Saturday, July 18, 2009

Carbo Loading

Almost 10 years ago I ran the New York City Marathon. It started out as the most exhilarating experience. As I pounded through the boroughs, thousands cheered when I ran by. That's because I kept pace with four 50-something Brits dressed like the Teletubbies, and yes they carried purses.

Thankfully, the screams weren't all for Tinky Winky. I had a lot of supportive family and friends who followed me along the route and kept my spirits up. I had trained for five months and felt great. But in the Bronx, my legs began to feel numb, my mind clouded over, and my stride went from confident to baby steps. My body was so fatigued, I couldn't imagine running eight more miles.

I had hit the wall. Big time.

Hitting the wall is the term for what happens when the body loses too much glycogen. It's a common occurance during a marathon and can be alleviated by consuming more carbohydrates before and during the run.

To this day, I don't know how I made it through the final hills of Central Park to the finish line. With a quarter mile to go, I even got my legs back and sprinted to the end, where my family was like, "We were worried, the Teletubbies finished 40 minutes ago."

But when I look back on the experience now, I don't think about how a bunch of men twice my age, wearing pastel-colored fur from head to toe, smoked me. No I don't think about that at all. Really, I don't.

What I realize is that I was not eating nearly enough leading up to and during the race. I trained during a hot and sticky summer while living in an apartment with no a/c. While I stuck to the training schedule - and I credit this for the mental fortitude to push through my pain - it kind of killed my appetite. I lost a lot of weight. I can't say that I minded being able to fit into my skinny jeans, but in hindsight this was a big red flag that I was burning way more calories than I was consuming.

Plus I was eating a lot of processed crap, like Rice-a-Roni (a food staple in my 20s), and I made little effort to eat the right mix of protein and carbs, which is essential if you want to perform well in a marathon or other endurance activity. It's not that I didn't know what to eat, it was more that I thought my body could handle it. I was wrong.

I am proud of finishing the marathon, but I don't plan to run another one. I don't think my body is cut out to run 26.2 miles. Nothing should be that painful. Maybe it would have been different if I had eaten better. I think so, but I'll never know. In the meantime, I have run some halfs, 10-milers, and my favorite distance - the 10K, which is 6.2 miles.

In fact I have a 10K coming up in about nine hours. That's what inspired me to make this dish tonight. I clipped it from the August 2009 issue of Real Simple magazine, with a few substitutions.

Linguine with Squash and Chickpeas (the magazine calls for zucchini, I used yellow squash)
3/4 bag of linguine
2T olive oil
2 squash (the mag calls for 3 small zucchini), cut into thin half moons
1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 t crushed red pepper
grated asiago cheese (the mag calls for parmesan)

Cook the pasta; reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water; drain; return pasta to pot. While you're cooking the pasta, heat the olive oil in a skllet, add the squash and salt. Cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the chickpeas, garlic, and red pepper, and cook for 2-3 mintes. Toss the pasta with the reserved water and mix with the vegetables. Add grated cheese.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

You failed to mention that when you ate your rice a roni, it was out of a tupperware! Glad to see you've matured. I have both zucchini and yellow squash ready - maybe I'll make this too!


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