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Carbs vs. protein: Sun Run training diary part 3

I knew what she was going to say. She was going to say what they always say: eat breakfast. Ugh. Eating breakfast within thirty minutes of waking up is like downing a box of saltine crackers after running a 10K.
Bowen Sun Runners André Bussanich and David Demner stretching it out.

I knew what she was going to say.
She was going to say what they always say: eat breakfast. Ugh. Eating breakfast within thirty minutes of waking up is like downing a box of saltine crackers after running a 10K. Not that I would know what running a 10K is like, but I can imagine it would be a similarly unpleasant sensation: food acting as an object perched obstinately on your tongue not knowing where it is supposed to go next, or why. If God had wanted us to eat breakfast, I thought to myself, She wouldn’t have invented coffee!
But she didn’t start with the predictable glories of the morning meal. Ellie MacKay, everyone’s favourite dietician and nutritionist, gave the third presentation to our Sun Run Training Group. (I don’t know about you, but I can name at least seven strange items of produce that are now my kids’ faves thanks to Ellie Mackay and her Fruit and Vegetable program at BICS, the most notable of which being raw fennel). Ellie was geared up and ready to talk to us about nutrition and how important it is for our running success.
And she was fun. She started with iron – surprise!
“What food has the highest iron content?” she asked as an opener to our willing group. The usual suspects were shouted out.
“Spinach!” Cried the vegetarians.
“Bone-in-rib-eye!” Cried the meat-lovers.
But no.
“Pumpkin seeds top the iron-rich list of non-animal products,” Ellie confided with a coy smile. “But the number one is oysters.”
Oh, yes! I looked down at my new, pink shoes fondly and remembered feeding my fellow-runner and driver Oysters Rockefellar from my greasy hand as we drove through downtown Vancouver on our running shoe shopping mission, and felt vindicated. We’d thought we were being so naughty, but in reality, our vices are virtues and we’ve been super-athletes all along.
If oysters win, so could their partners in crime.
“Wine!” I shouted, clearly over-excited. Apparently, there isn’t any iron in wine.
Why do we sun run trainers need iron?
“Because low-iron status is a common condition in new runners who are building new muscles and stressing their bodies,” Ellie told us.
Ellie spoke next of vitamin D – another blind side. Milk, fatty fish… Why do we need foods containing vitamin D? Cancer prevention, strong bones, and “cognitive decline.” So apparently, the cray-cray is a common condition in new runners, too. That fits. I know at least one new runner who went so crazy that she agreed to write a bi-weekly journal for the local paper.
Finally, she got to the question that many of us ponder in ferry line-ups when our phones have died or when we’re on hold with Telus – the age-old question: protein or carbs? Old school says that carbs give you the energy you need to burn, but what about muscle building? The great news is that the amino acids versus alkaline dilemma is not an either/or, but rather a before and after. When you are training for the Big Run (that is 10K, ahem), it is not a protein versus carbs situation, but rather, a protein after carbs one. Carbs before your run, to give you that fantastic energy that is going to propel you through the streets of Bowen Island on a rainy, Saturday morning (especially if you have run out of coffee) and protein after your run. It’s recovery nutrition. Boosting the glycogen storage in your muscles. Repairing the microscopic damage.
Carbs before, protein after. Easy peasy. It felt like the answer to the question of the universe.
The run we did that week was harrowing on paper: 10 minutes run, 15 minutes, 20 and then 10 again (with 1 minute walks between). Then, to finish, what the Sun Run Training Schedule doesn’t say: hugs, lots of cheering and a ridiculous amount of high-fiving. The first ten minutes of running was like scaling Mt. Everest carrying your children’s back-packs in addition to your own. The last ten were like coasting down a water slide – one of the steep ones that only the Dads go on - whoosh. We even sprinted the last minute, all the while shouting about booking hotels for our big trip downtown on April 19th!
I have never run for 20 minutes straight in my life. It helped that Sharon Slugget was by my side the entire time, checking in on breath, on movement, and on pain. It helped that Jo Quarry was on my other side, talking about drinking tequila with Nancy Greene and beating her in a ski-race on Mount Washington. But they were still my legs. It was still my ass. It was still my poor, sad-sack, bunged-up hip flexor chugging around this muddy island for – yes, do the math - 55 minutes plus some!
Oh yeah, and I gave Ellie a call to check my facts – apparently, we do have to eat breakfast.