Reflecting on my time in South America, I mentioned that the unhealthy diet and scorching heat would probably end any hopes of beating my marathon PB this year. Despite my best efforts of catching up on return to the UK, this proved to be the case, although I was still chuffed to come in at 2h 53m, just a couple of minutes over last year’s time.
Most people are familiar with the phrase ‘carb-loading’, and I always take this pursuit almost as seriously as the training itself, particularly in the days leading up to the race. Food basically becomes just fuel during this period, as I put my Dietitian hat on and think about meals solely in terms of macro and micronutrients. I more or less double my (already high) carbohydrate intake, reduce fat considerably, and keep protein about the same (approx 100g per day). When coupled with the steady reduction in training in the weeks of ‘tapering’, this all helps to boost muscle glycogen reserves so that i’m bursting with fuel on the day.
Race day nutrition is perhaps even more important. The golden rule is to stick to what you know and not try anything new (to avoid ‘accidents’ on the course), so my staple breakfast is 4 to 5 slices of wholemeal toast with jam or honey about 2.5 hours before the start, then 2 or 3 ripe bananas in the next hour or so. I’ll have a litre of isotonic sports drink slowly throughout the morning, then drink about another 1.5 litres of these isotonic drinks on the run – or more if it’s warm (I don’t bother with the water, personally).
Then come the carb & electrolyte gels. I used to dismiss these as unnecessary fluff, but I was completely wrong – i’d be considerably slower without them. I take between 7 and 9 of these 60g gels during a marathon, which works out at approximately 1 every 3 miles or 5km. They are a life saver.
But right now, the day after the marathon, I can think of nothing better than indulging in an enormous pizza and well deserved beer or two, so that’s how I intend to spend my day off work…if I can just manage to hobble to the high street.