Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Marathon tips from a first timer

My bad guys, I meant to post this last week, but with the holiday and job interviews and my birthday and accepting a new job, the weeks kind of got away from me. Dry your tears, I am back.

Thinking of signing up for your first 26.2? You should definitely do it!!

Last week, I blogged about my first marathon experience. I thought I would throw together a few tips on things that I can’t run live without. I’m not a nutritionist or a professional runner or an expert on anything, just a girl who had a goal and figured out is still figuring out through trial-and-error what products and strategies worked best for me before and during my marathon.

1.     A good sports bra

I don’t have HUGE boobs, but they are about 34D/36C and in need of some good support. I am currently working on finding a good (and affordable) sports bra, since right now I only have one that fits me great. The rest of mine are stretched out cheapos from Target. Yesterday I bit the bullet and invested in these:

Champion Custom Criss-Cross Seamless Max-Support Sports Bra: Treat yo self here

2.     Body Glide

I didn’t used to chafe as bad as I do now, but my tree trunk thighs chafe like a mother now. Since I’m not as thin/toned as I used to be, I’ve noticed chafing under my bra and in my armpits too. Sorry if that’s TMI but I feel like a lot of ladies experience chafing and nobody seems to write about it. So here I am, talking about my thigh fat on the internet. If you are like me and chafe (I’m not kidding, I would have blood running down my thighs from my chafing), do yourself a favor and buy some Body Glide. It’s like $7.99 and worth every penny.

I bought mine at Dicks Sporting Goods but I'm sure you can find it online and at most sporting goods or running stores. Treat yo self here

3.     Figure out what you like to eat while running, and stick with that

Here’s where that whole trial-and-error thing comes in. I am not one of those people who can run 26.2 miles without eating. Hell, I can’t even run 10 miles without eating. My hypoglycemia kicks in and I get faint and nauseous. The best thing I have done for my running is learn to eat on longer runs.

The foods I have tried include Gu, Gu Chomps, Clif Bars, Clif Shot Blocks, chewing gum, eating baby food packets, a Go-Go Squeeze applesauce, and bananas. With my hypoglycemia, I have to be mindful of the type of calories I get so that I don’t eat too many “empty calories” that don’t fuel my body.

Treat yo self here

I’ve tried a lot of different flavors, but the only ones I can deal with are Strawberry Banana and Wildberry. Tried Peanut Butter once and almost barfed it up while running across the Ford Bridge. I’ve tried Vanilla, Lemonade, Mint Chocolate, Mocha, and a few others. I stick with what I know and just buy Strawberry Banana Gu’s in bulk on Amazon. 

Treat yo self here

As a nanny, I feed these to my kids on the regular, and they work great for running. Although they are a little bigger than a Gu pouch (if storage space is an issue) they are sweet and satisfying. I like the Apple Strawberry flavor. You can buy them at any grocery store. I get mine at Target, also in the bulk.

My best advice on food is to try a different food on each training run for a week or two (shorter runs) and then try to narrow down what works best for you. Once you figure out a food(s) that work, stick with it. NEVER TRY A NEW FOOD ON RACE DAY!!!!! If something is not going to agree with your system, better to figure that out on a 6 mile training run than on race day itself. It can be tempting to grab a Gu during the race (BECAUSE IT’S FREE!) but be careful trying new things. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

4.     A good hydration system

This applies as much to training (if not more) as it does race day itself. It is extremely bad for you to run 26.2 miles without having anything to drink. In fact, in my expert opinion, I think you might turn into a dehydrated monster if you didn’t drink anything. During your long runs, and especially on race day, you will need to be hydrating yourself (unless dehydrated monster is what you’re going for). Lots of people use sports drinks (Gaterade, Powerade, ReHydrate, Spark, etc.) but those don’t sit well with my tum tum, so in effort to avoid seeing blue puke or poop, I just stick with water.

My recommendation is that you have a drink every couple of miles or so, and for me, if I am well hydrated before (for 2 or 3 days before a long run/race) and drink little bits of water throughout, I don’t get sick or have to pee while I run. If you use a sports drink or something with electrolytes, I hear it’s best to alternate between that and water.

