As I approach the final weeks of preparation before my marathon in Hawaii, I have started to reduce my mileage and get my body well rested, yet race ready, for the starting gun on September 3rd. I am not a fan of the traditional “taper”. A lot of runners take the taper as a large reduction in miles and effort for as many as 3-4 weeks. Personally I like to feel like I am working back up to a peak, and if I shut down too much, I feel sluggish on race day. My coach (kudos to Coach Kyle!) gave me this workout to do on the day before a big race a few years ago and I have stuck with it ever since. The workout is called the Western Austrian Carbo-Load Run.
If you do some research, there are a lot of varying studies regarding how much carbohydrates a runner should eat before a race. This is why you will always find spaghetti dinners at host hotels or an hour’s wait at the local Italian Restaurants the night before a race. I admit, I have read the reports and studies, but when it gets into the science, I kind of zone out. But I like pasta. It sits well in my stomach on race days, so carbo-loading works for me. Soon, I will get our partner nutritionist to chime in with an article so I don’t butcher the “why’s” or “why nots” of carbo-loading.
On to the workout – I usually plan this run for the morning of the day before my race.
Start off with an easy mile to two mile warm-up followed by 2:30 of hard running (5k pace), then :30 of full effort sprinting. Cool down with another mile or two.
That’s it. It doesn’t take much time to do the run and you don’t have to stray too far from the hotel if you have traveled for your race.
Why does it work? Here is some of the science behind the workout:
“Doing just a few minutes of high-intensity exercise the day before a competition will not sabotage tomorrow’s performance, yet it will suffice to stimulate the desirable carbohydrate “sponging” effect that was sought in the original Ahlborg protocol. This allows the athlete to maintain a normal diet right up until the day before competition and then load in the final 24 hours.”
What should you eat the day before the race after this workout? I usually stick to what I normally eat that doesn’t upset my stomach. I practice my race week diet in the weeks leading up so that I don’t have any surprises on race morning. So a light lunch, then a pasta dinner. I avoid the spicy sausages in some pasta sauces or veggies that produce gas (my wife appreciates this) or hot wings (Hey, how’d they get on my plate?). Try to avoid fiber rich foods. Tummy issues during a race are not fun. Trust me.
My friend Tad has a pre-race ritual that is full of good ideas including a drink mix to help boost carbs, glucose, and reduce the amount of grains and fiber consumed before a race. https://minimallyshoddy.com/2014/08/21/what-not-to-eat-before-a-marathon/
Funny story, I met some friends for dinner before my first Boston Marathon. Tad had brought some dextrose that he uses in his pre-race drink. At the restaurant, he plops down a baggie of white powder in the middle of the table. The waitress did a double-take and I think was about to call the cops on the drug dealers at her table. But we assured her, “It’s OK! We are runners.” Somehow that was enough to convince her we were not dealers, just crazy.
Speaking of food, this marathon training has me hungry all the time. Why did I have to mention hot wings?
Mmmmm … hot wings.