I registered for the Queen City Half Marathon! Since I have barely started running again, I am not ready to commit to a time goal yet. I do know one thing though: If I want to continue to improve my race times, I need to figure out how to avoid cramping.
Leg cramps did not become an issue for me until last year. When I ran the 2007 Forest City Half, I started to get calf cramps at about 19km. They annoyed me, but I don't think that they were bad enough to affect my overall time. During the 2007 Toronto Waterfront Half, I was pushing hard for a 2-hr finish and started to cramp badly at 18k...again, in the calves. This time it was bad enough to stop me from running. I walk-jogged the last 3km and hobbled across the finish line 10 minutes later than my goal. This year, I also had cramping issues when I ran the Vancouver Marathon. The cramping started at around 25k, and destroyed any hopes of meeting my goal time.
My Running Mania friends have suggested that my cramping issues may be caused by low electrolytes. I think that they are right. But how can I fix that problem? I have trouble taking in fuel when I run. In warm weather, I might go through about 500 mL of water during a 90-min training run. I can race with water and gel or water and Sport Beans/Clif Bloks, but I run into stomach issues when I try to take in Gatorade. Even the Sport Beans and Clif Bloks start to bother my stomach when I am 3+ hours into the race. Some people have suggested E-load, and I have tried using it on training runs. However, my training runs are not intense enough for me to tell if it is really beneficial. My tempo runs are only 6-7km at most, and I don't seem to hit cramping issues until 18 km or later into a race. I'm not about to try an 18km tempo run just to see if I cramp! I also dislike carrying water bottles during races, so that takes away the option of mixing my own drinks. I could use the capsules, but how do I know how much to take if I don't reach race intensity in my training?
I guess that my next race will be an experiment of sorts. It's too bad that I can't control the temperature and humidity on race day! Don't we all wish that we had that power? ;)