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What to eat before a race?

One of my favorite episodes of the TV show “The Office” is when Michael Scott decides to put on a 5k.  A charity 5k to raise money to find a cure for rabies, which already has a cure.  Just before the race begins Michael “carbo-loads” on a huge serving of fettuccini alfredo.  As you can imagine, he feels the weight of the alfredo like a rock in his stomach as soon as he starts running.  I’m sure all of us at one time or another can relate to that feeling and as a result we do everything we possibly can to avoid it!  We stress about what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat it.  Unfortunately there’s not one specific solution that works for everyone every time.  The key is finding what works for you.  The foods that work for you before hard workouts or long runs will be what works for you before a race, so keep the same routine.  That doesn’t mean you have to eat the same thing before every race, you can have options and still feel confident that you’ll be fine for the race.

Pasta is probably one of the most popular choices for people before a race, and it is a good choice, but there are plenty of other foods that you can be safe eating before a race as well.  Plus, some pasta dishes leave you feeling heavy and that’s the last feeling you want to have going into a race.  If I have pasta I choose some kind of pesto with vegetables instead of alfredo or meat sauce.  Some other options could be grilled chicken, salmon, halibut, rice (I prefer brown rice but do what works for you, especially if you’re not used to eating brown rice), steamed vegetables (easy on the butter if you use any at all), baked potato with cottage cheese and salsa, fajitas (easy on the sour cream, cheese, etc.), etc.

Some things to keep in mind when deciding what to eat before a race:

-Avoid fatty foods.

-Avoid food that takes a long time to digest.

-Eat foods that you’ve eaten before harder runs or workouts.

-Don’t try new foods, now is not the time to experiment.

-Drink plenty of water, ALWAYS a good idea whether you’re a runner or not!

-Eat healthy foods.  Again, always a good idea whether you’re a runner or not.

The best thing you can do for yourself as a runner and as a person in general is to create healthy habits so that when the hard part of the race comes your body has the fuel it needs to perform and do what you want it to do.

As for when to eat . . . this is kind of a personal preference, and it takes some trial and error.  So try different things before workouts to find what works for you.  Personally, I like to eat my last “meal” about 2.5 to 3 hours before my race.  I’ll continue to hydrate leading up to the race and possibly have a small snack (mostly comprised of carbohydrates) an hour or so before the race.  If I’m racing in the morning (which is when most road races are) I usually wake up a few hours early to get some food in my body and depending on what time the race is I may even go back to sleep for a while before I get up to start getting ready for the race.  When I race in the morning I’m definitely more picky about what I eat for breakfast because my stomach tends to be more sensitive in the morning.  Some ideas are oatmeal, toast, a little bit of fruit, yogurt, etc.  Sometimes if it’s a shorter race I’ll just have some kind of a powerbar and a banana or something similar.  Again, the key is to find what works for you.  Some people can eat an hour before they race, some people have to eat four hours before.  Try a few ways and then once you’ve found what works, make it a routine so your body knows what to do and what to expect on race day.

The nice thing about having a set routine is that it’s one less thing you have to worry about on race day.  You’re naturally going to be nervous and if you have a set routine you can have confidence in the fact that your body will be ready to perform.  You just have to go out and do it!  Which brings out another point, don’t stress if things don’t go perfectly leading up to a race.  They rarely do!  Have confidence in the things you can control, your training, the foods you eat, the amount of sleep you get, etc.  And know that you’re ready, you’ve prepared yourself and now you get to go show off all the hard work you put in!  Enjoy the race and as Coach Pilkington always says . . . “Look forward to the hard part of the race.”  That’s what we train for, to prepare ourselves for the hard part of the race so that when it comes, as it inevitably will, you’re ready and you can still run fast when it hurts.

by Lindsey Anderson – Olympian | Professional Athlete

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Fueling for workouts and races over 3 hours long.

There are alot of runners and triathletes out there who are learning how to take in some fuel during events and workouts over an hour and that is great news! The not so good news is that as some of those athletes start going longer than 2-3 hours problems start occurring that didn’t happen before.  So what is going on here? Isn’t 1-2 gel packs an hour enough? Do I absolutely have to have an electrolyte supplement? More water? What?  Well, the deal is that for events shorter than 3 hours, you can almost fake it on not doing enough. You may feel kind of lousy by the end, by you will survive even though you are running very low on energy, fluid and electrolytes. That is because you should have enough stores of all of those things to make through by doing only minimal amounts of eating and drinking. But…especially after the 3 hour mark…EVERYTHING CHANGES! You just can’t keep up with how much you are losing unless you make a SERIOUS effort to eat and drink more.

