The Undeniable Ruth Rotating Header Image

Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon

Advice for First-Time Marathon Runners

Photo by Rich Kenington

Photo by Rich Kenington (Creative Commons License)

I’m running my first marathon this weekend at Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona. I’ve done the half marathon four times, and now that I’ve fixed my shin splints and tweaked my running posture, I’m ready to go for the full.

Luckily, I have several friends who have run a marathon as a stand-alone race and/or as part of an Ironman. I asked them to share some advice with me and anyone else who is running their first marathon.

Absolutely nothing new on race day. No new shoes, no new clothes, no new foods, nothing.  Race day is not the time to find out those socks your friend recommended chafe and you don’t want to discover at mile 15 that orange flavored Gatorade makes you nauseous. If you didn’t train with it, don’t race with it. – Ben Schorr, Marathoner

Put your name on the front of your shirt.  – Peter Shankman, Marathoner and Ironman
(People will cheer for you by name if you do this.)

I would say to trust the training that you’ve done so far. Don’t overdo it the week before, but also be sure not to shut down completely. For me, I did an easy paced 5 or 6 mile run the day before the race with a long cool down and stretch. Get a long night’s sleep and make sure to hydrate well the morning of the race.  – Marian Grucky, Marathoner

If you look to the right, and you are standing next to a guy from Kenya, you are in the wrong corral. Okay, some more practical advice.  If you are feeling really good at mile, 5, 10, 15, or 20, DON’T speed up.  Just keep running your usual pace.  At mile 22 or 23, if you are feeling good, you can start to pick up your pace.  – Kolby Granville, Marathoner and Ironman

My advice for a first marathon is to go to enjoy it.  Go to feel out the distance and to see how your body responds to going that far. Stay well within your physical limits in the moment. Relax.  If you want to push wait until the last 6 miles or so when you have a sense that you will make it. Run with someone who has done it before and is not bound to a time. – Debbie Rubel, Marathoner

Assuming you have a target pace in mind, if the race has professional pace runners, stick with them or near them. Race day excitement usually makes me start too fast, and pacers keep you on track from the start, plus they put you in the starting pack at roughly the right place.  – Rick Ortmeyer, Marathoner

Thank the volunteers. The race would be much different without them out there to help us.  – Ben Schorr, Marathoner

Don’t worry about your time — your goal is to finish!  – Chad Belville, Marathoner

If you are reading this because you are preparing for your first marathon, have a great race! I hope you feel awesome when you cross the finish line.

Race Day Neuroticism

I got in email last week from somebody asking me to share my race day routine. I love the whole gestalt of doing races – the excitement, the comradery of all the participants and volunteers, and pushing yourself to be your best.

Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2013 - Pre-Race with my Uncle and Cousin

Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2013 – Pre-Race with my Uncle and Cousin

I’ll be the first person to admit that I can be a bit neurotic, and so part of my race day routine is all about making sure I am aware of where I need to be, when I need to be there, and with all my gear. My race day routine actually begins a few days before the race when I go shopping for the food I’m going to eat the days before the race. I also print out my confirmation form for the race and alter the waiver so that the organizers can be held responsible if they negligently cause me to be injured during the race. (What can I say? I’m a lawyer.)

The day before the race is the expo where I pick up my race packet, and that’s when I usually start feeling really excited about the race. I love talking to my fellow racers and the vendors about running. I usually grab a few samples of products and I get my legs taped up with KT Tape.

When I get home, I get super organized so I can be ready for race day. I lay out my clothes for the race and pay in my race bib to my shirt. I put everything I will want to have after the race that I can in my gear check bag and I make a list of the things I need to remember to throw in my bag before I leave for the race. (I warned you I’m neurotic.) I try to get everything prepared for the race that I can – even things like having my coffee cup and the toaster out so I can make breakfast that much faster on race morning.

Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2013 - Post-Race

Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2013 – Post-Race

The night before the race I usually treat myself to a big plate of pasta with veggies and chicken and I try to go to bed early. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon starts at 7:30 am, so that means I have to be awake, dressed, and get to my light rail station probably by 6:30. I’ll probably set my alarm for 4:45 just to make sure I have enough time to do everything.

Race day itself is always exhilarating. I’m always a bundle of energy as I force myself to eat a bagel and a banana and get some coffee in my bloodstream and get myself to the starting line. In the starting line area, I stretch out my legs and 20 minutes before the race starts, I down 2 ibuprofens and a 5 Hour Energy. I’ve heard you’re not supposed to take painkillers before the race, but that’s always been my pattern.

When my corral is that the starting line, I put my ear buds in my ears and turned on my race day play list of high energy music. My rules for most races are (1) Don’t stop and (2) Don’t die. It’s a pretty low bar to clear.

Marathon Training Week 6 Recap – The Need For Speed

T0.3 by Connor Burton from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

T0.3 by Connor Burton from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Maybe it’s because I wanted to push myself or maybe it’s because I’m impatient, but whatever the reason, I did speed work with all my runs this week.

Monday: I hit the ground running this week – at least on work. No workout  scheduled for today, though I’m starting to see a network of veins beneath my skin. I feel stronger and I’ve definitely noticed an increase in my muscle tone.

Tuesday: Tuesday is my official speed work day when I run on the treadmill – aka the human hamster wheel. I ran 4.5 miles in 37.5 minutes. Running on the treadmill is so boring, even with the most entertaining podcast in my ears. It’s only redeeming quality is it’s faster than running on the street. I knocked out my first 100 push-ups for the week: 5 sets of 16 and 1 set of 20. I like seeing the veins pop out of my arms as I’m getting stronger.

Wednesday: One of the benefits of running in October is it’s cooler in the morning. The downside is it’s also dark. I think it’s time to bust out my reflective belt so cars can more easily see me. I’d wear a headlamp if it were more comfortable – I don’t like running as much when I can’t fully see where I’m going.  I had a good 6.5-mile run today. I did speed work by making myself run 200 steps at the beginning of each song that played on my iPod, plus an extra 100 running steps when I had to stop at stoplights.

Thursday: I tried a new 4.5-mile route today (with my snazzy reflective belt) that had a turn-around in the middle of the Mill Ave. Bridge. I hope I turned around at the right spot. I used the same plan for speed work as the previous day. Around mile 1.5 I felt a twinge of pain in my butt with the giggle of each step that was replaced by the intensity I felt in my quads around mile 3. When I got back I finished my push-ups for the week: 5 sets of 17 and 1 set of 15.

Friday: Rest day!

My Foot and Leg in KT Tape before the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2012

My Foot and Leg in KT Tape before the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2012

Saturday: I listen to Profiles with Alicia Malone and Scott Mantz during my long runs on Saturdays. It’s an awesome podcast about movies that features a different actor or director each week. Each  segment of the show is named after a movie, i.e., “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “First Blood,” “Quiz Show,” etc. My plan was to do speed work at the beginning of each segment, but I realized I can’t count my steps and listen to these two geek out over movies simultaneously, so I just tried to pick up the pace at the beginning of each segment. I had a bit of shin pain even before I started today’s run that didn’t get worse over the hour. I started getting pain in my right hip around mile 5 (of a 7.2-mile run). I’ll have to keep an eye on that. When I tried to train for a marathon a few years ago, I had to downgrade to the half when I experienced intense hip pain in my longer runs.  I hope my strength work and stretching will keep this under control.

Sunday: I challenged myself to ride the hill on McDowell Road between 52nd St and 64th St – by Papago Park – during today’s 19-mile bike ride.  This is a steep hill when I drive it so I knew it would be hard on my bike. I told myself that I’m doing my legs more good on this one hill than I’ve ever done on the elliptical in aggregate. I’m glad it was at the beginning of my ride.

