Eight Ways to Fuel Long Runs

As you may know, this summer I’m coaching for Fleet Feet West Hartford’s Half Marathon Training Program. One of my favorite responsibilities as a coach is to pass words of running wisdom along to my runners. Today’s installment of Dr. Rachel’s Running Wisdom – Eight Foods to Fuel Long Runs (that you may already have!):

While lots of people favor the traditional, designed-for-running fuels like beans, gels, and blocks (you know I love my Sport Beans!), I also like fueling my long runs with tried-and-true, normal foods. There are some advantages to using fuels designed for running – they deliver the fuel you need in a controlled dose and are generally easy to use. Unfortunately, many people, like me, struggle with GI upset when using some of these foods. You can get good results by using foods you already have, or can get easily. For many people, these common foods provide results without GI upset.

Of course, not every fuel is right for every person. Experiment with different fuels in different situations. My best advice is to test each new fuel on short runs, or in the last two miles of long runs, to avoid potential GI disaster and to see how you’ll respond to the fuel. If you’re like me and have a sensitive running stomach, consider testing new fuels in close proximity to a bathroom, or even on a treadmill run. Be sure to test each food in several situations, and as close to race-day conditions as you can. By testing out new foods in controlled situations, you’ll learn if the fuel works well, is easy to carry, gives you energy, and is a viable option for longer runs. When looking for a normal food to use as fuel, try to stay as close to whole foods as possible for the best nutritional benefit. But, nutritional benefit aside, I go with what works for me and what sounds delicious during the run. Here are some great options to try:

  1.  Fig Newtons (original fig is my favorite, but those new raspberry ones are pretty good, too.
  2. Raisins (especially in the little boxes – easy to transport!)
  3. Honey, in the little condiment packets you can get at diners. Do not bring along the entire jar.
  4. Little jelly packets, in the little packets you can get from diners (Caution – messy!)
  5. Pretzels
  6. Gumdrops, gummy bears, Sweedish Fish, or Mike and Ikes (You can get little baggies, meant for pills, at most pharmacies. That’s how I carry mine.)
  7. Hard candies like mints and buttersctoch discs (Great if the idea of chewing something turns your stomach)
  8. Bits of cut up granola bars


There you have it – my suggestions for ordinary foods that can help fuel your long run. Before you start running around with candy falling out of your shorts, consider your fuel needs. You don’t need the entire bag of gummy bears. Save a few for after the run.

Happy fueling!

Guest Blog: runDisney!

I love all things Disney. I have loved Disney since I was a child and my grandma took me to Walt Disney World. As an adult, I am still amazed by the magic of Disney. I am delighted to be making the Walt Disney World Marathon my first marathon this January (there’s still time to sign up and join me!). I think the runDisney franchise is amazing and a wonderful opporunity for runners who love the magic of Disney. Want to join in on the fun and experience the magic of a runDisney event? Check out today’s guest blog.

Today’s guest blog is from Amy Smith, a mom and blogger on the quest for fitness. She is a documented runDisney addict who lost 75 pounds on the way to the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  She’s also part of Team in Training with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  She’s a frequent Disney traveller, a lover of PopTarts, and a Disney travel agent. Amy blogs over at Pumpkin to Princess and, if she can help you plan your Disney dream vacation or your next runDisney event, please contact her at amy@mousekeplanner.com

Here’s her take on runDisney events, including her expert tips!

runDisney events are the most fun endurance running events out there.  Disney is great at making each runner feel special.  The race starts out with fireworks, not just for the first corral, but for each corral.  Since runDisney races start so early, the fireworks light up the sky.  Each corral is announced and given their own “ready, set, go!”  The anticipation builds as you know you are running toward the Magic Kingdom and the Castle!   The moment you turn the corner and see it—pure magic!  Runners race back toward Epcot for a Disney finish, complete with Minnie and Mickey at the finish to congratulate you.

All along the way, there are character stops to get your photo with.  My favorite photo op is the one right in front of the castle.  The medals from runDisney events cannot be beat.  They are all beautiful, heavy and worth all the hard work.