While it is true that you are hopefully getting about 50%-60% of your fuel from fat during longer,slower events, you are still blowing through quite a bit of carbohydrate. Most any runner or triathlete will still be using a MINIMUM of 125 grams of carbohydrate an hour. Then, in the case of  a Half-Ironman triathlon, the fastest athletes can burn over 200 grams.per.hour! And since we only have about 400-500 grams of carb stored in our muscle tissue and liver, it is easy to see how quickly you will start running out even if you are eating some fuel.  Yeah, do that math for a second.  ”Let’s see…I take 2 gels an hour or one pack of Clif blocks so that is about 50 grams of carbs I eat in a hour. Okay, well if I am blowing through at least 125 grams, but probably more like 150-175, then I am running an hourly deficit of about 100-125 grams. So by the 3 hour mark, I will have used 300-375 grams of carb and running very very low in fuel and by the 4 hour mark, I will be done!”  Yep, all those feelings of being light-headed, sick to the stomach, heavy legged, cranky, crampy, slowing down and feeling like you have been hit by a bus  somewhere between the 2 and 3 hour mark does not always have to be the case. Does this ring true to anyone? Is it worth trying more? (Notice here the picture of Mirinda Carfree holding 2 gel flasks full of 100 grams carb each while on her way to running a 2:56 marathon at the end of Ironman Hawaii 2009)

Read More….

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Dear New Runner

Expert Panel Question???

Question: “I’m interested in starting running, but I find it a little intimidating. How do I start?”

(ask your questions to the UtahRunning.com Experts here)

Answer!!!

Dear New Runner,

What an exciting time to be starting with your running. There are so many opportunities for runners these days. There are road races and trail races in almost any distance, there are groups of all levels to train with, there are team relay races which can be a lot of fun, there are some great local places to train, and there are a lot of advancements in training technology.

I can understand how it might feel intimidating or even a bit overwhelming to get started. Here is my advice for you:

1) Make your running whatever you want it to be. It has to be about you and what you like. There is a wide range of possibilities from training for races to training for health and fitness. Find something to run for – you will feel the satisfaction from running much more if you have a purpose. I like to pick a race in the future and work toward that race. It might be 3 months away or a year away, but it gives me some focus and it helps me to stay committed. I also make running plans week to week that help me get ready for the future race.

2) Set some goals. It comes back to the advice given above – the importance of running with a purpose. Not only does it make running more fun and have more satisfaction, it also helps you to stay committed through the tough days. I would start with something simple – like completing a 3 mile run without walking (or a 6 mile run, or whatever your level is). Then figure out why you are doing this, and go from there. After setting a goal to finish my first marathon, then working toward that goal, then accomplishing that goal, the feeling was indescribable. It will give you strength and confidence and it will empower you as a runner and a person. And it will make you want to set new goals and accomplish them–it is kind of addicting.

Read More….

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What are the essentials for a 10k trail run?

Nutritionally, it is important to make sure you fuel adequately for the time you will be running, not for the distance. Trail races can be significantly slower than road races. If possible, run the course before you race it. If you don’t have an opportunity to run it, look on-line for any course elevation profiles, photos, or descriptions that are available. Also look at race times from previous years to determine a realistic pace that you can expect to run. Race duration will determine whether a pre-race meal is sufficient to meet your energy needs, or if you need to bring something along for mid-race refueling. Refer to Debbie Perry’s article on pre-race nutrition for more details.

As for equipment, it’s important to be prepared for a variety of conditions. Just like any outdoor race, you should bring layered, synthetic clothing for hot or cold, wet or dry weather. Unlike the road or track, however, you also need to prepare for highly variable terrain. Trail conditions can deteriorate overnight with a sudden storm. Bring shoes for any scenario you can reasonably anticipate. Here in the Mountain West, trail racers or trail trainers are usually sufficient. But if you prefer a lighter, more flexible shoe, there’s nothing wrong with using a road trainer or even a road racing flat on the trails (ideally one with decent traction in the outsole). If you’re on grassy, soft trails like those typically found in the East or Pacific Northwest, it may even be appropriate to wear a cross country or track spike.

Read More….

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How to find a race for a overweight person?

Expert Panel Question???

I want to start out slow but I want to get into some races. How do you find a race that fits a person that’s overweight and wants to start racing?

(ask your questions to the UtahRunning.com Experts here)

Answer!!!

My suggestion would be to start preparing to run a 5K. A 5K is 3.1 miles and is a good race distance to start at. Take a look at UtahRunning.com’s race calendar and find a 5K that works with your schedule. I would pick a race that is at least 2-3 months away to give yourself time to train, especially if you have just started running. Then begin training. Start out running a couple of days a week and gradually build up the number of days you are running and the miles you are running.

A few training rules to live by:

1) Increase your weekly mileage by no more than about 10 percent each week (i.e. if week 1’s mileage is 10 miles then 10 percent of that would be 1 mile. So, week 2’s mileage should be around 11 miles).

2) Your longest run during a week should only be 25-30 percent of your total weekly mileage (i.e. if your weekly mileage is 20 miles then 25 percent of 20 would be a 5 mile run).

3) Decrease your weekly mileage every 3rd week to rest and recover.

Consistency in your training is key. You will be surprised at the changes you will see in your body as you put in some time running. That being said, it is also important to be patient with yourself and with your training. Don’t be afraid to inter-mix some walking into your runs, especially if you are just starting to run. This will allow you to workout longer and help you build up your cardio time.

Racing is a great way to stay motivated, so pick your race and go for it!

Send me an email at janae (at) utahrunning.com if you are interested in personalized coaching. I would love to help you train for a 5K.

by Janae Richardson – Runner | High School Cross Country & Track Coach

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by on Feb.19, 2010, under Expert Answers, Utah 5k

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