Friday, January 16, 2015

The Marathon Virgin

I’ve been thinking about the marathon distance lately. I love the recipe for a marathon.

1 part motivation
2 parts discipline
1 dash crazy
1 dollop suffering
5 scoops of heart and soul

Spend 3-5 hours combining all ingredients on race day. At the last minute, i.e., finish line, top off with a gallon of triumph, achievement and emotion.

In the past, thoughts of running 26.2 miles have scared me or even excited me. But these days, the idea of running a marathon makes me tired as shit. I think that’s because my last stand alone marathon (not counting Boulder Ironman) was in L.A. in March (race report HERE).

It was such a mentally and physically tough race for me and I didn’t make my time goal of 3:50, which would have been a BQ (3:55). I came in at 3:58, a full 16 minutes slower than my PR time. I am not going to make excuses, but I am going to make excuses (because we all have a time we think we could have gotten if such and such didn’t happen).

  • It was hot. 80 degrees.
  • I was wearing new shoes (yeah there was a reason for this, but I suffered)
  • It was so crowded I think I made love to 45 people without even knowing it
  • My head was in the wrong place. I was excited to be in L.A. I was not excited to run that day.

I don’t have a marathon distance race planned (yet) for this year. I am still dealing with PTSD from LA and from IM Boulder. The thing is, if I had a CARROT – like the coolest place ever to run, I would be all over it (Great Wall! Athens! Antarctica! Big Sur!). These days my races are as much for adventure and experience as they are for time/pace. Even more so.

And yet…I crave the distance. There is nothing like it.

coloradomarathon

Today when I received an email from a reader getting ready for her first marathon in April (in Manchester, England!), I had this twinge of excitement remembering a few years ago when I did my first 26.2.

As a newbie, I had so many worries and questions. While I still fret before every race, there is nothing like being a marathon virgin. You scream, you bleed, you have remorse < oh wait. That’s a different kind of virgin.

Her questions:

Do you have any tips for a marathon first timer? Do I ever!

  1. Nothing new on race day – this includes fuel, gear, etc.
  2. Don’t worry if you don’t sleep the night before. No one does.
  3. Pace yourself. Start conservatively. At the half, if you can, pick it up.
  4. Take in the people and the sights. Distract yourself. Remember you are running a freaking marathon. Be proud.
  5. Be generous with the lube. Chafing will make you cry like a baby.
  6. Don’t look at your watch when you cross the finish line unless you want your race photo to be of you looking at the ground.
  7. Walk through aid stations. This is my preference. I don’t carry water and like to use this as a chance to regroup.

What are your mantras when the going gets tough? Mine are simple because I am too tired to get elaborate. “Don’t stop.” “Move forward.” “You can do this.” “Fuck”

Is there ever a moment in your mind where you think "shit, I can't do this!"? Of course, but I never actually entertain the thought of quitting. It’s more like, “Shit this hurts. Shit I can’t wait for this to be over. Shit, how much further?”

How much do you eat before you go on a long run? My preference is to eat a small high carb breakfast before a run. I don’t like having a ton in my stomach when I run, so I eat a pb&j or a banana or a Clif bar or some combination of these things. While running I replace 25 carbs per hour in the form of gels, chews, Honey Stinger waffles, etc.

Help out a reader! Can you answer a few of  the above questions^^^^?

Have you run a marathon before? If not, do you plan on it?

SUAR

50 comments:

  1. I am training for my first marathon in April. My emotions go from nervous to excited. I can't wait to be done with it!

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  2. Good suggestions! I have not run a marathon yet, but am considering one for Oct or Nov I want one at lower elevation (I live in CO). Suggestions are welcome!

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    1. Portland - 10/4
      LA Rock n Roll - 10/25
      Savannah Rock n Roll - 11/7
      Vegas Rock n Roll - 11/13
      San Antonio Rock n Roll - 12/5

      Go for it and good luck!

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    2. There is also CA Intl Marathon 12/6. They say it's the fastest course in the west.

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  3. I'm planning on Revel Rockies in July! My first.

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  4. I've only done a half marathon, but I agree with all of your tips! Mantras--"Just a little while longer" and "You can do it."
    How do you carry your Honey Stingers while running? Spibelt type contraption?

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  5. On long runs I wear a pack and put them in there. Races I just do GUs

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  6. Eat and drink what you trained with. Start off slightly underdressed if possible (no need to get arrested), run your own race especially if you're running with a friend. Never let the photographer see you walk.

    I don't have mantras, I just swear... a lot.

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  7. Here's my advice (a bit Richmond Marathon specific, but good for any Marathon Virgin)

    http://www.runeatplayrva.com/2014/11/my-2-cents-for-what-theyre-worth.html

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  8. I've never done a marathon; my longest running race was a 25K (1995 River Bank Run in Grand Rapids, Mich.). I've gotten back into running this year. I've done a 200K unsupported bike ride recently, so I figure I am capable of a marathon, but I'm not sure I want to make the training commitment. Still, it's intriguing!

