Tag Archives: marathon training

Tips for staying hydrated during marathon training in the heat

With temperatures soaring, now is as good a time as any to be reminded of smart ways to stay hydrated while training for your next race.

If you are training for a fall marathon, like Chicago or Philadelphia, you probably started training last weekend or this weekend. If you are like me, training to run a December marathon (Dallas or Sacramento), you’ll start training in late July.

Whatever the case, if you live in Texas or any of the southern states, its gonna be hot during every run. Here are a few things I do to keep hydrated:

Monitor what I eat. I try to stay away from heavy meals 10 to 12 hours before a long run. For example, if I have a 6 a.m. long run Saturday, I try not to eat anything to heavy after 6 p.m. Friday night. Why? According to the Mayo Clinic, it takes about 6 to 8 hours for food to pass through your stomach and small instestine; itll take even more time for digestion if you are having steak and potatoes or pasta and a heavy cream sauce for your Friday night meal. Of course, I didn’t need a study to know that I feel miserable during a run of any distance if I’ve gorged myself the night before, and even worse – way worse – during a run of any distance when its hot outside.

Monitor my alcohol consumption This is a hard one. The night before my marathon PR, I had two glasses of wine. But it was in December. And the temps at the start were in the high 40s. I could probably get away with an extra glass of wine the night before a run lasting less than an hour in the heat, but anything longer than that and I’m in trouble. I not only start the run severely hydrated, but no amount of water during the run can undo the damage done by the adult beverages from the night before. And, I’ve noticed its not just about limiting my alcohol the day before a long run, but I can’t go crazy two nights before either. At least not when its hot outside. For a Saturday run, I’ve basically got to “dry out” by Wednesday night to make sure that my kidneys are ready for Saturday.

Hydrate during the week. I keep a 32-ounce water bottle at my desk and try to at least drink the entire bottle each day. I even have some Cliff Shot electrolyte powder I use to spice it up. At night, I promise myself that for every glass of wine I’ll also have a glass of water. Needless to say, I’m failing on both ends of this. First, I get bloated just thinking about drinking 32 ounces of water and two cups of coffee and the glass of tea/powerade I may have with lunch. Second, the fun of drinking wine at night is you get a decent little buzz. Water dilutes that buzz. Ok, ok. I know. Running is that important to me. I need to do better in this area.

Monitor what I drink during a run. I’m trying to drink to thirst. Now, I know everyone says that during a run you need to drink drink and drink some more. And when its hot, thats kind of what I do. But sometimes, you can over do it. Sometimes, when I drink too much water during a run in hot temps, I get fuzzy headed. I mean, I’m feeling good then I stop for water, then I feel terrible. Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Well, according to this blog I read, The Science of Sport, drinking when you are thirsty and not by some pre-set measurement is not a bad idea afterall. I’ve noted here before that I probably need to add some salt to my water. When I do that, I’m usually fine.

Monitor when I run.Hmmm. The temps are in the mid to upper 70s in the mornings and in the mid to upper 90s in the afternoons/evenings. I think this is a no-brainer, though it is more humid in the mornings. Still, I like getting my run out of the way first thing. When I get off of work, I am not in the mood to do anything, much less run around with temps hovering around 100 degrees.

Run slow. This is probably the most important thing you can do in the heat. If you can do your long runs at 7:30 pace when its 50 degrees outside, don’t be ashamed to knock a minute or more off your long run pace during the dog days of summer. No matter how much water you drink, running too fast is the surest way to overheat.

Taking stock: Austin Marathon training

This is from my 22-mile run Saturday, my last 20-plus mile run before the Austin Marathon. As you can see from the map, its pretty much the Austin Marathon course, and its the second time I've run this route in training, so I know where all the hills are (there are plenty!) Funny thing is that my time from Saturday (7:50 pace for the entire run) is pretty much the same time as it was two Saturday's ago (7:52 pace).

So, at least I've been consistent.

This is what I know: I can run this course. Period. No excuses. The last 8 miles are mostly downhill, and when I'm tired, downhills are my friend. The last two times I've gotten to Foster and Great Northern streets (which is mile 18 of the Austin Marathon course), I've been able to drop my pace to between 7:20 and 7:30 min/mile and hold it until the end of the long run, and that includes Saturday's run. (I know you see slower times at Mile 14 and 21 – but that's because I got held up by some traffic lights and didnt stop my Garmin).

