Planning the Race: Part I

The last week before the marathon is coming up, this is the most crucial time of tapering. On Sunday, I will be doing my last long run before the marathon, an easy 10 to 12 miles just to is to get a final boost of confidence. From there on in, I will reduce the the milage about one-third of normal training routine.  For example, since I normally run 60 miles per week during my marathon preparation, next week I will be running 20 miles between Monday and Sunday before the marathon, keeping my workouts short and sweet.  That means that I will have a lot more time in my hands and this can make me more anxious. But I will stick to the plan, avoiding to add mileage having faith in my preparation and I will try to keep myself busy, get plenty of sleep and figure out what I need to do the week before I get to the starting line. The better prepared I will be, the fewer things I will need to worry about on race day.

The plan is……

To eat very healthy. I try to eat as healthy as possible year round, but I have to admit that I eat the healthiest the weeks that lead up to race day.  I want to make sure that my body is getting all the carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals it needs.


Five days prior to the Marathon I will begin to increase my total carbohydrate intake by adding in more pastas, breads, cereals, and fruits,  vegetables and starches to my diet.  Training made me run better on fat metabolism and store more carbohydrates (CHO) using more glycogen instead of fat.  However, our bodies have a limit to the amount of CHO that can be store in our muscles.  It is possible to increase the CHO stores in our muscles by eating a higher amount of CHO in the 72 hours leading to the marathon through a process called carbohydrate-loading.  A typical diet contains 4-7 grams of CHO per every kg of your body weight, a CHO loading involves eating 8-10 g/Kg body weight.  One kilograms is equal to 2.2 pounds.  To calculate how many grams of CHO you need to consume per day during carbo-loading time you need to first convert your weigh in kilograms: body weigh in lb ÷ 2.2 , multiplied weigh in Kg by 8 or 10.

For example: I weigh 107 lb and the following calculation tells me I should have about 450 grams of CHO during carbo-loading:

  1. 107 lb ÷ 2.2 kg = 48.6 Kg body weigh
  2. 48.6 Kg x 8 =  388 grams of Carbohydrate  or 48.6 Kg x 10 = 486 grams
This all means to make moderate changes to my diet without over-eating excessively.  For example, for breakfast I will have a bigger bowl of cereal or substitute a good-sized bagel for a toast and add a glass of orange juice.  I will decrease the amount of protein and fat portions to make more room for extra CHOs, snacking on granola bars, rice cakes w/almond butter, fruit and yogurt during the day, without over-doing it trying to keep normal balanced meals like I normally did on any training day.  If you are effectively loading you should notice a 2-5 pounds weight gain over the 72 hours period.  Each gram of CHO stores with 3 grams of water in your muscles.  Therefore, the water you drink on carbo-laoding days before the marathon is very important as your body will use water to store the carbohydrates. The last major meal should be 12-15 hours before the marathon choosing high-carbohydrate foods with a moderate amount of protein and fat.  Avoid greasy, spicy foods, and too much fiber.  This meal should be easily digestible so it will pass through the system before race.  I usually have spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce, it works good for me. Keep drinking water.  The Boston Marathon, with its late starting time (10:20 AM for me), allows for plenty of time in the morning to consume breakfast. I am planning to have  a 300-400 calorie high CHO breakfast, such as bagel with almond butter  2-4 hours before the race, and a snack such as banana or Luna bar an hour before the start. You’ll want to drink mostly water, with some electrolyte fluid. Don’t try to get all your fluids down by chugging your water bottle. Drink small, regular sized amounts. Room temperature water is absorbed quicker than warm or cold water.  During the marathon, a good strategy is to take in some sort of CHO every 5 miles up to 20 miles, that will give you 300-400 calories of additional energy.  Most runner carry energy gel, my stomach does not like gels too much, so I am planning to have with me pretzels, gummy bears, energy bites, energy chews.


Fuel for the run

Hydrate: Pre-marathon hydration can make a huge difference.  You don’t want to drink too little and become dehydrate or over hydrated by drinking too much leading to a condition called hyponatremia ( fluid retention from overdrinking = low blood salt level ) which is serious and sometimes deadly.   Both conditions can be of risk to health and performance.  The best way to prevent both dehydration and hyponatremia is to learn the right way to hydrate.  Sweat rate is individual and also affected by temperature, humidity, wind, gender etc.  To determine how much I should drink during exercise, I calculated my sweat rate.  I weigh myself, without clothes, before and after at least an hour run. One pound(16 ounces; 45o ml) of weight loss equals 1 pint (16 ounces; 45o ml)of sweat/water loss.  Thus, during running I need to drink 8 ounces(225 ml) of water every 30 minutes.  A general  rule of thumb for fluid consumption during runs is to take in 4 to 6 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes.  On run longer than 60 to 90 minutes with the sweat you also loose  sodium and  electrolytes and drinking only water can also dilute the sodium, the best thing to do is to drink sports drink or foods that has sodium in it.  I usually carrie pretzel with me on my long runs.
Nancy Clark, a registered dietitian (RD) and board certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD) suggest few ways to tell if you are well hydrated by monitoring your urine.
  • You should urinate frequently (every 2 to 4 hours) throughout the day.
  • he urine should be clear and of significant quantity.
  • Your morning urine should not be dark and concentrated.

Here is the urine color chart designed by Dr. Lawrence Armstrong, can quickly help you determine if you have been consuming enough liquids to stay well hydrated.  If your urine is darker than 3, drink more! Lack if water slows you down too!



During the week before the Marathon I will make sure I am drinking water constantly, more than usual.  As the race day will get closer I will start to drink Gatorade to replace electrolytes.

The key is to do what works best for YOU and practice fueling and hydrating during training and before your long runs.

To be  continued….

10 days…….


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