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

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.

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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.

2014: My First Full Running Year in Review

2014 was my first full calendar year as a runner. On November 23rd I participated in the Philadelphia Half Marathon which officially marks my last official run of the year. I have a scheduled 5K in December with the Philadelphia City Running Tour group, but as far as official races go, 2014 is in the books.

As the title states 2014 is my first full calendar year of running. Before I look back at the year, below are the races I ran:

  • Merrell Down & Dirty 5K Mud Run
  • US Road Running Virtual 5K
  • Hot Chocolate 15K
  • Philly 10K
  • Herb Kahl 5K
  • Spartan Race
  • Philly Rock N Roll 5K
  • Broad Street Run 10 Miler
  • Yuengling Oktoberfest 5K
  • Delaware Valley Duathlon
  • Run For Orphans 5K
  • Philly Rock Triathlon
  • St Rose 5K
  • Oddyssey Half Marathon
  • Autism Cares 10K
  • Philadelphia Half Marathon

So for those scoring at home, that would be .5 Miles of Swimming, 27.2 Miles of Biking and 93.1 Miles of Running throughout the year. Not taking into account all the training miles as well.

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A look at some of the major runs from the year

Outside of all those runs there were some other great highlights from the year as well:

Overall 2014 was an amazing year. I came into the year with a very rough blueprint of what I wanted to get accomplished. I knew I wanted to keep up my one official run per month, complete at least 2 more Half Marathon’s and the big goal for the year was a Triathlon. Outside of that I didn’t know what to expect. As the year went by I just started looking into races and throwing more on my schedule. I knew I wanted to prep myself for the tri so I found a Duathlon (5K Run, 12 Mile Bike, 5K Run). And I am so happy I did. That race was so much fun and really prepped me for how hard a Triathlon would be. I will never forget (in both the duathlon and triathlon) how impossible I thought it would be to run a 5K after having just done as much as I did. I also will never forget the feeling of joy when I crossed the finish line either.

Outside of the physical aspect of running, 2014 was also polar opposite for me as far as how running and my personal life were intertwined. I have discussed this before but in 2013 I was in a relationship with someone who made running more difficult than it had to be. For the majority of the time she was someone who would put me down for my running or tell me how I couldn’t accomplish my goals making it more difficult for me. I cannot completely be mad at her for it, because it built a fire in me to work harder just to prove her wrong. So I may not have worked as hard as I did when I first started out without that constant doubt she threw at me. In 2014 I started dating someone who couldn’t be more supportive if she tried. She is always encouraging me to work hard and do my best. She is constantly telling me how proud she is of all my accomplishments, even if I do not have the best race. And outside of her verbal encouragement she is showing up to these races with me no questions asked. It is one thing if I have to show up to a run at 5 am in the freezing cold. It is another for her to come with me and wait around for me. I don’t know what I can do to show her how thankful I am for having her in my life and being so selfless. In 2013 I was in a very dark place after being verbally (and unfortunately sometimes physically) beaten down by a woman I thought cared about me. I remember many times wondering if things would ever get better for me. In 2014 a greater power clearly understood my struggle and put someone in my life that has done nothing but make me feel like there is nothing I can’t accomplish. And I am very thankful for that.

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This woman has no clue how appreciative I am for her in my life. And how thankful I am for the sacrifices she makes for me.

2014 wasn’t just rainbows and smiles. There was that time I had to back out of a race as well. However this was not due to any physical limitations or injuries. So while I was upset about the first time backing out of a run, I also understood why and didn’t dwell on it so much. I pride myself on setting a goal and seeing it through to completion so it was a tough decision.

So there is my 2014 Running Year in Review. I took the next huge step in my running story by competing in a number of different style of races that tested me beyond my wildest dreams. This blog was started by someone who never ran in his life and decided to just pick it up at 28 years old. A year and a half later and here I am. No magic potion or formula. Just picking out a race, getting a training plan and making sure I complete a goal. When those start to add up you get someone who isn’t afraid of testing himself on what is to come.

And with that being said 2015 will be here shortly. My eyes are already set on 2015’s goal: a full marathon. This will not be taken lightly as I know there are extreme dangers that come with this goal. But it is something that I will set out to accomplish. As usual 2015 will be full of finding as many cool races as I think I can complete. But the majority of the year will be spent chasing those 26.2 miles. The goal will be for a race towards the end of the year, which specific race is yet to be determined. But I know by the end of next year this Average Joe will be a Full Marathon runner!

2014: The Year of the Bling!

2014: The Year of the Bling!

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!

2105 Running Goals

As I have previously blogged about, ever since starting to run in 2013 I have aimed for specific goals. Outside of the races I run through the year, I like to aim for a large goal that will really test me out. In 2013 it was my first Half Marathon. In 2014 the goal was my first Triathlon and 2nd Half Marathon (snuck in #3 as well).

Now for 2015.

Immediately the plan for 2015 is to run a Full Marathon. I know this is a physically and mentally tough goal, but I also know I will have 10+ months to prepare. Along with this goal I have decided on a few more as well. Nothing crazy, but some things that I know will test me (as well as be fun). I don’t want to put too many official races on the list, because I would rather focus on training for one larger race rather than jumping around from different race types.

