When I realized that a marathon time from a previous race qualified me for the 2018 Chicago Marathon, I immediately added it to my to-do list.
While the Boston Marathon and Leadville 100 have been my bucket-list races, the Chicago race drew me in because of its proximity to home, flatness and the fact that it is considered one of the world’s marathon majors.
More recently I learned that Gatorade hydration products would be served on course. So I jumped at the opportunity to test them out as I prepared for the Oct. 7 race in the Windy City.
Disclaimer: I received samples of Gatorade Endurance to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro ambassador, and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews.
Training and testing
Previously, I had used various forms of Gatorade to stay hydrated during marathons and replace electrolytes after a long run or workout. Gatorade Endurance, a newly reformulated product line, contains no artificial sweeteners or flavors but helps athletes replace key electrolytes.
The most important part of my Chicago Marathon training — both physically and nutritionally – was the Fox Valley (St. Charles, Ill.) 20-mile run, three weeks before race day. I had a successful race, finishing in 2:47:55, good enough for 38th overall out of 474 runners and second in my age group.
The Fox Valley race was also a good way to experiment with my intended fuel during the Chicago Marathon. It was a solid experiment and my body fared well. I tested the apple-pear Energy Gel and the lemon-lime Thirst Quencher Powder. Both provided a light, pleasing flavor that was not overwhelming or too sweet like so many similar products.
Testing the energy gel
Before long runs or races, I usually have had a bagel with peanut butter or oatmeal. However, as my body has adjusted from surgery for an abdominal issue earlier this year, I have learned that those pre-race fueling options don’t work as well any more. Before the Fox Valley race, I tested out a new race morning breakfast — almond milk, mushy banana, blueberries and granola.
(And, yes, I know the adage “nothing new on race day” but I saw this as more of a training, practice run than a race.)
The new breakfast, along with my traditional pre-race Generation Ucan drink, worked well for my gut. With the approximately 600 calories consumed, I was ready and knew I wouldn’t need calories until an hour or so into the race.
Even though the race started at 7 a.m., it was already fairly warm (67 degrees and rising steadily to 80 within a few hours). The sun would become a factor later during the parts of the course that were unprotected by shade.
I took sips of water and the occasional Gatorade to stay hydrated. I used my first Gatorade Endurance gel around Mile 8, having about half of the pack and finishing it off four miles later. Mile 8 was about the time that I felt the sun, temperature and humidity starting to take a toll on me. (Another runner I chatted with post-race agreed with that timeline.)
In reviewing my data on Strava, my first 12 miles were very consistent. So I believe the Gatorade Endurance gel played a role in helping me stay on pace during that first challenging section. It’s also worth noting that the gel comes in an easy-to-transport pack that rips open easily. I was able to fold it up, stick it back into my pocket and continue running without breaking stride.
Each 1.3-ounce gel has 20 grams of carbs, 80 calories, 90 mg of sodium, 35 mg of potassium and 6 grams of sugar.
Testing the endurance formula
I did notice slight stomach discomfort sometime around Mile 12 after I finished the gel. I believe the combination of the gel plus regular Gatorade from aid stations created the issue. When I hit another aid station, I had some water, which helped alleviate the discomfort.
On previous training runs, I have used either the gel beforehand or carried the water and Gatorade mix with me and have not had the issue before. That will be something to keep in mind
Mixed with water, Gatorade Endurance Formula provides about twice the sodium and three times the potassium of Gatorade Thirst Quencher to help athletes stay hydrated, maintain fluid balance and replace key electrolytes. It is intended to be used by athletes during long — 2.5 hours or longer — training sessions or races.
The lemon lime flavor is mild and doesn’t leave a sweet or sugary aftertaste like similar products. Other flavors include watermelon, orange and cherry.
One 12-ounce serving has 22 grams of carbs, 90 calories, 300 mg of sodium, 140 mg of potassium and 13 grams of sugar.
I was also provided Gatorade Endurance bonk breakers. I have not put them to use yet since my longest run so far has “only” been 20 miles. I will probably not test them or pack them on Chicago Marathon race day. However, as I transition from marathons to a pair of ultras I have later this year, I will put those to the test.
For now, as I taper toward Chicago, I feel confident that my system — for the most part — handles Gatorade Endurance well. That’s a huge part of training that is sometimes overlooked by runners. Practice what you will be using on race day.
I’m glad that I had the opportunity to test the Gatorade Endurance products beforehand. And I am confident in my training and the supplements that will help me throughout the race. Bring on Chicago.