GETTING UNTAPPED: VERMONT RUNNER JOSH FERENC ON HOW FUELING CHANGED HIS GAME
The Vermont City Marathon is a very special race to me as the first and only road marathon that I have ever run. I mainly focus on the trails and mountains, but living in Vermont made me want to experience the buzz that is VCM. I heard friends rave about how awesome the course is, how the fan support is epic, and how the overall feel of Burlington make this marathon the must race marathon. I’ve embraced Vermont as my home and never want to leave or have anywhere else be my home, which has driven me to the place I am now, an elite runner tied to Vermont-based brands. I’ve been very fortunate to have made some amazing relationships and connections, including Julbo (a French company with Vermont headquarters), Darn Tough Socks, Vermont Running Co., Cold Brewtus Coffee, and of course, UnTapped Maple.
Photo: Scott Mason
For the marathon distance on the road, fueling was going to be an issue I’d have to address. As the weather may throw some interesting elements at you, the nutrition aspect has to be dialed as a war of attrition is more evident than not out there on the roads — it comes down to who has the most energy at the end! Coming from a running trail and mountain background, it is a lot easier to fuel during those races. With a marathon, the speed aspect makes fueling tougher for me. The set aid stations puts pressure on me to fuel where they’re located. Being locked-in to an ideal pace, and the relatively flat course, make the pace a constant. There’s not a lot of deviation. I’ve had some very fun days at VCM: My first year was unbelievably hot! Not ideal to the race I had trained and planned for, but I ran well enough to be top the top Vermont runner and finished 4th overall. This feeling of success while walking around Burlington afterward was amazing! I felt that I fueled okay, but didn’t like how the gels I used sat in my stomach plus were hard to consume while running. They were too sticky of a consistency. Enter UnTapped.
The following year was a year of zero stress when it came to fueling. I was mentally prepared of what to do. The stress revolved around other things; in November I was diagnosed with Lyme’s, which lead to bacterial meningitis, and I was bedridden for three straight weeks, leaving me just 30 days to focus on VCM. The first day I ran, it was 100 meters, and it resulted in me vomiting and having to sit down. Not ideal start to marathon training! Everything I had to do to get to the finish line was going to have to be perfect; and then the weekend of the race, the weather was a snow and ice storm! This was actually a relief and made me love the idea, and gave me the utmost confidence to race. The weather was not ideal, but nothing else was either, so it fit the scenario.
Photo: Scott Mason
With the weather being super cold, I decided to roll with the UnTapped packets in my shorts’ pockets. My body temperature was able to keep them warm, and therefore the maple was absolutely delicious on this freezing day! With pure maple syrup, the simplicity and viscosity are perfect. It is instant calorie and carbohydrate replenishment, plus on such a cold day, it just seemed natural and primal. I told myself that I was going to fuel every 35 minutes, to stay ahead of any calorie issues. The wet, cold rain hung on my jersey, but I was able to stay warm by staying focused on my pace, and keeping a good clip and fueling with UnTapped Maple at those time checks. I didn’t have any jitters and processed the smooth texture very easily. I climbed through the field, from 35th, to 16th at 10 miles and to 6th place overall — an amazing result for me that year. I was able to be competitive, finish strong, and felt that this race was as if I was coming back from the dead.
Photo: Scott Mason
In training, I incorporate the maple packets into a similar routine. I also really like relatively low caffeine content in both the Coffee UnTapped plus the new Lemon Tea Mapleaid, which is really helpful for hydration. We’ll see what the weather turns out to be in this year’s VCM!
It is fun to reminisce and it is also a great motivator to know where I’ve been and where I want to go, both with my training and with my racing but watching others get UnTapped for the first time, learning what natural fueling can do has been a highlight of my work with the natural Vermont energy.