How should marathon pace feel?

PlayPlay

“So, what exactly should marathon pace feel like?”

This was recently a question that my athlete, Lisa, posed to me. I sat there and thought about it, but ultimately I only came to the conclusion that this was a great question. My answer is, (insert drum roll) that it depends. Unfortunately, a question like this has a ton of different answers  with caveats. However, I do think it deserves a look into because one of the items I always stress is to learn how paces feel.


While thinking about it, I think there’s four major areas we need to look at.

  1. Your strengths as a runner
  2. The timing and length of the workout
  3. How big of a jump you are trying to make
  4. What your goal pace is

Strengths as a runner:

Your strengths as a runner will initially play a role in how marathon pace should feel. We have done a few blogs about finding these strengths and how to “score” yourself. We actually start the Hansons First Marathon book on these premises. I won’t dive into those here, but the bottom line is, the makeup you possess as a runner will dictate how marathon pace feels. If you are a speed demon who loves ripping up the track every Tuesday evening with the local run club, then there’s a chance you dread the Thursday tempo. It seems to be harder to run 6 miles at a pace that’s significantly slower than what you were whipping around the track at a couple days earlier. On the other hand, if you are a person who loves going out and putting in miles, marathon pace is probably your place of refuge.

Timing  and length of the workout.

This could mean the timing of the segment, but also the time of year. For instance, people training for an October marathon will begin their training in early to mid June. If they took some down time and then jump into training, they aren’t very acclimated. This certainly isn’t going to make marathon pace feel very easy. Luckily, you aren’t running very long tempos at that point, but it can certainly be a dream killer.

On that note, the first marathon workouts may be tough because it’s pace and duration . We’ll talk about those making big jumps in a second, but for now we are just talking about the distance at that new pace. Initially, that workout might feel like a lung burner because it’s currently out of the realm of possibility to run that pace for an entire marathon. In some cases, it might actually be more like half marathon pace. However, as time goes on, your fitness will improve. Ideally that pace feels more an more comfortable. Your effort is harder because of the increasing distance of the workout and the pace isn’t your primary issue anymore.

How big of a jump are you trying to make?

Along the lines we have already talked about, the amount of improvement you are trying to make will play a big part in how pace feels. If you have someone whose running their 15th marathon, they probably aren’t swinging for the 30 min PR fences. They are just trying to eek out that 0.5% to 2% improvement or maintain that BQ status. On the other hand, if you have a relative newbie whose just now learning about structured training, they might be trying to hit that walk off homer. For these folks, they are talking about doing tempo runs at what they might have been doing speed workouts at last year. This is going to be a major effort, especially early on for them. Mind you, I am not saying they should or shouldn’t be going for it, rather just pointing out that they might be in the “what have I gotten myself into” camp for a while.

What is your goal pace?

Before I get any emails about being elitist, let me be clear, I am not downplaying anyone’s ability. I am simply talking about training. With that disclaimer out of the way, slower runners will have a harder time differentiating tempo runs from easy days, especially early on. What I have noticed is that the grey area for prescribing paces occurs about that 4 hour goal mark. This is where things get a little blurry. At this point, runners will sometimes be running their easy runs faster than what their goal marathon pace is. Why? For most folks, their general endurance is going to be their limiting factor. In essence, can they just cover the 26.2 miles and keep it together? So, I don’t necessarily worry about these folks as much because if I can just keep them healthy and putting consistent miles in, then they will run pretty well. THEN, we can start really laying out some goals for them.

But Luke, you never really answered the question- how does MP feel?

You’re right, but what I wanted you to think about was all the factors involved and how you personally react to these variables I discussed. This whole layout was for you to think about what you go through on the tempo days. However, I’ve training with the Hanson philosophy since 2004 and I will tell you this. When I was at my highest fitness levels, the 10 mile tempo was always a big workout, but when I ran it, I always finished feeling that I could have went farther.  Not 16 miles, but I felt like I could have gone another 3-4 miles at that pace. I could talk to my teammates in short sentences. I was breathing hard, but I wasn’t labored. When I got to that point, I knew I was ready to go.  If I could do that in the middle of a 120-140 mile week, I knew I could run that on fresh legs for a really long time. For you, that might mean feeling like you could go another 2-3 miles after a 10 mile tempo in the middle of your peak weeks. If you get to those 8-10 mile tempos and they are essentially races, then you are probably in over your head a little bit and need to evaluate goal pace, recovery, overall volume, etc.

