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Your last meal

No, this isn't a depressing delve into the dining choices of dead men walking.

This time of year, in addition to tuning up that bike, buying a new pair of run shoes, and starting your training in earnest, you should also begin to experiment with a variety of foods that might end up being your pre-race meal the night before an event.

While many will spend months planning a training schedule, practicing pacing, and sampling different gels and nutrition bars, it is very common for people to treat their pre-race meal; something that has a tremendous effect on your race day performance; as a whimsical last minute decision based on whatever food is served at the event's "carbo-load party" or the nearest restaurant. You'll probably be okay with the run-of-the-mill (pun intended) pasta dish and iceberg wedge on Marathon or Triathlon Eve. But wouldn't you like to know if there's a magic PR food combination out there for your body?

The nutrition books will tell you to consume a certain ratio of carbs to protein and to stay away from fats, but since we know everyone's body is different you might be surprised at the food sources and quantities that your body especially enjoys and responds to.

Consider that the night before her record setting '92 Hawaiian Ironman, Paula Newby-Fraser's dinner consisted of four to five slices of Domino's bacon-cheeseburger pizza, about three leafs of lettuce, and about a quarter to a third of a pan of brownies (slightly undercooked and still warm). Hardly a by-the-book feast! During my hard core racing days, I always preferred a sit down meal at Olive Garden (not a sponsor plug); chowing down on pork tenderloin, pasta, a few dry breadsticks, and steamed broccoli.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you go out and experiment that drastically; Newby did have about 10 years and nearly 100 races of experimentation up to that point. However, the night before your long training run or ride, try eating a larger meal than usual and test some new foods: pork tenderloin, or a chicken burrito without hot sauce, or a vegetarian dish with egg whites and some other protein source, maybe a favorite fish with a baked potato, or even try pancakes and ham. Rate each meal's next day effect on a scale of 1 to 10 and continue to experiment (even if you find a meal that helped you have a great workout the next day). Then, after a month or so, return to the one or two meals that seemed to have the best effect on your body and workout. If you notice the same positive reaction, that's your Popeye spinach!

Keep in mind, it is possible to eat too much before a race, so portion control is important; don't head to the Chinese buffet and gorge yourself. If you overeat the night before an event, chances are that you won't sleep well and you'll wake up feeling tired and bloated from a night that your body has spent working to process everything you put into it; not to mention the fact that you'll be nervous anyway. The key is to eat your dinner the night before a bit earlier than normal. This will give it time to digest prior to your head hitting the pillow.

Bon appetite!

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