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Road to 26.2 What Does It Take?

Road to 26.2

Friday, January 10th- 5 weeks and one tiny day to go!

What does it take to run a marathon? The short answer is simply a desire to challenge oneself. The logistical answer is that it takes training, nutrition, hydration, planning, and support. Most of the articles I’ve written in these past few weeks address the mental side of preparing for a marathon, today I’ll describe the physicality of working toward this goal. No one’s journey is the same, and what works for me may not work for everyone. I am also not a medical professional, so all of this that I’m sharing is anecdotal from my personal experience, and shouldn’t be taken as gospel. 

Support

This has been THE key for me to be able to train for these distance races. I first started this phase of my fitness journey in 2018 with a holistic health coach, who is also a running coach. She helped me begin to heal my body image issues, my relationship with food, as well as make new habits of activity and nutrition. About six months later, I began working with a personal trainer, doing Crossfit-style workouts. Not only did my trainer work on my physical strength, but my mental toughness and nutrition as well. Through my journey of distance running, I kept working with my running coach and continue to bounce ideas off of her
My personal support team of my family and friends are incredible; they cheer for me, push me to challenge myself, and help me be able to maintain my sanity! I know that there are runners, especially women, who compete and train with zero support from their families. I don’t know how I would be able to do all this without mine.

Planning

I’m a pretty organized person, and as a former elementary school teacher, planning comes naturally and easily to me. I love a good spreadsheet and color-coordinated schedules! If organization and planning ahead are not in your wheelhouse, that’s ok, if you train for a big event like a race, you will become an expert. 

Training schedules will vary by person and by event. For this marathon, I am following a 20-week training plan with four days of running and two days of cross-training built in. I chose my training plan in September, and filled out my planner (yes, an old school paper planner, my favorite is Erin Condren). Every single run was written on my calendar for October through February. I planned my cross-training with my trainer on a monthly basis. Some of my runs got shifted around a little bit, based on both of our schedules, but each run still occurs every week. I keep an overview spreadsheet of my training plan on my refrigerator, another copy in my planner, my trainer has a copy, and I have every run color-coded in my pretty little planner. When my husband and I discuss upcoming events, his travel schedule, and other planning items, I pull out my planner and we work around my running schedule. Earlier in my training, when the miles were lower, I could shift around my runs a little bit. However, now, the run dates are set and I am not moving them so that I have enough recovery time.

Hydration

I am pretty sure everyone who spends any length of time with me is sick of hearing me talk about hydration. Hydration is essential for everyone, especially athletes and in particular women athletes. 

About a year and a half ago, I had a major heat event. I was heat stroked very badly, to the point where I was sick for days. I am actually grateful for that incident, because it imprinted how incredibly important water is every single day. 

The old recommendation for water was eight 8-ounce glasses of water, so just 64 ounces every day. For a great majority of the population, that simply is not enough. The newer, more informed, recommendation is for everyone to drink a bare minimum of half their body weight in ounces of water. So the 64 ounce recommendation works for a 128 pound human who is not very active. Climate, activity level, and hormones all play key factors in hydration needs. When I’m training outside during the summer here in central Texas, I know that I need more water than I do when I’m visiting family and going for a short run on the Oregon coast. 

Each day I aim for at least a gallon of water, 128 ounces. I work hard to get to 200 ounces during high hormones phases, and in the days before a long run. During my run, I intake 4-6 ounces every 30-60 minutes. I use Nuun hydration tablets for electrolytes every day, and I also take in salt pills every hour or so on a run, dependent on weather. 

And to answer the question everyone always has, yes, I pee all the time. All. The Time. 

Nutrition

{Note: My health coach and personal trainer helped me to heal the abusive relationship that I had with myself about my body and the food I eat. For more on that journey, read this article, Road to 26.2 Fueling Up.}

My nutrition is the fuel for my runs. It’s very important to make sure that I have enough fuel. Right now, I am tracking my macros, in particular protein. I typically get enough carbs and fat, so I track to ensure that I have enough protein, which is 128 grams. For comparison, four eggs contains 25 grams of protein. Part of my planning process also includes preparing meals in advance, or at least having an overview of how I will be able to hit my macros each day. In general, I eat a lot of eggs and chicken, with fish and beef a few meals a week. I’m not a big fan of fruit, so I don’t eat very much of it. I do eat a lot of vegetables; either in salads, roasted or steamed. I have food allergies, so I don’t eat any dairy or gluten. 

One area of nutrition that took me a while to narrow down is my fuel during a long run. After trying just about every kind of runner’s fuel, all the Gu-type stuff, I have found that a regular-old peanut butter and jelly sandwich during my long runs works the best. 

I read an amazing book that has helped me with nutrition, timing of fuel, and preparing for training. Roar by Dr. Stacy Sims is a wonderful resource for women athletes, I highly recommend it! It will become your handbook for health! Dr. Lara Briden also has great info in her book, Period Repair Manual.

Training

Everyone trains differently, uses dissimilar plans, and has a variety of opinions on gear. My plans and gear have changed since last race season’s two half marathons, so I’ll share what I do now and I may change it up again in the future!

After a year and a half of running and Crossfit with a personal trainer, I decided to run this marathon. My friend Colleen is a running coach, and she helped me select a training plan. It is a 20-week plan for a beginning marathoner, and involves run/walk intervals (for more info on interval running, check out the Galloway method). I have a tendency to overtrain, and I went into marathon training with a glute injury, so this plan works well for me. Each week, I have four runs; two medium distance runs, one long run, and a short run. For about 14 weeks, I worked out with my trainer twice per week. The cross-training has really helped me with my running! I get to strengthen all of my muscle groups, which helps to support all the muscles involved when running. 

An important part of training is rest. I have learned this the hard way! Overtraining will lead to injury, every time. Running or working out too much wears you down physically and emotionally. For most of the plan, I was able to work out with my trainer as well as getting in all my mileage. I changed up my cross-training plan for these last few weeks of training to more low impact stretching and yoga-type of activity, rather than Crossfit. 

Another part of the training process is finding gear that works for you. If you ask ten runners what kind of shoes, watch, socks, etc… are the best, they’ll give you ten different answers. I started with recommendations on online running communities from people like me, tested them out on runs, kept what I liked, and changed up what didn’t work for me. Here are my favorites;

-Brooks Ghost 12 running shoes

-Bombas socks (fun bonus, they donate one pair to homeless shelters for every pair purchased)

-Nike running shorts with 3 inch inseam for short runs

-Lululemon Align II pant for any distance runs

-Under Armor technical t-shirts or Nike tank tops 

-Garmin Fenix 6s with a Road ID

-Nike headband

-Rodan + Fields Recharge sunscreen

-Glide For Her anti-chafe balm

-Nike hydration belt, has 4 7-oz water bottles,a storage pack for phone, fuel, lip balm, salt pills

-Rodan + Field lip balm, can also be used for anti-chafe in a pinch

Running has helped me so much, I hope this rundown of what has worked for me helps you in your own running journey. 

Xo,

Ellie

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