I flew across the world to run my 14th marathon, collect my 4th Abbott World Marathon Major’s star and attempt to PR and to break 2:50 in the marathon. Here I am telling you all about it & answering all your questions about my experience.

The Carb Load

Traveling while carb loading takes some preparation. We want to make sure we have the carbs & fluid easily at hand to stay on top of our carb loading plan. Using the Carb Load Calculator my goal was 450 gm carbs per day x 3 days. My carb load started the day I landed in Berlin so I packed 2 bagel sandwiches <one with PB + Sriracha and the other with PB&J> so that I didn’t have to worry about finding food as soon as I landed or get behind on the carb load. Let’s be honest – getting behind on the carb load is NOT ideal. 

I completely underestimated how much the time change would impact my appetite. I had zero appetite from jetlag + the time change and really felt like I was forcing myself to eat that first day. To make this a little easier, I stopped by a local bakery and bought 2 fresh sourdough loaves + a burrata sandwich and enjoyed this significantly more than the stale bagels from Ohio. When we carb load, we also need an additional 30 oz fluid per day. The bottles of water in Berlin were all 8 oz glass bottles so I quickly confiscated as many as I could from the hotel lobby and made a mental note to go to a store & find a larger bottle. 

All-in-all the carb load was a success. However, it was a very different experience for me without a real appetite the whole time. I can totally see how someone could really screw this up when traveling to another country! <don’t be the someone – have a plan!>

I like to keep things very simple & bland the day before the race to keep my stomach happy on race day. Cue grahams + soft pretzels and I was a very happy human. When in Berlin, be sure to carb load on soft pretzels! 

Day One Carb Load: 2 bagels, burrata sandwich, 2 sourdough rolls, chicken sandwich, Skratch crispy rice bar, graham crackers = 440 gm carbs

Day Two Carb Load: Graham crackers, Rise protein bar, Maurten solid bars, burrata pizza, sourdough rolls = 448 gm carbs

Day Three Carb Load: 4 soft pretzels, graham crackers, Maurten solid bar = 480 gm carbs + 2 Liquid IV in 24 oz water before bed to Hyper Hydrate

Race Morning

The Berlin Marathon starts at 9:15am which is a little later than I’d like, if anyone is asking for feedback. So, I woke up at 6am – ate 4 graham crackers + drank 2 espresso’s from my room’s coffee machine + drank a tiny, 8 oz glass bottle of water. Got ready & was out the door by 7am. I chose to drop 2 bottles at the ‘Personal Refreshment’ truck – which had to happen by 7:45am and I had a 1.2 mile walk to this area from my hotel. 

Personal Refreshments: any runner in the Berlin Marathon can drop their own hydration bottles at a truck before the race – label them with their name, bib number, and drop point. You have the option of dropping a bottle at all or none of these points: KM 5, 9, 15, 20, 25, 30, 36, 40. 

With 47,912 runners registered I figured there was a slim chance I would actually find one of my bottles but decided to take one for the team here & see how it worked. I bought two very obnoxious bottles & rubber banded a bright pink ruler to the bottles to make them taller & stand out more. I dropped them at 25k & 30k hoping maybe I’d find one of these two bottles. As I got to the truck drop, I realized that my ridiculous bottles were the least ridiculous of the crew. Peacock feathers, foil hats, pencils, all the tape, other rulers – all added to bottles to make mine the shortest in the truck. I laughed as I dropped them off and was glad I wasn’t banking on finding any of them in my race nutrition plan. 

I met up with a friend from Cleveland, Christopher, before the race and it was wonderful to have another human to hang with during the 90 minute wait. We ate more grahams, sipped Skratch hydration, and sat next to the start line waiting for the corrals to open. 

Race Morning Nutrition: 8 graham crackers + 1 serving Skratch + 2 shots espresso = 100 gm carbs + 16 oz fluid

In true crazy Berlin fashion, the corrals opened at 9:05 am after the wheelchair start for a 9:15 am start. It was chaos. I looked at Christopher and told him we were jumping the fence to get to the front of our corral stat! It worked and we were able to get very close to the front of corral B just in time to see Eliud Kipchoge introduced & the start gun go off. 