Bottom line is that if you struggle early, don’t panic. But if by the time you’ve reached 6-8 weeks to go and you just can’t find your rhythm, then don’t be scared to re evaluate. I think this is especially true for the folks trying to make the big jumps.

What to train for when past our prime? When is our prime?

PlayPlay

I received an interesting question from an HMM user. Essentially, the athlete asked…

How strict is your plan?

If you aren’t aware, we have a very active Facebook group. There are lots of posts or sharing of workouts- usually of when they are crushed. On one the other day, I was mentioned in one of the comments, so I started thumbing through and was caught by one comment on particular. The gentleman wants to run a 3:20 and his comments centered around creating a buffer and not expecting to see a certain pace at any point (or that certain paces have no place in a 3:20 plan).

In another life, I would have been like, “whoah, hold on brotato chip!” Eh, who am I kidding, I still am a little bit. I was definitely taken aback a little bit, because I immediately thought, “what’s going to happen to this guy the first split he sees at that pace that shouldn’t be anywhere in his splits?”

There are two main points I want to discuss in this post. The first is in regards to what I interpret when a person is trying to create a “buffer.” The second is how the runner is going to react when they see splits during the race when they “had no room” for them in training.

What trying to create a “buffer” tells me

  1. You don’t believe in your plan or coach.

    I see this a lot in people when they post about their training in our group. The biggest example of this is the 16 mile long runs in most of our marathon plans. For a lot of people they can’t get past the 16 mile long run being enough because it has been instilled in them that everything in marathon training revolves around the 20 mile long run. Unfortunately, these folks will keep running in circles (literally) for years trying to do things the same unsuccessful ways they’ve been doing them.

  2. You don’t believe in yourself.

    The best example of this is a person who is trying to run a BQ or break a time barrier. Everything about what they are doing or have done in the past indicates that they should be able to run the time they are seeking. However, their own self doubt creeps in and they push the pace faster than necessary because they feel like it will mean they can fade back to their goal pace and even slower, but have enough time in the bank to stagger in under their goal. However, it usually just sets them up for failure during training or the race.

  3. You aren’t putting enough time on the other stuff.

    This is a position I have really changed my thinking on over the last few years. This is thanks to all the interaction with our online run club and the athletes in there. I have always been a high mileage guy and I still am. I truly think that if you want to reach your highest potential, you need to be able to handle mileage. However, now that is with a caveat. Now I would say, train at the highest amount of volume you can that still allows you to incorporate the other aspects of well rounded training- strength and flexibility/mobility. Too many times I see athletes who don’t reach a goal, but instead of reflecting back to what their true training needs are, they just assume that they need to up the mileage the next time. I sometimes seeing runners trying to break four hours in the marathon and putting in 70 miles a week! What I am saying is back that down to 50 miles a week and use the time they would have spent on that other 20 miles per week and address the issues I mentioned. Hint: all runners have something strength related that needs help!

If you aren’t sure where to begin, I suggest reading up on our self tests or getting a gait analysis from an expert.

What makes me worry when someone is preparing for no split to be faster or slower than a certain pace. The thing is, no race goes perfect. Even our best races have moments where we say “if I just woulda.” You really do have to ask yourself the question, “how am I going to handle x or y situation?” When a person is setting themselves up to run the perfect race by trying to force everything in training, I tend to assume that their race is going to end in disappointment. Why? Because most of the time these runners panic when the inevitable split that’s way too slow shows up. This may be due to an improperly placed mile marker, a hilly mile, a turn into a headwind, a drop in concentration, an off Garmin split, or whatever. Instead of assessing the situation mentally, or rolling with the punches, they panic. By panic, I mean they usually either throw in the towel prematurely or they try to push even harder and only fall further behind.

I’m not saying that you should have a “whatever it is is meant to be” type of attitude, but splits will be off. See what the next mile or two brings before getting drastic. The next mile might be fast and you’re right back on average pace. Go through your mental queues- is my jaw relaxed? How’s my arm carriage? Am I on track with my nutrition? Is there a group I can tuck in with to block some of this wind?

Don’t panic- assess, observe, and adjust if necessary.

