Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tip for Training and Completing Your First Marathon: You CAN Do This!

I recently made a few new friends who I'm heading to Louisiana with next year for the Rock N Roll New Orleans Marathon. In our group instant messenger chats, there were a few new runners who are running NOLA as their first full marathons. They had questions and I offered to send them a blog post, because, surely, I had covered this already. Hadn't I?
Ah. Well then. Let's get to it. I'll break this up into training and race day.
1. Have a running base. Most marathon training plans start with anywhere from 16-20 weeks of training, and that's just for the marathon. I would recommend that before you even begin you have a base of being able to run 15-25 miles per week. This is do as I say, not as I do, because I definitely did not have that. I wish I had run a lot more before I started my first marathon training plan. This base will help once the mileage climbs and you reduce risk of injury.
2. Get a training plan and stick to it. This is tougher than it sounds because, let's be honest, some days we just don't want to run. And we get tired. And life happens. BUT. It is important you stick to it as much as you can or race day will be a total bitch. Again, do as I say, not as I do. You want to finish strong and smiling. Not bent over like a hundred year old woman who the medical team rushes over to. Not that this happened to me or anything...I'd recommend Hal Higdon, Jeff Galloway (run/walk method), or Cool Running if you want a free, online program. Otherwise, find a running group or friend or coach who knows what the hell they are doing.
3. Get in those long runs! This goes along with number two and I do have a post on how to set yourself up for success on the long ones.
4. Take your nutrition seriously and test, test, test until you get it right. The beauty of training for a marathon is that you have a lot of long runs to test out nutrition. I'm revamping mine for Nola because I'm a wee bit tired of gels, but I'm going to test and test and test until I figure it out. The general rule of thumb is that runners need 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates every hour that they are running over an hour. But if you wait until that hour, you could be running on an empty tank. This is why a good pre-run meal is necessary. For all seven of my last marathons I ate something before leaving the hotel (a bagel with cream cheese, oatmeal with berries, banana and oatmeal, etc.). Then every 45 minutes I took a gel. This worked well for me but you truly have to find out what works best for you. 
5. Hydrate! This is for both training and race day! My hydration plan has not changed - I drink water at every aid station. If I feel especially tired or it's hot, I drink the sports drink on the course. I also drink a lot throughout the week so I never fall behind and wreck a run. Every run is important - yes event the recovery runs! You need to be hydrated because once you fall behind it's a mother to catch back up. Also, as an aid if it's hot or you are a big sweater, adding in salt tablets can be helpful. Again, test that out on a long run.
6. Change up your training routes. Variety is the spice of life! Change up your route every now and again and you'll surprise yourself by seeing how much faster a training run goes by even though you are running the same paces. Sure it's nice to know every crack in the trail, but now and again, breaking loose of routine will be a welcomed change.
7. Get a gait analysis and buy shoes every 300-400 miles. I probably should have listed this earlier, but a gait analysis at a running store is really worth it! This is especially true if you've just started logging more miles. I've actually changed the type of shoe I run in over the years and learning that was really helpful because the last shoes I wore were actually hurting me.
8. Take those rest and recovery days seriously. If you have a planned rest day, take it. If your plan calls for a recovery run, run it at recovery pace. These things are just as important, if not more important, than logging your miles. They are in training plans for a reason.
9. Try not to over eat during training. Oh, this is a tough one. Marathon training is tough for those using it to lose weight. Because it makes you hungry. A lot. I recommend using a fitness app to track your calories so that you aren't under or over eating. I tend to fall into the over eating category so I know first hand how hard it is to ignore the crazy extra hunger pangs.
10. Train with friends. I love, love, love training with friends! They make the time go by SO much faster. Just make sure you discuss your pace ahead of time and stick to that agreed upon pace.
11. Cross train. It's important to run during marathon training, obviously, but a day of cross training never hurts. In fact, I think it helps stave off injury more than a rest day. Use those other muscles and your running muscles will thank you. Just make sure you follow your training plan.

12. Body Glide, Body Glide, Body Glide. Basically take a bath in this stuff. Ladies, you'll chafe in weird places like your underarm, where your arm hits your sports bra, at the bottom of your sports bra, and in the usual places like inner thighs. Men, either Body Glide or tape up those nipples!

Race Day

1. Don't do or wear anything new on race day!!! You see all those exclamation points? It's cause I mean it. The phrase "No new is good new" should be repeated to yourself throughout the week or two before your marathon. In addition to DDAS: Don't Do Anything Stupid. For example the week or two prior:  don't try that new exotic restaurant that just opened up down the street, don't go roller skating, don't go out drinking all night...You get the point.

2. Eat a good breakfast. You will have tested this on your long run so do EXACTLY what you did during those long ones.

3. Don't go out too fast. EVERYONE feels great for the first 5K. Trust me. This will change. You must pace yourself. I cannot stress this enough. It may even be better to start a hair slower than your goal pace if you know you are prepared. As a caveat, this is not how everyone races every time, but for your first it's so easy to get caught up in the moment. Better to be safe than blow up by mile 15.

