My last marathon was a little over 4 years ago when I ran the Vermont City Marathon. It was not that I was burned out or sick of training. Life got too busy for training. For a period of time I was happy if I could get 30 minutes of running in at a time or make it to the gym for weight training. I posted back in 2012 about life getting busy and finally 4 years later I am finding time to train consistently again, and it feels so good. Click here if you are interested in reading that article titled “When life Gets Busy.”
Back in January I decided to make the commitment to racing again. Things have finally settled down and I am no longer driving to Denver several days a week or trying to juggle 5 different jobs/commitments. I wanted to run another marathon and signed up for the Steamboat Marathon after carefully weighing my options and wanting to keep it cheap and easy (and close to home). I have traveled to sea level for all of my marathons and decided to give a high altitude marathon a try. I also wanted to qualify for Boston. I know it does no make a lot of sense to travel to higher altitude to run a marathon and try to qualify for Boston, but I have never shied away from a challenge.
I changed a lot of things this go-around with my training. In my article about overtraining I talked about my own personal experience with overdoing it and the impact on my health. I decided the high mileage did not work for me. No more 80 mile training weeks. This time my highest mileage week was 60 miles and I only hit that mileage during one week of my training leading up to the race. Most of my mileage averaged around 30-40 miles a week. This might blow some of the more “old-school” training gurus away. Many people think you need to put in endless miles to run a successful marathon. I proved this is most definitely not the case. In fact, I decide to add more strength, cross training, and CrossFit (I can hear a few people gasp). Yes, I did CrossFit on average about 3 times per week leading up to the race. I did the key training days including track workouts, fartleks, tempo runs, and got my long runs in. I eliminated all the “junk” mileage and replaced it with swimming, biking, strength training, and CrossFit and I believe it made me a stronger athlete.
For some who might be curious, I am my own coach. I have been a running for 20 years, I have a solid understanding of exercise physiology and training concepts, and self-motivation (at least when it comes to running). I do use a few tools to help me with training. I recently starting using HRV (heart rate variability). I don’t want to go into a lot of detail in this post, but by measuring HRV I am able to see how recovered I am on any given day. This helps me plan days I should work harder or days I should back off on training. I also used a Stryd power meter for running. This helps me with target heart rate zones for training and helps me have some feedback about how well my training is going and where I am at with my fitness.
When it comes to nutrition for training during the marathon I made sure to enter my intake into MyFitnessPal a couple of times per week. I wanted to see where I was with my total calorie intake and make sure I was getting enough energy to support my training and hitting my macros. I kept my macronutrient goals at 25% protein, 35% fat, and 40% carbohydrates. It might seem like a lot of fat for some people, but this ratio was perfect for me and my goals. On longer training days I increased total carbohydrates, but most everything else stayed the same. I ate mostly whole, non-processed foods and made sure to get 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies per day. I also take a few supplements including vitamin B12 (because my levels were suboptimal), fish oil, turmeric, selenium (to support my thyroid), and vitamin D.
On race day I did something I always tell people not to do and that is to change up pre-race nutrition. I have a really hard time eating anything on race day morning. I have a hard time eating at 5 am anyway and with race day jitters I always feel like I need to puke. I decided that in order to get enough calories/energy for the race that I would add coconut milk (the high fat, canned kind) to my oatmeal the morning of the race. The reason I did this was because coconut milk is high in MCTs or medium chain triglycerides and these fats are absorbed more rapidly than longer chain fats. I figured I could get in a lot of energy, but it would not be sitting there in my stomach causing issues during the race. I also ate a honey stinger waffle about 30 minutes before the race start. I must have been correct because I felt amazing during the race and never had any issues with digestion or gastrointestinal problems during the race. I made sure to stop at every aide stating during the race and follow my fueling plan for during the race.
I felt the best during this race than any of my previous marathons. Even at mile 18 I still felt pretty darn good. The race was deceptive, because it looks like it is mostly down hill, but there are a few hills that either long or steep or both. This was one about mile 22 that seemed to last forever and ended with a steep incline before finally tapering off. I powered through the hills and really did not start feeling fatigued until mile 24. Once I really started to hurt it did not matter because I had reached the town of Steamboat and there were so many people cheering. I knew I was the first female and many people were offering words of encouragement including “you are my hero!” I could not let them down! Running through downtown Steamboat was an amazing feeling. I have never won a marathon and running through the finish line tape is an experience I will never forget. I was also very pleased with my time of 3 hours, 10 minutes, and 40 seconds (at an altitude of 7,000 feet). I qualified for Boston by almost 25 minutes and was 17 minutes ahead of the second place female. I was even interviewed by the local paper and you can check out the article here.
Now that the race is completed and I am satisfied with the results, I am looking ahead at the next race. I will be transitioning to triathlon and will be competing in the Loveland Lake to Lake olympic distance triathlon in only a few short weeks. Then I start really focusing on the swim and bike for my first half ironman distance race with the harvest moon triathlon in September. After that race I will be taking some time off before starting my base training and looking towards the Boston marathon in 2017. I plan to periodically post about my journey in additional to my more information/research based blog articles, so check back often.