Half Marathon #10: Mad Marathon Half

Disclaimer:  I received free entry to the Mad Marathon Half as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews! 

This past weekend I headed north to Waitsfield, VT to run the Mad Marathon Half and state number 4 in pursuit of my 50 States 50 Half’s goal. This run is dubbed the “Worlds Most Beautiful Marathon” due to all of the sights and sounds along the course. And it did not disappoint.

The race was held in the Mad River Valley in Waitsfield, VT. Because the town was so small I had to do my research on this. The population of Waitsfield is 1,719. Just for context the last race I ran in Philly (Broad Street Run) had 40,000 runners. So needless to say I knew this race would be small. When I got to the bib pick up I believe the person told me there were 700 runners registered. That may have been cutting it short a bit, but yes it was indeed small.

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Miscellaneous Marathon Training Notes

I recently read multiple books to prepare for the 2015 Chicago Marathon, my first marathon. My official training schedule doesn’t start for another week, but I wanted to get my mind right, just as much as my body. I read 3 books: “Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide” (by Hal Higdon), “You Can Go The Distance” (by Bruce Van Horn) and “Marathon Training” (by Joe Henderson).

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When I am reading for research like this, I usually have a notepad and pen by my side to jot down the important notes. As a result below are the notes I took from reading these three books to help in my training efforts. Hopefully they can help those in need as well.

On Nutrition:

  • Amount of protein needed per day during training is 0.8 grams per KG of body weight.
    • Body Weight / 2.2 = Weight in KG
    • Weight in KG x 0.8 = Amount of Grams of Protein needed per day
  • Successful marathon diet:
    • 55% carbohydrates, 30% fats, 15% protein
  • Carbo loading should happen months before the race, not the night before

Miscellaneous Notes:

  • “By skipping a run, you are actually training your brain to do that next time”
  • To become a successful marathoner:
    1. Follow a proper diet
    2. Eliminate extra body fat
    3. Refrain from smoking/ heavy drinking
    4. Get adequate sleep
    5. Exercise regularly
  • High mileage training helps you better utilize glycogen (the substance stored in muscles and liver that creates energy for running)
  • To run a marathon well, change your habits in 5 areas during the final weeks of training:
    1. Cut total mileage (cut by about 50%)
    2. Cut frequency (days you run per week)
    3. Cut distance, not intensity
    4. Cut the lifting
    5. Cut back on calories
  • Get a race day routine and practice it during your long runs
  • You build strength when resting not running
  • Yasso 800’s = Run 800 meters (0.5 miles) at your goal pace per mile. Lightly jog another 800 and repeat.

On Taper Period:

  • Tapering = Taking your running miles down 2- 3 weeks before race day
  • Begin tapering 3 weeks prior to marathon (after your 20 mile long run).
  • During the 3 week taper period long runs should be 12 miles, then 8, then race day.
  • During taper weeks, cut your distance not your pace.

On Race Week:

  • To do week of race:
    • Drink more water
    • Sleep longer
    • Stay off feet
  • Focus on fruits, vegetables and grains one week before the race
  • During marathon week, watch food intake for first 3 days, then the next 3 days eat more than your normal intake, with a focus on carbs
  • You may want to jog the day before the marathon to reduce nervousness, but do not go too far

On Pre-Race:

  • Eat your first race day pre-race food as early as 3 hours before the race start
  • Run/ walk a half mile or so on race day in preparation
  • Types of protein bars for pre-race should be something that is mostly carbs
  • Pre-Race Breakfast:
    • 1.5 to 1.8 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight 3 to 4 hours before race

On Post-Race:

  • After crossing the finish line you must keep walking. Drops in blood pressure and cramping increases by resting immediately after.
  • Try to get your blood sugar back to normal as soon as possible with sugar based drinks (Gatorade, Soda, etc.)
  • Types of protein bars for post-race should be something heavy in protein
  • After the first 5- 10 minutes post run walking around, get off your feet. Elevate your feet to ease blood flow to your heart.
  • Keep any stretching post-race short and simple.

