My new approach to eating, which involves few refined sugars/carbohydrates, lots of lean proteins and vegetables, and a sprinkling of whole grains, was kind of a dicey undertaking in preparing for my first 09 half-marathon. Note to new athletes: it is never a good idea to make drastic changes to one's diet before an important race. But part of this was experimental; I knew, running yesterday's race, that it would be unlikely that I would beat my own half-marathon personal record of 1:57:45 (Brooklyn Half, April 2007, pace/mile 8:59), not because I was incapable of doing so but, rather, because I had run that race after months and months of rigorous training.
But I only returned to running in early December, after a posterior tibial stress fracture had me casted and grounded for two full months. Recovery to superfitness seemed difficult at best.
I did change the way I went about my workouts and I also integrated much more weight training this time around, as a preventative measure against future bone issues. And then I changed my diet.
I can't tell you how many books have been written telling runners to eat white things--bagels, breads, pastas, etc.--before and after a run. I did a little of that, born more of necessity than anything else (sometimes you just have to eat what other people want to eat). Mostly, though, I tried to cut refined sugars from my diet. I got whole-wheat everything and replaced the sugar on my grapefruit with agave nectar. I felt less hungry all the time, a side effect of the 30+ mile a week runner's regimen. I also felt stronger during my workouts, a change noted by my pilates instructor who, after three years, noticed the most dramatic change in my strength in the past month.
Then there was yesterday. My one mistake during yesterday's race was that I waited too long to eat my fuel gel. I didn't feel the wall coming until mile eight, and by then my body was likely already depleted. In future races, I'll eat my gels an hour in, before the fatigue starts to hit. But, after only two months' training (let it be states that I have participated in competetive running events since 2005), I completed the race with a final time of 2:04:05, a pace/mile of 9:28. Of eight half-marathons, this was my third fastest finish. And I stopped to use the restroom at mile six, which cost me two minutes. My pace/mile was probably something closer to 9:20.
In short, it is my athletic opinion that the reduction and/or elimination of refined sugars and carbohydrates from one's diet contributes to overall improvement in athletic ability. My next half-marathon is February 8, at which I do, in fact, hope to break that record of 1:57:45. Time will tell.