As if one race wasn’t enough, many runners are now tackling multiple races in one weekend. There are organized multiple races, such as runDisney’s challenges and Runner’s World’s hat trick, and unofficial events. Earlier this fall, there were two half marathons in my town – one on Saturday and one on Sunday – and several of my runner friends competed in both.
Besides extra sore legs, runners who participate in multiple race weekends also have additional nutrition needs.
Here’s how to fuel if you’re participating in back-to-back races:
Before the weekend
It’s imperative you go into a multiple race weekend with full glycogen stores (glycogen is the main source of fuel for endurance runners). To achieve this, eat well all throughout training and be extra mindful to have good nutrition the week leading up to the race. Listen to your body and when in doubt – eat.
During the first race
The name of the fueling game during the first race is early and often. Meaning you need to take in calories and hydration sooner than you normally would if you were just doing one race, and you’ll need more calories overall. In a perfect world, you’d train for back-to-back races doing runs on consecutive days. So, try the “early and often” fueling approach throughout training to make sure the added fuel and liquid agrees with your digestive system.
In between races
You’ll want to replenish glycogen stores as soon as possible after the first race to make sure you’re back to baseline by the second race. The 30-minute window after intense exercise is when glycogen replacement happens fastest, so eating now is a must. Within a half hour of crossing the finish line, nosh on something that contains a mix of complex carbs and protein. If you’re unsure of what types of food will be supplied by the race at the finish, throw an energy bar in your gear check bag so you have something on hand. If your stomach is upset after the race, try to sip on a sports drink or some broth.
Aim to eat a bigger meal within two hours of finishing the first race. Continue to fill up on complex carbs and lean sources of protein, and steer clear of foods high in fat. This will move along the refueling process without weighing you down for the next race. Continue to eat sensible meals and snacks every 2-3 hours for the rest of the day. If you take in enough of the right types of calories, your muscles will be refueled by the time you line up at the next starting line. And don’t forget to drink up. The last thing you want to do is enter a race slightly dehydrated.
The morning of the second race
Have a slightly larger pre-race breakfast than you typically would to further replenish glycogen stores. Again, it’s best to test out this approach throughout your training cycle.
During the second/final race
The “early and often” approach is your best bet here, too. This tactic is especially important if your later race is longer than your first one – taking in extra calories early on can keep you from hitting the wall.
If you’re doing more than two consecutive races, repeat this method for the length of your race week.