Race Day and In-Race Nutrition.
If you want to spend time pondering nutritional things this week, think about:
- What are you going to eat race morning and at what time?
- Do you plan to take water at the water stops? (Hint: this is a trick question, the answer is yes!) Which water stops? And do you have an idea of where these stops are located on the course?
- Do you plan to take the electrolyte drink that will be available around mile 6.2, 8.4, and 11.1?
- Do you plan to ingest some sort of energy gel during the race?
There are as many pre-race food combos as there are runners. Do what your body is used to. Don’t try something new because it’s race day. What do you eat before you go for a morning long run? How much time does your body need to digest it? My wife needs to eat a more substantial breakfast before a run than I do and she doesn’t need as much time to digest her food as I do. I used to eat very little before a race (half a Power Bar and water) and I tied to finish eating two hours before the race started. Now I have found that my body likes a little more pre-race fuel so I have two pieces of toast with peanut butter at home approximately two hours before the race starts. Then upon arriving at the race, about an hour before the gun goes off, I eat half a Cliff Bar. Do what is right for you and your digestive system.
You need to stay hydrated to keep running your goal pace. The course map indicates water stations around miles 1.7, 3.2, 4.5, 6.2, 8.5, 10, and 11.5. Taking water is important because your body does not function well when it is not fully hydrated. It’s often on a cold and wet day when people sweat less and are less thirsty that they forget the need to drink water during the race. Don’t be one of those people. I suggest taking water at, at least three of the water stations if not more.
3. ELECTROLYTE REPLENISHMENT – SPORTS DRINKS
As the race progresses, even in cooler temperatures, your body is losing electrolytes via sweat. Maintaining proper electrolyte balance keeps the cells in your body communicating properly and is a key to preventing dehydration. It is said that electrolyte replacement becomes a factor after exercising for over an hour and a half. To replenish electrolytes there will be electrolyte drinks available at three spots on the course (mile 6.2, 8.4, and 11.1). I recommend sipping a little electrolyte drink as long as you are used to drinking something besides water during a run. If you are not used to drinking anything besides water, those carbohydrates in the electrolyte drink may not sit well in your stomach.
4. CARBOHYDRATE REPLENISHMENT – ENERGY GELS
During the first hour to hour and a half of the race your body produces energy from glucose in the liver and muscles, and the breakdown of fats. Thanks to the high glucose level in the bloodstream, fat metabolism occurs rapidly. But sometime around an hour and a half to two hours the glucose stores in the liver and muscles get depleted and the blood glucose level begins to drop. Fat metabolism still occurs, but because there is less glucose circulating around it occurs at a much slower rate. Pretty soon, if nothing is done to provide more fuel, you will run out of energy and experience the proverbial “hitting the wall.” To combat this runners often consume an energy gel mid-race*. Energy gels contain complex carbohydrates (glucose) in an easily and quickly digestible state. They enhance performance by raising your blood sugar and giving your body an immediate fuel source. Again, in a race of an hour and a half to two hours you may not require energy gels. You should know your body and whether you need it or not. As you get closer to two hours and further from an hour and a half you may benefit from a carbohydrate or sugar boost mid-race. But don’t try this if you haven’t done it in practice on the long runs. Any benefit from the gels may be countered by stomach distress. The race does not provide energy gels, so you’ll need to carry your own.