The best way to do that is to experience these things in training. Be cognitive of how you handle adverse situations during training and apply a system that works for you for race day.

You hear me say often that your training has to resemble how you want to race. If you train in a matter where you push the envelope in training (on a daily or regular basis) that chances are that’s how you’ll race. Training is so much more than running a workout. It’s learning how to deal with a variety of situations. Learning how certain conditions affect you and how to adjust for those conditions. Give yourself a little bit of flexibility on splits with the goal of learning the pace and narrowing the standard of deviation.

Races rarely go perfect and it’s the person who can handle the deviations form those plans best that will be the most successful.

Winter Running: Performance

For my friends who don’t really train through a long stretch of snow, wind, cold, and poor footing for more than a few days, then you may not find much use of this blog. For the rest of you, you are probably like me and wonder if you are literally just spinning your wheels. The end result can be an unwarranted lack of confidence as you head into a winter or early spring marathon. Today, I want to discuss what common concerns I get and then provide you a case study as to why we don’t need to throw our original goals out the window.

Running in the Snow

There’s a few questions and concerns I get this time of year, but the biggest reflect around a sudden loss of fitness (or apparent) because of familiar loops being slower than they were in the fall. For instance, this morning we ran a loop that we run throughout the year. On a normal easy run, I will run 6:30-7:00 minute miles. Last night we got a little dusting of snow which made the sidewalks and side roads a mess. The pace of today’s run was about 7:30 per mile, but it felt like I worked harder than my 18 mile long run yesterday (that was 6:30/mile average). What gives? Over one day, I assume that most people chalk it up to the previous day’s long run and the fact that there is snow. However, it’s like this all winter and it gets in our heads. I am averaging 30 seconds per mile slower all the time. There’s no way I am going to be ready! I get it, especially in this age of social media where we all see our friends just crushing life.

The truth is, even though the paces may not line up, the effort is still there. I know what many of you are thinking- but you hate using heart rate, power meters, and all that, so aren’t you contradicting yourself? Well, maybe, but I say the same things about those tools as I do GPS. That is that they are tools and they all have a place. Here, I don’t mind any of those, as long as you look at those numbers afterwards to really analyse. In a perfect world, and some of my Boston runners got a little lecture about this with hills, is that I certainly want you to know your paces. However, along with that, I don’t want your workouts to be GPS only. Along with keeping track of that data, one should also internally note how they feel at those paces. How do they feel when not pushing hard enough? Too hard? If we note these things and ACT ON THEM, then we can be pretty close at our desired paces because we know what the effort feels like. Further, when we get in a situation where we aren’t in ideal weather, or doing a workout on a hilly route, we know what the effort feels like. Later on we can correlate what paces lineup so that we know that even though we were 15 seconds slow per mile for that tempo, the right effort was there due to a -10 degree windchill (or whatever factors involved). The key here is to recognize effort to paces in better conditions so we can utilize effort in far less than ideal conditions later.

Ok, so how is performance actually affected by the cold?

  1. Extra weight:

    For some of us it is that extra Holiday weight we found lying around the cookie plate. However, think about how many layers you are putting on! I would bet there are times I am wearing 5-8 pounds of extra clothing during the winter. We have all heard the adage of every 1 pound of non energy producing weight (usually referring to fat) costs us 2 seconds per mile at race pace! (Insert Ric Flair: WHOOOOO!) That’s a good 15 seconds plus per mile on an easy run! Just think about how that will affect you on that marathon tempo!

  2. Decreased range of motion:

    Along those lines, with all those extra layers, especially on the legs, we don’t get the same range of motion which means strides are probably a little shorter and we just aren’t as efficient as we are in shorts.

  3. Poor surfaces:

    This one is a given. Poor traction, dodging ice patches, and doing pirouettes along the sidewalk all take their toll on us.

  4. Reduced force of muscle contraction:

    Cold weather will reduce the force of our muscle contraction which means it takes a little more work to run at any given pace.

  5. Decrease in lactate threshold:

    Because we are physically working harder to run, our lactate threshold will be lower. So, say in normal weather your LT occurs at 75% of your VO2max (which would correlate at say half marathon pace) now occurs at say 65%, which might be slower than marathon pace.

  6. Increase in use of carbohydrate:

    Because your LT is lower, you’ll have a higher reliance on carbohydrate. Lactate is a by product carb breakdown, so workouts that normally don’t cause carbohydrate depletion can now put you in the danger zone.

