As you already know, last Sunday I completed the Köln (Cologne) Half-Marathon, my first half ever. Hooray! :)
According to my Apple Watch and Strava, I finished the race in 1:54:55, but it seems that the official time is in fact 1:55:22. Overall, not bad, but I could have finished in 1:45 (or even less) – as planned – if it wasn’t for the pre-race jitters.
I mean you go and train hard all year round (the article about my training is coming soon), eat the right food and then there is this night before the race when you simply cannot sleep. If you take a closer look at my face, you can easily guess that the night before was pretty rough. Basically, I slept about 4 hours.
On the other hand, after this experience, I think who denies having fears or nerves before any race, is either a liar or NOT an enthusiastic athlete.
Anyway, I placed 758 out of 4157 women and 110 out of 502 women (my age group), which means top 20% women’s and top 25% age group. Considering that I am doing it just for fun, I’m REALLY happy with the result.
Now, I know I promised to wrap up the training, food and lessons learned all together, but I realized that’s not going to be concise nor entertaining. So, therefore, today I will only talk about what I ate during the week and the morning of the half-marathon race.
Do you know that proper nutrition will help you perform your best on the race day? Well, believe it! That was, in fact, my only weapon to finish the race in that reasonable timing as I was lacking on sleep.
ADVICE: NEVER (but absolutely never) try any new foods on your Race Day!
I will be honest with you and admit that I didn’t eat anything else besides the food I cook 5 days before the race. I stuck with my plan even the day before the race when I met with two of my very good friends that decided to take pizza at lunch that day. Now imagine the temptation! :))
Recommandation: Figure out your meal plan in advance and take it into account when you make plans for the race day.
Another important thing is that you shouldn’t also experiment with the quantity and timing of the food you eat before you run. I don’t know about you – we are all different – but I need up to three hours to digest food before I can run comfortably.
What works for me: My favorite breakfast is this Acai Granola Bowl (get the recipe here) served with fresh figs, blueberries, 1/2 banana and Greek yoghurt, a cup of coffee and a glass of water with calcium.
I woke up at 5 am to have the breakfast as the race was supposed to start at 8:30 am.
5 day before the race
Now you must have heard that hydration and a good nutrition plan are essential for training and running. But if you are anything like me – drinking lots of water on a daily basis – then you should leave the water out of the equation and focus mainly on your carb intake (of course you should keep drinking water as usual – ‘one less thing to worry about’).
So 5 days before the race I started loading up on carbs by adding pasta and starches to my diet as I normally eat before any long training run.
My advice to you is plan on eating – if not all the time – at least a week before the race, a balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables (I personally avoided brussels sprouts and broccoli 5 days before the race), legumes (I also avoided beans, but I ate chickpeas and hummus), whole grains (please!), and lean protein on a daily basis. Carbohydrates should make up about 60 percent of your daily total caloric intake.
Recommandation: Don’t go overboard and store more fuel than you need. You will feel bloated and lethargic.
I personally prefer to increase my carb intake for 5 days before the race rather than loading up on pasta only the night before.
What works for me: My last BIG meal (of course pasta) was two nights before the race as I tried to avoid to feel bloated on the morning of the race. And it worked perfectly.
Two night before the race I decided to keep it simple and made myself this vegetarian pasta with only with a few mushrooms, 1/2 zucchini, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 medium onion, and 10 cherry tomatoes (I love cherries!).
The night before the race (not very late, though), I had pasta AGAIN (less than the previous night) with curry chicken and Greek salad – so delicious together served in a bowl.
Right before the race, I had to HAVE my kind of energy boost – please meet my favorite Raw Cacao Nib Coconut Bites (get the recipe here). This time, I dressed them up by rolling them in crushed cashew.
And if I were you, I would at least try to experiment using different foods during your regular training to make sure which one you like and how much you need to take.
The next time I run a half-marathon (btw, I already registered for my second half-marathon, this time in Düsseldorf on the 8th of November, so looking forward to it!), I’m going to run without a timing in mind and ‘sleep more and stress less’ – as one of my friends advised me the other day.
That being said, it was a BEAUTIFUL race and I absolutely loved every step of the way even when I had to walk for a few minutes because of the sharp pain I felt in the right side of my abdomen, just below the ribs (only between km 14 and 17, without any further pain). Not to worry, side stitches are a very common problem among runners.
Now looking forward to the next one as I strongly believe that the more I run for speed, the more I realize there is so much to improve and learn.
I hope my article is a practical and informative nutrition plan that you can implement for your first half-marathon too. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to ask.