Chicago Marathon Readiness…

I mentioned yesterday how running the half marathon so close to the full marathon thought me a few lessons come marathon-time.

It’s not that I hadn’t run a half before.  This was my fourth in a year, so I know what to expect in long distance races.  But we also hear a lot of people giving advice on what to do for your first marathon.  And you get lost in the advice!  You have to know what works for you!  But how the heck can you know what will work for you if you haven’t done one yet?

One advice I read:  bring your own hydration, the same you used during training.  “Yeah, right!” I thought “I’ll have that stupid camelbak on all my marathon pictures, I’ll look like a dork!”

And let’s face it, after having this picture taken of me during the weekend, I think I’m already achieving dork status.  WTF is up with my head, why does it bend so much to the side?  And just look at my hair fanning on the back…

However, the half this week convinced me that I should in fact bring my own hydration.  Turns out that I’m not always thirsty when the race course says I should be (though I hit all the water stops because I don’t like taking chances), and worse:  I’m thirsty a lot of times the race course thinks I shouldn’t be.  I was DYING at around mile 10 last weekend, and there was still well over a mile for the next water stop.  It forced me to slow down, then I wasted time by drinking two cups (and I was walking my water stops…).  And you know?  I can suck it up for a half or shorter distance waiting for the next water stop.  But do I really want to risk hitting an early wall just because I’m thirsty and there’s no water to be found yet?

So I’m letting this out there:  I’ll be looking stupid in all my marathon pictures.  There, I said it!  I know, I know… I really wanted to leave my first marathon with cool race pictures, instead, I’ll be looking like a lost backpacker in the throng of runners.

Karl promised to run with me, and looks like he’ll be carrying his own camelbak as well.  Now look at us in the picture below, about to cross the finish line…  I already look like I’m doing a dance twirl trying to run and hold his hand while lifting my arm at the same time (apparently multitasking while running is not my forte).  Now imagine both of us with a camelbak strapped to our backs…

Is my 50oz camelbak enough to fuel me through 26 miles?  Obviously not, considering I always refill it at some point during a long run (unless the weather is super agreeable then, it might just be enough).  But, if I hit the water stops when I’m thirsty, skip them when I’m not, and use my camelbak any time I need it in between, I should be good.

The other thing I learned?  I do much better with constant fuel than a fuel surge every 40-45 minutes.  I’ve been taking gels at 40 minute intervals for well over a year now for any run that’s longer than 90 minutes.  But at the end of long runs, I still struggle.  And sometimes I need fuel NOW, and watch the clock patiently until it’s time for another Gu (or more accurately, Hammer Gel, since Gu does horrors to my stomach).

Last week, I bought some Clif Shot Bloks to try.  The serving size is 3 pieces.  See where this is going yet?  Basically I take one Shot Blok every 15 minutes.  That way, I’m still getting full fuel within the same 45 minutes intervals, but I never hit a slump.  It worked so well for my 19 miler, I bought some for the half, and was just as pleased.  Watching the clock for 15 minutes intervals is also a much quicker way to pass the time.  And they’re yummy!  I thought I’d have a hard time chewing and running, but turns out they’re not hard to chew, and it’s not a fast chew that I use either so it doesn’t mess up my breathing (like sucking up the gel sometimes does), and I can easily wash it off with water (another reason to carry my own hydration…).

Of course, I found this out right after buying new boxes of banana and apple cinnamon Hammer Gels (if you haven’t tried these flavors, do so now, seriously, they actually taste GOOD).  Since they’re not cheap, I’ll still use the gels for shorter training runs (10 milers?  13 milers?) but bring out the Bloks for those 15 milers and up (and likely race day), until I finish my supply of gels (it’ll be a while…).

The one good news?  Despite a few failed long runs (where I had to walk a lot), I still harbor hope that I will be able to run the whole thing.  I wanted to finish it in 5 hours.  I really really wanted to finish it in 5 hours at the most.

When I put my half-marathon time on the predicted marathon finishing time, I WILL be able to meet my goal!  (I tried many sites for that and get an estimate of 4:57 – 5:03 — it’s a range that’s good enough for me).

I have to remember to print out this nifty pace band, so I make sure I can reach my goal.  (I should add that even if I fail on doing so and end up walking, crossing that finish line will be an accomplishment on its own.  But I really really really hope to finish in 5 hours, if only because that already sounds like a super long time to be running, and I just want to be done quicker.)