  7. Increased intensity at same pace:

    Because of everything we mentioned, all paces become inherently harder. Then when we see we aren’t hitting paces, we tend to try harder. This tends to only set us back further over the coming days and weeks.

  8. Dehydration:

    I don’t have any scientific stats on this, but winter seems to be a primetime for chronic dehydration. Just look at our skin in the winter. Whether it’s because we don’t think we need fluids in the winter, harder to take in during winter, or what, but chronic dehydration and electrolyte loss seems like it would eventually take its toll on us, as well.

 

How much do these factors all add up to?

It is hard to put exact numbers. If you want ballpark numbers, you can certainly use our calculator that lets you factor in cold and windchill. This isn’t exact by any means, as you can’t put numbers on some of the factors listed, but it let’s you see how much time really can be affected. When we put it together, we also factored in what you were doing, so easy run paces will be affected less than speed work. You can check out the calculator HERE.

Now, some of you are reading this and thinking that ole coach is blowing smoke, so I wanted to use a case study from this past weekend. HCS Coach Mo Hrezi and I have been running together most of the winter here in Rochester. This winter has been brutal, especially the end of December and into January. December was Michigan’s fourth snowiest in history and we had a couple week stretch where we never got above 10 degrees F for the high. That’s air temperature, not including the wind chill. We have been doing a lot of workouts at Stony Creek Metropark where footing wasn’t the greatest and the temps were tough. The long of the short of it is this- say we were doing 3 miles- 2 Miles- 1 Mile at Stony. Under normal circumstances, we’d do these at about half marathon pace. Mo really wanted to break 1:03 at the Houston Half Marathon, so that would be about 4:48 per mile (ballpark). Mo came close to that for 1 mile, where he had good footing and a wind at his back. All the workouts we did in December and early January amounted to one lousy mile run at his actual goal pace.

Needless to say, Mo ran Houston this past Sunday (1/14/18) and ran… 1:02:11!!!

This was a personal best by nearly two minutes and is the fastest ever run by a Hanson’s ODP member.

The moral of the story is don’t focus only on what the watch is telling you during the winter months. If you keep the faith that you are working hard and putting in the training, that you don’t need to adjust goals (as long as you are racing where weather won’t really be the issue). Take the time throughout the year to know how paces feel and what effort you are putting in to hit those paces. That way, you can have confidence that your fitness is still there and you’ll be ready to fly on race day!

Dressing for winter running

Winter running can have a wide range of effects on people. For some it might mean actually having to wear a shirt on those chilly 65 degree mornings. For others it might mean growing a glorious beard to protect against the snow and wind (at least that’s what I tell myself). I get a lot of questions about winter running, but one of the main ones is, how do I dress for this stuff? To me that’s a loaded question because there’s a lot of variables going into it. In November if it’s 32 degrees I’ll be wearing tights because it’s so cold! If it’s 32 in January? Shoot, I’m breaking out the half tights and debating wearing a shirt (ok, I’ll put a shirt on), but will probably be wearing half tights on a day that warm in January!

In all seriousness, how we need to dress depends on our exposure to the elements. For instance, today was 11 degrees with a pretty brisk wind. However, despite it being that cold, it was actually the warmest it’s been in a while. I actually felt a little over dressed!  On the flip side, today it snowed in Florida! The folks who live there probably thought it was the end of the world today. They probably couldn’t put enough layers on. In fact, I would bet there were people dressed with more clothes on in Florida today, than the Hanson’s Brooks team had on our wind chill advisory morning here in Michigan. Given all that, I still think there are a few truths that we can all use, regardless if winter is a few days a year for you, or if you feel like you’re in the arctic circle with no sun for six months.

  1. The wind is worse than the cold.

    If you can block the wind, I feel like you can take away a lot of the  discomfort in cold weather running. These days there are a lot of wind resistant shirts and lightweight jackets that don’t add a lot of weight, but block out that bone chilling cold. Also, consider something for the legs, or at least the most sensitive region below the waist… Seriously. Find good briefs/undies to run in, especially ones with a wind panel in front.