The Race

If you have ever seen the start line video of the Berlin Marathon and have not felt overwhelmed, you are some sort of super human runner. I have never seen so many people, so close together, in my life – let alone a marathon. I’ve run Chicago, NYC, and Boston and nothing compares to the vast sea of runners like Berlin. 

But, it was go time – and with some slight bobbing and weaving – I found my pace in the first 2 – 3 miles. Cue thanking myself for insisting we jump the corral fences to get to the front of our corral. I felt smooth. I felt good. I felt confident in the plan. The plan was to start in the 6:25 – 6:30 pace range, settle in a little faster, and come through the half anywhere between 1:23 – 1:26. 

The weather forecast for the marathon was 55 degrees at the start & 67 degrees by the time I would, hopefully, finish. Weather over 60 degrees is not ideal marathon weather, in my humble opinion. So, I knew I would need to be smart about hydration + get willing to hurt a little more than usual in the second half as it warmed up. 

My Fuel Plan: Start with a 20 oz handheld of Skratch + 1 Maurten gel every 30 minutes <caffeine at the start & 60 minutes, the rest regular> and switching to water <or a Personal Refreshment bottle, if found> once my handheld was gone = 55 gm carbs/hour average

My fuel plan execution ended up a little different and I’m very happy with how it went. I took a caffeine Maurten 10 minutes before the race – as this caffeine will fully kick-in by 1 hour. As the race started, I was quite sweaty by mile 2. Shoooot. This is not good. I quickly decided I was going to drink my bottle of Skratch hydration early, not nurse it throughout the first half as planned. So, I started drinking decently large sips every mile starting at mile 2. At 22 minutes in, I felt great and decided to take my 1st gel a little early. Then, 50 minutes rolled around and I took the 2nd caffeine gel. My handheld was almost gone so I decided to save the last couple swigs for my 3rd gel, which I took at 1 hour 15 minutes & finished my Skratch handheld with it. I rolled through the half at 1:24:47. Still on sub 2:50 pace, just the plan. 

At this point, I’m really hoping I find one of my bottles on course. So, I hung onto my handheld with the hopes of refilling it from my collapsable – ruler bottle contraption. I took my 4th gel a little before the 25k and glued my eyes to the Personal Refreshment tables. Chaos. So. Many. Bottles. As my eyes darted from one end of the table to the next, I never spotted my bottle. Shoot – alright, regroup. I threw my handheld bottle at this point & grabbed some water from the next aid station as I knew I was far too sweaty to stop drinking now. I took another gel as we approached the 30k table and again my eyes darted around for my second bottle. Success. My eyes locked onto my bottle & I grabbed onto that bright pink ruler and felt a huge sense of relief. I chucked the ruler & opened the bottle and started chugging it. Then, my rational brain kicked in and was like, staaaahpit, you can’t chug too much fluid at the 30k of a marathon or you’re going to hurl. I drank about 10 oz and handed off the rest to a friend next to me to finish. 

I have been wearing a biosensor during my training that shows my blood glucose on long runs. I have been able to equate certain feelings, both mental & physical, on my long runs with needing to take more fuel. As this point in the race, my body felt strong – but my mind was faltering & heading places that were not conducive to holding my paces. <you know the thoughts – you can’t do this, slow down, this hurts, you can quit, who cares, how can you hang onto these paces for another ‘x’ miles, etc> So I took my 6th gel early – 20 minutes early at 2 hours 10 minutes – and those thoughts disappeared. Luckily, I had grabbed an extra gel at the 17 mile Maurten gel depot on course – so I now had an extra gel to take. When those negative thoughts returned, I took that 7th gel at 2 hours 30 minutes and got my head back into the game.

As I approached the Brandenburg Gate, I checked my elapsed time – did some math – and realized I was going to have to really pick up the pace to meet my goal of sub 2:50. I pictured myself doing those 1k repeats in training at a much faster 5:55/mile pace, did the math, and realized I was going to have to pull of two of those 1k repeats at a sub 6 minute pace to pull this off. So, naturally, I went for it. I ran my freaking heart out through the Brandenburg Gate and through the finish line. Stopped my watch and looked down… 2:49:55. I freaking did it. 

