You’re in the home stretch! The final countdown begins!
So, you are less than two weeks away from the big day. The last long runs are in the bag and you’re wondering what you should be doing these last ten days. Assuming your training was successful and you’re satisfied you've followed your training plan to the best of your ability, there is one quote you should remember: “ There is little you can do to increase your fitness in the last week or ten days before a marathon, but there is a lot you can do to negatively affect it!” It’s preferable to be well rested rather than over trained.
With that being said let’s focus on what we know we have more control over. The primary benefits of sleep and nutrition!
Sleep is extremely important! Focus on trying to get at least eight hours of sleep each night of the week before the race. This is not always attainable, but try your hardest and focus on the days leading to the race. The two to three nights before the race are especially important as you may not sleep as well the night before due to pre-race jitters. We need good sleep to heal and reinvigorate our minds and bodies. The many months of hard training and early mornings may have taken a bit of a toll so relish this time to catch up on a few extra hours of sleep. Personally two of my most disappointing trail marathons came after several nights of very little sleep; it’s amazing what a difference sleep makes!
This is my specialty and I once again cannot stress how important it is. Remember, food is not only medicine but is the fuel that will power your internal gas tank to get you across that finish line! One thing I always tell my clients is an everyday diet that is nutrient rich and contains many plants is something that can do wonders. Where nutrition is concerned, as in all training, consistency is key! A good diet 90% of the time trumps any fad, roller coaster, up and down, last ditch 28 day effort, every time. The main components of a good nutrition strategy are to include a good source of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates at each meal.
What About Carbs?
I am always asked about carb loading. “Is it good, is it bad?” “Should I eat bagels and a few cups of pasta the night before?” Well the answer is yes and no. You do not want to load up with three cups of pasta the night before as it can cause gastrointestinal upset and disrupted sleep. Ideally, add an extra serving of carbohydrates a day for several days before the big day. This will allow the body to top off glycogen stores or the equivalent of topping off your tank in a form that is easier for your body to metabolize. An example would be an added piece of fruit, an extra half cup of quinoa or brown rice, and make sure you are hydrating well.
Practice Makes Perfect
Everyone is different and the key is to always practice everything before race day, which includes different meals, so establish a clear plan now to make sure you are consuming energy rich food and foods that are easy for you as an individual to absorb. What should you eat the morning of race day? Aim for 300-500 calories and the key is to not have anything with too much fiber (opposite from what you should eat on a daily basis) so you can avoid stopping along the course to use the bathroom. Try a cup of oatmeal with berries or a banana, two pieces of regular or gluten free toast with peanut butter and honey or even a sandwich with avocado and egg.
During the race you want to again focus on the energy foods you have tried in your training. Nothing new on race day! The Steamboat Marathon will have Honey Stinger on course so try their products beforehand and formulate a plan. Whether its gels, chews, sports drinks, aid station fruit and goodies or homemade energy foods you must rehearse what you will do and find what your body likes best. I really like several products that are all Colorado grown including Honey Stinger from Steamboat, Tailwind from Durango, Scratch from Boulder and V Fuel gels from Estes Park. It’s great to support our local Colorado companies but choose what works best for you. A good goal is to aim for 30-50g of carbohydrates per hour starting from the first 45 minutes to an hour into the race. One bag of chews is typically 30-40g and a gel is approximately 25g, depending on brand.
You’ve done it! Congrats on all of your hard work! I know you’re happy you have finished and just want to grab a cold one, but wait! Your fueling is not quite complete. Grab a carb-protein combo snack within 30 minutes of finishing and get a good meal within two hours. That is again a nice mixture of carbs to replenish your stores, protein to heal and healthy fats to reduce inflammation. A good option would be a big bowl of my favorite post exercise fuel: quinoa, avocado, two cups of veggies of your choice, pumpkin seeds or hemp hearts and your choice of baked, tofu, beans or chicken.
I hope you have a wonderful time in Steamboat Springs taking in all of the beauty and enjoying your hard work, the race is the gift and the training is the sacrifice!