Paris Marathon Training – Week 5

Week 5: 1/11-1/17

Monday: 

  • Plan: 30-60 min cross-training + rehab exercises + optional strength training
  • Actual: 30 min easy spinning + rehab exercises + strength training

I planned my time perfectly, then forgot to bring my resistance bands to do all my rehab exercises between spinning and strength training. I did what I could before my strength workout – which included deadlifts, plyometrics, and some arms – then did the rest of my rehab exercises with bands once I got home.

In a quest to eat all my veggies, I made this Asian-inspired brown rice & quinoa bowl – the idea came from this NYT Food recipe but I added several things: most importantly, shiitake mushrooms sautéed with minced garlic and a little salt.

kimchi rice bowl with egg

I turned on the College Football national championship game and had a grand old time foam rolling and going through a few yoga poses. So my national championship game watching experience was…totally normal.

Tuesday:

  • Plan: 4 miles easy + 4 strides + core
  • Actual: 4 miles easy @ 9:36/mile + strides + core

I’m really not sure what happened with this run. I was sore from yesterday’s jumping split squats and squat jumps, and was super relaxed for a nice easy jog. From my effort, I wouldn’t have been surprised to look down and see 11:00 miles, so I was pretty surprised to see 30 seconds off my normal easy pace. My effort at the end got a little more labored, so I think I should have backed off more at the beginning.

adorable cat photo

This rascal loves core work time, if only to interfere.

Wednesday:

  • Plan: 6 miles w/ last 3 progression to tempo + rehab exercises + yoga or strength
  • Actual: Rest day

All the DOMS. Decided to switch Wednesday and Thursday.

Thursday:

  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: 6 miles w/ last 3 progression to tempo (9:23/8:54/8:36)

I ran after work, knowing I’d finish in the dark. I ran the same workout last week with slightly faster paces, although both were in the ranges that my plan called for.

I think I ran this week’s workout better than last week’s, even with the slower paces. I stayed more relaxed/controlled, and I had more gas in the tank when I finished. I saw my current Garmin pace get down to 8:05/mile in the last half mile (oops), backed off, and cruised the last quarter mile to the end. I felt great afterwards.

BUUUUT then I got home AND I was so hungry AND so I made dinner AND so I forgot my beloved rehab exercises. **sad face**

Friday:

  • Plan: 3 miles + 4 strides + Myrtl routine
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:14/mile + 4 strides + rehab exercises

Saturday:

  • Plan: 12 miles + core
  • Actual 12 miles @ 10:36/mile + core

After moving my tempoish workout to Thursday each of the last two weeks, I knew this one would be a little tough. It was. But it was a really beautiful day, and I did a full 25 minutes of core work at home later, which was a big win.

long run silver comet

Sunday:

  • Plan: Optional cross-training + yoga
  • Actual: Not a damn thing.

It was a holiday weekend and I felt like garbage. My Fitbit registered precisely 2000 steps. I did nothing.

Week 5: 25 miles

I saw some improvement in the resolutions I’m tracking for this training cycle:

  • Rehab/core work – A minus: I got in all the rehab exercises and core work, but I was lazy with the rehab exercises one day.
  • Sleep – A: Last week, I wanted to be more consistent with staying near my 8 hours/night goal. This week my sleep was on target according to my Fitbit…with a Sunday nap in there to pad my stats.fitbit sleep tracking
  • Nutrition – A: I hit my fruit/veggies goal like a champion! (I ate over a pound of spinach. It may have been overkill.) I had a smoothie after nearly every run, which made it so much easier to hit that fruit/veggie target. And I had just two meals from restaurants all week! Having friends with kids who invite you over for home-cooked deliciousness helps with this.
  • “Body maintenance” – C: I skipped yoga when I wasn’t feeling great, and I also missed an appointment with my foam roller. On second thought, do I get a “D” here?

How about you: do you have trouble getting enough fruits and veggies? Either way, let me know your secrets to getting your nutrition right. 

