Having suffered several running injuries during my inaugural year, I decided to do things a little differently for this one.

Before my last race in November, 2016, I went to visit my chiropractor to see if anything could be done for my knee. In late August, I had listened more to a well-meaning fellow runner than to my own body on a pretty long trail run. As I had been training on trails all summer long in preparation for the Dogwood Canyon 50K, I knew what pain I could push through and what pain I couldn’t. But, I failed to listen to my body, and I’ve been paying for it for almost six months. My chiropractor told me that I had about three months worth of rehab ahead of me. He also said I needed to “get a butt” by actually cross-training and doing weight work for my legs. I honestly never thought I’d hear a doctor tell me to get a butt.

The last week of December, I bit the bullet and dove in to Shaun T’s Focus T25 program. I’ll have to admit that I probably wasn’t physically ready for the workouts, but, hey, I’m stubborn, and I’m an endurance runner. Besides, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? I am currently about half way through the Beta portion and, though I’ve found several things I can’t do as well as the team on the screen, I’ve been impressed with my ability to keep up. I no longer find shame in following Shaun’s go-to modifier, Tania. My plan is to complete all three circuits and then start the whole thing over. With the workouts lasting approximately 30 minutes per day with the cool-down exercises, they form half of my morning workout routine.

The second half of the routine is a 30-minute road run with a couple of hills thrown in for good measure. For these runs, I’m not really worried about pace or distance, I just want to keep the running muscles ready. Sometimes I get in 2.5 miles, and some days, I push 3.25. I use these short runs to practice things like breathing, cadence modification, and the discipline just to keep going when I don’t really feel like it – and at 4:30 in the morning with the first quarter-mile being up hill, there are a lot of days that I don’t really feel like it.

Anyway, I have a big run coming up at the end of April. It is the Frisco Railroad Run which is sponsored by my favorite running group, OMRR,  and I plan to compete in either the marathon or 50k. As any runner knows, long races mean long training runs and my long-run day is Saturday. Yesterday was my third day of long runs. The first week, I ran for an hour and ten minutes and got in seven miles with an average pace of just under 10 minutes per mile. Week two, I threw in some trails and hills and completed just over 10.5 miles in two hours for about an 11.5 minute average pace. Yesterday, I did 14 miles in 2:36 on the Frisco trail for an average pace of 11:12 per mile.

My first long run showed me that my focus on strength training with Focus T25 was paying off as I felt so much stronger than I have in the past. My second one took the wind out of my sails a bit as I lost a minute and a half per mile and struggled through much of the run.

Like all endurance runners, I am on a personal journey to find out what works best for me. I may talk about my journey with shoes, fueling, and hydration options in another post, but for now, we’ll skip to what I think may be the end of my quest for fueling gold.  After my disappointing two-hour run last week, I decided I needed to find something that really worked to keep me going. I’ve heard other runners talk about how great Tailwind is so I decided to do some research. It didn’t take long to find a few sites where real endurance runners were singing the praises of the product. Several runners have run ultra-marathons using nothing but Tailwind as fuel for the entire race. A few others supplement something to chew on just because sometimes, your brain and stomach need to feel like they’re eating, or at least mine do. You can find lots of product information on the Tailwind website.

After finding such positive reviews of the product, I headed down to my local running specialty store, Fleet Feet, and picked up one packet of each of the flavors they carry. I plan to try the different flavors over the next few weekends before diving in for the big bag of one or two of my favorites. That will take the cost per serving from about $2.50 to $0.70. Now that may sound a little pricey, but one serving mixes with 24 oz of water and lasts a lot longer than a gel. So, I filled one bottle with Mandarin Orange and one with Berry and got ready to go. I threw a few Sports Beans in the front pocket of my Orange Mud HydraQuiver Vest Pack 2 just in case Tailwind didn’t work out or I needed something to chew on and hit the trail. I think I ended up eating about ten beans during the run.

I put in about two miles before I took my first drink and then averaged a drink about every ten minutes or so. To be honest, I started off too fast and couldn’t maintain the 9:30-10:00 pace for the entire run, but I did make it through the first five miles at this pace. My overall pace spread was about three minutes with a max lap time of around 12:30. There were several factors that contributed to this spread. The first was the elevation. The Frisco Highline Trail is a Rails to Trails trail of hard-packed gravel that is pretty well maintained. It is deceptively not flat and has a gradual gradient that translates to significant elevation changes that can mess with your mind if you think you’re running a  flat trail. The second factor was that, as I mentioned earlier, I am playing around with my cadence to try to get faster. (It works, but my hips aren’t used to moving that fast and it has also introduced a few breathing challenges that have to be worked out.) The third factor comes with the “or so” with my fueling frequency. Sometimes I forget to eat or drink when I’m running and setting reminders on my Garmin Forerunner 235 does little more than annoy me because I don’t listen to it.

During the run, I found that my strength training needs to continue because I ran out of strength in my legs and found myself walking more than once. But, unlike past races where I was walking because I had nothing left in the tank, I really was walking just to give my legs a rest.

The biggest noticeable difference for me came after the run. Over the course of the run, I had pretty much finished off two servings of Tailwind. Remember, this isn’t my first rodeo and I’ve run this and longer distances in the past so I kinda know how my body reacts to long runs. It’s not usually a pretty sight to see a very stiff man hobbling out of the car after the 30-minute trip home. But this time was different.

  • I wasn’t exhausted.
  • I got out of the car and walked into the house with relative ease.
  • I had energy.
  • I didn’t need a post-run nap.
  • I wasn’t starving to death.
  • I didn’t even have to go to bed early last night.

So, what do I think of Tailwind? From my initial trail trial, it is a great product. It does what it says it will do and it isn’t overly expensive. I’ll probably keep supplementing with beans or honey straws, but think the need to do so may be more psychological than physical. Tailwind helped me during the run, which is what it is supposed to do. But I’m more impressed with what it did after the run – it gave me energy for the rest of the day which meant I could still have a life after a long run.

I may play around with the mixture a little and see what half a serving does for me, but I really believe that I may have found the missing ingredient in my race fueling.