If you are interested in doing a runDisney event, let me give you some tips—from a certificated Disney Travel Specialist.

  1. Stay is a Disney host hotel.  Depending on the size of the race, some or all of the Disney owned hotels make special accommodations for runDisney runners.  These hotels offer special event transportation to the expo and to and from the race.  Disney has to close down several roads for the race, so traffic race morning can be terrible!  Some runners staying off site have missed the race all together because they were caught in traffic.  Staying at a Disney host resort will eliminate this worry because they guarantee you will get to the race on time.
  2. Rest up the day before the race.  I know this can be tough—you are in Disney World!  Hanging out by the beautifully themed Disney resort pool is a great way to spend the day before the race. Plan to stay in Disney World for a few days after the race instead of before so you can enjoy the parks.  If you must hit the parks the day before the race, at least take is easy.
  3. Pack your tried and true race morning food and take it with you to Disney World.  For me, it’s a bagel and peanut butter, plus some Clif Bloks to stash for during the race.  While you may be able to find that in Disney World, it may not be your brand or flavor.  Race day is not the time to find out you are sensitive to certain brands of flavors, so be safe and pack your race morning food from home.
  4. Don’t take the race to seriously!  runDisney events are meant to be fun, so don’t expect yourself to PR.  With all the fireworks, characters, music and photo ops available, enjoy yourself.  Take in and savor the experience.

After doing several half marathons in different cities and put on by different race companies, runDisney events are by far my favorite.  Follow my tips above and you will have a magical runDisney experience too!

Race Entry for One?

Like so many posts, today’s is inspired by a conversation I had with a running friend. The question we were discussing – do you prefer to race with a group of friends, or race alone?

My first response was that I like to race with friends. After some thinking, and some running, I’m still pretty sure I’d rather race with friends, but there are reasons to go for the race entry for one.

As someone who’s involved in the running community, I’ve built wonderful friendships with my fellow runners. I have had the most fun running as part of a great team (and even winning one race in the team division!). Friends are there to support you when it’s 34 degrees and sleeting and racing doesn’t seem like such a good idea.

Running friends wait in the corrals with you, cross the finish line holding your hand, and make even huge events seem friendly.

When you race with friends, you have someone with whom to share the silly details of the race – the ride to the race, the dude in the kilt (see above), the terrible food, and the terrifying pota-pottie at mile 9. Racing with a friend ensures the jokes, memories, and silliness goes on long after the race is over. Running friends can challenge  you to be your best at races. No one knows what I’m capable of more than the friends that I run with regularly, and they push me to be my best. Without a certain running friend, whom I was determined to beat in a grand prix style race event, I wouldn’t be an age group winner.

I love my running friends and I treasure all the wonderful memories I have from our shared races. I am so honored to have so many wonderful friends and so many who love to race as much as I do.

But, there’s something to be said for entering a race alone and leaving with new friends. Without friends to serve as my social cushion, I am forced to talk to new people. Often, those new people are pretty cool. Runners are a fun bunch. In fact, I’ve met several enduring running friends at races. We started as strangers and ended up close friends. There have been other races at which I’ve raced alone and loved the solitude of being one within a group of many.

So, my fellow runners, what’s your answer? Race entry for one, or for many?

Mini Race Recap: Bolton XC Classic

On August 11, 2012, I ran in the Bolton XC Classic 5k. This is a race of many names. You may know it as the Bolton Alumni 5k, or the BHS 5k, or even the Bolton XC Race. No matter what name you choose, the Bolton XC 5k is a great race. In its fourth year, this cross country race benefits the Bolton High School cross country teams and is directed by their coach, Paul Smith.

The Bolton XC Classic begins and ends at the Bolton High School. A small group of runners gathered at the high school at 9am. It was 82 degrees with overcast skies and 80% humidity at race start. Not ideal racing conditions, but it wasn’t raining and the sun wasn’t cooking the runners. Coach Smith got things started by explaining the 4-loop course. The race was run around the school grounds on a variety of surfaces. The majority of the trails are standard, 8 foot wide, grass cross country trails, but there was some more traditional rocks-and-roots trail in the woods. Professional timing was provided and runners of all ability levels were welcomed.

