Having run 81 half marathons since 2010, with 69 of those being Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series races, there is no doubt in my mind that I could not be where I’m at without Rock ‘n’ Roll. I’ve run as few as five in one year and as many as 12, with a new goal of 13 this year in 2019. Six down, seven to go.
But in the Spring of 2018, I wasn’t sure I could continue to run so many races. I started to consider doing fewer than 10, scaling back, and turning my attention to something else.
I thought I had my pre-race and fueling routines pretty set by that point. Enter Science in Sport. I can now say the same about SiS too - I would not be where I’m at now without them. Because when I first tried Science in Sport, I thought, “well this is different and interesting - maybe I should dig a little deeper.”
I first learned about Science in Sport at - where else? - a Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon. I learned quickly that this was no new fad product but a company of 30 years with good standing in the UK and beyond; a company that’s used real life intel gathered from athletes, in tandem with scientists’ research in the area of sport, to develop a superior nutritional product. Being a good race day runner, I don’t try new things on race day, so I shied away from using it the first time I saw it on a course. But my curiosity was absolutely piqued.
I purchased a box of gels online to try them out at home and immediately noticed a difference. I was pleasantly surprised at zero tummy trouble on a long run. In fact, my long training runs became more enjoyable because I felt an energy boost for longer. I walked less, wanting to run more or run longer. I wanted to see what was possible. And then I decided to really go for it - really dedicate myself to *only* using the Science in Sport gels as well as the hydration tablets. My body became beautifully used to the Science in Sport gels to the point where sometimes on those hard-to-get-yourself-going runs, it would turn into a good strong run, I’d finish, and then say out loud, “damn, that is some good s#*&!”
My performance on race day dramatically changed when I decided to only use SiS products. During the fall of 2018 I started posting times I hadn’t seen in two years and wasn’t sure I’d ever see again.
When I say I haven’t seen times like this in two years, it’s not simply by luck or coincidence - I know that the shifts I’ve made in my nutrition are why these races are feeling so much better for me. I haven’t shifted my running all that much and am, in fact, not physically training to the extent I normally like to. My decision to shift to a Science in Sport product-based nutrition plan has been the game changer.
And it has to be - when you’re running 10-13 races a year, you have to employ some consistency throughout training so that your body shows up on race day, no matter how tired you might be. To be able to trust products that you use is everything. So instead of junk miles or not properly using the gels in training, I follow this routine:
Before a run: Take a Citrus 75 mg of caffeine gel (whether it’s two miles or 10 miles)
More than two miles: Run with a gel in pocket (usually a standard gel, sometimes the Salted Strawberry Electrolyte gel)
Throughout my days - running or not, I’m also using the SiS hydration tablets to keep my hydration going and remain consistent with my race weekend routine. I make sure to have the tablets the day before a race and the morning of as well. This routine actually becomes the thing that keeps me calm, properly hydrated, and on track with my nutrition.
In addition to physically tapering before a race, my nutrition plan is part of the taper too. People often ask me if I’m training all the time. To be honest, some of my races are training miles for a specific goal in an upcoming race, and I absolutely have to have weeks where I gear up or taper down, even when traveling (hotel gyms are everything!). Same thing for nutrition - I really want to feel the effects of the caffeine from the gels on race day, so I’ll pull back from using them the week before (just like I do with regular coffee, in preparation for the boost on race morning).
Speaking of race morning - what does that look like? My current system is:
15 minutes before the start: Citrus 75 mg caffeine gel
Mile 4: Regular gel
Mile 7: Salted Strawberry or electrolyte Raspberry
Mile 10: Double Espresso 150mg caffeine gel around mile 10
Part of my ‘system’ includes being able to rely on knowing these gels are on the Rock ‘n’ Roll courses. If I forget one or lose one on a course, I know which aid stations will have SiS gels and can stick to my plan.
This happened to me at 2019 St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle, when I got to the parking lot and realized I’d left my race day gel routine on the kitchen counter where I was staying. Thankfully a fellow runner came through, giving me TWO extra Science in Sport gels she had in her pocket. I was able to take the first pre-race, the second around mile 4, and then get myself to where I knew they’d be handed out on course.
The relief I felt was unlike other pre-race moments. Sure, I still wished I had my caffeinated gels, my extra electrolytes, or salt. And I knew without a doubt that having these gels would allow me to be fully ‘in’ the race from the start, enjoy the course, AND have the nutrition I’ve come to so very much rely on. As they say at Science in Sport - “if you don’t put high performance sports nutrition in, you won’t get your full potential out.”
Thanks to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series and Science in Sport, I’m on track to doing more half marathons in 2019 than I thought this body could.
Gretchen Schoenstein is an ambassador for Science in Sport and a member of the Rock ‘n’ Squad for Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series.