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Reflections on My First Marathon

Almost two weeks post-marathon, I’ve ruminated on the marathon enough that my thoughts on the race have solidified.

I’ve also been doing a lot of this:

cookies

Attempting to bake

And this:

cuddly cat

Being lazy

Back to the marathon:

I’m about 88% happy with my performance. My marathon pace, which was 9:56/mile, is just 13 seconds faster than my training pace for my 20 miler. I’ve been racking my brain for possible causes, and I think I just ran a more conservative race than I needed to. I don’t think that’s a bad thing to do as a first-timer, which is why I’m only 12% unhappy. I’m not blaming the road camber/ITB for slowing me down much if at all, because I ran nearly even splits (first half was less than 30 seconds faster than second).

About those splits. I put them in Excel. I analyzed them to death. I will spare you the details, other than to say a) I’m reasonably pleased with their consistency (over half of the miles were +/- 5 seconds of average), and b) the portapotty stop negatively impacted consistency – my splits were all over the place in the miles surrounding the stop.

I’d like to begin with a bigger base. I started training with my weekly mileage in the high 20s and a long run of 10 miles. Next time I run a marathon, I’d like to begin with a larger base of mileage so I’m better prepared for the demands of training. At the pace I run easy miles, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect 50 mile weeks except in peak marathon training. Aiming for 30-40 miles a week before beginning full-on training feels about right, but life could prove me wrong.

My conclusion about nearly every aspect of this marathon was that it was pretty good, but there was room for improvement. I can run a more aggressive race. I can strive for more consistent pacing. I can improve my nutrition/hydration plan, particularly race-day hydration. I can begin training at a higher level of preparedness. I’m astonished that I didn’t manage to screw up some aspect of the marathon, and I’m kind of excited that there is room for improvement.

Other miscellaneous post-marathon observations:

  • The major chafing culprits are sports bras and inner thighs, but I have identified a new master-chafer, and that is the arm warmer. Only half of my right armpit got deodorant for the week after the marathon. A scar is forming.
  • Additionally, if you care about this kind of thing, arm warmers aren’t that flattering. I prefer not having to worry about shedding layers or shivering while running, so it’s a matter of personal preference I guess.
  • Another thing that’s not flattering that I will never do without: spandex shorts. SIDEBAR: Runners/athletes, female or male, aren’t ornaments for your viewing pleasure, so if anyone out there is criticizing others’ apparel choices on the basis of personal preferences, just stop.
  • It’s not possible to run a marathon and have your Garmin read 26.20 at the end, so don’t even bother expecting it. (EDIT: Jesica has done the impossible, and I applaud her tangent-running-badassery.)
    • If I get to a point where I want to aim for a big time goal (sub-4?), I’m subtracting at least 5 seconds from the per-mile pace to arrive at my goal Garmin pace.
  • It’s not that hard to become self-involved at times while training for a marathon. Training is a big time commitment, and you have to take good care of yourself. Next time, I think I’m going to devise some system to remind me to reach out to a friend, or do some unprovoked act of kindness, at regular intervals throughout training. More on that once I devise it.
  • Core and hip strengthening work are magical. Do this frequently. I haven’t had lingering ITB pain from the race, and I attribute much of this to having invested time in core and hip strength. I think my body was better prepared to recover from that kind of abuse than it would have been had I neglected core and hips.
  • Running miles 25 and 26 hard will do more for your time than running mile 0.2 very hard. I did not do this in my first marathon, but I will strive to do it next time.
  • Drinking 2 large Tervis tumblers of water and 2 cups of coffee in the period of 1-2 hours before the race is too much, especially when you drink another 8 ounces just before the start. Drink less than this next time.
  • A two-week taper felt like the right amount of time. And don’t weigh yourself during the taper.
  • New non-time-related goal for marathon #2: no tears. Also, do more research on road camber and finish line logistics.
  • It’s hard to motivate myself to bathe regularly when not training/exercising regularly. Recovery is hard.
  • Consider bringing music for the last 5-10k. I could have really used the Rocky soundtrack at that point (not kidding).
  • I’M JUST GOING TO SAY IT: I’m extra pissed off that Ohio State got in the College Football Playoff over Baylor after I wore about 50 shades of non-coordinating green and gold for the marathon. It was the wrong decision either way, but adding insult to injury by rejecting my ridiculous outfit? Thanks for nothing, Playoff Committee.

