The week of eating dangerously

In the past, when I race a marathon, I have hit the wall. So I need to carboload.

Most people seem to have a misconception when it comes to carboloading — the term does not mean eating a lot of pasta the night before. That’s pretty much useless.

No, it’s much less pleasant. The traditional method involves starting about a week before the race and then for three days eating no carbohydrates at all – just high protein foods. There are also specially timed runs, a 90 minute run a little slower than marathon pace at the start of the process, and about 3 mile intervals at the end. The first makes the body crave more carbs, and the last essentially flushes any carbs left in the body. Often it is not possible to complete the last run.

After this last run one immediately starts eating carbs and nothing but carbs. 100+ grams of carbs an hour for 8 hours. That doesn’t sound like much but it means a pound of potatoes an hour, or something equivalent.

After the body has been deprived of carbs it will super-saturate the muscles with glycogen (a molecule-complex which contains an enormous amount of glucose and is the energy storage device for the muscles).

Nowadays many people claim the depletion phase is unnecessary and that carbo-loading without depletion is almost as effective. But still the carbo-loading must be a massive operation, not a simple pasta dinner the night before.


  • SatNormally, when I get up before Saturday workouts I have some recovery drink and a handful of raisins or so. Then during the workout I will eat a gel-pack or have more recovery drink. But not today.Today I mix some powered Glutamine (pure amino acid) in water and eat a sardine. Then off to the workout. Kent and I are supposed to do 90 minutes at 7:15-7:30; this is not a difficult pace to run at, but it is hard for us to find (we normally run faster or slower) so we tend to flop between running 8 minute pace and 6:50s. We average a little fast. I start to feel hungry. Kent does not. He’s had a bowl of oat-meal beforehand. It turns out he’s not carbo-loading. That’s cheating! He shouldn’t be running with me, he should run with Kary and Jeff, the non-carbo-loaders. They’ve got something different…Then home for some eggs and more sardines. Um. Yum. I’m still hungry though. I constantly under-estimate the amount of protein I need when I don’t eat anything else. I open another can of sardines and eat half the can. Still hungry. The rest of the can.Off to the farmers’ market. This is hard. All this fruit, and I can’t eat any of it. But I need to buy some yams today for Tuesday. I come away with 6lb of yams. They look huge. Also a pound of stew beef for this evening and tomorrow.Home. More eggs and fish for lunch. They aren’t very appetizing.I decide to bike the first part of the marathon course — up to mile 23 or so. Mile 23 to the finish is something I do almost every day, sometimes more than once; it’s my route into town, but I don’t have the early part memorized.

    My legs feel very tired. The route seems very long. Depletion may be working.

    Home I cook my stew beef. I eat the whole pound.

    I have a slight headache. I feel hungry and stuffed. I feel weird.

  • SunMore fish and eggs for breakfast. I feel at once hungry and sick. Mildly nauseous.When I get on my bike I feel tired and weak. I aqua-jog very slowly. I get head rushes in yoga.After eating: light-headed, dizzy, faint headache.I wake in the middle of the night with an urgent need to find the toilet. Luckily it fades without vomiting.
  • MonSitting or lying I feel fine. Standing I’m light-headed, and slightly sick.That faded after a little activity and was unnoticeable in my 4 mile easy run. The run wasn’t easy though; I felt very weak and hungry. Weak and slow biking to yoga, weak with headrushes in yoga.How much of this is lack of calories, and how much is lack (or excess) of nutrients? I don’t seem to be able to eat enough protein to account for my caloric needs. If I try to eat more I feel sick.Today I have eaten more protein, but in four “meals” rather than three. I don’t feel as sick as I did yesterday, just weak.

    I do wake around midnight feeling a little ill, but not as bad as last night.

  • TueI still can’t eat any carbs until I do my workout; then I must eat too many. I bike over to San Marcos, but I don’t feel as drained as I did yesterday; so I think a large part of my problem was lack of calories.I warm-up with the group. It requires some concentration to keep up, but it isn’t too bad.Joy and I are the only two (in our little clique) who are depleting/loading. Rusty tells us to do 2 miles at 20 seconds faster than goal marathon pace. Goal pace for me is 6:50, so I should do 6:30s. It sounds easy for mile repeats, and only two! But Rusty also tells us we should run hard enough to get our heart rate up.

    Joy and I do our strides, and I’m completely exhausted just running 2*100m. But I get my breath back and we line up and take off.

    I haven’t been on the track for more than a year. Predictably we go out to fast, 20 seconds for the first 100m (5:20 pace). I tell Joy we should slow, but she’ll have none of it; so I let her go.

    This is much harder than it should be. I stop looking at my watch and just run. Gasping. I control my breath. I don’t need to gasp. But I find I do need to grit my teeth. Ug.

    First mile turns out to be 6:12 for me (faster for Joy, of course). I go up to Rusty to find out how long the rest between miles is and he tells me I’m done. Mmm. I think I could do a bit more, but I shan’t argue. Glad to be done.

    Actually I’m rather proud. This time I depleted to the point that I couldn’t finish the workout (last year I finished. Of course last year I ran the pace I was set rather than going faster, but I think, from what I’ve read, that one loads better after pushing harder).

    Joy has to run another half-mile.


  • TueI’m supposed to drink 200g carbs (=~800Calories) right now — special sugars dissolved in water, or recovery drink. It’s almost half a gallon. I’ve brought it, pre-mixed, to the track, and down it goes. Almost instantly I feel better. I eat two fig-newtons too because I wanted something real. Then I go home to breakfast.

    Um. There’s a problem with drinking a half gallon of water that’s been sitting around in 40° weather — I quickly become very cold and the bike ride home isn’t pleasant.

    Now I’m supposed to consume another 800g of carbs in the course of the next 8 hours. That’s about 1lb of yams an hour.

    And drink another gallon of water.

  • Thur Oh dear, I seem to have a mild case of the dire rear today. That’s what did me in (I think) last time I tried to carbo-load. Maybe I should just give up.

One Response to “The week of eating dangerously”

  1. Joy Says:

    George. You are a total machine. You seem to forget that you bike everywhere you go. If I had to bike to and from track Tuesday you would have had to scrape me off the ground after our first stride. Seriously.

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