    Best thing I did in the 25K was to start out slow (8:10/mile or so) on the outward, downriver bit, so that I could pick up the pace to around 7:50 on the second half, upriver (and uphill) back to Grand Rapids. Passing all those people was hugely uplifting!

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  9. In September, when I was at the start line of my first marathon a fellow runner told me to double knot my shoelaces....so I did. My mantra was "trust your training"

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  10. My only advice would be: don't be hard on yourself on race day.

    Getting to the start line of one's first marathon takes a lot of work, a lot of sacrifice, and a lot of focus. Most of us did TONS of planning in preparation for our first marathons. But race day itself can often be a bit of a crapshoot. There are so many variables that go into your finish time, such as the weather on race day, what you had going on in your life the week before, and countless other distractions that will inevitably pop up. Your mind may wander, and you'll almost certainly be a bundle of nerves. Don't get caught up thinking about the training sessions you might have missed, the things you could have done differently, or the extra miles you should have run.

    Be nice to yourself on race morning. Savor the sights and sounds of the day, and enjoy all the ups and downs that you're sure to encounter. If you have a time goal in mind then be sure to give it your best effort, but remember afterwards that failing to meet a goal time doesn't necessarily means that the race was a failure.

    The sad (or perhaps liberating?) truth is that for most of us, our races only matter to us. Our friends, families, and significant others are certainly supportive, but they're likely to be just as proud of us (and relieved we survived!) if we do our best, regardless of what the clock says when we cross the line.

    If you do the best you can on race day, then be proud of what you've achieved.

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  11. *sigh*..... you guys make me hungry to pick up running again.

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    1. Let's go! What's stopping you?

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    2. Shut up & run, Cindie!! :)

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  12. There are definitely low points in a marathon. Even when you PR and BQ there are low points. One mantra I always say to myself (and it usually happens during the last 8-9 miles) is "I can do ANYTHING for ________ for minutes." Even if I only have to minutes left. I tell myself, "I can do ANYTHING for 17 more minutes." When I look at it like that, it puts things into perspective and pumps me up. I also think about regret during a marathon. I know in my heart that when I lay my head on the pillow that night, I will regret it if I crap out.

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    1. YES!! I tell myself that too. It really does help.

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    2. Yup. I can run 2.2 miles in my sleep, pick it up buttercup....

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  13. Training for Boston #2/marathon #9 right now. Your tips are spot on!
    The one thing that is always in my mind when I get to the point where I'd really like to stop.. "pain is temporary, pride is forever!" I saw this on a spectator sign during my 3rd marathon and it has stuck with me and I remind myself of it over and over in those last few miles. You are going to be in pain, you are going to be miserable, that will go away (it may take a few days ;) ) but the pride of finishing your first marathon will stay with you forever.

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  14. I'm so excited for your friend doing her first marathon. Great advice! I love the idea of looking around and being distracted by the sights. I always like they saying, "Be in he moment." Don't think what's ahead and don't think about what is behind. I hope she enjoys her first marathon.

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  15. Ran marathon #3 last month. It had been over 2 years so I felt like I had to learn everything again! I think the biggest issue is fueling. Not just during the race, but the night before. Long runs are the best time to find out what works and what doesn't. Even the times when you have major GI issues can teach you something! Blog about it or write it down somewhere, so you don't forget - the good, the bad and especially the ugly.

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  16. I am training for my first marathon--end of April! I loved reading this post. I'm so nervous about everything, but I have a coach and group and solid plan, so I think I will probably cross the finish without falling apart. I HOPE.

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  17. I have been reading your blog for the last 18 months, since I started blogging about my own pursuit for Boston! I love your wit and your perspective on all things running. I too missed my BQ in October by 1:42!! That's not even fair and while I try to keep my chin up and focus on the 24 minute PR, It still sucked. I'm working through an injury right now in the hopes of chasing that BQ again in April. For a newbie, you hit all the points on the head! The one piece of advice I would give is this, when you are feeling great in the first 5-6 miles, this is NOT the time to speed up. If you are running ahead of your pace, dial it back. You will thank yourself in the last 6 miles that you still have something left. Take it from someone that after twice trying to bank time & failed!

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  18. No negative self talk! My coach told me for every negative thought or word that came out of my mouth (aka I can't do this) I would have to get down on the ground and 2 10 burpees. At mile 23 of the Chicago marathon in October, my hamstrings were screaming at me to stop. I pictured myself getting down in the middle of Michigan Avenue and doing 10 burpees. The absurdity of that image made me LOL right there. That really put a spring back in my step and there were no more thoughts of walking or stopping! Can you say 1 h 10 min PR? Woo hoo!

    I'm hoping to do it even better this fall. Would you consider running Chicago?

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  19. I ran my first marathon in May, my mantra when things got their toughest was "you've trained for this." I even said it out loud a few times because apparently a side effect of running a marathon may be talking to yourself.

