Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How many plates of spaghetti?

I like to be able to quantify things. It gives me a sense of order in the world. The preparation for a marathon is the perfect numbers game. In order to make it twenty-six point two miles, training lasts eighteen weeks, and another fifteen weeks for the beginner. All training programs, should include one long run a week with a minimum-maximum distance of twenty miles.

When I found out that there is a calculator which calculates the carbohydrate caloric need to fuel a marathon at a specified pace, I was intrigued. The pre-race carbo loading has been a bit of an art this season. I started with the classic Italian pasta dinner before long runs, but as my mileage crept up, the overflowing plate of pasta went from fuel to a rock sitting in my stomach.

So then I decided that carbo-loading could be a two day event. I had read that Grete Waitz, the great NY Marathoner, never ate a big meal before a marathon, and I decided to try out her method. So two nights before the big run, I ate a big meal with some protein and little fat, and then I continued to eat carbohydrate heavy meals through lunchtime the next day. By carbohydrates, I don’t necessarily mean bread, pasta, and more bread. Vegetables and fruit have carbohydrates and so I mix those into my diet as well. The Friday night meal is just a big salad full of vegetables, croutons, and maybe a little cheese.

This combination has worked much more spectacularly than I anticipated, but sometimes it leaves me a little hungry mid-run. Hunger is preferable to feeling stuffed when running double-digit miles, but I would rather not feel it. So I plugged my stats into the endurance calculator and clicked “compute”.

What did that little magic calculator come up with? Well first of all, it told me my aggressive best marathon performance time – of 3:18! I’m still laughing over that one. Maybe in another lifetime. But it also said that I need to eat 1560 calories from carbohydrates to achieve my goal time of 5 hours. That’s almost a whole extra day of food. Now that’s a goal that I can wrap my mind around.

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