Tag Archives: Fuel

A great long run, a tweak to my training schedule?

I’ve only trained for a full marathon once before, and for my runs of 15 miles or longer, I found I could only be comfortable with

An awesome long run on Thursday has let me consider the rest of my training schedule, which has highlighted some conflicts ...

An awesome long run on Thursday has let me consider the rest of my training schedule, which has highlighted some scheduling conundrums ...

a pace that meant I was doing more shuffling than walking.

That was in Florida in March and April of 2007, before the Nashville Country Music Marathon. I finished that marathon in 4:34 — roughly 10:30-minute miles — feeling fabulous, but with the sinking feeling that perhaps I was feeling a little *too* fabulous, and should have pushed myself harder somewhere along the line. To be fair, I ran and trained for the race in true southern heat — sometimes the blistering, soul-sucking kind. But still …

I’m happy to report that things are coming along a bit differently this time. Thursday marked my third long run during which I’ve managed a 9:30-minute-mile pace, quite comfortably, with negative splits at the end. Negative splits! Me! Who woulda thunk?

I mention this because my success on my 17-miler on Thursday has allowed me, for the first time since an old hip injury flared up this spring, to start seriously planning to run this marathon. This, in turn, has highlighted some weird scheduling conundrums I need your advice about.

My training plan calls for the following long runs: 18 miles on Sept. 20, 10 miles on Sept. 27, 20 miles on Oct. 4, 13 miles on Oct. 11, eight to 10 miles on Oct. 18, marathon on Oct. 25.

My life calls for a road-trip to see a University of Colorado football game in West Virginia Oct. 1, followed by a backpacking trip immediately after, which is really, really not conducive to a successful 20-miler. The weekend before, there’s a 10K I’d really like to run on Sept. 26, the Clarendon Day 10K. I feel comfortable running up to 17 miles on a weekday morning before work, since I make my own schedule, but 20 is enough to basically ruin any chance of productivity for the rest of the day.

So: How do we feel about me swapping my 18-miler and 20-miler? It would be nice to do the 20-miler exactly three weeks out. But it would also be nice to, you know, have a life. Plus, my husband’s helping a friend move the morning of Sept. 19, making it the ideal Saturday morning for a life-consuming long run. And a glance at my running log from 2007 indicates that I did my sole 20-miler that year five weeks out rather than three (thanks to a wicked case of food poisoning, but whatever).

What do we think? Would all hell break loose if I timed my only 20-miler a bit earlier than my plan calls for, or is this swap OK? Please, please weigh in on this — I need some affirmation!

In other news: After fears of rain nearly led me to postpone the aforementioned 17-mile run, it turned out to be dry, gorgeous, ego-boosting and uplifting — in short, everything I hoped for and more. I ran 17.15 miles in 2:43 — 9:30 minute-mile pace, with an 8:30 or two thrown in at the end. I went on Sligo Creek Trail again, creature of habit I am, with a few hills thrown in to avoid getting *too* much of an ego boost. I also tried a few new things, with varying effects:

  • Champion shorts from Target are my new true love. They cost $15. They don’t chafe, even on the longest, sweatiest of runs. Truly, my shirt chafed before my shorts. Buy these NOW.
  • Mocha Clif gel and I will have to go on another date to see how things go. The gels contain 50mg of caffeine a pop, which I’m a total sucker for (I dream of a day when gels will all contain carbs, caffeine and a wee bit of acetaminophen), and taste like Hershey’s syrup with a little bit of espresso. I like that they’re all-natural, but I might just like the texture of my tried-and-true latte-flavored PowerBar gels better. Jury’s still out.
  • Big bowls of frozen berries and my stomach are, from this point forward, forbidden to have contact the night before a long run. Seriously. My stomach isn’t even accepting calls from berries anymore. I told myself fruit was light enough to balance the high fiber content. Yesterday morning, my stomach informed me I should shut up and stick to the pizza, please.

