Race Day Tips for a Successful Marathon

With only four more days until the SLO Marathon it seems appropriate to talk about race day. While much of training focuses preparing to run 26.2 miles it is important to have a race day plan too. After all, you’ve just spent anywhere from four to six months in an intensive effort to run a successful marathon. You had a training plan, followed it, did all your workouts, you’ve tapered, and now you are ready to go. Having a plan for marathon day is essential too.

Whether this is your first marathon or your 37th it is a good idea to remind yourself of these simple race day tips.

Race-Day-Tips

Eat Breakfast

Try to eat a moderate breakfast two or three hours before the race. You need to top off your tank with easily digestible foods (that you have hopefully tried during your training) like oatmeal, bananas, cereals, yogurt, or toast. Drink water or a sports drink throughout the morning, all the way up until the race starts.

Nothing New on Race Day

Your training has been like a three or four month long dress rehearsal for your big day. Over that time, you’ve found the right combination of nutrition and hydration, as well as the right shoes, clothing, even socks. Don’t mess around with success on race day by wearing the cute top that you bought at the expo, or using the gel that is being given away on the course (unless you’ve been training with it). While new shoes are a great idea for the race, take them for a spin or two before the event, even if they are they same model as your old ones. Stick with your tried and true pre-run meal, which can be a little difficult if you traveled to an event, so make sure to plan ahead.

Logistics

You do not want to be sitting in traffic trying to exit the freeway as the gun goes off. Plan ahead to get to the venue early. Check out the race website for information about parking, shuttles, clothing drops, etc. Depending upon the size of the race, there may be long lines to use the portable toilets, so it is a good idea to head there right away. Drop off your clothing bag and get to your corral at least 15 minutes early. Better to stand around waiting a little while than try to squeeze in when it is full. If the weather is cold, stay warm with a throwaway shirt that can be tossed after you warm up. If the weather is damp or rainy, a trash bag makes a great poncho to keep you dry while you’re waiting to get started.

Start Slow

No matter how many marathons you have run, this may be the hardest advice to adhere to. The excitement of the moment, being surrounded with other excited runners, sometimes even a downhill start of the course all conspire to make you start out too fast. There’s no such thing as time in the bank. Getting more miles in at a faster pace is not going to help you finish your marathon faster. In fact, it will probably backfire, you will over extend yourself, use up crucial energy and fuel, and your time may very well be slower than you planned. Start out at your goal pace or even slightly slower. This will allow you to conserve both your energy and your fuel, enabling you to keep the pace during that last 10k.

Have a nutrition plan and stick to it

I will admit it. I made a huge nutrition mistake in what turned out to be my PR marathon. The thing is, I should have run that race five or even 10 minutes faster than I actually did! I have always had issues with fueling and nausea during the marathon, and during that race I was feeling so good I didn’t want to mess it up by ingesting anything. So, beyond water and the carbohydrate drink I was carrying I didn’t eat anything. So what happened? Well, at mile 20, I was on pace for a 3:10 finish, and I bonked so hard I could barely sustain an 8-8:30 pace for the last six miles. I ended up running 3:16 in that race, a good time to be sure, but, after losing about a minute a mile over the last 10k, I learned a painful lesson.

St. George

I was carrying gels in that amphipod. I just didn’t use them.

The point is, you have been practicing your nutrition throughout your training, you have a pretty good idea what works, so, make a plan before the race and stick with it.

Don’t wear headphones

Don’t shoot me! I know that music lovers everywhere are saying “What???!!! I can’t run without my music!” Wait a moment and just listen to my reasoning.

You are about to embark on one of the most life changing excursions of your life. You will have to reach deep inside of yourself, use everything you’ve got, including all your mental strength, to stay the course, and to be successful in your endeavor. Having music playing in your ear, while it may give you a beat to run to, will distract you from all of that. While you may say that distraction is a good thing, it really is not if you want to produce your best effort.

On the other hand, if you are running to have fun and “just finish,” why cut off half of the experience by not communicating with the other athletes that are sharing this moment with you? I have met some amazing people during a marathon, something that would never happen if I cut myself off from them by wearing headphones.

