In Which Jenn Has A New Favorite Running Fuel

Ooh, ooh, ooh! Can we talk about my new running fuel obsession? It’s cheap! It’s easy! It’s… UNCRUSTABLES!


Yes, the pre-packaged, pre-assembled, frozen version of the humble peanut butter and jelly sandwich is my new pre-run obsession. But really, can you blame me? It’s bread (carbohydrates!), jelly (sugar!), and peanut butter (protein!) in a demure 200-ish calorie package (depending on the flavor you select).

It’s also very gentle on your stomach – I ate two over a couple hours the morning before my last 17 mile training run, and I felt great the whole time. I supplemented with Clif Shots during the run and all was well with my gastrointestinal tract.

But here’s the real kicker: Walt Disney World stocks them in their resorts. They’re marketed to parents and children, so you can find them in the kid’s section of the refrigerated cases in the food courts. If you train with these babies, forgetting your pre-race snack is no big deal; just pick up a replacement on your way back to your room!

If you’re not a peanut butter person or peanut butter could, y’know, kill you, I’ve seen them in Nutella and sunflower button versions too. You can find them in the frozen section of just about any grocery store. 

Easy! Accessible! Cheap! Forgetfulness-proof! I am way too excited about such a small thing! But try them anyway! Tell me how it goes?

What’s your favorite running fuel lately?

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Goes On A Running Food Bender

Let’s see, how to explain this. Have you ever… gone on a sort of… pre-long run food buying spree… like, way in advance… without planning it?

Now that I’m officially training for the Baltimore Marathon, I gotta get those mega-long runs on the docket. And I have – I have a 15 miler, 17 miler, and 20 miler laid out on the calendar. For my normal long runs – say, 9-12 miles on average – I don’t usually require much beyond a pre-run snack and some water, but these big’uns need a bigger sustenance commitment.

There are lots of ways to do it: water, sports drinks, gels, chews, gummy bears, pretzels, honey… a lot of peoples’ boats float a lot of different ways. I have found I perform well with Swedish Fish, so I bought one box for my 15 miler, just to start things off. So far so well measured.

Then last week I was doing my weekly Target grocery run. I was in the candy aisle to grab some 90% dark chocolate (TRY IT!!!!!! YOUR TASTE BUDS WILL EXPLOOOODE) and happened to pass by the theater box candy. Well, I’m here and thinking about it, I thought, so I might as well grab two more boxes for 17 and 20.

That simple act opened the floodgates. In the drinks section for some seltzer, I saw Body Armor sports drinks were on sale. I usually go with PowerAde since that’s runDisney’s MO, but what the hell – I grabbed two bottles without hesitation.

Over by the peanut butter, I was picking up a canister of chocolate PB2 when I saw that Justin’s individual nut butter packets were on sale as well. What an amazing mid-run snack that would be for my really long runs!! I said to myself, even though this is something I’ve never tried. Well, I will now! Into my cart went two peanut butter-and-honey packs.

And, uh, here’s all the stuff I hadn’t planned on buying for runs some of which aren’t for another month:

Will it all be actually good for my long runs? WE SHALL SEE.

Do you ever impulse-buy food in the name of training? What are your favorite pre-and mid-run snacks for long runs?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Gets Jazzed For A Long Run

Last week I came to a startling realization: I was actually excited about my planned 16 mile run.

I expressed this unexpected feeling on Twitter and received the expected response: that I was crazy, and everyone who had a long run on the docket was dreading it.

And so I thought: what if I explained how I got myself this psyched up? Maybe my fellow runners could follow the same method and at least manage to downgrade outright dread to reluctant acceptance. In that spirit, try some of these on for shoe size:

Get some new music. Duh. Everyone knows this one. But seriously, do it. Despite my alt-rock leanings, I fired up some of the Ke$ha I’m less familiar with, because BEATS. Highly recommend serious beats for running.

Perfect segue to…

Get some new gear. CAREFULLY. This is a long run, after all; introducing new clothes could lead you into an exciting new world of chafing, sweating, smelling, etc. Save it for the short run and see how it performs there. Use your tried-and-true clothes here. BUT. How about clothes you already have exactly but in a dangerously different color? Or a new hat or sunglasses, something you can remove easily if it’s not working out for you? Myself, I was wildly excited to have found a value 12-pack of elastic headbands in the bargain bin at Rite-Aid – I snagged ’em for $1.42. GLITTERY GOLD TO THE RESCUE.

