush, and well-manicured, and it was pretty exclusive. It's a gated, private community. That night, however, the gates were open to everyone for packet pick-up.

Only the finest of races will do for Brandon and me.

The race is held on the Kiawah Island Golf Resort. You can stay at the resort, but the rates are outside of what we wanted to pay. Fortunately, there are other ways to stay on the island. We went through a "for-rent-by-owner" site and found a cute 1 bedroom villa (I call it a condo) on the island and right on the beach for a very reasonable rate. Having access to a fridge, coffee pot, toaster, and filtered water was a huge plus pre- and post-race!!

We got on the island, made our way to the resort in time for packet pick-up, and briefly walked around the expo. I had realized I packed everything EXCEPT enough of my trusty running jelly beans, so I was glad a vendor was selling them!

I also found this little goody - just in time for running gingerbread men/women!

We then stopped by a little village of shops, boutiques, and restaurants. Its grocery store has all of the standard grocery store items you'd expect, as well as a great selection of fresh and local foods. Yes, it's a little pricier than grocery stores in Knoxville, but we were fortunate to have groceries in the condo and not rely on restaurants.

Before our first half marathon, we had grilled chicken and rice at home the night before, and it proved to be successful. During the race we felt energized and didn't get sick at all. My preference would have been to replicate this success model. However, it's a little more difficult away from home, so B and I had a whole dialog about what to do while in the grocery store. Here's the abridged version:

Me: "Let's find a restaurant that has chicken and rice. It worked before, and I don't want to change anything."
B: "It's already 8:30! We should get in bed by 10. We don't know what restaurants are here and it could take awhile. Let's buy something here we can have at the condo."
Me: "What? I'm not about to cook dinner tonight! It's late, we drove all day, and we need to get in bed soon."
B: "I didn't say you had to cook. Let's buy stuff to make sandwiches."
Me: Sigh.....

Side note - I'm a sandwich snob. I have in recent years developed an aversion to processed sliced meat and cheese.

B (already knowing where I was going with this): "We can get Boar's Head turkey. It will be good."
Me: "Hmmmm.....that's more acceptable, but it's still not my tried and true pre-race meal. It's not my chicken and rice. It makes me nervous."
B: "It's a pretty safe meal. You'll be fine."
Me: "If you say so..."

And with that, we bought Boar's Head turkey, cheese, and some whole wheat white bread (or as I call it "compromise" bread for B and me), some olives from the olive bar (YUM!!!!), rice, and bananas for the next day. The cashier said, "You runners sure love your bananas". (Why yes we do - see here).

We went to our condo, had our sandwiches (which weren't bad) with a side of rice, and went to bed around 10. I was nervous about the race and found it hard to sleep. I was nervous for several reasons.

How A Second Half Marathon Feels Different than the First

In some ways, I felt more nervous for this half than my first (You can read about my first half marathon here). In some ways, I was less nervous. Why?


  • I already knew I could do the distance in a race setting. By and large, this was a comforting fact.
  • Since my first half marathon was a success in my book (i.e. I finished and felt well during and after the race), I already had a success model to rely on. I already knew what worked for me in terms of hydration and fuel for that distance, pacing myself, etc.
  • I had some idea what to expect at different points of the race. Based on my prior race, I knew at what miles I would start feeling tired, when I should consume my magic jelly beans (see point above). I also knew that there would be that point (for me) around mile 11 when I would feel like I had zero energy left and I was dragging my legs for each step. I also knew from the last race that I could just tough it out and keep dragging and it would be over before I knew it.


  • There's a precedent. My goal for my first half was simply to finish. Yes, I had a goal time in mind (and I achieved it), but I wasn't holding myself to my goal too seriously. I just needed to finish. This time, I had already set a PR for myself. This time, I couldn't just finish. I had continued training, I theoretically was in better shape. Mentally, I had to beat my time and PR! This was by far the most stressful aspect of the race.
  • I needed to modify my strategy. In my first half marathon, I wasn't sticking to a pace goal. My strategy was to run as easy of a pace as necessary to finish. This time, I wanted to PR so I talked to Darren about a plan. He recommended starting off at my pace from my first half marathon (12:30), and progressively increasing my pace by 5-10 seconds each mile.
  • There's a different race course to consider. In this case, the course was almost completely flat, as compared to the very hilly Knoxville course. I consider a flat course advantageous, but because I wasn't anticipating hills to slow me down, I would have to be careful in pacing myself.

