Calories for the Long Run

 

Within the past few months there's been one session that's left me depleted and fatigued - the long run.  This is likely the same case for most people, so you may be wondering what the issue is.  Last week I had arguably the toughest long run to date, and I felt great afterwards.  I was left contemplating why...
It didn't take long to figure out what the difference was - calories.  Last week I stopped twice during the run to buy some Coke, and managed to drink 2x 500ml bottles during the session.  Normally I just do the session with a bottle of water and no calories.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, I finished the session stronger than I had been in past weeks, and didn't have an urge to raid the fridge when I got home.  
If I'm honest, the only reason I've avoided ingesting calories during the long run sessions up to now is to reduce total calorie intake.  This is not the right attitude, as it leads to a slightly inferior quality workout, and if you're like me, you'll finish the session ravenous, invade the cupboards when you get home and undo all your good work.
The question is, what should you be eating on the long run, and how much?  Firstly, I don't take anything solid, such as energy bars.  Look towards liquid calories and gels, although bananas are a common choice for some athletes.  Here in Seychelles, the local shops don't stock energy drinks, so Coke is the best available alternative. The fact that it's available during race day is another bonus - it provides a chance to practice race nutrition.  
How many calories you'll be able to tolerate will depend  on a number of factors. Certainly reduce the amount of calories you ingest on the run compared to the bike. As with everything, experiment in training.  I've done Ironman races on anything from 150-300 cals/hour on the run, and I think that for me, somewhere in the middle of those two figures is most appropriate.
Recovering from the session is always important.  I like to make sure I haven't got much planned for the remainder of the day, although I may do a gentle spin or an easy swim in the afternoon.  Other than that, it's a case of feet up, resting and eating!  Incidentally, for other Extreme Endurance users out there, on my long run days I increase my dosage of  to 8 tablets/day, 2 more than usual.  I find this helps to combat the muscular fatigue from the longer session.