Matt Fitzgerald is certainly a guiding light for runners blinded by science. In this book, which I have been poring over these past 10 days, he spells out a pretty tasty dietary plan for the week leading up to The Big Race.
I like Fitzgerald’s guidance. He’s a sports nutritionist and his writing always makes sense. Several of my running buddies are smitten by his advice on eating to prevent hitting the wall.
I’ve met that wall (my first ever London Marathon, 2009, tears at mile 22), and I’ve also swerved the other way in recent events (Beachy Head Marathon, 2016: 4 toilet breaks) by over consuming carbs and ending up in digestive distress. Both eventualities proved disastrous, so I’m hoping that this time round, the Berlin Marathon in four days’ time, I will have at least fuelled up efficiently.
Matt Fitzgerald advocates 10 days of messing around with your diet in various ways, and this year, during my taper, I’ve followed the Fitzgerald protocol. Having been hobbled by injury for much of the 16-week training period, the idea of preparing my body on the inside for Sunday’s physical test seems worth a punt – any port in a storm. I’m also happy to concede that many brilliant runners just carry on eating what they always eat and achieve a good time.
I’m currently in fat loading. This means that 65% of my daily meals have to be high fat. So that’s omelettes for breakfast, avocados and smoked mackerel for lunch, more fish and buttery sauces with green leafy veg for dinner, lots of nuts scattered throughout the day and a small amount of berries in my big fat Greek yogurt. And I cannot have anything lovely like bread, potatoes, pasta or rice to accompany these fat fests.
Tomorrow sees my switch to carb loading, so I dial back on fat and let bagels, bread and all things starchy back into my life. I cannot wait.
All the while, caffeine is not allowed. So it’s herbal teas (and decaffeinated builders’) and chicory based coffee-style beverage all the way.
The fat thing’s nearly over. Just as well because it’s not suiting me. Running feels difficult– everything feels more difficult – I fall asleep every time I sit down and I’m struggling to keep up to the speeds suggested on the 3:40 training plan. More amusingly, my fat load has coincided with east London’s big news: the Fatberg under the streets of Whitechapel.
A mental image of my insides all clogged with fat, just like the Victorian sewers, haunts me as I shovel buttery scrambled egg into my maw, while fantasising about toast. And real coffee.
Friday will be quite a test. That’s when I attempt the ‘Carbo Bang’, as recommended by a fellow Berliner who ran Manchester in 3.03 this year. It’s not as sexy as the name suggests. Basically you run a few fast intervals in a session that lasts about 20 minutes in total, before breakfast. Then you come home and chow down on high-energy treats, such as malt loaf, scones, soft pretzels and other load stars. Then you feel a bit bloated, but, apparently, you’ll be ready for anything come Sunday. Especially if you light the touch paper at breakfast on the Big Morning, by downing your first dose of caffeine in over a week.
Another friend (a doctor) advised Imodium. I see where she’s coming from. It’s packed and ready. Alongside the malt loaf. Berlin here I come.