The Morning of the Race

When we woke up early the next morning, we could see how beautiful the island was. My nerves were racing, but I got it together, got dressed, and had my tried-and-true pre-long run snack: two slices of toast and a banana. I know it's recommended to also get some protein, but that is just too heavy for me before running, so I stick with carbs. I gathered up my jelly beans, watch, iPhone, headphones, Nuun, and water, and we were off.

There was a shuttle that ran from our end of the island to the race start. We wanted to take the 7:20 shuttle but it was full, and had to wait the 7:30 shuttle instead. So annoying. I hate feeling later than I want to be! It started my morning feeling flustered, which I don't like! Luckily, we got to the race and found our RunKNOX friends in the crowd. 

And Then I Did This Totally "Beachy" Thing

See what I did there?

I can't believe I'm sharing this. This is so mortifying. However, everyone I've told laughs hysterically when I share it, so I think you'll enjoy it as well. 

To appreciate this story, you need to know two facts about me.

1) I tend to be a little flaky and unobservant of my surroundings. I completely miss obvious things and say things out of context. It's a running joke among B, family, and friends. This is amplified when I'm really focused on a task at hand.

2) I'm obnoxiously polite. I'm constantly worried about hurting someone's feelings or offending someone. I want to be as nice and drama free as possible. Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than confrontation. I constantly replay conversations in my head worrying that I've said or done something wrong. 

With that said...

With only 10 minutes until race time, I realized I may have over-hydrated before the race and wanted to find a restroom. Unfortunately, the only option was portapotties. There was a huge line of them so I started to dart in one. 

Then this girl totally gave me a rude look and cut in front of me. What??

Then this random guy said "Now ladies...". And I thought, "Thank you. This girl should totally be called out."

So I find another one and when I come out I realize....

There is a line of like 50 people that I didn't see, and I cut in front of ALL of them. All staring at me. The guy was calling ME out!! 

They thought I was a total "beach"!!

I didn't see them because the line was backed up about 10-20 feet or so and I guess they just blended in with the crowd and I didn't notice. So I'm standing there mortified and frozen, attempting to speak but I don't think anything came out or anyone could even hear me...

Oh my gosh...Um...I didn't see...So sorry.

My sad attempts weren't helping the evil stares, and it was 5 minutes to start time, so there was nothing left to do but get to the race.

So to all Kiawah Island 2013 Racers, I hereby apologize for my actions, and vow to pay more attention next time!!

Brandon thinks this is the most hilarious thing ever, as he knows these facts about me better than anyone.

And We Were Off!!!

There was no time to worry about my faux pas, as the race was about to start. I met up with my RunKNOX friend, Lauren, and the starting gun went off! Remember Lauren? She runs at a similar pace as me, so she also followed the plan of starting at 12:30 for the first few miles, then progressively increasing pace.

Only problem with that plan...

I felt like a rockstar!! There's something magical about tapering and then running a race. I had so much energy it was like I wasn't even running. I was floating on a magical running rainbow!

Okay, 11:00 pace may not feel like blast-off to you, but I felt like Apollo shooting to the moon!

Fortunately, Lauren is much more disciplined than me and reminded me to hold back.

But how do you hold back a speeding bullet?

She knew (and I knew) all too well that going out too fast in the beginning means burning out later on in the race, so I listened and held back as she reminded me of our pace plan. Thanks, Lauren!

Look at us in our matching pink shirts! A couple of RunKNOX Foxes! :)

Even with her constant reminders, we got a little ahead of ourselves on pace. Instead of 12:30 pace, my watch showed 11:50ish pace for the first few miles. We ran by palm trees, lush tropical plants, golf courses and marshes. The sky was clear and sunny (we expected it to rain), and it was absolutely beautiful. It was fun running with Lauren and saying hello to people. Before I knew it, we'd already run 6 miles!

