I'm not the biggest fan of gels, but GU has something that just might interest me.
I've tried gels exactly twice, the first being the Comox Valley Half Marathon 2 years ago, and the second was during my first full Marathon - The 2009 Royal Victoria Marathon. Both times the gel was used as more of a mental support aid than a fuel. I will be trying one on my Long Run this weekend as part of my collaboration with Triple T on documenting our Long Runs.
Until a support worker on the side of the road pushed one into my hand, I'd never even seen a gel. Sure, I'd read about them, but being a middle-aged guy with the mind of an 19-year old, I figured I was invulnerable and that taking something mid-race to help me finish was showing weakness. Looking back, I swear my balls were bigger than my shoes.
I didn't even use the gel from my Half - I'm sure I could find it in the box with all my racing bibs and finishing medals (it would still be good, right?)- I mainly just held it in my hand, like Linus's security blanket, until I crossed the line. As I said, my mentality at the time was that I didn't need it, but the inner hoarder in me who can't throw away anything free kept it juuust in case.
The second time, during my Full, was completely different. I held onto the gel just like in the Half - keeping it in reserve - but in the back of my mind I didn't think I'd need it.
But need it I did.
You see, with the training program I was following, the longest long run you did pre-race was 23 miles - I guess they figure the adrenaline and everything else on race day will keep you revved up enough to make the final 5km alone. So when I hit somewhere around 24-ish miles, my body was wondering what the fuck was going on - weren't we supposed to have stopped a while ago? Why were my feet still moving? Isn't there a chair around here somewhere?
As I feel things start to shut down, I realize that I'm holding the gel in my hand - you know, the gel I picked up around the 10K mark, and have been holding clenched in my hand for the last 18 miles? I looked at it like it was my salvation - the gel will do it! The gel will supercharge me like nitrous into a racecar - I'll burn through the last two miles like Vin Diesel burns through scenery in every Fast & Furious movie. Shit, this packet in my hand will make me a temporary Kenyan.
I ripped open the package and smooshed it into my mouth. I'm not sure how the rest of you do it, but I don't think there's any graceful way to eat one of these things while running - so I smooshed it.
Hand-warmed chocolate gel tastes exactly as you think it would.
The results weren't what I expected, either - instead of the Speedy Gonzalez burst of energy and dash to the finish I hoped for, all I got was a bad taste in my mouth and the same feet I had before. The only improvement in speed was that I ran a little faster to the last water station hoping to flush the flavor out of my mouth.
So as you can see, the thought of gels during this training regimen is one of avoidance - but if you recall anything you've read in this blog, it's that Peanut Butter can do no wrong in my eyes. My thought with GU's Peanut Butter gel is that it will be like shoving the inside of a Reese's into my mouth - and that is something that the former fatty in me just can't wait for.
Note: The above was written in advance of my Long Run/ Gel combination - everything below was written after my 9 mile run. (It was inside, on a treadmill - because I have a cold and I'm a pussy.)
Things I learned today with Gu:
- My local running shop doesn't have Peanut Butter in stock right now - I won't shame them by publishing their name - I just want them to know how I died a little inside.
- If you think that guy at the gym who grunts, drops weights, and swigs from his protein shake between sets looks like a douchebag, imagine how the guy slurping down chocolate pudding on the treadmill looks.
- I run on an empty stomach - always have. Not being sure when to use the gel, I downed it at about the 5Km mark. Once again, let me state that when not amidst a pack of runners doing the same thing, eating a gel makes you feel like a tool and that everyone is wondering "What the fuck is that guy doing?".
- Once again, no Kenyan-like burst of speed - my main reaction was an intense desire to brush my teeth.
- After Mile 6, I did feel something - It's called "My guts churning mercilessly".
- During a run, I make it a point to stop only once - it's called "At the end of the run." - unfortunately with today's run, I had to pause for a bathroom break at Mile 7 - are you supposed to count that in total time ran?
- I think that Gu should include Imodium in their ingredients in the next batch they make. (Is that TMI?)
- I should thank them, though - the last 2 miles were ran at a blistering 8'13"/mile - probably because I was lighter and also because the thought of stopping again horrified me.
- When leaving the gym, the sweet girl behind the counter kindly pointed out that I had "pudding" on my face - maybe GU should also provide a napkin, or else maybe I should walk when I try these things (Yeah, right.)
- That Triple T would have it made - I live in the pristine wilderness of B.C., and were I to just discard my used GU packet willy nilly, I'd be breaking all sorts of eviromental regulations - but she lives in Chicago - so in my mind, there's a dumpster or burning hobo barrel every kilometer she can throw hers out in. (I remind people I only know of Chicago through Movies and Television...)
Speaking of Triple T, now that you know how my run went, go check out hers...