My Actual Fuel Execution on Race Day: 7 gels + 30 oz Skratch + 4 oz water = 210 gm carbs or 74 g carbs/hour average + 12 oz fluid/hour 

As I stopped my watch, I quickly looked around and realized I was one of the only ones smiling. Everyone around me was throwing up <so much barf – everywhere at the finish line>, on the ground, leaning against a railing, or bent down with hands on knees. And, I truly credit my nutrition & hydration plan out there for keeping me strong & allowing that final stretch to be my fastest of the day.

The Race Day Fit

The most common question I get is ‘where do you carry all your gels?’ Followed by, ‘but do you refill your water bottle and what do you do with it when it’s empty?’ Let’s chat clothing. 

From bottom to top: Nike AlphaFly’s – the originals – still my favorite race day shoe. CEP compression socks because I have the crankiest calves in the world. Bandit split shorts, which are my new favorite. But, if you check out my race photos it’s pretty much like wearing briefs so make sure you’re cozy with that concept. A Lululemon crop with a rabbit pocket sports bra under it. Ciele Berlin hat. Goodr Mach G shades. And, an Amphipod 20 oz handheld filled with Skratch Labs Sport Hydration

Now for the logistics. I do not like gels in my shorts. I typically put them in my bra’s cell phone pocket but running in a foreign country alone necessitated carrying said cell phone – so that pocket was in use. Given that I do not fill out any crop top or sports bra, I have room to stuff 6 gels in this area and I did. I lined up 6 gels between my sports bra & the lining of my crop top and this worked magically. That, folks, is where I carried all my gels. I started the race with 20 oz of Skratch in my handheld – and once this was gone, I chucked it. From there, I used water on course and then my ‘personal refreshment’ bottle I grabbed on course. 

Post Race

The shock and awe of finishing a marathon and hitting your goal is pretty strong – and the blacking out of any discomfort while running said marathon is also very strong. As I was walking through the finish area to get my medal, I realized two things: I had a HUGE blister under my pinky toe & I was so unbelievably thirsty. I stopped at the first recovery table and drank 4 cups of water and started to feel significantly better. 

The cruelest part of the Berlin Marathon may just be that we have stop, bend over, sit down, and remove the timing chip from the laces of your shoe. The timing chip is not in the bib, but a plastic clip you lace into your shoe. 

After I gave back my chip, I took off for the Tracksmith pop-up to get my poster and see if I could be the first female to arrive and get the coveted trophy. <I apparently was not the first female as I did not get a trophy.>

Shortly after returning to my hotel, I got a text asking if I’d like to come meet Eliud Kipchoge in an hour. Unclear whether this moment increased my heart rate more than that final 2k sprint at the end of the race. I just finished the freaking Berlin Marathon with a PR under 2:50 and now I get to meet Eliud. What a day. 

Meeting Eliud was nothing short of everything I could imagine. Humble. Kind. Compassionate. Confident. When the group told him my finish time, he was genuinely excited for me and impressed at this marathon time amidst all the other commitments in my life. He is definitely everything people say and more. 

From here, we headed out for a celebration dinner and then to the Berlin Marathon afterparty. I was told this was a do not miss – and I have to extend this to anyone who plans to run Berlin. You do not want to miss this afterparty. It was quite possibly the most epic afterparty in the history of afterparties. <and I haven’t shied away from many parties in my life>

The End

If you’re still with me, you deserve a medal here. But to sum this all up, the entire Berlin Marathon weekend was one of the top weekends on my life. And, I am unbelievably grateful to Abbott for sponsoring me in my quest to earn my Abbott World Major Marathons 6 stars. And for taking care of me when I am by myself in a foreign country <my mom very much thanks you as well.> 

Next up is spectating the Chicago Marathon, fun running the New York City Marathon, and then onto Toyko and London in the Spring. 

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for being a part of this journey. Practicing my nutrition and hydration strategies on myself is cool and all, but helping you all nail your own personal nutrition plans for life and training is where I really feel the most joy in life. So, stay curious – keep fueling like the boss you are – and hang around here for all the new tips, tricks and fun. 

If you need help with your carb load or race day plan, I can create a Customized Carb Load Plan or Race Day Fuel & Hydration Plan for you!