Marathon Number Three – how shall I prepare for thee?
For my first marathon (Chicago 2014), I trained independently. I found Hal Higdon’s training plans, picked the one that worked best for me, and hung it up on my refrigerator, crossing off runs as I completed them going up and down the Chicago lakefront.
For my second marathon, (Nashville 2016), I still trained independently using another Hal Higdon plan but I was doing a lot more research since I was sharing my experiences with you all.
So now what?
Well looking back on the marathon experiences has taught me a lot. In Chicago, I didn’t stretch enough and relied too much on technology and it cost me my knee, my time, and my focus. In Nashville, I didn’t train on hills enough and I relied too heavily on nutrition supplements, causing my stomach to turn to knots towards the end of the race. These are the first things on my “To Not Do” list.
Plus, this year comes with a secret weapon – experience working with the experts themselves.
My job in Chicago was supporting the Chicago Marathon runners who had joined the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Team CF Superheroes charity race team. We had 85 people from across the country preparing for October 9th and two coaches lending their expertise – one who worked with New Balance’s elite runners and one who coached multiple charity teams and supported many first time marathoners. The opportunity to work with our coaches and runners was phenomenal and I am so grateful for the lessons they taught me about my own running, advice they provided to the team, and what I learned from working with our incredible teammates.
While my running may have wavered in the second half of 2016, my involvement in races had not, leaving me even more motivated and inspired than ever before!
This marathon, I’ll be combining the support that LLS’ Team in Training provides with the training plan Coach Michael Lucchesi gave last year’s Team CF runners and all the advice I’ve absorbed since last year.
During this year’s training, I have two main focuses that I hope you can benefit from too:
- Focus on the Time Spent on my Feet
Transition Away from Sugar as Fuel to Fat as Fuel
Time on your Feet
Like all running programs, you have to find the one that works best for YOU. As mentioned, I’ve tried the marathon training plans that are based on mileage and they were a great starting block. What I have learned since then is that I have a running ego. I constantly calculate or am mindful of how long it takes me to run each mile. This in itself is not a bad thing – until you overdo it!
Long runs are the bread and butter of any marathon training program. Typically, they should be done at a slower, conversational pace since the main purpose of these runs is to train your body to 1) work this long timewise and 2) go this distance. And to run them too quickly, too early, and too often means risking some pretty serious injuries.
Each and every workout, I found myself thinking more about how much time I had until I finished or when I needed to get to the next thing I had to do that day rather than thinking about and enjoying my run. I was taking my easy days too hard and constantly wanting to push myself beyond what was necessary, and not in the good way.
By changing the focus of my program to minutes per workout, I am better able to find the correct pace needed for each workout. I still notice what my time is during the workout but I am free to focus on more than numbers.
To learn if miles vs. minutes is better for you, check out this article from competitor.com which has a great description of each style.
Fat as Fuel
The Monday after the Nashville Marathon, when my stomach was just recovering from all of the extra crap I had put into it during the race, I had the pleasure of meeting Michael for the first time to speak with him about coaching the Team CF marathon team. He is a huge advocate for training your body to run on fat instead of sugar and, if I could have bent my legs the right direction, I would have kicked myself for not finding him during my training.
He broke it down into science: The human body can hold about 1,500-2,000 calories of stored glycogen. Running a mile typically consumes 100 calories on average. If you divide 2000 by 100 you get…drumroll please…20.
And around which mile do most marathoners hit “the wall”? You guessed it. Mile 20.
So unless you add to your energy stores during the race, your body is going to struggle to go those extra 6.2. You could run without added nutrition or use supplements to get to you the finish line. However, it begs the question, “is this the best way?”
Hello secret option number 3.
Body fat can store upwards of 25,000 calories. It’s a gold mine of energy that you just have to tap into to become a super efficient machine!
You just have to train your body to use the right source. And the best time to do this is while you’re already training your body to go marathon distance. The trick is to ween yourself off of sugar and build more protein and healthy fats into your diet. (I’m no nutritionist though – talk to a real one for more details!)
Put your bread and butter workouts to work for you. Maximize your long run and pay attention to your meals. “Carbing up” is a long time staple of many running programs (and a very fond Friday night memory with my team back in my high school days) but times are a changin’ and it may not be the right choice for training your body to use fat instead of sugar.
Here’s another great article detailing two types of long runs and how optimizing them during your training could help control your fuel source and increase your race day speed.
So those are my two focus areas and they both feed into my overall Nashville Marathon goal to make it the happiest race day: I’ll be a lot happier if I feel better while running!
* I will also add that hill training would have been added to this list had we not moved to Nashville. In Chicago, I had to make a conscious effort to find hills to run up or set the treadmill to the correct setting. Hill workouts should be added to any training program, in my opinion, since it strengthens your glutes and glutes get you to finish lines. However, by training through the streets of Nashville already, hills are unavoidable. And that’s a great thing! Attack the hill!