Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Suck It, Wall

Here’s how my taper is going (yes, Jamoosh, those are all microbrews):

P1060433

In my quest to run a flawless marathon during which I meet me time goal, do not mess my pants. and feel energized and pain free the entire time, I have been doing some reading. Mentally preparing you could call it.

Last week, I referenced an article by Michael Bane called, “Breaking through the wall” (Men’s Fitness, 1999). There was discussion of pre-race brain training. Now it’s time to look at how to avoid the wall (i.e., an apparently insurmountable physiological barrier which stops you in your tracks), and if you can’t do that, then what to do when you hit it and hit it hard. We are assuming when your face slams up against that invisible vertical concrete slab, you will not consider quitting. It is simply not an option (unless you are injured, paralyzed, get your period or your legs fall off).

The following is from the same above-referenced article:

Five ways to avoid the Wall (but, there are no guarantees): 

  1. Train realistically. Athletes have a remarkable talent for self-deception. The best way to know how you'll respond in a situation is to practice that situation first. If you're training for a marathon, at least one of your training runs needs to be 26 miles. If you're training for a race that takes place at night, some of your training needs to be at night.
  2.  Cross train. The more you move toward harder endurance events such as a marathon, the more overall balance seems to pay off. I like to trade off sports (for example, biking and running) to keep my interest up and injuries down. The added plus is that my overall higher level of fitness helps carry me through longer events.
  3.  Avoid judgments. Fine athletes talk themselves into quitting because they were running below par. You need to set these judgments aside on race day.
  4. Prepare mentally. Forget happy talk; you're going to hurt. But you know that already. In my mental rehearsals, I try to be as realistic as possible and acknowledge that it's going to be painful. I also remind myself that, despite it all, I've crossed a lot of finish lines.
  5. Plan flexibly. Remember, long athletic events tend to be chaos systems. You can't foresee everything nature is going to throw at you. Mental flexibility is your greatest tool for getting past the Wall.

Six things to do when you hit the Wall

  1. Say, “shit, shit, shit.” (I added that one)
  2. Keep going. "Program" yourself before the event that you're going to press on regardless, even if you're barely moving.
  3. "Table" your thoughts. The easiest way to quiet those negative thoughts is to set them aside. Sometimes I actually visualize a locker-like box, where I stuff all my negative thoughts away until I have the time and energy to deal with them.
  4. Get out of your head. Don't dwell on how amazingly awful you feel. Focusing on a really attractive woman running nearby can be a great distraction. I've done it, and it works. Hormones are wonderful things.
  5. Try bribery. Depending on just how bad you're feeling, a judicious dose of deferred compensation can help. I've gotten myself out of some grim times with the promise of a pint of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food if l cross the finish line. (The bribes can get pretty big: At one point, I had to buy myself a motorcycle.)
  6. Open negotiations. Give yourself permission to quit if you'll only go another 10 feet ... another quarter mile ... even around the next corner. I have climbed entire mountains by cutting interim deals: "Another 200 vertical feet, then I'll sit down and reevaluate ..." After that 200 feet, it's, "Hey, I don't feel so bad ... maybe I'll go another 45 minutes and then I'll quit." Keep repeating this until you're so close to finishing that you can say, "What the heck? Let's wrap this puppy up."

I think it’s all great advice, especially the one about “getting out of your head.” I distract myself with attractive women as well.

The one point I take issue with is, “If you're training for a marathon, at least one of your training runs needs to be 26 miles.” This is a personal choice, but for me, running 26 miles is too hard on my body to do twice in one training cycle. My long runs (10+ miles) this training season were 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 11, 16, 18. 5, 18. 5, 13.

Thoughts?

56 comments:

  1. I was surprised at the 26 miles too. Haven't trained for a marathon yet, but I think that might be a bit extreme. Most plans I've looked at have the longest run at 20 or 22.

    Thanks for your blog, it is always insightful and hilarious!

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  2. Great tips thanks for the post.:)

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  3. Love the post! Yeah I ran a half with my longest run being 11 miles. I don't think it's necessary....

