One of my downfalls during my first marathon experience in Vermont last year was an inability to effectively fuel after about halfway through the race (contributing to my “hitting the wall” around mile 15). One problem I have is that energy gels don’t work well for me. For one thing, the pouches are messy to open and eat, and who wants to run 10+ miles with a film of sticky goo on their hands. Secondly, a mouth full of gooey, sugary gel can be tough to get down unless you have a lot of water, which makes for difficult timing during a race. I’ve also tried Clif Shot Blocks, Sharkies, and a few other products with mixed success, but chewing these while running makes breathing regulation difficult. I need a better solution for fueling on the run.
In training for my rematch with the Vermont City Marathon, I’ve now begun experimenting with alternative strategies to try to overcome my marathon fueling obstacles. Today was my first attempt. I’ve read on other websites about people who use gel flasks instead of the pouches because they tend to be less messy. The other benefit is that with a flask, you can water down your gel to make it easier to swallow on the run. Several companies market gel flasks for runners/bikers, and some come with handy little holsters (here are a bunch of gel flasks available at Amazon.com), but I decided to take a different route since I don’t like clipping things to my shorts when I run. I was in Target the other day with the family, and I decided to check the personal care section to see if they might have anything similar, perhaps a travel shampoo bottle for example. What I found in the were the two bottles pictured in this post, each selling for a whopping $0.99. Although both were being sold in the bargain bins as travel accessories for airplanes, they seemed no different in size or appearance than the “dedicated” gel flasks I’ve seen elsewhere. I love a bargain, so I bought one of each to experiment with.
Today I did a 10 mile run with the flask on the left tucked into a pocket on my new EMS Espresso water bottle waist pack, and it fit perfectly. I mixed the contents of two gel pouches with a roughly equal amount of water, and this had the desired effect of thinning out the gel so that it came out easily from the spout, and it was a lot easier to get down on the run in this form. I downed about half of my gel concoction on this particular run (the remnants of this can be seen in the flask on the left), and I’m pretty happy with the result. The even nicer thing about this cheap solution is that I could just as easily carry the small flask in my hand during a race and throw it away when done (and at a cost of $0.99, I wouldn’t feel too guilty about doing so, except for the waste/recycling factor). The only issue I had today was not anything to do with the flask, but rather that I don’t really like the vanilla Cytomax gel that I put into it (unfortunately I bought a case of 24 pouches last year that I have yet to finish for this reason). So if anyone has a recommendation of a good gel flavor, feel free to drop me a comment. I need some suggestions to try before I buy another case.
If you’re looking for a recipe on how to make your own gel at home, click here to view an article from Active.com.