Monthly Archives: January 2013

Eating on the Run -Nothing New on Race Day

I got a great question yesterday about how to fuel before, during, and after a race in order to not feel that “hungover” feeling when you cross the finish line.  It was a good reminder that it is time to talk about nutrition specifically for your running.  In order to not completely reinvent the wheel, I am re-posting from last year.  I am also going to re-post about hydration and determining your own hydration needs.  Please take some time and read these now because you will want to practice all of this throughout your training in the next few months.  Practice is crucial to determining what products work for you and maybe more importantly what does not agree with your stomach.  If you wait until late in the training season, you won’t have time to change it!  If you still have questions, please email me at and as always Happy Training!

The question of how to properly fuel for an endurance event is a huge one.  Many of us start on this journey as a way to get fit and to lose weight.  The second one sometimes is at odds with our nutritional needs as endurance athletes, which is often why I will tell someone whose main fitness goal is to lose weight NOT to train for a marathon yet.  The reason for that is simple, you need to fuel your body so that it can perform.  The nice thing about a half marathon distance is that many times just by getting out the door for all the training we will lose some weight and still be able to adequately fuel our bodies for our runs.  But what does that mean?  Essentially, it means that we need to give our bodies the right types of fuel so that it can turn that fuel into energy, in the body’s case that means turning it into ATP.  All sources of fuel can be turned into ATP, including sugars (carbohydrates), fat, and protein.  We want to make sure that we are using the first two and not the third (protein for ATP production would mean you’re using your muscle for fuel – BAD).   So there’s a lot of science behind all of this, but you’re probably not looking for a lesson in the Krebs energy cycle today, you just want to know how to eat before, during, and after a race to ensure a quality run and to not “hit the wall.”

Rule #1 of endurance races – nothing new on race day!

I know I sound like a broken record, but this is HUGE for food and hydration.  Practice your fueling strategy for before, during, and after the race to make sure it all works for you.  We all have very different tummies and what your buddy can handle may be disastrous for you.  Also, what works for a 5 mile run may not work for a 10-13 mile run.  So practice all of it.

Carbs – a little bit more science

First and foremost, if you are an endurance athlete you should not be on a low carb diet during your training and racing  (unless of course you have worked something out with your physician and/or a registered dietician that knows your training schedule).  Your body needs carbohydrates to make ATP directly (from glycogen in your muscles) and also to make ATP from fat.  If you don’t have enough carbohydrates around you will not be able to tap that fabulous energy storage system we call fat.  Unless you are running a track race of 400meters or less, you will be using some fat for energy.  You want your body to get used to using fat efficiently as an energy source and that comes from training at the proper paces (i.e. not too fast).  I want to be clear on this though, you need the carbohydrate around in order to utilize that fat source.  If not, you could actually start breaking down your muscles for energy and obviously that is not beneficial to anyone.   Starving an endurance athlete’s body of carbs will only lead to things that are not fun: hitting the wall, feeling dopey or “out of it,” and definitely having to slow down.

The Night Before and The Morning of Your Race

Traditionally, this is where runners want the “pasta party.”  This is a great idea.  Your main goal of the meal the night before is to top off your carbohydrate stores (really your glycogen stores).  You want to eat high quality carbs and some protein that you know work for you (because you’ve practiced …).  Some ideas are: of course spaghetti and meat sauce, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, potatoes, etc.  I like whole wheat pasta with a little olive oil and garlic because sometimes red sauce bothers me.  Again, try and find what works for you.  You want your last big meal to be about 12 hours before your event.  You’ll want to have another meal about 1-3 hours before your event.  This is your true “top off the tank” meal.  It should be mostly, if not all, carbohydrates.  You essentially want 200-300 calories or so, closer to 300 if you’re at 3 hours prior less closer to the start.  I like oatmeal and yogurt, with a little peanut butter before long runs.  From about 60 mins pre-race until about 10-15 minutes before your race, don’t eat any sugar.  Eating sugar in this window actually makes your blood sugar drop a little bit, so make your last sugary snack or drink (including Gatorade) about 1 hour pre-race and then not again until just before you toe the line (10 mins or so pre-race).  Again, practice all of this before you get to race day!