This race is about as low key as a race can get. A group of mostly local runners gathered, chatted, and set off on the run. At the conclusion of the race there was a wonderful spread of food (with plenty left over, I might add). There were cookies, bagels, fruits of all kinds, chocolate milk, and water. Once all the runners had finished and results were tabulated, Coach Smith presented the awards. The awards are what really make this race special. Age group winners are presented with a hand-painted rock. Not a tiny little rock, but a boulder, hand painted by the high school art class. This year, the rocks were painted as part of the art class’s final exams and each was painted in the style of a famous artist. The rocks are vey cool. Several friends and I were the proud recipients of our very own rocks. Note – my rock, pictured, was one of the smaller rocks.

I’m pleased to say that I won my age group. Perhaps I shouldn’t mention that I was the only one in my age group, but let’s not dwell. I’ll be back next year to defend my title, and to get a third rock for my collection.

Will Stop for Pennies

On a recent run, I came to a screeching halt in the middle of the road. There was a penny. And it was heads up. I HAD to pick it up. Apparently this behavior seemed quite strange to my running companions. It seemed perfectly normal to me. I pulled off to the right side of the road before stopping, I paused my Garmin, and I picked up a penny. That’s not weird, right?

This led to a conversation about the strange things that we, as runners, will interrupt a run for. Leaving aside the obvious reasons to stop in the middle of the run (traffic, taking a gel, GI problems, etc.), it seems everyone has something that will bring them to a screeching halt. One runner stops to pick up dying worms, another stops to identify birds, a third stops to remove sticks and branches from the trail.

My thing is change. I feel compelled to stop and pick up every nickel, dime, penny, and (joy of joys!) quarter that I encounter on a run. My single run record is 62 cents. That’s nearly a dollar! I stop for change that is dirty, heads down, and even change that’s been crushed almost to unrecognizable levels. I keep all my found money in a piggy bank in my office and trade it in for real money every so often. I find about $5 running every year. I pick up change while not running, too. Everywhere I find change on the ground, I put it in my pocket and add it to my collection. My proudest find is a “squished” penny, one of those artfully marked pennies. I love them and found one once. Notice that it has the Road Runner on it.  It was a lucky day!

So, runners, what makes you come to a screeching halt during a run?


Quotes, Installment 1

With Olympic track and field, great summer races, and friends in training for every distance, I have been thinking about running and runners. I love the amazing, supportive, funny community that’s created when runners come together. I saw this quote and loved it instantly.

“Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week. It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too.” ~Richard O’Brien

Happy running, my people.

Lucky Seven Steps

One of my joys this summer is coaching for Fleet Feet’s Half Marathon Training Program. One of my favorite responsibilities as a coach is to pass words of running wisdom along to my runners. While my advice might not be unique, or all that special, I will share things that have been helpful to me in my running life.

Today’s installment of Dr. Rachel’s Running Wisdom – Seven Steps to Successful Half Marathon Training (in no particular order):