  2. Focus on extremities like the head/face, hands, and feet.

    Your head loses most of your heat and your face takes a beating in the wind. Offering up protection to your noggin is crucial for those cold and windy days. When I run, my hands are always the first to feel the effects. For others it is there feet. Investing in really good gloves and mittens is a must if you want to brave the elements for any length of time. Even a good glove with a mitten shell will work wonders for blocking the wind and keeping the body heat in around the fingers. As for the feet, you need to be careful. As some teammates found out, you can’t just put a bunch of socks on and shove your foot in your shoe. They did this for a few days, but found their shoes were now too tight and hurt! Get some good light wool running socks.

  3. Dress in layers.

    I recommend your base layer be pretty form fitting. This pulls your sweat away from the body right away and can be dissipated better through the second (or third) layer. The second layer should be fairly loose to allow your body heat to be trapped and be a natural insulator. If wearing a third layer, then this should be your wind breaking layer. For the legs, you will probably be wearing tights. If you find your legs still getting cold, then go ahead and put a wind pant on over the top. They are lightweight, will trap body heat towards legs, but still allow sweat to evaporate. Plus, you’ll get that ever important wind block.

  4. Dress like it’s warmer.

    The rule of thumb is dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer than it is. Now, I understand that if it’s 5 degrees F, then does it really matter if I’m dressed for 25? Well, no, it’s still cold! But if it’s 20 degrees out and you dress like it’s 40 degrees, that’s a big difference. So, take it relative to what the air temp is. The colder is, the less this will matter, but can really make a difference when you are in that grey area. You might be a little chilly the first mile, but your body heat (see above) will take care of you.

  5. Is it the shoes?

    Going back to the socks and feet a little bit. Shoe companies have all developed a couple shoes that are great for winter running. For instance, every winter I get a pair of Brooks Adrenaline ASR (All Season Running). These babies have a more aggressive tread and a water resistant upper. Having these definitely allow me to keep the needed socks minimal with a much better fit. Shoes like these are something to consider if you are dealing with months of treacherous running!

Now, I don’t think anything I just wrote was earth flattening for anyone, but a necessary discussion. I think the real question is “How should I dress for different days?” Like anything, we have to look at what we are trying to accomplish for the day. In essence, the faster you are trying to run, the more we have to think about it.

Easy Days

On a nasty day, an easy run really does become a matter of putting the time in. These are the days I am going to have the most time to let my mind focus on being cold, so I want to be as comfortable as possible. I’m willing to overdress on these days!

Long runs

During the winter, or if it falls on a nasty day for you, the long run is an extended easy day. However, many of us want to run a little faster on the easy days. We also are talking about putting A LOT more time on our feet. While I want to be comfortable, I don’t want to be overheated. I try to keep my regular shoes, unless it’s just completely snow covered. I focus mostly on keeping my feet and hands warm. I will wear a fairly heavy tight with the appropriate, er protection. And then I will usually wear the standard base layer and a warmer jacket or a middle weight shirt and a very lightweight windbreaker.

The faster stuff…

Marathon or faster work does require a delicate balance of how much I’m willing to be uncomfortable, but avoid hypothermia. Up top, I’m less worried about it. I can get by with the base layer, and the thicker warm layer. The tights is where things can get tricky. The thicker the tight, the less range of motion (or the less I feel I can get a full stride). I tend to dress down a level of warmth. When you are running fast, you’ll notice it less.

 


 

Given that, there are a couple points I’d like to make with the clothing and workouts. You may have heard the saying that one pound of fat equals losing two seconds per mile. Now, what that really means is that for every pound of weight that is not involved in the propulsion of your body forward, you lose two seconds per mile. So, think about that when you are dressed in your extra layers and even more when the sweat that left your body is now frozen to your outer layer. It’s there and it slows you down. So, when you are working hard to run slow, keep this in mind and focus on effort over pace.

The second point is more about when you are done running. When you are running hard, you’ll notice the cold less. You’ll really be feeling that difference between what the actual temp is and how warm you feel. Now, once you stop, you are a lot more susceptible to getting the bone rattling chill. While I know many of you go straight through your warm up to workout to cool down. If you have the opportunity, I say warm up like you are doing an easy run. Then, adjust your layers accordingly for the workout. Finally, if you can, take off your wet top layers, replace with warm, dry layers, and then do a cool down. If not, then I urge you to get warm and dry clothes on as soon as you possibly can.

With that, you can see how I approach winter running in dress and with specific days. I hope you find soe use of this as it guides you through the tough winter running we endure. Feel free to keep the discussion rolling!