The big question – how to avoid the wall … Eating during the Race
First of all what is the dreaded “wall?”  Essentially, this happens when you run yourself out of sugar/carbs/glycogen.  Your body is now trying to use only fat to propel you forward.  This is a slow process for the body and it is using its energy to keep you alive first and foremost, sending energy to your vital organs and such and THEN to your muscles.  Your only response can be to slow down tremendously or even stop running or walking.  You may feel like you are running through molasses now, working really hard and not getting very far.  What do you do now?  Well the best thing would have been to not get there in the first place, but if you do hit the wall, slow down and start taking in some carbs (Gatorade, Gu, etc).  You may eventually start to feel better, but you probably won’t feel like you did at the start of the race.  So let’s avoid this altogether, which is entirely possible for a half marathon.   During a race of an hour or longer (which I’m assuming is most of us reading this unless your name is Meb, Ryan, or Abdi) we should be taking in carbohydrates at a rate of about 100-240 calories per hour from the very beginning of the race (essentially aid station #1).  Happily, this is pretty simple to accomplish with what is out on the course.  You want to go through the aid station and grab the sports drink at each stop, not just water.  Gatorade, HEED, Powerade, etc all have a nice amount of carbohydrates that are meant to get into your system easily.  Don’t dilute the sports drink, if you do you only mess with the highly researched balance that these companies have worked out for you.  Don’t skip aid stations.  Start with the Gatorade right away, aid station 1.  If you decide to use a condensed version of carbohydrates like Gu, Sport Beans, Gu Chomps, Clif Blocks, Carboom, Honey Stinger, etc great!  They are like dehydrated versions of sports drink.  The key to these is to chase them with water at the aid station, not sports drink.  For me the plan is typically miles 1-4 drink Gatorade, then mile 5 Gu with water, repeat.   This will vary for you based on pace and what your palate preferences are and what your gut can handle.  You want to drink about every 15 minutes or so, which will be about every aid station, but you might want to carry a throw away bottle if you want to avoid the traffic in the early miles at the aid stations.

Try the above strategy in your long training runs.  Make sure this works for you and doesn’t have you running toward the porta potty.  It sometimes takes some trial and error to figure this out.  People are different, that’s why there are so many different products out there.  Some people HATE the consistency of Gu but love Sport Beans.  Some people hate chewing Sport Beans, but love Carboom.  Find your favorite and make sure it works (before the expo please)!

Refueling after long training runs and races

Once you get that well earned medal, you still have work to do.  Refueling is just as important for your training as fueling during your workout, same with races.  You want to start refueling right away to begin the process of replacing your carbohydrate stores and start recovering.  The BEST time to do this is within the first 30-60 minutes after your workout, preferably the first 30 minutes.  Your body is like a carbohydrate sponge at this point, primed and ready to be replaced.  It is now that you want to drink that recovery drink, eat that banana with some peanut butter, or drink your chocolate milk.  Not only will this help you with replacing your glycogen stores, it helps you to refuel you so that you are not STARVING a few hours from now and overeat.  Now is the time to get some protein, you want about a 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio after your workout.  Enjoy that chocolate mile before hitting the finish line party!

Next in line for publication is a guest discussion from Professor Steven Devor at OSU about hydration – how to calculate your own needs for hydration and electrolytes.  Thanks to Dr. Devor for his help with this post too!  Train well, rest up, eat your good carbs, and I’ll see you on May 4th!

Like a Dancer – Keeping the Joy in Your Training

I hate running.  Well, not anymore of course but if you asked me at 15 if I ran that was the answer, along with “running without a ball at my foot is pointless.”   Running was a chore, a necessary evil at best and pure torture at worst.  I was, I am, a soccer player.  In my home state of Pennsylvania, there were no rules about non-interscholastic competition and so I played on as many teams as possible.  It’s all I wanted to do and all I did for 20 years of my life.  Running kept me in shape, nothing more.  There is a t-shirt that local cross country runners wear that says “my sport is your sport’s punishment” and as a kid I could relate.  Mia Hamm was my idol, I even rubber cemented a two page Nike ad featuring her with a poem called Like a Dancer on my bedroom wall.  It embodied everything I felt about the sport with which I was crazy in love.  My transition to running started at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC.  I found myself 15 hours from home and living the dream I had worked so hard for, to play for a division one soccer team.  But I was unhappy, hated it, told my coach I wanted to quit.  The sport that I had allowed to define me was simply no longer fun.  Looking back on it now, it was a clear case of burnout but at the time I was lost.  So, I started to run.  To stay in shape at first, then to clear my head, then to see how far I could go.  That was 17 years ago.

Each of you has a story, a reason that you are reading a blog on a half marathon website right now.  You made a decision at some point to start moving forward, one foot and then the other.  You may have been an athlete since you started walking.  Or you may just now be finding your inner athlete and letting her out!  We are here to celebrate you with each and every step along the way.  There are many aspects of the Capital City Half and Quarter Marathon that make it unique and special, including our awesome post race party.  I absolutely LOVE the concept of a quarter marathon, it makes endurance running reachable in tangible steps.  We make a big deal out of the 5k, quarter, and half marathons because they ARE a big deal.  If Cap City will be your first time at these distances, each week will be a new challenge and opportunity for success.  As you train for each of these races on May 4th, you will  find yourself going further than you ever have before and that is truly amazing.  Your body and mind are changing with each new distance and you are moving swiftly toward that celebration in May.

