Marathon Reflections: Food and Running

Now that I’m a few weeks out from my marathon glory I want to write a little bit about the whole marathon experience. I’ve had some time to reflect on my two great loves Food and Marathon Running. Here are some of my thoughts. I have a lot to say about it. Just to warn you, this post is almost 2,000 words.

BEFORE (training)

During my marathon training I made a serious attempt to keep my diet “clean-ish”. What does that mean? It means not eating fistfuls of cookie dough whenever I get the chance.

In reality this means that I tried to eat sweets in moderation and didn’t eat a ton of processed foods. I made a concerted effort not to overindulge in my meals. While marathon training made me hungrier, I didn’t eat huge meals like I would have three years ago. Instead I focused on eating protein and moderately sized meals. Like this one:

I have to admit, I was worried about marathon training and eating. I know myself and so I know how easy it is for me to say, “I ran X miles therefore I can eat Y and Z”. I definitely did indulge but I made sure not to go overboard. I still treated myself to my weekly bagel and cream cheese the morning after my long runs. I also broke a personal rule and grabbed the occasional bag of Ketel chips from school. Normally I avoid even buying them. In my head, if I buy one once I need to buy one everyday thereafter. This was a common theme in my larger days in college. I would have one bagel one day and then have one every day after with extra cream cheese for three months and wonder why my pants didn’t fit. I am proud that my self control has improved a little bit. I did treat myself during marathon training but it was always within moderation. Honestly, I learned that if my diet were poor my running would be uncomfortable. No one wants to run 16 miles and feel like voming the whole time because they ate too many indulgent treats. But I’m human, I still ate treats. Hence why we call this a “clean-ish” diet.

I did all of my long runs in the late afternoon because that is the time when my body is the best. Normally I do school work in the morning like a beast and by the afternoon running is a great way to clear out my brain. I always made sure I had a lunch with plenty of protein but not too much fiber (because if you run with too much fiber in your system… let’s just say it leads to a less than desirable result). I also drank plenty of water which means I have to front load my insane coffee habit and then drink as much water as possible. I also tried to carry a water bottle with me on a daily basis so I always had water in hand.

On runs 8 miles or longer I made sure to bring Gu. Gu is a gel that you can consume while running (or if your me, while on a walk break). When you run for an extended period of time your body burns energy and you need to intake calories. I always carried vanilla bean flavored gu. I consumed one Gu for every hour of running on long runs. I ran with a watch and normally around the 45 min mark I would rip into my first Gu. I would consume one for roughly every hour thereafter and I learned that it was a good idea to carry an emergency Gu just in case. I tend to get really hungry really easily on runs. In my opinion there is nothing worse than being on mile 15 of an 18 mile effort and wanting to gnaw your arm off because of hunger. I also ran with a water bottle which I made sure to refill frequently. I trained in the summer and early fall in LA so I had some warm runs. My typical running path had plenty of water fountains and I took liberal advantage of them.

Post long runs I made sure to consume something immediately after I returned home. I normally would stretch out, eat a larabar and get into an ice bath if the run was 13 miles or longer. I wasn’t normally very hungry after long runs. I normally finished around dinner time and made sure I ate something reasonably balanced (meaning protein, some type of carb and veggies). Normally I would hit Chipotle or the Whole Foods hot bar to get my fix and then retire to the couch with water or perhaps a beer if my stomach wasn’t bothering me. I would also ice my knees and foam roll my legs as a precaution.

In the most intense weeks of training I noticed I was becoming much hungrier. I tried to eat more tempeh and veggies. My meals ended up being the same but they tended to be a portion and a half. I can’t really speak to weight gain and marathon training. I don’t weigh myself. Instead I take measurements. I noticed that marathon training toned my body up. I also went to the doctor for my yearly check up during this time and I had gained about 4 lbs (yet had still lost a dress size). This got the best of me for a few minutes and then the nurse told me to get over it, I looked fab and was training for a marathon. Any you know what, she’s right. A little muscle gain is worth it in the end and completing the marathon made me love and accept my body in a way I never have before.

In terms of inches: I lost a 1/2 inch from my chest, a 1/2 inch from my waist, a 1/4 inch from my hips (from May to the end of September). My arms stayed the same. I’m going to go ahead and chalk any weight gain up to muscle because my overall measurements got smaller.

DURING (the marathon, post marathon treats!)

During my taper I was still voraciously hungry but I did a good job of not changing my eating habits. It was a bit of a struggle but I managed to stick to regular eating pretty easily. During my taper week I started to consume more carbs. Oh hell, I only consumed carbs. I had white rice for the first time in forever and had a bagel everyday which hasn’t happened since early 2009. It was awesome!

I continued the carb load in Chicago. The day before the marathon I ate Lou Mitchell’s pancakes with hash browns, a larabar, fancy cheese and crackers, pasta with pesto and chicken. I didn’t eat any extraordinary portions. To be truthful, my nervous excitement prevented me from eating very much.


On race morning I still had a nervous stomach and so I only ate half of a peanut butter bagel plus iced coffee and water before heading to the start. Like my two previous half marathons, I had a Nike Prime before the race started.

While racing I consumed a total of 6 gels. This is probably one more than I needed (since I finished in 5 hours and 20 mins) but I was likely under fueled from breakfast (or lack thereof). I carried 5 vanilla bean Gu’s onto the course with me and picked another one up at mile 20-ish because they were available on the course. I also drank a ton of water. I forgo Gatorade while running because it makes my stomach uneasy but I more than made up for it with water.

After I finished I ate a bizarre assortment of food. I had pretzels, beer, milk duds (from Lou Mitchell’s!), pretzels, steak sandwiches, a million Cape Cod chips, brownies, rice krispie treats, more beer, water and cookies. I think I also had a salad my mom made. I wasn’t immediately hungry after finishing but the moment I got home I beasted a rice krispie treat. What can I say? They’d been on the brain since mile 24. You can corroborate that story with my brother because I swear I told him, at that point, I was running for a rice krispie.

AFTER (the past few weeks)

The morning after the race I woke up and was voraciously hungry. I ate a larabar and took a walk with my mom. Then I had breakfast and a huge lunch and dinner while at the airport. I ate consistently for about three hours and just wasn’t satisfied or full. It was to be expected.

Post race I gave myself a week off from healthy eating and working out. This was necessary. First of all, my body was sore. Also, I was very hungry. I will say that even though I was “eating whatever I wanted” my diet was still much healthier and more balanced then it was before I lost weight. There was no binge eating of pizza and no pasta at midnight. That shows me how far I’ve come in the past three years. #pride.

When I say I gave myself a week, I mean I literally gave myself a week. I set a time for my eating to switch back over. I told myself that at noon on Sunday I would change back into a pumpkin and stop ordering milkshakes at McDonalds. It was perfect. I was on the road back from SF and I knew that when I got to LA I would be back into my regular habits. It worked out perfectly with my trip to San Francisco and I’ve been able to stick to it.

A week after the marathon my appetite started to normalize. I’ve been back into regular eating and regular pre-marathon snacking. Lots of quinoa, oats and mango. I was worried if I would automatically gain weight post marathon. I was concerned about my ability to switch back to regular post race. I also was paranoid that my lack of a training plan would cause me to gain weight. If anything, I think I’ve lost a little bit since the race. I don’t step on the scale but I can tell that I haven’t gained and based on photos, I think I may have even slimed down a bit more.

So, that is my marathon journey in food and weight loss. I’ve been posting less on the blog due to school. I hope that even though I’m posting less the quality of my content is the same, if not a bit better.

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