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.

I am a Marathoner! Chicago Marathon Race Recap

It’s official! I crossed the finish line at the Chicago Marathon after 26.2 miles. I can now call myself a marathoner!

I will start at the beginning. I had a 4:30 am wake-up call at my parent’s house. I barely slept the night before but I rolled out of bed with enthusiasm. The day I’d been preparing for had finally arrived. I stretched out, ate half of a peanut butter bagel, went to the bath room, trimmed my toe nails, chugged coffee, you know, all the race day essentials. I normally start race morning with a tired face but yesterday I was sporting my excited face.

FYI Repping for the summer intern crew with my t shirt

Ready to race!

My Dad drove me downtown. We’re really lucky because he works near the start time. We parked hassle free in his work parking lot and I got to use the bathroom at his office. Yay for not waiting in porta potty lines twice.

I also snapped this pic of Millennium Park (which is just north of Grant Park). It was still dark while walking over to the start line.

My Dad walked me over to the start line. My Dad stayed with me as long as they would let him but I said goodbye eventually and entered the park. 35,000 people were at the start line but it was so well organized. I was able to quickly drop my bag, hit the porta potties one last time and still lined up 30 mins before the start.

One of my favorite things about races is being up early enough to watch the sun rise in some incredible places like Malibu, San Diego, and Ventura. Now I can add Chicago to the list.

I got in line near the 11 min mile pacers. I mentioned before but I did not train for time. I took it easy on my long runs and I didn’t even think about doing speed work. Literally my goal was to finish and not to puke on myself. I figured since I run around 9:30 min miles in halves, 11:00 would be accurate for a full. I started to get nervous so I chatted up someone with an LA Road Runners chip on his shoe. I also saw a man with his face entirely painted like spider man. The girl next to me and I started to guess what would happen to his face by mile 5. There were so many people that it took 22 mins for me to pass the start line. Starting was amazing. There were tons of spectators and the noise in the tunnel that goes under the Standard Oil building (the tallest one in the above photo) was so loud.

My plan was to take it easy for the first 10 miles. The course was crowded which was good because it forced me to go more slowly than I might have otherwise. After mile 1 we passed the iconic Chicago theater, just before mile 2 we passed a water station. There were tons of spectators with great signs and the first 5 miles flew by me. Some of my favorite signs? “26.2 miles = 26.2 cupcakes” “if you have the stamina to run for 4 hours, call me!” “Run like you stole something” and “Run like your mother is chasing you”. I also saw some Occupy Chicago protesters. Not to be political but I’m a big supporter of the Occupy movement and I actually started cheering them when I ran by.

Just before mile 5 we hit Lincoln Park. I really had to pee so I pulled off at the first porta potties. I wasn’t the only one, there was a line which was ok. I caught my breath and talked to a stranger who told me that “sweat is nothing but liquid awesome”. So, so true.

I started cranking again after mile 5. I walked through all the water stations because it was HOT yesterday. I love cold, shaded running with no humidity so this was not my ideal conditions for running but I stayed strong. Just after mile 7 the course turned and headed south. At this point I saw a women laid out on the ground being fed a gel. Up until this point I had thrown my run/walk method out the window in favor of running with walks through water stations. After I saw her it hit me that the weather conditions are REAL and I needed to take it easy. I ended up taking 2 waters at every station and more to pour on my body. I also consumed 6 gels over the course of the race. I started taking walk breaks when I needed them but at that point they were few and far between.

At mile 8 we hit Lakeview AKA boys town! Easily one of my favorite parts of the course! There were out and proud ROTC members which warmed my heart. There were tons of people out partying including drag queens in cup dresses dressed up to by Lady Gaga and line dancers dressed up like cowboys. I loved this part of the course.

The heat started getting more intense after mile 8. There were people out with hoses and I ran through all of them. They also had sponges on the course and tons of water. I cannot overstate how amazing the people of Chicago were and how great the race execution was. It reminded me why I love the people of Chicago and why I am proud to be from there. Miles 8 through 13 are really a blur besides being hot and dousing myself in as much cold water as I could get my hands on.

Around mile 13.1 I knew that I needed to start taking my 10:2 run/walk ratio. I had maintained an 11:40 pace for the first half. I actually had a negative split between the 10k and half way point which I was proud of.

I hit a major second wind between mile 13 and mile 18. I was in my groove and some of my more clutch songs came on my ipod. I was still walking through water stations. I ran through every sprinkler. Trick of the trade: tell the person with the hose that you love them and they will spray you down extra! There was a woman at Malcolm X Community College who literally hosed me down for a full 30 seconds. I was SO grateful. I really liked this part of the course because it went by an area where my Mother used to work that I’ve seen/heard about for years, the Greek Islands, a restaurant my Father frequents, and the United Center (home of the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks). The cool thing about this course was that I saw many parts of the city and was about to put them together better than I was able to before.

Also memorable, at mile 16 I passed a police station with a large sign with pictures of police officers. The sign read, “These and 500 police officers killed in the line of duty will keep you safe for the next 10 miles”. I nearly burst into tears but I suppressed it and decided to save the emotion for later when I would really need it.

