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Watch out for The Wall!

January 25, 2012

By: Jeff Knight, Assistant Coach for adidas/TeamROGUE Elite


Going into the Olympic Trials in the marathon, I knew that we had to come up with some way to avoid hitting the dreaded “Wall” in the marathon, the point where your body literally runs out of fuel.  No matter how well trained Scotty and Allison were, if they either became 1) too dehydrated or 2) ran out of fuel. Their race would be over. Which is any marathoners nightmare considering most people only run 1-3 per year.

When it came to tackling this problem, I began by asking myself what really limits performance in an endurance race? The answer is dehydration.  Not only is dehydration dangerous but if you lose more than 2% of your body weight in liquid, your brain will begin to shut the body down.  Not fun if you’ve been training 6 months to run a race!  Now, the only way to prevent becoming dehydrated is to replace the fluid you lose during the race, thus the importance of the always-fun water stations.  In Scott and Allison’s case, they could use pre-made water bottles during the race, which they could pick-up every 5km.

Scotty had nice little handles to grab. Allison preferred the non-handle approach.

Inside these bottles was just enough fluid to keep them from becoming too dehydrated throughout the course of the race.

The real question is: How do I know how much liquid do I need to take in during the race?  Simple, weigh yourself before a run and weigh yourself after a run.  Assuming you didn’t use the bathroom or drink anything during the run, you’ll know how much liquid you lost during the run.  Now, in Scotty’s case he lost somewhere close to one-half gallon of sweat per hour.  That’s like losing half a milk jug in sweat per hour!!   Thus, we made sure he had enough fluid to replace most of that during the course of his 2+ hour race (or almost 2.5 milk jugs).What’s cool though is those of us who don’t get nice, handy bottles handed out to us can still prevent dehydration during the race.

In almost every race, the water stations hand out the same size cup. You know the one. That cup holds about, well, 1 cup of water or 8 oz.  So if you’re running a marathon at 10 minutes per mile, you’ll pass 6 water stations over the course of an hour.  That means you can take in at least 48 oz per hour.  So if you learn that you sweat 32 oz. per hour, you should get water at 4 of those 6 water stations.  See that wasn’t too bad!

Scary! Some of the calculations necessary to ensure Scotty and Allison got all the right stuff in just the right ratios.

The next important thing in preventing hitting the wall is carbohydrates.  Carbs are the gasoline of the body.  When you run out of carbs its like literally running out of gas.  The goal for Scotty and Allison, and any marathoner, was to take in 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour.  Again, in Scott and Allison’s case, we could just add the carbs to their bottles.  Since, they got a bottle every 15-20 minutes, they would get 15-20 carbs per bottle. Nice!  Thus, I diluted a popular, sugary sports drink to ensure they got the necessary amount of carbs to prevent hitting the wall.  Again, this isn’t available to 99.9% of the people running marathons but they companies do make a convenient alternative: gel packs!

Most people take probably 2-3 gels per marathon.  Well most gels contain 20-30g of carbs, thus most marathoners take in 75g of carbs per marathon.  If you’re running a 3-4 hour marathon, you should take in roughly 150g of carbs during the marathon.  As a result, most people take in about half of the fuel needed to run the race.  That’s crazy!  If you were trying to drive to Dallas for the White Rock Marathon, you wouldn’t put enough gas in your car to make it to Waco.  Thus, if you’re running a marathon you should plan on eating 2-3 gels per hour.  So run down to ROGUE EQ and get yourself a SpiBelt!

All in all, we worked really hard to make sure Allison and Scott had the training necessary to run the best race they could, as a result we worked equally hard to make sure they had a liquid and fuel strategy that ensured their training could really shine. And this is no different for any other ROGUE marathoner.  You train too hard to let a lack of gasoline or liquid derail your marathon.

The line up: All the ingredients that went into the Scott-dubbed "GO-GO Juice"




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