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  4. interesting about running 26 miles before the race. i've always read and been told that 26 miles breaks you down too much for it to be worthwhile in training. the longest i've heard of real people (aka not elites) doing is 23.

    and i 100% love the first thing to do when you hit the wall. i've been lucky and haven't hit it in either of my marathons but i'm tucking that gem of advice into my brain for the future :)

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  6. Love it. Thanks! I *really* hate cross training, though. Can't I just run in blissful ignorance and forget every thing else?

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  7. It really seems to be a mixed bag about running the full 26 before the actual race. I haven't started my marathon training yet...not till this coming winter....but for me...I will do the 26...probably more then once...but that is because I am a psycho that HAS to know what it feels like beforehand. Before my half I ran the full 13.1 plus at least 6 times before the race.

    On that note though...you HAVE run a marathon before...and you know exactly what it feels like...so you'd know better then anyone what kind of training is right for you.

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  8. Totally agree about not needing to go 26. For MOST people, this will trash your legs too much to recover enough for any more quality training. And I don't know about you, but the older I get, the longer I take to recover. But I will say I like going to 22 or 23--seems to be my Goldilocks distance.

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  9. I know elite runners go up to 28 miles for training for a marathon. In triathlon, you bike 70 miles when you race 56, or 120 when you race 112. Same with swimming. Most people can't handle a 26 mile run, but done at a slow pace, by someone who can handle it, I think it can be of great benefit. I definitely believe in going over 20 miles, and in doing lots of 20 miles, but I also think that everyone is different - some people do well on only one 20 miles. I think it is important to spend time after each race and figure out what you want to do differently for your next one.

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  10. You mean cheez its and beer AREN'T recovery fuel? Aw shit...I knew I was doing something wrong.

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  11. I know nothing about marathon training!

    Love the photo! LOL

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  12. This is a great post! Thanks for sharing girl and don't carb load too much on those microbrews! :)

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  13. I am always open to bribery and open negotiations.

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  14. I have always been told that beer is BEFORE the run, wine is AFTER. But, if its a really good micro, go for it! ANd, hey, even if I start MY period toward the end of a race, I will finish it, then clean up later, I mean, really, who's looking????

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  15. You are carbo loading, right? Seriously Cheez-it? Wouldn't Wheaties be a more wholesome option. :)
    And even after enlarging the photo I could not see the names on the labels of those beers.
    But on a more serious note, thanks for pointers. I liked especially #1 for when you hit the wall. Is 'shit' the only word that will work? :)
    OK, I think I need a beer, or wine, or something.
    This is all because of lack or running.

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  16. Gosh, there are so many different opinions out there on big mileage before a marathon. I've done two marathons lately with only having done a few 18 mile runs as my long runs. Our track coach is a less is more guy and especially for me being over 40 something with some hip and foot"issues."
    Cheese-It's are my favorite FOOD...

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  17. i would never run 26 miles as a training run unless it was another marathon i did really slow... even though i probably wouldn't do it. i think you just have to know the wall is coming and know how to make it ok. i had pep talks ready for myself - like its ok to slow down for a mile, i slowed down in other races and could still pick it back up. or i would concentrate on fueling, or find a good song on my ipod, change my stride, etc... lots of tricks, i think the key is just being READY with them.

    hang in there, race day is almost here!

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  18. Great info! I like the one about paying attention to a attractive member of the opposite ex to distract yourself....I have done that. Many times!

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  19. your going to kick some SERIOUS butt! thats what i think!!!!!!! :)

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  20. I like to run after attractive women too....my husband also thinks this is entertaining... uhhhhh hmmm, I do use the just make it to that sign and then once I am there I push a little further! I don't run super long distances but sometimes I really have to talk myself into running at all....I also like to say, the sweatier I get the more bad ass I feel!!

    Your gonna be great!!

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  21. I like the idea of tabling negative thoughts. I agree with you about the 26 miles. Too far for training. I do plan on running 22, but no more!

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  22. Haha, I like the advice. I'm training for my first marathon and am only getting up to 22, maybe 24 miles because more is just hard on the body.

