One week till the Naha Marathon – what to eat?

Okay ladies, some of you are getting ready to run the Naha marathon this weekend and while I’m sure many of you have a good idea on how to fuel yourselves this week, I’m equally sure that some of you have no clue. So with that in mind, I’ve posted below a great article on carbo-loading, by internationally known sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD.
Does carbo-loading mean stuffing myself with pasta?

Should I avoid protein the day before the marathon?

Will carbo-loading make me fat…?

If you are a marathoner who is fearful of “hitting the wall,” listen up: proper fueling before your marathon, triathlon or other competitive endurance event can make the difference between agony and ecstacy! If you plan to compete for longer than 90 minutes, you want to maximize the amount of glycogen stored in your muscles because poorly fueled muscles are associated with needless fatigue. The more glycogen, the more endurance (potentially). While the typical runner has about 80 to 120 mmol glycogen/kg muscle, a carbo-loaded runner can have about 200 mmol. This is enough to improve endurance by about 2 to 3%, to say nothing of make the race more enjoyable.

While carbo-loading sounds simple (just stuff yourself with pasta, right?), the truth is many marathoners make food mistakes that hurt their performance. The last thing you want after having trained for months is to ruin your performance with poor nutrition, so carbo-load correctly!

Navy bean and pasta soup, bread rolls, and a glass of red wine – too much??

Training Tactics

The biggest change in your schedule during the week before your marathon should be in your training, not in your food. Don’t be tempted to do any last-minute long runs! You need to taper your training so that your muscles have adequate time to become fully fueled (and healed). Allow at least two easy or rest days pre-event.

You need not eat hundreds more calories the week pre-marathon. You simply need to exercise less. This way, the 600 to 1,000 calories you generally expend during training can be used to fuel your muscles. All during this week, you should maintain your tried-and-true high-carbohydrate training diet. Drastic changes can easily lead to upset stomachs, diarrhea, or constipation. For example, carbo-loading on an unusually high amount of fruits and juices might cause diarrhea. Too many white flour, low fiber bagels, breads, and pasta might clog your system. As Marathon King Bill Rodgers once said “More marathons are won or lost in the porta-toilets than they are at the marathon…” Fuel wisely, not like a chow hound.

Be sure that you carbo-load, not fat-load. Some runners eat gobs of butter on a dinner roll, big dollops of sour cream on a potato, and enough dressing to drown a salad. These fatty foods fill both the stomach and fat cells but leave muscles poorly fueled. The better bet is to trade the fats for extra carbohydrates. That is: instead of devouring one roll with butter for 200 calories, have two plain rolls for 200 calories. Enjoy pasta with tomato sauce rather than oil or cheese toppings. Choose low-fat frozen yogurt, not gourmet ice cream.

Meal Timing

New York City Marathon Queen Grete Waitz once said she never ate a very big meal the night before a marathon, as it usually would give her trouble the next day. She preferred to eat a bigger lunch. You, too, might find that pattern works well for your intestinal tract. That is, instead of relying upon a huge pasta dinner the night before your event, you might want to enjoy a substantial carb-fest at breakfast or lunch. This earlier meal allows plenty of time for the food to move through your system. You can also carbo-load two days before if you will be too nervous to eat much the day before the event. (The glycogen stays in your muscles until you exercise.) Then graze on crackers, chicken noodle soup, and other easily tolerated foods the day before the marathon.

You’ll be better off eating a little bit too much than too little the day before, but don’t overstuff yourself. Learning the right balance takes practice. Hence, each long training run leading up to the endurance event offers the opportunity to learn which food-and how much of it-to eat. I repeat: During training, be sure to practice your pre-marathon carbo-loading meal so you’ll have no surprises on race day.

Following are some important things to remember as you prepare for your Big Race:

Weight Gain

Runners who have properly carbo-loaded should gain about one to three pounds-but don’t panic! This weight gain is good; it reflects water weight and indicates you have done a good job of fueling your muscles. For every ounce of carb stored in your body, you store almost three ounces water.


Be sure to drink extra water, juices, and even soda pop, if desired. Abstain from too much wine, beer, and alcoholic beverages; they are not only poor sources of carbs, but can also hinder your ability to perform at your best. Drink enough alcohol-free beverages to produce a significant volume of urine every two to four hours. The urine should be pale yellow, like lemonade. Don’t bother to overhydrate; your body is like a sponge and can absorb just so much fluid.


Many marathoners eat only carbs and totally avoid protein-rich foods the days before their event. Bad idea. Your body needs protein on a daily basis. Hence, you can and should eat a small serving of low-fat protein-such as poached eggs, yogurt, turkey, or chicken-as the accompaniment to most meals (not the main focus), or plant proteins such as beans and lentils (as tolerated).