This post has almost no photos, so here are some of the outtakes from my recap post:

Race photo outtakes

I’m really improving in the race-photo department, although the bar was pretty low before. I’d guess I took at least 5 mouth-open photos off of my previous race-photo PR. I wore waterproof mascara (which is justified simply because marathoning-badass and sister-in-blonde-eyelashes Shalane Flanagan rocks the race-day mascara). I also tried to smile whenever I saw a camera. Next race, I need to try looking fast – throw in a surge of speed for the camera.

Experienced marathoners – what marathoning-lessons have you learned that you’d like to share?
Aspiring marathoners – do you have any other questions/curiosities that I can answer?

Leave a comment or shoot me a tweet @racingoprah.

St. Jude Memphis Marathon Race Recap Part 2: The Race

The Race

St. Jude Memphis Marathon

Miles 1-3: 10:04, 9:47, 9:49 (Garmin)
31:11 through 5k, 10:03/mile (Official)

The St. Jude Marathon allows runners to self-corral based on estimated finish times. With my goal time of 4:15, I was very much in between corrals, so I elected to start at the back of corral 6, which was for 4:05 – 4:15 estimated finish times.

The beginning of the race was crowded, and I didn’t want to make any aggressive passing moves so early in the race, so I just settled in and kept seeing 10:20 and even 10:30 as my current Garmin pace.

I don’t think the slow early miles hurt my time much if at all, but it was frustrating to not get in an early rhythm. I probably won’t put myself in the back of a corral again after having this experience.

The beginning miles of this race are pretty fun. Mile 2 is run along Riverside Drive next to the Mississippi River, which was very pretty and windy. Mile 3 goes through the heart of downtown along Beale Street and Third Street.

Beale Street

Beale Street

There is a small hill coming up Beale from Riverside where I encountered a group of runners discussing maintaining a 9:45/mile pace. I struck up a conversation with Guy, John, John, and Susan, and we started running together. In addition to being super nice, these guys had run the race before and had a pretty good idea of what to expect.

marathon chatter

The many expressions of mid-race conversation.

Nutrition: I took a cup of Powerade at mile 2. I started feeling like I needed to pee at mile 2 as well. Not hitting the wall > needing to pee, so I drank it anyway.

Miles 4-9: 9:42, 9:40, 9:54, 9:46, 9:48 (Garmin)
Through 15k: 1:32:27, 9:52/mile from 5k (Official)

Mile 4 goes through the St. Jude campus, which was really heartwarming. From there until mile 8, there is a long stretch of North Parkway. Mile 8 turns through Overton Park, and there’s a bit of a hill at mile 9 by the art museum.

I felt pretty good during the North Parkway miles, but I started feeling a little tired when we got in the park. This segment of the course wasn’t super notable, but I enjoyed chatting with my new race-friends.

Marathon overton park

Mile 9 – Overton Park

Nutrition/hydration: I stuck to the plan despite feeling like I needed to pee. I had a Gu and water at Mile 4, a cup of Powerade at mile 6, and a Huma gel at mile 8 with water. I didn’t take any fluids at the odd numbered miles.

By mile 8 or 10, my race-group began discussing portapotty-timing-strategy.

Miles 10-13: 9:55, 9:46, 9:56, 9:40 (Garmin)
Through half: 2:09:53, 9:55/mile from 15k (Official)

This segment of the course includes two miles of Poplar Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Memphis. The hills aren’t bad by Atlanta standards, but it rolls a bit. There are two lanes of traffic open to the runners, and it’s hard to avoid the road camber. I was able to settle into tire grooves where it was pretty even.

The course turned by Sun Studio about halfway through mile 12 and the halfers, including two from our group, veered to the right while we stayed on the course. This was my first race ever not to take the half split!

