Fueling. What the F$#@?!

I’ve run three marathons and two half marathons–that’s four training cycles.

Let me tell you something: I still have no idea how to fuel properly.

My first marathon was the first thing I ever trained for. Technically speaking, the Fiesta Bowl Half Marathon I ran in 2011 was my first ever race, but I ran it 3 weeks out from the P.F. Chang’s Marathon–completely on a whim, because I was advised the marathon shouldn’t be my first ever race.

Anything I knew about training or fueling I found on blogs or the Runner’s World website. My “training plan” was pulled from Runner’s World (I really just zeroed in on how to increase mileage. There was no speed work or anything of that matter). I was training to finish and that was it. So, fueling (to me) meant eating some of those fancy packaged things behind the counter at the running store.

I started with Gu Chomps.

Aww yeah, buddy!

They taste like fruit snacks.

These are wonderful little tid-bits. I would eat them every 3-4 miles, and during my long runs, they worked just fine. But, come marathon day (January 2012), I hit the wall, hard, at Mile 22 and eating these just made me feel sick to my stomach.

In my naiveté, I didn’t really attribute that to the chomps. I figured it was because it was my first marathon. As far as I knew, that was how you were supposed to feel at Mile 22.

For marathon number 2, I switched to Cliff Shot-Bloks.


Why I thought this would make a significant difference is beyond me, but, I was all “oh! These will be super!”.

Marathon #2, The Long Beach Marathon (October 2012), was just a disaster. I fell apart really early in the race (I blame the hugely lofty goal of BQ-ing that I was not capable of pursuing yet–and I feel like I probably overtrained a bit). I hung on, barely, and crossed the finish in 3:59. So, really I have no idea how these affected my race. I felt bad the whole time, so, who knows. I really don’t remember.

For Marathon #3 in June of this year, I turned back to the Gu Chomps. I knew, however, that my fueling was crap in the past and I wanted to work on that.

I discovered Nuun and really utilized their All-Day line in the weeks leading up to the race. I also discovered Picky Bars. I started eating those before my long runs and used the Chomps and Nuun tablets in my hand-held during the long runs. And I felt really good.

I’ve said this before, but I went into the Utah Valley Marathon feeling SO good. I used my Nuun All-Day tabs the day before and was well hydrated going into the race. Hydration was not an issue–I kept with just water throughout and felt fine. I ate a Picky Bar about 15-20 min before the start and felt strong through the better part of the course– but, by Mile 20, I started to feel sick to my stomach and when I tried to eat another Chomp, I spit it out, convinced I was going to hurl.

The sweetness! Ugh. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I finished the race not fueling for the last 6 miles. I crossed the finish in 3:42.


For a half marathon, the chomps are fine. I eat so few that it doesn’t really matter. But, for the Phoenix Marathon, I need to figure out something else.

I’ve been hesitant to try out gels because I’ve been afraid they’d make me sick. I’m big on texture and I was afraid of the “slime” description I’ve read about. Last week, I decided to try one out, just to see. I figured 10 miles was a good opportunity to give it a try–if it made me gag, it wasn’t so far that not fueling would be a major issue.

I chose the chocolate flavor and tried it out at mile 5. Holy delicious! Not only was it not gag-worthy, but I actually enjoyed the flavor. It’s sweet–for sure–but you can take them so much more infrequently then the chomps, that it may not be an issue. It was also nearly 30* while I was running, so I don’t know if that made the gel more solid and less slimey…but I really didn’t mind the consistency.

So, the game plan is to continue trying out the gels. I also joined the Picky Club to keep those glorious bars coming with convenience and ease! Plus, they’re like 4 bucks a pop at the only store that carries them in town, so in addition to feeling hip and cool, I’m saving money.

I'm part of the cool kid's club!

I’m part of the cool kid’s club!

I’m really hoping to nail the whole nutrition/fuel thing this time around. I’m going to keep reading up on fuel options and start experimenting. I’d like to go into the race in February confident that my fuel situation is under control so I can really focus on the running.

How do you fuel for races? 


4 thoughts on “Fueling. What the F$#@?!

  1. I’m still working on my fueling strategy as well. I use Clif Shot gel and blocks and they work well for me, but I get tired of the sweetness. In my last race I also ate a Lara bar and that seemed to sit well on my stomach, but those are pretty sweet as well.

    I should try Picky Bars. Have you tried eating them during the run or just before you start?


    • I think I ate had of one at my turn around point on an 18 miler, but I didn’t notice a considerable difference. I would like to try it out more though and see how it goes! I definitely recommend trying them out! They’re tasty and not heavy at all like a lot of energy bars can feel.

      How do the gels work for you on long runs? I imagine I would have two for a marathon and that seems a lot better then two packs of chomps!


  2. Pingback: Race Recap: Fiesta Bowl Half Marathon | Running High

  3. Pingback: Fueling: An Update | Running High

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