Friday, November 6, 2009

Pre-Race Dinner

The week before a big endurance race, it is time to cut back on training and focus on carbohydrates. Although it is not necessary to carbo-load before a 5k or10k, you will need glycogen, the stored form of glucose, in the liver and muscles, available for distances longer than 90 minutes of exercise. You do not want to cut back on protein since protein is still necessary for muscle growth and maintenance. Instead, limit fat calories. Keep total calorie input similar, but instead of snacking on nuts, go for whole grain cereal with dried fruit. Or instead of adding butter or sour cream to a baked potato, eat an extra potato. Use jelly instead of butter or peanut butter on toast.

Still keep in mind the overall fiber content of the food up until the night before the race. Simple carbohydrates and sugar overload will surely lead to constipation, a problem you definitely do not want to incur the last week of training. Sometimes changing your training schedule will alter your normal bowel movements as well, so aim for at least 30 grams per day of fiber.

One of the reasons we carb0-load is to hold on to extra water. Do not be surprised if you gain a few pounds the week pre-race - this is actually a good thing! The chemical structure of carbohydrates (glucose pictured to the left) holds on to water. The name carbohydrates means "watered carbon," thus explaining the need to carbo- and water-load leading up to an event.

I used the below recipe the week before the 2009 New York Marathon. My husband and I adapted a Rachael Ray recipe to make it more dietetic-friendly by using 1/4 of the butter, spelt flour, and brown rice noodles. We also used Cabot's part skim jack cheese and skim milk instead of half-and-half. We opted to use a fresh butternut squash and ended up adding the whole thing, making the sauce super creamy. All the deliciousness came from complex carb squash instead of loads of butter, cream, and fat.


  • 1 pound macaroni with lines, such as tubatini or mini penne rigate
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
  • 2 tablespoons butter***No need for this much butter!
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus a few sprigs for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 (10 ounce) box frozen cooked butter nut squash, defrosted
  • 1 cup cream or half-and-half *** I used skim milk.
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) sharp Cheddar, grated***Choose a part-skim or 2% cheese.
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a couple of handfuls
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, eyeball it
  • Black pepper


Heat a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Salt the water then add the pasta and cook to al dente or, with a bite to it.

While pasta cooks, heat a medium heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the extra-virgin olive oil and butter. When the butter melts into the oil, add the thyme and grate the onion directly into the pot with a hand held grater or Microplane. Cook the grated onion in butter and oil 1 to 2 minutes, then add flour and cook together 1 to 2 more minutes. Whisk in stock, then combine with butternut squash until warmed through and smooth. Stir in cream or half-and-half and bring sauce to a bubble. Stir in cheeses in a figure 8 motion and season the completed sauce with salt, nutmeg and pepper. Taste to adjust seasonings.

Drain cooked pasta well and combine with sauce.

This pasta worked great as a leftover also. We had it for dinner a couple nights before the race, and again for lunch the day before. 'Tis the season for squash (and marathons)!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Melissa! How are you? I didn't know you were a fellow blogger! I added you to my blog roll, so I'll be following!!

    Your wedding looked beautiful -- saw pictures on Facebook! Are you going to be around for Christmas? Sounds like the FSHN gang will be getting together at Melissa S's!