If it wasn’t for some stupid money issues the last few months, I might have been able to do some other races along the way, like the half marathon in Oracle, Arizona or the one in Sedona, Arizona. But you have to take the good with the bad, for the journey to the Arizona Distance Classic was paved with rocky roads and unusual happenings. I’m pretty apprehensive about the whole thing, due to my workout schedule being thrown off this week due to my mother being in the hospital. Now I’m not going to blame my mother’s condition on skipping workouts and maintenance runs, but it leaves you putting the priority of family first above other things. I absolutely hate hospitals, but with the suddenness of my mother’s appendix rupture, I had to suck it up and be there for her. I despise hospitals due to the smell, for it has a fermented odor that just makes me sick and sometimes even dizzy. I don’t know how nurses and doctors can do it, for I just feel woozy almost the instant I step into a ward. But what I think scares me more than anything when going into a hospital is the idea that some day, I am going to die and this will be one of my final destinations. That fear manifests itself quite nicely, for I have been able to avoid the hospital so easily during my life that it is an iron clad assumption the only reason to go to one is to die. So you can imagine how stressed I was this week, especially the night where the woman next to my mother’s room started going crazy, yelling at people left and right and just being a general bitch (yup, have no problem saying it!). Listen, we all hate being in a hospital, but to yell at the people that have to take care of you and in some cases clean your bodily movements after you like a little child deserve a little more respect than that. I kind of look at it the same way with people that handle my food. Yeah, it is their job so to speak, but on the other hand, you have don’t have to get all superior about it.
Anyway, there is a bit of a silver lining with the loss of training this week…..my body will not be wrecked and tired for the race. A went ahead and did a little four mile run on Friday night just to see how I can pace myself without killing my body, and while I kept it “slow” at 9.55 per mile, I felt pretty good. If anything, shocking my body was the main reason why I wanted to do it, so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with leg aches come Sunday morning. I had contemplated a three mile run on Saturday might help as well, but decided not to do it and just walk my dogs instead. I did manage to get in a little workout, one that wouldn’t kill me too much but give me a good stretching as well. I kept it light and easy, doing push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, bench dips, leg lifts and arm presses and dead bugs with only 35-pound weights. I went slow and easy, making sure I didn’t tire myself out too much or worse yet, pull a muscle that might hinder me for the race. After that, I went and got my race packet, leaving me open for a full day to write a blog. But the most important thing also came up for me….what the heck was I going to eat? I was already starving from driving one end of Tucson to the other, but I had a serious case of the hungries! Now I could have just gone down the street and gone to town on the buffet at Whole Foods or stuffed my face at Chipotle, but I opted to go home and stuff myself with a good bean and rice burrito mix that really hit the spot. Normally, I don’t eat much junk food, but I couldn’t resist Kettle’s new Roasted Garlic chips or Stacy’s Toasted Garlic bagel chips, which were both on special for the first time in ages (typically, the brand of chips I label the “junkie” brands are the ones on special). And yes, I love garlic! Throw in some bananas and I was good until much later when I made some good whole wheat pasta for dinner with some more bananas. Truthfully, I didn’t really want to eat dinner due to still being stuffed from earlier, but it was all in the name of preparation, or carb loading.
We all have a funny image about carb loading, like the time in The Simpsons where the Arnold Schwarzenegger knock-off Rainier Wolfcastle is wolfing down a whole bunch of food, saying “I’m loading up for a role!” It used to be a common excuse in the 90s for excessive eating until Kobayashi kind of ruined it for everyone by gaining notoriety for being an excessive eater, which now competitive eating has the dubious distinction of being known as a “sport.” But let me tell you, the biggest difference for me in my short racing career has been the nutrition. During my first Ragnar in 2014, I ate light and didn’t eat anything too heavy. Well, guess what happened after my first run….I crashed and had had a headache for two days. I didn’t make the same mistake at the Lake Powell Half Marathon, for the only thing that really stopped me was the cramping (which I have a theory about much later). Ragnar Del Sol 2015 I ate like a pig, even making my mind believe that cauliflower and green olives were good (just kidding, it was a naturally ridiculously good dish!), and I was able to kill two of the tougher runs within the race. Now I have to admit, I really hate doing this because it harkens back to my old days where I would eat for the sake of filling my stomach and getting my food fix, but it is a necessary evil. Think about it, especially for a guy at my height and weight (6-3, 260). There is a possibility that I might burn at least 2500 to 3000 calories in the span of two and half hours. That’s a day of caloric intake for the average person! During my first half marathon, which I was slower and heavier, I burned 2700 calories, and that was just an estimation due to the idea that unless you have actual monitors all over your body, the total caloric burning could be more this time around since I want to try and run a little faster in addition to the weather most likely going to be a little warmer.
