Friday, January 14, 2011

Be prepared and knowing the signs to keep you running

My planned training run was a set of hill repeats on the trails about 5kms from my house.  My legs felt good from the start, but half way up the first hill set I started to feel quite lethargic and had a more elevated than usual heart rate. 

It was humid, which I do struggle with, but I wouldn’t normally feel this until later. I felt generally below par, and groggy. It then struck me that I had skipped lunch (which I would not normally do as I enjoy my food to much). 

The next couple of hills sets were very different, feeling pretty light headed, and as if I had no fuel in the tank, even though the legs felt fine. 

It was obvious to me now that I was Hypoglycemic, and my blood sugar was dipping fast. The effects were being felt in my head more than anywhere else, which was frustrating as I felt quite strong otherwise.

I did the sensible thing and took the short route home to get some food into me.  Within about 45 mins of eating a sweet snack and some pasta I started feeling much better and within 2 hours was back to normal. 

It goes to show how easily you could be taken out of a race by not watching your nutrition properly. In an ultramarathon neglecting your carbohydrate intake could stop you from completing the event, because of the negative physical feeling coupled with the impact on your mental well being. 

The frustration is that it can easily be avoided and even if you do suffer from it, provided you have the mental acuity to deal with it appropriately – that is eat some simple carbs and wait a short while.

The thing was for me if I had a gel or snack bar in my pack, I could have continued on to finish the session properly. 

This experience for me is the essence of ultramarathon running, in that you are always learning about your body and how it reacts to certain conditions, and then how to deal with it to keep running.  In addition, it teaches you to be prepared, to ensure you can make the most of your training sessions.  

So as a minimum I’d recommend taking with you each time you head out a phone, some emergency cash, a basic first aid kit, a food portion (such as a gel) and some fluids. The reasons for stopping you running can be more subtle than a trauma such as a sprain, but they can be easily overcome.

This is another lesson I take with me towards my 33 Marathons Challenge later this year.

Have fun out there!


“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”


  1. Interesting read. I went out for a 20k pace run this morning without eating and didn't take water with me. This was something I could do end last year when I was a bit fitter, obviously I'm not that fit anymore. It was also humid and starting my second 10k lap I knew I was going to be in trouble. I pushed through, but had to walk a couple of hills, also felt light headed on top of the BIG hill and my pace was way down. Ended the second lap 5minutes slower..ouch. I've learned my lesson!

  2. Thanks for sharing! I always have gel with me (well, not a the shorter runs (10 miles or less)), and you just pointed out to me that I should keep doing that!

  3. Good call Andy, the same thing happened to me on my 30 miler last Sunday, got to 13 miles and felt crud, it was way too early for the wall but hill rises were steep and long. I was in between check points and didn't fancy anything from my small "emergency" food pack but went for a gel and a glug of drink. It got me over that little "bump" enough for me to focus on the run. Not a great lover of relying on gels but they do get you out of a hole once in a while.

  4. Great post - I always enjoy your words.

  5. i had a similar experience this thursday. havent run much due to injury and prior to that i was doing short quick runs. towards the end of my thursday 30km run i felt totally drained. it was hot but i only had 1 banana. clearly not enough and i need to get back into the habit of stuffing my face whilst running

  6. Good adivce Andy. I bring nutrition on all runs as I prefer to train the way I race. In addition to the other items you mention having something with your emergency contact info is a good idea in the event you are unable to speak for yourself. Peace

  7. Thanks for the comments, and glad it's not just me. I told a non-runner about taking a gel with me when running, and they asked "why would you need a shower in the middle of a run?"
    The weather has changed here, it's 32c and humid, so I'm going to give it a go around lunchtime to make the most of some tough training conditions - and people say we're crazy!

  8. Wise words indeed. Nutrition is one of the areas where I still learn a lot. I fuel much more for training than I did before.