Keeping it Together

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.

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7 Responses to Keeping it Together

  1. Ali Mc says:

    I am not training for anything – I can’t run. Just got the word :( sorry bitter!

    lol as for long runs, I’ve never run further than 11.5 miles and I have done those in a group, which helps. I also find TRAILS are a great way to keep my mind busy and makes the longer runs feel like an adventure.

    I usually eat toast and pb or toast a butter.

    I just had oranges DURING my last race and I LOVED them…..I’d try it :)

    • Matt says:

      I’m sorry, Ali – that really sucks. :( I hope your new doctor can get you healed up and back to running as soon as it’s safely possible so you can come back stronger than ever! In the meantime, I hope your cross training goes well. It never hurts to cross train anyway, and while it’s no substitute for running, it’s definitely much better than nothing. Group runs can definitely help make the longer distances seem more tolerable and go by more quickly! Thanks for the suggestions about oranges – I’ll keep that in mind. :)

      • Ali Mc says:

        for sure! I haven’t done much working out this week as my whole hip is killing (I’ll resume everything as normal next week) the race and dr’s roughing me up really aggravated everything ;) but I love following your marathon training!

        • Matt says:

          Thanks, Ali! I really enjoy following your training (and all your non-running adventures), too. :) The time off should definitely help you, and I hope you can get back to it soon.

        • Ali Mc says:

          Thanks so much Matt :)

  2. Becki says:

    I eat a lot before races, no matter what the distance. Usually I go with a bagel with peanut butter and an apple right after my shake-out run, then a Powerbar and coffee (or Monster Lo-Carb) about an hour before (right before I start warming up), and Powerade Zero as necessary. I think that’s around 850 kcal. Obviously this sometimes means waking up super early. And I didn’t do a shake-out before the marathon I ran, so I just ate when I woke up. In college, it was the same minus the Powerbar and coffee/Monster…that got added sometime after. If it’s an evening race, then I just eat like normal, but I have a carb heavy lunch (like pasta) and then sometimes a light snack (like a bagel and PB) before the race, depending on what time it is.

    I only eat during races if it’s a half or longer, usually a Gu (or Roctane if I’m feeling indulgent) every 7ish miles, and I’ll take the sports drink over water at aid stations. Make sure to practice eating at race pace. I can eat Chomps when I’m running slow, but at race pace the only thing I can eat without choking is Gu.

    You’re definitely doing the right thing with experimenting with different foods now.

    • Matt says:

      Thanks for the awesome advice, Becki. I hadn’t even thought about practicing eating at race pace. Race pace will (hopefully) be quite a bit different from the paces I’ve been suffering through on most of my recent long runs, and I’m sure it’ll make quite a difference. I’ll also start eating a little earlier in my runs than I have been, and I’m planning on continuing to wake up at least a couple hours before my long runs like I did last weekend so I’m not eating right before I run. Thanks again for the great suggestions!

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