Books

Book Review: “Marathon Training” by Joe Henderson

The second book on my marathon training adventure was “Marathon Training. The 100-Day Program for Success”. This book was written by Joe Henderson.

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I do not know the official background on Joe Henderson, but his words can be trusted. He mentions in the book that he was a contributor to Runners World magazine in the 1970’s. Also he talks about running marathons all over the country (including the major ones like Boston and NY). So as far as advice goes he is someone’s advice that I respect.

Having said that, truth be told I did not finish this book. I got half way through before deciding to call it quits. Not because I thought it was a bad book. But it is truly a 100 day program for marathon training. Yes, I do realize that is in the title so this should not surprise me. But I took a chance on the book because I am new to marathon training and am not too good for anyone’s advice.

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Why I Love The Out and Back Training Run

Over the past few days I have taken my training runs to the outdoors. The weather in Philly is starting to turn from snow which has resulted me in leaving the treadmill behind. I’ll admit it, I wimped out most this winter and stuck to indoor running for the most part. And by most I mean just about all of my running. This week would be the first full week I have taken my running outside. I ran 6 miles two nights ago and another 4 miles tonight.

And they have been tough runs.

I knew this would happen. When you are on the treadmill you don’t battle the same elements as you do with outdoor runs. On the treadmill there is no cold weather, rolling inclines, snow to avoid, etc. etc. So as a result outdoor running is always a bit tougher.

Long story short, as I mentioned the past 10 miles this week have been tough. A little more walking than I would like to admit. But at the end of the day I have logged the miles so I am happy.

And that is what brings me to the point of my post. The out and back type of run is probably the best. For my 6 mile run I ran out 3 miles and ran 3 back to the same point. The first 3 miles were tough but I got through them. And then what was I going to do? I was 3 miles away from home. Where I live it is not that easy to just call a cab to get you back. And I very well couldn’t respect myself if I called a friend to drive me less than 5 minutes home. So I had to run the 3 miles back. And there I was, with 6 miles in.

If I were to run 6 miles on a track or an area where I had to run laps it could be very easy to just give up and not finish the 6 miles. I am constantly by the starting point, so it is just as easy to say “I will stop here”. The out and back forces you to get your miles in as long as you make it to your half way point. And lets face it, whatever your total mile is I am sure you can get to the half way point with no issue.

Now that I have the first 10 outdoor training miles in the book I look forward to logging much more, especially as the weather warms up. I am 7 months away from having to finish 26.2 Miles, so plenty of more out and backs for me.

photo

My first outdoor training path of the year.

Update: The day after I wrote this original post I continued reading “You Can Go The Distance” by Bruce Van Horn (find it here). And in the book I read about how much he supports out and back running (pictured below). Glad to see others who share the same opinion.

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Portion of Bruce Van Horn’s “You Can Go The Distance”

Race Recap: Frostbite 5 Miler

This weekend was the Frostbite 5 Miler, hosted by The Ambler Area Running Club. LogoFor me it was my first official run of the year. The next few runs I am training for are a 10 Miler in May and Half Marathon in June. So I thought it would be good to get myself out there with a 5 Miler early on the year. In fact I have written this previously, but I do not see myself running many 5K’s in 2015. Instead I would like to keep 5 Miles the shortest distance I run in official races for the year.

As I mentioned I am in the beginning of a training plan for two 10+ mile races so my training for this run was just a part of that. So this race came at the end of the 4th week of my training plan. Based on my plan (in a perfect world) that would have given me 4 weeks to train for this race. And by train I mean start running again in 2015. Based on my Nike+ app (add me!) I only ran a total of 10 miles in January. So as I mentioned in a perfect world that would be 4 straight weeks of running to prep for this run. Unfortunately this world is not perfect. Realistically it was 3 weeks because I spent a week on a cruise in the Caribbean.

