Gels are quite a simple science in many ways. You want to run long. Your body can [allegedly] cope with somewhere around 17 miles before it runs out of juice but you want to go further. Gels might just be what you need.

What are they?
Energy gels are a liquid food supplement, often predominantly sugar or glucose with added minerals or even caffeine, which are usually supplied in plastic pouches with a tear off top. There are probably as many different gels available as there are energy drinks nowadays and they come in an equally diverse range of flavours too.

Why gel?
Gels offer a quick hit of carbohydrate energy in a convenient and easily digestable form. Your body has it’s own fuel tank, full of glycogen (held in your muscles) from which it draws the energy to keep you running. When the tank is empty, that’s it, call the AA, or the St Johns Ambulance guys in our case :-)
Gels offer you a way of ‘topping up the tank’ as you go along, keeping that fuel gauge from hitting the red for as long as possible AKA the point at which ‘the wheels fall off’ as many runners put it!

Types of gel? Really?
Well, yes actually. There are fast acting gels and slow release gels. Be sure you know what you’re buying. The key is in the proportion of carbohydrate that is made up of sugars rather than anything else. Let me explain. The carbohydrate content of quick hit gels are made mainly of sugars. You can find this information on the dietary information table on the back. It will say ‘Carbohydrate 26g’ or something around that and below that ‘of which Sugars 23g’ indicating the gel has a high sugar content and will be fast acting. On the other hand if you find 26g carbs and say 8g of which are sugars, you’ve probably got yourself a gel which will take somewhat longer to release into your system.

Why is this important to me?
Well, are you a distance runner or a short sprinter? If you’re running distance you need slow release energy to keep you moving along. A quick hit of sugars will make you feel good and give you a short burst of energy, but you’ll then run out of steam and believe me, you’ll notice the sudden crash as your body has to suddenly switch to glycogen stores. For this reason and especially if you’re planning to gel in a marathon, you need slower release gels. But you need to know how to use them properly…

How/when do I use them?
First things first, make sure you’ve tried them out before you use them in an event. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people chug a gel and promptly bring it back up because it doesn’t agree with them. Be careful, some of them taste revolting, others are perfectly palatable. And when I say test them before a race, I mean in anger, in a run. Your palate changes immensely when you’re running. A roast dinner tastes great on a Sunday afternoon, but I’m not sure my body would find the taste quite so pleasant when I’m 20 miles into a marathon and feeling ropey. Second and just as important, know your gel. Do you need to take it with water? Some, like the SiS ones have a high water content and so don’t need a bottle of water to hand, though weight this up against the idea of carrying that convenient water an inconvenient twenty-odd miles of course! Others like the Lucozade Sport ones are gloopy syrup and absolutely need water to activate them in your stomach. Otherwise it’s just syrup sitting on the bottom of your stomach doing nothing because it can’t be absorbed.

Which gels?
Well, this section could only ever be personal opinion and taste, you may have a different idea, but here’s what I like…and don’t!

The Good (in my opinion):
Lucozade Sport Energy Gel – Orange – Very syrupy but if you can stomach them, they give a very good slow release of energy, I swear by them!
Isostar Pro Energy Gel – Lemon – Not bad tasting for a fast release energy gel, but beware, they offer a quick hit of energy, not a sustained flow.
Multipower Multicarbo Energy Gel – Various flavours, some with caffeine too – Similar to the Lucozade version and very palatable in my view.

The not so good (in my opinion):
SiS Go Gel – Blackcurrant – These gels have added water so you don’t need to grab yourself a bottle of water in order to take them. I personally find the taste unpalatable though. YMMV.
High5 Energy Gel – Citrus Burst – The blurb says these are made up of 15% fruit juice, which sounds good, but they still don’t taste very nice at all. Once again, unpalatable for me, but you may find them ok.

I’ve got Barcelona coming up so I need to get some miles under my feet. I was determined to get out there today. At least I was until I got up this morning and realised it was raining. Raining quite hard too!

Outside looked terrible, roads were flooding, not a nice day. I’ll wait until later…

By 15:30 it was starting to ease off a bit so I threw my gear on and headed out to the ranges. I’ve just bought yet another new pair of shoes but these are quite garish blue and red so they needed some serious mud to try and cover them up!

