As my training miles crept into the teens, I remember noting that I was entering a new kind of running world, one where what I ate and how much I slept would matter.
Truth be told, I can get by on most runs without much preparation. I don't really change my eating habits before a long run, often don't get enough sleep and don't give too much thought to how much I've hydrated.
Despite the fact that I consciously noted that this needed to change as I progressed with my marathon training, I confess that I haven't done much about it yet.
And I think it's starting to catch up with me. My check-engine light is on.
I chalked up some of the issues last week's run with the simple fact that it was 20 miles. Surely that kind of running would have adverse effects on anyone, right?
Some in-the-know runners asked me more about how I've been feeling. When runners ask you questions like that, it's okay to share some of the not-so-pleasant details. I described some of my stomach issues and post-run queasiness, including details of my eating and drinking habits before, during and after the run.
They suggested that I may have been a bit dehydrated.
I did a little more digging and found that not being properly hydrated often causes runners experience the same kind of feelings that I did. I didn't experience anything extreme, just noticeable enough to cut my post-run breakfast short and even affect my dinner appetite a couple of days later.
Dehydration never even registered on my radar. Now that my body has somewhat adjusted to the warmer weather, it feels like a relief to have cooler, fall running temps. Drinking just doesn't seem as important when it's not 90 degrees out.
But it is.
It's not that I don't think of hydration at all. I carry a fuel belt with me with two small bottles. I stop at designated stops to refill them as necessary. I had my Trusty Companion toting around a water bottle for me. I certainly felt like I took in enough fluids during my long runs, but with the amount of sweat that I'm pouring out, how could I really know?
Geno suggested that I conduct a scientific experiment: Weigh myself immediately before a long run, immediately after (removing clothing that might be sweat-soaked) and again the next morning. Ideally, there would be no change, which would mean that I've achieved the perfect balance of fluids in and fluids out.
I think I'll give it a try this weekend. It will be interesting to see the numbers.
Overall, for the past couple of days at least, I'm giving a lot more focus to staying hydrated during the week, instead of just focusing on my drinking habits on the day of the run.
The same goes for eating. I know I need to give that a little attention.
I've tried hard during the past few years not to be someone who is obsessed with what they eat and how much they eat. I've gone that route before and I don't want food to take up so much of my thoughts and time. In doing so, I may have gone the other direction. I don't give it much thought at all.
I naturally gravitate toward fruits and veggies more than protein. In fact, I've lived in my condo for more than a year and I can only recall buying two packages of chicken breasts during my grocery shopping. (Of course I get protein options during meals out at restaurants and when I eat with others.)
I don't do much to supplement what I might be missing. Luckily for me, I spend a lot of dinners with TC lately and he's sure to get me a healthy, balanced meal.
Otherwise, when I'm alone, mealtimes are not a focus for me. I often skip breakfast or lunch - sometimes just "forgetting" to eat. I know it doesn't seem possible, but I honestly can forget. Then it becomes so late in the day that I figure it's better to just wait until the next meal. (Even writing that sounds crazy, but that's how my mind works when it comes to food sometimes.)
Coincidentally, this week alone I've received a few links from runner websites addressing this topic - what to eat while training and how much to eat. I've made a lot of mental notes.
One of the sites suggested that female runners my size take in 2,500-3,000 calories a day. Seems like a lot to me and I wonder if I ever reach that amount without taking in tons of junk food. Still, I'll file the information away and focus more on making sure my body is fueled and hydrated properly - not only during my long runs, but on the in-between days too.
As Geno told me, it seems like I'm doing a good job of taking care of the mental part of the challenge. Now it's time to give my engine a little TLC.
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