I used to brag about having an iron stomach. When it came to endurance events, I could eat almost ANYTHING and be okay. To me, making sure I had enough salt was much more of an issue than nutrition … and now that I figured out my salt situation I thought I was golden.
Until I woke up three weeks ago with this awful feeling as if someone was choking me. I couldn’t go back to sleep because it was so uncomfortable. It wasn’t like a sore throat that burns when you swallow, this was as if something were stuck in my throat and trying to close it down. I took to the internet and self diagnosed with Acid Reflux (or esophageal cancer because that is just where my mind goes). I went to my local drugstore and got over the counter medication hoping that would end this but it didn’t. Fast forward a few days and I could no longer eat. I would get tiny crumbs of bread and I could pretty much feel it coming down my esophagus piece by piece. I couldn’t sleep either, even if I was propped up in a reclining chair. I lost five pounds in one week, unable to train, and pretty miserable.
For reflux, the internerd (yes, intentional misspelling) suggests lifestyle changes: lose weight, exercise more, stop smoking, limit alcohol. Okay, I could stand to lose a few pounds but the rest? Really? I don’t drink or smoke and I don’t think I can exercise any more than I already do.
Going to a Doctor was as inevitable as his asking about my lifestyle. When I told him I was super healthy and just finished my third Ironman he looked at me.
“And what do you eat during those things? Those gels and bars things? “
“Yes.” I replied, almost as a school girl knowing she was about to get scolded. I remembered thinking during my first Ironman (Florida 2013) on mile 20 of the run: if I can take this gel and not vomit it out, I will become an Ironman tonight.
“Well those things might do a number to your stomach lining,” said the Doctor.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not bashing any product or brand nor do I know what is really the problem or the cause of my problem. But I know that having all that sugar and processed carbs slushing around in my stomach for hours can’t be a good thing. Remember, I am the back of the pack so imagine how many gels I took in during a 16 hour Ironman!
Yet food and nutrition in general is the area of my life that I struggle with the most. There are some habits, like these cookies from England, that I’m just not willing to break. So I need to find a solution to fuel during training in a way that doesn’t harm my esophagus any longer otherwise these incidents will occur more often and I will then have longer term consequences.
So I don’t know what to do. I’m not too concerned on the bike as I can happily live off peanut butter. I just don’t know what to drink for electrolytes other than water and salt pills. But the run concerns me because I can’t eat solids during a run; THAT sits awfully in my stomach but I don’t know what to substitute gels for.
I can’t imagine I am the only person out there with GERD who does endurance sports. I’m hoping that reaching out to you will give me some ideas of where to go from here.
So, what do you use for fuel? Any recommendations?