Here’s some other good reads on dressing for winter runnning

LATE ADD ON:

Of course, I had this written last night and ready to be published this morning when @sweatscience publishes something to Outside Magazine. Here is another great read on winter running and wear you want to keep your body warmth levels. 

Hansons Marathon Method: should I reduce my mileage at the beginning?

Many times a runner is already running the weekly volume that the training plans start out at. This prompts the question, “do I need to lower my mileage at the start of the training plan, or can I keep going at my current mileage?” Anyone who knows me at this point, knows what my immediate response will be, “it depends.” There really are cases to be made for keeping on with current mileage, as well as, reducing down to match what the plan is asking you to start at.

When you should reduce back:

  • If you have looked at the plan in entirety and realize it’s going to be the hardest training plan you’ve ever followed. This can be a combination of weekly mileage, workouts, and workout volume.
  • You are already doing workouts. By this I mean, speed, strength, tempo, anything of intensity.
  • You have been running for more than 2-3 weeks already and are at 85% of your weekly mileage.
  • You never took significant down time after your last major race.
  • You have a nick, a trouble spot, or are actually injured.

The reason these are important factors boils down to two things. The first is the length of time you will then make the training plan. With the two main Hansons Marathon Method plans, you are looking at 18 weeks of structure. This is already a long time. If you now turn it into a 22-26 week training plan, then you are asking for trouble late into the training plan and will turn cumulative fatigue into plain old overtraining. The second is that not only are you making the training segment loner, you are making it longer at a higher level. This is a combination that more often, than not, leads to injury, staleness, and overcooking. It’s by design that the plans start out a little easier, especially the beginner.

Consider reducing the mileage as hitting a refresh button to the plan. I know many of you are worried about losing fitness, but I can assure you that you won’t lose much at all. With two weeks completely off, you’d lose about 5% in performance. All I’m asking is to reduce your mileage. It’s all about getting you to peak fitness for race day, not the 4 weeks prior to your peak race. If you haven’t already, check out my blog post on Getting too fit too fast.

I would take a step back if you have any one of the above scenarios that apply to you.

When you should keep on keeping on

Despite what I just said, I do see a couple scenarios where it might be best to just keep on with what you are doing until the training plan keeps up with you.

  • You are currently injury free, but have come off a long layoff (4+ weeks of no running). The biggest issue here is that you have already had a lot of time off and you really want to make sure that you are ready to get into a long training plan. So, where before you might be starting a plan with an already fitness that’s high enough, you might be trying to get your to a decent starting point. It wouldn’t do you any good to cut back when you already cut back for several weeks.
  • You are currently NOT doing any SOS days. To me, the mileage is secondary to intensity. What I mean is that usually the mileage is fine as long as the intensity is low. It’s usually the higher intensity for extended periods of time that will overcook the runner. So, if you are running, but just keeping it easy, then I don’t usually see problems later on.
  • Your weekly mileage is 40-60% of what your peak mileage will be. While intensity might be the bigger factor in overtraining, if your mileage is continually near peak, you go back to making that segment too long. If you’ve been running at say 30 miles per week, with no SOS, and the training plan starts at 20 miles a week, then I don’t see a need to scale back to reach the prescribed early mileage.

At the end of the day, you just don’t want to put yourself in a position where you’ll be regretting your decision six weeks out from your marathon. With beginners and first time Hansons Marathon Method users I tend to be more cautious. With these runners, I know the training is going to be hard for them, but they might think it’s too easy at the start. If they have never been through cumulative fatigue before, it’s my job to make sure they don’t overdo it too early in the program and then go straight through CF and into injury, illness, and overtraining. Hopefully, these scenarios can help guide you in making the decision that best meets you where you are at! If you take anything away, I want you to recognize that you should start a plan fresh, recharged, and not already too close to peak fitness. You want to reach that peak fitness in the last 4 weeks, not the last 8 weeks!

 

4-6 Weeks out from marathon? Your top 5 things you need to know.

