The last few weeks of marathon training have been as much of a running roller coaster as I’ve had in my 3.5 years of running consistently. I’m quickly learning that marathon training can be as difficult mentally as it is physically, and I’m my own worst enemy. But I’m hanging in there and doing my best, and so far it’s going well overall.
My long runs have been hit or miss, with my first couple of 16-milers going pretty well, the next two 16-milers feeling crappy (I even bailed halfway through on one of them), and my most recent long run – an 18-miler – going fairly well. The 18-miler was my longest run yet, and I had run a moderately-paced 8.5-miler the day before. I took the long run very slowly and conservatively because I just wanted to finish while keeping the pacing fairly consistent. I didn’t care much about speed for this run – for the sake of my training sanity, my primary goal was just to finish (without falling apart).
One of my secondary (and very important) goals for this run was to practice my pre-run nutrition. I rarely eat before running, even for runs of 10 or miles, but I knew I had to make some changes after bonking on my last two 16-milers. I was very glad to meet Jeff from Detroit Runner last week, and he gave me some awesome tips for getting nutrition before and during long runs. He also wrote an excellent post about race nutrition and the marathon, and I took his advice (and that of his readers) before my long run last weekend. Because I have a somewhat sensitive stomach while running and I’m not used to eating before I run, I wanted to have something of substance without pushing my luck. I decided to try half a banana and half a bagel with peanut butter. I also had some water and Gatorade so I’d be a little more hydrated than normal. Because I wanted to give the food time to settle, I set my alarm so I could eat a couple hours before I planned to run, then I went back to bed for a while.
I took my Amphipod handheld water bottle with me (filled with watered down Gatorade) and put some Honey Stinger chews in its pocket. I had no stomach problems at all (very luckily), and I had chews twice during the run…I think around miles 10 and 14. I felt very slow on this run, and not as energetic as I would’ve liked, but I was able to keep my pace pretty consistent and I was running on tired legs, so I have no complaints. I think the pre-run nutrition definitely helped, as did having my wife run the final 12 miles with me. I hadn’t run with her in quite a while – her shins have been bothering her for several weeks now, and she’s had to build her long runs back up slowly after some time off and reduced mileage. It was great running with her again, and having a running buddy really helped me get through the last couple miles (which felt like hell). My next long run will probably be around 16-17 miles, including 3 x 3 miles at a target pace. I’m looking forward to it, and I hope the intervals will make it a little less monotonous than a normal long run. The race nutrition stuff is still very new to me, and I’m using my weekly long runs to test different nutrition strategies both before and during my runs. Thanks again to Jeff for the great advice last week. It helped a lot, and I’ll keep working on figuring out an ideal race nutrition strategy during the two months remaining before Bayshore.
Are you training for any races right now? If so, which one(s) and at what distance(s)?
What do you do to keep your long runs interesting and less tedious?
Do you eat before or during races? If so, what do you eat? If not, then why not? I prefer to not eat before or during races, but I know I need to in longer races to avoid (or at least delay) hitting the wall.