IMG_3349.JPG

Nutrition/hydration/portapotty plan: I took a cup of Powerade at mile 10 and a Gu and water at mile 12. I still needed to use the portapotty and took no additional fluids. John, Guy and I, now dubbed the unofficial 4:20 pace group, decided we’d hit the first portapotties without a line after the half split.

Miles 14-20: 9:33, 9:52, 10:36, 9:35, 9:25, 9:54, 9:55 (Garmin)
Through 19.6: 3:57:23, 9:50/mile pace from half (Official)

This part of the course went through Midtown Memphis, which I really enjoyed. It’s a beautiful neighborhood with big trees and old buildings. I thought the crowd support was great. Whether we passed restaurants or houses, it seemed like people were sitting outside cheering on the runners. I don’t recall it ever feeling totally dead, although naturally there weren’t the large crowds that we saw downtown.

According to my race tour guides, mile 14 was where the course starts to get hilly. I didn’t perceive the hills to be that bad, but my body started feeling pretty tired. I felt like my feet gained two 5 lb lead weights at some point in mile 14. The irregular splits in this segment of the race were partially the result of hills, and partially trying to push through fatigue. I remember some of both.

We found an ideally placed group of three portapotties during mile 16. Guy timed our break at just over a minute. Miles 17 and 18 were paced by John, who looked like he was out for an afternoon jog and was ready to go. Guy and I were laboring a bit more than John, and after seeing a 9:25 mile for mile 18, we decided to slow to about a 9:50 pace. We slowed a little more, but I was still expecting to make a last 10k surge, so it felt like a way to conserve energy for the surge.

During the Midtown miles, we met some fellow unofficial 4:20 pace groupers, Keshia and Beth. We’d been running together since the half split, and finally made the introductions official somewhere around mile 19.

For me, the biggest challenge of the course was the uneven camber of the roads. In the portion of the course where there were half marathoners, it wasn’t bad because the larger crowds meant that more lanes were blocked off for runners. Beginning at the end of mile 18 through the end of mile 24, this course runs on East Parkway and North Parkway, and only one lane of traffic is reserved for runners. I’ve never run in a race where road camber is a huge issue, because normally the middle of the road is even. Because only one super-slanty-lane was available to runners, we had to run with our left legs landing several inches below our right for quite a few miles.

memphis marathon road camber

Check out how slanted the road is from the angle of the truck pictured! Credit: Google Street View

Once I realized there was no escaping the road camber, I just hoped that my now-strong hips could protect me from any ill effects of running on this road.

Nutrition/hydration: Powerade at mile 14, Gu with water at mile 16, Powerade at mile 19 (I missed it at mile 18), Gu with water at mile 20.

Miles 21-24: 9:51, 9:48, 9:54, 10:02 (Garmin)
Through mile 24: 3:57:23, 9:56/mile from 19.6 (Official)

John looked like he could run at least another 10 miles when we got to mile 20, and he took off. He crushed the last 10k and ran a 4:12:xx. I am 99% sure he could have run the race in 4 hours without our slow asses holding him back.

Guy, Beth, Keshia and I, on the other hand, decided to try to continue at a 9:50/mile clip and we’d consider making a move during the last 5k. By mile 21 or 22, my left IT band was feeling some ill effects of the road camber, and I had no choice but to continue pounding on it. For the first time in my life, uphills were a respite and downhills were the enemy.

At mile 21, I calculated that I could run the last 5.2 miles in an hour and still beat Oprah. This was helpful for my battered psyche and IT band.

By mile 24, I thought I was speeding up (I was actually slowing down). I felt horrible, and maintaining forward momentum was the best motivation I could muster to keep myself from slowing down and taking it easy. Mile 24 goes through the St. Jude campus, and in comparison to the lonely North Parkway miles, it was really energizing and inspiring to see the St. Jude crowd out in force cheering us on. I gave a LOT of high fives.

St. Jude Campus Marathon

St. Jude Campus

Nutrition/hydration: a cup of Powerade at mile 22, another cup of Powerade at mile 24. My stomach was starting to feel really queasy.