The last 4-6 weeks of your marathon training means a lot is going on. You are tired, you are hungry, and the training is at its most grueling. So many times one of two things happen. One, the training gets scaled back because that always seems to be the easiest to blame. The truth is that is the source of your dilemma, but also necessary. The second thing that can happen is a runner can push through or neglect certain things and become overlooked or injured. You can see our dilemma here. There is a delicate balance between following the plan versus crossing the fine line of cumulative fatigue and overtraining. The truth is, that we focus all our success and our failure on the numbers of the calendar when there’s so much more to this jigsaw puzzle of marathon success. So, what I have done is compiled my top 5 list of things that need to be done during these last weeks of training to make your marathon as successful as possible.

  1. Check your shoes.

    Anyone who follows the Hansons Marathon Method (HMM) knows, you put in a lot of mileage. Let’s say you averaged 35 miles per week for the first 12 weeks of the program. That means you’ve put in 410 miles by the time you reach the hardest part of the training! Given that info, you’ll easy put on another 300 miles over the remaining 6 weeks, plus the marathon itself. Many of the athletes in our groups get to the meat and potatoes and start feeling their body beginning to break down. New shoes will help in a big way!

  2. Practice your fuel plan!

    I cannot stress this enough. By now you should have decided what you are using, especially if you are just going with what the race is offering. You should be practicing fueling on tempo runs and long runs. You should be trying at the intervals you are going to be taking in nourishment during the race. So, if you are taking gels at 45 minute intervals, practice at those intervals. If you are taking cups every two miles, maybe invest in a handheld and practice at those intervals. Missed our talk on GI distress? View Here

  3. Make your day to day recovery a top priority.

    I’m not talking about dropping $1500 on compression boots or $90 on a cryotherapy three pack. I am talking about the simplest forms of recovery that are most often overlooked.

    1. Adequate protein intake. What is training? It is the purposeful breakdown of tissue in order for that tissue to adapt to higher workloads. If you don’t provide the muscles with the ingredients you need, you just continually break down tissue. Then you are broken down. 20 grams of high quality protein for every meal, after exercise, and before bed.
    2. Replenishing glycogen: You don’t have to carboload every day, but if you did a workout, you need to replenish those glycogen stores. SOS days and Long runs at this point of the schedule? You should aim for 5-7 gram of quality carbohydrate per kilogram (weight in pounds and divide by 2.2) of bodyweight.
    3. Rehydrating: Know your sweat rate. Weigh yoursell (butt naked) before and after your runs. Know how much you are sweating and replace that fluid throughout the day. Don’t be surprised if you are drinking 2-3 liters of fluid a day. Set an alarm at 15 minute intervals to remind yourself if you forget to drink.
    4. Rest: High quality sleep. That protein before bed will help. Lay off the tablets, smart phones, and tv in bed. Make it cool and dark. If you can’t get 8-10 hours a night, make sure the 5-8 hours you get are quality!
  4. Race strategy finalized.

    This means goal pace settled on for the most part. It also means how you are going to break the race up. How are you going to approach the hilly sections? How are you going to approach the flats? Where are you going to try and make a move? How long are you going to hold back for? Finalize and visualize the rest of the way in. Look for course videos on the race website or YouTube to help you picture the race as it is unfolding.

  5. Understand the difference between cumulative fatigue/aches and pains versus a developing injury.

    This is number 5, but it should probably be number one. Cumulative fatigue is when you are tired, something is sore, but not sure if it is one thing or everything. You step out the door and wonder if you’ll make it through the run. You finish the run and you are surprised that you were actually on the faster end of your easy pace range. Huh, how did that happen? On the other hand, over training is when you feel all those things, but you are slower. In fact every run gets slower and slower. If that’s the case, you’ve crossed over and need to talk to a coach about what to do. Third, an approaching injury is when one specific thing hurts. Or maybe it takes it longer and longer to warm up on a run. It continually worsens over a few days. If that’s where you are at- see a physician who runs and let them treat you. Don’t just accept the idea of taking time off as that only heals symptoms, not the cause.

If you can abide by these five items, you can survive your last 4-6 weeks of marathon preparation. Don’t fall into the trap of blaming training runs on lack of attention to detail. Finally, take these last few weeks on a day to day basis. It is hard, that I fully understand, but it will all be worth it in the end!

