Is that time of year again, for us crazies who like to run ridiculous miles in the middle of a cold and gloomy winter. Marathon training always seems to “start” when the mile 15 run(s) kick in, and I ran my second one today. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to hit the trails by 6:30. I decided to get it over with on a Friday because I am skiing tomorrow and am too old for a long run after a day of skiing. It was pitch black when I started. This is what it looked like outside my door when I started (there was actually a full moon but I couldn’t quite capture the beauty on my iPhone).
Anyway, since I have a bit of a running ritual, I thought I’d share some of my advice, just in case you’re crazy, too. Though by no means am I a great runner, I can at least attest to the fact that I’ve done enough 15+ mile runs that I ought to know something. Eat before you run. Especially if you run in the morning, I advise against an empty stomach if you are tackling anything over 8 miles. Not only is it harder to endure the distance with no fuel, but it improves the recovery after you’re done. And though I don’t advocate the Rooty Tooty Fresh & Fruity Breakfast at iHop, I don’t think a piece of toast is enough. This morning I ate a piece of toast, fried egg and protein fruit shake only 30 minutes before I ran. Those fruit shakes (which admittedly make my turn my stomach at 5:45 a.m.) are great for supplying energy! More on protein later. Go to the bathroom (if you are a morning runner). Admittedly, I have a 6-year old, so the topic of poop is one in which we freely engage on an all too frequent basis; so this is not something I am shy to talk about. But I’m telling you, there is nothing worse than having “to go” the entire time you’re running (after experiencing this wonderful sensation the entire Boston Marathon last year, I will now do anything to avoid it). Also, I have run with many a person who has to take a pit stop and experience mother nature in a way I’d much prefer in the privacy of my own bathroom. So make it easier on yourself and go beforehand if you can. Drink while you run. I’ve learned this one the hard way. If you get dehydrated on a long run, you’ll get sick, not just for the run itself, but for a few days afterwards, too. It’s absolutely miserable. Drinking water (or Gatorade or whatever you like) has the completely opposite effect. You’ll feel SO much better if you stay hydrated. Today, my hands got so numb from the cold that I had a hard time holding the water bottle, so I’m feeling a bit parched. Which reminds me….. Dress appropriately for the run. If it’s cold, it’s better to overdress and remove clothes while you’re running than under-dress and freeze. I underestimated the temperature this morning and spent the last 6 miles of the run with my left hand completely numb (and I had thick gloves on, too). At least I grabbed my hat on the way out the door. (If you have usually cold appendages like I do, take hand warmers along. I forgot mine this morning and deeply regretted it). Eat while you run. I have experimented with everything from Luna bars to Gu. And I have found what works for me. But I will honestly say I feel 1000x better if I get calories in my system when I plan to be training for longer than an hour. My advice is to experiment with different foods/gels before race day, so you know what works before you go the full distance. Run with others. I talk about this exhaustively in Secret Sauce, but it’s something I really believe in. If you are conversing with others, you don’t feel your pain as much – and you run faster. Funny how that works. Pets are a nice runner up. Listen to music. Any diversion helps overcome the pain. I am a geek and listen to NPR for much of the run, but I probably pick up the pace when I’m listening to tunes. I also try to enjoy the scenery if at all possible. Here’s a view of Boise after I ran up one of my favorite trails (it’s much more enjoyable after you have gotten to the top). Recover properly. I have a routine which I try to follow. I shower (to get my wet clothes off fast), lie down with my legs raised for 5-10 minutes, hydrate, eat protein and stretch (not necessarily in that order). In my 30s, I headed straight for a beer (unless it was 9 a.m. when I finished my run, like today). And though I still like beer, I make sure I’ve had plenty of water first. Oh…and I almost forgot. Don’t forget to ice soar/hurt body parts afterwards. My biggest regret for the day is I couldn’t take my little Walden. He looked at me before I walked out the door as if to say, “Won’t you please take me with you?” But he has a torn ACL from all the other runs I have taken him on, and he has to have surgery next week. More thoughts on marathon training as I continue along my journey….to Boston….