Event Day

Carb-loading is just part of the fueling plan! What you eat on marathon day is critically important and helps to spare your limited muscle glycogen stores. By fueling yourself wisely both before and during the event, you can enjoy miles of smiles.

Copyright: Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD
Nancy Clark is also author of Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for Everyday Champions. Her book is available at

More Food, or Carbs, For Thought!

By Anna Boom

Eating carbs:

So yummy but is there more than meets the eye and waistline?

If you are like me, you find carbs delish: any type and color of fruit, the fresh whole grains, ice cream. Here is one of our moments of friendship punctuated by, “You too? I thought it was just me!”.
I recently read an interesting book, Sex, Sleep, Eat, Drink, Dream, by Jennifer Ackerman that covers everything that happens in the day of a life of our body. Parts of the book were not so enticing (ear canals and drums, how your nose hairs stop colds) but one part struck me; how different body types handle carbohydrates. The book introduces a study that was able to isolate the bacteria, B. theta, in our guts that processes carbs into fat. The more of this type of B theta you have, the more (I cringe at this thought!) efficient your body is at processing carbs into…fat. If we did not have that type bacteria in our guts, carbs would sail on through without stopping to be turned into energy. Yes, that also means the banana I eat and the banana you eat may have a different calorie count. My carb processing bacteria may extract 100 calories worth of carbs where yours may only break down 70kcal.

So what do we do, what can we do? Keep running, keep your healthy lifestyle on track, keep carb count, or not. Ahh, the subject of another article.

Foster library has the book, Sex, Sleep, Eat, Drink, Dream by Jennifer Ackerman, 2007, if you are interested in reading more.
Additional thoughts by Jannine Myers:

After reading Anna’s post above, I couldn’t help thinking about Thanksgiving this week and how I love the holidays because, well, I love to eat! And I love to eat carbs! I have no idea how much of the bacteria, B Theta, I have in my intestinal tract, but the rebel in me is screaming at me to “eat more carbs!” In fact, my sweet tooth got the better of me this weekend and I couldn’t resist baking a batch of pumpkin chocolate brownies – nothing wrong with getting a little head start on the festival cooking right?
Happily working my way through these with the help of my daughters – there’s more in the fridge 🙂
Well actually, maybe I DO need to curb my sweet tooth a little, and cut back on those carbs. Especially during the holidays when every supermarket aisle is filled with all kinds of luring treats, and when holiday parties start to quickly fill up the calendar.

The temptation to either overeat, or eat more of the “unhealthier” types of carbs, is going to frequently challenge you over the next few weeks, but as runners, you have a definite advantage – you have the ability to burn more calories than your non-active friends and family members. And  furthermore, because running has taught you to be disciplined, you also have the ability to eat those carbs in MODERATION! And therein lies what I believe is the answer to the carb dilemma – simply eat mostly wholesome and healthy foods, but don’t be afraid to enjoy MODERATE portions of your favorite, but less-nutritious foods.  


Traveling during the holidays?

By Jannine Myers

Many of you have commenced training for the Okinawa City marathon and some of you, like myself, may find that due to holiday travel, your training will have to be interrupted. But don’t despair, there are always things you can do to either stay on track with your training or at least make modifications to minimize fitness deterioration. Here are some steps that I have taken to ensure that I can get some of my training runs in while we’re visiting my in-laws in Oklahoma at Christmas:

First of all, to give you some idea of what I am facing when we travel to Oklahoma next month, my in-laws live in a one-traffic light town with basically one main street that’s considered the “business district.” You have to understand too, that people in this town do NOT run. So whenever we have visited in the past, and my husband and I have ventured out to run through and arounds the skirts of the town (a whole 4.8 square miles), it’s hard not to notice how people stop what they’re doing and peer at us as if we’re the freak circus show that’s just arrived. For this, and other reasons, I’ve planned ahead and done some online research, something you can quite easily do too.

  • The first thing I did was enter a google search for running groups in Shawnee – this is a substantially larger town, relatively close to where my in-laws live (about a 40 minute drive). I managed to find at least two organized running clubs and was able to establish contact with Meredith Hadley, a local runner from one of the clubs.

  • After an initial response from Meredith, I proceeded to inform her that I recently started  training for a marathon in February, and that I was looking for company on one or two long runs while we were in Oklahoma. I also gave her some indication of my long run pace so that she could hopefully put me in touch with other compatibly-paced runners. As luck would have it, Meredith runs her long runs at a similar pace and is currently training with friends for the Arizona Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon in January; she was able to send me their long run training plans for December.