    But I totally tell myself stuff like, "Yeah, you're tired. That's how it feels when you do long runs. You can rest WHEN YOU'RE DONE." And I promise myself all the fried food I can eat and whatever else I want post-race or post long run :P And I tell myself there will be rough training days where things just don't go right, and that race day might just be one of those days too, so I better "woman up" and "grow some ovaries!" :P

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  23. My program has me going the full 26 but it's also a run/walk program by Galloway. Even galloway says if you're not taking early and often walk breaks, 26 is wayy too much. But going at my ridiculously slow pace w/lots and lots of walk breaks 26 will be good. Hope that makes sense.

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  24. I love any training regiment that includes days off for cheezeits and beer. Where do I sign up?

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  25. When I was marathon training, I ran a few 20's and a 22. I was psychologically ready ahead of time and headed into a 3:23.

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  27. I did run one marathon where I did "hit the wall." I completely stopped. I fall to the ground. My legs buckled under me. I was tired but not really any more tired than any other marathon. It happened very close to the end of the marathon as the course took runners under a low overpass. To this day I wonder if the claustraphobic-ness of that stretch had something to do with it.

    Oh and I was able to get moving again and finish my marathon - with one of my slowest times ever BUT I finished. Take THAT wall!

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  28. For your next marathon (Denver?? I'm trying to talk Katie A. into coming out for it :) ), pick up this book: Brain Training for Runners, by Matt Fitzgerald. Good brain stuff in there for accepting the pain and all. If you want to borrow mine before the race, I could meet you this weekend. Anyway..... I've done marathons where I've gone 26+ in training and I've done them where I've gone 22 and I have found no sigificant difference. As an "older" runner, I don't recover as quickly so if I do do a looooong run, I take a couple more days off or the next weekend is just short run. Regardless, you're going to do awesome, Beth!!!! Am getting so excited for you!!!

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  29. I like the idea of running 26 or more miles. I think distance comes first and then speed. I want to run ultra's someday though too. I like that I could say "I have done this before and know what to expect"
    I love the bribing yourself one :)
    Just like when I had resigned to have natural births I resign to finishing what I started short of injury.
    Its not an option to quit and eventually I give in mentally to the decision and just keep going. It takes a while to stop arguing with myself though!!! Thats the tough part!

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  30. At least it seems you are one of a few enjoying the virtues of tapering...carbo. Over the years the only way I've been able to beat the wall, the marathon and all those is with hard training and hard work. Be fit and in shape and you crush the marathon with wall and all.

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  31. Alcoholism by osmosis? That's right, I noticed all the caps were still on the beer bottles - busted! Although I could go for Cheez-It hangover!

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  32. I've thought about running 26 before doing a marathon. But then it's rare to hear anyone say you should do that distance.
    Typically it is 20 -22 and no more than 3 hours. I read about the 3 hour limit in an article that made a good point about there being no benefit from running, no matter what miles you achieve at that point, over 3 hours. I'm still re-thinking that one. But I think my longest will be a 21 -22.

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  33. Bribery works really well for me. My weakness is McDonald's french fries and that is my treat for completing my race. Between the bribery and the "just to the next hotel on the dune" mind tricks, I seem to not only beat the wall, but round-house kick, jab, elbow it to the ground.

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  34. More great tips... definitely taking note. Distractions for me are KEY when the going gets tough.

    I don't agree with running 26mi in training, at least not for me. We'll save that for the elites. Like you, it breaks down my body too much. That being said, I have learned that running a couple of runs over 20 miles (22 and 23 this cycle) works better for me. Knowing I have to run 10K longer than my longest training run is too much for me to swallow. 5K, I can manage.

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  35. I am running my first full marathon this Sunday - aside from freaking out, I feel I did everything I could to train for this including cross training etc. I know mentally it is going to be really tough and it is going to hurt..I just need to get past that..

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  36. That picture is priceless!! Great list :)

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  37. I like the 'table' your thoughts one. I also like the get outta your head. Both could and should easily apply in life outside marathoning for me!

    I totally agree. My body would not like two 26 mile runs in a few months time. The longest trianing run I did was 22 miles. That's seems sufficient for me.

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  38. catching up on previous posts here...

    - jillian michaels. What's the big deal? In a world where we glamorize and televise families with WAY too many kids wherein none of them get the attention from their parents they deserve people are giving her a hard time because she doesn't want to "do that to her body". Who gives a rat's ass. Professional athletes do it all the time. Thier bodies are thier moneymakers so to speak. She should be applauded for wanting to adopt, not criticized.

