Let’s be real here. No one actually enjoys energy gels. If I want a shot of energy that I’ll like eating, I grab Honey Stingers or Clif Blocks chews. They have the consistency of soft Dots and taste pretty good. Before a race or hard training session, I’ll eat a pack to get me going. Energy gels though…
History lesson: energy gels were created by people who hate joy for people who like punishing their bodies, because running ridiculous distances and biking a hundred miles will drain you of energy faster than cheap batteries in a game controller. They started showing up in the mid-eighties in clear packets that allowed everyone to see the terrible mistake you were making in real time. Since then, there are more packages and flavors than I can count but they all have one thing in common. The consistency is one level above glue, which means that your mouth desperately wants to chew it but when you try it feels so very wrong.
Runner’s World ranked 27 flavors of Gu, ostensibly the most popular gel brand, and I wasn’t surprised to find the unflavored one at the very bottom. Every runner friend I have always says the same thing when the unflavored Gu comes up in conversation: “who hates themselves that much?” Everyone has a flavor that they like (or tolerate the most), and mine is Jet Blackberry. I buy it by the box at my favorite running store and try and keep at least one in my running belt for emergencies. It’s pretty cheap but for a family on a tight budget, sometimes sacrifices have to be made. My other favorite is mocha Clif Shots, but there’s only one place that sells them around here and they’re expensive, and also the store employees are kind of snobby.
The last couple of long-distance races I ran had Gu at every water stop, and even though I had stuffed my belt with enough to last 15.5 miles I took one at every station because eating free gel is highly preferred to dipping into your own stash. Another race was the same way, and I took one every time again and squirreled them away for later consumption.
Then tragedy struck.
While running a half marathon, I went to a water stop and saw a box of gels. I grabbed one with my water only to discover that it was Gatorade Endurance. “No problem,” I thought. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.” It was not. The flavor was okay but the consistency was what I imagine sadness must taste like. It was more of a soup than a gel and I swallowed it as fast as possible, vowing to never make that mistake again. Unfortunately my cheapskate nature overtook my reason at the next water stop and the thought of saving money won over my distaste for the gel/soup. I not only ended up eating four of the things, I brought one home with me and promptly buried it in my bag.
The other day I went for a run and neglected to pack any Gu. There was one packet of something in the very bottom of my bag and…it was the vanilla Gatorade one. Desperate, I put it in my pack and went for a run. When it was time to refuel I tore it open and poured it into my mouth and friends, it was even worse hot. Somehow my stomach did not refuse it, but I immediately went to FWRunCo and bought a box of Jet Blackberry.
Moral of this story: always stock up on Gu.