Miles 25-26.2: 9:56, 10:13, 0.46 in 4:12; 9:08/mile pace (Garmin)
Through 26.2: 4:20:14 (10:18/mile from mile 24)

Coming out of the St. Jude campus onto bleak Danny Thomas toward downtown was the saddest part of the course. The street is not spectator-friendly, and I could feel every inch of my left IT band – it felt like it was in flames. I wish they could have routed the race on a downtown north-south street – perhaps Front? That would be cool.

The 10:13 mile was a low point for me mentally – I’m sure I could have run faster, but I really felt like giving up. Not giving up as in not finishing, but giving up as in not trying my hardest. This is the only part of the race where I have regrets – I know I could have run it faster than I did.

Memphis marathon

At some point along the way, I lost Guy, Keshia, and Beth in the course of keeping my forward momentum. Beth and Keshia caught up to me during my mile 26 despair and pulled me out of it. They were really encouraging. I did my best to keep pace with them. I couldn’t always stay up with them, but I managed a surge every so often to keep them in my sight.

Sjmm

Approaching the baseball stadium/finish

The endof the St. Jude course is in a baseball stadium, and I was pleasantly surprised to see Jeff and my parents cheering on the turn into the stadium. I had a bit of an extra pep in my step at this point.

Entering the stadium, one of the girls told me we were on track for 4:20, and I churned out the fastest finish I could muster. Running hard like that was so painful to my already wrecked IT band, but I guess I just didn’t care anymore.

St. Jude marathon finish

Finish on the field

As I approached the finish line, I felt a rush of accomplishment like I’ve never felt in any race before.

All the miles run, all the hours trained.

The rough start to training, and switching training plans.

Getting stung by a stingray in the middle of training.

The worst long run ever.

Feeling all the physical fatigue of training and somehow having an overall great experience.

Memphis marathon finish

I crossed the finish line in a state of physical and emotional overload. Keshia, Beth and I crossed the finish line seconds from our goal: we were pacing superstars. I had a giant smile on my face. I raised my arms above my head in victory – not victory in the race, of course, but victory in running MY race, in my hometown, for the first time, as I hoped it would go. Victory was seeing the payoff of my preparation. We got together for a photographer and smiled our widest.

St. Jude Marathon Finish

Post-race: happy edition.

I turned around from our photograph and faced the reality ahead of me. I had to walk across this baseball field and up the stadium steps, a challenge that felt more daunting than the last 10k of the marathon. I hobbled up the steps, using both handrails to keep my legs from collapsing beneath me. I saw the food area at the top of the steps. In that moment I realized that my stomach, which I’d just bombarded with 6 Gus and 7 cups of Powerade while running, was feeling ragey. Get food later. Find your people now.

Somehow I had the mental and physical toughness to run 26.2 miles, but it took just 5 minutes of walking and not finding my people to break me down. I started crying. There were quite a few perplexed spectators unsure what to think of a sweaty, sobbing 29 year old woman wandering hobbling around aimlessly like a lost kid in a grocery store.

I found my people and gave disgustingly sweaty, sobby hugs. Jeff told me I never had to run again, which was the most perfect thing he could have said to me in that moment. A moment later, I ran into more race-friends, Guy and Susan, and their two cute girls. I was all smiles again as we bantered about the race, looked up our times, and chatted about the girls’ upcoming 1.2 mile race – the last 1.2 of a series of kids’ races that total 26.2. What fun!

Perhaps the strangest and most unexpected part of my first marathon: I was more emotional after the race than a 16 year old girl with PMS.

After wearing the damn wristband for 24 hours, I didn’t make it to the beer garden to get my not one but TWO real beers. 😦

It felt like hours to walk back to the car. We had the lunch of St. Jude Marathon champions. I had a pulled pork sandwich from Germantown Commissary and it was phenomenal.