GI Distress and Running Performance

PlayPlay

Gastrointestinal Distress is seemingly increasing problem for marathon runners. In fact, up to 90% of runners complain of at least one GI distress symptom during a race. That can be anything from heart burn to diarrhea. It’s not a good situation to be in, but does it have to be that way? There’s a lot of reasons that GI distress will occur. In this podcast though, I want to discuss the easy things we can do (or not do) to help us ourselves out on big workout days and race day. We will talk about the most common causes and the easiest solutions. Races like the half marathon and marathon are demanding mentally and physically. We don’t want our performance to be determined by stomach issues- especially after all the hard work, time, money, and effort into getting to race day healthy and ready to rock.

Want to learn more about the products I use? Check ’em out!

Thoughts on warming up for Boston

While I write this specific for the Boston Marathon, what I write here is really applicable to any marathon where you have a starting line that is not anywhere near your finish line. In October of 2016, I wrote the post Marathon Race Strategy: A few thoughts which gave race strategies for all pace ranges. The post also included a few thoughts on what I felt were important for warming up before a marathon. I recommend all of you reading that for what you should consider in a general marathon warm up.

However, Boston is different, because the starting line is 26 miles away from the finish line. Here’s a few unique challenges thrown into an already tough day

 

  • Getting bussed out
  •  Leaving our gear at the finish line
  • Waiting in an athlete village
  • Waiting in our corrals
  • Running from inland to coast

 

Getting to Start:

I think we are all mostly familiar with the idea of getting bussed out, so I won’t spend too much time on this. The main idea I’d like to express here is to leave as late as you can. You want to spend the least amount of time in Hopkinton as possible. If you know you are one of the last corrals in your wave, get on the bus that makes the most sense. Again, limit the time you spend in Hopkinton.

http://www.baa.org/races/boston-marathon/participant-information/transportation-to-start-line.aspx

 

Leaving your gear at finish line:

This one was a surprise to me, as I am used to taking a bag with me and digging for it at the finish line. So, as you leave your nicer stuff at the finish line, make sure what you wear to Hopkinton are things you are willing to part with. The only problem with this, is that what we will discuss below. Waiting, more waiting, and waiting in the weather…

http://www.baa.org/races/boston-marathon/participant-information/gear-check-and-baggage-policy.aspx

 

Waiting, more waiting, and waiting in the weather:

Since you’ll have time on your hands, what you wear to the start line can be significant. As I said, you want it too be clothing that you are willing to part with, but you also don’t want to be skimpy on the clothes. So dress in layers and adjust to what the weather is in hopkinton. In 2016, it was a perfect example of how different weather can be 26 miles from where you started. In Hopkinton, the temps were in the high 60’s to low 70’s, while the announcers at the finish line wore light winter jackets. Check what that weather is in Hopkinton and dress for the starting line before heading out.

As I mentioned, you want to be at the village for the least amount of time. Being there longer just gives you more time to be antsy, pace around, and let your nerves get the best of you. Get there only when you need to, try to find a place to stay dry and comfortable, and get off your feet. Stay on whatever nutrition and hydration schedule you’ve set up for yourself.
My Boston Warm Up Protocol

  1. Use the bathroom right before leaving athlete village
  2. Take whatever you need to the starting line
    1. Water bottle
    2. A gel/calories
    3. Clothes you are going to leave/toss
  3. It seems like the faster you are in your wave, the longer you have to be in the corral. Make use of this time accordingly
    1. Sub 3:30 runners use the 0.7 miles from the Athlete Village as your warm up jog.
    2. Over 3:30 runners, walk the distance. This will be fine to loosen your legs up.
  4. Once in your corral
    1. Focus on yourself, visualize your first four miles and how that will set the tone for the race
    2. You will be limited on space, but want to stay loose. Consider doing simple movements that don’t take up a lot of room. Maybe 5-10 minutes before the gun goes off, do something like 10-15 squats, march in place, and shake your arms up. This won’t be perfect, but it will start priming the pump and tell the body that it’s about time to go to work.
    3. Have your first gel in that 5-15 minutes before the start.
  5. Once you cross that line, just stay calm. You’ll have a lot of people thinking that they are going to catch the race leaders. Keep to your plan and enjoy the moment, but don’t get caught up in the nonsense. Even with the first few miles downhill, you might not feel super great. We weren’t able to do a perfect warm up and you might feel sluggish. Stay calm and let the race come to you.

Boston has many unique challenges, but that’s part of what makes it Boston! Keep things simple and you can conquer the pre race warm up. It might not be perfect, but it will get the job done! Good luck to everyone running Boston!