Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In the long run ...

Em and I "chill out" after a 25-mile training run along the Hudson
 River from the Staten Island Ferry to the George Washington
Bridge--and back. 

For years running a marathon has been one of the to-dos on my bucket list. When I saw an ad in the Springfield News-Leader last April announcing the formation of a Galloway method training group, I decided that maybe it was time to check this (probably ill-conceived) goal off my list. After all, I reasoned, I’m not getting any younger.

So I joined the group and began the training process for the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Fitness Festival Marathon (on Nov. 2), running long runs each Saturday with my long-suffering fellow trainees. I also enlisted my daughter Emily (who lives in NYC) to run the marathon with me. (She had already run a couple of the 26.2-mile races, so she knew what she was getting into, but she quickly agreed anyway.) Then I booked trips to NYC to trudge through a couple of long runs with her.  (Any excuse to visit the Big Apple.) Finally, my dear, patient husband Doug, a seasoned marathoner, also agreed to endure a couple of other grueling long runs with me while we were traveling to the Grand Canyon in July and to Berlin in August.
Even though I’ve had serious doubts about my ability to cover the marathon’s distance, my biggest concern throughout the process has been dealing with the issues that arise from celiac disease: What happens if I accidentally eat gluten before a run? Will I have to run for a restroom while I’m out on the trail? Since I can’t eat most carbs, will I have the energy to cover the long distance? What can I eat during the long runs to avoid “bonking”?

By trial and error, I’ve found workable solutions to these problems as my training has progressed. First, I’ve tried to be extra careful to avoid “glutening” during this six-month-long training process, preparing as many of my own meals as possible or eating at restaurants that I know to be reliable sources of gluten-free meals.

Morning-time diarrhea has been an ongoing problem for me, even when I’m certain that I haven’t ingested gluten. I’ve discovered that if I get up a couple of hours before my run, eat a light breakfast, and hydrate, I usually have enough time to complete my bathroom business so that I’m not looking around for restrooms along my routes. Before the very long runs, I take Imodium, which has helped me keep things under control. (By the way, even non-celiac runners find Imodium to be helpful for long runs.)

A few of the many gluten-free options for energy
in the long run.
To maintain strength throughout the long runs, many runners drink sports drinks or eat gels, power bars, or jellybeans, and I have found that I need these pick-me-ups as well.  But this is another place where runners with celiac disease must be wary. It is important to research ingredients and locate the gluten-free candidates before you do your long runs. When I need a power bar, I almost always choose Kind bars or Larabars.  My go-to gels are Gu Energy Gels, Honey Stinger Gels or PowerGel, and the best beans I’ve found are Jelly Belly Sport Beans, which come in a variety of nice flavors. Most sports drinks are gluten-free, including Gatorade, G2 and Powerade varieties, and Gu Brew electrolyte tablets are handy if you want to add electrolytes to your water.

Pre-run carbo-loading, which typically involves pasta, is another detail that is necessarily different for celiacs. For my evening meals before most of my long runs, I’ve had risotto, rice dishes, or rice/corn-based gluten-free pastas. These easy-to-find carbohydrates have worked well for me so far, so I intend to stay the course with these reliable choices.

With the training behind me and my gluten-free groceries in order, I’m actually looking forward to marathon day on Sunday—and especially to ticking this activity off of my bucket list—if I don’t kick the bucket in the process!