Marathon Training Recap – Weeks 1-4

Instead of recapping my marathon training on a daily or weekly basis, I am going for the corporate-style quarterly update. I am hoping to provide some business style charts, a la:

This chart depicts my utopian training cycle where blue = pain and red = speed

Since there are 16 weeks of training there will be 4 updates. Each one will be comprised of the quarterly report (like in business, but with less corruption and pantyhose. oh, and no bogus bonuses) and a topic germane to marathon training. So check out how I have been making out and then let us all know how your training is going (marathon or any other distance/race)!

Update 1 – Weeks 1-4

Quarterly Report

Summary: Feeling really good to be back in the swing of a training plan! I incorporated some speed and tempo work this month, which was pretty great considering I had not been doing any in over a year. I am sure by the end of this cycle I will resume my normal love/hate relationship with tempo runs. But for now, it is honeymoon central! My long runs this month seemed, uh, not really long. Weeks 1 & 2 were 9-milers, week 3 was bumped because I was on vacation and it got split over 2 days and Week 4 was 11 miles, run while I was combating jet lag.  So this month’s long runs? Meh. On the plus side, my average pace is already faster than during ultra training, which helped stymie my fear that I would never run my normal pace again (yeah, I know that is dumb! the paranoid mind of a runner, what can you do?) and the runs only get longer from here, so I am looking forward to that!

Tweaks and twinges : I am in a constant battle to keep my upper hammies/butt muscles loose, which means I am always stretching, icing and foam rolling. As long as I am good about that, they stay happy. Since around our Rhode Island trip, I have also noticed some plantar fasciitis creeping in, which is something that comes and goes with me since around my college years. However, this time I am feeling pain in my heel instead of arch, so that is something new. I have been lazy about it so far, but am committing to stretching to get it sorted out (I even booked marked a stretching exercise page in my iPhone, so you know I am serious!).

Mental Runitude: Excellent! Feeling highly motivated and ready to work. This month has been pretty easy, so no sign  fatigue yet.


Topic du Quarter – NUTRITION

Nutrition is something many runners struggle with that takes a lot of time to figure out. There is so much to say about this topic and since brevity (ahem) is not my strong suit, I am going to limit my comments to long run nutrition and what works for me. For me, long runs at this point are anything over 10 or so miles. Feel free to leave questions about all aspects of nutrition in the comments section, though, as this is a tough nut to crack!

Night before: As with many thing in my running life (ok, life period) I am a creature of habit and ritual. The night before a long run almost always means a bowl of whole grain pasta, red sauce, broccoli and some sort of protein (sometimes chicken, but more and more often a soy-based one).  I eat enough so that I feel a little fuller than normal. I have a sensitive stomach and can’t handle eating too much right before I run, so I have found it easier on my digestion system to front-load rather than cramming  in calories the morning of. I also leave a glass of water on my nightstand and drink every time I wake up through the night.

Morning of:  I am jealous of the people who do the banana or bagel with honey and PB combo, as that is delicious! However, through trial and error I have realized that nuts and long runs are not BFF’s when partying it up in my duodenum. I have to stick to really bland, easy stuff. I often do my long runs first thing, and on a run of ~10-13 miles, I will eat a few large handfuls of dry cereal and maybe a ShotBlok or two beforehand.  I love me some GU Chomps and ShotBloks, but I find their chewiness hard to deal with as I run, so I rely on them pre- and post-workout.  For runs longer than 13-14 miles, I eat the cereal as well as a piece of toast or an English Muffin doused in honey and cinnamon. I drink a few sips of water, but not too much.

During Run: Depending on the run and how my stomach is feeling, I vacillate on how/what I eat and drink while I run. A quick note here – it does not matter too much what you eat (GUs, chomps, homemade gels, candy, etc.) but it is very important that you eat on these longer runs. Yes, your body has lots of energy stored, but not all of it is easily accessible and as you get into runs that are hours long, your body will greatly appreciate the calories/carbs/electrolytes that you provide to it. I know some people like to tough it out sans food, but don’t be a hero here.  Food is fuel and you will have a much better run with a properly filled tank. With ultra training, I would often wait until I felt like I wanted food (sometime around the 1.5 hr mark) and eat as needed. With marathon training, though, I am actually pushing my body a little harder pace-wise and I do better on a schedule. For me that means 1/2 a GU on the 45 min mark, the second half on the 65 min mark and repeat as many times as hours I run. I am not a fan of carrying my own water on my person on long runs, so I stash it the night before on my course. Every 5 miles, there is a bottle of water waiting for me and I drink as needed (I go back and pick them up after). I have long learned that a set amount of water is silly for me – what I need varies widely depending on weather and how grouchy my stomach is that day so I just drink by feel.