The Last 6.2 Miles

I’m sure you have heard the saying, “There are two halves to the marathon: the first 20 and the last 6.2,” and that is true to a certain extent. That last 10k can really grind you into the ground. But, if you have followed the advice above, fueled correctly, and moderated your pace, you will have a much stronger finish. Some other ideas to keep you going strong: Break the distance down into smaller chunks. Think about a great two mile run that you enjoy; Think minutes instead of miles. Four or five minutes may sound better than a half mile; If you’re really feeling like you have to slow down, try instead to pick up the pace for a short distance. That little change can refresh your legs; Take one mile at a time; Positive self talk. Be your own cheerleader.

Have Fun

This is the culmination of months of hard work. Cherish the moment. Talk to other runners. Give high fives to the kids on the sidelines. Smile for the cameras. Thank the volunteers. Enjoy the scenery. Appreciate the body, however tired and sore, that has brought you this far.

What race day tips would you like to add?

Originally posted on Live from La Quinta, May 2014.

Training Recap (6 days until SLO Marathon!)

The important stuff first. I’m happy to announce that the winner of Dinner for Two and a bottle of wine at Mitch’s on El Paseo is Denise L! Congratulations! I know you’ll enjoy it.

Also good luck to all of the runners at the Boston Marathon today! I have many blogging friends doing the race and I’ll be trying to sneak an occasional peak at the live feed this morning at work. The forecast is for rain, but as I told Angela, the gods frequently smile on the Boston Marathon and send a sunny day along. If not, it will still be the experience of a lifetime.

Well, six day left until the SLO Marathon and everything is, well, not perfect. I’m still getting my workouts in (hurray for the taper!), but suddenly my knee is bothering me a little, and the asthma/dizzy issue I spoke about last week is still a concern. I’ve not had another incident like I had during my long run last week, but I frequently feel right on the verge, like if I push or go too far I might go right over the edge. Worrisome.

Training Recap

Last Wednesday was my last speed workout. Christina and I ran five miles a little faster than my marathon pace. All went well.

Long Run 3

After my tempo run. Needed to get the frog in the picture :-)

Saturday I ran eight miles with Alan and Christina. It should have felt easy and short after all my long runs, but as I mentioned, I’ve been feeling on the edge. I got it done though.

Long Run 2On Sunday I headed out alone for five miles on the trails. I love having a running partner, but sometimes I need to get out by myself. I took it easy, stopped for pictures, and felt good throughout. Now the final countdown to the race, and maybe some big decisions.

Trail Run 3

It’s not easy to take a picture of your shadow running.

Trail Run

Trail Run 2

Coachella boys

This one was pretty weird. As I was running I heard the sound of voices. Now this was about 7:30 on a Sunday morning and the voices sounded, well, they sounded drunk. I saw these guys down below the trail, singing and yelling. I kind of assumed they were refugees from Coachella, which is just a few miles away. I guess the camping is cheaper up in the La Quinta cove. I took a little detour, not wanting to deal with drunken revelers at that point in time.

And the Other Stuff

Kind of a boring week, at least in terms of writing something you’d want to read about. There was this, in case you missed it:

Its a girlYes, we’re going to have a granddaughter! After two sons, two stepsons, and three grandsons, we’re ready for a little pink in the family! On that note, I happened to wander into Target over the weekend.

DecisionsAnd I went for…

Baby Girl 2I was also curiously drawn to these:

Baby Girl 3But resisted the urge. They are, after all, toddler sizes.

Baby Girl 4

#Cutie. Let’s get her started on social media early.

Cactus FlowersSpring in the desert means the cactus is blooming.

And just a couple #dogpics:

Penny

My 14 year old Dalmatian can still get silly.

Johnny 2

And Johnny always finds ever cuter ways to sleep.

And some vegan food.

Mandarin SaladMandarin orange “chicken” salad. Easy and delicious. Here’s the recipe.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend. Any races, competitions, or other awesome experiences you’d like to share? Will you (are you, did you) watch the Boston Marathon? Go Meb!

My Top 5 Running Moments

I stole this idea from Angela, who got it from Amanda.

When I first saw Angela’s top five post and decided to steal copy borrow it, I thought it would be pretty easy. I mean, there are definitely “great” runs in every runner’s history, whether is a first time event, a PR, or just an exceptional experience. Then I realized that, after running for over 25 years, I have a heck of a lot more than five great runs. The challenge was how to whittle them down.