I strongly suggest you get used to running with a water bottle or vest, or locate a reliable drinking fountain, so that once you start getting up over one hour runs, you are drinking at least a little bit during.

This is my system, and I usually use the bottle for shorter runs (6-13 miles) and then the belt for anything over a half marathon:

Northface Handheld Hydrator: Treat yo self here
Nathan Speed 2: Treat yo self here

Just to reiterate, it is crucial that you figure out what works for you before your long training runs, and certainly before your race. Try to do the same thing on every run and remember, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

5.     Run slower than you usually do on long runs and race day

This is crucial, and I wish I would have heeded my own advice on this one. If you start slower and try to hold a slower pace, theoretically you won’t hit the wall as soon (or at all!) My mistake was starting with two friends who run faster than me, and I probably ran my first 3 miles a solid 2 minutes per mile faster than I should have.  Practice slowing yourself down on your longer training runs and find a “race pace” that is slower than your regular pace.

Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Okay, maybe not WINS but FINISHES the race.

6.     Choose a mantra or motivational technique and use it to your advantage

This one is a little bit silly, but it works for me. And also for Kara Goucher, who runs marathons in the Olympics. If it’s good enough for Kara, it’s good enough for me. I either focus on an idea, a goal, a person, or a phrase and when I start struggling, I repeat that to myself and use it to refocus (or distract myself from the pain, however you want to look at it).

While you are training for and running a marathon, you are going to be spending a lot of time running, and probably some time suffering as well. In those moments, and hell, in the moments of elation and pride too, it helps me to have some image or phrase ground me in what I am doing. My phrase changes from time to time but for my marathon it was, “I am a fighter and I’m going to run this marathon.” Over and over and over. During the marathon itself I repeated, “I am doing this. I am doing this,” until finally I finished and could actually say, "I did it."

Sometimes I focus on my grandmother who I was extremely close to and reflect on her life and our relationship. Sometimes this makes me cry while I’m running—but they are good, cleansing tears that propel me forward to finish the run. Every race I run, I write her name on my wrist with a Sharpie and so all I need to do to focus on her is look down at my wrist (tattoo coming soon?!?!). I think about her strength and it makes my whiny complaints to myself about my shin splints or blisters seem pretty lame.

A good friend of mine focuses on one person in her life for a whole mile and thinks about all her memories with that person and completely devotes herself to that one person during that mile. Once she hits a new mile marker, she moves onto another person. It keeps her mind active so that it can't focus on the run itself.

7.     Get enough sleep

Train yourself early on in your training (see what I did there? Eh? Eh?) to get enough sleep. For me, marathon training required very early morning runs followed by a 9 hour work day and that would not have been possible if I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I was a pretty boring friend on the weekends since I wouldn’t really go out and stay out late since I kept to my sleep schedule all week long. And when I didn’t, I had terrible runs and was generally miserable.

I feel like in the world of self-help books and training guides, a lot of emphasis is placed on nutrition and gear, and while that stuff is important (see #1-4 above), I think adequate sleep doesn’t get enough credit. Some people say you are what you eat, but I believe you are what you sleep. Our bodies are simply not designed to get five hours of sleep and run 15 miles the next day and then have a full day of activities. Eventually, it catches up with you and when that happens, you leave yourself vulnerable to illness and injury, which can really derail your training. Try not to just “go to bed early” the night before a long run or race. Make getting enough sleep a part of your daily routine and try to stick to a sleep schedule all week long if you can.

So do yourself a favor and catch some Zzzzz’s. Your body and sanity will thank you for it.

When I see this picture I can't help but ask myself: Why so serious? You're about to finish a marathon!

So there you have it. 7 marathon tips from someone who has run one marathon and is not an expert on anything (besides procrastination). I am not a dietician, doctor, coach, or specialist and all the opinions here are my own.

If you are even THINKING about signing up for A FULL MARATHON, I’d love to hear from you and I’d be happy to offer more specific tips :)

Happy running, friends.