Get your favorite pre- and mid-run snacks. Again, nothing you haven’t tried before – now is not the time to puke on the side of the trail (or down the side of your treadmill; someone’s going to have to clean that mess up, and it could be you). I had a box of Swedish Fish to munch on my walk to the gym and a mocha Clif Shot (plus caffeine!) for the midway point. Happy tongue, happy… um… sorry, nothing logical rhymes with tongue. Just eat something good, is all I’m saying.

And on that note…

Plan an awesome night-before dinner and post-run meal. Assuming you’re doing this run in the morning, of course; if not, adjust accordingly. I had Neapolitan pizza and it was DELICIOUS.

Post-run, I made myself a chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie with chocolate protein powder. Good stuff.

There you have it. How do you know my methods work? Because I ran SEVENTEEN miles. BAM! Now go forth and smash those long runs! (And if you can only choose one thing, I highly recommend the glittery gold headband.)

What are your long run tips and tricks?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Would Defend Swedish Fish To The Death

I had, just, the WEIRDEST conversation with my boss the other day.

She had picked up some candy to give out at a festival we’re hosting, and was giving out some samples to staff. I overheard someone mention getting Swedish Fish, and I said: “Swedish Fish? I LOVE Swedish Fish!” because they are AMAZING and the best running fuel ever. Do you remember me lunging at that poor Swedish Fish-distributing girl during the 2016 WDW Marathon? Yeah, they’re that important.

Which is why I was shocked, SHOCKED when my boss said, “Oh, you like Swedish Fish? I didn’t think anyone liked Swedish Fish. That’s why I didn’t mention them.”

And I frankly don’t know what to do with this information. Swedish Fish are such a staple of my running diet. I like to eat them before runs of 15 miles or more. No, they’re not “formulated” as sports fuel per se, but they’re cheap, easy to obtain, taste delicious, don’t mess with my digestive system, and provide a nice sugary, carb-y shot of energy. They are manna from heaven. They are life.

So I said, “It must be a running community thing.”

But everyone else is missing out.

Do you like Swedish Fish? Or did you also assume that no one likes Swedish Fish? What’s your favorite running fuel?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Discusses Mid-Run Fueling

I dunno, guys. I must be doing it wrong.

Earlier we talked about pre- and post-run fueling, and that’s very important. But it seems like there’s a whole lot of buzz surrounding the gels and beans and shots and such that provide energy during a run. Many reported that they found substantial improvement in their runs when they consumed something during, and as a fledgling runner I thought: clearly I need some energy gels!

After Moon and I had somewhat mixed results with Energy Bits, I was determined to figure out what WOULD work. I went straight to the store and bought several types of fuel: Honey Stinger organic chews, Clif Shots, Clif Shot Bloks, and, as my control group, some Swedish fish. I have tried them all multiple times and I can say now, with confidence, what makes a definitive difference in my performance.

None of them.

Oh, sure, I had some good runs using the fuels. But I had just as many lackluster runs. I never felt any energy surges, and at no point can I report feeling AWESOME I COULD RUN FOREVER which, puzzlingly to me, many people seem to. (Is it the caffeine? I can drink a cup of coffee and go right to sleep. I KNEW that would come back to bite me!)

Now, I will note one advantage. I mentioned before that occasionally, if I’ve pounded particularly hard or long, I feel a little sick after a run, and need to sit down and eat something immediately. I did find that, if I had eat something during the run, I was far less likely to feel sick afterward. For this purpose, there was a winner – Clif Shot Bloks, which were reasonably tasty, fairly easy to get down, and did tend to make me feel a little more together. If any one fuel worked for me, it would be that one. But even with the Bloks I never really felt more capable, and where I succeeded it seemed more due to mental endurance than added physical endurance.

What I have decided is that I will consume Bloks under the following circumstances:

  1. For races, where it’s best to be able to pound hard AND long without worry.
  2. If I plan to run more than 14 miles, which seems to be around where I start needing the extra oomph.

Other than that, the jury’s still out. I know there are LOTS of other options out there, but most of them require special trips or ordering online, and the ones I tried were readily available in the store. I suppose I could try one of those sample box subscriptions like Kona Kase, but I’m not at all sure I want to make that financial commitment.

