Friday, May 02, 2008

Is That A PowerBar in Your Pocket or Are You Happy To See Me?

With all the provisions we take into a marathon, you’d think we’re preparing to head into the mountains for a six week journey of self realization. I spend at least 1 hour planning out my 3-4 hours on the marathon course the night before. And then several times in the weeks preceding, I have double checked my mental checklist of things to bring.

I lay out the gear the night before. God forbid I have one less GU packet than I thought I did. Panic! Without it, I may fade quicker than Ashlee Simpson’s music career. I pack my gear in my two side holster pockets (thanks Brooks Sherpa short!) and head out the door for the race. My pants are bulging. Well, they always are but particularly on race day. (bada dum dum!)

My inventory:

- PowerBar (consumed pre-race)
- 5 packets of GU (typically vanilla flavored. Not Vanilla flavored, mind you. Get your head out of the gutter)
- 2 Tylenol
- Electrolyte sport beans
- Garmin on the left arm
- Timex on the right arm as Garmin inevitably loses its signal
- One wrist sweatband
- Current issue of People

By the end of the race, I normally have some of the GU left over (1-2 packets). And usually the sport beans go uneaten. I almost never look at my copy of People. And from what aid station worker did I steal that watch cuz now I have three?

I see other runners with these utility belts loaded with water, Gatorade, and sports gel. This is probably a good idea but it seems so heavy and burdensome. I don’t want to wear something called a “belt” while running. Plus, I’m willing to gamble that the aid stations have water. If they don’t (see Chicago ’07), the race directors should be held up for public ridicule (see Chicago ’07) and floggings (see Grand Inquisition). I don’t know exactly what a “rack” is but it should be used on ‘em too. *

In a silly way, I look forward to each milestone where I get to extract one of my provisions and consume it. Somehow, I feel lighter. I’m carrying less. Of course, it’s just internal rather than external now but I feel 1/100th of a second faster per mile. Less wind resistance.

A few weeks back, I compared a marathon to the stages of a relationship. Maybe instead I should have compared it to a 5 course meal starting with the appetizer miles and ending, finally, with the dessert. In between, a whole bunch of grisly cube steak. And the ketchup ran out at mile 18. By mile 18, everything tastes like crap anyhow.

The only non-perishable item other than clothing I carry is a photo of my family I glue directly over my heart. This way, they are always close to me…That would be really sweet but I don’t do this. You don’t get this far in life being described as “belligerent” and “ego maniacal” and “not responding to therapy” to go and do something like that.

So what do YOU carry with you on the marathons (or half marathons or ultra marathons)? What works? What doesn’t but you carry it out of pure superstition anyway? Any good luck charms?

Happy trails.

* Incidentally, why is it so bad to be “drawn and quartered”? I love a nice caricature of myself and, if you want to put me up for the night, fine also. Big deal.

Responding to recent comments:

In case I wasn’t clear, my new marathon race plan involves only two speeds: (1) Run and (2) Lying on the ground unconscious. It’s clear this body doesn’t respond well to walking rest breaks. Fortunately, it only cost me 3 major marathons and thousands of dollars to figure it out.

My daughter’s tooth is not chipped from my Boston medal. She has a black eye. No, see, I kid, I kid.

Kerrigan Knee Whackers sell for $19.95 at your local Assault Weaponry store.

Hooray! Hooray! My self imposed exile from running ends Sunday. I'll be hitting the streets with a big dumb ole smile on my face. Two weeks is a LONG time.


Sarah said...

I used to carry in my hand an acorn from the live oak tree on my grandparents' street in my beloved hometown in California. This was during my high school cross country career. It was sort of a silly good luck charm. I carried that nut for years.

These days I take Chocolate GU and some Gatorade or Gatorade-like substance in my CamelBack waist pack. I also take a house key because my husband locked me out and went to work one time and one time was too many.

Reid said...

Maybe I'm a minimalist, or maybe just a cheapskate, but I don't really bring anything with me in races. I just rely on the water and gatorade at the aid stations. I will use whatever energy gel they offer on the course. I've never had any negative reactions.

As far as good luck charms, I still wear the same headband I ran with in high school.

Vanilla said...

I usually run with my cell phone, which doubles as an MP3 player, but mostly I have it with me so that I can accept that congratulatory phone call from The President after the race.

I think I might have to take my number off the Do Not Call list though because he hasn't been able to reach me yet.

Marcy said...

Ask me again later. I've never ran a longer race fo really reals, only for fun so I brought nada. I figure I can always go off course if need be :P

It's OK about the daughter. Chipped tooth, black eye, broken arm, whatever the case . . .sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to shut their yaps :P

Viper said...

Wuss. I don't carry anything but my car key.

I'm with Reid. I didn't spend that $100 for just a number and a timing chip that may or may not record my start and finish. I rely on the water stops to have what I need. Though, admittedly, I still have yet to see that Fillet Mignon and bottle of absinthe at Mile 15.

RazZDoodle said...