4. Positive self talk and a mantra go a long way. You need some mental tricks for getting through the tough times during your race. I have a few words I repeat over and over. I also tend to curse, which makes me feel better for some reason. Be kind to yourself as you run. Tell yourself how awesome you are for just leaving your house at the butt crack of dawn. Running for long periods of time is hard but you can do it!

5. Be careful with a pace team. I've had fantastic pacers and awful pacers. If they are a tad fast too start, feel free to let them go. You'll catch them when they slow down. Don't panic if they get in front of you. You know what you need to do.

6. Run your race. While I absolutely adore training with friends, I don't really advocate racing with them unless:  a. You are 100% certain you want to stick with them should they go slower. b. You are 100% certain they want to stick with you should you go slower. c. You will be A-OK with whatever time you finish in because you ran with a friend. d. You can handle being grouchy when it gets tough for you and not for them and vice versa. There are LOTS of reasons that running solo during a race is better. (I know this can also be said of the opposite but in my experience, racing solo is the way to go.)

7. Know that the marathon can be unpredictable, but you WILL finish. There will be highs and there will be lows. You will get through both. Smile when it gets tough, I promise that helps.
8. Don't set a time goal for your first marathon. Run your first marathon to finish. It'll help alleviate some of the stress you're already under by just thinking about running 26.2 miles. Enjoy it. You only get to run your first marathon once!

9. The wall can happen...but it's not a guarantee. That infamous "marathon wall" around mile 20 is a possibility every time you race a marathon. I'd say four of my seven had big, brick walls. Those aren't bad odds really. But don't worry about that wall because even if you do hit it, you'll bust through and finish.
10. HAVE FUN! Both the training and the race should be fun - overall. Sure there will be tough times but in general you should enjoy it. I keep running, not because I love getting up at the crack of dawn, not because I love the agony of the track workouts, but because I truly love running. Staying healthy and socializing with friends are just icing on the cake.
As always, please email me if you have any questions at all. I'm not a certified running coach but I have been running since 2009 and I have read a lot and been coached by awesome mentors. I'm happy to help!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Weekend Recap or You Told Me So.

Maaaaan, I feel like this weekend flew by. Don't they always, though? I bet it felt even shorter for the kids heading back to school. Unless, of course, they are nerds like me and love the start of the school year. Ah, to be young and bill-less again.
Anywho, as some of you know from my social media accounts, my run on Saturday went over like a ton of bricks. I again couldn't run very well due to my no sugar no carb nutrition experiment. I was so dead at the end of my slog that I was given an apple from my friend Eva and it was the greatest apple I have ever eaten in my whole entire life. Needless to say, I need carbs and sugar to run.
Yes, you can say I told you so if you are so inclined. But hey, at least I tried.
I was super happy to run a few miles with Jesica from Runladylike and am SO happy she now lives in my area. I hope to run with her lots and lots more. Fast friends are THE best to run with.
Check out that sunrise!
I haven't gone insane with the carbs and sugar, although I did eat the lunch provided to the volunteers on Saturday at the Special Olympics. I figured since I had a long run slated for Sunday, adding back in carbs could only help with that run. I'm trying to be very mindful of the carbs and sugar I do eat and not fall back into my "Oh, it's 4 PM, time to hit the snack machine" routine again.
Tori, Steph, the S.O., and I got to be timers for the swim meet.
After the swim meet the S.O. and I went to see my stepmom, then headed home to eat and get ready for our Sunday workouts. I was pretty pooped after sitting in the sun all day Saturday but I had some trouble falling asleep. Isn't that the worst? I knew I had a 4:15 AM wake up alarm and I kept tossing and turning. A lot of that had to do with my thoughts on how my diet plan worked out.
To be completely honest, I was pretty bummed that I felt like I had to eat carbs and sugar again. It felt like failing. I know I said all along that I was going to see how it went, but I can't help but feel a little sad that something I know that worked so well for me in the past is no longer viable. I guess I can look at it as the Beth from the past wasn't a marathoner or triathlete like I am now.
On the plus side, I feel proud with how well I stuck to that plan. I made it five days with no sugar and no carbs. That is not easy, let me tell you. If anything, my trial and error process gives me answers to questions about what I truly need to fuel for runs. And it has helped me look at what I was allowing myself to eat far too often prior to cutting the carbs and sugar. Still looking at you Cheez-Its.
And guess what? My Sunday run was fantastic. (You already said I told you so once.)
I got in over nine miles at a faster pace than I've been able to run for most of the summer. This makes me VERY happy. I wasn't hauling per se, but it really gets me excited for the cooler months ahead.
I finished out my weekend with a little beach with Keara and her adorable baby girl and then it was dinner with the S.O. and an early night's sleep to prepare for master's swim this morning.
Sandcastle making in action!
Again, I appreciate all of the feedback on my nutrition changes and challenges. I'm still figuring out what works best for me. It's really all we can do, right?
I hope you all had great weekends!
P.S. Check back tomorrow for a blog on how to train and get through that first marathon!