Nutrition: It's all a go. The last two weeks, I wake up four hours before the run starts, eat a 390-calorie protein bar, down a bottle of Gator/Powerade. And that's it. I dont eat during the run. No Gu. No Gel. Just water and whatever powerade they have out on the course. Energy-wise, I've felt great in the latter stages of my last two long runs using this strategy. Tired? Yes. Hurting a little. Heck yes. But there is still something in the gas tank. And I think a good taper and carb-loading would easily carry me the last four miles.

Pacing strategy: Definitely gotta do the negative split thing. The hills from Mile 1 to 3 (south on Congress) and from 10 to 13 (north on Exposition from Town Lake to 35th St.) can take it out of you if you go out too fast.  I plan on running slower than mgp pace for the first half, then pick up the pace when we cross Mopac on the 35th St. bridge and up Shoal Creek, then pick up the pace for the final 8 miles.

Austin Marathon Training: I’m out of excuses

On Saturday, I ran 22 miles, 18 of which came on the course that the Austin Marathon will be run on – basically, from Mopac and Lake Austin Blvd. until the finish line on Congress Ave. downtown, with about four more miles added on (two at the beginning of the run and two at the end).

I took the run as an opportunity to see where the worst hills were (Exposition Boulevard) and when and where to to conserve energy and when to expend it (the final stretch down Duval, of course!)

My goal was to run the first 11 easy and then try marathon goal pace the last 11 miles.

The numbers: 8:12 pace the first 11 miles and 7:28 pace the second 11 miles. And I still had enough in the tank where I could have gone the full marathon distance if I had to – and thank God I didn’t – my hips were killing me!

I feel like after this run that I have basically run out of excuses to not have a solid marathon on Feb. 20. (Unless its 70 degrees of course).

I feel like my nutrition was solid. I ate a ton the week before the run. Drank only once the whole week (aren’t you guys proud that I went wine-free six out of seven days of the week?). Ate a few bites of an oatmeal protein bar and some powerrade an hour before the run, then had a GU on the way to the run. During the run, I just drank the water/gatorade they had on the course. No GU. No salt. Nothing else.

I’ve determined that my body just WILL. NOT. PROCESS. FOOD. during a run. I’ve tried all kinds of GU and gels and most of the time, they make me feel worse. Or they do not add to my energy output. And they certainly have never “saved” me late in a long run/race. And even eating that close to the run Saturday was a little tricky. I felt very sluggish the first five or six miles. Heavy. Nothing like the energy I have for my 8 to 10 mile runs during the week – when I don’t eat anything before or during my workout.

I still think I can do better about the nutrition issue. Eating two or even three hours before the run would be more ideal. (But when my iPhone alarm went off at 4 am Saturday, I decided I needed more sleep than calories.) I can also make sure I eat more during the week, carb up as much as possible. I bought two boxes of my favorite cereal to work with me Monday. Each box has 7 servings and 31 grams of carbs per serving. If I eat two boxes a week, that’s 410 carbs on top of all the eating I do everyday anyway. (Getting kinda sick just thinking about it – but, hey, a marathoner has to do what a marathoner has to do).

The Big Day is still about six weeks away. That leaves plenty of time to fine tune a nutrition plan. A race plan.

And a head plan.

Marathon struggles: Maybe it is in my head

I’ve recovered from the Chicago disaster to once again be excited about running another marathon. During my training for the Austin Marathon, I’ve given a lot of thought as to why I can’t put a good marathon together, even though I’ve run seven of them.

Today is reason No. 1.

Maybe it is in my head. And this is not to say I have phantom injuries. When my legs stopped working at the 2010 Chicago Marathon, that spasming in my inner quads was real. As it was at the 2008 White Rock Marathon, and for the middle miles of the 2009 White Rock Marathon.

But the fact that I can do a 16- or 17-mile long run at 7:30 pace and still have gas left in the tank, and the fact that I have never been able to replicate this kind of energy in a marathon means something. And maybe that something is in between my ears.
There, I said it. I have a mental problem. Blink. Sigh. Sigh again.