The ranges were definitely muddy! I was splashing about in ankle deep, brown murky puddles and sliding all over the place. Great fun and it’s so nice to get back to enjoying running finally. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt happy in my running shoes, what with all of this injury rubbish to contend with.

I’m resisting the urge to rant about inconsiderate dog owners today. I had a few words with a couple this afternoon. Nuff said…

Anyway, 16 miles done. Muddy. Wet. Enjoyed it.

I have stuff to do this evening so having been a very lazy beggar this morning had to fit a run in to an hour this afternoon. I managed 6 miles, but not just any six miles…

I decided to have a little run round a place which, it is safe to say, was my playground (on a mountain bike) in my youth. I went for a run around Caesars Camp which is one of the local areas used for military training purposes. It’s a rough, sandy, hilly place and makes for some challenging off road running!

I figured as I had a tight time limit and it was a nice day I’d drive a little bit up the road and head over there. I had a really tough but very enjoyable run weaving in and out of the trees and sliding(!) down the loose, steep, sandy trails. Great fun.

Having done nothing in the running stakes since my incredibly short Sunday run, I was looking forward to a long Club run. As it turns out several of the guys had done the Wokingham half on Sunday (and run some serious times too) so it ended up being a rather short one, just shy of 7 miles. However, on the plus side, part of it was a lap of a hilly stretch at the top of Aldershot. I have to say, these little bursts of speed do prove to me that I’m pretty out of shape at present. I really found it tough going, especially the long climb and had to work really hard to keep the pace!

The magic scale is taunting me nowadays too. I’m knocking on 8% body fat again and edging towards 10st. Not good. Gotta get back into the running!

More soon,

Andy.

About 45k short today. I’m calling it easing myself back in. Slooooowly. It’s actually because I know the ankle still niggles after every single run but I’m also conscious that I want to get to Barcelona and run my next marathon there. Niggles and marathons don’t mix well.

Today I was of course supposed to run the London Ultra 50k. I didn’t. I (hopefully wisely) decided I would focus on Barcelona and build my mileage back up slowly for a few weeks. I’d planned to run with James and a few of his pals but pulled out a couple of weeks before due to having been injured and off the running feet for three weeks.

Cast your eye over the marathon schedule to your right and you’ll find August’s marathon is non-existent too. That’s tactical. I’m going for 12 marathons in 12 months and there are now 12 paid up event places organised.

More soon…

Oh, and I’m reliably informed that comments aren’t functioning properly on the blog. As soon as I get a few minutes I’ll get the spanners out and have a tinker with the workings ;-)

I’ve had complaints.

I’ve had complements.

I’ve had injuries.

I’ve run another marathon.

I’m back! (And I promise to keep you updated this time!)

Last night was the first enjoyable, virtually pain free and certainly worry free run I’ve managed in over 4 weeks.

I completed the Gloucester marathon on what I knew (by 8 miles) was a dodgy ankle. Little did I realise that this would keep me out of running shoes for 3 weeks and lead to me dropping out of this weekend’s London Ultra.

Anyway, 10 miles last night with a very fast finish for the last 1.5 miles and I can still walk today! Things are looking up!

Time to get this blog up to date…

It’s the day before the Lisbon Marathon and my ankles ache a lot. I’ve done too much between Luton a fortnight ago and today. Not too much mileage. Nor too many runs. I’ve just ran too hard each time I’ve been out and haven’t given myself time to recover.

I got out this morning and decided I’d do up to three miles. I headed down the road from the hotel, downhill before looping back and up a pretty steep and prolonged climb. Lisbon, as I had been warned by my colleagues, is hilly. Very. I do wonder how accurate the elevation profile will turn out to be for this one. My experience suggests I should expect limited similarity to the actual course!

Yesterday, just after we arrived, we headed out to the ‘Stadium’, Estadio 1° de Maio as instructed to collect my race number. When I say Stadium, it’s no Wembley. It looks like this… 8-)

Something that was nice to find was that they ask you what size t-shirt you want and then hand you a little backpack with your shirt and race number in. Here’s muggins sporting said kids rucksack ;-) (And yes, that’s the builders from the building site in the background!)

