Little Runner Gal

Running, eating, sleeping and all the bits in between

Marathon Nutrition: A Trial Run

low-carb-food

As my time goal at the Berlin Marathon was no longer an option, I decided to try a few new things out in preparation for the big day to see if they would work for future marathons…yes, there are more, of course!

This post comes with a warning. This was something I tried to see how it would go. I’m not a nutritionist, I’m not a dietician and I love my food. I would just like to be able to run a marathon in the best way possible.

Don’t go out doing anything crazy!

Why

So, the very basic science behind this (oh yes, I’m no scientist either!) is that you deprive your muscles of carbohydrates for a few days in the week before your race and then load back up in the days before the race. This supposedly maximises your glycogen stores, the main source of energy for your muscles.

How

My race was on the Sunday, so the week before I spent Sunday to Wednesday (inclusive) eating a very low carb diet. Then Thursday to Saturday was high carb, about 90% of my food over those days. Then normal pre race breakfast on Sunday and off I went.

What

During the low carb days I was eating lots of the following:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Dairy (full fat)
  • Leafy veg
  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Water, tea and coffee (unsweetened)

And none of the following:

  • Sugar
  • Sugary drinks
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
  • Porridge
  • Breakfast cereals
  • High energy fruits e.g. bananas
  • Cakes and sweets
  • Desserts
  • Artificial sweeteners and products containing them

Yes it was a very boring few days!

Obviously the high carb days were lots of pasta, potatoes, rice etc. Not crazy amounts. My normal size plate, just with much more of the carb option and much less of the protein part of the meal.

The day before race day, some simple carbs (hooray, it’s cake time!) were also on the menu as the body can use simple sugars as well in a marathon situation (any excuse really!).

So…

Here’s how it went.

Oh, I forgot to tell you, I’m still training and running in this week as well, tapering for the race.

So Sunday I went out for my long run of 75 minutes without any carbs for breakfast. Normal porridge was replaced by an omelette. It was tougher than normal but possibly psychological. I had glycogen stores in the tank. I had no gels either (sugar) so by the end of the run was pretty fatigued. Not being able to replace the carbs I’d lost was hard as my body normally craves the right things, so it knew it needed carbs and I was all “no, no, here’s a chicken breast”.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were all easy 20-40 minute runs which got progressively slower as the days went on and my glycogen stores disappeared. I felt week and by the Wednesday I was highly irritable!

Thursday was beautiful. Porridge and banana for breakfast was like heaven! My progression run that day ended at much faster than marathon pace (oops!) I just had so much energy!

Friday I was travelling, the most cereals bars you’ve ever seen in 1 tiny suitcase and a good ol’ Italian for dinner.

Also sought out some bircher muesli, milk and yogurt to make my pre race breakfast and store in the hotel room mini fridge.

Tested that on Saturday morning before a short run and it worked a treat. More pasta on Saturday night and I was ready to go!

Well…?

How did it go? LIKE A DREAM! I continued with my normal gel strategy, 1 at 45 minutes, then 1 every 30 minutes after that, with the last 2 being caffeine gels. I felt strong throughout the whole race, with no lulls in energy or periods of excess fatigue. The 18 mile mark at London was where I hit the wall, but this came and went. The 20 mile mark can be where it is said to fall apart, but that came and went. I felt as strong coming up to the final 2km as I had for the whole race, my legs were fine and my head was too.

So while there are many facets to a successful race, and a successful nutrition strategy, I can say that this worked for me, and I will be doing it again.

Just steer clear of me the Wednesday before a marathon…there’s no rage like it!

LRG

x

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Berlin Marathon

Berlin Marathon. The flattest, fasted marathon course in the world. The PB course.

Going in to 2014 this was my A race and I was aiming for a sub 4 hour time. Having got London under my belt in 4:15 in April, I’d kept up the training, pushing myself harder and harder, faster and faster, and sub 4 was looking good.

If you’ve read my blog before you’ll have seen how this fell apart. I picked up numerous injuries in my right leg (glute, hip flexor, patellar tendon, calf, and nerves in my foot…just a few) and 5 weeks before Berlin I could barely walk. I stopped running and worked hard on rehab. I stupidly went into a half marathon 3 weeks before and made the decision at 10 miles that Berlin would be a marathonless city break instead. By the finish line I was the limping wreck I’d been the previous week. All rehab work wiped out.

The next 10 days was back to the rehab – mental and physical. I started doing a little running on grass. Slow, short and just looping about the local park. It was frustrating, but better. I could run Berlin, just not how I’d hoped. So, with the help of my coach, Plan B was formed. I wanted to get SOMETHING out of this marathon that would help me in the future, not just “get round”.

Plan B
– Practice a carb-depleting / carb loading strategy the week leading up to the race – there’s glycogen store science behind this!
– Run the marathon at a comfortable pace but aim for negative splits – the dream!

Sounds simple right?!

Here’s how I got on…

On marathon day we set off for Tiergarten, to the start. It was only a short walk from our hotel and as we got closer the throngs of people grew. And there it was, the start line.
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I made it to my pen in plenty of time and waved off my boyfriend who was off to wait for me at our agreed waving point number 1! All was looking good until I realised that the bag drop was over the other side of the pen. No worries, I’d go through the pen and drop off my bag. Oh no, it was WAY over the other side of the pen. And the park. And my number was the furthest away. Mild panic ensued.

