Posts Tagged ‘carbohydrate loading’

Four days and 13 hours to go until my fourth full marathon, The Santa Rosa Marathon on Sunday, August 24, 2014. I’ve reached the point where my stomach does a little nervous flip-flop when I think about the race. As usual, it’s ridiculous, and I wonder why I put myself through this. (Answer: The sense of accomplishment after every finish line and every workout).

Taper is going well. I knocked out a 6-mile tempo run on Sunday with five miles at an 8:00 pace. Monday I biked 15 miles and did 30 minutes of core work. Today is a rest day. Tomorrow’s speed workout is just 4 x 200 m with 200 m rest intervals, for a total of three miles with the warm-up and cool-down. Thursday is a rest day, Friday is 10 minutes of drills, Saturday is a rest day and Sunday is the big race day!

I’m busy worrying over a few things:

1. Weather — the race day temperature still looks favorable with the 6 a.m. temperature starting at 54 degrees and not going above the low 60s by 10 a.m. The problem is that in the early morning hours the humidity is nearly 100%, a “dripping fog” as local organizer and legendary ultrarunner Arthur Webb puts it on his very helpful blog. Here in SoCal I train in bone-dry, drought-ridden conditions. I guess it’s a good thing my last long run was in the high 80s and so muggy it felt like I was running through the pool locker room at the gym.

2. Tapering — While I still regret running 18.25 miles of speed workout just 10 days before the race, I am consoling myself with the fact that 9.25 of that was at 10K pace, 2 miles at easy pace, and the rest was walking. I also did a bunch of reading and research on carb loading, and in reading Matt Fitzgerald’s book Runner’s World Performance Nutrition for Runners: How to Fuel Your Body for Stronger Workouts, Faster Recovery, and Your Best Race Times Ever, I saw that he said:

I always recommend doing a final longer run [15 miles] about a week before longer races (half-marathon and up) for maintenance of endurance adaptations.

(p. 131). Bless you Matt Fitzgerald for easing my mind a bit!

3. Health — My three girls started junior high and elementary school last week and two of them have already managed to bring home cold viruses. I find that marathon training revs up my immune system and I rarely get sick during training (knock on wood). The one exception is during the reduced workouts in taper. I am going to be very disappointed if I show up to the starting line with a cold.

4. Bonking a/k/a Hitting the Wall — If I want to come in at 3:45 or under, I need to maintain a steady pace of about 8:30 per mile over the course of 26.2 miles. I looked at my last two big races, the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon and the Long Beach International Marathon, to see how I did on pacing. In the half I did a good job of pacing (especially in light of the hills), with an average of 8:10 pace and a 7:54 for mile 13. No problem there. The concern comes when I get to about mile 18 of a full marathon. While I wouldn’t say I hit the wall in Long Beach (I didn’t have to spend time in the medical tent like I did at Mountains 2 Beach), my pace dropped off after mile 18. I averaged 8:30 for most of the race, then 8:59, 8:28, 9:06, 9:31, 9:41, 9:50, 9:57, 10:04, 9:41 and the last 0.2-mile sprint at 8:48. Not exactly the strong finish I’d like to see at Santa Rosa. Now, rest assured, I’m not just crossing my fingers and hoping for a better outcome this time. Here are four things I have done or will do to power myself for an even pace at Santa Rosa:

1. Strength training. My core is much stronger now than it was almost a year ago at Long Beach. I know I can draw on those muscles to help maintain good form throughout the race.

2. Carb loading. I’m paying particular attention to what I will eat over the next three days, increasing carbs to about 70% of my daily diet. That translates to 10 to 11 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight.

3. Starting slow. It’s been a hard lesson for me to learn, but now I understand that going out even a handful of seconds too fast at the start of the race can cost whole minutes at the end of a race. I plan to start slower than marathon goal pace and ease into it over the first four miles.

4. Not carrying my fuel with me. This is the first full marathon where I will rely fully on the aid stations on the course. By not carrying that extra weight with me, I can shave a few seconds off each mile (which, granted, gets balanced out by stopping to walk every two miles through the aid stations). I practiced this at my last half, and I practiced it on my 18.25-mile speed workout. I’m still worried about not getting enough fuel at each aid station, but I have calculated that I need to get 6-8 ounces each time and that seems manageable.