Hmmm… Would anyone like some Swedish fish?

Anyone out there have a similar problem? Have you found your perfect mid-run fuel?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.com. See ya real soon!

In Which Jenn & Moon Discuss Pre- & Post-Run Snacks & Jenn Uses Her Car as an Oven

JENN: So, running fuel snacks. They’re important, one way or another. There are three categories: pre-run, mid-run, and post-run snacks. I’m ignoring mid-run snacks because I’ll have a blog post about that next week, but for today I’d like to start with pre-run snacks – Moon has her own take on this!

MOON: Pre-run snacking = >:(. I hate eating before a run. So… I’m a little useless for this topic, but I never eat before I run.

JENN: Regardless of length, regardless of time?

MOON: Yes. For long runs I sometimes cave and eat something in the event that I get low blood sugar, but it is entirely out of fear. When I am close to home I will not eat anything, though.

JENN: Did you eat before the Princess Half? I can’t remember. I know I had a Clif bar.

MOON: I had part of a Clif bar. I think I was really nervous, but that’s the only time I’ve ever eaten before a run on purpose.

JENN: Myself, I ALWAYS eat before a run, but I try to avoid it DIRECTLY before a run when I can.

MOON:
What’s your favorite?

JENN: I usually shoot for an hour out from my run for digestion time, in case my stomach wishes to protest for whatever reason. After much experimentation, I’ve found that less is more.

Lately I’ve been eating a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips and a Perfectly Simple bar. I like them because every flavor has 10 ingredients or less, and they’re all pronounceable. Oh, and they’re a little less calorific than a lot of other bars. They’re also gluten free if you’re into that. I find it’s enough to keep me going but not so much that it weighs me down.

Brief tangent: I do this with the Perfectly Simple bars, but I’ve done it with Clif bars too and there’s no reason it won’t work with others. I often eat a bar after work if I’m going straight to ballet class, and I leave the bar in the car to prevent myself from snacking on it earlier in the day. I’ve found that, if conditions are right, the heat of the car will essentially bake the bar, and it’ll turn warm and soft like a cookie. You’ve got to work with the weather – keep it out of the sun lest it melt in the summer, and directly in sunlight in the winter – but it works. Don’t attempt it with any bar with a yogurt or chocolate coating, though; that’s just asking for a mess!

Where was I? Right, pre-run snacks. For awhile I was eating almond butter on a gluten-free frozen waffle and a smoothie but I found that was just too MUCH.

MOON: Smoothies are better after, I find. Although, for me everything is better after…

JENN: Now, you do eat post-run, correct?

MOON: Yes, most of the time!

JENN: Any go-tos?

MOON: I like to drink lots of water and wait about a half hour to an hour before I actually eat anything solid. In a perfect world where I get to run before a meal, I like to have fish with some whole grains. If it’s just a snack, I usually just eat some fruit.

JENN: No toast?! [Moon is a major proponent of toast.]

MOON: Well, I can put the fish on toast. 😀 Okay, so I’m sure you have a more interesting after-run snack!

JENN: I actually don’t always eat AFTER runs! It depends on how I feel.

Occasionally, if I’ve pounded particularly hard and/or long, I actually get a little sick and shaky-feeling, and I NEED to eat. Then I usually reach for almonds or another protein bar – something with real sustenance.

For runs of ten miles or more, regardless of how I feel, I almost always drink some coconut water, to replenish carbs and electrolytes. Although I’m starting to wonder if that shouldn’t be a pre-run thing.

If I’m feeling only moderately hungry, I’ll often make a smoothie of almond milk, frozen fruit, spinach, and orange fiber powder (let me know in the comments if you’d like me to do a recipe post, although I’ll warn you that it’s a) simple and b) inexact ;). Delicious, nutritious, and hydrating! If I’m not hungry, I just stick with the coconut water. No need to force things, y’know?

Jenn’s favorite frozen fruit for smoothies: raspberries!
Favorite flavor of Perfectly Simple bar: peanut crunch!

MOON: I would really like to have one of those smoothies right now… I would also like to have time to RUN, but we can’t have everything. We’re going to have a blog celebration when I go on my next run. (I’ll think of something fun!)

