As usual, the Lyau family is on the run — even when they’re not.
Jonathan is a Honolulu Marathon Hall of Famer who was the first local finisher 17 times. He hasn’t quite retired yet. But for now he is a coach and many of his trainees are running in Sunday’s 26.2-mile endurance test.
His goal is to run a marathon after the turn of the decade and join an elite club of runners who have gone under three hours in five different decades.
His wife, Kelli, is also a veteran marathoner. She is recovering from a recent injury well enough to have completed a half marathon recently.
Their son Spencer, 13, ran a 5-kilometer race with Jonathan on Thursday morning, before the family headed to Kailua to celebrate Thanksgiving with more ohana.
Daughter Sierra, 15, logs a lot of miles, too, as a soccer player.
In their day jobs, Kelli teaches math at Kamehameha Schools and Jonathan owns and operates a wholesale distributorship of candy and other snacks. The kids get occasional sweet and salty treats from their dad’s business, but Kelli makes sure the entire family eats nutritiously, whether preparing for a big race or not.
“I always ate healthy from the time I was a little kid,” Kelli said. “They get a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits.”
THAT BRINGS us to the first week of December, when thousands of marathon entrants, many novices, are deciding what is best to eat before putting their bodies through a stress test of several hours.
“Carbo-loading” is still a smart way to go, Jonathan said, but minus the depletion once recommended.
“Back 30 years ago, early in the week runners would eat more protein, then shift to high-carb from Thursday on,” he said. “But people would feel sluggish because of too much protein. I hear some people still do that. But for the most part, a normal, balanced diet until Wednesday works, then a shift to a higher percentage of carbs.”
That doesn’t mean no protein, or bland meals of just grains that others in the household might not enjoy. One of the Lyau family’s favorite carbo-loading meals is a tasty lentil stew that includes lots of vegetables, low-fat sausage and brown rice.
It’s evident from how quickly their spoons begin to hit the bottom of the bowls that the entire family likes Kelli’s stew.
Since it is cooked in a slow cooker, it’s relatively hands-off. And it offers variety for carbo-loading runners who don’t want pasta or bread at every meal.
“Carbo-loading doesn’t mean to cut out protein,” Jonathan said. “It’s more about the percentage.”
The ideal is around 70 percent “clean” carbohydrates, he said. “Not things like nuts or pastries that are high in fat.”
He likens it to a car race. “You want to start your body with a full tank of gas, and carbs give you what your body needs for a marathon. Some people worry because they’re gaining weight. But carbs help absorb water. It’s storing what you’re going to need. … Carbs are what your body is going to reach for first. Don’t worry about gaining 2 or 3 pounds. That’s your fuel.”
While hydration is always important, drinking too much water leading up to a race can dilute that fuel, he said.
Jonathan’s typical final meal before the start of a marathon would be a bagel with jelly.
He and Alan Titchenal, a University of Hawaii nutritionist, both emphasize that marathoners, especially novices, not experiment on race day. Proper training includes at least one run of around 15 miles a few weeks before the marathon, and this is when runners should determine what works for during-race nutrition.
Recently, gels have become popular for in-race refueling. “Basically these gel packs are concentrated carb syrup,” Titchenal said. “The key, if you use them, is think of it as turning into a sports beverage in your body. With that in mind, drink 10 ounces of water with each gel.”
SO NOW YOU’RE DONE…
You’ve run, jogged, walked or crawled 26.2 miles. What should you eat now?
”For me, it’s pretty much whatever I crave,” Jonathan said. “Usually something salty. Chili, a hamburger. The race is done, and I have a long time to recover.”
He does recommend against eating a big meal too quickly, though. Remember that your entire body is traumatized — including your digestive tract. “I scarfed down a beef curry plate lunch, really fast, one year,” he said. “Bad idea. My system was too sensitive. I should’ve eaten a smaller portion.”
Jonathan instead suggests nibbling on a protein bar within a half hour after finishing.
“Or go get a malasada,” he said. (They’re free at the finish line.)
The big celebration meal can come later. The key is to start slow — just as it is with the run itself.
SLOW COOKER LENTIL STEW
By Kelli Lyau
- 1 cup dry green lentils
- 1 cup sausage (we use turkey or chicken sausage) or other protein
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 1 cup chopped parsnips or turnips
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 4 to 6 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes
- A few handfuls chopped kale
Combine ingredients except kale in slow cooker. Cook on low 6 hours or more.
A few minutes before serving, add kale. Serve over rice or noodles. Serves 6.
Nutritional information unavailable.