Working with all of you is an honor and I thank you for the opportunity.  I have had many blessings as an athlete, but the most humbling and proudest day of my running career was at Cap City last year.  I watched each and every one of you cross the half marathon finish line, all the way through to the Balloon Sisters.  Remember, you will never be the last one through a finish line at our races.  You are truly the reason that we do what we do.  Celebrate you is not simply a slogan, it is the way we do things.  You do the hard work though, staying on top of your training and making sure you put in the effort out on the roads in the months leading up to the race.  All I ask is that you keep it fun.  Learn from my childish mistake and keep the joy in the sport that you choose!  I say choose and not have chosen, because every day you get to make that choice.  Believe in yourself and remember to stop and pat yourself on the back or shout it to the world when you hit that “mileage PR” each week.  This is your journey and the joy is in the movement.  The race is the icing and of course the celebration toast downtown!

I cannot wait to see you all on May 4th as you cross that finish line, with your arms in the air!  You just might find me there, dancing after all.

Happy Training!

Coach Aimee

In case you wondered, here’s that Mia Hamm poem.  I think it applies to running as well.  Thanks to blogger Stacy Hall at for sharing her copy of the ad, since mine is long peeled from that bedroom wall.  I’m not really sure that Mia Hamm actually wrote this, but I cannot find who else did so I’m going with it (unless it was a Nike copywriter).


by Mia Hamm

When you were a child your mother thought,
As mothers sometimes do,
That you were strong enough
And sure enough
To someday be a dancer.But when you were five
Or was it six or was it nine
You didn’t want to dance,
You couldn’t bear to dance
Unless you were dancing in the grass,
And dancing in the mud
As children often do
As children often do.And then your father kicked you a ball.
And the ball was the shape of the whole wide world to you. And now if you see green you can only think of one thing to do. And the world slips away from your feet. And the sky slips down into your arms.
And you are free you are free
you are absolutely free
To be who you want.
To go where you can.
To be wild to be loud
to fly in the mud
and run in the rain.
Strong enough
Sure enough
Like a dancer.

What is run/walk?

It’s the third week in January and Cap City Quarter and Half Marathon training are officially under way.  I get questions all the time about how to transition from walking to running and how to start increasing your mileage.  We have programs for both the half and quarter marathons on the Cap City Training page, for both beginners and intermediate runners.  Even with those, I really like the run/walk approach when you are training for a new distance.  Our schedules are set up so that you can run, walk, OR run/walk them to get ready for the races in May.  The big question is What is Run/Walk?  I am re-posting this discussion from last year, because I think it helps answer some of those questions.  Enjoy!

The easy answer is any combination of running and walking to cover a specific distance, for whatever reason.  Many use it as a transition between walking and running, by slowly increasing the amount of running time in a given workout.  It can also be used as a strategy to train and complete a 5k, half marathon, marathon, even Ironman distances!  I personally have trained for and completed my most recent marathon leg of an Ironman this way, starting with a 10 minute run/1 minute walk segment.  It is often called “The Galloway Method” after Jeff Galloway who promotes it as a primary training plan.  It works!  It works for experienced folks and those who are new to running and walking.  If you train this way, I guarantee you are in good company and believe me you ARE a runner!  Your medal is the same no matter how you get to the finish line!

How do I choose my run/walk segments?

We are going to use it as one option to train for and complete The Capital City Half Marathon and Quarter Marathon.  If you are new to running, this is a really good option.  If you are currently able to complete 2 miles 3 times per week or more, then this is a good plan for the you for the half.  If not, consider the quarter marathon or 5k and shoot for the half marathon next Spring!  We are going to have three options, but you can adjust the run/walk segments to your fitness needs.  My options are 1) 3 minute run/5 minute walk 2) 5 minute run/3 minute walk and 3) 10 minute run/1 minute walk.  Which one to choose?  I suggest that if you have not run more than 2 miles in the last 3 months, then start with #1.  If you have run more than 2 miles but not more than 5 in the last 3 months, then start with #2.  If you have run 5 miles or more in the last 3-6 months, then try #3.  You can always change the run/walk segment times as your fitness needs and goals change.

Easy running defined

The idea is that you are able to run and walk in what we call “easy” mode.  This means only that your effort is such that you can talk in complete sentences throughout your entire workout.  If you are only able to grunt a word or two, you should slow down in the running segment and/or increase your walk segment time (or both).  I will repeat this easy running discussion so many times over the course of your training that you may get sick and tired of hearing it!  It’s really important though as often runners want to train harder and harder every time, however that often does not lead to fitness gains and can lead to injury, fatigue, and disenchantment with the sport.  Run easy as you build miles and choose the run/walk segment that works for you!