An Experiment in Fueling for Long Runs

Clif Shot GelsA little over 2 years ago, when I started running, I started off with a couple of fig bars stashed away in my running shorts while I struggled through a couple of miles. Then I started carrying Clif Bars with a Nathan 22oz hand-held. From there I progressed to running my first half marathon with an Amphipod to eventually ending up with an SJ Ultra Vest where I carried Onigiri’s and Clif Shot Gels on my first 50K. This has pretty much been my work horse for long runs. 40-oz of water in 2x bottles, plenty of pockets to stuff food and other things in and is great to be out alone with the SJ Ultra Vest on 20-mile runs.

Fueling for Long Runs

But the thing I realized is, I’ve hardly used the aid stations when running races. And here I was telling myself that the whole point of running races is simply to have a day out in the woods where I didn’t have to carry so much food and water. In all of the recent 50K’s (and the Lake Sonoma 50M), aid stations were simply water holes. I packed my own food, good or bad and spent a fair bit of time tearing up gels, fishing out Onigiri’s from my backpack and taking a fair bit of time away from running.

So I was trying to experiment with the minimum I can carry for say, 20 miles and not be starving or bonking at the end. Here’s what I found out. I measured the number of sips I can get from a single Nathan 22oz hand-held and it works out to be about 20, give or take. Assuming 200 calories/hour for sustenance and a 3ish hour duration to cover 20 miles on the trails with about ~3,000ft elevation gain, it works out to 6 Clif Shot Gels in the hand-held (mixed in with water, of course) with one sip every 10 minutes. I have to tell you, this is pretty awesome. My favorite mix so far? It’s one Mocha Gel for every two Strawberry. The slow drip of calories doesn’t gag me, it’s a good checkpoint to switch hands and I can do this without having to stop and fumble around the backpack or be tearing up gels.

Question is, if I add a few more gels to the mix and supplement this with what’s in the aid stations can it get me through a 50K? I have no idea, but I’m going to have to try this one. I have tried this on a few 20-milers and the only scary part is, it’s too exact. I’m almost completely done with 22oz of water-gel mix at the end of the run.

What do you use to fuel your long runs?

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