Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Nutrition Race Report: Trail Half Marathon August 3rd, 2013

This race report will be called, "How to try to save a good race gone badly".  If you are only interested in the race nutrition, scroll down to "Race". on....

Friday: Day Before
6:30pm: Dinner at a family restaurant. Unfortunately they were out of pasta (it was the night's special). So I opted instead for turkey breast, mashed potatoes (no gravy), corn and a roll. Water to drink = ~90gm carbohydrate, 25gm protein

9pm: Snacktime! Cheerios in skim milk with peanuts on top, 2 cups water = ~35gm carbohydrate, 16gm protein

10:15pm: In bed, but had a hard time falling asleep. Was overly warm and found it hard to hear Emma in the room across the hallway so I attribute it to being distracted. Finally fell asleep I'm guessing around midnight??

Saturday: Race Day
Woke up on time around 5:50am. While driving in on Friday, I realized the house was actually about 25minutes from the race site, which bumped up my schedule for the morning a bit.

As soon as I got up, I drank about 1.5 cups of water. I got ready and started packing up our stuff to load the car. Unfortunately Emma decided to wake up early, but seemed content to chat with herself in her pack-n-play.

6:15am: Breakfast of 1 whole cinnamon-raisin bagel (sounded better than plain when I was at the store) with 2 tbsp peanut butter and 1 tbsp jelly, 1.5 cups Gatorade, 1 cup water. I had planned to have a banana as well, but was feeling some pre-race jitters, so did not = ~85gm carbohydrate, 8 grams protein

6:40am: Finished breakfast, got Emma up and ready. We packed up and got in the car.

7am: Left for the race site. I pumped while I drove (yeah - not recommended, but sometimes you just don't have a choice) and Ron sat in the back with Emma, feeding her a bottle. I drank 1-2 cups water, 1 cup Gatorade and ate medium banana in the car on the way = 45 gm carbohydrate.

7:30am: Arrived at the race site. I picked up my packet, visited the restroom, did a bit of stretching and a small amount of running/warm-up. I chatted with my brother, James - who was also running the race and watched Emma so Ron could get a restroom stop too. Drank 1 more cup water and got my fuel belt ready. After reviewing my race plan and the race aid stations again, I decided to change my plan. Instead of two gels, I packed three (just in case). And I decided to bring my fuel belt, which held 24 oz of water. I just was not comfortable with the no aid stations between miles 9 and 13.1 - that seemed like a long stretch without hydration. I decided I would rather carry more with me than not enough. Here is what my fuel set-up looked like (sorry- for some reason I can't get the picture to rotate):


8am-8:30am: Drank only sips of water (maybe 1/4-1/2 cup) and made one more restroom stop. Realized I had not warmed up or stretched as much as I wanted to, but it was too close to the start at that point. I lined up in the "corral" - really just a huge group of runners who were somewhat standing in pace order. I stood by what seemed to be the 8:30 mile pace group.

Unfortunately this race went downhill fast. I'll report what happened first and then analyze why I think it happened down below.
I always start too fast and this time was no different.
Miles 1 and 2: I clocked an 8-min pace. each My legs actually felt fine at this pace; the problem was side stitches. They started at maybe 1/2 mile in and situated themselves right under my lungs (on both sides). I kept going as long as I could and tried everything to get them to go away: drank water, massaged area while breathing deeply, slowed my pace a bit...nothing worked.
Mile 3: 8:15 pace. I was finally reaching my limit with the side stitches. I could not breath. I took off my heart rate monitor strap and the fuel belt and decided to carry them. I thought maybe taking any pressure off that area might help. It really didn't. I took my first gel, followed by water. I also took water at the first aid station - managed to swallow maybe 4 ounces.
Miles 4 and 5: I decided to admit defeat temporarily and walk to try to get rid of the side stitches. I figured since I was good on pace, it wouldn't hurt my time too much overall - and I could just make it up later. I walked 30 seconds here and there with my arms above my head - trying desperately to get rid of the side stitches. Around mile 5, I decided that maybe I would drop the stuff I was carrying at the mile 6 aid station so that I could completely focus on just running. I opened my zippered pocket to more easily be able to pull out my gels and drop the rest (this becomes important).
Mile 6: Suddenly the side stitches went away! Maybe it was passing a few people cheering on the side or getting close to the aid station, but suddenly I felt SO much better. I picked up my pace again and came to the ~mile 6 aid station. They were handing out water, Gatorade and Gu gels...that would have been nice to know ahead of time! I didn't take a Gu because I had never trained with that brand before. Because I was feeling better, I decided not to drop my stuff, but just keep going (it would have been a pain to get back after the rain). At this point I decided my new time goal was to break 2 hrs.
Mile 7: This is where things went from bad to worse. After my temporary joy and picking up of the pace, fatigue started setting in. Strange fatigue. Like "I just have no energy" fatigue. I was baffled by what was happening. At this point I had already drank 2/3 of the water bottle I was carrying (16 oz) during the side stitch episode. My pace was somewhere around an 8:30/8:45. I knew I wasn't dehydrated, so I took another gel, thinking maybe I was just burning energy particularly fast. The course WAS more hilly and difficult than what the website described. At this point, I realized that I had dropped one of the gels since the zippered pocket was still open - good thing I had packed 3. I drank the rest of the water bottle. There was an aid station around mile 7.5 (water and Gatorade). I thanked the Lord when I saw Ron standing there. I was able to drop my stuff since the water bottle was now empty anyhow. Took water from the aid station - ~4 oz.
Miles 8-11: Things did not improve. I continued to feel the strange fatigue - not in my legs - just a general fatigue. I took Gatorade at the last aid station around mile 9 - ~4oz. I was now counting down (5 miles left....4 miles left...etc.), hoping that would keep me mentally recharged. I didn't care about my time anymore - it was just about finishing now. Had it not been one continuous loop where the only was to get back was to finish, I may have actually pulled out of the race (that's how bad I felt and how bad I continue to feel). Each step was harder than the last. Around mile 11 I stubbed my left toe twice - I think because I just wasn't picking up my feet enough.
Miles 11-13.1: Final miles - finally! Tried to stay positive mentally but now I was starting to feel what may have been dehydration. Felt dizzy but wasn't overly warm. It was warming up - maybe 75 now and there were multiple spots of direct sun in these miles. Tried to keep running - walked off and on. In the last mile, someone gave me some of their water. Helped a bit, but it just really was over by then. 

