There were about 900 runners who came out to run on this cold, blustery 30 degree March morning here in Rhode Island. My husband and I came prepared with our hats, gloves and Underarmor gear, and waited in a heated tent for the race to start. When the gun went off we began our journey, running past the open ocean where we were greeted with a steady cold wind hitting us in the face, reminding us that winter was not quite over yet. Then, as we ran past the beaches, there were beautiful pastures with farm houses and log fences along a quiet country road. There were a few steep hills and some rolling hills.
I was running my fastest pace yet at this half marathon, feeling strong and energetic like I had wings on my back and was floating on clouds. I sprinted across the finish line at 1:43, beating my time from almost 2 years ago. Could it be that I wanted to finish fast to get out of the cold or was it much more than that? Why is it that some races I feel like I am running on soft pillows and others I feel like I have cinder blocks tied to my shoes?
Over the years I have run hard races where I’ve crashed and burned, suffering where I am almost crawling across the finish line…or as I pass a water station I want to ask one of the volunteers to give me a ride back. I have also run races where I’ve felt as if I had a cape on, with a big “S” on my shirt, feeling invincible.
No matter how hard I train or what I do, every race is a different experience. In my pursuit to figure out why some runs are horrible and why some are my best, I have read many books and articles, followed the best vegan athletes, and experimented with juices, bars, gels and meals. I have tried to keep a food log of what I ate the day before and the morning of a race.
There is so much confusion on what to eat before a race and it can be quite technical on how it all works. How to fuel, how much water to drink, are those energy gels good and do they work? What about carb loading the night before—is all that just a myth?
There are hundreds of vendors at race expos all promoting their energy products. Some are simply not healthy and can contain high amounts of sugars and preservatives. I have tried making my share of energy concoctions, bars, juices and gels—some that work ok and some that simply taste awful. However, here is a recipe that I recently made and ate the morning of my PR half marathon and more recently on a 20 mile run. They provided a sustained energy that did not give me that crash. They taste great and can be easily carried with you.
I have also included a brief description of some health benefits below. They are not just for races; they are also great for a midday snack when feeling that afternoon slumpy-ness. They are simple and quick to make. I make them all the time and consider them my staple running snack.
• 1/2 cup or a little more of almond
• 1 Tsp vanilla extract
• Dash of sea salt and chia seeds
• 1/3 cup pre-soaked dates
• 1 cup shredded coconut
• 1/4 cup ground flax
• 1 Tbsp agave nectar (or another natural sweetener)
• Juice of 1 lemon
• Zest of 1 lemon
• 1 ½ tsp of Sunwarior activated barley or maca.
1. Place almonds, vanilla, salt, agave, lemon juice and flax into your food processor and blend until smooth.
2. Place the rest of the ingredients into your food processor with blended ingredients and pulse until mixed.
3. Using your hands, form into little round balls or simply press them into a square dish to make bars
4. Store in a sealed-tight container in the refrigerator or freeze them for whenever you need them.
1. DATES – are a favorite of Brendan Brazier (the ultra-triathlon champion and creator of Vega products) and other endurance athletes. They are high glycemic providing quicker energy but, not like refined sugars, they pack in glucose, fructose and sucrose naturally. Some of the essential minerals include calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc. Some vitamins are thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin A and K. I have taken a few of them in a baggy on a long run as an energy source. http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/health-benefits-of-dates.html
2. ALMONDS– These nuts are packed with nutrients which have been getting much attention. They contain Vitamin E, calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper and niacin. They are an anti-inflammatory and help to boost energy because of the Riboflavin, manganese and copper present. Also, almonds are a great source of fiber and for keeping the body alkaline. http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/seed-and-nut/health-benefits-of-almonds.html
3. COCONUT– Full of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. This great fruit provides enormous health benefits, including keeping the blood sugar stabilized, lowering LDL cholesterol, and keeping the body hydrated with electrolytes. They are packed with calcium, potassium and magnesium. This is great for an energy boost, providing improved endurance and helping to promote a healthy thyroid to relieve some symptoms of fatigue. Use coconut water for the electrolytes to hydrate during long endurance runs or other sports. https://www.coconutsecret.com/coconuthealthsecrets2.html
4. FLAX SEED– These little seeds have also been in the spot light as a super food. They are rich in Omega 3 antioxidants, essential fatty acids, fiber, and Vitamin B-1 which helps turn food in your body into energy. They also contain small amounts of iron, zinc and potassium. Their antioxidant qualities are able to fight free radicals in the body. Flax seed is better ground than in whole form because they don’t digest as well and can cause stomach discomfort, and not all of the beneficial nutrients will be absorbed. Whole seeds can simply be ground up in a coffee grinder. http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/benefits-ground-flaxseed-smoothies-5332.html
5. LEMONS – These are another favorite because of the high content of potassium and anti-inflammatory properties. These bright yellow fruits provide alkaline to the body, which is essential for keeping the body’s ph balanced. They are full of antioxidants as well as natural citric acid, calcium, magnesium and potassium, are very high in vitamin C, bioflavonoids, pectin, and limonene, they fight free radicals and are an anti-inflammatory, regulate blood pressure, promote immunity and fight infection. Try some putting slices of lemon in water for a little flavor and a bunch of health benefits. http://www.beliefnet.com/Health/Physical-Health/Hidden-Health-Secrets-of-Lemons.aspx#E16eOr9QXgyAywQm.99
6. SUNWARRIOR – According the Sunwarrior’s website, organic activated barley is a super food that has been used for thousands of years by ancient warriors. It was used to help with long marches and ferocious battles. Today it is used in competitions to maintain endurance, increase performance, and provide a sustained energy for athletes without the crash that is often seen with other energy enhancers. Activating barley is believed to be the best for naturally occurring fiber, enzymes, polysaccharides, and protein. Check out more information on their website. http://www.sunwarrior.com/store/activated-barley-900-gm-container.html