I’m officially 1/3 through my marathon training. If memory serves, I was living in KT Tape six weeks into half marathon training the last time I trained for a big race. (I was also running with really bad form back then.) I’m really pleased with how my legs are holding up so far.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 22.7 miles
Biking: 19 miles
Push-ups: 200 push-ups

Marathon Training – Week 1 Recap

Week One of marathon training is in the books! I’m pleased with how it’s going so far and I encountered an unexpected challenge with my strength training.

20130324-024-of-365 by Wilson Hui from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

20130324-024-of-365 by Wilson Hui from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I was a gymnast for 17 years and I consider myself to be relatively strong. When I trained for the half marathon, strength training was on my calendar twice a week. The best upper body and core workout I know is push-ups. So I thought for the marathon I’d do 100 push-ups, 3 times a week.  That seemed easy enough.

And then Monday came. I made myself do 100 push-ups – taking as many sets as I needed and lowering down almost to the floor with each one.  It took 7 sets but it got done. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be.

By Tuesday I was sore. I ran my usual 4.5 mile while listening to the Invisible Office Hours Podcast. My legs have been doing well with running. I typically get a little bit of soreness in my shins or feet, but nothing worse than a 3 on a 10-point pain scale. The rest of my body was a different story. My triceps, chest, and abs were so sore that I felt like I was running with bruises all over my body. My abs hurt every time I sneezed.

Wednesday was a long run at 6.5 miles. It was sprinkling just hard enough that I didn’t want to bring my iPod. Only the diehards and people who don’t have treadmills seemed to be out on the trail. It was a nice run. When I got home I tried to do push-ups, but I couldn’t get into a push-up position without screaming pain radiating through my arms and chest. That’s when I remembered that my half marathon training only had strength work twice a week so I decided that I should do the same for marathon training and decrease my push-ups from three times a week to only twice a week.

I was a still sore on Thursday for a couple of reasons. I ran 4.5 miles and I could tell my body wasn’t used to running 3 days in a row. All summer I was running on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. For this race I have training runs scheduled on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and cross training on Sunday. My quad muscles could feel the difference – not exactly soreness but awareness of not getting as much rest between runs. I was surprised by how much my chest and arms still hurt from Monday.

Friday was a rest day and Saturday is my long run of the week – 6.5 miles this week. It was an easy 54-minute run. My new favorite movie podcast, Profiles with Malone and Mantz, kept me entertained. When I got back, I decided to split my 100 push-ups for the weekend over 2 days and do 5 sets of 10 each day. I still can’t go as low as I could on Monday but they got done. I’m thinking I should do 50 push-ups a day for 4 days each week until I get a bit stronger.

Sunday was my cross training day. I plan to ride my bike for most of my cross training days. I really don’t ride my bike enough; I love it. I did an 18-mile ride along the Arizona Canal. It was harder than I expected but it really shouldn’t have been since it’s been a few months since my last ride. One thing that’s nice about riding is I get to read everyone’s shirts. When I go running I usually don’t take the time to put in contacts so my world is blurry but they’re a requirement for riding. It was fun to see everyone’s shirts from past races. My ride took about 100 minutes and I knocked out my last 50 push-ups for the week when I got home.

I’d say it’s an excellent start to training for the 2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon.

Week 1 Totals:
Running Miles: 22
Bike Miles: 18
Push-ups:  200

New Running Mantra: “You Forgot Your Flash Drive”

It’s monsoon season in Phoenix, so I got to go running in the rain last week. A rainy day means I can’t run with my iPod which means I’m left with the frightening experience of running with only my thoughts to keep me entertained. (And trust me, my mind is frightening place that no one should visit alone.) I set out on my 4.5-mile run. I’m sure I looked like a drowned rat within five minutes, but it warm outside and so the rain was a refreshing change to being covered in sweat which has a tendency to sting really bad when it gets in my eye. At the beginning of the second mile, I was settling into my pace and listening to the rhythmic sound of my feet pounding the pavement.  I randomly started thinking of the train episode of The Big Bang Theory and the phrase, “You forgot your flash drive,” started repeating over and over in my head.

