Run Pairings: Long Run & Sweet Potato

The “long run” is my favorite run of the week.

There is something so adventurous to me about waking up early on a Saturday, being out before the sunrise, and giving it all I’ve got. The long run takes me past the point of exhaustion but I press on knowing that there is no other feeling in the world like the one after running a number of miles that most people would only drive. It’s exciting and I feel accomplished knowing that I ignored that little voice in the back of my mind that told me to quit. For the rest of the day my legs ache, and I am proud because I know with every mile, my legs are getting stronger.

For me, the long run is what running is all about and it made me fall in love with running. The long run may be my favorite, but it is also one of the most important workouts of the week— it alone can seal your race day fate. It trains you physically to run beyond fatigue and mentally to keep running even though your brain says “no.”

When I first started running I could barely run a couple of miles without feeling tired. As I kept running and improved my endurance, I became more comfortable and was able to push through. Before I knew it I was running 10, 12, 15, even up to 20 miles in one training run! It can be tough at times, but pushing through and spending several hours on your feet is the only way to truly prepare yourself for 26.2.

In my previous article, I talked about maintenance training and the importance of lowering my carbohydrate intake to stay fit and healthy; with the long run, I do the opposite. Once I am engrossed in a training plan, I expend a lot more energy. A 20 mile-long run at 10:30 pace would have me running for 3 hours and 30 minutes. That is a long time to be running and my body needs the extra carbohydrates to keep me energized and from hitting “the wall”. This means I need fuel: before, during, and after the run.

You may have heard the term “carbo-load,” which refers to storing up on carbohydrates that you will need for your upcoming long run or race. When you eat carbohydrates, they are converted to glucose. Any extra glucose that is not immediately used gets converted to glycogen and stored for later use. During your long run or race, you dig into this storage.

You want to have enough carbohydrates to fill up the tank and get you through your run, but you also don’t want to begin a run feeling full or have an aching stomach. This is exactly what I found an over-sized portion of pasta and acidic red sauce did for me when I ran my first marathon. So, now I tend to increase my carbs over the course of a few days, then eat a lighter meal that is higher in carbs and easier on the stomach the night before.

Below is a week with a typical build-up of carbs to give me the fuel I need for a long run, usually 13 miles or more:

 
 Kayla Blanding's Eating Chart Long Run Week

Kayla Blanding's Eating Chart Long Run Week

 

Of course, everyone is different. You will probably have to experiment with what foods get along with your stomach, training plan, and schedule. The good thing about the long run is that it is like a rehearsal for the big day, so you can figure out what works best for you as you go through your training.

For me, one of my go-to recipes to increase carbs is a simple but flavorful sweet potato pasta dish. It has just the right balance of carbs and protein and no super-bold flavors or acidic sauces that could upset my stomach. Instead of acidic pasta sauce, it is coated with a creamy sweet potato sauce.

Sweet potatoes have a lot of benefits for runners such as vitamin A and beta-carotene. But especially important for the long run is their ability to pack some serious carbohydrates, about 23 grams per 1 medium sweet potato. The carbohydrate content in sweet potatoes paired with the pasta is sure to get you ready for those long, slow miles.

Here’s the recipe below:

Sweet Potato Pasta

Serves 4-5

 
 Photo credit: Kayla Blanding

Photo credit: Kayla Blanding

 

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato, diced small
3 cups chicken stock
½ cup milk, 2%
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste
8 oz. fettuccine or linguine pasta
8 oz Baby Bella mushrooms, caps removed, sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ lb. ground turkey
1 cup kale, shredded
¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated

Directions

1. Place chicken stock and sweet potatoes in a small pot and bring to a boil.

2. When sweet potatoes are soft and you can pierce them with a fork, remove them with a strainer and reserve ½ cup of the hot chicken stock.

3. Add the sweet potatoes, hot stock, 1 tbsp. olive oil, and salt & pepper to a blender and puree.

4. Add the milk and puree again until mixture is smooth, then set aside.

5. Meanwhile, bring a salted pot of water to a boil. Boil the pasta to al dente and strain.

6. While the pasta is cooking, add remaining 3 tbsp. of olive oil to a large skillet and bring to medium-high heat.

7. Add the ground turkey to the skillet, seasoning with salt & pepper, and cook while breaking up the meat into smaller pieces.

8. When the turkey is about halfway cooked, add the mushrooms and garlic, then cook 4-5 minutes or until the mushrooms just begin to brown and the turkey is cooked all the way through.

9. Add in the kale, and season everything with additional salt & pepper as needed, cooking until the kale is just wilted. 

10. Add pasta and sweet potato sauce to the skillet with the turkey and vegetables, tossing the ingredients together and heating until the pasta is hot. Serve and top with parmesan cheese. Enjoy!


Thank you for reading the last of my “Run Pairing” articles! Whether food is used for recovery, sustenance, or fuel, it’s imperative to have a delicious meal that helps your body perform the way you want it to. I hope that my series sparked some recipe ideas and inspiration to get you to your next finish line!

Run, cook, repeat.
~Kayla

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