Recently, I ran the Ottawa Race Weekend Half Marathon. I had spent the days leading up to it with a serious stomach bug and the runs and on the actual day, the weather was so hot and humid, they almost had to cancel the race. Despite all that, I decided to go for it and just try to finish (which I did, slowly) and in the end, it seemed a fitting culmination of my training.
Let me explain. The past few months have not been easy. I signed up for the race last fall, shortly after running my first marathon. And so, come February, I was ready to start my training plan. I was planning on improving my fitness and hopefully getting a PR. Life, however, happened, and I sunk into depression along the way. Running has always been my “get up and go” time, the first thing I do in the morning, the thing that gets me out the door and full of energy. But this year, I was finding that I would worry so much about getting up to run in the morning that I would barely sleep all night. I might fall asleep for a few minutes or even an hour, just to wake up again, panicked and upset. I spent a lot of nights crying, watching TV on the couch, hoping it would put me to sleep. I finally had to admit to myself that something was wrong and that I needed to rearrange some things in my life.
The first thing to rearrange was my running time. I decided to try running in the afternoons, so that if I actually fell asleep at night, I could stay asleep until the last possible moment before work. That meant spending less after-school time with my daughter (although it meant we made time to run together afterward). And it meant me being more relaxed about meals. I had to let myself off the hook from cooking amazing dinners eat night. We have had a lot more bacon and eggs for dinner, or take-out, so that I can get the rest I need.
Thankfully, my family, friends and coworkers have been super supportive along the way. I had to give up a lot of little things at work and my coworkers had to pick up the slack. My husband and daughter have been so understanding of whatever food I can manage to feed them, and of whatever time I have to give them.
Even with really changing things around, I have still had a lot of down moments. While we were in Boston, I could barely get through a 4K run because I just wanted to cry. Before a 5K race in April, I only slept a couple hours, and so struggled to the finish, and through the 8K home afterward. And I got incredibly sick before the half marathon.
Despite all that, I have proven to myself that I can persevere. And that I have a crazy amount of determination. I can get through whatever life throws my way. And I can keep running through it all. It’s not always fast, or pretty, and yet, I’ll get through. And along the way, there will be little moments of joy – training my daughter to run a 2K, seeing a lone duck on the water, watching the sun break through the clouds.
Running hasn’t fixed me, but it certainly has helped.
How to fuel a long run or race
One of the biggest questions in long distance running is how do you eat? What do you eat? How on earth do you make it through?
There are so many different products on the market, so really, you just have to figure out what works best for you. I got into using energy gels because my husband had been using them for cycling long distances and they were his favourite. I haven’t tried blocks (basically gummies that are packed with the sugars and salts you need), but I have tried different kinds of candy and drinks. What I have discovered works best for me is to use Gu gels (and occasionally Honey Stinger) every 7K. For runs and races over 10K, I’ll take a gel before I head out, and then every 7km after that. I drink a TON of water while I run and if it’s particularly hot or long, I will also drink some Gatorade. I tried Nuun at my most recent race and found that it was perfect for my tummy every 3K or so. I will also eat a banana along the way if possible (i.e. if my hubby brings me one). I’m considering trying orange slices in the future.
Gels do not look appetizing and they certainly don’t taste great the first time you try them, but they work wonders when you’re running for a few hours. They are definitely my go-to running fuel. My favourite flavours are Espresso Love, Chocolate Peanut Butter and Root Beer.