    - that stupid FB obama thing. Again, who cares. Obviosuly people don't want him to die. It's a joke. Which in my opinion jokes are the best thing to ever come out of US politics. I remember TONS of Bush bashing. I can't belive there weren't 'death threats' (if you really want to call it that) on him. It's funny how the same poeple who are so offended and want everybody to "stand by our president even if you don't like him" are the same people who did the complete OPPOSITE when Bush was in office. People are rediculious. Politicians are rediculious. I will never stop making fun of them. No matter what bullshit party they are affiliated with. (disclaimer: I am not a part of the group on FB. I do think it's stupid)

    So awesome about your family. How fun to get them involved in races together. I hope they enjoy it as much as you do.

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  39. Few people actually hit the wall any more. It only happens if you go out hard enough that you deplete glycogen stores and those who are running just to finish aren't running that fast. So: you avoid the wall by going out slow at the start. You can prepare for the wall by training to hit it and then persevere for a few miles; when it happens during the race, you'll just treat it like you did in training.

    btw: you shouldn't be passed out in that photo, because the bottle caps are all still on!

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  40. Never hit a wall. Maybe I'm not running hard enough?

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  41. Great post, full of good ideas - I'm still on the sidelines about the 26 before 26 though. I guess it could have it's benefits, but then again it may not. You've done all the work, you're going to do great! And over coming the wall is part of it, and makes the victory that much more sweet :) Good luck with the rest of taper!

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  42. I want to chime in again. There does not seem to me like 26 is any magic number. If a marathon were 30 miles long we would be having 26mi-long training runs discussing it if makes sense to run 30mi long runs. As a matter of fact, many ultramarathoners do. Why would running 26miles before the marathon be damaging? Of course it is a strain on the body (any long run is) but given adequate rest such a run ought to make body better prepared to handle 26.2mi
    Just saying.

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  43. you are awesome. loving your blog. #1 ;)[on what to do WHEN you hit] is by far going to be my strategy.

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  44. Taper is the best part of marathon training. Drink, eat, have sex (only on the weekends) get massages, imagine yourself the champion you already are. You have already BQ'd, met your time goals and flipped off the wall. 11 days and counting. Don't pass out.

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  45. I like the tips. I have a marathon this weekend and it was helpful reading them. For my next marathon I want to try running the full distance for a training run. I think it would mentally be better for me!

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  46. Hey, the tops are still on those beers! (I had to check.) These are all great tips. I'll have to save these for my next marathon because one thing is ceratin, the wall will be there at some point. You are gonna do great! You are ready! I'll be cheering for you all the way!!

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  47. Some great tips, though I am not sure I agree with running 26 miles in training. Most training programs take the mileage up to the wall to get you ready for how it will feel, without causing the stresses to you body that the full marathon will inflict.

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  48. I love the distraction idea. Last weekend I ran behind a guy with great calves and an ironman tattoo on his it. I made it my focal point and keep following him. It was great!

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  49. If I'm running 26 miles, I better get a medal, t-shirt, and free food out of the deal.

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  50. You know, I'm just going to continue saying shitshitshitshitshit. It works for me too!!

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  51. I've never done a 26 mile training run..probably won't...unless I do it training for an Ultra I want to do next year...My long runs usually include all of the ones you put down with the addition of more 16, 18 and 20 milers...

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  52. My first marathon will be Chicago, and I have a feeling if I run 26 miles before the marathon, I'll give up on the idea all together... My training plan has an 18, 19 and 20 mile planned out. Hopefully that will be enough.

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  53. Ha haaa....I love your blog! It always makes me laugh. I suspect that I will be saying shitshitshitshit this weekend, followed by some bribery, followed by some open negotiations. Once I cross the finish line, there will be beer and ice cream.
    As for running 26 miles during training, I think that's crazy. Like yourself, I don't think my body could take it. My longest run was just over 36km. That is sufficient. I already know those last 6km are going to suck ass so there's no need to suffer through it in training!

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  54. Another great article. I just posted something similar on cross training - http://www.marathonman2014.com/mixing-up-the-training/

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