Germantown Commissary

The race, in a nutshell:

There are so many great things about this race. It’s not too big, not too hilly, not too flat. You can register for a reasonable fee and support a great cause without padding a corporate profit margin. The aid stations and portapotties are plentiful and frequent. The crowd support is great for a smaller marathon. They serve real beer after the race and a lot of real food – pizza, chili, and the full complement of bananas and protein bars.

The shirt and medal were simple. The shirt is a long sleeve technical tee.

Memphis marathon swag

There are so many good things about this race that make me want to recommend it or even run it again. But running the late miles while stuck in one lane of uneven-camber road was devastating to my IT band. A lot of people seem to do great in this race, and I’d recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who doesn’t have IT band issues. I hope that in the future, there will be additional lanes open to runners in the mile 18-24 stretch. If that happened, this could be the perfect race.

Have you run this race? How did it go? Would you run it again?
What features do you look for/try to avoid in a race?

St. Jude Memphis Marathon Race Recap Part 1: Pre-Race, Goals, and Plans

I have so many things to say about running my first marathon, so it’s not going to be quick. Part 1 of this recap goes up to the starting line – more to come soon!

Pre-Race

We left Atlanta super-early on Friday morning and drove straight to the Expo in Memphis, where we arrived promptly six hours later. IT WAS POURING RAIN. I got in and out of the expo as quickly as possible. It was well-organized, no lines even during the lunch hour, and they had a timing mat at the expo to test your chip. I thought that was cool.

St. Jude Marathon Expo

The longest line at the expo, which still moved pretty quick, was the line to show ID for the post-race beer garden. I wasn’t enthralled with the idea of wearing a wristband overnight and in the shower, but it didn’t end up being that bad.

Beer garden

An awesome feature of the St. Jude Marathon: participants get not one, but TWO post-race beer tickets. In addition to beer-flavored water Michelob Ultra, they serve real Memphis craft beer, Wiseacre.

Beyond the expo, we had a perfectly boring day sitting around doing a lot of nothing. We had dinner with my friends Andy and Rebecca, and went to bed later than I planned, but early enough.

Pre-race nutrition & hydration

Yes, I know it’s weird to blog about everything you ate in a day, but I think tracking these things can be helpful, so skip this section if you don’t like it! (Note that I’d already been going heavy on carbs the day before, but blogging about all the food I ate in ONE day seems weird enough.)

1/2 gallon Chick-fil-A lemonade (throughout the day)
4 Chicken Minis
1 single-size bag of dill pickle potato chips
1 100 calorie pack of pretzels
3 or 4 servings of pasta salad with carrots, spinach, shrimp, and Italian dressing
1 chicken fajita in a flour tortilla
1 serving Mexican corn
2 or 3 servings thinly cut homemade french fries
1 Ghost River Golden Ale

I’m not going to pretend that this is the most ideal carb-loading, but it’s what I did and it worked fine for me. I went heavier on eating during the earlier part of the day (the entire list through pasta salad was before 1:00 in the afternoon), then had dinner, a beer, and called it a night. During training, I’d have up to two drinks the night before a long run, so cutting that in half for the marathon seemed like a reasonable idea.

For hydration, I drank to thirst while eating saltier foods than normal. I monitored my hydration by making sure I was using the restroom frequently enough (about every 2 hours or so). I diluted the lemonade with water because it’s so tart, and I’d estimate I drank about a gallon of fluids the day before the race, or a little less. I consciously cut back on hydration a couple of hours before bed so I wouldn’t have to get up in the middle of the night.

Marathon Game Plan & Goals

I didn’t get to write this post before the race like I wanted to do. Based on calculators using previous half marathon times and my most recent race (a 10K, the Peachtree Road Race, in July), I’d honed in on a goal time of 4:15-4:20. I’m a competitive person, so honestly I was focused on the faster end of the spectrum.