Anyone else have a race coming up soon? What have you done differently during your last round of training?

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Yesterday I ran 20 miles for the marathon training plan. Woo hoo, another distance record for me! Only, it did not go so well. Somewhere around mile 14 I wished I were done. By mile 16, I’d officially hit the wall. Bonked big time. What had been a decent pace under 10 minute miles fell off a cliff to 12, 13, 14, and even 15 at one point. I could have walked faster. I refused to give in though. Mentally I felt fine, and I tried as hard as I could to will my legs to move faster. I swung my arms vigorously, but my legs didn’t get the hint. My hips were sore, sore enough to mask the pain I’d already been feeling from the existing groin pull. My legs felt like lead. I simply could not force them to pick up the pace. I shuffled along, determined to make it the full 20 miles. I had to get back to the car no matter what, and I might as well get there as fast as I could.

At mile 18.8, a man approached on his bike in the opposite lane, and as he neared me, he called out sympathetically, “You’re doing great!” I thanked him, and promptly burst into tears! I was NOT doing great, but it was kind of him to say so. Thank goodness he didn’t hear me crying to myself as he rode away! I had to wonder what had given me away — did he know I was powering out the last part of a long run because of my compression socks (a dead giveaway for a distance runner) or because of an agonized look on my face? Some combination of both I suspect, but he definitely recognized my sheer determination to finish a tough run. At any rate, it was lovely of him to speak up.

Cheered on by the kindness of a stranger, and cleansed with a few cathartic tears, I managed to kick it back up into the 12-minute mile range for the last mile. When I hit 20 miles on my Garmin, I threw my hands up into the air and yelled out, “20 miles!” to no one in particular. I wish I could have worn a sign for the rest of the day: “I ran 20 miles today, can you believe it? Oh, you saw me walking funny and wondered why? Now you know!”

After a cool-down hobble/walk, some stretching that required a lot of grunting to get my legs into position, and a torturous climb back into my car, I drove straight to Jamba Juice for a celebratory smoothie. On the way I grudgingly ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole wheat, but it was the juicy goodness of a Five Fruit Frenzy I craved.

Jamba Juice smoothie

Ah my love, thank you for helping me recover. You tasted like heaven. (Photo from Jamba Juice).

An all-fruit smoothie — strawberry, banana, blueberry, mango and peach. Perfection. (Man, I wish I were getting paid for this commercial. Sadly, no, I just love me some all-fruit smoothie).

After preschool pickup and the drive home, I hopped in an ice bath. Who am I kidding — I wasn’t “hopping” into anything with my sore muscles. But I gingerly climbed in and lowered myself down, and huffed and puffed at the cold. Tip: never combine an ice bath with a smoothie recovery drink. Instant brain freeze (I speak from very painful prior experience). I like to sip hot chocolate in my ice bath. You?

Where does all that leave me? Now that I’ve recovered a bit from the bonk death march, I’ve had a chance to think over what went wrong. I thought I’d nailed the nutrition on the run — a mix of four PowerBar and Gu gels, one every four miles, plus two 20-ounce bottles of Fluid (the electrolyte drink offered on the marathon course) and at least two bottles of water. That seemed like almost too many gels, if anything. Correct me if I’m wrong — I’d love to hear if you have ideas to tweak that.

In reading about bonking and hitting the wall, I realized my rookie mistake. I didn’t carbo-load the day(s) before the long run. I knew all about carbohydrate-loading before a race, but for some reason it just did not occur to me that I ought to be paying attention to that before a 20 mile run. Duh. Believe me, I will never make that mistake again.

So, not the confidence boosting 20-miler I was hoping for, but I learned something and am all the more determined to have a great race day. I will use my taper energy over the next three weeks to fine-tune my nutrition and plan my carbo-loading for the days leading up to the race. I will remember that what didn’t kill me made me stronger. The conditions on race day will be different — over 2 hours earlier in the day, and much cooler weather (I hope). I can do it!

Favorite recovery drink? Ever make any rookie mistakes? Do tell.

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