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?