After running the Savannah RnR Half Marathon and getting a 6+ minute half marathon PR, I sort of considered adjusting my goal, but really never gave it serious thought. Of course, I re-ran the calculators, using Jack Daniels, McMillan, FasterRunning.com, and Slate’s Marathon Predictor. The resulting times ranged from 3:59:32 (Jack Daniels) to 4:07:12 and 4:16:31 (Slate, the former without the Peachtree result, the latter including both Savannah and Peachtree). At the end of the day, a 4 hour marathon sounded scary and a 4:15 marathon sounded realistic, so I stuck with the original goal marathon time of 4:15-4:20 if only for psychological reasons.

Like any novice marathoner, I convinced myself I’d be able to pick up the pace in the last 10k if I was disciplined with pacing in the first half. In retrospect, this thought was hilarious. MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Pre-Race Goals, if I’m being completely honest with myself:
A: 4:15 or negative-splitting to slightly faster
B: 4:20
C: 4:29 (after all, the blog’s name is Racing Oprah)

Non-time-related goals:
Don’t hit the wall
Finish without walking
Don’t poop self

Race nutrition & hydration plan

I based my nutrition and hydration plan on a 4:15 finish, or a 9:45/mile pace. A really awesome thing about the St. Jude Marathon is that the race has aid stations EVERY MILE from 2-25. All aid stations have water, Power-Ade and Nuun. There are 3 or 4 stations with assorted Gu flavors, including 2 of my favorites: Tri-Berry and Salted Caramel. Major points for the St. Jude Marathon on the aid stations.

In training, I’d settled on one Gu per 4 miles as an ideal Gu frequency. In regular long runs, I just brought water with me, but during the two races I ran in training, I drank sports drink at aid stations in between Gus. I didn’t have any stomach problems with this strategy, so I decided to go with it for the marathon. Having the full complement of fluids available at every aid station made the fluid aspect easy, but I brought my own Gus. My plan was to take a Gu every 4 miles, and a cup of Power-Ade at every other even-numbered mile (2, 6, 10, etc). At odd-numbered miles, I’d drink water only to thirst.

Like a good CPA, I made a nutrition and hydration plan spreadsheet. I assumed I’d get between 3 and 4 ounces of fluid at each station. The spreadsheet calculated my total carb intake, total fluid intake, and average carb & fluid intake per hour. This plan resulted in 46g carbs/hour and 12 oz. of fluids/hour. The carb intake was right in the middle of the recommended 30-60g/hour, while the fluid intake was less than recommended, so I expected to drink water at some odd numbered miles.

marathon spreadsheet

Marathon nutrition and hydration planning, CPA style

Race Day

I woke up to go to the bathroom about 3 minutes before my alarm was set to go off, which was pretty great. I drank a cup of coffee, had my normal oatmeal (rolled oats cooked in half water, half milk, with banana slices, chia seeds, honey, and cinnamon). I ate as much oatmeal as my stomach felt like it could take, just before reaching a point of discomfort. I had another cup of coffee, two glasses of water, and we hit the road.

The starting line/corral area for the St. Jude Marathon is actually pretty convenient to get to if you’re being dropped off. From Germantown, we took the midtown I-240 (the north-south portion) to Lamar, cut over to MLK, and ran directly into FedEx Forum two blocks from the starting corrals.

The porta-potty lines weren’t bad, and I got to my corral with 20 minutes to spare. The rain from the day before had cleared up, and in the low 50s weather, the long-sleeved T-shirt throwaway I brought was just the right amount of layering. I did some dynamic stretching/warming up in the corral, but I didn’t have room to do any leg swings or fun things like that – it was really crowded!

I’d been debating whether I should take a Gu before the race, and after meeting a girl who told me she hit the wall in her first marathon, I decided to take a Gu about 15 minutes before the start, with about half of the 16 oz bottle of water I brought.

Another marathon-related surprise to me was that the starting line didn’t make me nervous. I get nervous in every starting line, whether it’s a small 5K or a big goal race. I think the difference here was that I knew I needed to hold back early in the race, whereas in a half marathon or less, I want to start at a pace that’s a bit of a push (to varying degrees). Score a point for the marathon.

To keep this recap in manageable chunks, I’ll cover the race itself in the next section.

How about you guys: do you get pre-race jitters? Are they better or worse before a longer race?