Taper Thoughts: Eat All the Carbs

This week I’ve been working on the carb depletion/carb loading strategy I mentioned in an earlier post. The purpose is to achieve “glycogen supercompensation”, which means that after being depleted, the muscles store even more carbohydrates then they would usually hold (normal glycogen compensation). I’ve been reading a lot about how to avoid hitting the wall, and in addition to fueling during the race, it doesn’t hurt to have as much glycogen as you can physically carry in your muscles on race day to get you to the full distance. Apparently, the only thing limiting the amount of glycogen you can actually hold is the size of your leg muscles.

Looks down at my tiny legs and frowns. Ruh roh.

In the past when carb loading, I just ate extra carbs the day before the race. This time I am trying to be a lot more precise because honestly, I need all the help I can get. I ran a long run, ate very low carb for four days, and am now on day 2 of “eat all the carbs”. Okay, technically I have to take in about 450 grams of carbs each day to properly fill my glycogen for the pace I plan to run in the marathon. How did I come up with that number, you ask? I used this handy dandy Endurance Calculator. Isn’t the internet a wonderful place? I gotta tell ya, after two days of trying to eat at least 400 grams of carbs, I am realizing how much less I had consumed pre-race in the past. Considering that the body apparently only absorbs about 25 grams of carbs per hour, taking in 450 in a day is nearly impossible. I would have to eat 25 grams every hour for 18 hours a day! I am doing my best, but since sleep is still a priority in the days leading up to the marathon, I won’t force myself to stay awake that long. I am also getting sick of carbs. I would love to eat some fruit, but another thing that I learned is that fructose is not easily converted to glycogen by the muscles. I read that AFTER consuming 3 large glasses of apple juice and eating a banana. Whoops.

I’m not sure how much glycogen my tiny legs will actually hold, but I’m going to fill them up as much as I can. I will also be fueling very well on race day, taking in at least 120 calories every hour in the form of cornstarch for the first 3 hours (to cut down on the number of gels), then Gatorade and energy gels every 3-4 miles after that, as much as my stomach cooperates. By the end of the race on Sunday, I will really be looking forward to going back to my low-carb lifestyle!

Taper Thoughts: Expectations

When I think about the upcoming marathon, I keep fluctuating between extreme confidence and complete doubt. When I think about how well the half marathon went, how I plan to pace myself super conservatively, how I am going to nail my carb-loading and fueling strategy, I am sure that I am totally going to rock this marathon. When I think about my training, how I only really trained for about ten weeks, how my mileage peaked at 35 miles per week and averaged around 25, when I remember how bad I crashed and burned in my first two marathons, I am sure that this will be the most painful and slowest marathon yet. The reality is that the actual race will probably end up being somewhere in between.

Because the work is done now, there’s no time or possibility to do things any better than I have. The only thing left to do is take good care of myself in the next two days, and come up with some definite goals that I can be happy with, regardless of the race experience.

So my “A” goal, my stretch goal, the miracle result that I could hope to achieve if everything goes perfectly on race day, is that I meet or beat last year’s time, along with running the entire distance. I consider this to be highly unlikely, and will not expect this result, although I would be very happy to achieve it!

My “B” goal, the real goal, is to run what I consider to be a decent time for my fitness of 4:45 or less. This I think is do-able if I relax and run conservatively in the first half. I still hope to do this without walking much, if at all.

My “C” goal, is to finish under 5 hours. This would probably happen if I bonked, but was able to push through with a decent walk/run in the second half.

My “D” goal, is to finish, no matter the time. Regardless of if it’s 5:01, 5:30, or 6:30, I finished a freaking marathon, and I will have some fitness gains from doing it. Which is why I am doing it in the first place. I can still be happy with this result, as I will use it as motivation to come back strong in the spring.

Worst case scenario is I seriously injure myself, resulting in substantial time off that will affect my running in the spring. I think this is unlikely barring any unforeseen accident, as I’ve been careful to take very good care of myself this time around and am feeling quite strong all around now.

I think it’s good to have multiple expectations that I can be okay with. This is NOT a goal race for me. I consider it a stepping stone to the next marathon that I can run better. If I can run this easy, and have fun, that will be a huge win in my book!