Now for you seasoned runners, what are your marathon tips?  And if you’re training for your first marathon, what are the best tips you have heard?  And is anyone also using a pace band to keep them on track?


Filed under Chicago Marathon Training, Pictures, Training

13 responses to “Chicago Marathon Readiness…

  1. Oh you crack me up with the pics comments! Yep, ya should have stopped 800 yards out and took out your brush and comb and beautified yourself!

    I am going to be a dork too on my 1/2 and wear my pack cause I just do way better when I can drink when I want to drink. What flavor of the shot blocks did you use? I had these margherita ones and ick! I have used the sport beans and those seem good. I am with ya on the fuel a little bit as you go along – gels don’t work that way!

  2. I think I read the the margarita ones have more salt in them, which could explain why some people hate the flavor and other people (me, who sweats like a disgusting person!) love them.

    As for the pace band, don’t forget that the pace groups at Chicago are large and well organized. Also, don’t forget that the first few miles you may be off your pace because of the crowds. The really, really, really big crowds!!

  3. the running store near me has pace sheets that you can tattoo on yourself! you just reminded me of them! but tracy brings up a good point.. the crowds could throw us off….

    • Maybe the crowds will prevent us from starting too quick? We’ll see… Hopefully the corrals are well managed — they were for the RnR this weekend (20 thousand people, 25 corrals), but for something like the Army Ten Miler, with 30 thousand people they only had 6 corrals (and that was really slow).

      • I did Chicago last year and the corrals are okay managed. The problem is that they don’t really subdivide people enough – I think there are something like 4 corrals before the “open” corral, where everyone else lines up by their anticipated finish time. The anticipated finish times are posted quite visibly and surprisingly few people start too far up (if you start up too far in the corral, you’ll start off running too fast and that would be very bad!). I don’t even think I was wearing a watch last year so I don’t have any recollection of how it affected my pace, though. I think that I was far enough back (I started near the 5 hour/5:15 hour pace groups) that the crowds were all pretty much moving my pace from the get-go, but it’s tight for a few miles.

  4. Thanks for the pace link! I will probably print that off and tape it to my arm.

    I have heard not to carry water too, but I definitely will. I am one thirsty gal 😉

    And I think eating more often is a good idea. I like those shot bloks, even in the winter when they freeze in my pocket!

    • You read it wrong — I heard that you SHOULD carry your own hydration (basically do the same thing you’ve been doing during training). I just didn’t want to look stupid with my camelbak (it’s different in training, no photographers are out there…)

      Frozen shot bloks sound awesome. I wonder if I can put some in my freezer and get it ready for my next hot run!

  5. First, I think you are my far-away running twin. Same basic race goal (except my husband would never cross a finish line with me, let alone hold my hand across a finish line… he’d already be chomping the eats an hour before I got there… oh wait, he refuses to run unless being chased)… ANYHOW… my first marathon is in December, and same as you, I just really really want to be done in under 5 hours. And I have likewise been contemplating bring hydration, and I was just thinking today about starting the outfit plan so that I could FINALLY have a good race photo… and then, I was also thinking about what I would eat during the race. I, personally, like the GUs, but I’m thinking for that duration, a little variety might be good. And I like your thought of having things you can take in smaller amounts so you don’t have that plummet – I do the same thing waiting for the 5 mile mark before I GU. I’m thinking about trying the Sports Beans.

    • I’ve really been liking the Clif Shot Bloks so far — I’ve been taking one every 15 minutes (meaning a full serving every 45 minutes). It really helps me not conking out! When I take just the gel, a lot of times by the time I take the gel I’m desperate, with the bloks, not so much. Give them a try for your next long run and see what you think. I wish I had found this earlier in my training (before I stocked up on boxes of Hammer Gel!).

  6. Christy

    I actually googled the question, “would I look stupid if I wore a camelbak while running a race?”
    I have started running in 2010 and ran a few short races. I always wore my camelbak, and after looking around at other “expert” runners, I was the only one. I felt like I was weird or something.
    Overall, when I ran my first 8k, I felt the urge to swish but with no water in sight!!! OHH but wait, I was wearing my camelbak. THANK goodness!!

    I am going to run the Moab 1/2 marathon in March 2011, and was wondering it was stupid to wear a camelbak. But after reading your blog, I think I will wear it, and hopefully make other runners remember how important hydration is.

    Thanks for sharing your story, and if I ever see a fellow camelbak wearer in the running crowd, I’ll give them kudios!

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