My Top 5 Running Moments

After much deep thought (and many mind changes), here are the runs that I decided were my top 5 running moments.

Ragnarian

Capering for 20 miles

This run, which already stands out simply because it was awesome, is on my mind lately because of the challenges I’ve been having with my long runs and asthma. It was Saturday, September 12, 1998, I was training for the Honolulu Marathon, and running 20 miles. I didn’t set out to run fast, but as I ran along, I just felt better and better, which resulted in running faster and faster. Alan and I finished that run in 2:40, an eight minute per mile pace, and I distinctly remember saying to Alan at about mile 15, “I feel like I’m capering!”

Now, I didn’t just remember the date. I pulled out my old date books, where I religiously tracked my mileage and other workouts. As I thumbed through those old records, my main thought was, “man, we were animals!” With long runs up to 27 miles before a marathon, weekly mileage up to 60-70 miles, and lots of racing, we were running strong. The same week that I ran that 2:40 on Saturday? I had also run 21.5 the Monday before! Those were the days, my friends. (No recommendations here, it just was what it was.)

Finishing with my son

When my son moved back to California about 10 years ago, he was recovering from a marriage to an abusive woman, and quite depressed. He was smoking, overweight, and unhappy. Fortunately, he moved in with new roommates from work. They just happened to be runners. My son started running, lost weight, gained confidence and eventually started competing in races. I talked him into running the La Jolla Half Marathon with me, but we never found each other at the start line. I caught up with him at mile 10, where he was walking and having terrible blister problems. He started running again and we stayed together until the finish. One of my proudest “Mom Moments.”

La JollaThere’s more to the story!

My First Marathon

Even though I had thought about running a marathon, it wasn’t until I met Alan in 1996 that it became a reality. At the time, he was a big fund raiser for the Leukemia Society, so much so that he was able to get an extra ticket and entry for the 1996 Honolulu Marathon for me. It was an amazing experience, from the hotel on the beach, the early morning walk to the start line, the 5 am start and the fireworks, all the way to the finish at Kapiolani Park. In spite of being so sore I could hardly walk the next day, the Honolulu Marathon was the start of my long love of the marathon distance. We went back another five times (and we’re registered to run the 2015 race!).

Honolulu-Marathon

There’s more to the story!

We’ll always have Paris

I’ve been fortunate enough to run the Paris Marathon twice. What can you say? It’s a 26.2 mile tour around the center of the city. Manifique! Alan and I celebrated both times by running together and carrying disposable cameras with us (It was 1998 and 2001, no mobile phones to record the experience for posterity).

ParisMarathon

There’s more to the story!

And the PR race

I ran my personal best race in 1999 at the St. George Marathon, a race that has a net elevation loss, so many runners, including Olympic trial hopefuls come there to give themselves an extra chance. Before the race, runners are bussed up to the start line, which is at about 5,200 feet. The race then runs down to the town of St. George, Utah, which is at about 2,500 feet. It’s not all downhill though. There are a lot of rolling hills, especially in the first half, and the main downhill comes the last six miles as you are running back into town. In spite of some nutrition mistakes, and two bathroom stops, I had a great race. Okay, I’ll tell you. I was 41 years old and I finished the race in 3:16:24. And because it was an Olympic trial year, that time only got me 17th in my division!

St.-George

Surprise! Here’s Number 6!

After finishing this post, I was happy with my choices. Then I realized that I skipped what was probably my favorite run of all time: Ragnar So Cal! While I never planned to run a Ragnar Relay, when Melissa asked me to fill in for her last year I said that I’d do it, even though I was only vaguely aware of what a Ragnar was (does it stand for something?). It’s hard to put into one short paragraph what an awesome experience this was. A great team, first of all. Each and everyone of those women were amazing. Even though I’d only met two of them before the event, I walked away with 11 new friends.

Finish1

There’s more to the story!

What is your favorite run? What made it so special?

It’s Taper Time! The Week of Training and other good stuff

It’s Taper Time!

We’re almost there! With less than two weeks to go until the SLO Marathon I can honestly say that I’ve done the best training that I could for this race. I know I’ve complained a bit, and I’ve had challenges to my training schedule, but all in all, I’m happy and feel ready for this race.