Anytime I think of fuel for a race, I'm reminded of the episode on The Office where Michael loads up on fettucine alfredo just before race time. Classic.

Don't know what I'll bring for my HM this weekend. Maybe I'll order out for pizza at mile 8.

Topher said...

I'd like to tell you that you're so funny, but that would add to the "ego maniacal" issue. Lately I've been running with a Rolotape since I lost my chance to get a Garmin.

Mir said...

I like to take as little as possible. I tried to take a waist pack one time and it drove me bonkers...and it was just one of the little ones, not a full fuel belt or anything. Generally I pin a couple of Gu's to my shorts, stick car key/hotel key in key pocket, watch on wrist, and I'm good to go.

tange said...

I print out a pace band, after adjusting the mile splits based on elevation change, cover both sides with clear packing tape and pin it upside down to my bib.

Then every mile, I can take a look down to see if I am near my target for that stage of the race.

Sometimes I bring two, but only for my "reasonable" and "miracle "goal times. If I was really creative, I would make a Dick Beardsley watermark on the band as well.

I truely think that this is the smartest thing that I do in a race that "nobody" else does.

Ovens2Betsy said...

Let's just say I'm glad I'm married 'cuz I tend to look like a gadget DORK when I go on a run (iPod strapped to my left arm, Garmin on my left wrist, fuel belt with cell phone/money pouch, 2-3 water bottles and ClifShots hanging off of it).

For a race I taunt the running gods by not wearing my water bottles, however, I still wear the belt so I have a place for my ClifShots.

Chad in the Arizona Desert said...

I used to carry all kinds of provisions during longer races (and even shorter ones). Now, if I know that the race course is well stocked with water and Gatorade, the only thing I'll carry is one gel packet for anything longer than a half, and two for a marathon. If it isn't well stocked, I'll opt for a simple fuel belt.

I do love the simplicity of running, though. In my triathlon days, I needed a freaking checklist to make sure I didn't forget anything and a sherpa to carry it all to and from the transition area. Running is so much simpler.

The Laminator said...

Nope. I'm a minimalist. I carry the absolute minimum because i'm superstitious about the added resistance. I always imagine I'm going to miss my PR because I'm carrying an extra penny in my back pocket. Water and gatorade from the course is way more than enough for me.

thebets said...

Yeah for the end to your exile!!!!

Lily on the Road said...

Glad to hear that you'll be back pounding the pavement in no time...

mmm, I feel like a packhorse when I go out on my long runs...chocolate cherry carb-booms...2-4. Large bottle of powerade, sometimes I need to refresh if it's hot out...a Vector protien bar....if someone isn't there to meet me, car, house keys, I.D. and now my donor card.....maybe I should rent a Uhaul...LOL

Lily on the Road said...

oh, Garmin on my left arm, Timex on my right, dosey do!!!

sRod said...

On my runs I always have: headphones, Liam Grau (iPod Shuffle), at least one pack of GU, house key, credit card, subway card, ID band, Timex, cell phone, and a water bottle.

For races it's the same except no house key, cards, or cell phone. (Yes, I carry a water bottle with me. What? You have a problem with that?)

No lucky acorns for me. Just the imagine of a feast waiting for me at the finish line.

Eric Gervase said...

Long runs and races I used to carry my amphipod with water/gatorade. Now I only do that if I "have to". If the race is supported, I don't do that anymore (a whole one race away from it). The only other thing I bring is my watch (soon to be my Garmin, can't wait).

MizFit said...


now, did I miss it? am I a moron?

whats the People for?

L*I*S*A said...

I just carry a couple of GU packets with me and some Sport Beans. Both fit nicely in the pockets of my running skirt.

I am thinking of a good luck charm I can carry this time around. Haven't decided what yet...any suggestions?

Frayed Laces said...

Since I haven't (yet) trained with gels, I don't race with them. When I race, I run with my Garmin and write lovely motivational quotations on my arms with a Sharpie (like "come on you Pansy, you can run faster than that!"). When I train, I look like the biggest loser: Garmin, MP3, Aphipod belt, visor, sunglasses and some awesomely mismatched, pit-stained running gear.

And People magazine? Seriously? I prefer the Saturday Evening Post...

Bill said...

For the only marathon I've ran (Harrisburg) I carried my own fuel belt with Gatorade. That was because the race only offered Cytomax, which I can't stand. If the race offered something I liked I wouldn't wear a fuel belt.

At the Lehigh Valley Half-Marathon last year I took an espresso gel from a volunteer by accident and ended up running back to get more water to wash my mouth out. It was horrible. I now bring my own vanilla gel to half-marathons.

I always run with my Garmin. If I do long runs by myself I'll occasionally take an ipod.

Non-Runner Nancy said...

Thank God you're running again. Now, are you STILL reading Don?

I carried a phone, some gu, and a bib number from an earlier race that I rocked (well for me.) I should have brought Imodium. Ugh.

SLB said...

Oh good postm in fact so good I am going to steal it! ;-)