What kind of mental problem? I’m not sure. Perhaps I panic. That was definitely the case at the 2009 Portland Marathon, where my 55-mile training weeks led to a measly 4:03 marathon. Things werent going right the first few miles and I just wigged out, started overdosing on water, which led me to the porta-potties every 15 minutes, and next thing you know, I’m doing 11-minute miles. But I wasnt cramping. And I wasnt tired. I was just scared to run. Finally, at Mile 24, I got mad and I got pissed and finished the marathon with two sub 8-minute miles.

See, when I panic, or get nervous, my breathing gets rapid, my heart beat rises, and my stride just gets out of whack. I’m tense and feel like every step is a struggle. And then, with my legs going every whichaway, I’m just a mess – physically and mentally, and I never seem to regroup. And this only happens during races, or in tempo runs with other runners. I guess that’s what it feels like to be so damn competitive.

But when I’m relaxed, like I am on all of my other runs, I can pick a pace and stick to it. My stride feels better. My breathing. My heart rate. It all feels good. And the times I’ve had good 5ks or good tempo runs, its because I Iet the pack take off, relaxed, and then picked up the pace.

I guess they call that negative splitting.

And so I’m learning how to run relaxed now. How to listen to my body (instead of other runners talking). I’m waiting for the magic. What, you say? I’m talking about the magic. The second wind. When things get easier in a run, when your muscles are all loosened up and your body stops hating you for getting out of bed at 4:30 in the morning.

I’m paying attention and I’m noticing that about 27 minutes into a run, the struggling stops, my breathing syncs up to my stride, I stop huffing and puffing and my legs no longer slap the pavement as much as they glide over it. And then things get easier.

This is real, folks. And I never noticed until I started noticing. See, we have this 8-mile run on Wednesdays, we call it the U-Loop, from Barton Springs to the University of Texas and back. The first four miles is mostly uphill. And for the first three of those miles, I cant get my breathing right, cant get my stride right, and an 8:15 pace is kind of difficult. And then, at about 3.25 miles in – while we are on the steepest hill of the course – the magic happens. And I’m floating. And my pace dips to 8:00/m, then 7:45, then 7:30 and when we take a water break at Jester Hall on the UT Campus, I’m floating along doing 7:15s. And I’m barely breathing. And I’m feeling like I could run that pace forever. I’m feeling so good that I want to skip the water stop, but then I’d be running by myself. And who wants to do that on a cold, dark, Austin morning? Not me.

Anyways, I noticed this was happening every Wednesday. First few miles I’m in the tank, then things get real easy. On the Monday before Christmas, we started doing marathon paced runs. Up and down Exposition Blvd. Two miles easy, then six at MGP. I really think I can hold 7:20 to 7:30 for a marathon, but when its time to start MGP, I’m struggling. My breathing is bad. Stride is off. And I get that “here I go again” feeling.

I’m about to panic, about to change my stride or run harder to keep the pace I’m “supposed” to be able to run. Then I look at my watch and notice we’ve only been running for about 24 minutes. And I remember that my body probably isnt warmed up properly yet – and I wait and I relax and I let my body run 7:45 pace and then, at 27 or so minutes, bang. I go from 7:45 to 7:30 to 7:20 to 7:10s and it feels pretty good. I’m barely breathing. I do the last mile in 6:55. (Yeah, I know I’m not gonna run 6:55 pace in a marathon, but I figure I’m alright as long as I didnt turn the run into a temp run – which would have been 6:45 or better.)

Now I havent figured out yet how this will help me late in a marathon. But knowing what I know now, I know that I have never waited for the magic to happen in a 26.2-mile race. I’m always in a rush and when I’m not running the pace I think I should be running, or when things are not as easy as I think they should be, I press harder and harder, using more and more energy and by Mile 14 I know its not gonna be a good race, and by Mile 17, I’m done.

What this all means to me now: Take it easy the first few miles. Preserve your energy. Let your body do what its gonna do. Wait until the end to fight.

Seems simple enough.

Next post on my marathon struggles will center around my nutrition