There is a reason why I do a two-week taper instead of three (or, God forbid, four). It is a time of high anxiety and low ways to burn it off. My runs consist of 3 milers, an occasional four, distances that I still remember achieving for the first time a few years ago, so momentous, but now hardly seems worth getting showering for. I recover from the hard training, I knit, I rest, I try not to get hurt. Really, my entire goal, as I count down the days, is to stay healthy until the NYC marathon.
Of course, my mind wants the opposite of do-nothing. It suggests that a trail run would be nice, beautiful with the leaves blaring out bright colors, remember how nice that smells? No, I insist, there is too much danger of tripping over roots hidden by fallen leaves or rolling an ankle on an unseen rock. In all the hours that I’m not running, my mind suggests starting a weight-training program, or getting back into rowing. No, nothing that might risk strained muscles. My mind suggests trying a gluten-free cookie. Since going off wheat two months ago, I have not yet ventured into imitation wheat products, instead just abstaining from anything bread or cake or cookie-like. No, don’t risk it. There is plenty of time for experimentation after the marathon.
So I’ve been calm and clean and fought off these suggestions that would be good ones at any other time. Stay healthy, I remind myself. That’s my best marathon strategy.
Then Halloween came. There have been years past when I only bought candy I didn’t like. This year I bought candy I do like but, if left over, that I could use for a simple snack or even training fuel. Snickers (always good on the bike), Raisinets (a quick hit of anti-oxidents), and individually wrapped Twizzlers (simple, a good low-calorie solution for a bit of sweet). These were the good things I did: bought the candy only the day before to minimize the temptation; ate healthy food (lentil stew, an apple) before preparing to hand out the candy, handed out doubles to get rid of the most candy possible. I did sample the candy but I ranked it in this order of badness: Snickers, Raisinets, Twizzler, eating the fewest of the baddest and the most of benign. And I didn’t even eat that much (compared to years past).
I awoke yesterday feeling bloated and hungover, an aftermath of the sugar binge. I met friends for a 4-mile run and although it hurt (which, of course, set my mind wondering if I really could run 26.2), my mind felt better for having gotten out. But afterwards, my joints ached so that walking up the stairs hurt and my abdomen became so distended that I applied the heating pad. All the symptoms of what happens when I eat wheat.
But where was it? I suspected the Snickers, must be in the nougat. I googled the ingredients, no, not there. The Raisinets? What could possibly be there other than goofy raisins and chocolate? No, not there either. Although those two candies held no allure for me on the day after, I stripped open a Twizzler, chewing it as a I surfed for the culprit for my condition.
Uh oh. You guessed it. It was the Twizzler. Twizzlers are made of wheat. I never even bothered to check beforehand because it just didn’t seem the least bit wheat-like. Lessons learned: 1) always check and 2) food doesn’t need to be bread-like to contain wheat.
It’s good that Halloween fell on a Monday this year so I have time to get this out of my system before the marathon. I’m eating clean, drinking aloe vera juice, popping super-enzyme pills, applying heat, anything that will clear this up the most quickly. Already, less than 24 hours after my last transgression, I’m feeling better. I should be nearly recovered after another 24, and fine by Sunday.
And the Twizzlers? From childhood that has represented traveling food to me. But no more. I will not be eating red licorice on the road to New York.