Marathon Training, Take Two.

Training for my second marathon has been both very different AND very much the same as last time.

The differences are pretty, well, different.

In 2011, what got me out of bed in the morning to run my miles was Abject Fear. I spent most of my training cycle terrified of the distance. How was I going to run 26.2 miles? That seemed really, REALLY long. Terrifyingly long. I wasn’t sure I could do it – even the morning of the race I questioned my ability.

And then I did it. And it wasn’t easy, and it hurt me, but I ran the distance. And now? Well, that distance isn’t terrifying. I know it’s going to be hard. But I also know I can do it.

Two years ago, after a long run, I felt a HELL of a lot more beat up than I do now. That part was the worst part of marathon training for me. I’d finish a long run completely depleted. The last couple of miles I’d walk more than I ran. There were some runs where I just couldn’t get the mileage I needed – had nothing in the tank.

I don’t feel that way now.

Like a couple weekends ago. I ran 18 miles. And when I finished, I felt GOOD. Starving, mind you (more about THAT in a minute!). But once I ate, I felt kind of normal. No more tired than usual, no more sore than usual.

The difference, I think, is related to two big things: Mileage consistency and better fueling.  I have spent most of the year running 30 miles a week – a consistent mileage base. I also have two more years of running experience. Running is cumulative – the more you do it the better you get at it.

And I have FINALLY found a fueling strategy that really works for me – 3 or 4 sport jellybeans every half hour. This allows a consistent energy source without being too much sugar in my stomach (which gives me digestive issues). And hydration, too – I have discovered that the 32 ounces I carry just isn’t enough. I need to refill every bottle at least once during the run so that I am not too dehydrated at the end.

I am feeling SO good about where I am, fitness-wise, this time around. It’s SO nice in a place where I get out of bed for a run because I want to, not because I’m terrified that if I don’t get my miles in I’ll post a DNF*.

That said?

There are a lot similarities about this training cycle and my last marathon training which I want to document. In part so I can look at this when I’m done with the race and remember, REALLY, how it is.

Because it’s not easy, either – especially at this point in my training.

First of all, I have spent the last month running on Dead Legs. That’s what I call it – tiredness, fatigue, whatever. Dead Leg runs are the ones where you don’t really love the run, physically, and you’re too focused on turning your legs over to get into any sort of emotional zone.  I had two speedwork sessions where I barely got through the workout – one where I was in tears after the second repeat, then another I cut short.

I am finally starting to come out of it; this week in particular I’ve had fewer Dead Leg runs, thank goodness. But I still don’t feel like I’m RESTED, not really.

It’s the nature of the beast. Running distance is, at some level, teaching your body to deal with fatigue and cope with discomfort. It teaches your body to run more efficiently, to recover whenever it can – and it teaches your mind to get through the last 10k of a marathon, when you are tired and sore and still have at least another 45 minutes of running in front of you.

And I keep this in mind with every Dead Leg run; the more practice I have running on tired legs, the better prepared I’ll be on race day.

But man.  I miss my old legs – the ones that had spark in them. I’ve logged so many Dead Leg runs that I’m getting tired of repeating the same old story: Good practice today running on tired legs. This will serve me well on marathon day.

I miss running fast, feeling light and energetic. I miss it a LOT.

The good news, from what I hear, is that a good taper strategy will get me back to my light and energetic legs – hopefully exactly the day I need it – October 20.

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The biggest similarity, which I need to share:

I am hungry.

Ravenous.

Starving.

There’s a voice in my brain – a real Neanderthal – who keeps screaming: FOOOOOOOOOOD. FOOD! FOOD! FOOOOOOOOOD!

I have spent the better part of the past year keeping diligent track of my food intake; have gotten to a weight which is more or less maintainable for me. I have a repertoire of snacks and dinners where I don’t have to THINK so much about what I eat; I just eat my regular food and it’s fine.

Except, now, it’s not fine. I’m HUNGRY. I need bigger portions, more carbs, more protein. I need to eat.

And it’s a fine balance between listening to my body – the one I need to fuel for my runs – and going overboard, because, hell, I’m running 20 miles this weekend so of COURSE I can eat that pizza and drink beer. And the chocolate and apple crisp and caramels and ice cream…

FOOOOOOOOD! FOOD! FOOD! FOOOOOOOOOOD!

Also the same: I’m tired. Like bone-weary tired. Dog tired. By the end of the day, inertia traps me and I want to go to bed, but it means getting up and walking upstairs and brushing my teeth, and it’s just SO nice to lay here on the couch and just rest. My brain thinks: MOVE, Karen!

But my body replies HELL NO.

Part of it is that work is busy too, and I’m sneaking runs in here and there. This week, I ran 3 (incredibly stressful while I imagined Owen drowning and no one noticing) miles on the treadmill during Owen’s swim lesson, and my alarm rang at 4:30 this morning so I could fit in an 8 mile run before I went to my client in Boston.

But mostly it’s because running is, well, a lot of work, physically. (Which, you know, DUH, of course, right? It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m tired a lot.) But it’s something worth mentioning.

Because this isn’t my  usual brand of tired.

All in all, though, I am feeling pretty good about my training and where I am right now.  I feel like I will be as prepared as I can be in 5 weeks.

Which is really all I can ask for.

*For my non-runner readers, a DNF is “Did Not Finish.” It’s where you start a race and then bag it in the middle or the end or whatever. I’ve come close to doing this – as recently as a year ago, when I sprained my ankle at the start of a half marathon with one of my best friends – but have yet to DNF. And I prefer to keep it that way.

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3 Responses to Marathon Training, Take Two.

  1. catwoman73 says:

    I love the sport jellybeans, too. I’ve been incredibly lucky, and never suffered any GI issues while running, no matter what I eat, but I still prefer the jellybeans. Mostly because I like candy. A LOT. Probably a little too much… hence the 10 lbs of baby weight I have yet to lose- four years after the fact.

    I wish you all the luck in the world in 5 weeks- it sounds like you’re going to be very well prepared, and probably won’t need luck- but a little luck can never hurt. I have yet to tackle the full marathon- I’m scared half to death of the distance. I can hardly wait to read your race report- perhaps I’ll be inspired to give it a shot!

    And the way I see it- enjoy that pizza and beer. You’ve earned it. 🙂

  2. Kate says:

    LOVE the sport jellybeans! I’ve had those same “dead legs” while training before and they disappeared about 2 weeks before the marathon during tapering. I remember being SO relieved. And, about the hunger…when marathon training I ate SO MUCH FOOD. Seriously, had to be eating 3500+ calories a day. I remember counting one day and getting to 3000 before even getting to dinner and this wasn’t on a long run day! Up your protein! Lots and lots and lots of meat! I think I was getting 130g of protein a day!

  3. Esperanza says:

    I’m glad things are better and that even when they’re the same, you’re better equipped to handle the challenges. I can’t imagine finishing an 18 mile run feeling anything besides exhausted and depleted. The 18 milers KICKED MY ASS when I trained for my marathon.

    I’ll be thinking of you on October 20th!!!!!

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