Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fuel Efficiency

When I run in training, I usually take a pretty frugal approach, and I'm sure many others do the same.


I wear old shoes with thousands of miles on them.  If they rip I get them sewn back together.

I try not to drive to runs, instead going directly from my doorway (I'm lucky that i can get to some great places in an hour or less--Pittock Mansion is 5 miles away, Council Crest just over 6, and the St. John's bridge about 7).  I have a busy schedule and not driving saves a ton of time.  Perhaps more importantly, I like the small discoveries of running through the neighborhood at different times of day, different seasons, and getting to places by foot.  I like looking out my window, picking a spot across the river, and then running to it, looking back at where I came from and where I must return to.  Making my way through traffic lights and city streets, crossing bridges, and seeing restaurants and shops either opening or closing on my way to the trails makes it all a bit more exciting when I do get there. The dichotomy of the woods and the city makes me appreciate both worlds a bit more.

Also, I don't tend to take much fuel on my runs.  If I am going to be out for several hours I'll take some water and a gel or two, but that's about it.  I almost never take anything on runs under two hours.  Obviously, as it heats up water is critical, but I usually make due on very little.  I also believe it is a good way to learn to cope with running in a less than ideal state, to force a bit of a bonk and deal with it.  Running without a net, so to speak.  Drive on fumes.  Train your body to operate with little and it will be more efficient.

This last weekend, however, things were a bit different.  I still ran from home, but I had a cache of gels laying around so I put them to use.

I did a 20 miler both Saturday and Sunday morning, the tail end to an 8 day, 104 mile stint.  Each morning I woke up, got dressed, ate only a gel, and hit the road.  I ran up to Council Crest, jumped on the trails in the morning sunrise, made my way over to the zoo, up to Pittock Mansion, down to Upper Macleay park and back home.  I took a water bottle with nuun electrolyte and a stash of Gu, maybe a half dozen each time.

A run like this is something I normally wouldn't fuel much on, but this time I did, taking a gel every 30-40 minutes--similar to a race routine.  Didn't think about it much, just did it.  And it felt great.  I was never hungry.  My pace was faster than usual and I felt stronger than normal, especially the climbs and the finish.  And the Sunday run was even better than Saturday.

So here is the dilemma:  Running with calories going in is going to make the run easier and faster, but is it better? Obviously, I'm just an experiment of one, as they say, and I will have to play around with this some more.

I would love to hear what others do...


  1. Joe, nice blog. Great job at Hagg. You ran a great in tough conditions!

    I always find myself for some reason or another not fueling as much in training as races. I do agree with you that you need to become accustomed to learning how to be uncomfortable in training to better deal with it in races.

    Hope to see you soon

  2. Thanks, William.

    You do seem to have a great amount of tenacity out there...

    See you at Rumble?