JENN: Yay! Hoping you can make the Annapolis Light House Half. 🙂

What are your favorite pre- and post-run snacks? Let us know in the comments!

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.com. See ya real soon!

It’s a Coconut Water Battle Royale!

Jenn is still in charge! Fear for your lives!

There has been much buzz in the running community of late about coconut water as a wonderful alternative to traditional energy drinks like Gatorade or Powerade – coconut water has naturally occurring electrolytes, carbohydrates, and potassium, with none of the weird preservatives and added sugars. Perfect for a runner’s hydration!

But of course there’s always a catch. And the catch here is this: no one seems to be able to drink it.

Oh, I exaggerate. Lots of people drink it. But they don’t seem to like it. Most of the discussion seems to center around ways to make it palatable – drink it with this flavoring, make it as cold as possible, mix it into something else.

As for me, I loved the idea of ditching the Gatorade. Tons of running sites recommended drinking it after a long run, but I could never quite shake the nagging feeling that it wasn’t much better than drinking soda, what with the dyes and the sugars and whatnot. Abandoning it in favor of coconut water sounded great! I just had to find a version I could choke down.

No! I don’t want to just choke it down. I’d really, really rather enjoy it, at least a little bit. So I ran to a couple stores, grabbed the flavors I could find, and did a series of post-run taste-tests. Time for some opinions!

Note: I ignored all “plain” flavors. If you can drink straight coconut water, you’re already set!

FLAVORS BY VITACOCO

  • Pineapple. The first flavor I tried. I dunno. I like pineapple a lot, but the mixture of tastes was weird. The pineapple hit first; then I got a hit of a strange, slightly sweet in a noncommittal way flavor and weird texture that I assume is the coconut. I really like coconut desserts and what have you, so this was unexpected. I tried it twice and it just wasn’t working for me.
  • Orange. MUCH better! The orange flavor is stronger than the pineapple. You still get a bit of the aftertaste, but the acidic orange dominates to such a complete degree that you hardly notice. I’d buy this flavor again!

 
BY ZICO

  • Chocolate. I dunno, guys. This is the one flavor people RAVE about. “Try the Zico chocolate version!” they say. “It’s a completely different thing!” they say. That may be true, but… I didn’t like it. It tastes, to me, like a watery chocolate milk, and as I’m not a huge fan of chocolate milk (I know; I’m the only one), I wasn’t able to finish this one. That said, if you really dig the taste of Hershey’s chocolate syrup, it might be right for you. It also has potential for inclusion in a smoothie, I think. Maybe with some almond butter and a banana? It might be worth buying again for experimentation in recipes, but I wouldn’t purchase it with the intention of drinking it straight.


BY FOCO

  • Pomegranate. Didn’t much care for this one – the pomegranate flavoring was too strong for me, but it lacked the acidity of Vitacoco’s orange version to cover up the aftertaste. The pomegranate was more like POW!!! … yuck.  
  • Pink guava. Not bad. Kind of nondescriptly sweet. I had the most neutral reaction to this flavor. I might buy it again for some variety but it’s not one I would reach for first.
  • Mango. Nice mango-y taste. Pretty much exactly what you’d expect. The flavor combination was maybe a leeeeetle weird, but mango is so tasty that it tipped things over to pleasant. Would probably buy it again, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes a good, solid mango flavor.
  • Lychee. GLORY, GLORY, HALLELUJAH. SO GOOD. I love it! The light, sweet, clean taste of the lychee fruit complete kicks the inherent odd taste of coconut water to the curb without emphasizing the aftertaste. When I twist open the cap, I’m looking forward to taking that first drink!

Any coconut water enthusiasts out there? Brands or flavors I missed and need to try?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.com. See ya real soon!

In Which Jenn & Moon & Minx & Ruffian & Hoodoo Try Energy Bits

 Hi there! Jenn here. A little backstory: a few weeks ago I randomly tweeted to our scores and scores of devoted followers that we had never used any kind of energy gels or beans or what have you, and did anyone having suggestions? Why, Sasha Bratt did – Energy Bits are the thing, said he! They’re made with algae, totally natural and great for you. And then Energy Bits themselves tweeted back – seriously, this Twitter team is ON TOP OF IT – offering samples for review. Which we accepted because it sounds awesome and also because OMG SAMPLES TO REVIEW! Anyway, we tried the bits, and here are our initial thoughts.