Bag eventually safely deposited (although I was close to just abandoning it in a bush!) I got back to my pen to hear the elites being announced and the waves in front of me started to go. I felt calm. I took it all in and was ready to get my race underway.
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Crossing the start line and heading up towards the iconic Victory Column was amazing. The crowds and other runners were so supportive.
image1

What struck me straight away was how wide the roads are. Everyone who has run it tells you but it’s amazing, you have so much room almost immediately, there’s no tripping over others or struggling to get your pace. I was still really calm and settling into a comfortable pace. The route was lined with supporters but not stifling amounts. There was a lot of cheering and banners (very little of which I understood) but it didn’t feel too crowded or claustrophobic. Just perfect.

As ever, my tried and tested gel strategy was going well. An hour in and I was still feeling great and my pace was consistent. I wasn’t even looking at my watch too much, just happy with how everything with feeling. Knowing I wasn’t going to be pushing it too hard, I’d taken my phone with me and called my boyfriend as I was coming up the mile markers we’d agreed he’d be at. Not that I needed to, the tracking on the app was spot on, and my pace was so consistent that you could pretty much guess my position at any given time and be within about 30 seconds! Even I was pretty impressed with me.

2 hours in and I was feeling great. Gels going to plan, no pain and pace spot on. I was enjoying it as I said I would and taking in the sights. The great thing was that every time I planned to see my boyfriend I could see him and he could come and check I was OK, bring me water, and run alongside me for a bit. That added to the enjoyment massively for me. The anxiety I felt trying to scan the crowds looking for my family during the London marathon earlier this year added to the panic of the race.
image4

Despite my pet hate, the water out of plastic cups situation, the fuelling stations were actually really well positioned and organised.

I managed to chat to a few other British runners when I saw a club or charity top I recognised. It helped to keep my pace steady (knowing I could talk) and made the race more enjoyable, especially when I could barely understand any of the supportive words being shouted by the crowds!

3 hours in and I was still feeling strong. I’d started to get a few twinges in the base of my back, from my piriformis and glute issues I think, but as long as I kept my body upright (no slouching) it was fine, which served as a great reminder to keep my form good.

30km was where it got dark at London. I’d never known pain like it. The wall in every sense possible. But this, Berlin, this was going swimmingly. I was smiling, I wasn’t in any pain, I was still chatting to people where I could. Whether it was the slower pace or the nutrition plan the week before the race, it was working. I like to think it was a bit of both.

I got to 40km in 4:15, the same time I’d completed London, but feeling on top of the world. 2km to go and this was quite literally the most enjoyable run of my life.

Running through the Brandenburg Gate was, as you’d imagine, incredible. Everyone was stopping to take selfies! Although I wasn’t that bothered about my time, and had my phone with me, I still wanted to get to that finish line. My finish was a full on, arms in the air, big fat smiley finish.
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Then I stopped. And my glutes seized up. And I couldn’t walk. Not even to get my medal 10 metres away!

When I finally got to it, the beer helped.

So, how did Plan B go….

– Practice a carb-depleting / carb loading strategy the week leading up to the race – I feel like this went well. I would definitely do it again. I didn’t hit the wall, which could have been for many reasons (I was fit enough, in stamina, to run a lot quicker), but I do feel, and did feel through the marathon, that my energy levels were super consistent. I’ll definitely do it again for my next marathon.

– Run the marathon at a comfortable pace but aim for negative splits – well it was extremely comfortable. I wouldn’t have pushed it any harder, I’d have risked the injuries kicking in and it could have fallen apart. Negative splits, not quite, 2:14:13 & 2:15:00 for the first and second halves respectively, so close, and all in all a bloody consistent run – see below.

Berlin split

And here’s how London went, so you can see to difference and how, I think, I’m learning as I go through these things.

London split

The ballot for Berlin 2015 is still open. If you fancy an international marathon then I would highly recommend it. It was fast, flat, well supported and more relaxed than London. It’s a bit pricier than others, and you don’t get much in the way of finisher gear for your money (medal, 700 leaflets and an apple in a bag and the beer! No t-shirt of any description) but I had a great time, so it was worth it.

I’ll be back one day to do Berlin properly on that PB course, and get the time I deserve for the training I put in. But for now, Berlin, you were awesome!

LRG
x

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Runners of the world, light up your life!

So, we’re well into head torch season now. Along with the darker mornings and evenings, we’ve now been met with the rain. And with the clocks going back soon you’ll be hard pushed to find more than a few hours in the day that are light! So, in the spirit of autumn, I’ve been trying out the Unilite HV-H4 head torch on my early morning and evening runs.

Industrial LED Headlight

The first thing that struck me about this head torch is how light it is. My first foray into the world of night running came in July at the Adidas Thunder Run. I bought a rechargeable head torch from ebay, it shipped from China. It did the job but it was so heavy, dug in to my head and the battery pack was cumbersome and bouncing around in my bum bag. Luckily the Unilite HV-H4 is nothing like this. The 3 x AA batteries (which are provided with the head torch) are in the pack on the back of your head, so it’s all in one and no wires getting caught around your arms, and this means it’s not heavy and balances it out well on your head.

light4

It’s so easy to adjust in various places that it fitted snugly quickly. The padding means you can wear it directly on your head without the need to have anything in between. I’ve worn it straight on my head, with a buff and with a cap too (different weather conditions) and it works well with them all.

light1

So, after checking the bright colour matched my jacket (tick!) I ventured out. The torch head is adjustable to 90 degrees (up/down), so I had a good play around with where I wanted it to shine while I was running, which was so easy to do. There are 3 brightness settings plus a flashing option. A simple touch of the button on top of the lamp changes the setting, so as the sun comes up or goes down I change it easily without breaking my run.

I’ve had loads of use out of it so far and haven’t had to change the batteries, and the lamp doesn’t seem to have faded at all.

All in all a fantastic, comfortable, light head torch which will keep me going all winter.

The customer service is great too. Contact Unilite with any questions and they’re so quick to get back to you.

Keep safe in the dark guys!

LRG x

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