Do you have a half-marathon on the calendar? Maybe even a full? Even if you want to just get your ducks in a row, Coach Charlotte has laid out the top mistakes to be aware of.
1. Underestimating the amount of fuel and hydration you require!
When speaking with athletes who are training for a half marathon, one of the most common mistakes I see is that athletes don’t realize just how much the body requires to sustain exercise like this, especially when you’re going at a high intensity.
When I say fuel here, I'm talking specifically about carbohydrates. For exercise that is over an hour in duration and of moderate to high intensity, we recommend working your way toward 60-90 grams of carbohydrate per hour. For more easy to moderate intensity exercise, we recommend around 45-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. If you haven't been taking this much fuel with you up until now during training, I would recommend starting with 30-40 grams of carbohydrate first (typically 1-2 gels) and see how that goes before adding more.
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For hydration, the equation consists of water and electrolytes. Depending on exercise duration and intensity, you want to be sure you are adding these in, too! For exercise that is over an hour to an hour and a half, you want to aim for at least 16-24 ounces of water plus a serving of electrolytes that suits your needs each hour. I start my healthy athletes with around 300-600mg of sodium per hour and then tinker from there. Depending on the weather/climate and whether or not you are a more heavy/salty sweater, you may need to increase the amount of electrolytes and water you take in, as well!
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2. Not trying out on course fuel & hydration
We’ve all been there. Whether we’re more advanced in our running careers or earlier on, we forget to see what’s on course and get to the start line only to realize we’ve never tried the on course options. Now remember, the on course fueling station should not be your main way of getting in the nutrients your body needs. It is a backup. It’s for those scenarios in the race where potentially a gel dropped on the floor or out of your pocket and you didn't even realize. Or, maybe you’re having a harder time opening one of them, and as a result, you’re down a gel, which is your fuel.
The on course fuel could be a great option in this case! However, if you’ve never tried it before, you definitely don’t want to give them a go for the first time on race day as you don’t know how you’ll tolerate them and most don’t want to risk their race as a result, and instead would rather suffer a bit more under-fueled.
The key takeaway here: always look up what will be on course and trial them out ahead of race day a few times to ensure you tolerate it ok. Be sure to check and see if they specify flavor too (where applicable) as some may enjoy one flavor but not another!
3. Consuming new foods the day before your race!
This is a big one. I see it all the time where runners are so excited about their race and to carb load the night before, that they may either eat something entirely different that they do not typically have, potentially choose options that may not provide them with the most benefit, or eat more than their stomach is accustomed to and as a result, end in a tummy ache.
Carbohydrate loading is something that runners should test out ahead of race day during their training. This should be tested on longer run days to simulate the race experience with easy to digest carbohydrates (white rice, potatoes, pasta, bread, etc.). Typically, fiber is amazing. However, the night before a big race, try to limit the amount of fiber, take in easier to digest carbs, and eat cooked veggies if you’re a fan of veggies (rather than raw) as this will be easier for your stomach to handle. The goal is to take in nutrients to load up the tank while keeping the stomach and body feeling great, too.
Ultimately, eat foods you know your body tolerates well and you enjoy, that go down easy. This isn’t the day to trial out that new restaurant with foods you’ve never had before!