Nutrition, Running
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Boston Marathon Energy Nutrition Plan

Expectations for my Boston Marathon experience have been re-calibrated. Gone is the goal of a marathon PR. Boston marathon is not going to be about a PR. I don’t need that kind of self-inflicted pressure at this point. Maybe later on, but not today.

For me Boston will be about  opening up my vulnerabilities, putting aside my fears, and going for it with what I have available to work with today. It will be about coming together with the people of running,  digging deep into the experiences of the one-hundred and twentieth Boston Marathon, and riding the wave of emotions  marathons inevitably bring (happy, sad, disappointment elation ? Who knows?)

How will I do it? I will sloooow down, smile (smiling relaxes me and makes the running feel easier. Yes, I am serious!), and maybe even hug along the way. Then, I will move in for a really strong 10K  finish. Of course, I will also apply my sports nutrition knowledge, tested and approved by my body on long runs and many trial and errors.

There are many possible limiting factors to completing a marathon. Nutrition however, is not going to be one of mine. That means it is time to land on my official Boston Marathon nutrition approach. There are a three Boston specific  elements to consider when planning that many people might overlook:

  1. We are limited to a one gallon bag of food and water on the bus to the start.
  2. No hydration packs are allowed
  3. If you are in the fourth wave you have about three hours of waiting before your wave crosses the starting line.

Hydration Plan

Whenever I can multitask with a food choice I do. I start the morning drinking CLIF SHOT Recovery drink while I get dressed. It has protein for satiety that also might help my muscles later on. It also has carbohydrate to get some energy coursing to my brain and muscles. It is multitasking with carbohydrate, protein and water!

  • I plan to carry a water bottle for as long as I can tolerate it. It will be filled with CLIF SHOT Electrolyte drink and sucked down about an hour before. The sodium in here helps with water retention and it also has carbohydrate that serves as additional energy and will help with fluid absorption.
  • I will fill up the water bottle throughout the morning, and have a full bottle to sip the first hour running to avoid crowds at the aid stations.
  • After that I will fill it up every four miles as needed at the aid stations.

Three to Four Hours Before the Start:

My goal here is to fill in an empty spaces in my muscle glycogen stores (energy in waiting) and keep hunger at bay. Seeing that we are running through lunch I know satiety will be in issue for me. Here is my approach to morning:

Again, multitasking foods in place but, focus is on carbohydrate and protein. I cut off eating almonds three hour prior to the start because any closer and I have stomach issues. The fat takes about three hours to make its way out of my stomach.

During the Marathon

My goal here is to keep the energy flowing with as little digestive distress as possible. Race day has an intensity and adrenaline that cannot be matched in training. This can mess with my stomach no matter how familiar I am with what I am putting in it, but it is extremely helpful to eat performance nutrition foods you can count on and, in a way that doesn’t get too much going on in the tummy at one time.

Here is my plan to achieving approximately 50-60gm of carbohydrate per hour (my sweet spot, yours might be more or less):

  • 10 minutes before take-off: 3 Margarita CLIF BLOKS (they have higher sodium content and I am “layering” sodium in hopes of retaining fluids
  • After that will be about 3 BLOKS, 1 CLIF SHOT Gel, or fruit CLIF Organic Energy food every 4 miles.
  • Since “lunch” will literally be on the run I have planned a Banana Mango Coconut Organic energy food for around 12:30 – 1:00pm giving me an energizing, tasty boost to look forward to and possible half of a CLIF BAR.
  • Caffeinated CLIF SHOT Gels are literally my secret weapon for the last three to five miles. I save them for an extra burst, and they help me ignore the fatigue at that point. I bring two of these with me (sometimes three) in case I feel the need to bring it in sooner. I once shot three down in an hour. Not recommended. Digestive distress that follows is not worth the fatigue masking.

Mile 27 is Recovery Nutrition, Mile 28 is the Post-party!

 I am the first to admit that after the race is over, eating something or even drinking something is far from my mind. I do know from both science and experience that not getting recovery nutrition in play within the first thirty minutes will cause a serious delay and recovery.

So I motivate myself by having another race lined up to recover for!  What I need available is a food or drink with protein and carbohydrate. The ratio is much less important than once thought. CLIF SHOT Recovery Drink or chocolate milk does the trick. These are easy to chug down when chewing is even too much work.

I usually like to have my recovery food and drink in a checked bag at the finish but, given this is Boston it might take thirty minutes to get to my bag. Luckily  my wise CLIF friends have recovery zone available with mini BUILDER’s Protein bars. Three of these and a bottle of water should do the trick. Don’t be shy. Take as many bars as you need!

After that, I plan to take in my runner’s high, shower and eat something yummy and delicious.

So there it is. Let’s do this thing already!


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