October 08, 2013

Gu, Shot Bloks, and other fuel

I got some bad news from Andrea yesterday. She's not able to go to Chicago with me, because her husband's grandma is very ill. I'm not mad about it, of course, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. Going to a destination race alone doesn't have much appeal! At first, I was tempted to just say "Screw it!" and not go myself. But I trained for this race all summer, harder than I've ever trained for anything, and I know I'd regret not going.

So, instead of going to my sister's house on Thursday, I'm going to go on Friday. I'll stay there Friday night, and then go into the city on Saturday via train. I'll go to the expo, and dinner, and then to the hotel (Andrea switched it to my name, so at least I have a place to stay on Saturday night!). On Sunday morning, I'll run the race, hop on a train, and go back to my sister's house. Very anticlimactic.

A couple of my Ragnar SoCal teammates are also running Chicago, and when I mentioned what happened, they said I could hang out with them on Saturday. I was excited to meet them anyway, so it worked out well! I'm going to meet up with Caitlin and go to the expo, and then we'll meet Cat and her friend for dinner. The only time I think I'll feel kind of lonely is Sunday morning. I'm nervous to go to the race by myself, because I have a terrible sense of direction!

Anyway, I'm done feeling sorry for myself, and I'm starting to look at the positives of going alone--I can go to bed early, wake up early, not have to share a bathroom, take my time getting ready, etc. And I'm very excited to meet up with Caitlin and Cat!

This morning, I had five miles at an easy pace on the schedule. Usually, I do speed work on Tuesdays, so it felt kind of strange to be doing just five easy miles. It was in the low-40's this morning, which felt great for a run! I wore some UA Cold Gear tights and a long sleeved top. I even wore a light pair of gloves, since I wasn't going to be running hard enough to keep warm.

I felt really amazing today, and my legs wanted to go fast... I could feel it. But I held back, and tried to stay between a 10:00-10:40/mi pace. I want to save all of my energy for the marathon on Sunday. It was actually pretty hard to run that slowly when my legs wanted to go faster; every time I found myself spacing out, I noticed my pace would get down to the low 9:00's, so I would slow down again. I'm taking that as a good sign that tapering is working, and I'll have lots of energy on Sunday.

I decided to do a five-mile out-and-back run. When I got to the end of the road, where I had to go either right or left, I was confused for a minute--I couldn't remember where I was going. Then I realized I'd forgotten to turn around at the 2.5 mile mark! BAHAHA, that has never happened to me before. I was so lost in my thoughts that I forgot to turn around. I hardly ever do "just" five miles anymore, so I'm used to going all the way to that road and turning.

Thankfully, I only went about 0.33 miles past where I should have turned around. So when I got home, I'd run 5.65 miles instead of 5. I kept my pace pretty close to 10:00 the whole time.

Tomorrow is my rest day; Thursday, I have 6 miles easy; Friday, 5 miles easy; and Saturday, 3 miles easy. It just seems so... easy :)  Then, of course, Sunday I have a tough 26.2!  I plan on taking at least a full week off of running after the marathon, both for my physical recovery and my mental recovery from running hundreds of miles over the last few months.

A couple of people have asked me about the difference between Gu and Shot Bloks, and why I use both. Gu is a packet of a sugary gel, with the texture of frosting, only a little thinner (the chocolate reminds me of chocolate frosting):

The Shot Bloks are like gummy bears, only a cube-shape:

One packet of Gu offers about 100 calories and 20 grams of carbohydrates. It's roughly the equivalent of three Shot Bloks, which are 90 calories and 24 grams of carbohydrates.

Carbs are really important to eat while running long distances, because your body can only store so much. Once you run out of what's stored in your body, then you "hit the wall" and it's not fun at all. It's not mandatory to use Gu or Shot Bloks, or other brands of similar items. You can use any form of carbs--dried fruit, dates, candy, whatever sits well in your stomach and digests easily.

I personally prefer to use both Gu and Shot Bloks. I like Gu, but I can only handle two packets of it before my stomach starts getting icky. When I did the Detroit Marathon, Rik had some Shot Bloks, and since I couldn't stomach the thought of another Gu, he offered me a couple of those. They didn't bother my stomach at all!

The general rule of thumb that I follow during the marathon is to eat about 100 calories per hour--so either one Gu packet or three Shot Bloks. The Shot Bloks are nice because you don't have eat them all at once. I like to stagger them every couple of miles. The Gu is pretty messy, so I eat the whole packet at once. It's important to drink water with the Gu or Shot Bloks, so I usually aim to eat them just before a water station.