But that was only the beginning...there were many twists and turns ahead (literally and figuratively).

I'll be back Friday with Part 2 of this race recap! I'm ready to wrap up the last minute tasks and relax and enjoy time with family and friends. I'm a little excited I'm making  this decadent treat for my family - I hope it turns out well! 

In the meanwhile, a very Merry Christmas and holiday season to you!! I hope your days are filled with happiness, loved ones, and laughter. :) Thank you for sharing in my journey here on the blog. I've enjoyed getting to know you this year, and look forward to exciting times in the year to come!


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I was not compensated by any of the above organizations for this post, nor are they affiliated with this blog. I am simply sharing my honest opinions and experiences. The views expressed in this article are solely my own. Also, I'm not a health or fitness professional of any kind. See my  Terms and Conditions page. 

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Friday, December 6, 2013

How I Found Out I Need Running Candy

I've been waiting for the right time to tell this story...

As you may know, I'm currently training for my second half marathon this month. It's 8 days away! I'm rediscovering my love/hate relationship with long runs, and ran 12 miles for the third time in my LIFE a few weeks ago. Getting back into long runs has reminded me of the story when I ran 12 miles for the FIRST time ever.

It has to be one of the most memorable experiences in running I've ever had.

It's kind of funny (after the fact), kind of scary (even though everything was fine), but overall, a learning experience that led to me better preparing for running and making smarter decisions in my future training.

It was back in March of this year (2013), and  was my longest training run before my first half-marathon. It was a huge accomplishment, yes, but I made some rookie mistakes in terms of staying prepared and fueled.

If you've been running for awhile, this probably won't be informative, but an illustration of how important it is to prepare and fuel properly for long runs. If you're new to running (especially long runs), I hope this inspires you to seek out the right nutritional items to fuel your runs.

I like to call these items (GU, Sport Beans, etc) "Running Candy".

So here we go...

It started off just like any other long training run. I was terribly nervous, as 12 miles was a new distance for me. Running 10 miles still made me feel like my legs were made of lead, and I'd spend the rest of the weekend hobbling around with a gangsta lean. Nonetheless, there was about a month until my first half marathon, and I had to get this in so I could feel confident  that I could run the distance.

As I typically did back then before my long runs, I drank some (plain) water and ate a banana before meeting our group at 7:30 AM that morning. I carried some more (plain) water in my handheld bottle.

We met up with our group, and I found the girl in my group who ran near my pace and would run with me. It felt better knowing I wasn't going at it alone.

Finally it was time to start running. I started off feeling strong. The weather was brisk and comfortable. I listened to Pandora on my headphones and got into the music. I felt energetic as I ran the somewhat hilly greenways in west Knoxville.

For about 6-7 miles, I was energetic and lost in my music. My running buddy was just a few steps behind me, and we occasionally encouraged and complimented each other.

Between 7-8 miles, however, I started feeling a little tired and...hungry??

That was odd. I typically am too mentally consumed with the difficulty of running to think about food. 

I remembered that there would likely be a yummy post-run breakfast/brunch to be had later, so I sucked it up and kept on going.

Between 8-10 mi, it started to feel a little tough. This wasn't unusual for me - after 8 mi I always felt drained of energy, and my legs tired, heavy, and sore. I stayed focused, tried to enjoy my music, and at about 10 mi, started on my last loop of the greenway before I arrived back to my starting point.

And then I tried to think...

Finally, at 10 miles, I'd surpassed my distance PR. This was it - I was doing this! Just 2 miles to go! Regardless of how I felt, I had to keep going.

But wait...when did I lose my running partner? She was just right behind me. Wasn't she? How long has it been since I lost her? Miles ago? Was she okay? How did I miss this? I was confused. Some running partner I was...

(Side note - she was fine, she just fell behind me in pace and ended the run early).