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  20. Don't forget to enter the Antartica Marathon. There is a pretty sweet giveaway that I'm sure you would be lucky enough to win! http://www.vibramantarcticamarathon.com/contest.html

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    1. YES!! I entered this week. It would be a dream come true. Although I could probably do without the vogue over the Drank Passage.

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  21. My first marathon is in May. I'm running a highly praised local marathon with a few friends from work. But first I'm running an Ultra Ragnar Relay in February. 11 miles X 3. My stomach hates GU's and gels. I get a fast HR and nauseated when I eat those. Using real food fueling. It's interesting but I think I can do it!

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  22. Love this! I did my first marathon on Nov2,2014 and am currently training for the LA marathon! I think u answered her questions great! My go to long run breakfast is a bagel with almond butter. For the marathon I had that when I woke up and a picky bar about an hour before the race!

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  23. I so hope to run a half or full marathon some day, but I've just started running. It's actually walking and running at this point, and I've only signed up for a 5K. Sometimes I think I'll never get there, but I plan to keep plodding along until it happens. By the way, I really enjoy your blog because (a) I love your humor, and (b) the advice is great.

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  24. I've done over a dozen...and the best advice I can give you is to not take yourself too seriously and have fun. My best marathon time was sub 3:40 and I stayed up all night drinking and having sex...yup! That's the ticket! (My best olympic tri (sub 2:40) was after a similar experience....I think I am on to something!

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  25. I've run 15, and this is a great list! The commenters have added great stuff too -- start slow, don't take it too seriously (admittedly, it takes some time to achieve the last one!). I'd add (i) I'm a big fan of one beer the night before, helps with the not too seriously part, (ii) just don't wear a watch so you are not even tempted to stick with a pace, (iii) if you run with music (I know, there are pros and cons of using it during a race - I agree it is good to try not to, which brings me to my point), use it as a reward - don't start off with your headphones and miss all the activity, surroundings, and super nice volunteers, pick a milage (mine is usually 18-20) and THEN go for the headphones. That way, it pumps you up when you need it most. But then, make sure you take them out that last mile, otherwise, you miss the best part -- the cheers at the finish! Oh, and (iv) walk down stairs backwards the day after :-)

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    1. This is such a good tip and one I use all the time. For the first half of the race I go without music then put it in for a BOOST around mile 13.

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  26. I am planning on running my first marathon in October :) I just want to finish and not pee or crap on myself!!!

    In all seriousness, I love all the tips (twss) that have been given. I am in a few running groups on FB and have found a few other runners that are my pace that I can do my 15+ mile long runs with. I know October is 9 months away, but I am already itching to start training!!! I am building my base back up after taking most of December off for hip bursitis. I have my first HM of 2015 in 8 weeks. So excited to start the new racing season!!!! And add a marathon to my running accomplishments.

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  27. I just ran my first marathon yesterday. Overall it was an interesting experience. The course was awful to me but the pride, the accomplishment...it was a very emotional experience. One I don't think I'll repeat, but one ill have for ever. Weird thing is...it's still surreal to me that I ran 26.2 miles!

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    1. Congratulations!! Which marathon did you run?

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  28. I've never run a marathon but I'm hoping that this year will be the one to help me build up a great base for next year! Great tips--I would need as many distractions as possible to get through 26.2!

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  29. I am running Berlin in September and am super excited. Advice: a) take ALL the gels you planned to and b) add more protein to your diet during training, and beyond!

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  30. Haven't ran a full marathon and not sure that I ever will. I've done several 1/2's but with a sciatic nerve issue, I just haven't felt the need to do a full but if I ever do. I'm going to do a walk-run program. I just created a song list of 1 minute walk songs followed by 5 minute run songs, that way I didn't have to look at my watch. Worked for me on my last 1/2 and almost PR'd the thing. Good Luck to all!

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  31. Make sure to make a nutrition plan and stick to it. Getting the carbs in on a schedule is key I find. Plan for nutrition for right after the marathon - a recovery drink mix in your race bag. It can make a big difference on how one recovers. Invest in compression socks for after the marathon or compression sleeves. I ran my 9th and 10th marathons in the fall three weeks apart, with #9 a BQ.

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  32. My go to pre-race meal is white toast with smooth PB. I have been told by a dietitian that both white bread and smooth PB are easier to absorb (and I have 'issues' with absorbing food pre-race and not having it stay place if you know what I mean!). I use Shot energy gels and plain water with some salt tablets. It just works for me. I carry a small stick of body glide too, chafing like you said makes you cry like a baby and yell like a seal being slaughtered when you hit the shower!

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  33. "It was hot. 80 degrees."

    You can stop right there. If it's hot, there's no chance of running a good time, especially if you reside in a cooler climate.

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  34. The first marathon should be for the experience, the next can be for time. Enjoy how amazing your body is to carry you so far. Don't compare yourself to anyone else on race day just run your own race. If you can- have someone else there to drive you home....made that mistake once- driving for a couple hours after a marathon is the worst. My next marathon will be in the fall, hoping for St. George!

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