Saturday 11th January
Just starting to see the first real signs of coming into form. Yesterday, I was out working from 8.30 to 3.30, and didn’t manage to eat in that time, but I was pretty keen to get out and do some useful training before it got completely dark. So I decided that I would do a tempo run, over a route that is mostly country footpaths with a final section on the road, and which takes about forty minutes if going at my usual steady run pace. Given that there was a serious chance I would be lacking energy due to working and not having eaten for seven hours, I decided to try taking an isotonic energy gel, plus a cup of tea, as soon as I got in, even though I would have to set off just ten to fifteen minutes afterwards and it might not have kicked in by then (I believe they take 15-20 minutes to start to work for you).
So off I went, getting into a fairly rapid rhythm and working hard for the first mile or so, knowing that there was a decent downhill stretch to recover. This was followed by a tough uphill section, then a shorter up and down bit, before the finishing stretch on tarmac, which is a fairly flat mile and a quarter. In spite of pushing it quite hard on the previous undulating sections, I felt particularly strong and energetic during this final phase, and wonder if the energy gel was starting to kick in at this stage. My finishing time of 34 minutes 43 seconds suggests I must have been doing something right, as my previous best time for this route was 36 minutes flat.
I took another one as I began my ten minute warm down jog, in order to aid my recovery and see how I felt about taking one as I was running. I did find that I had to slow right down to take one, but I guess that we are talking about something in the region of ten seconds, at the most, being lost for each gel taken, and if you weigh that against the prospect of hitting the wall, that is a small price to pay.
I do worry that the energy gels are a bit heavy and awkward to carry, especially if you are going to take 6 to 8 during the race. Unfortunately, the race I am entered in only has water available on the course, so I will need to carry my own fuel, unless I can get my wife to meet me at a couple of strategic points (not much chance of that). Iv’e started looking at the different options for carrying the gels and will try one or two of the methods on my long run tomorrow.
Update – Sunday 12th January
I decided to try the method of attaching the gels to the waistband at the side of, and inside, my shorts, using safety pins. I attached two 60ml gels by each hip, and this worked very well. Being at the side meant that they weren’t interfering with my stride to any noticeable degree , and the fact that they were attached meant that they weren’t bouncing around. As I was wearing boxer briefs similar to the one in the photo (right), there were no chafing issues, which perhaps might be the case had I worn simple briefs. It was tricky to attach the sachets, trying to avoid puncturing the part which contains the gel, but I was able to do it, and the advice to rip off the sachet when ready to take one worked fine (though the effect on the pin varied, with one pin bending, another remaining in place, and the other opening up without bending). As a good environmentalist I inserted the empty gel packs in my pocket after use, and generally found that I wasn’t having to slow significantly as I carried out my feeding procedure.
So I was able to carry four 60ml gels in this manner, and I’m fairly sure that another gel could have been attached by each hip without causing any significant restriction. However, I am more worried that the extra weight might create just a little too much downward force on the shorts, which could lead to an awkward situation, or more likely to having to tighten the strings of the shorts to an uncomfortable level to avoid it. Will try this out though and, if its no good,look at carrying the extra two gels in my hands or on my arms (perhaps tucking into wristbands like the ones sported by Rafa Nadal in the photo?). I’m pretty confident that six gels will be enough for me if I ensure I am fully carb loaded before the race, but I will continue to research this.