Want to learn more about the Art (and some Science) of the Marathon Taper?

I say that in spite of having a really bad run on Saturday, what should have been my last longish run before the marathon. How bad? Well, I’ll tell you.

My plan for Saturday was to run 16 miles. I changed that to 15 after heading out with Christina, my new runner/neighbor, who wanted to run 14. I’d put in my first mile while waiting for her to finish getting ready, so I figured with 15 we could run the whole thing together. That sounded great after last week, when I had to run half of my 22 miler on my own.

Christina

From another week, but this is Christina.

 

We got started about 6:45, a little late, but with a shorter distance I wasn’t too worried about it getting hot before we finished. The first half of the run was fine. An easy pace, lots of chatting, my favorite horse paths to run on. At about mile nine, I had a little hint of what I consider the precursor to my exercise induced asthma: just a little lightheaded feeling that I shrugged off. I put my focus on breathing and it seemed to pass without having to stop.

Silverrock

The best rest stop ever! Clean bathrooms and they provide cold filtered water for ME!

 

At about mile 10.5, we walked for just a moment because it felt good we reached a turnaround point. As soon as I stopped, I could feel it coming back. Tunnel vision, lightheaded, dizziness, a combination of all three. I took a couple puffs on my inhaler, we walked a little more, then it seemed to pass and we started to run again.

For about a half mile. Then it came back. It continued like that for the next mile and a half. Run a little, walk a little, completely stop and hold onto something because otherwise I might just fall. I was struggling, and Christina, bless her heart, stayed with me even though I told her that I’d been through this before and I didn’t want to spoil her run. Finally, at about 12.5 miles my guardian angel Alan came riding up on his bike, returning from his 30 mile ride.

As we spoke to him I got so dizzy I had to sit down. He asked if I wanted him to come back with the car. I hesitated, but said yes, please. I’m tough, but not so tough (or dumb) to think I can overcome something like this.

When he rode on, Christina and I tried to run a little more but I just couldn’t. We ended up walking about a mile until Alan finally got back with the car. Christina continued on to run home, I thankfully got in the car.

It took me several hours to recover. I still felt lightheaded even after we got home. I ate a little, drank a little, then slept a lot. I felt better after my nap, but not normal yet.

I’m not sure why my exercise induced asthma, if that’s what it was, was so bad for this run. I’ve had a couple issues during my training, especially during my 22 mile run last week, but nothing this dramatic. Lately I have not used my inhaler before my run because I haven’t needed to. I did sleep badly the night before, but that alone doesn’t seem enough to cause such a bad reaction. I took Sunday off, but I’ll see how I feel on my next run before I get overly concerned. Remember, I’ve been dealing with this for a long, long time. Thirty six marathons worth.

So anyway. I did have a much better hill workout earlier in the week. I dragged took Christina with me for her first ever hill repeats. We managed 10 altogether, and I was proud of her for pushing through. Like the week before, we used the mile home for some downhill training. No breathing troubles at all during this workout even though it was pretty intense.

Hill WorkOther Good Stuff

First of all, Grandsons!

Our twin grandsons, along with their parents, were in town for spring break this week. I had to work much of the time, but Alan had a great time swimming, hiking, playing baseball, and skating (he was a spectator for that endeavor) with them all week.

Cash Collage

Dane CollageThey are both good athletes. We usually get to take a run with them when the visit, but we didn’t get a chance this visit. Alan took them on an eight mile hike on Thursday! Quite an accomplishment for two 10 year olds.

Dane CashVegan Food

For the basketball finals last Monday, I made my “famous” basketball food. At various times it is also called football or baseball food too. It is basically vegan junk food, but sometimes it’s fun to eat a little junk while you’re watching a game.

basketball food

From another game, but you get the idea.

I also made vegan Caprese. I use tofu instead of the buffalo mozzarella and it absorbs the flavors nicely. Caprese was always one of my favorite salads, so I am happy that I have a plant based version to enjoy. (The recipe is here, though I made it without the baguette.)

Caprese

Sunday morning I felt I needed a little protein boost after a day full of carbs, so I cooked up some Eggy tofu and seitan bacon. (The recipe for the tofu is here, on Cadry’s Kitchen). So good!

Eggy Tofu

From Last Week

In case you missed it, I guest posted on Run to the Finish last week.