It wasn't like me to get confused like that. Oh well, nothing I could do about it at that moment. I would just check on her when I caught up to my group.

I was so tired, sore, and drained, I was staring at my watch: 10.7 mi...10.8 mi...

Stop looking at it! That makes it worse! Ahh! I looked again. Come on, only....wait...how many miles to go? What's 10.79 from 12 mi? Let's think this through...

Yikes! In my daily life, I'm calculating sale prices at Ann Taylor Loft, deciding which package of Bounty is cheaper by unit price, estimating marketing budgets and response rates - all on the fly.

Why is it taking me so long to do simple arithmetic?

It worried me a little, but I had to try to let it go so I could focus on my run. My legs were running under me almost on autopilot, but there really wasn't much thought going on. FINALLY, my watch displayed 12.0 mi and I had completed it. I should have felt ecstatic, accomplished, and proud. Instead I was too exhausted to process it. I felt a little weak and dizzy.

To get back to our meeting spot and my husband and vehicle, I had to walk up a GIANT hill. Likely the steepest hill in Knoxville.

I couldn't fathom it.

I hate to admit this, but while walking that ginormous hill, I took a couple of breaks and sat on the sidewalk. I'm not sure, but I may have even closed my eyes for a moment.

Not my brightest move.

Finally, once I got to the top of the hill, I thought I had made it! Everything would be just fine!

If it hadn't been for the lady asking directions...

Just as I'd gotten up the hill and was almost to the parking lot to meet my group, a lady in a minivan stopped by and asked for directions to a park.

I could literally see it from the hill we were on.

What I meant to say was: "Yes, it's right down there. Go down the hill and there will be parking on your right. Have a lovely time at the park."

What came out was something like: "TheIt's hjklhkhpark there jhhjlright hill..." with me attempting to point.

She hastily said, "Okay thanks, bye!" and took off.

I must have looked completely nuts. 

And now I couldn't ignore it. I was starting to really worry about my mental state.

I walked across the parking lot to meet up with my group. I passed a grocery store and it hit me.

Salt. I wanted salt. There were olives in that store - my all-time favorite food!! I wanted them so badly. I know that's weird.

Then I decided to get it together...

Finally, I saw my husband, Brandon, and a girl from my group outside chatting. I thought, "The run is over. I'm fine. Get it together!" I was going to be cool. I really was.

As I approached B and my running friend, they asked me how it went.

What I meant to say was: "It was fine, and I'm proud to have run 12 miles. However, I feel drained on energy, which appears to be affecting my cognitive ability. Also, funny thing - I'm really craving salty foods. I could go for some olives!"

What came out was something like: "This lady..[gasp]...directions..[sob]...couldn't think...I WANT OLIVES!"

Yep, this story just got even weirder.

And then I proceeded to cry? Hyperventilate?

This is SO not cool with me. You see, I'm an not an outwardly emotional person. I'm much more open here in my writing than I am in real life. I rarely cry or share my feelings in front of people.

I had no energy left to maintain my usual filter.

They gave each other a confused look, and then they realized I needed a little energy and electrolytes.

Lo and behold, we were at the right place! A local nutrition and health shop just so happened to be the host location of the group run, and they were offering lots of samples of supplements, electrolytes, recovery drinks - you name it.

Most of the girls in my group got back at different times than me, so they weren't around. B walked me into the store, and I remember seeing several athletic guys (some from my group) staring wide-eyed at me in shock, unsure how to react to this outburst of emotion.

Nice guys, but not exactly "Hey girl" Ryan Gosling types.

Fortunately, B is a very kind and helpful husband, and the closest thing to Gosling I have. He started handing me little cups of potions and concoctions of the sample items. My hands were shaking but I started drinking them and felt a little less faded.

Then my RunKNOX coach, Darren, came out from the other room, and started to congratulate me. He quickly shifted from smiling and high-fiving to looking very confused when he saw me. Being the attentive coach he is, he pulled me outside to ask me what was going on and try to help. I was feeling a little more together, and I was able to give him a quick download of what happened.