Post-run: I immediately grab a large glass of ice water and add a Nuun tablet to it. I find this reduces any chance of a headache later in the day, which used to be something I would regularly have after a long run. My stomach takes awhile to settle, so I will typically spend time stretching, icing and foam rolling and then take a shower. By about an hour after I run I am ready for food, and my go-to is almost always a large bowl of cereal ( 3 types mixed together ideal!). Throughout the day, I try to drink quite a bit and eat a protein heavy dinner to help with the micro tears in my muscles.

Foods that work for me before/during runs: Any type of gel (GU just happens to be my favorite), animal crackers, watermelon with salt sprinkled on it, pretzels, Honey Stinger waffles, hard candies (including ginger flavored when nausea hits), straight shots of honey, water, diluted Gatorade.

Foods that have my stomach screaming bloody murder before/during runs: dairy products (esp yogurt), nuts, anything heavy or spicy, anything with too much fiber, sushi (that’s a “before”, not a “during”, lol), chewy candy (like Swedish fish. I had high hopes for candy as I love it so, but during runs it just makes me feel ick – but lots of people find that gummy worms, etc, work well!), salt tabs  (wanted to like these b/c they offer easy electrolytes but they give me heartburn).

If you also suffer from a persnickety stomach that has you wondering what its damage is (yup, that’s a Heathers reference), this link will help you figure out hydration and electrolytes. Scroll down and look at the  table at the bottom to help you zone in on what your issue is and how to solve it.

I could yammer on forever about this stuff, but as it is this post will take you almost as long to read as it did for me to complete Weeks 1-4, so I will shut up now 🙂

How is your training cycle treating you?

What foods do and don’t work on your runs (of any distance)?


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10 responses to “Marathon Training Recap – Weeks 1-4

  1. Rochelle Sotter

    Before my 5K on Sunday I did some carb loading in Ocean City… Primo’s Pizza, funnel cake and ice cream… Probably not my best training idea.

  2. Bel

    OK, you just blew my mind. I had to click on pretty much all of the links to read what each of those products were! I had no idea such things exist! They seem like space food to me, haha! I def don’t think I am running anywhere near enough to require any of them, but I am interested in their mere existence and want to read about what they are – I am somewhat of a purist/snob at heart when it comes to food so I’m dying to find out how they hold up…I assume pretty well since they are intended for athletes who tend to stick to healthier, more natural foods anyway.

    I have been making sure that I eat a healthy serving of both protein & carbs the night before running and then in the morning I’m doing a whole grain bagel with either PB or honey accompanied by just a little bit of juice and black coffee. And then after, I eat a banana and pretzels. Again, not running anything greater than 3.5 miles yet so I am interested to see how that changes as my distances increase

    • Oh, you will be hooked on all this stuff in no time! They are all formulated especially for the runner’s/multipsport athlete’s body, so it means that you don’t have to do the hard work of getting the calorie/carb/electrolyte balance right! i think your purist heart will appreciate the honey stinger and Clif lines the most – they both try to do organic as much as possible and it does not get much more natural than honey! or you can try making your own: BTW, no meat athlete is a great resource for a lot of good recipes!
      you are running plenty to start experimenting with these products! you just don’t need as much as you will when you start running longer (which i just know you will… plus your “3.5 miles yet” line is a dead giveaway to that telltale heart!) but there is no time like the present to start playing around. it’s all part of the gearhead fun of running!
      sound like you are doing great with your pre- and post- fueling, all great, runner-friendly choices! awesome!!

  3. I am loving your training reports:) I remember asking you how long your run was going to be while I was in OC and you said “Oh, only 9 miles” Because to you, it was only 9 miles. You are in a different category than most, love. You go girl:)

    I liked your nutrition segment and as apart of your pit crew for the Kashi Classic 50 Miler I have this to say: Eating on the long runs is definitely the way to go. Just from watching you over the course of that day you were so much stronger (emotionally, mentally and physically) when you had eaten enough. I would not be a supporter of toughing it out with out food.

