Even though the Chicago Marathon was my 24th race of 26.2 miles or more, I’ve learned to respect the distance. Anything can happen on marathon day.
That’s why during my training cycle for the Oct. 7 Windy City race, I was pleased to practice with the Gatorade Endurance products that would be served on course.
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.
Making adjustments on the run
Initially I was disappointed in my Chicago Marathon finishing time, which was 3:34:59, the third fastest of my 19 marathons. I also finished in the top 15 percent. Given my overall finish and what I had come back from five months ago, I eventually learned to appreciate the finishing time.
The race result was thanks to a combination of determination, a smart training plan, and understanding and adjusting my nutritional needs.
My plan for the race was to alternate water and Gatorade Endurance so that I did not overwhelm my stomach with sugar, which has given me discomfort during earlier training runs. I also planned to use the Gatorade Endurance gel and chews starting around Mile 8 and then about every four miles afterward until somewhere between miles 19 and 23, where aid stations would offer bananas.
It was a solid plan but my stomach felt a bit queasy even before Mile 8.
I didn’t want to escalate the minor irritation — and end up spending part of my day in the port-a-potties — by consuming something that would further upset it. So I stuck with water.
Around Mile 10, the water was working so I decided to pop in my first gel. That settled well and gave me a boost and I was able to continue my 8-minute per mile pace through the first half of the race.
Queasy stomach, limited calories
I never did figure out exactly why my stomach was bothering me early on. It could have been nerves. It could have been the result of stress from a busy work and travel week. It could have been something I ate the previous day.
In any case the morning of the race I fueled the same way I did for other recent training runs, including the Fox Valley 20-miler three weeks earlier. The 600-calorie breakfast consisted of almond milk, granola and blueberries, and later a Generation Ucan drink mix.
At Fox Valley, I did experience slight stomach discomfort sometime around Mile 12 after I finished a gel. That’s why I chose to be cautious with water until I trusted my gut.
I had two gels, around miles 10 and 15 at Chicago, before getting half bananas at two stations in the last seven miles of the race. As I had planned, I alternated water and Gatorade Endurance, favoring water to ensure the best digestion possible.
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.
A banana has roughly 100 calories, meaning I had roughly 260 calories plus whatever I took in from the drinks. Even with the liquid Gatorade, I was well behind my calorie requirement for running a marathon.
The dropoff in calories explains why my pace slowed in the second half of the race. I finished with an overall pace of around 8:12.
It was a conscious decision to protect my gut. I don’t regret it at all. Had I consumed more sugar early on, I very well could have had a more severe stomach issue and not finished as well as I did.
For all runners, but especially those training for a new distance, it is critically important to test their nutrition during training and understand how their body is faring during the race.
I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to test the Gatorade Endurance products beforehand. If and when I do Chicago again — or run another race serving these products — I will once again use Gatorade during my training runs and on race day.