He seemed genuinely concerned, and asked me a few questions.

"So what are you putting in your water?"

Oh, my water? It's just water. Why would I put something in it?

"And what did you eat today?"

Just a banana, why?

"That's it? No GU's, nothing else?"


And then he looked at me in a very "I've taught you better than this" way.

To be fair, he had taught me better than this. He had told us all before about the importance of electrolytes, hydration, GU's (or other energy sources), recovery drinks, etc. Admittedly, I just hadn't listened (sorry!).


I mean, come on. I'm just a casual beginner runner. I'm one of the slowest in our group. I'm not a track athlete or trying to qualify for Boston. Those products are for serious hard-core athletes, not me. Why do I need this stuff?

He then proceeded to very kindly explain (lecture?) to me that yes, I did need to fuel effectively for my long runs. He explained all of this in a very informative way, but here's my very non-scientific takeaway: It's not about how fast I run, but simply that I'm running for 2+ hours and am burning off all of my stored energy. Also, I need to replenish my electrolytes (i.e. sodium and potassium) that are lost while running.

Here's a more scientific explanation.

We went back into the store and he walked me though the walls of bottles and pouches of stuff that would hopefully do the trick. Again, it was very informative, but in my intellectually weakened state, all I could process was, "Blah blah...gels...energy...Nuun...electrolytes...jelly beans..." I tried to take in all of the information I could.

Finally, I felt recovered from the incident and armed with some new knowledge. B and I purchased a few items to try and the eventful morning was over.

And then I noticed, oh hey, there's a banana in my hand. B must have handed one to me at some point and I've been holding it this whole time. Hmm...

And now I know...

I tried several different things, but I landed on two essential items I use today:

  • My Magic Running Jellybeans - I had tried a GU once, and the idea of slurping gooey stuff out of a packet grossed me out. It's a personal preference - many love them because they are easy to consume (among other reasons). Sport Beans sounded much more palatable to me. I was right - I love them! They give me just the right amount of energy without making me feel jittery (like I've experienced with some products). 
    • I typically don't need them for training runs less than 5 miles or an hour. I do, however, consume half a pouch about 15-30 minutes before 5K races for the extra boost.
    • For any run (race or training) 5-10 miles, I typically consume half a pouch about 15-30 minutes before running. I carry the other half of the pouch and nibble on a few beans every mile or so. 
    • For a race or any run over 10 miles (including a half marathon), I carry an additional pouch to gradually consume over the course of the run.
  • Nuun Tablets - It also sounded like a good idea to drop a tablet of Nuun in my water to replenish my electrolytes. I've found they keep me feeling hydrated and energetic - especially in the summer! I use them no matter what distance I'm running. 
    • For runs under 5  miles or an hour long, I just use one tablet and drop it in my handheld bottle of water.
    • For any run over 5 miles, I bring two tablets. One goes into my water, the other I carry and drop in my water bottle later when I hit a water stop.  
I use these, of course, in conjunction with healthy snacks, meals, and plenty of water before and after running. Since I've started using these products and employing these strategies, I'm happy to report I haven't had any incidents like this story. Sure, I feel tired (exhausted even), drained, and even dramatic and whiny after difficult runs, but I haven't had scary experiences like this.

I share this with you, not because I'm an expert on fitness and nutrition (far from it!). I share it in hopes that if you're like I was and aren't considering your nutrition while running, you'll seek something out that works for you. It's not just important for Olympic athletes or Boston qualifiers, it's important for any runner to stay well hydrated and fueled. 

There is a plethora of products on the market, so it can seem overwhelming. It's also highly individualized - different things work for different runners. I suggest talking to a coach, trainer, nutritionist, doctor, or visiting your local health and supplement shop and asking for suggestions.

Stay healthy out there! :)

How do you stay hydrated and fueled on your long runs?

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I was not compensated by any of the above organizations for this post, nor are they affiliated with this blog. I am simply sharing my honest opinions and experiences. The views expressed in this article are solely my own. Also, I'm not a health or fitness professional of any kind. See my  Terms and Conditions page. 

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