By the time I got to mile 18 I kept thinking about how I was going to see my family at mile 19 and that I wanted to look strong when I saw them. Mile 19 is in Pilsen, a heavily Mexican area and there were TONS of spectators turned out with tons of decoration, noise makers and music. They really pushed me. At mile 19 my brother David jumped in with me. I have never been so happy to see my brother in my life. I needed him to push me. He also had my camera with him and he started snapping away.

Seriously, can you see the pure joy on my face?

I hit mile 20 and all I could think was this is the farthest I’ve ever run before. David kept me motivated and I am so thankful that he was with me that that he is my brother. He kept pushing me but was very supportive at the same time. I cried on him (very briefly) twice and he kept supporting me.

At this part of the course we were South of downtown but had a great view of the city.

I have a confession: after I run 18 miles I start to get a little crazy. Like singing along to the songs on my ipod and quoting lines from Arrested Development. I had warned my bro about this and his reply was something to the effect of “you’re always weird”. Excellent. He played along well because after mile 20 I started singing along to Britney Spears, Eminem, Deadmau5, and David Guetta. Yeah. At one point on the course I was running, and singing the lyrics to “Sofi Needs a Ladder”. I think my brother actually sang along to something like Britney or some rap song (I can’t really remember which it was). My brother even yelled at me to “turn my swag on”. I’m pretty sure everyone who saw me thought I was crazy but that’s ok because I’d run 20 miles. I stopped caring.

And for you Arrested Development fans: I saw a guy with ice and I actually yelled “You can’t have a party without ICE!!!” Yep. I’m that girl.

At mile 22 my brother and I entered Chinatown which was another one of my favorite parts of the course. There were tons of spectators and groups out supporting the runners.

This is my favorite picture that has ever been taken of me hands down. I will love this forever. I look at it and I cannot believe that that is MY back with my back muscles at mile 22 of a marathon. I can still feel how I felt in that moment and I hope I will never forget it. My body felt sore but I felt so mentally tough. At no point did I think I couldn’t do this or that I wouldn’t be able to. I was determined to make it to the end and I knew that I could. I’m proud that I finished but I’m even more proud of myself for never doubting my ability to finish and staying strong. I know that I will take that into everything I do in the future. That picture makes me feel strong, I did it all by myself FOR myself and I never want to let that feeling go.

At mile 23 we were going to meet up with two of my friends from growing up: Brenna and Claire. I’ve known them forever and it made me so excited to know that they were going to meet up with me and boost my spirits for the last 5k.

With my friends after mile 23. David actually stayed in and ended up running 7 miles like a CHAMP!

My friend Claire was a division 1 athlete in college and a great coach. She really pushed me to keep running when I was sooooo wanting to just walk the majority of the last three miles. She knew I had more in me and she wouldn’t let me give less than I had left in me.

Seriously my crew was so awesome. See that girl in the yellow tank top? Looking at us and totes jealous.

By the end of the race I was totally drenched in water. The temps actually felt colder near the finish line because we were running up Michigan Ave and were closer to the lake. It was sweet, sweet relief for the final few miles.

I was taking frequent walk breaks but was always telling myself when I would start running again and Claire held me to it. Seriously she has a talent. I want a recording of her voice in my ipod for future races and long runs. She would not let me walk because she knew I could run. At mile 24 there was a cheer zone and someone on a loud speaker saying, “You are about to finish. THE. Chicago. Marathon!” It made me push harder.

After the mile 25.2 sign I started pumping my arms and running as much as I could. Before we turned the corner onto the uphill that leads to Grant Park and the finish line Claire and David got pulled off the course. Brenna was running behind up and by some fluke she was able to cross the finish line. They kept trying to give her a medal! While she did not accept a medal she did accept a free beer (wouldn’t you?) I had no idea about this until after the race.

I walked up the uphill and pushed to the finish line.

I crossed the finish line with my arms extended, took a heat blanket and started to cry but it was a glorious cry because I WAS A MARATHONER!

It took me 5:22 mins with an average pace of 12:17. I held a sub 12 min mile pace until after passing 30k. I gimped around, got my medal, had three sips of free beer before discarding it and hobbled to get my bag from gear check. I love the lakefront and Grant Park.

I made a call to the friend who inspired ME to start running because I wanted her to be the first to know that I had finished and went to the family reunion area to reconnect with my people.

Pain is temporary but pride is forever.

It still hasn’t totally hit me what I did yesterday. I have a runner’s high and a sense of earned pride. Like I said, I am most proud of myself for staying really mentally tough the whole time. I never hit a wall. I managed to push through the whole thing and I could not be more proud of myself. This feeling is going to be with me forever and this moment can never be taken away from me. I know that I will take it into other parts of my life like studying from the bar and other personal challenges I face. I started running at a time in my life where I was struggling emotionally and yesterday made me feel like I’ve conquered everything and nothing will ever hold me back.

After the race I went home and promptly ate about a million treats that my mom baked, Cape Cod chips and local fall beer. It was everything I wanted and more.

Thank you to all of my family, friends and reads. I have felt so much love throughout my training and especially in the past week. You all are the best ever. Special thanks to my family and friends who jumped in with me. I cannot express how much your support means to me. I feel so blessed to have so many loving and supportive people in my life. I’ll have more posts about the marathon coming up including my future plans for working out (after a well deserved week off!).