I’d like to think that one day, I’ll be one of those runners with wisps of gray in my hair who nonchalantly passes by some 20 year old in a long distance race. The last time I ran the half, I was the “passer-ee,” trailing behind runners 30 to even 40 years my senior. It was a low point, an embarrassment, and a “you’ve gotta do something, Jessie” moment.
The half-marathon is a formidable 13.1 miles. It bridges the gap between the shorter 5k/10k and the grueling marathon. It distinguishes those runners who sign up for that charity 5k run on the fly from others who are more serious about running. To many, 13.1 miles is unfathomable, but for serious runners, it’s just another race.
Don’t get me wrong. Some people are built for speed, and those that are can successfully compete in 5Ks and under. But for runners like me whose strength lies more on the endurance end of the spectrum (actually, I really have neither), we choose to subject ourselves to distance running, often putting more miles on our shoes in a week than most Americans do in a year. After my first half, I felt like I died and, for a lack of better words, went to hell. Hopefully, tomorrow’s half won’t be a repeat.
One of my good friends, Jerry, is what Clare and I would call- a real runner. Someone who has the form and technique. Someone who gives up partying so that he can wake up early to train. I have great respect for runners who work full-time and have a family while still managing to put 40+ miles on their shoes each week. There are stories of mothers who wake up at 4am just to train and of others who train twice a day because of their busy schedules.
Anyway, somewhere in those paragraphs, I rambled away. I meant to say that Jerry has been super helpful in helping me understand what I did wrong in my first half and how to correct it. So for those of you who are toying with the idea of lacing your shoes and perhaps trying a half, maybe you can learn from my mistakes.
- While many people excessively carbo-load the week prior to, I didn’t at all. In fact, since I was more concerned about my weight and thus limiting my carb intake, I virtually had none until the night before. Even then, it was a serving of pasta (smothered in cheap cheese from a club meeting) and clearly not enough to last my glycogen storage for the race. By mile 8, I felt my legs giving way. While my heart was fine, my legs physically struggled and it just got worse with each mile. So while you don’t want to over-load (Jerry says that he doesn’t carbo-load for any races under 16 miles, but I wouldn’t follow that), you definitely want to make sure that you’re eating enough carbs at least 4 days prior to race day.
- Fiber isn’t always good. On the day before the race, avoid fiber. Fiber is empty weight that sits in your stomach if it’s not out of your system before the race day. Hence, stock up on that whole grain at least 2 days before the race.
- Have a light dinner the night before. Clare can attest to this. If you eat junk the day before, chances are, that junk will still be with you while you’re running. Jerry’s prescribed meal is a banana and a light bowl of pasta with a bit of protein. On the morning of, have a slice of toast with jam, but nothing big. Just think about what’ll be in your stomach for 13.1 miles if you eat too much.
- Stop running. Many of those training plans have you running until about 2 days before the race. Others actually tell you to stop running 5-6 days prior to. Obviously, that’s assuming that you’ve put in the work and have gotten in a long run 10 days prior to race day.
- Get plenty of sleep and and relax. Don’t use your feet much the day before.
With that, here’s a pre-race salad that I made for an early lunch this morning. I know I said to go low on the fiber (and apples do have fiber), but if you have it early enough the day before, it’ll be fine. This salad’s rich in protein, vitamins, healthy (okay maybe a bit of bad) fat, and actually- perfect for anytime, not just pre-race day.
The inspiration came from this Arugula, walnut, and Brie salad that Jungyon had at The Smith a few weeks ago. After some experimenting and thinking about all those other great salad’s I’ve had, I realized that adding dried fruit goes really far in a salad.
Pre-race Salad w/ brie & walnuts
- Spring mix leaves
- 1 Granny Smith Apple
- Handful of walnuts
- Chunk of Brie (use with caution)
- Dried apricots, pineapple (cranberries also would work!)
- Grilled chicken or roast pork
- Juice of half an orange
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
Cut the apple in half and get rid of the seeds. Then slice the apple again, into quarters. Using a sharp knife, carefully slice the apple so that you get thin slices (quarter-inch thick). After, take the chunk of brie and cut it into small cubes. The brie might get really creamy, but that’s okay. Slice up any other dried fruit that’s also too big.
In a large bowl, throw everything but the protein together and toss until combined. In a small cup, whisk together the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. It’s going to take some time because they naturally tend to separate. When thoroughly mixed, add in the orange juice and the honey.
Combine the dressing with the salad, add the protein, and you’re done!
Note- I’m one of those people who like to lightly dress my salad so you may need more olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I also really like balsamic vinegar, so it may be a bit acidic for some people. But I made this for my friends and they had no complaints. If you don’t have orange juice or honey, just the olive oil and balsamic vinegar will do, but the other two ingredients really do add that gentle sweetness.
Photo du jour: I was suprisingly really happy with this picture because it’s actually exactly how I pictured it in my head. I wanted to juxtapose that sweeping gothic Grace Church that sits in the middle of busy Broadway in NYC. It’s almost a paradox to me, but it’s what makes NYC so special. Anyway, I love the Chase logo because it just represents how urban the setting is.