Plan

The first 4 week of a 10 week training plan

None the less I got a good amount of training in before hand and ultimately had a good race. I completed the race at the time I expected and overall the cold wasn’t as bad as expected. It is also important to note this was the first run I did outside since I think November. I have been training solely on the treadmill (more on that experience in a future post).

Waking up in the morning was a true shock. I have lived in the Philly area long enough to know what the cold feels like. And last year I ran in snow regularly. However having not done it in months I didn’t think I would make it. In fact, if my girlfriend wasn’t with me I cannot 100% guarantee I would have ever gotten out of bed. The cold sucks, there’s no way around it. Regardless I trudged out there and dealt with the weather. I even made the ridiculous decision of taking off and handing my jacket to my girlfriend as I got in the starting line (I was certain I was going to run in it up until the last minute).

The race director said go and off we went. This was also my first run using my Nike+ Sports Watch so for about the first 20 steps I fumbled with that (and my music) and was finally getting going.

The course was great. More hilly than I thought it would have been, but the hills were good. They were spaced out enough that when I thought I was cruising along, they snuck up to give me a challenge. Within the first mile or two my body started warming up so the cold din’t become too much of an issue. Minus of course the fact that breathing in the cold air made my lungs feel like they were on ice.

But back to the course. It ran through a mix of rural neighborhoods and some main streets. The Running Club did a very Mapgood job at blocking the road of two way traffic to let the runners through and had more than enough volunteers to help direct both runners and cars. Also since the runners ran through neighborhoods there were a good amount of spectators out during the course cheering the runners on. I remember specifically one woman at mile 2 or 3 out with her son and a radio playing music. Reminded me for a quick second of the Rock N Roll Philly Half Marathon.

The only complaint I had was nothing to do with the course or the Running Club itself. I believe at one point I heard a volunteer yell out to a runner “run don’t walk!”. While I will assume you were doing this to cheer them on, now is not the time to try your hand at being a running coach. Some people incorporate a run/ walk method into their runs. Just because you see someone walking a part of course doesn’t mean you should be discouraging them from it. Clapping your hands and shouting “you can do it” is good enough.

After the run the Running Club had a mini expo set up at the local high school gym it was held at. I didn’t spend much time in this (I wanted to get in my warm car and home immediately!). However my girlfriend waited in there before getting to the finish line in time to see me finish. She said they had a few local running shops that were set up selling items and offering discounts to their stores. Also they had a DJ set up and a table to exchange your race shirt. So while I didn’t spend much time in here, I think that was really cool for the running club to set something like that up. At most local suburb races (under 10K) it is usually just a table with drinks and bananas set up and you are gone.

The food line looked impressive as well. I saw people with chili, hot dogs, bananas, chips, etc. They seemed to really go above and beyond the post race festivities. Again, the line for food was long and I wanted to get home and warmed up so I didn’t stick around.

BibThe pre race swag/ set up was great as well. The Friday night before they set up a bib location pick up at the local movie theater. You could pick up your race shirt and bib from 5-8 pm. My girlfriend is usually not a bib pick up fan. She never understands going out of the way to get something you can just get the day of the race. So I bribed her to go with me by taking her to dinner at a local BYOB in the area. Win – win. The bib pick up was very easy. You walked in and they had multiple tables split between bib numbers. And if you (like me) didn’t know your bib number they had a board to find it. So I walked in and in less than 2 minutes walked out with my bib and race shirt. I liked the bib. They put the running logo, the logo of their main sponsor and a QR code to pull up results. As someone who has kept all my bibs for every run I have run I enjoyed it. The race shirt was very nice as well. It was tech material and long sleeve. So a perfect shirt to help with winter running.

Overall I was very pleased with this race. The Ambler Area Running Club held it with no issues whatsoever. And if there were, they were not very noticeable. They offered a great course, awesome post run experience and picking up your pre-race materials were super easy. I would recommend this race to anyone who wants to challenge themself with something beyond a 5K, especially in the winter weather. It is one thing to run a race when it is 72 degrees out. Another when you are sucking in frozen air and your muscles are tight because of the weather.

