Coffee. Beer. Running. Climbing.
“Fueling” is a big buzzword among endurance and mountain athletes these days. Hang around a race or read an article about some big, cutting edge climb and you’ll be sure to hear it.
“I decided not to fuel during my last half.”
“By the time I got to the feed station I needed some serious fueling.”
“We stopped at the base of the ridge to fuel up before the summit push.”
What does it mean? Eating and drinking basically, giving your body the “fuel” it needs to perform. This act is certainly necessary, all the more so if you’re out pushing yourself on the roads or in the mountains. Our bodies need food to function, and wherever there is a need (real or perceived) there is an industry ready and willing to fill that need. The highly tuned modern mountain athlete has a bountiful harvest of science backed, performance tested products. Bars, gels, chews, powders, electrolyte drinks, recovery drinks…
All that may be well and good, but when it comes down to it I am no highly tuned modern mountain athlete. But I am a man with a few intense vices. Coffee. Beer. Running. Climbing. I would estimate that in the last two years, I have left the house for a run without finishing a cup of coffee on the way out the door less than 10% of the time. I can’t even remember the last time I drove to the crag without a cup off strong, dark, life giving coffee in my hand. While some runners pack along energy gels to fuel during a long run, I set up my road runs to take me past a local brewery that will pour a 6oz beer to give me the fortitude to finish my loop. Trail runs end with a can of cold craft brew stashed in a cooler at the trailhead. And while I would never advocate climbing while intoxicated, few libations satisfy the same way a crag beer does. There is something ineffably right about the feeling of a cold can or bottle in an abused, tape-glove encased hand.
So while the gel slurping, electrolyte replacement beverage quaffing super athletes may have science on their side, I like to think that my method has its own advantages. I’m not winning races or putting up cutting edge ascents, and that’s exactly my point—choking down “high performance fuel” is not going to change that. I’m 24 years old, have never climbed harder than 5.11 and on a good day my pace is barely competitive in a small town race. Clearly I’m not in it for the glory. I do the things I love, running and climbing, for the experience. And what I use to fuel those experiences doesn’t come with a sports science backing, it comes from what I actually like. Coffee and beer. Running and Climbing. Vices to fuel vices.