I like the Margarita-flavored Shot Bloks, because they have extra sodium--210 mg--and, well, they taste good! The Gu only has about 55-65 mg of sodium. So basically, I use both Gu and Shot Bloks for variety, and taste preference; but it's important to find what works for you. There are a ton of different products targeted for running and other exercise, but you can also experiment with natural foods, if that's your thing.


  1. "Carbs are really important to eat while running long distances, because your body can only store so much. Once you run out of what's stored in your body, then you "hit the wall" and it's not fun at all."
    I was afraid of "hitting the wall" last spring when I trained for a week-long 500+ mile bike ride (I'm not much of a cyclist, before that week, my longest training ride was75 miles). A triathlete I'm acquainted with mentioned Bob Seebohar (I think I spelled that right) and low-carb training for endurance athletes. So there is an alternative to high-carb eating out there, though it's much less common. It worked for me, though it might not work for everyone.

  2. Im really looking forward to your marathon race report and to hear your final thoughts on Hanson's training vs other programs youve done.

    Also, have you tried Stingerz energy chews? So delicious and dont have an artificial taste.

  3. Chicago is super easy to get around on by foot. Depending on what hotel you are staying at, you might just be walking right out the door and can follow the crowds. I have one set of friends staying at Swissotel and another set staying at the Congress Hotel. The start is at Monroe which is Grant Park/Millenium Park.

    Good luck and you got this, no problem Katie!

  4. I take Shot Blocks on alpine climbing trips. I used to take Gu, but found it too messy. I gave some Shot Blocks to a male climbing partner at 20,000' in Nepal who was "hitting the wall". It perked him up enough to make it back down.

  5. I ate two packs of Shot Bloks during my marathon on Sunday and then also the gummy bears and pretzels that were being handed out. Like you, after a couple GUs my stomach hurts, so I have kind of given up on them for races. I have a bunch I got for free so I use them for training runs when I only need one or two. Love Shot Bloks though... I would eat them like candy if I had them in my house.

    1. Thomas where were the pretzels at? I didn't see them at a single aid station, they were only offering us gummy bears. I definitely could have used something that didn't have sugar in it!

  6. You should definitely still go to Chicago!! Think how hard you have trained for this-go girl!

  7. This will be the first time I travel to a race with other people. Your list of positives are what I'm worrying about because I usually am alone and can just do my thing and not be bothered. I'm running with my sister-in-law and we are staying with her relatives. Two of my sisters and my daughter are also going to be there so there will be so many people around me the night before. My sis-in-law's cousin is driving us to as close as he can get us in the morning.
    Saturday afternoon I'm getting together with a gal who blogs as "From Ice Cream to Marathon" and some other bloggers at a frozen yogurt place called Pinkberry.
    What corral are you in? I'm in G. If, by chance, you're in G too, my sis-in-law and I would be glad to wait with you.
    When I go to a race, I always have my directions written out even for walking.
    I'm sure you're going to have a great weekend.

  8. Thanks for this post. I was debating my choices and will go with the shot blocks. I'm just increasing my long runs and needed to consider fuel and so this was very helpful. I wish you the BEST in Chicago. ENJOY!

  9. It's funny, it's the opposite for me. I can do Gu all day long, but the Shot Blocks always make my stomach feel bummed out. They taste good going down (my husband says they taste like Dots candy), but then the roiling starts! I did 2 Gus during my marathon and then ate a Cliff bar in between those.

  10. Thanks so much for the "fuel" info! It was very helpful! Best of luck on your marathon this weekend!

  11. Just found your blog and I'm really enjoying it! I ran my first ever half marathon this past Satrday. Initially I was scared to run by myself, but my husband reminded me I trained by myself so it would be ok. And it was. Good Luck in Chicago! And I will be ordering some Shot Bloks, Gu just isn't my thing!

  12. Thanks for posting! I usually take Gu but have been thinking about giving Shot Blocks a try. For me the most important thing is to "practice" taking fuel during my long runs, even when I don't necessarily need it. It helps me figure out what works with my stomach, how much water to drink, etc! Good luck in Chicago!

  13. You won't be racing alone. You will be running with 40,000+ people! Enjoy the crowd, the sights and flat terrain!!

  14. I LOVED the Chocolate Outrage GU!! I told Charlie right after the race it tasted JUST like frosting!


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