Two other changes I’ll make for future long runs. First, I really do need to start my pre-run diet two days beforehand, eating roasted vegetable lasagna and homemade pizza rather than, say, burritos and bean dip two days out (true story). Also, I need to find a new lucky long-run shirt that doesn’t chafe on long runs. The one I wore in 2007 has a permanent stench after many, many miles and many, many races.

Don’t forget to enter my very first contest for a pair of Saucony ProGrid Xodus Trail-Running Shoes! All you have to do is post a comment sharing your best trail-running story at the bottom of this post by the end of next week.


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Protein power

How do we as runners feel about protein recovery shakes?

A couple years ago, I took to preparing a tasty protein shake after hard lifting workouts, and I now do the same thing after a long, hard run. This was based not on any advice from sports nutritionists, but on advice from gym-rat friends and anecdotal evidence (if Kara Goucher feels better after consuming a protein shake after a speed workout, clearly, I should, too). And I think I notice a difference in my speed of recovery — or is that just my mind playing tricks on me?

Sports nutritionists recommend refueling after a long run with a snack that has a 4:1 carb-protein ratio. Kathryn Parker, a sports dietitian who has counseled U.S. Olympic track and field runners, among other fancy-pants athletes (read my interview with her here), offers this formula to figure out how much to eat: Divide your weight by two, and eat that many grams of carbohydrates after finishing a long run. So an entirely theoretical 125-pound runner should eat 62.5 grams of carbohydrates. If we stick with the 4:1 ratio, that’s 15 grams of protein.

Seems like there’s enough evidence there to keep up my post-run protein habit, so I’m going to share my favorite protein-shake recipe here:

1 scoop vanilla-flavored Designer Whey powder (or other protein powder)*

1/2 c milk

1-2 frozen bananas

Hershey’s syrup

1 shot espresso (you can use instant espresso, too)

Blend in food processor or blender.

* Chef’s note: Runner’s World offers a similar recipe in its most recent issue. It gets its protein from Greek Yogurt instead of protein powder. If nobody in your house yells at you for buying this exorbitantly expensive treat, try subbing it for the powder and a little of the milk … and let me know how it goes!

How do you feel about protein shakes for post-run fuel? And other tips for getting your protein fix? Share them by posting a comment below.


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Go ahead. Have that pre-race espresso.

That’s the word from The New York Times, which published a story this week about caffeine as a legal performance enhancer for athletes. It provides further justification that my caffeine habit is not only is not unhealthy. Rather, this habit (or, as my husband likes to call it, “addiction”) actually promotes a healthy activity.

Who knew The Times could be such an enabler?

I could have used a shot of espresso before today’s gray, misty run. It was actually lovely running weather, but gray and misty aren’t exactly conditions that spur one to get out the door when one is comfortable on the couch. One really should try a pre-run coffee next time.

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Runner-friendly recipes: Roasted veggie lasagna, pumpkin-chocolate bread

Let me be honest here: I know there’s no need for me to carbo-load.

For those running 26.2 miles, loading up on carbohydrates leading up to race day is a necessary step to ensure they’ve got enough glycogen stored for the long haul. For half-marathoners, we’re not really on the road for long enough to merit that kind of pre-race gluttony, at least in the name of glycogen-storing.

So I try to bridge the gap between the carby foods my body craves and the wholesome stuff that lets me remain a healthy runner (and a healthy human). I give you my two favorite pre-race meals.

Pumpkin bread doesn't stay intact for long in my kitchen.

Pumpkin chocolate-chip bread

One 15-oz. can pure pumpkin (or the roasted, pureed flesh of half of a small sugar pumpkin)

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour

Two eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ea.cinnamon, nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 c. dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just blended. Spoon batter into a loaf pan. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the top of the loaf is firm to the touch.

I can’t really claim this next one as my own, but the good people at Weight Watchers (seriously) found a winner with this roasted vegetable lasagna. Works with a wide variety of veggies!

