The 2013 Colfax Marathon –
The race started and off I was. I got about 15 miles in before my stomach was upside down, surely wishing it could talk so it could cuss me out properly for being such an idiot and pissing it off. Miles 15-19 were a nightmare. I spent time in each porta-poo during that stretch hurling my guts out before becoming dizzy and unable to continue at approx mile 20. There was no way I was gonna finish this race, not in the shape I was. I exchanged pain for shame and checked in at the next aid station to turn in my bib and drop from the race. I was devastated and heartbroken. Ask any runner – having a “DNF” (Did Not Finish) next to your name is a crushing blow to your ego, leaving you wishing you could crawl inside a hole and disappear.
I vowed that I would get to the bottom of the problem and that it would never happen again. So I started researching, and thankfully since then, have come a long way in my pre race routine and diet. After coming across words and phrases like glycogen, hitting the wall, carbohydrates, energy consumption, etc etc etc I begin to understand the importance of the food you consume, and it’s direct correlation to how you perform on race day.
(Training aside for a moment) For me, a good performance is all in how I treat my body in the proceeding final days before the race. Making sure I am sleeping and resting well, keeping stress and outside distractions to a minimum, and that I am taking in the necessary foods in order to build up fuel and energy for when I toe the starting line.
More specifically, when it comes to food on race week, I make sure I am liberal with my calories but that I am liberal with the rights kinds of foods. I make sure I am taking in lots of clean carbohydrates such as brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pastas, and boiled or baked potatoes. In addition, I make sure to get plenty of fresh vegetables in there as well, topped off with good sources of protein such as fish, baked chicken, beans, and low fat diary. Alcohol consumption should be kept to an absolute minimum or non existent level on race week, and certainly within 48 hours of a race. Lots of stretching, massage, and visualization. Be kind to your body.
There is a lot of debate over when to do the traditional “carb loading” when preparing for a distance race. In my opinion, waiting til the night before is too late. Ideally for me, I try to do this about 2-3 days out from the race, to give my body and more specifically my liver time to build up nutrients and energy that will be crucial when I show up to race. On the night before, I have a good meal but still am mindful to not overeat. The idea is to wake up hungry on race morning so i am usually cutting off food about 12 hours prior. This means if the race starts at 7am I need to be wrapping up dinner around 7pm the night prior. Breakfast for me is usually waffles or pancakes, granola, and bananas. BTW, the best time to eat a banana is when it starts to brown, as that is the point when the starch is turning into the usable sugar for energy that you so desperately will need out on the course. I’ve also come to enjoy the Red Ace Organics beet juice shot before races. Apparently beets are a superfood that help with oxygen transfer between muscles and energy. They are a few bucks a shot and are available at any Whole Foods. Carbs and sugar on race day are crucial.
Ultimately, the idea is show up fueled up, well fed, and ready to go.
I welcome any input you have with any foods that you may have found to help with your performance, so please leave comments if you wish.
Happy and healthy running,
Note to self: NEVER eat salmon, protein bars, spaghetti, and eggs again right before a marathon.