Fear and Running in Gettysburg

This post could also be called Neurosis!

I woke up to a hard frost, late, at eight o’clock. My plan had me out the door running by eight. I blew my plan. A flurry of WordPress activity kept me up late last night. In bed at ten has me up at six. Eleven-thirty? Not six, not running by eight. Eating cereal at eight-thirty: I keep trying to stop with the cereal. Honey Nut Chex. I can’t kick the habit. For a few weeks, I transitioned to oatmeal, blueberries and walnuts added in. That’s a good pre-run meal. But now I’m back to Chex. A half a box, empty calories.

I bought tights last night. Nike Thermal running tights. They were a birthday gift three weeks ago. Or at least they were a gift-idea written in a card. But now they’re more than an idea. I last bought tights in 1996. I still wear them; or I did last winter. They bag on my butt. Bunch on my shins. I’ve lost weight since 1996. Plus, the elastic is gone. I pulled them up super-high and rolled down the waistband. My new tights fit perfectly. I’ll try to replace them at a normal interval.

I finally got outside at nine-forty. Still freezing, still frosty, the sunlight shone but felt impotent. Deciding on clothing for a long run can be tricky in the fall. Often, I leave my house in freezing temps, and by my last few miles it’s pushing sixty degrees. Tights, no tights? How many shirts? I struggle with these decisions, check Weather Underground, and then struggle some more. I went with tights today mostly because they were new.

A hundred yards from my house, I felt hungry. Today was long-run day. On normal Saturdays, I run a seven-mile wooded trail loop on the Gettysburg Battlefield. Most of the paths are groomed equestrian trails, so not difficult, but they feature solitude, beauty, peace. A two-mile section in the middle breaks up the easy running with steep climbs and descents, loose rocks and roots hidden beneath the leaves. On my long day, today and every two or three weeks, I run to the trailhead instead of drive, two miles from my door.

Hunger at the start of an eleven-mile run is a bad situation. I’m a slow runner, eleven miles on trails is a two-hour run. Even when I’m just sitting on my couch, after feeling hunger pangs it’s unlikely that I can wait two hours to eat. I’m skinny, no fat reserves. And hunger makes me lose my shit. Wait, I’ll run by McDonalds, I thought, I can just grab something there. Oh, I had no money, McDonalds wasn’t happening. I kept running, happy I brought my phone so I could call for a ride when I fell to pieces.

Many runners take Gu with them on their long run. Gu is a semi solid syrup contained in a plastic pouch. It’s one hundred percent sugar with a bunch of manufactured vitamins and amino acids added. Gu makes me gag. It runs down my throat like phlegm in the closing days of a bad cold. I usually have a Gu pouch in my house. I know I do now, I just bought it a two weeks ago. Before I ran, I searched high and low, I couldn’t find it.

I took a Payday mini with me instead. Do you know about Payday bars? Also all sugar, except they are infused with peanuts. So, besides the simple carbohydrates, I get fat and protein as well. It’s a better option for refueling during a run. Plus, it seems old-school. Something they would have done in the seventies. Preferable to manufactured sugar paste. In my first marathon, I refueled with Fig Newtons and Yoohoo.

Pumpkin

I made it home. My Payday did the trick. Unlike Gu, you can’t suck a Payday down, so I usually walk while I eat one. I saved it for the steep rocky section. There’s a hill I usually walk anyway, this let me save face. Not that anyone saw me. This trail is always empty, even though throngs of tourists mill about in a parking lot thirty yards away.

Tonight. November 2nd, was Halloween in Gettysburg. On the 31st, we had flash floods and tornado warnings. They decided to keep the kids in for the night. As promised, Eli and I torched our pumpkins and passed out candy by the light of our mini bonfires. Eli wore his trench coat and gas-mask. I wore two hoodies and still froze my butt off.

24 thoughts on “Fear and Running in Gettysburg

  1. Gu makes me gag and/or throw up! Haven’t gone there in years. Love PayDays. As my dear friend Ron Gregg used to say, the four major food groups are: chocolate, salt, grease and alcohol. PayDay bars hit three of the four (grease from the peanuts) and are perfect for a long run, easy to carry, no gagging. They have saved my but of many a long training run or race. Good job getting that long run done!

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  2. Gu sounds revolting, as do misshapen tights. Glad you updated those! I don’t run but the old school snack version sounds good. I carry muesli bars or home made low-GI muffins with me on walks because hunger makes me lose my shit too. Nobody enjoys a hangry DustBunny.

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    • When I’m really running distance, I carry all sorts of weird stuff with me. Pickles and melon balls are the strangest. My wife is vigilant for me getting hungry. She’s always checking to make sure I’ve eaten enough like I’m a little kid.

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      • Heres the thing, if I take the whole pack at once, I get a little sick. So, I have to take it in doses. When I used to run marathons, I bought one of those GU “squirt bottles” and would fill it up with 5 packs….then I could just do a small shot starting at mile 13 and continue until the end of the run. It actually worked pretty well.

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  3. Gu (and other branded gels) make me gag too! I can’t stand the texture and overly sweet taste. I sometimes take mini-Snickers bar on long runs, but most often I carry Lucozade (the British cousin of Gatorade) and Haribos. Empty calories, but it keeps me going!

    That trail you run on sounds awesome. The colours must be gorgeous at this time of year!

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    • I’ve never tried to carry chocolate bars. Now that the weather has cooled off and I have a big bowl of them in my house (from overbuying for Halloween), I’ll give it a try. The colors were great a week ago. That Halloween storm knocked off most of the leaves. Now it looks like winter.

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      • The Halloween fun-sized ones are perfect trail snacks! I’m sure you’ll be converted! 😉

        It’s still quite green here in the UK. It’s weird to see lush green grass in November!

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  4. Oh I hate the gu. I haven’t used it in years I hate it that bad. I tried going for those banana/applesauce packets for a while but they just didn’t have enough calories or substance. Last marathon I packed peanut butter packets and these chia energy snacks. I really should have tried the peanut butter on a training run because I didn’t even think about how hard those were going to be to get down while trying to stay on pace. Love the pumpkin. Declan just saw it and is adamant we are doing that next year. He thinks your pumpkin is awesome too.

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    • Glad I can bond so well with an eight year old. The little kids approach the pumpkins mesmerized. I was really worried a couple of them might have caught on fire. I can’t seem to find anything that’s easy to carry AND easy to eat. I suppose that’s why people keep eating Gu.

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  5. Great read, running on the Gettysburg battlefield would be amazing! I get in smelling range of a bakery on one of my long run routes. 8 miles into a run and smelling fresh pastries that I cannot eat is a special kind of torture. Sometimes after I finish, I drive back to the bakery and reward myself… maybe it’s a bit counterproductive, but man I love donuts.

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    • I know all the history, hallowed ground, etc, but the battlefield is a huge playground. Trail running, road running, biking, hiking, rock scrambling, even picnics. It’s horribly underutilized by locals, but that makes me happy because I have my lonely trail to run. On my runs, I’m never in a hurry to get anywhere, I’d probably take a couple of bucks and stop. Talk about counterproductive.

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  6. I can’t eat Gu. I literally can’t get it down. I fueled my last marathon with dried apricots and salty almonds. I took mostly water from the aid stations, but sometimes early in the race, I took some Gatorade.

    I have some thermal Mountain Hardware tights I love, but they are getting torn up from the trails. I am going to have to check onto the Nikes. Thanks for the recommendation! Glad your long run was a success, even with your doubts about fueling!

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