Friday, August 21, 2015


I'm so glad it's Friday. And yes, I say that every Friday. I love a weekend, what can I say? I feel like I'm FINALLY over the hump on this two week no carb/no sugar regime at the start of day five. I felt the most "normal" on it yesterday. I made it through strength training yesterday morning and only felt a bit off. I wouldn't say I was at 100% energy, but eating peanut butter on celery pre-workout helped a lot. Being sore from Tuesday added to that struggle though, I'm sure.
Did you all know that people have A LOT of strong opinions when it comes to nutrition? Oof. I try not to shy away from them and listen to what everyone has to say without getting annoyed. That has also been a struggle. I had one friend tell me they stay mum on what they do for that very reason. Ultimately, there seems to research out there for and against just about every diet plan known to man. I believe in doing what works best for you and to each their own (so long as it doesn't waver in eating disorder territory, obviously).
I know this is making a difference because my Friday jeans are feeling SO much more comfortable and the scale numbers are down. I also know that the scale can be deceiving because of water weight and I tend to trust how my clothes fit more. And of course, when I do reintroduce carbs, we'll see what happens.
That's my diet lifestyle update. ;)
Moving on...
I have my long run on Sunday and I'm pumped to test out some pace changes since I've been doing long, steady runs for a few weeks now. I am considering some fruit (like berries) to go with my celery and peanut butter pre-run and maybe some lower sugar sports drink for during. The run is an hour and a half so I know I need more sugar and carbs to fuel it.
Tomorrow is a foundation run of an hour with drills and strides. Then it's another fun day of volunteering with the Special Olympics. It's shaping up to be an awesome weekend indeed.
Oh, and last but not least, I'm an Aunt again! My sister had baby number two yesterday and the family is doing great. I now have two nephews to spoil rotten and teach how to do the stanky leg. Haha!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Trial and Error

I'm reporting back on my nutrition change since I posted my plan on Monday. Go read it so you know what the heck is going on...
Now...here's what's going on.
I began this no carb quest on Sunday. I swam on Monday, pretty hard actually, and had no issues. Then on Tuesday, I had the brilliant idea of doing my AM 30 minute shake out run before my hour long strength training session. I stupidly didn't eat and was planning on eating some almonds after the run but didn't. Big. Mistake. During strength I got so light headed and weak that I felt like I was going to pass out. I had to stop and go sit down while the gym owner grabbed me some OJ. I tried to only have a few sips because I was determined to not undo everything I had done the past 48 hours. It was embarrassing and I'm blaming this mostly on not eating but it's obviously a side effect of low sugar. And being a dumb ass. 
In discussing this plan with Coach Jon after my epic strength training fail, (who I didn't really tell about my plan to begin with...BAD COACHEE!), he asked when I had done this prior was I a triathlete? Uh....no. I wasn't. I was out of shape and worked out for about an hour and definitely not with the same intensity.
Ok, so that's strike one against the new eating plan.
But, ya'll know I'm stubborn right?
I continued with the plan through yesterday and this morning I had an hour long treadmill hill run scheduled. I woke up to meet Stephanie and ate half of a Kind bar. In my brain, I've been able to do this run without any fuel before in the morning, so I figured at least some fuel would be good enough this time.
About 20 minutes in, I felt like poo again. I asked Stephanie for some fuel. We went to her apartment from her complex gym and grabbed some Skratch Fruit Drops, which are basically sugar/carb chews. I had about five and continued to run for another 25 minutes, but not as hard as I would have liked.
Now, I will say that I am sore from what I did do at strength yesterday AND this was a tough treadmill hill session. It's probably one of the toughest I've been scheduled. But, I do feel it was more carb/sugar depletion than being sore.
Ok, so that's strike two against the new eating plan.
But, ya'll know I'm stubborn right?
I'm trying one more day like this, tomorrow, and will see if there is any change. I have a strength session scheduled for in the morning (maybe I should eat eggs before hand?) and an evening 45 minute run. If I can't make it through those, it's time to make some tweaks.
I think if I don't bonk during my workouts tomorrow two weeks will be a breeze. However, my training runs are super important to my goals so I cannot ignore that. I must be able to get through them. I have a challenging long run on Sunday and I absolutely do not want to have to cut it short.

On the plus side, I haven't eaten any junk or processed carbs since Saturday. I don't feel like I'm craving them either. I think if I do have to add in more carbs, I'll stick with the good ones. I'd like to stay off the sugary baked goods and processed junk foods for as long as I can. So, still no Cheez-Its for me.

I REALLY appreciate all of the encouragement and awesome comments regarding this. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And, as I said before, I'm being a guinea pig on this. I'll post another update on Friday. TTYL.