Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"It's so damn hot. Milk was a bad choice"

Aaah, the immortal words of Ron Burgundy. I think we can all learn something from his little nuggets of wisdom. You know what else is a bad choice? A couple of hours before a hard interval workout eating runny, scrambled eggs, bacon and biscuits with gravy from the workplace cafeteria. It's a terrible choice that I made last week. I now know the true meaning of the term gastrointestinal distress.

Besides the gastrointestinal stuff going on it also caused other problems. I think all the blood and energy that would otherwise go into powering my brain was in the vicinity of my stomach trying to process the ball of dough and eggs and grease that I had consumed. I was on the treadmill feeling nauseous, light headed, and generally shitty. As I pushed through the intervals my stomach was complaining and my legs were sluggish. As I slowed to recover my brain felt like it was floating away only tethered by a weak string. Being the stubborn, stupid guy that I am I pushed through anyway and finished. It felt terrible, but I hope to take away something positive from this experience: a valuable lesson as I prepare for my third marathon and second Flying Pig Marathon.

These kinds of mistakes bring to the forefront the importance of my nutritional needs for training and race day, my fuel. It is something that is easy to ignore most days and on most runs. I can skate by on short runs with nothing more than water. I can thrive on longer runs on a Gu or two and some water or Gatorade. The differences between training my longest training run and marathon race day make all the difference.

The first difference is distance and time. My longest run is 20 miles, which I do once. I'm not pushing myself particularly hard usually. The marathon is 26.2 miles. That last 6.2 miles makes or breaks the race. In these last 6.2 miles you find out if you've paced yourself properly, fueled properly, and prepared properly. If those are the standards, then I have to say that I have failed somewhere along the line in the first two marathons. The problem is figuring out which one. There are so many variables to consider: pacing, speed, nutrition, weather...

I think I can narrow it down to two variables. Pacing, which I will talk about in a second, and nutrition. Based on the fact that in both instances I've experienced severe leg cramps I can safely say nutrition is going to be very important going into my next race. What am I going to do? I've tried the electrolyte caps and that seemed to help on duathlons, but not so much for the marathon. My experience was so far outside the norm in terms of weather and climate, that it is tough to say that it wouldn't work under normal conditions. I'll have to give it some thought.

The other big difference in marathon day: pacing. The excitement of the race can so easily lead to a fast start which, in turn, leads to problems at the end. Got to go out easy. That is always tough for me. I'm getting used to the excitement of race day and it's becoming easier, but it is always a challenge. I have two strategies for dealing with this and they are both in training. The first strategy is to run more goal pace runs. I'm shooting for around an 8 minute/mile. I've been running a lot more of my long runs and goal pace runs at that speed. I'm starting to feel that 8 minute/mile. We don't need no stinking Garmin! The second strategy is training for negative splits. I'm teaching myself to start slow and end fast. I get so caught up in getting a fast start that I think I burn too much energy at the start of the race leaving nothing for the finish. That's just no good, and I'm working on it.

I got off on a little bit of a tangent, but what I'm really thinking about is nutrition. I need to devise a smarter nutrition plan leading up to and on race day. That's the goal for now.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Mental Game

I'm really surprised that I have not written about this aspect of running yet. I went back through some of my old entries and could not find anything. Certainly there is something buried in there somewhere for my marathon training last year. I'll have to take another look. I'm curious what I thought about the mental preparation last year and how my thinking might have changed after 2 marathons. I just can't seem to find it. Oh well let's take a stab at it today.

If I am going to be honest I think I have to admit that the mental aspect of running, especially long distance running is my weakest link. I plan out my training schedule. I try to eat the right things to prepare for racing (for the most part, ice cream may not be on the list of suggested training foods), but the mental aspect seems to fall by the wayside or is an afterthought. It is something that I need to think more about. All too often in a race I break down mentally and talk myself out of doing my best. All too often I let the negative voices win over.