Meredith Hadley (second from left), with some of her running friends.
Meredith assured me that this was a ” dress-up”  day!
  • With my long runs potentially planned, the next step was figuring out how to meet up with these ladies who so warmly extended their acceptance for me to join them. I generally don’t like driving in the States since I’m from New Zealand and a left-side driver, so if I can avoid having to drive I will! Fortunately for me, there is a place in Shawnee that my husband is never opposed to visiting, hence twisting his arm to be my early-morning driver was not difficult at all. Our dialog pretty much went like this: “Honey, would you drop me off in Shawnee for my long run meet-up, and wait for me at IHOP until I get done?” “Yep, no problem!” Long runs sorted!

  • The next thing I needed to find out was what type of running apparel to pack. I sent another message to Meredith enquiring about the weather conditions and her recommendations on what to take with me. I can’t say I was thrilled when her response was, “three layers on top, two layers on bottom, gloves, and a warm hat!” Still, I’d rather be prepared and know ahead of time what to expect. Oh, and she also mentioned that the only reason they’d cancel a run is if the roads were covered in ice! Those of you who know me are already feeling sorry for me, brrrrr!

  • Now all I had left to do was fill in the extra training days, and as I mentioned above, running in the small town that my in-laws live in is a bit of a problem since I don’t really enjoy being the center of attention. There is however, another town about a 20 minute drive away that’s slightly larger (it has a Walmart at least), and one or two fitness centers! On mornings that I don’t dare to brave the cold weather, or the unwanted attention of curious onlookers, I’m willing to settle for an indoor treadmill run. I’ll just be sure not to wear my standard WOOT attire as I’m sure the cute skirt will also result in unwanted attention.

I think I’m set for our holiday trip and whether I’m able to fit in all or just a few of my training runs, the main point I want to get across to those of you who are also traveling, is that it’s possible to continue training with a little bit of advance planning. And if for some reason, it really isn’t possible to run, then just do the best you can to be as active as possible. Choose to walk whenever possible; if your family or whoever you are visiting has a dog for example, offer to walk the dog. Or try and schedule activities into your itinerary that require some type of physical exertion. But most importantly, have a GREAT time! Maintain a positive attitude and if it turns out that you are unable to run much at all, then tell yourself that an extended break from running gives your leg muscles the opportunity to fully recover and regenerate themselves.

No stressing ladies, it’s all good!

It Pays To Train For Those Ultras

By Anna Boom
Alaska Ultramarathon – September 2011 Equinox 64k

You may wonder about the cooler temperatures of Alaska. Oh yes, it is quite chilly after the Okinawa summer. I trained with you all summer in the extreme heat, humidity and intense rays.
Arriving here on September 11th, I realized how under prepared I was for the cool. You know how hard it is to pack clothes for 50 degree when it is 89 degrees and 90% humidity. Until we had a chance to shop, I layered three tops and threw my sweatshirt on top and was still chilled.

After arriving in Fairbanks, we ran around doing important pre race things such as a hot stone massage and pedicure, Chinese food for lunch, and race bib pick up. We talked a bit with some other runners and read through the map. This year the ultra ran a new course that was 64Km. The new section was described as rooty and a bit of a climb. Pause for more foreshadowing…

The race course was intensely beautiful. All around Fairbanks, there are trails for every outdoor activity you can think of: running, biking, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, snow machining. Everywhere you look, you find birch trees that in mid September turn yellow with the fall season. Throw on the bright alaskan sunshine, which starts around 7AM and ends around 8:30PM and the whole path is a golden corridor.

On Saturday morning we got ourselves ready and headed down for the 8 AM start at 50 degrees. It is a combined marathon, marathon relay and ultra start and it was only around 1000 runners. What set each group of runners apart was the color of our bibs, marathon was pink, relay yellow and ultra blue.

The course was lovely, leading through gently rolling trails, nothing too extreme, yet. When we hit mile 8, right before we started climbing, my dad was waiting to cheer us all on. Having your own cheering section is a huge mental boost, isn’t it?

At the top of Esther dome, I looked over all of Fairbanks all the way to the Alaskan mountain range, so far away. Breathtaking. You could see for hundreds of miles in every direction. The course took us back on trail that climbed and climbed. I had anticipated this climb as it has always been part of the race course. At the top, I caught wind of some awful odor (unfortunately not body odor) and down on my left was a rotting moose carcass that had seen better days a week or so ago.

