Desiree Linden was the top American finisher at the Boston Marathon on Monday, running 2:25:39 to finish 4th. “It was definitely a mix of fun but tough, gritty conditions,” Linden said, referring to the rainy and windy race weather. Part of being able to run a strong 26.2 miles comes from her nutrition plan. Linden incorporates healthy eating and PowerBar drinks and gels in her strategic nutritional plan during training and races. She shared some of her top race-day nutrition tips so you can fuel like a pro.
Find a pre-race dinner and breakfast that work for you. Linden recommends having a “good hearty meal” with carbohydrates the night before the race. For her that means keeping a bland diet of foods, such as pasta and white rice. An hour before the race, she always take a non-caffienated PowerGel and sips on PowerBar Perform electrolyte drink.
What You Can Do: Experiment with different meals to find out what types of foods work for you. Once you know what your stomach can handle, stick with it. Use Desi’s tip to keep your diet bland— cut back on fried, overly fatty, or spicy foods. If you aren’t sure what to eat, here are some ideas on how to fuel for 26.2.
Have a fueling plan for your race. Linden starts with PowerBar Perform in the beginning of a race before switching to gels. She knows which mid-race fuel and flavors works for her. “PowerGel Double Latte has been my go-to. The taste is awesome because I’m a huge coffee fan. I can’t go two and a half hours without a coffee fix anyway!”
What You Can Do: Whether it is gels, chews, drinks or a combination, find a mid-run fuel that both you and your stomach enjoy. A good time to experiment is during long runs. Practice with your fuel of choice and figure out the best time to take in food and fluids. By the time you get to race day, you’ll know exactly when to drink or open a gel.
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Don’t chug! Even elites have to practice taking in fluids during the races. “The biggest thing in my build-up was just practicing and working on getting fluid in while running hard,” says Linden. “It’s definelty teaching your gut how to handle the sloshing around. It is almost inevitable that its going to be a little uncomfortable.” Linden used a 10 ounce bottle that she could carry with her if she needed to sip slowly.
What You Can Do: When going through a water stop, there’s no need to chug and run. Hold on to your cup for a few moments and make sure you are able to take in enough fluids. These water stop tips will ensure you are a pro. If those paper cups are just not working for you, consider carrying a handheld bottle during the race.
Recover properly—but treat yourself. After the race, Linden goes right for her recovery drink. “That’s the first thing you do in that 30-minute window.” After she is properly recovered, she definitely doesn’t deny herself some treats. “I let myself cheat a little bit,” she confesses. “I just go for the indulgences like a burger or a beer. If a donut is around, I won’t turn it down.”
What You Can Do: Be sure you eat a mix of protein, carbs and fluids in the 30-minute window after you finish. Your muscles will thank you. These snacks can help you recover quickly and are easy to eat right after running. Later on in the day, celebrate! You just finished a big race. Let yourself have whatever your body craves. However make sure you have a big bottle of water right by your side to avoid dehydration.
Find out where you can improve. While Linden was happy with her race, she finds that there are always ways to get better. “I missed a bottle in the middle of the race and I got stuck taking water, so you kind of wonder if that played any role in the outcome.” She also was hesitant to hold on to her fluid bottle towards the end of the race, worried it would interfere with her pace.
What You Can Do: Look over your race plan and see where you could improve upon your nutrition, both before and during race-day. Often time runners forgo fuel or fluids in the last miles, thinking it will slow them down. Continuing to take fuel in the last miles could mean the difference between finishing strong and hitting the wall.