I have a plan though. I have a plan that is already in progress to fight back the negative voices, to prepare me for those late miles of the marathon so that I can run my best.

1. Ditch the iPod.

I've long run with my iPod. I always thought that it helped me relax and enjoy the run, especially the long runs. I still think that it can have some benefit for those short recovery runs and medium recovery runs, especially on the treadmill. I've decided though that on my long runs and intervals, hills or other concentration intensive workouts I'm going to leave the iPod at home. I've found that when I've worn it for longer races, the marathon in particular, that it becomes a distraction late in the race. When I should be concentrating on my breathing, my technique and staying relaxed I'm stuck in my head with the iPod while I'm gasping for breath and running poorly. I need to start working on this now during my training. I leave the iPod at home and concentrate on technique.

The other reason to leave the iPod at home is that I'm running with a group more now. It is easier to be social and interact with the other runners with earbuds stuck in my ears. I still believe it has its benefits for running just not for me for now.

2. Find that technique that will help me late in the race.

I'm searching for that one thing that will motivate me late in the race when I'm tired and want to stop. There are many different methods that people use to motivate themselves or keep themselves on pace when things get tough. Some people disassociate themselves by latching on to a memory or other thoughts that take them away from the pain. Some people use their heroes to motivate them. This is particularly true for the TNT group. We are running for our heroes that are going through cancer treatment and tough times. If they can do what they're doing I can run a few more miles. Some use the love of their family, while others just concentrate on their bodies and count their steps.

I'm still looking for that one strategy that will push me through. It's easy to pick some things now, as I'm sitting here typing this, but I won't really know what's going to work until I put it to the test. This final weeks of long runs will be the testing ground. Right now I'm thinking that it won't be one particular thing, but a combination of strategies that helps. I'm still working it out.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Edge of Spring


It's 40 degrees and sunny. It's 50 degress and sunny. It's 35 degrees and raining. It's 20 degrees and we have 14 inches of snow fall in a day. It's 40 degress and sunny. This time of year can be tough on the spirit and the plans of a runner in marathon training. You never know what you have to look forward to from day to day let alone from week to week. It's forced me to spend a lot of quality time with the treadmill, so much so that I've been writing little poems and love/hate letters to the treadmill in my head. They are all pretty terrible and not worth sharing. You'll just have to trust me on that.

What's been going on in my month of silence? Team in Training and just training. I've been mentoring for Team In Training fundraisers for the Flying Pig Marathon. It's been an interesting experience so far. I think I was expecting a much more interaction between myself and the mentees. So far that has not been the case. I sent out emails introducing myself and giving some tips. I called people to introduce myself. I've spoken with some. I've had good conversations with a few. A couple were confused as to who I am, and what they were supposed to do be doing. A few I've tried to get a hold of, but haven't responded at all. I guess they're out there doing their thing....I hope. Maybe my expectations were all wrong. Maybe this is typical. I'm not really sure. I'll just keep doing my thing and hope for the best!

My training is going very well. It's been helpful to go back and look at my training entries from this time last year when I was writing a short blog for every workout that I did. That was before I started using Buckeye Outdoors, so this was my training log. I can go back and see what my expectations were, how naive I was about marathon training, and how I was feeling. Based on where I was at this time last I think I'm in pretty good shape.

I'm just getting into my speed training for this marathon, and I'm feeling optimistic. It's the toughest part of the training as the miles really start to increase and the workouts become more intense. Despite what I know is coming in terms of pain and exhaustion I'm focused and ready to go. The time I'm spending in the gym doing strength training is paying off. I'm feeling very healthy and injury free unlike last fall's Disney training. The time I'm spending with TNT and the Children's Running Group is paying off. I feel very connected with the groups, and know that even though I still do a lot of training alone I always have support and a group run right around the corner.

All is going well for now. So bring on the spring. Bring on more daylight. Now if we could just add a few more hours to the day, so I could get some more sleep that would be great!