Run until 90

Don’t forget about ASICS Gear for a Year Sweepstakes. They’re giving away $3,000 in ASICS gear ($300 per month for 10 months). You can enter once a day through April. Enter here.

Asics gearAnd Finally

Okay, I post a lot of pictures of Johnny. And he is usually on this chair, in this pose. But what was cute this time is that he made himself a little nest by pulling down the sweatshirts that I had piled on the back of the chair. Of course, now that he’s done it a few more times it’s not as cute (um, maybe I should just put those things away?).

Johnny

How was your weekend? Any races, events, great training moments? Any bad ones? I’d love to hear about both!

Friday Favorites

Did you see my guest post on Amanda’s blog? It’s all about how you can keep running until you’re 90. Check it out!

Popping in today to share some Friday Favorites! The folks at Asics have an amazing sweepstakes that you won’t want to miss, plus a little fitness motivation and something for your sweet tooth. Finally, an invitation (and discount code) to Blogfest. Check them out!

Asics Gear for the Year Sweepstakes

Asics has an amazing sweepstakes going on right now. You can win 10 months worth of Asics gear! How’s that for a prize? That’s $300 per month for 10 months = $3,000! Wow! Enter here. You can enter once a day until April 30!

Asics

What would you buy with with $3,000 to spend? First, I would stock up on Asics shoes, including these babies, the Gel-Electro 33. I love them for racing and speedwork.

Asics 9Click here to read my review of the Asics Gel Electro 33

Asics Gel SanaClick here to read my review of the Asics Gel-Fit Sana

 

Motivation from Skulpt

skulpt 2

I mentioned the Skulpt Aim a few weeks ago. It is a simple fitness tracker that can measure body composition with just a touch, and continue to track it using the free Skulpt app. It uses electrical impedance myography, which uses a weak electrical current to measure body fat and to give you a Muscle Quality (MQ) score based on those measurements. The app is a great motivational tool that will help to record improvements.

I wasn’t really happy with my original measurements, and that was enough to send me back to weight training. I’ve been doing some yoga and Pilates, but my main focus has been on training for the SLO Marathon.  I’m still not as consistent as I’d like, but once marathon training is done I will be ready to hit the gym on a regular basis. I want to see that body fat percentage go down!

NuNaturals

Nustevia

I told you before that I was lucky. Well, one of the things I have won (twice) is a sample package from NuNaturals. Thanks Jody! I say samples, but these are full size products of some of their best stevia products. I admit that I have a sweet tooth, and I need a little sweetener in my coffee. I love both the simple syrup and the cocoa syrup! And I’ve finally weaned Alan off sucralose, and he uses the NuStevia powder. They also have many great products for baking, which I don’t really do, but kind of wish that I did, because I’d love to use some of the great flavors of NuStevia like Cherry Vanilla, Orange, Lemon, and many others.

Blogfest

20140814 IDEA Anaheim Copyright 2014 Len  Spoden Photography.

If you are a blogger, and have any kind of interest in health and fitness, then Blogfest should be the one blogging conference that you attend. Not only do you get two days of great blogging information, workouts, and networking, you will also be able to attend the last two days of the IDEA World Fitness Convention! Gabby Reece will be the Keynote Speaker for Blogfest, and you’ll have a chance to see Beto Perez and Jillian Michaels (and many more fitness pros and celebrities) at IDEA World. You can read more about it here, but what are you waiting for? Register and save $100 with the code BLOG100. And we’ll see you in Los Angeles July 16-19!

So, did you enter the giveaway yet? Will I see you at Blogfest?

A Few WTF Moments and My Training Recap

I’m not sure if WTF moments is the right term, but a few things this week have given me pause.

First though, if you’re a local or visitor to the Palm Springs area, don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a $150 gift certificate and a bottle of wine at Mitch’s on El Paseo! It’s really a great prize. Enter here.

Mitch'sInstagram

WTF Moments

Here’s the weirdest: I got a notification a few days ago that the woman who is responsible for me losing my job wanted to connect with me on LinkedIn. Talk about a WTF moment. Seriously, this woman, who was not my boss, and theoretically had no rights as far as hiring and firing, wants to connect. I really want to ask her, “what the hell are you thinking?” So far I’ve just ignored the request.