Finish

The finish line

Beard

So cold out my beard formed sweat-cicles.

Running: Just as Much Mental as it is Physical

Today I was having a conversation with my girlfriend about her wanting to run. She has run many times before. As she puts it she likes to do 5K’s and that is all. It’s not a major part of her life like it is mine, but she does it. She was saying how she wants to run a 5K in April (about 2 months from now) so she should start running now.

The convo reminded me of when I was training for my first 5K. I remembered how nervous I was and how I was afraid of the distance. Fast forward a year and a half later and I laugh at that thought. I feel confident that if someone forced me to run a 5K after waking me up in the middle of the night I would have no problem with it.

What this convo made me feel the most was how much of your mental state plays a factor in running. Sure I have changed physically since I have first started running, but it hasn’t been a crazy transformation like the ones you see in one of those before and after photo’s. So for me I don’t think it is easier now to run a 5K because of my physical shape. I have never really been out of shape. Sure I could easily afford to lose weight, but at the same time for most my life I keep myself physically active. Whether it is backyard sports or casually going to the gym even when I first started running I could at least be considered “active” (whatever that may mean).

So if the physical part hasn’t been a major change, something must be causing that mindset. And it is clear it is the mental aspect. Like I said, when I first trained for a 5K I was nervous about it. Nervous I wouldn’t be able to finish or it would be too tough on me. Fast forward a year and a half and I have completed 3 Half Marathons, a triathlon, spartan race, duathlon, 15K, 10 mile runs, etc. etc. So by now a 5K just doesn’t present that big of a hurdle to me. I am not saying they are easy, but the way I look at it is different.

That would probably be my biggest advice to someone just starting out in running; don’t let the space between your ears stop you from achieving your goals. I recently wrote about how easy it would be for someone with no experience to train for a 10 mile run in 2 months. Someone wrote me backlash on how I was a fool for suggesting that and how difficult it would be. Sure it will be difficult, but that doesn’t mean impossible. I am living proof. I went from couch to Half Marathon in 2 months myself, and I never let my brain tell me I couldn’t. And in two months I completed my first Half Marathon. Because every day I went out there and just trained as hard as I could.

So for those of you thinking you need to be a specific body type to complete specific running goals, you are mistaken. Sure physicality has something to do with it. But just as important (if not more) you have to believe you can.

Half Marathon #3 Weekend Is Here!

In 2 days I will be completing my 3rd Half Marathon. The Philadelphia Half Marathon. And I could not be more excited. Being able to hang up my 3rd Half Marathon medal after only starting to run in July 2013 is an exciting thought.

However this will be my first winter half marathon. And what I learned is training for a half in the winter is hard. Not the running part. Luckily if it gets too cold both my work and my apartment complex have gyms on site so it isn’t difficult to get a run in. For me it’s hard to find the motivation to run. By the time I leave for work it’s bitter cold and pitch black out. To say seasonal depression has kicked in would be an understatement.

So training has dipped off a bit. I have really only run a handful of times in the past few weeks. And with any luck I will get a run in today to remind my body what running feels like. As a result doubt has crept into my mind. Will I be able to do as well as I know I can? Am I ready? Can I even do it?

Luckily I have faith in myself. By no means am I a half expert, but I have been to the dance before. I know what 13.1 miles feels like. I know that by mile 3 I will be doubting if I can even run any further. I know at mile 7 I will start to get so hungry I could eat a full Thanksgiving turkey. I know at mile 10 I will be convincing myself “only a 5K more!” And I know by mile 13 I will sprint my hardest .1 mile I know I can. So from that standpoint I have been through the motions before and know what I am capable of.

I also had a 10K run a few weekends ago and walked away from that experience feeling very positive. My time was good, I handled the cold weather well and the course was very hilly and I didn’t let that stop me.

So naturally I am just going through the nerves anyone experiences when they know they are on the doorsteps of something very important to them. And as long as I am confident in myself, don’t get too high, don’t get too low I know I will complete my goal.

#3 is on its way!