  1. Stick to the plan! New runners, and runners training for a new distance, are notorious for being overzealous in training. Going too far, too fast, too soon leads to injury, burnout, and seriously un-fun running experiences. Setting a new goal, and being excited about that goal, is amazing. It can propel you in your training, push you further than you expected to go, and lead to great things. But be careful about pushing too hard and going too far. Try to reel in your excitement early on and build endurance, speed, and strength gradually. Stick to your training plan (or get a training plan from a good coach if you don’t have one) and be conservative. Your body will thank you.
  2. Treat your feet right. While training for a half marathon you’ll be running long miles and spending lots of time on your feet. Treat those puppies right by getting fit for proper shoes. Visit a running specialty store and listen to the staff. Let them watch you run and make suggestions for your feet and your running goals. All shoes are not perfect for all feet. Put in the effort to find the ones that are perfect for your feet. Get some socks while you’re at it. Happy feet = happy runner.
  3. Wear clothing designed for running. It’s hot. Super hot. And humid. One day in the not too distant future it will be super cold. Invest in running clothing that is built for the conditions in which you’ll run. Proper running clothing doesn’t have to cost a lot, but makes your running life more comfortable.
  4. Rest, recover, and love your body. Rest and recovery are essential to reaching your potential as a runner. Recovery starts at the end of every run. Cool down, stretch, and build a recovery routine that you do as part of every run. Build rest days into your plan, and honor the rest day. Recuperate and give your body the time that it needs to rebuild and strengthen.
  5. Build variety in your training. Many runners know only one kind of running – that moderately hard but maintainable pace. Vary your running and include cross training. Add some variety to your running by running on different surfaces, at different speeds, and on different courses. Variety in training leads to adaptations in your body that will pay off in strength, flexibility, and reduced risk of injury later on. Cross train occasionally (or a lot, whatever works for you) and vary your cross training. By using different muscles and working your body in different ways you’ll reduce your risk of injury and, let’s be honest, have fun.
  6. Keep a running log. Write down your running goals, your plan, and the steps you’re taking to reach those goals. At a minimum, write down your distance, pace, and how you felt. If you want to really keep track of your running, add in weather, the route, food and drink strategies, and add notes. Reflecting on the log can cue you in to patterns in your training and help you understand yourself as a runner. Writing down your goals is powerful and looking at the steps you’re taking, in black and white, is highly motivating.
  7. Build a community of runners. I’ll admit it. Sometimes running is super hard. It’s true. Some runs suck. Having a community who supports my running, and will run with me, call me and ask about my running, and give me a kick in the pants when I need it, helps me get through the hard times. My community also helps me celebrate the good times  – and my running friends are often the only people who will listen, in great detail, to my account of the perfect run (and at mile 2, I saw a turkey and drank some water…). Accomplishing any goal is so much sweeter when you have someone with whom to celebrate.

There you have it, my tips for half marathon training. Runners, what would you add to this list?

Let’s Tri!

I’m delighted to report that I can now add “triathlete” to my list of descriptors. I have been running a long time and always think of myself as a runner. But, in the past few years I have been thinking triathlon. It all started with my coach and friend. I saw him finish his first triathlon and have been hearing about his triathlon experiences for years. There was something oddly appealing about the combination of misery and accomplishment. I think it’s a sickness that runners have – that desire to push harder, do more, be faster, go longer.

In June I bought my very first grown up bike. His name is Bert and he’s a Trek commuting road bike. He’s not the fastest bike ever, but I love him. He and I have been going on rides here and there, trying to get comfortable with riding faster and farther. I started thinking that maybe I could do a triathlon. There was the tiny problem of swimming. I can swim and am a strong swimmer, just a pathetically slow swimmer. I had very good intentions of practicing swimming, but got an infection near my eye and had to stay out of the water. Undeterred, I signed up for a sprint triathlon.

Sandy Beach Triathlon

Before I knew it, Triathlon Day was upon me. I finished the Sandy Beach Triathlon in Morris, CT. It had a special “first timers” division, so it seemed like a good place to start. It was a sprint tri, with a .5 mile swim, 10 mile bike (advertised as “hilly”), and a 5k run. It was 90 degrees, sunny, and humid at race start. It cooled off to a balmy 84 by race end. The Sandy Beach area is gorgeous. The lake is a neat figure eight shape and has soft, brown sand.The seaweed was minimal and the water was very warm. I got all set up with my little transition area and didn’t even forget anything.

The race was well organized for a low budget operation. Everyone got their chip and got marked and were directed to select any spot in the transition area. The transition area was a free for all with a combination of very experienced folks with professional looking set ups, and a large group of first timers with our things off to the side. It was easy to get set up and helpful volunteers pointed the way.