I finished in 2:02:06/9:18 mile pace. Somehow managed 4th in my age group, 32nd woman overall and 130th finisher overall. Immediately put my wrists in the ice baths they were using for bottled water. Felt better. Drank sips of water.
Total carb during race: ~63gm, or 33.5gm/hr 
Total fluid during race: ~7 cups or 3.5 cups/hr 

I grabbed a banana and a plain bagel from the post-race food table. I was able to get some bites/nibbles as I sat and tried to cool down. We left almost immediately to get to another engagement. I pumped in the car while finishing 1 water water, half of a bagel and feeding Emma part of a bottle (don't worry - Ron drove this time).

What Happened?
-I underestimated my hydration needs post-pumping and started the race dehydrated...though I doubt it.
-I underestimated my carbohydrate needs and started the race underfueled...though I doubt it.
-I didn't take in enough carb during the race...possibly though the timing of the symptoms doesn't correlate with potential improper fueling strategies.
-The fuel belt was putting too much pressure on my intestines, causing cramping...possibly. I had issues with side stitches on a previous 10-mile run where I used the fuel belt. But that didn't happen until mile 6 and I had no issues on other runs where I used the fuel belt.

More likely:
-Not enough warm-up, stretching, preparation before the race started.
-Not enough water in the final miles, since I had finished my water bottle and there were no aid stations.
-I just went out too fast and had not trained enough at an 8-minute pace or for that distance.

Although it was odd to get side stitching SO early, I really think it was a product of going out too quickly. I also think I didn't do enough speed training prior to the race or enough distance training. I always did my long runs, but I think it just wasn't enough. So I can confidently say it was the WORST race I have ever done. But at least it's out of my system...and I can move on to the next one. I hope at least one of you will learn from my experience!

Be Extraordinary,



  1. Great post. Nice race. I am a fellow dietitian. Looked like a lot of fructose pre-race. More glucose means more CHO to the working muscle. Fructose cant leave the liver until its converted to fat. May be something to look at, may be nothing.

    1. Hi David! Thanks for your comment. I considered that as well - it might have potential though it is puzzling, as this is always my pre-race breakfast and I've never had the problems described in the report. Guess I'll have to experiment in the future. Thanks for visiting!

  2. Wow, have I been there! Awful.
    Some years ago I attended a pre-race seminar given by a college running coach. He suggested progressive miles with the first 2 miles extremely slow. For a half marathon he said to imagine the slowest you could possibly run then go slower. He believed that because of the crowd and the music and the excitement you naturally launch out to fast. He was convinced that in a long race you could make it up between 5 and 11 and cruise the last 2 miles. As a recreational runner this works for me and I love passing people (lots of people) in the last 2 miles. It works for this winning coach as well.

    1. Such great thoughts! I always go out to fast and absolutely agree that in the times I have pulled myself back, it has been made up by the end. Now I need to go run another half! :) Thanks for your comment!

  3. Great post, Kate. I just stumbled upon your blog and as a fellow RD/athlete, I loved reading that you made time to pump during a hectic pre-race morning! Right on!

    1. Thanks Ashley! And thanks for reading!