This single track path, is an out and back so as we climbed, we saw the leaders running right by as we stepped off trail to let them fly by. Inspiring. Many runners would see my blue bib and yell, “Go Ultra!”, which then became my mantra.
After we finished that portion of the course, it was mile 16 and we were presented with the next challenge, The Chute. It was very steep with large rocks and was complete quad crusher. At the bottom, we took a sharp left and came onto three miles of golden rolling trail. At the end of this was mile 19 and after a mile on unpaved road, the ultra (Go Ultra!) runners peeled off to the left while the marathoners and relay continued on to the end of the 26.2. So hard taking that left…

Soon, being undertrained for this race started to become more of a reality for me. My legs were feeling like cement logs and picking my feet over small trip hazards like roots and pebbles became a mental task I had to focus on constantly. If I let my mind wander in the least little bit, like about enjoying the beauty and serenity of the trail or what time it was, I would trip and stumble. One nice part of the race course was that every mile was marked. All I had to do was count one mile at a time til I saw 39.
Sure, just count to 39! Easy peasy!! Uh hunh, yah right.
The race ran back over the same part of the earlier trail until we got to the first drop bag area at mile 28. I grabbed a quick bite and moved onto the single track out and back. As I turned right, I looked ahead and almost broke down. In front of me the trail headed straight up for a mile plus. I said aloud, “you’ve got to be $h!tt!n me”. For a moment I felt the wind knocked out of me but followed those in front of me and kept moving forward. I do not know how long it took me to complete this portion but mentally it took everything I had. As I came back out of the trail at mile 33, I dumped my pack into my drop bag and planned on finishing this race as soon as I could.

I had hoped the race would just finish on road. Instead I found myself looking down and yelling at myself to pick up my feet. I hit the last aid station at mile 37 manned by a few high school runners who happily told me the finish was just over two miles. Just two more miles. I replied that that was the worst news I had ever heard (drama much?!). My normal happy runner was nearly cramping, exhausted and wanted to be done, now. Two miles seemed undoable, as crazy as it sounds now.

I ran alone on the trail over the next two miles hoping I was going the right way. When you have run that far and are that completely pooped, seemingly easy tasks like following signs or easy directions are very challenging. Also, this thought remains at the back of your head that you don’t want to face, what if I went the wrong way?


I kept running to the end of the trail, where we popped out back at the start line area. And there was my dad, Steph, Larry the Denali bus driver, who I had just met earlier in the week (at guess where- Denali!), and everyone they recruited cheering for me! It was what I needed to make a strong finish at 7 hours 40 something minutes seventh woman overall.
Go Ultra!!

WOOT – Why Run Trails?

This is an old post but one that Anna and I felt we should post again. As most of you know, WOOT is a women’s trail running group. We meet every Saturday morning at various locations, and as much as possible (weather permitting), we try to stay off the pavement and stick to dirt trails. We love running trails, and we hope that more women will come out and experience the trails with us. If you have not yet joined us on a WOOT run, please read the following post on why you should give trail running a go.

Post by Jannine Myers [originally posted in November 2011]

Earlier this week Anna posted about our sister group, WOOP, also known as Women on Okinawa Pavement. In today’s post, I want to tell you about WOOT and why we run trails.

  1. Regular running on hard surfaces, such as pavement, causes your feet and legs to endure an enormous amount of impact with each foot strike; trail running on the other hand, is more forgiving. Because of the softer surface, there is an increase in shock absorption and a consequent decrease in potential damage to the joints and tendons. Even if you prefer running on pavement, you will benefit from getting off the road now and again and hitting the trails instead.
  • Trail running is a GREAT way to get faster and stronger! You are challenging yourself in a different way when you’re running up and down trails – the constant surge of hard effort as you’re climbing, followed by easier downhill spurts easily simulates what runners call a “fartlek” workout i.e. a type of speedplay that stresses both the aerobic and anaerobic systems, a necessary part of training if you want to see gains in speed and strength.
  • Remember my recent post about how to psychologically get in “the zone?” Well some athletes are convinced that running on trails opens up greater opportunity to do just that! When you’re out running on trails, you don’t have to worry so much about paying attention to traffic, noise, and other obstacles – instead you can run without distraction, allowing your mind and body to relax (this is of course, when you’re not enjoying the social chit chat of your WOOT companions).
  • Your health will also benefit from trail running! Breathing in clean air versus polluted air from toxic car fumes, has to be better for you.
  • SCENERY – One of the things I love about early morning WOOT runs is being able to run in a more natural environment. Running beside trees and water, and over dirt and rocks, and then reaching a summit somewhere as the sun is rising is an incredibly tranquil and peaceful experience.
In addition to all of the above, running with WOOT is a great way to break the monotony of everyday pavement running. And best of all, we provide a fun yet challenging workout for women of all running levels, in a completely social environment intended to cultivate great friendships and camaraderie.
We hope to see you at a WOOT run soon!