Drinking for peak performance

“‘I can’t do it’ never yet accomplished anything; ‘I will try’ has performed wonders.” – George P. Burnham

Today’s post covers two separate items: Hydration and my final prep for the marathon.

There are some important things to remember about hydration and drinking during a race, and I want to go over some of those because I’m a big believer in controlling what you can – both in training and during a race.

One important factor about dehydration is that heart rate increases when we dehydrate, even if the pace isn’t increased. And as we work to keep on pace during a race or training run, our bodies burn off glycogen more rapidly – which is why drinking fluids before and during a race is key to optimal performance and personal safety.

If needed, pullover and walk through the water stations, but keep out of others’ way. A lot of runners don’t feel comfortable grabbing and drinking while on the go. My system works for me – I will run by and grab a cup from a volunteer, keeping my arm loose and swinging it backward as I make contact, to provide a little “give” in the exchange. If it’s too full, I’ll dump a little out, and then pinch the top to make a funnel. If it’s hot out, I’ll dump half of it on my head and keep on moving. It takes practice to run and drink from a cup efficiently.

It’s also important to remember that if you wait until you feel thirsty, it’s too late. Fluid intake needs to be planned out and consumed regularly – in small doses – during the course of a distance race. Personally, I like to plan on fluids every odd-numbered mile, starting at mile 3 or 5. That doesn’t mean I drink a full cup of water or sports drink as I pass a fluid station, but I almost always grab one. Most of the time, I’ll consume half a cup and keep moving. And the longer you’re on the course, the more fluids you need. While the every-other mile strategy may be too much for some runners, I usually grab a cup to give myself the option.

Gels are my preferred racing fuel, and I’ll take 1 during a half marathon, or 3-4 during a full marathon. I make sure to take them just before pulling up to a water station since water in needed to dilute gels so the body can absorb them. Occassionally, I’ll take sports drink on the course, but never right after a gel.

With less than 48 hours to the start of the Fargo Marathon, I’m fine-tuning my race strategy, including gel intake. This is why knowing where those water stations will be is so important.

Throughout the marathon taper, my focus has been on carefully mapping out each of the details within my control to help make Saturday’s race go smoothly.

So last night, it was important to finish off my marathon prep with a strong run – 4 miles at my goal pace for the 26.2-mile monster. It was a controlled workout, with a warmup and cool down, on the treadmill. Despite the beautiful weather, I wanted to know exactly where I stood fitness-wise and monitor pace closely. With a lack of build-up races due to the spring flood, keeping the right pace is the biggest unknown for Saturday.

I walked away from the workout knowing that I’m about as fit as I’ve ever been in my life. When I step up to the starting line Saturday, I’ve done virtually everything I can to prepare myself physically and mentally. The pain in my Achilles is gone, and a twinge in my hamstring hopefully won’t be a factor. Now it’s a matter of running a smart race and seeing how I perform on race day.

3 thoughts on “Drinking for peak performance

  1. Hey Cory,
    I’m looking at taking a gel just before the race, and then around the 7, 14, and 20 mile marks. If I see a water station around mile 13, I’ll take one then (instead of mile 14) because I’ve seen differing reports on where the water stations will be. So that’s 3 gels during the race – and I’ll carry an extra with just in case I feel it will help me late in the race, like around mile 23. A lot of it just depends on how I feel during the race – I might take the 3rd a little sooner. The trick is to take them before you need them, but too many and my stomach gets upset. Best of luck!

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