So that being said below are my Running Goals for 2015. I always figure, if you write them down, you are that much closer to sticking with them.

  1. Volunteer at a race: The ultimate goal here would be to begin a race or trail a race with my motorcycle. I always think that looks like so much fun, and I love being on my bike. But I would take handing out water after someone just ran 13.1 miles
  2. Run 100 Miles In a Month: I run using Nike+. I have run 50 miles and won the Gold Trophy. But recently I saw they have a platinum trophy for 100 miles in a month. I’m coming for you platinum!
  3. Run a Full Marathon: Ideally it will be New York or Chicago. If I am going to do this I want to make it exciting. Plus I don’t know how many more Marathon’s I will run after I complete the goal.

So there is my 2015. A lot of running, but just 3 simple goals. 2013 was eye opening and 2014 tested what my body was capable of, so I am excited to see what 2015 has in store for me!

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Want to Run a Half Marathon? Go do it!

For me running started in June of 2013 and it began with 1.27 miles. Took me about 11:30 to finish and I remember it being very difficult. Fast forward a year and a half later and I am in the middle of training for my 3rd Half Marathon.

During that first 1.27 mile I will never forget how difficult it was. I was training for a 5K at the time. And I will always remember how I wasn’t sure how I was going to finish 3.1 miles. I didn’t want to do it but decided I wouldn’t give up. Immediately after my first 5K I decided to go on a plan for a half marathon. I figured if I work hard enough I could do it.

Fast forward two months later and I completed a half marathon! I always thought I needed to be a certain body type or needed to run track as a high schooler to complete that goal. But here I was, close to 30 years old, running for the first time in my life and finishing a half marathon with only 8 weeks training.

That’s what this post is about: if you want to complete a half marathon (or any distance you want) you just need to go for it. You don’t have to set a world record. You don’t need to have running in your DNA. You don’t need to be elite. Just pick a plan and go after it. Whether you finish in the top of your group or you are the last person across the finish line, you can say you finished.

For me personally I had always wanted to run a half marathon because I thought it would be a major accomplishment. But for years I avoided it because I always thought I wasn’t special enough. Until I finally got a plan and stuck to it. At the end of the plan I had a half marathon medal. A year and a half later and I have 2 Half Marathon, a Triathlon and countless other medals of varying distances.

You don’t need a special gene in your body to complete a goal. You just need a plan and an attitude that won’t give up. Like Nike says: just do it. It sounds so simple, however I know from personal experiences it is not. But don’t let fear or doubt get in your way. You are possible of so much more than you think. You will realize the only thing stopping you from achieving your goals is yourself.

Just as the picture says, don’t think about it. Just go out and run. Now go out there and accomplish your goals!

Eat Well, Run Well

Tonight was my second official run of my half marathon program. Nothing much, just 2.5 miles. I decided to go back to basics to prep for the Philly Half Marathon in November. I could easily get out there and do a 10K or 15K right now but I am a creature of habit so I decided to go back to my first ever half marathon plan.

The 1st run wasn’t bad. It wasn’t amazing but I finished no problem. Two days later and I ran the same distance. Only this time I felt better. Didn’t feel sluggish like I did two nights ago.

The difference? Food.

Lunch on the day of my first run: 3 sausage pepper and onion sandwiches.

Lunch today: grilled chicken with steamed broccoli.

Obviously I’m not breaking any news here but focusing on your food is equally important as completing your training miles. And I have always known that but feeling the difference really helps put it in perspective.

A few weeks back I completed a 28 day meal plan. And I really educated myself that you don’t eat healthy by just sticking to salads. You need protein, carbs, etc. It helped my discipline on good meal preparation. So now for this half marathon I am adding clean eating to my training and with any luck it will help me set a PR.

Running and healthy eating, match made in heaven.

Marathon Training Plan Picked Out

I have posted previously that my goal for 2015 is to run a full marathon. And hopefully that will be the Chicago Bank of America Marathon.

As a result I have selected a 25 week (6.25 months) plan by the Salt Lake Running company. I researched a good amount and I wanted one that would spread out most the year since Chicago is October of next year.

It looks like a good plan for a beginner. A lot of the plans only went up to 20 miles and really only hit it once. From what I have learned in training for a triathlon and half marathons, you really only need to train to 75% of the total miles. The other 25% will work itself out on race day. So while I wasn’t concerned about just running up to 20 miles, I did want to hit that mark a few times. I wanted to make sure I would be comfortable getting to 20 multiple times before having to get to 26.2. Lets face it, if you can run 20 miles you can run 26.2.

So I like this plan because it gets to that 20-22 mile mark a couple of times and that will settle my nerves more than anything else. Running has always been a mental thing for me more than physical.

Now of course this is all contingent on getting into Chicago as it is lottery based. So fingers crossed. If not I will still plan for another one at that time. I have NY and Las Vegas as back up’s. Although I know NY is a long shot where as Las Vegas I can sign up for with no issue.

So here I am, on my way to a full marathon. Just your every day normal guy who chooses to put one foot in front of the other.

The Official Plan