When Sandra Keith participated in the first ever Marathon By the Sea event, she made no water stops and trained by living off of “bags of bagels.”
Eighteen years later, and Keith – who will soon turn 50 – is a local guru when it comes to fitness and nutrition. She and her husband Cory own K2 Health Consulting Inc. Among many services, they run regular boot camps at their Sand Cove Road business. I’ve tried them, and they are satisfyingly brutal.
Now Sandra is training not only for the half-marathon at this year’s Marathon by the Sea event, but she also hopes to run a full marathon in the spring, and qualify for the Boston Marathon. Hardcore and awesome.
Many of my running friends have been turning to Sandra and Cory for advice on nutrition and training leading up to this race. Here, Sandra shares some eating secrets:
The first tip she gives is “listen to your own body, not to other people!” (Well, except to her).
“After 18 weeks of training, you should know what works and what doesn’t for you,” she says. “This is especially true when it comes to food and hydration.”
Race day and the night before are not the times to try out new foods, she warns.
“Most people will have a nervous stomach anyway and something foreign in your system can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort. If your digestive system turns on you during a race, you will find yourself running toward the port-a-potties instead of toward the finish line.”
Most of us runners have run into such dicey situations. So how do you avoid it, while making sure you have enough energy to push you to the finish line? And, what does it really mean to “carb-load”?
“In my experience, eating a few extra carbs at suppertime during training is essential,” she says. But she’s not talking about a giant pasta dinner.
Sweet potatoes, brown or black rice, quinoa or bulgar are good choices. Serve with your choice of protein and one to two cups of steamed veggies and you’re good to go.
But there’s a caveat – make sure the vegetables are easy to digest.
“Raw broccoli can send some stomachs into complete chaos. Don’t second guess yourself by listening to what others try to tell you,” she says.
“What works for some doesn’t work for everyone. We are not all blessed with cast iron stomachs. Remember that it is not necessary to overload with plates of pasta the night before either. Remember you’re running 13.1 miles – not climbing Mount Everest.”
As for a pre-run breakfast, this is Sandra’s advice.
Get up and eat two hours before the run. Drink a full, eight-ounze glass of water (which, she says you should already be doing daily, “without question”).
Here’s a great recipe for a protein pancake with raw honey.
½ cup of your favorite pancake mix (She prefers any one made by Speerville)
½ cup of So Delicious coconut or almond milk
2-3 egg whites (the eggs make the pancakes really fluffy)
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
Add water as needed to mixture
Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of raw honey or organic maple syrup or even molasses.
For a simple breakie? Her second favourite is just a half of a plain English muffin, with two teaspoons of raw honey, and a small banana.
On a side note, I was curious about raw honey, and happened to find some at the Kingston Market on the weekend – where I also happened to run into Sandra. Raw honey, as it turns out, is not pasteurized. Pasteurization takes out all the good stuff in honey, she says.
One more piece of great news: Sandra says it is OK to go ahead and have your morning coffee on race day.
“Remember it is caffeine supplements (metabolic boosters or thermogenics) that have a diuretic effect,” she says. “Just don’t go over 300 milligrams.”
An eight-ounce cup of Joe usually contains less than 150 mg of caffeine.
Sandra says the most important belief, held by both herself and Cory, is that complete health starts with movement.
“The human body is built to move,” she says. “It’s really very simple. Moving makes you feel better, and the better you feel, the chances of you making better food choices improve. Great food choices fuel the body to move better, and before you know it, you are moving daily and feeling great.”
Words to live by.
OK, I’m feeling pumped! Are you?