There is all kinds of methods to properly card load for any race, and the conventional wisdom mostly lies in two functions. 1) Taper your run distance and pacing and 2) prepare yourself throughout the week. If anything, I inadvertently did that this week. Due to the shortness of my preparation time, the longest run I put together was eight miles, which was two weeks ago. I did put together a six mile run last week, but that ended up to be the only run since that was longer than four. I only ran twice this past week, logging in only seven miles while doing only one workout. So the tapering aspect of my working out has been just fine, but what about the food intake. While I haven’t been stuffing my face all week, I did add in a bagel or steel cut oats regiment this week for breakfast, which is usually just a piece of fruit or a couple glasses of water. While I wasn’t really pigging out per se, I was managing to eat three square meals a day, which is something I normally don’t engage in (I usually eat virtually nothing for breakfast and then two full meals). One good article from Runner’s World was a little more specific in regards to the intake, recommending a carb intake of 3.6 to 5.5 grams of carbs per pound (which is 800-1100 grams for me!). Now I don’t know if I could possibly go through with that much carb goodness, at least my body is used to it due to the fact carbohydrates a re a regular regimen for me. Typically, my glycogen stores are in a good place, so my body has plenty of stored up energy. Now what exactly is glycogen? Glycogen is a polysaccharide of glucose, which is the main form of blood sugar in our body. Basically glycogen acts as the storage shed for all of our body’s sugar stores. During any time of heavy training or competition, we need to keep the stores well stocked. Glycogen is made and stored primarily in the cells of the liver and the our muscle and functions as the secondary long-term energy storage (with the primary energy stores being fats held elsewhere). Muscle glycogen is converted into glucose by muscle cells, and liver glycogen converts to glucose for use throughout the body including the central nervous system. Now if we don’t load up before a race, our body starts going to the next available sources, that being our fat stores and muscle. This little problem is something people tend to forget about, which is one reason why I really loved the movie “Castaway.” Tom Hanks literally starved himself for a couple months to pull off the emaciated, muscle-less look that was needed for a man who was stuck on an island alone for many years (and yes, I cried when Wilson “died”).
Now, carb loading doesn’t just mean you should go nuts on the food intake, like going to Jack in the Box and getting 32 tacos or buying a couple pizzas. You still have to remember one of the bigger problems of preparation is keeping your body at an alkaline level. Acidity can cause some digestion problems while also altering sleep patterns. And of course, don’t forget the biggest problem with having high body acidity….acidosis. While one would have to eat a lot of heavily acidic food to make it happen, one can become short of breath, suffer headaches and even suffer from heart arrhythmia in a worst case scenario. On a personal note, another problem one might run into is the affect of processed sugar to the system. While card loading is nothing but a sugar dump, one needs to be weary about drinking additives that have a lot of processed sugar in them. While salts might be the answer in regards retaining water, sugar can deplete the water stores due to the dehydrating nature of the additive. It may have been one of the reasons why I started cramping at my last half marathon, for I polluted my camel pack’s water supply with a whole bunch of NUUN electrolyte tabs, which are nothing more than sugars and salts (but on the other hand, the cramping might have been more about the fact there was a two-mile incline that never seemed to end and it broke me!).
While food is definitely a huge part of the run, not letting the race get into my head is going to be the most important aspect. While being strong kind of helps, being strong willed is something that will play a huge role. And I’m really going to need it. I have to set a modest goal of two hours and 20 minutes, merely due to the lack of preparation time. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to do better. I was cramping before my final leg at Ragnar Del Sol, but once I got my head on straight, I never cramped once despite the heat and the hills. And then that eight mile run I did was completely out of the blue, even if I did end up paying for it later. We shall see what happens. Hopefully it will be well worth the worry!
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.