    More so than any other activity I have to be careful of what I eat before yoga. I typically go to yoga at night, 6:30 or 8 PM so dinner becomes a concern. Anything too heavy or acidic (pasta sauce) is no good, it upsets my tummy. I have found that a bowl of cereal about an hour before is perfect. Then I have a light dinner after I get home. If I don’t eat anything I get really light headed. (I am sure there are times when yogis fast to enhance certain aspects of their practice but I am not quite there)

    • with ya , sister! i prefer to imagine what hallicinations i would have without food rather than to actually fast and find out 🙂 I have also found that there is not too much in my life that can’t be solved by a bowl of cereal 🙂 BTW i ran out of time to ask you the other night – how did you like the color run??

  4. *Warning: Long reply… but I’m passionate about fueling*

    Super fun entry! Training updates and fuel reports are pretty much at the top of my list in terms of “must read” blog posts. Let’s see… this training cycle (as we spoke about on the phone) is going to be about mental toughness. I’m either going to find my mental mojo or steal some of yours. 😉 Here’s the toughie for me… in reading through my log from last year, I found that I was writing the same sort of things as I am this year– too hot, constantly dehydrated, worried about pacing strategy, etc…. Then I made the trip up to NJ in mid-Sept to reunite with Scott & the Brotherhood Ride and was able to do a few runs in 50F temps (which is obviously a very big change for the 90F heat index I’m running in at this time of the year). That’s where I figured out what “easy” actually was in more temperate conditions and then I was able to put a race plan in place. Unfortunately, there is no September trip on the horizon this year and that makes me uncomfortable b/c I am second guessing everything. I know that the weather will break at some point down here (although probably no until mid-October), it’s just a bit too close for comfort, I think. Trying very hard to remain positive, though.

    Fueling… wee! I love talking about this, but it definitely varies depending on length and type of activity (swim, bike or run). Pre-run of any length, standard fare is a bowl of oatmeal with chia and sometimes I will add in raisins. That’s too much fiber for most people to handle, but I do ok with it. I’ll do something similar before a race OR I’ll do a white bagel (the ONLY time I eat white anything) with PB and then have a banana at some point during the morning. Oddly enough, I ran one of my best 5k runs on a breakfast of eggs. I must have an iron gut (knock on wood).

    *Fluid disclaimer for anyone else besides Kashi who might read this… I live in South Florida. My fluid requirements are typically off the charts compared to what runners living in a cooler climate might need*. During a training run, I always have an electrolyte drink (stored in a handheld for runs under 8 miles; stored in a Camelbak for runs over 8 miles). Usually it’s water + Nuun. Doesn’t matter if it’s a 3-miler… I don’t leave the house without water + Nuun. For long run calories, I use gels (Power Gel is my fav, followed by Honey Stinger) or Gatorade (or some other sport’s drink that I might be experimenting with). If I’m using gels, I’ll put water in my Camelbak; if not, I fill it with Gatorade. I usually have to refill the Camelbak around the 10 mile mark. If I’m running near home, I just swing back and refill; if I’m running out and about, I have to plan a loop so that I can hit my car. Like Kashi, I don’t “force” myself to drink a set amount of fluid. I drink when thirsty, but I just happen to drink A LOT. 🙂 I love Honey Stinger waffles, but have only used them on the bike; I might have to try them for the run. I was training exclusively with Honey Stinger chews last year for Philly (and loved them), but discovered on race day (at race pace) that they were not quite enough for me (and Gatorade stepped in and saved my butt). I also use salt tabs (S!Caps are the only ones that don’t give me indigestion), but again, it’s awfully hot here and I’m naturally a very heavy sweater. I think salt tabs are a YMMV thing. My husband rarely ever uses them. Post-run… no matter where I’m running or what distance, I pack my post-run nutrition in a cooler and keep it in the car. Usually it’s a piece of fruit + nuts; sometimes it’s a balanced carb:protein shake. Whatever it is, I tend to ingest it within 15 minutes after running (this morning I had it down in less than 5). Crazy! LOL! After a long run… I do second breakfast… like a hobbit! Usually it’s eggs and toast. 🙂

    Again, great blog entry!

  5. Pingback: Marathon Training Recap – Weeks 5-8 | Cape Island Runners

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