Loading up (on carbs)

“It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for living.” – Simone de Beauvoir

In many ways, I’m in unchartered territory before a marathon: Training went really well, but for the first time I don’t feel like I hit a wall in training. In past marathons, I reached my limit in training and felt like my body would give out. But not this time – and that’s a little unsettling.

This morning, my head ached but I had managed a pretty good night of sleep. That should bode well for me tomorrow. The first order of business was a run to jumpstart my carbo-loading plan. To manage this eating plan, I need the following items: Endurox R4 recovery powder, bananas, oatmeal, an energy bar (like Powerbar), apple juice, orange juice and Ensure (meal replacement drink).

I’ve adopted this carbo-loading plan from the University of Western Australia after reading about it in a book by Matt Fitzgerald, whom I consider to be extremely knowledgable in nutrition and training principles. One of the reasons I love this plan is that it only lasts 24 hours, giving you all the fuel you need for a marathon without all the stress and side effects that go with carbo-loading.

Essentially, I eat normal up until 2 nights before the marathon. Then, I eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (last night I had a terrific salad with chicken from Boston Market, although I’ve done pasta in the past).

Here’s what the routine looks like starting 24 hours before the marathon start:

  • Perform a workout of approximately 2 miles. Most of it will be easy running, except for the past 3 minutes. After running easy, speed up to mile pace for 2 1/2 minutes, followed by a 30-second sprint.
  • Post workout: Drink 2 servings of Endurox R4
  • Breakfast: Oatmeal, orange juice
  • Mid-morning: Banana, Ensure
  • Lunch: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, garden salad, apple juice
  • Mid-afternoon: Apple, Ensure
  • Pre-dinner snack: A serving of Endurox R4
  • Dinner: Pasta (spaghetti with tomato-based sauce and vegetables), appe juice
  • Evening snack: Power Bar, Ensure
  • Race morning (at least two hours before race time): 2 bananas, 2 servings of Endurox R4

You can make some substituions, of course. On the road, I’ve switched out a healthy turkey breast sandwich for the PB+J sandwich. And you can opt for a bagel instead of one of the bananas on race morning. It is highly suggested to avoid white sauces for your pasta, at least from what I’ve read.

My first experiment with this carbo plan was last year’s Grandma’s Marathon, where I performed much better compared to the field than in any other race that I’ve run. At the Twin Cities Marathon last fall, I repeated it. Along with some other tweaks to racing strategy, I managed a personal best by 5 minutes.

One of the best parts of the routine is that it doesn’t leave you feeling stuffed, and mentally I know that I’m getting the nutrients and carbs I need for the race. Of course, as runners know, there are a lot of things that factor into a good race – but this plan really helps take any of the guesswork out of the fueling part of equation.

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