Friday, October 17, 2014

Carbo Loading Time!

I'm two days away from the Empire State Marathon, and so it's time to start turning my attention to carbo loading. I did some reading and thought I'd share what I found.

Perhaps the most interesting thing I found was an article in the NYTimes that cites a number of studies that claim that a short, intensive carbo loading the day before the race is the best method:
In both studies, carbohydrates eaten at breakfast on race day, during the race itself or on days earlier in the week were relatively unimportant. It was primarily what people ate on the day before the race that mattered.
Okay, so focus on the day beforehand. Which can be a problem, given that I'll be travelling and away from my pantry. So what types of food should I pack or search out?
I often tell people to choose relatively concentrated sources of carbs, like juices, pasta, rice and sweets,” Mr. Wilson [a graduate student at the University of Minnesota who led the study] says. “That way, the volume of food needed isn't so enormous.” In addition, he says, “lower-fiber foods may be good, since that could reduce the potential for stomach distress during the race.” 
Dimity McDowell, writing in Runners World, provides me a detailed list:
"Tortillas, oatmeal, bread, pancakes, waffles, bagels, yogurt, and juice are all easy-to-digest options. Many fruits are high in carbs but are also high in fiber—and too much can cause stomach trouble midrace. "Bananas are a low-fiber choice," says sports nutritionist Ilana Katz, R.D. "And you can peel apples, peaches, and pears to reduce their fiber content." She also gives her clients permission to indulge in white bread and baked potatoes without the skin since both are easily digested.
Ryan suggests steering clear of high-fat foods—like creamy sauces, cheese, butter, and oils—as well as too much protein. Both nutrients fill you up faster than carbs and take longer to digest, she says. Pick jam—not butter—for your toast, tomato sauce in lieu of alfredo sauce on your pasta, and frozen yogurt instead of ice cream for dessert.
Cool - I can work with that. I absolutely love bananas and bagels anyways, so shouldn't be a problem. But how much should I be eating? The NYTimes article states that
...few of the runners in either study actually consumed enough carbohydrates to benefit, even if they thought that they were doing so. In both studies, the minimum effective “dose” of carbohydrates was at least six or seven grams for every kilogram of a person’s body weight, or about a quarter-ounce of carbohydrates for every 2.2 pounds of body weight. By that formula, a 220-pound runner would need to consume at least 25 ounces, or more than 700 grams, of carbohydrates on the day before a marathon to finish faster.
The Runners World article provides guidance along these lines:
At this point, 85 to 95 percent of your calories should come from carbs, says Katz. Ryan recommends eating about four grams of carbs for every pound of body weight (for a 150 pound runner that's 600 grams—or 2,400 calories—of carbs per day). 
What’s interesting is how this affects your weight:
Be prepared to see a number that's at least four pounds more than your usual weight. The extra pounds mean you get a gold star for carbo-loading properly. "With every gram of stored carbohydrate, you store an extra three grams of water," says Katz.
I think I've got enough for a plan now. But i'm curious: what kind of foods you you carbo load on? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Shoe Review: New Balance Fresh Foam 980

image from
I'll admit that I (at times) ride the waves of marketing trends in running shoe technology.  I tend to think that any informed shoe choice takes into account the extremes; and the pendulum's well-documented swing from minimalism to maximalism has caught my attention.  That isn't to say I went out and bought a pair of Hokas (I'll leave that to Joel), but I did get swayed by the concept of a lower drop, maximally cushioned shoe.  Also, I've been meaning to give New Balance a try again; its been a while since I've tried their shoes and they have a very loyal group of followers.

I don't tend to write shoe reviews until I'm very sure of my opinion.  I've already logged 200 (or so) miles on the Fresh Foam 980 at the writing of this review.  Sadly, while I've learned a lot about the shoe over that period of time, one glaring fact stands in the way of me fully endorsing them:  the fit.  Fit is highly variable...  makes sense, FEET are highly variable.  For whatever reason, the designers at NB just didn't make a shoe with the 980 that fits my feet.  I discovered this the first time I took them Fresh Foam on a long run, and ended up with blisters.  I reaffirmed this the second time I did so with the same result (I very, very rarely get blisters otherwise).

While that pretty much assures I won't buy another pair, I do want to point out some of the positive things I like about this shoe; a shoe I still use for short runs on occasion:

1. It's got a 4mm drop with tons of underfoot protection.  Massive.
2. I've heard folks mention the cushioning is very stiff.  From my standpoint, this is a good thing.  My feet feel very protected, the shoes are plenty plush and they are responsive enough to handle any paced running.  Tough to have all of those things at once, in my mind.
3. The upper is light, but doesn't seem fragile.  In fact, the shoes look quite new even after 200 miles.

On the flip side:

1. The tongue is absurdly puffy and bothers the tops of my feet, moves around during the run.
2. The "fit issue" for me is related to the narrow toe-box.  Widen it up, NB!!

All-in-all, its a well-cushioned, light, low-drop shoe that, provided it fits, will get you through the miles at any pace you choose.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Marathon Nutrition Strategy

One of the challenging aspects about the marathon is how to take in energy as you're running. This is important, because as Sara Latta's article details, most runners only have ~2,000 calories worth of glycogen stored in the muscles and liver, enough to get you to about mile 20. Once you deplete your glycogen reserves, you hit the Wall, where your body moves from burning glucose to burning fat, a much less efficient energy source. Latta writes:
"...burning fatty acids requires plentiful oxygen, so as fatty acid metabolism increases, your heart must work harder to pump more oxygen-carrying blood to the muscles. It may be difficult or impossible to maintain your pace, especially if you've lost enough water through sweat to become even slightly dehydrated (this causes your blood to become thicker and therefore harder to pump). ”
Sounds unpleasant! And it is - I've been there. Your limbs feel heavy and the mind becomes stagnant as the body focuses its energy elsewhere. So the trick is to take in enough glucose during the run to prevent or delay this turnover as long as possible. As someone that has a tricky stomach, this has been a challenge for me. How to best replenish my reserves as I run without sparking GI?

I've tried a few things over the years. These include:

  1. Acceleraide. Typically, I've drank the Orange flavor in my hand-held, but have also used other other sports drinks like Gatorade, etc. This appears to be effective, but I've encountered two issues with these sports drinks:  
    • Sweet. After a while, the thought of drinking more flavored drink is just nauseating – I just want water! Wish there was a way to carry just a shot or two with me.
    • Sour stomach. All of the carbs in the liquid doesn't always sit well.
  2. Gels. These are the most efficient method for immediate energy that I know of. I've used a number of different flavors and styles, but have mainly stuck with GUs. My issues with them are:
    • Flavor. These can range from horrible (Salted Watermelon!) to excellent (Salted Caramel!)
    • Caffeine. While at times it’s nice to have this added energy, caffeine can upset my stomach, especially on a relatively empty stomach on early morning runs. 
    • Too quick? At times, the energy hits me so quickly I sometimes feel shaky or jittery.
  3. Chews. My favorite. I find that the chews are a good balance of energy and slower digestion. My only issue here is that they’re very sticky and bulky, so not always easy to carry around. 

My tactic will be to rely mainly on chews and water. While I’m going to carry a GU or two with me, in case I need big boost of glucose for the later stages of the race, i'm going to avoid it if I can.

What do you think? What worked for you? Send along any advice you have in the comments.

Related Posts:
Don't Drive the Boat: My Nutrition Strategy for TNF 50 DC
To Supplement or Not to Supplement