I read an interesting though completely pointless article in reuters news yesterday. In summary, some student somewhere did a study to create a formula to basically tell people to eat carbohydrates before they do a marathon!! what amazing rocket science – give the boy a medal! (actually don’t please). It frustrates me how something that is really nothing gets headlining news, yet the real solution to the problem does not get mentioned. here’s a link to the article if you have 3 minutes to waste … http://r.reuters.com/wuk69p
So, the answer to the “does the wall exist” question is this ……. Yes, if you don’t know how to pace yourself, fuel yourself or taper. No, if you do know how to do all those things.
The human body can store about 2000 calories of carbohydrate when rested and fully replenished – this is the goal of the taper. When you rest up your using partially depleted carbohydrate stores top up to maximal levels once again. You also repair at a cellular level and absorb all the great training you have just been doing. So, tapering is what puts you at the start line 100% loaded to race.
Secondly, breakfast on race day tops up any short term deficit from the nighttime and carbohydrate ingestion at the rate of 200-300 calories an hour during the event helps you keep up with your “burn-rate” as you run.
Lastly, proper training to teach yourself to burn fats efficiently, extend your endurance and develop speed at threshold, puts you in a commanding position to race to your potential. Racing above your threshold and “beyond your conditioning” is one sure way to CREATE the mythical wall.
So very simply, if an athlete tapers, eats a normal diet of which 50%+ is carbohydrate and then also PACES THEMSELVES correctly = not going above threshold + consumes about 250 carbohydrate calories per hour during the event, they’ll be fine!!!
the wall is a myth or at most a self created obstacle caused by poor nutrition, poor training and poor pacing