With a successful race under my belt, I always like to look back at my training.
I used the same plan (Less is More) that I did for Nike.Obviously I really like my training plan. It works for my body and I think it’s the primary reason I’ve gotten so much faster. Speed work does the trick! Not to mention, I came through training and the marathon healthy!
I don’t want to go into the ins and outs of specific training plan related things, but rather lessons learned this cycle.
1. Hills during training rock. For the first three months of training, I had some great hill workouts. Our temporary apartment was in a valley of hills which meant I ran up hill both ways during my runs. Once I got more involved with the running group and moved to Maple Grove, I did my long runs with the group at Elm Creek. The trail itself is paved with rolling hills. I really think the rolling hills combined with running in Minnetonka while in our apartment, made a huge difference in my ability to handle the hills during the race.
2. Talking during those long training runs really helps with respiratory fitness. Another benefit of training with the group, I got better at running and talking. To make sure we weren’t running too fast and frankly to keep the runs interesting, we chatted the entire time. As training continued, we found ourselves running 9 min/miles or under while talking. This meant when it came to race day and I wasn’t talking, I was hitting paces I wasn’t sure I would be able to for 90% of the marathon.
3. Caffeine and Alcohol do not agree with my stomach when I’m running for more than 90 minutes. As my runs got longer, I was having serious GI issues. I could not get through runs without stopping multiple times. First I tried cutting out booze for a few days before a run. Still having issues, so I cut out caffeine. I still had issues but not as bad. Once I cut all booze and caffeine for five days before my long runs, the problems stopped. Just to be extra safe, I didn’t have either for the two weeks prior to the marathon.
4. Gels should maintain your energy, not give you a boost. As my endurance increased, I found my need for fuel decreased. By the end of training I was able to run 10 miles without any gels or sports drinks. This wasn’t a goal of mine, but I do think it was beneficial as it helped me learn not to use gels for an energy boost but energy continuance. I never waited until I was tiring to take a gel. I took them at the same time during my runs whether I felt like I needed it or not.
Again, I stuck with what I knew gels wise. GU brand gels are the only ones I can stomach. I took the Salted Caramel, Chocolate Outrage, Vanilla and Peanut Butter Chocolate. As you can tell, I like it to taste somewhat like dessert.
5. You don’t have to hit the wall. For the first time ever, I didn’t hit the wall during the race. I never hit it during my long training runs either. I think this is for two reasons, I kept myself well hydrated and I figured out how to fuel my body. Pre-run, two pieces of peanut butter and jelly toast with water. During run, a gel every 7-8 miles (or every hour). After run, chocolate milk then whatever I’d normally eat.
6. Rethink that pre-race pasta dinner. Fearful of my stomach issues rearing their head on race day, I altered my strategy. While I ate a lot of carbs that week before the race, I didn’t go overboard. I needed to make sure I got in protein as well. I decided to have my big spaghetti dinner on Friday night, rather than the night before. I had leftovers for lunch on Saturday and then had a simple dinner of pork tenderloin, sweet potato and salad on Saturday night. On marathon day I didn’t feel overly bloated or full and no GI issues!
7. Cross-training makes me stronger. I have always sucked at cross-training when I’m training for a marathon. This time was different. I swam, did spin classes, walked a ton, did some weight lifting classes. I think all of these made me a much stronger runner.
8. Fall marathons are awesome! I’ve now run a spring, summer and two fall marathons. Fall marathons are hands down my favorite. The weather is great, the leaves are pretty and humidity is non-existent. Already looking for one to run next fall. I’m going to enter the lottery for Chicago, but want to have a backup considering I’ll likely not get into Chicago.