Everything I'm Eating to Carbo-Load for the NYC Marathon
If you're going to assault your body with carbohydrates for a few days, New York is the best place to do it.
This Sunday, I'm joining 50,000 other masochistic humans in the city of bagels and pizza to run the New York City Marathon, one of the best days in the city all year. Despite months of training, the days leading up to the race are critical: It’s the infamous carbo-loading time. I may not be a professional runner, but I do like to think of life as one big carbo-load for the coffin. Here's what I’m planning to eat in the 48 hours leading up to the marathon.
I always like to go big with my Friday breakfast(s). Last year, I attended a book party for Brooklyn bakery Bien Cuit and ate six types of breads. This year, it’s three breakfasts and some snacks, all before 10 a.m. Someone brings homemade fruit and nut protein bars to my workout group, November Project, to rally everyone up. I'm glad they are cut into square-inch pieces, or else I'd be rolling in cashews.
At 8:30 a.m., I get home and make two corn cakes with chocolate coconut peanut butter and frozen banana. Then I remember I still have overbaked blondies in my freezer that I rolled up into snack balls, so I eat those, too.
When I get to the TT office at 9 a.m., I have a piece of toast, an orange and some pear-ginger pie. I don't love piecrust, so I eat the filling and share the crust with a coworker.
Our managing director, Jane Frye, arrives at 10 a.m., bearing bagels and cream cheese from Brooklyn Bagel as pre-marathon inspiration. The cinnamon raisin ones are still warm and taste like a dream. I also have some more pie, but this time decide I love piecrust and eat it all.
This is typically the last time I have anything remotely heart healthy. It's also the last fibrous meal I eat (sorry). I have either or all of the following: an egg white omelet with spinach, roasted vegetables, carrots with hummus and pretzels (more salt means you retain more water, which you actually want). Dessert is ice cream (which I've consumed more than my fair share of lately to boost calcium for my bones after a recent unwelcome injury), a bowl of cereal and probably toast. I like to think of that as my post-dinner carb course.
I always start the day before a race with a bagel, even if I’m not in New York. If I’m out of town, I'll stash one (or two) in my carry-on, since you never know who you can trust to recommend a good bagel.
Depending on when I wake up, this segues into the most intensely beige meal you can imagine: egg whites, toasted bagel, steamed white potato, banana slices and lots of flaky salt. This is usually when I start to feel miserable.
Runners swear by their pre-race pasta meals, so who am I to buck tradition? I'll make a simple bowl of pasta, drizzle it ever so lightly with olive oil (you're supposed to cut down on fats, but my nerves can't stomach thick tomato sauce), and a ton of salt and pepper.
Race-day jitters are high, blood sugar is skyrocketing and my desire to eat more carbs is generally at an all-time low. I know it's important, though, so I typically pack a toasted English muffin with almond butter, cinnamon and banana for the long journey to the start line. The trip to Staten Island starts at 5:30 a.m., but I won't start running until around 10. That's like waking up at a decent hour and not eating breakfast until 2 p.m. Snacks are crucial. This is the last thing I eat until after the race, unless you count the gross-but-necessary gels mid-run.
Carbo-loading strategy is different for everyone, so I asked my friends and teammates about their preferences and superstitions. One carries around bags of cereal for a 24/7 fix (she sent photo evidence), and another swears by pregaming with large amounts of ice cream. I, for one, refuse to eat at a restaurant for the week leading up to the race: If I'm going to get food poisoning, I'd rather poison myself. Some of my fellow runners disagree.
Alison Feller: "OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE BAKED POTATO. Butter only (no sour cream, cheese, etc.). Outback Steakhouse has truly perfected the art of the hot potato with a crispy, lightly salted skin. Not only is it delicious, but it's better than the same ol' bowl of pasta. (Bonus: If you're gluten free, which I'm not, you can double down on Outback potatoes, bellyache free.)" Alison claims that the one time she skipped this meal, she didn't have a good race.
Myles Fennon: "Does Red Bull have carbs? I'm a serious believer in Red Bull. It's rocket fuel." (Note: Myles runs sub-three-hour marathons, podiums at 50K races and has run 100 miles in under 25 hours. That might quiet energy drink haters.)
Molly Anne Kreter: "I carbo-load with steamed buns, then I fuel in dumplings"—this is true; I've witnessed her pull out a Ziploc bag of dumplings on a 20-mile run—"and doughnuts are mainly fuel." Last year, she stopped at Peter Pan Bakery for a mid-marathon doughnut on the course, had a beer a mile later and still finished in four hours.
So maybe my lame routine isn't scientifically proven, but for now, I'm sticking to it. After the race though? A doughnut ring for every finger, please.
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