You forgot your flash drive.  You forgot your flash drive. You forgot your flash drive. You forgot your flash drive. I don’t know why this became my mantra. It has nothing to do with running, or exercise, or any real aspect of reality for that matter. But it worked. It gave me a solid 9:00 mile pace for the rest of my run.

Funny marathon signs - Smile or it drops by Jeff Moriarty from Flickr, used with permission

Funny marathon signs – Smile or it drops by Jeff Moriarty from Flickr, used with permission

Now here’s the weird part. Two days later it was a beautiful sunny morning and I headed out for a run, happy to have my iPod strapped to my arm and earbuds in my ears blasting my training playlist. Despite my musical distraction, within the first mile my mantra starting playing again my head: You forgot your flash drive.  You forgot your flash drive. You forgot your flash drive. You forgot your flash drive. So it looks like this is going to be my running mantra this season. It’s so weird but it’s working so I’m not going to fight it. When I start feeling tired, I just play it over again and it picks up my pace. Historically, I’ve asked people to insult me when I’m doing a race. It makes me smile and feel loved. (Thank you to everyone who has ever yelled, “Move your ass Bitch!” at me as I ran past them while fellow spectators looked at them in horror.) I will be running my first marathon at Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona in January 2015. I think it would be awesome if someone would make a sign for me that says, “You forgot your flash drive” and hold it up as I run by. No one else will get it but that would so make my race.

Half Marathon Recap 2011

On January 16, 2011, I ran in the P.F. Chang’s Rock n Roll Half Marathon, my second half marathon.  I had a personal best of 2:06:18, nearly 3 minutes faster than my time last year.  This was, hands down, the most painful race I have ever participated in.

I started my training back in October.  I was pretty diligent about getting in my miles every week until mid-November.  By then, my school work had picked up and I had the decision to either go running or get enough sleep.  Not wanting to destroy my immune system, I often opted to sleep.  After finals, I went to my parents’ house in Northern California.  I packed all my warm running clothes so I could get back on track, but I soon learned that, “It’s cold,” was a viable excuse not to go running.  When I got back to Phoenix, I was determined to get back to running, but unfortunately my overzealousness caused shin splints.  In all of my training for this race, I did not run more than 5 consecutive miles.  Originally my goal was to finish the race in under 2 hours, but I changed that to finishing the race without stopping or walking.

I was careful to pace myself at the start of the race.  Even before I reached mile marker 1, my body was starting to hurt.  I did what you’re not supposed to do, and took 600mg of ibuprofen right before the race, and it didn’t keep the pain at bay.  My toes, knees, hip, back, and feet all hurt during the race.  When one body part would start to hurt, I thought, “Hang in there.  In a mile, something else will hurt.”

You-Can_Do-It
Image by Katchooo via Flickr

The best part of running the half marathon is the people watching.  I enjoy watching the people, reading their signs, and seeing the funny outfits the various cheerleading squads are wearing.  Every time I saw a familiar face or something amusing, it lifted my spirits.  I don’t think most spectators realize how much it means to the runners that they are there.

In case you were wondering, these are some of the thoughts that went through my head during the race:

  • You can do it… You can do it…. You can do it….You can do it…
  • Hang in there.  You’re doing great.
  • You’re almost there.
  • It’s only hard.

Around mile 10, I kicked it up a notch and started running faster.  I saw on the race clock that I was close to my pace from the previous year.  I wanted to try for a personal best.  I ran as hard as I could and I gave myself permission to collapse the second I crossed the finish line.

When I finished the race, I was in pain.  My joints hurt; my muscles hurt; even my internal organs hurt.  I went home and went to bed.  My friend came over to congratulate me after the race, and he could barely hug me because it hurt so much.

I’m pleased with my performance overall, but I definitely learned the hard way about the repercussions of being under prepared for a race.  Next year, I hope I can train more effectively and break the 2-hour mark.

Enhanced by Zemanta