3 medium raw eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 medium sweet red pepper(s), chopped

4 small tomatoes, plum, seeded and chopped

4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

2 tsp olive oil

1 tsp table salt, or more to taste

1/4 tsp black pepper, or more to taste

9 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained

1/4 cup(s) grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup(s) part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 425°F. Roast vegetables and garlic with olive oil until tender — about 20 to 25 minutes. Puree half of vegetables, salt and pepper in food processor until smooth. Spoon 1/2 cup of vegetable purée into bottom of a 9 X 13-inch baking dish. Place three noodles over purée. Top with 1/2 cup of purée, 1/2 of remaining vegetables, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers and then top with remaining 3 noodles, purée and cheese. Bake until bubbly, about 40 to 45 minutes. Slice into 6 pieces and serve.


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To Gu or not to Gu?

So I’m flipping through Runner’s World last night, and I come upon the following question in the nutrition Q&A: “Do I need an energy gel or some form of carbohydrate during a half-marathon?”

In my head, I was saying, “Nooo, silly,” before I even finished the question. Then, I got to the answer:

“It’s a good idea,” writes nutritionist Liz Applegate.


She goes on to write that your body starts using up its glycogen stores after an hour. I’d always heard two hours is the magic number, and I typically slurp down an energy gel about halfway through runs of longer than 15 miles. But for the half?

I have my long run tomorrow to practice whichever strategy I plan to employ on race day, Gu or no Gu. What would you do?


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Runner-friendly recipe: banana-chocolate bread and other snack ideas

Who’s hungry?

I know. Stupid question. You’re a runner. Of course you’re hungry. When runs get longer and appetites get larger, eating can practically become a second workout each day. Carbo-loading is a time-honored pre-race ritual (even for races we might not *need* to carbo-load before)? And have you seen those post-race spreads?

The thing is, for all the eating we do, most of us struggle to find the perfect pre-run snack or post-run meal. My friend Meredith, a lifelong swimmer who’s just getting back into running, asked for some suggestions for pre- and post-run snacks.

We’ll save long-run fuel, with its complicated protein-carb ratios and 30-minute refueling windows, for another day. Same goes for Gu, which shall not be addressed in this blog post. The beauty of eating before and after a shorter run — somewhere in the 30-minute to hour range — is that you can pretty much just go with whatever feels good in your stomach. The hard part is, it can be tricky to find a snack that feels good in your stomach once it’s all jostled around from running.

My favorite pre-run snacks, which I usually consume an hour or two before running:
A Luna bar (or Fiber One bar, or Kashi GoLean bar — you get the idea)
A cup of yogurt with a little Fiber One
A fruit salad with bananas, strawberries, blueberries, lemon juice, vanilla and Splenda
A low-fat muffin (I’ll include my pre-marathon chocolate-chip banana bread recipe below)

After a run, it’s all about what seems appealing after the aforementioned jostling. The single best post-run snack I’ve found is chocolate milk. I first tried it after reading this amazing study in which researchers found that plain ol’ chocolate milk helped a group of male cyclists recover their glycogen stores faster than Gatorade, a high-protein recovery drink and other fancy, expensive brews. It supposedly has the perfect ratio of simple carbs to protein. I dunno if that’s the case, but it’s REALLY yummy. If the end of a run coincides with dinnertime, like after a Tuesday-night Pacers run, I almost always make a quesedilla, or something else that’s quick to prepare and easy to digest.

Speaking of easy to digest (not to mention easy to eat several servings of in one sitting), I find that this chocolate-chip banana bread hits the spot just about any time: pre-run, post-run, sans-run …

Banana-chocolate bread

2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c sugar
3 ripe bananas, mashed
Two eggs (or 1/2 c egg substitute)
1/3 c plain nonfat yogurt (make it the Greek kind to add some extra protein)
1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine wet ingredients and sugar; set aside. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Add dry mixture to wet stuff, mixing gently (or on a low speed) until the batter is just moist. Add chocolate chips. Bake in 8 1/2 X 4 1/2-inch loaf pan covered with cooking spray for roughly 1 hour, 15 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean.

I've been known to pack half a loaf for out-of-town races.

Got any favorite running snacks? Share ’em by posting a comment below.


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