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Archive for December, 2011

Gu rediscovered

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a big fuel problem at the Space Coast Marathon.  During the two weeks after the marathon I was a bit bummed and did not care to talk about it much.  When people saw me around town at cross country meets, group runs, and at the running store I cringed when they looked so excited and asked how it went.  I think they were excited because they also knew how well prepared I was.

But I gave my standard short version recap of how it was pretty good through 20 miles then I just fell apart and struggled to finish.  It almost felt like a script after explaining it to so many people.  After Phil and I finished timing and scoring the county championship middle school cross country meet on December 10, we were headed out the gate to the parking lot and got stopped by a good friend who has completed many marathons, half marathons, and has done even more crazy stuff like Ironman and several half Ironman races.

Anyway, when I gave her the scripted recap of the race she then asked, (paraphrasing here) “you didn’t take any Gu?”  When I answered “no” and continued to explain my intake of water and Gatorade, her jaw dropped and she looked shocked and amazed.  I so wish I had a photo of her face at that moment!  We laughed so hard at her reaction.  It was the perfect mix of surprise and disbelief.  As funny as that moment was, it really stuck with me and got me thinking…

I tried Gu way back in the mid to late 1990s when I was running lots of marathons and I thought it was so disgusting.  The consistency was gross and the flavor about made me gag.  But as with so many things…they can and do improve over time.  I asked around about the flavors that my fellow endurance athlete friends preferred.  I even tried eating Sharkies during a long run before I gave in to try Gu again.  Although I love Sharkies – taste, consistency, healthy – everything about them!  It was too much for my stomach to deal with during a run.  I know people who can eat bananas and Clif Bars during training runs and long races; I am just not blessed with that type of iron stomach.  ;)

So, here we are on Sunday, December 18 at our group long run.  I ran a 10K (about 8 miles total with warm up and cool down) the day before so I only planned to run 12 miles.  I took half a packet of Gu with water at six miles.  The run was supposed to be easy and I averaged 9:23 for the 12 miles but my last three miles were 8:47, 8:43, 8:24 and I felt pretty good.  No stomach issues from the Gu and the Vanilla Bean flavor was not bad.  Still not crazy about the consistency but there’s the incentive to get it down quickly!  Tuesday and Thursday that week were pretty hard runs followed by acupuncture and massage for my knee and Achilles on Friday in preparation for Saturday’s 20 miler.

The Christmas Eve 20 miler ended up being an awesome group run at the preserve.  I think we had over 20 people join in.  The 20 miles took 2:54 for an average pace of about 8:44.  I took a full Gu packet at mile 8 and mile 14 with water stops about every 3 miles.  I felt great and knew I could run more if I had to.  I ended the 20 miler with the last 3 miles in 8:34, 8:19, and 8:08.  That never happens!

2011 Christmas Eve 20 Miler

So, yes, I have given Gu a second chance and discovered its many benefits.  I am a fan!  And no longer wondering when my next marathon will be.  Gu has worked so well for me in these two training runs that I signed up for the Five Points of Life Marathon on February 19, 2012.  I will keep using it in training so I know exactly how much to use on race day.  Fueling issues are now under control.

Go long

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

In keeping with the theme of George Sheehan’s “experiment of one,” I have to say that my experiment of going longer than 20 miles in marathon training definitely worked for me.  As I look back on my training for the Space Coast Marathon I see many more long slow runs than I have ever done in any other marathon training before.  I took a longer taper of 3+ weeks, did not do much speed work other than the weekend races, ran a few tempo runs, and did a lot more hill work.  My 26.2 mile training run on November 1, 2011 was a first for me and was a huge factor in preparing me for Space Coast.  I ran it in 3:51 which is about 8:49 pace.

First ever 26.2 mile training run

On race morning I woke up feeling rested and really ready for the Space Coast Marathon.  My goal was to run the first 20 miles at 8:00 per mile pace and then hopefully pick it up a little the last 6.2 miles to achieve my goal of running just under 3:30.  I was amazed at how good I felt as each mile buzzed on my Garmin:  8:04, 7:54, 7:52, 7:48, 7:54, 7:56, 7:46, 7:56, 7:59, 7:55, 7:54, 8:00, 7:48, 7:50, 7:58.  The first half of the course had rolling hills which kept it interesting.  We ran north out and back and when I reached 13 miles near the starting line I was still smiling and feeling good.  I was happy to see the crowds and hear someone call out my name.  Then we headed south on the same course as the half marathoners.

By the time I hit 18 miles my average pace was 7:56.  And that’s when I felt it.  I knew right then that the miles would no longer feel good and be on pace.  Miles 18-20 dropped to 8:10 and 8:20 which took my average pace to exactly 8:00 by mile 20.  At that point it was mind over matter.  I used every mantra, every bribe, every positive thing I could think of to convince my body that it could give a little more…just 6.2 miles, a 10K, no problem!  I focused on one mile at a time.  I then focused on just getting to the next water stop.  I willed myself to close to mile 25 and then had to walk.  My breathing was so labored that I walked for six minutes straight and that labored breathing would not slow down, which had me a little concerned.  After walking and drinking some super concentrated Gatorade I somehow started running again and made it to the finish in 3:43:08 which is 8:31 pace.

2011 Space Coast Marathon

Normally I am extremely sore through Thursday after a Sunday marathon.  I mean I cannot walk normally until at least Thursday and stairs – forget it!  This time I had some soreness Monday and Tuesday but it was not that bad.  By Thursday I was out running again.  This more than anything has me convinced that I was properly trained for this marathon.  Maybe for the first time in my life!  This was the first time I ran several 18-20 milers and one 26.2 mile training run.  This is very exciting!!!

The reason for my “bonk” at Space Coast around mile 18-20 and eventual walking at mile 25 was lack of proper fuel during the race.  At first I was extremely upset and disappointed at missing my goal but after realizing it was not due to training but fuel, I am now determined to figure out how to fix that.  I can’t wait to start some long runs again and experiment with Sharkies, PowerBar Energy Bites, Gatorade, and water to figure out the right mix for me during a marathon.  I’m not sure when that next marathon will be, but I am already excited to do another so I can see what I am capable of doing now.  My marathon PR was set back in 1998 and I have not run close to that 3:18 since then.  Yet, my half marathon PR was set in 2010 so I know I still have some fast races in me!

For my next marathon, I will definitely run more long runs of 26, 28, and who knows, maybe close to 30 miles!  That is definitely what works for me.  And you can bet I will be eating and drinking a lot more than usual during those training runs until I have that down to an exact science for me, in my “experiment of one.”


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