Montana Marathon: Pre-, During-, Post-Race – Gluten-Free Meals and Nutrition

Sorry, I have been SO behind lately on entries, so I will do my best to catch up before my next marathon this Sunday in Atlantic City, NJ.

Pre-Race Meal

My typical pre-race meal for marathons is pretty simple fare: pizza and French fries. I can’t say where this came from, but years ago I had it the night before a race, did really great the next day (I think I PR’d for a half marathon), and the habit stuck. When I am on the road, it’s sometimes hard to find either: gluten-free pizza can only be gotten from places I would trust, and those establishments are very few. As for French fries, it’s equally difficult to find places with a  designated fryer; in fact, a baked potato from Wendy’s often serves as a decent and inexpensive stand-in. But when I manage to procure both, it’s like a carb-load dream come true.

In Montana, I pretty much strayed from the norm on all counts. I did some research, but the only one tried-and-true place that everyone reviewed in a positive gluten-free light was a local eatery called The Naked Noodle. It was much like Noodles and Company, a place where you could customize noodle dishes depending on the cuisine you had a hankering for (Japanese, Thai, Italian, etc.), and there were plenty of GF options. They assured me they used separate water, pots and colanders, and I felt confident it would suffice for a pre-race meal. That night I went against pretty much all of my pre-race meal traditions and had Pad Thai with extra veggies and tofu, of all things. While I wanted potatoes in any form, I didn’t have much luck. Chris got some barbeque from a local popular place in Whitefish called The Shak, which touted gluten-free fare, including their potatoes and sweet potato fries. But when I asked if they had a designated fryer, they told me no. Ah, so it’s that kind of gluten-free.I get it.  I went potato-less that night. But happily, I did NOT get glutened, and I will happily endorse the Naked Noodle for anyone visiting Montana, as they had a couple locations.

Race Morning Breakfast

Our hotel in Montana had access to a toaster and a microwave, but unfortunately they were in a common room that was locked up after-hours and in the early morning of Race Day, I had no access to either. This was also my first time, EVER, where I would be unable to have coffee, and the concept alone is maddening. There were way too many strikes against me from the get-go and I had to simply improvise.

I brought some teabags from home and managed to “brew” some tea using hot tap water and let them sit overnight. Instant caffeine, albeit cold. Trust me, when you need caffeine as I do, you take what you can get. I would have had a Mountain Dew if I had to, though I shudder at the thought.  While I had Udi’s bagels at hand, there was no way I could eat them cold. GF bread and bagels are wonderful as long as they are warmed up or toasted, but there was no way I could stomach them cold. There wasn’t even an iron in the hotel room, so I couldn’t even use my iron-toaster technique.

In the end, I had rice cakes with Planter’s nut-trition peanut butter and banana slices and two cups of cold tea. Perfect. Calorie-wise, maybe a tad lacking, but it did the trick.

Race Support Nutrition

During the race itself there were ample tables set up with tons of water, Heed, Hammer Gels (FIVE different flavors!), bananas, pretzels (which I obviously avoided), orange slices, and in the final miles, electrolyte tablets. It was my first experience with Heed, and I won’t say I am a fan, but I have to admit I am not huge on sports drinks anyway. I was assured by the representatives at the Hammer Gel table that their products were all gluten-free, and the gels were actually quite good. I think I ended up having four of them along the course, as well as half a banana and two electrolyte tablets. They were also happy to fill my Nathan Sports bottle any time I asked, so I was never lacking in fluids, and for that I’m quite grateful. It was actually an unusually warm weekend in Whitefish, where they expected close to record highs, so I made sure to drink often. I felt that the Two Bear Marathon was incredibly well supported with plenty for all of the participants, and that means a lot to the runners!  It was definitely a first to see almost every table loaded with gels, whereas many other races only hand them out in the final 12 miles or so.

Post-Race meal

Post-race I was handed a bottle of water and had a moment to peruse the finish line spread. It was as if huge red X’s marked every option. Free Pork BBQ with coleslaw and BEER. To the ordinary finisher with no dietary concerns, the perfect end to a race. For me, it just meant finding sustenance elsewhere. This is something I am pretty used to by now.
Chris made my day by bringing me two cold Angry Orchard ciders, and I snacked on cold hummus and carrots as we started driving south toward Helena. In Kalispell I was satisfied with some fries from Five Guys while Chris had a well-deserved burger. In the end, I feel my post-race choices were QUITE lacking in nutrition and protein. Beer? Carrots? French fries? Ugh, I shudder to think how little I regarded my nutritional needs at the time. I really think, minimum, I need to eat a KIND plus bar, a PB rice cake  or some almonds, something that has some semblance of protein.

I think I fared well in Montana, but was definitely lacking in the post-race meal department. The next two races I think I will do a little better, as they are much closer to home, but I think overall I did well, save a small cross-contamination reaction which I will save for another time. I consider it a victory to not get majorly glutened while traveling!

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