Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ode to a Banana (or how I survived my 12 mile run)

Oh Banana, Banana, I love you so
I ran 12 miles & didn't have to go!
Thanks to you, my kind yellow friend
I didn't need to run wearing Depends.
Banana, without you where would I be?
(I'd be in the bathroom, moaning, "Why me?")


The nice thing about having a blog about training for my first marathon is that when I have a question about a running problem, I actually get a lot of good advice. Last week I asked whether I'd have to run today's 12 miler on an empty stomach because my previous double-digit runs had left me in gastrointestinal agony. 

From all of you, I got great advice, empathy and even some sample menus. I was able to use these suggestions to put together a strategy for this week's run--and hooray! The strategy worked. Today I went the furthest I've ever gone, 12 miles, finished in 1:54 which actually included a five minute water break, and best of all, didn't have an upset stomach at any point.

I thought I'd write out this strategy so that (a) I can remember it for future long runs, and (b) I can offer it up to any other runners who suffer from IBS.

If you couldn't tell by my brilliant banana poetry, bananas were a big part of this plan. Many people emailed me to tell me what a perfect pre-run fuel a banana is, but what was especially persuasive to me was that my father, who has Crohn's disease and is genetically responsible for my IBS (thanks, Dad!), told me he's been pretty much symptom free since he began eating bananas with peanut butter. I was hoping my body would react to bananas (with some peanut butter added for protein) the same way, and luckily, it did.

Here's the eating/drinking plan I followed (you may recognize some of your own advice here, and if so, thanks!)

Day before the run
  • Follow the "residual diet" that people with severe Crohn's and IBS follow, which is basically all refined carbs, low-acid fruits and vegetables and simply prepared meats.
  • Eat a heavy lunch but a light dinner that contains a simple carb
  • Drink a lot of water dall day. NO GATORADE! (Electrolyte drinks are a big IBS trigger)
  • Do something relaxing (I took Pilates Friday morning.)

Morning before the run
  • Wake up at least an hour before the run (4:15 am today!!) and eat a banana with peanut butter and some black coffee (no milk)
  • Dress in loose fitting clothes
  • Don't wear a fuel belt or anything else tight around your waist (I carried my water)
During the run
  • Drink room-temperature water. Don't drink sports drinks. Don't drink too much, either.
  • Have a very small amount of performance fuel after 45 minutes of running (I ate a few Jelly Belly Sport Beans, not the whole pack)
  • Relax. Being too tense or running faster than you're comfortable can be perceived as stress.
After the run
  • Within 30 minutes eat a Clif bar or another high protein/carb food that is made from natural ingredients
  • After that, don't eat again for three or four hours
  • Have a relatively large lunch and afternoon snack and a very light dinner
Advice offered but discarded (sorry!): give up running altogether because people with IBS can't run. That might be true for some people, but I just don't buy it for me. Hey, we colon-impaired people can do anything, with the right fuel and the right strategy!

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