Lisbon is an interesting place. It’s like an amalgamation of an old city of grand houses and palatial buildings coupled with sprawling sixties concrete. There’s very little in between. It also boasts (or more likely bemoans) some of the most prolific street/graffiti artists I’ve ever seen. The whole place is tattooed in multi colour aerosol paint, some of which is mightily impressive, but most of which is not. More about Lisbon later. I’ve got a marathon to run!

Andy.

Today’s shoes: Old Blue/White Kayano 17s (~200 miles)
Mileage today: 2.60
Training mileage so far: 226.58
Marathon mileage so far: 61.93

I arrived home late, in a terrible rush to change and head back out of the door to make it in time for the club run. When I took my sock off, I found that the nail on my left big toe had split. About a quarter of it had lifted away leaving a thin lower layer in place. Lovely. That’s going to feel great after 26 miles on Sunday isn’t it! Alan came up with a brilliant suggestion this evening of supergluing the nail back down, brilliant, but too late as I’d already chopped off most of it! It’s an idea for (if there is a) next time!

Having checked the elevation profile for Sunday, while we’re on the subject, it’s worse than I thought. The route is essentially flat aside from a mile downhill at 12 miles and then a repeat of the same uphill stretch in the last mile! That’s about as bad as it can get I should think. That last mile is really going to hurt!

Anyway, onto this evening’s run. Not sure if Dave was trying to kill me, but he later mentioned he hadn’t realised Lisbon was this weekend. He thought it was next weekend! Anyway, the route essentially weaved about a bit until we found a big hill, then we ascended for about a mile and a half, taking us to the top of Farnham. From there we took Castle Hill down to the town, did a loop of the town centre to ‘admire the festive lights’ and headed back out to the club. nine and a half miles including a sustained hill climb is somewhat more than I had in mind, but I enjoyed it anyway!

Roll on Sunday…

Andy.

Today’s shoes: Black Kayano 17s
Mileage today: 9.37
Training mileage so far: 223.98
Marathon mileage so far: 61.93

This morning was a 9am Sunday run with the club and a very good turn out too. Dave, Paddy, Alan, Chris, Lawrence and I headed out for about 10 miles. The first couple of miles passed quite quickly, I felt ok, not great, but ok given a marathon just 7 days previous. After seven miles I was feeling really knackered. And I mean really knackered. I had no energy. Alan was on for a bit of a tempo run for the last couple of miles but for once, I was not.

It’s probably too much, too soon I guess. My ankles are aching a bit this evening too. I ran in a relatively new pair of shoes today (circa 20 miles) which aren’t really bedded in and providing the cushioning I need. The worry is the pair I intended to run Lisbon in, just 7 days from now, only have 25 miles on them. I might have to change the game plan and go back to a 200 mile pair, otherwise my ankles might punish me for it!

I’ve paid up for the Great North Run once again, I have a priority place again this year and willingly paid the price to accept it for 2012. That’s four years in a row I will have done it now. If I recall correctly my times are (and have certainly been improving) 2009: 2h04m, 2010: 1h59m, 2011: 1h28m. I can’t imagine I’ll be knocking much off this year’s time in 2012. I’ve got my pace down to something very good for me so we’ll see what happens. If you’ve never done the Great North, get yourself in the ballot and go and do it. In a running career, it’s one of those boxes you must tick, to cross the Tyne Bridge with 53,999 other runners is something amazing. DO IT!

Andy.

Today’s shoes: Black Kayano 17s
Mileage today: 10.00
Training mileage so far: 223.98
Marathon mileage so far: 52.56

I missed last week’s club run as I was working late. Glad to be back this week. There were a lot of people about this week, which was great to see and the front group was probably fifteen strong.

Alan led us out and after about a mile announced we’re going to be doing some Fartlek training. Essentially some short faster spells in between our normal pace. I decided I’d be best off hanging around at the back and taking it easy, this is supposed to be a recovery run after all. I managed to do that for all but the last couple of efforts where we managed some seriously fast and fun sprints!

Good run guys, thanks.

Lisbon approaches. From here I relax now and just do some gentle miles.

Andy.

Today’s shoes: New Blue and White Kayano 17s
Mileage today: 8.39
Training mileage so far: 213.98
Marathon mileage so far: 52.56