Alan, my husband and Cat Rescuer (as well as Dog and Calf), feeds the feral cats in the neighborhood, as you may know. Recently he has been working with a charitable organization to get all of the cats spayed or neutered and so far has done about 25 cats. There are always a few that seem to be uncatchable though, and one of those just had kittens the other night. She was very young and didn’t know how to care for them, so after dropping them in the street, she basically abandoned them. Alan tried to feed them, but they were just too young. Sadly, all three died.

Okay, hold on for the WTF moment. The cat gave birth on April 1. The third cat died by early on April 3. On Sunday, April 5, she gave birth to two more kittens. At last look, she was tending to them as a new mother should.

kitten

Another kitten from a few years ago (he survived).

It’s only three weeks until the SLO Marathon and I’m beginning to feel like my training is one big WTF moment. Or at least a what the hell am I doing moment. Details of my long run in my training recap below, but I felt the run was so hard, so painful (figuratively, not literally), and just so long, that I’m doubting my commitment to the race. I’ll probably follow my own advice and suck it up, but right now, well, I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

Training Recap

My training plan took another hit this week when we lost a front desk receptionist as work. She just didn’t show up one day. My approach to work is that you do what you need to do to get the job done, so I offered to help out as necessary to get through the end of the season. I won’t lose any personal training time, but I’ll work some extra front desk time as needed. That turns out to mean that I’ll be opening two days a week, throwing my training schedule off yet again. I’m not thrilled about working at 5:30 twice a week, but what can you do? It cuts out my Monday workout, which I’m going to try to squeeze in on Tuesday.

I’m so glad we’re three weeks and counting down until the race.

On Wednesday I headed out alone to do a hill workout. My new training partner, my neighbor Christina, wasn’t feeling well, so I was on my own. It was still dark when I left the house, but I ran a loop around the neighborhood to give it time to get light enough to get out to the trails where I do my hill workout. Because of that I only had time for 10 repeats, but if you add on the 1.5 mile run up to the hill that works pretty nicely. I also used the 1.5 mile downhill home to practice a little downhill running. So I was pretty happy with the total workout.

Hills

On Saturday I was scheduled to run 22 miles. I wasn’t looking forward to it. The weather is heating up in the desert, and I knew I’d be running at least half of the run on my own. Christina’s a great running partner, but she’s a new runner, and has no need to run that far.

We planned for 5:30, but it was closer to 6:00 when we headed out. It was chilly, which was good. We took a loop of our neighborhood, then headed east toward the nice horse paths that are so great to run on. Our first stop was at about mile seven to use the bathroom and fill up our bottles. Then I headed part way back with Christina, with the thought that when I turned back around for my solo run, I’d have less mileage left to complete. Good idea, but it still left over 11 miles on my own.

Long Run

Clockwise from top left: My favorite watering station (they have an ice machine!), fueling with a Sun Warrior smoothie after the run, waiting for Alan to pick me up, just noticing how filthy my feet get after such a long run, and a look down one of the trails.

 

Running that far alone is really a mental game. Your body is tired and achy, and really just wants to stop and walk. It’s the mind that has to overcome that and keep on pushing through. Yes, I gave in and walked a few times, especially in the last few miles when I was exhausted, it was getting warm, and my exercise induced asthma started to give me problems. But I always managed to get going again, even if it was slow. I though about calling Alan, especially after I passed 20 miles. What’s another mile or two? But I didn’t. I stuck with it and completed my 22 miles. I am happy for that, but I’m still going through the mental conflicts I mentioned above.

Sunday was recovery/doggy run day. Just a few miles with lots of pee stops (for the dogs, not me I’m still dehydrated). My feet are a little sore. To be expected, but I’m spending some time with ice and my roller ball.

Other Stuff

We had a kids’ camp at work this week, and we provide pizza for their lunch. The manager buys enough for all the staff too, but of course, I have my special needs. I was inspired to head to Whole Foods to pick up a slice of vegan pizza. They outdid themselves! This one is huge, has BBQ Beyond Meat chicken, plus a ton of veggies and Daiya cheese. I needed to use two hands to pick it up. Nice job, Whole Foods!

PizzaHow was your week? Any races, training, or other special moments to share? Any WTF moments?