Things got a little scary as soon as I saw the swim. A half mile is a super, crazy distance to swim. Add a bit of drifting of buoys and it may as well have been 10 miles to me. My arms were shot about a third of the way in. I have never been so happy as when I kicked the sand and could run into the transition. T1 didn’t go so well. I was dripping, sandy, and exhausted. I found my way easily through the transition area and there were volunteers there to point the way. Three minutes later I emerged on to the bike course. The bike course can only be described as a roller coaster. It was gorgeous, wrapping around the lake and past adorable marinas, lake homes, and forests. The roads were smooth and, although they were not closed to traffic, seemed safe. The course was very well marked and cheering volunteers were at every turn. Riding around the lake and through small communities was made for a pleasant ride. Had I not been racing I might have liked to stop at some of the lovely public piers. My bike segment went quite well. I was 144th place in just the swim alone, 59th place in the bike alone. I was pleased with my bike performance and even passed a few people. Coming into T2, I felt strong. That ended when I stepped off the bike. My legs were stiff, my arms were sore, and I was exhausted. I really felt like I had nothing left. But I had an uphill 5k in front of me, so I pulled myself together and, after a few minutes of walking, ran along. The running course was pretty much uphill. Luckily, there were friendly volunteers at a water stop halfway. It was a challenging run but an attractive road course through a forest.

This is what an exhausted triathlon finisher looks like. Notice that everyone else has left. Time to work on the swim!

I’m pleased to say that I finished. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fast, but I did it. Now I know what I need to work on and how I can improve for next time. Because there will be a next time.

Results from the Sandy Beach Triathlon are here.

Dr. Rachel’s Re-Launch!

I’m movin’ on up…to the East side…to a new website. To a de-luxe host in the sky. I’m moving on up and making changes here at DrRachelRuns. You may have noticed. In fact, I’ll be doing a super fun giveaway to celebrate the occasion of my big relaunch. Here’s what’s new at DrRachelRuns:

  • I have a cool new logo! Check it out. It’s right there at the top of the page.
  •  I have a new host! I decided it was time to move on from WordPress and move to my very own host. The fantastic Tara and Joann at Tara’s Web transferred all my content and got my blog all set up on her servers. This move gives me the freedom to bring more fun running content to you, my loyal readers. This change wasn’t without a few technical issues. Unfortunately, WordPress would not let me transfer all my email followers over to the new location. If you subscribed/followed by email in the past, you’ll need to re-subscribe. You also need to change your RSS feeds. Please follow me here at the new site by clicking on the “subscribe” button! Note: If you have a Mac and want to read the RSS in Mail, click on the XML version of the feed. All other feed readers are listed on the RSS page. Email is easy – just enter your email in the email box and click “subscribe”.
  • The blog has a new look! Let me know what you think. I think it looks sharp and totally worthy of my new look.
  • I was selected as a Sweat Pink Ambassador! I wanted to be involved in this amazing community as soon as I read their mission. Here it is:

We believe that kicking ass is best done in pretty shoes. We’ve learned that real women sweat, and sweat hard. We know that assertiveness, strength, and ambition are the ultimate feminine qualities. We concede that sometimes it takes hours to get ready, but we’re also no strangers to just rolling out of bed and going. We’re convinced that we run faster in pink shoelaces. We believe in pushing ourselves, and we believe in giving ourselves a break, too. We’re all about the rush of endorphins and the thrill of the challenge. We’re all for looking great and feeling even better. We’re committed to finding our best fit, and making it stick.

The goal of the Sweat Pink Ambassador program is simple – sweat hard, play hard, and inspire those around us to achieve their best selves. I’m delighted to be a part of this amazing group of women.

Whew! That’s a lot of changes!

And now, for a giveaway to celebrate my grand re-launch!

Enter to win one of the following fabulous prizes: one of two super cool DrRachelRuns.com performance technical shirts, one of three pairs of super fun Sweat Pink bright pink shoelaces.

Entering to win is simple. All you have to do is subscribe to my blog via RSS or email. Leave a comment below to let me know that you followed DrRachelRuns and you’ll be entered to win a fabulous prize.

I sure hope that all this movin’ comes with a piece of that pie…