JENN:  You use the bits today?

MOON: I did!

JENN: Me too. And so did Ruffian, with every evidence of enjoyment.

“These must be for me.” – Ruffian (always)

When I first opened the box, the cats immediately showed up and began investigating with great interest. I was amused and tweeted about this occurrence, and Energy Bits tweeted back saying that they’re safe for all animals and make great treats!

So I figured what the heck and offered them each one. Minx ultimately decided against it, but Ruffian scarfed hers down. So: cat approved.

“Cans in their natural state contain tuna fish.
Something has gone very wrong here.” – Minx

MOON:
  Awww, that’s adorable! My cat did the exact opposite. Hoodoo decided she was REALLY hungry. She bit multiple holes in a new bag of treats and decided to eat half the bag.

JENN: Oh, then she’s already full.

MOON: Exactly.

JENN: Not that we could ever be nearly as exciting as pictures of cats sniffing things, but since you tried the bits for their intended purpose, namely, energy: how did your run go?

MOON: My run was all right, but honestly: I felt no different than usual. I would be interested to try it again because I think that everything deserves two chances.

So, I took the Energy Bits about one hour before I ran, with liquid. When I began my run, I had cramps… and that’s weird because I haven’t had cramps while running for years now.

JENN: Leg cramps? Or stomach?

MOON: Stomach cramps. I’m not convinced that the two are correlated, but I figured I’d lay out all the facts.

JENN: Indeed. Did they go away?

MOON: That’s the weird thing! I decided I was running through them, so I did. Buuut, they never subsided.

JENN:  … You ran seven miles with stomach cramps?

MOON: Eight.

JENN: Holy smoke, Rocky.

MOON: I actually really love Rocky (and there’s a special place in my heart for Rocky IV).

JENN: I was actually referring to Rocky the Flying Squirrel, but now that you mention it, you DO have the eye of the tiger.

MOON: Rawr.

The last known survivor

JENN: Precisely. Aside from the cramping, did you feel anything else might be different?

MOON: I was a little more agitated than normal, but I’ve been that way before without cramping to that degree. Maybe I had something weird to eat? Like I said, I would love to give it another try.

JENN: Eat anything cheesy? Could your lactose intolerance be the culprit?

MOON: Nope! No milk, just my normal food.

So, how did your run go?

JENN: My run went really well. I broke through my official goal time! Did 13.1 miles in 2 hours 9 minutes, then continued on to finish 17.14 miles in 3 hours 5 minutes.

Did the bits help with that? Very possibly. I knocked out the times I wanted and was able to keep truckin’.

However, I didn’t feel awesome. I felt like I was working to accomplish a goal. I’m not sure how much was bits and how much was the refrain in my head insisting that I not quit.

MOON: Same for me.

JENN: I also wonder if we were oversold on the bits; expected too much of them. They have lots of GLOWING reviews about how they make running a joy.

Now, I must admit, however, that I PR’d for a practice half and then ran my longest ever. I didn’t feel too terribly sick post run and I was able to keep going, even if a lot of it was psychology – my body didn’t quit on me. I can’t dismiss bits out of hand. I mean, there is no magic bullet – if there were, everybody would be running with ease! If it’s the bits that kept me going, then I want to know that.

MOON: Also, I must point out that this amount of protein is something my body is NOT used to.

JENN:
True! You may need to try smaller doses.

MOON: I would be totally up for it. I like the idea of the delivery and everything, but I think I would need to experiment with timing and amount.

JENN: I agree with Moon – more research is required. We still have some bits left, and if anything changes, we’ll be sure to mention it in our weekly review.

Sorry to be so indecisive! I guess the moral of this story is that everything is worth multiple tries, but not everything is right for everyone. Experimentation is key. Energy Bits, we still have hopes for you.

Mind you, there’s much left to try. Next I want to try a Honey Stinger waffle. I mean, it’s an energy WAFFLE. How exciting is that?!

And anyway, Ruffian liked them. She’s way cuter than I am, so I see no reason to doubt her.

“She speaks the truth.” – Ruffian

Thanks to Energy Bits for sending us the samples! In the interest of full disclosure, we should note that the samples were free. All opinions provided, however, are our own. Obviously.

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.com. See ya real soon!