Tips: Destination Races & Packing

I’ve briefly written in the past in regards to traveling and running, but  not so much racing. Now I’ve had the full on experience of worrying about having everything I might possibly need packed can write on it just a bit more.

To clarify I flew to D.C. for the Marine Corps Marathon, so no throwing tons of things into my trunk just because I have the space. (Like I did with the Miami Marathon.)

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Laying out my gear helped a lot.

Admittedly, when it comes to some items it wouldn’t be too big of a hit if you just buy it on location (like gels, socks, etc). There are others, like my Garmin or racing outfit that would be horrible to forget and aren’t exactly easily (or cheaply) replaceable. Didn’t stop me from being paranoid, making tons of lists, leaving sticky notes EVERYWHERE, and generally spazzing out as I packed.

Here’s a couple of tips sent my way via running friends and some lovely individuals from the Twitter #runchat involvees.

  • Make lists. Also, do not misplace your lists.
  • Have others look over your lists.
  • Have someone else (or several someones) make lists of their own for comparison. Some things they consider essential you might not, and therefore forget.
  • Ask other athletic friends & people you know who have run the race before for their recommendations.
  • Get your suitcase out early.
  • Place items you won’t need between now and leaving in your suitcase as soon as you think of it. That way, it’s already there.
  • And for the actual travel – if you are flying and plan to check your bags, consider taking what you consider race day essentials in your carry-on (like shoes and outfit). Just in case.

A few of the things I included as part of my travel are hopefully the norm.

  • My planned race outfit based on weather predictions.
  • Alternate outfits to compensate for any unexpected changes in weather such as dips or jumps in temperature or rain.
  • Throwaways (if the weather may be cold).
  • Extra sets of socks. (I wear Injinjis to run long distances/race in as my feet seem to take the least amount of damage in them, so I took a couple pairs just in case.)
  • A second set of shoes I’d be okay with racing in. If that first pair somehow got lost or damaged.

Two things I generally do besides just throwing clothes into the suitcase. First, I try to plan an outfit for each day based on what we’re thinking to do. This is harder for longer trips, but for MCM it was just 4 days. Include alternate race gear and an extra couple of shirts/long sleeves. Then, I set out every item I expected to wear or need for the race itself, as if it was the next morning. After doing these two things, I could tweak the outfits and extras based on weather as the trip got closer.

Between friends and family double checking, as well as repacking my suitcase 3 times against my lists, I managed to not forget anything. At all (yes, very surprising for me too). I think for long distance travel and destination races, it’s best to plan ahead as much as possible. While I did stress about it, at least in the end the technique worked and race day was able to happen smoothly.

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The Training Plan is Here

planA couple weeks ago I hit up a member of my running group in Florida who had coached me for my first marathon.  He was kind enough to agree to write up my plan and coach me again.

Now when I say coach, it’s a pretty loose system. He crafts a training plan based on where I am, what I want to run for the race (time goal, etc), and how long until then. Then I send weekly updates with how the training for the past week went. I’ll give total mileage, how I felt, whether I hit the targets (pace or otherwise) for each of the workouts, and whatever else I want to say.

Races are included in the plan and we use finish times for those to gauge any changes once it’s started. If I have questions or want to make modifications, I just hit him up. Otherwise, it’s pretty much on me to follow it and prep for the race.

Luckily, I’ve been working my running schedule in preparation for this training. Tempo work, interval work, and long runs trying to be at about the target I imagined I’d need. For the marathon, the training plan is starting 18 weeks out from the race (which is pretty normal, as usually it’s 4 months with most of the people I’ve run with). So I’m a little less than a month from officially starting it (late June).

I’m excited looking over the schedule and a little nervous too. I’ll max out a couple weeks before the race at 60+ miles and have 4 x 20+ mile long runs. It’s a tougher program than I ran before, but we have a better idea of what I can do with a marathon and I have a faster goal this time.

Not that it wasn’t real before, but actually getting the plan has turned on the competitive spirit. I’m ready to do this!

Tips: Nutrition

Previously I touched on the importance of hydration, especially as we’re running full on into summer. Another equally important part of your routine to consider is nutrition.

While eating healthy is always good, that’s not necessarily what I’m talking about here. It’s more in relation to making sure what you eat is fueling the activity level you maintain.

Post workout isn’t just your recovery drink, but how you enable your body to continue through the day. Sometimes I am horrible at this, but I’m trying to get better. Worst thing, especially when you’re busy, is to not fuel yourself properly and end up crashing hard.

Try to always carry some kind of small snack with you and plan meals ahead of time. Spontaneous decisions are okay, but you’re more likely to make the effort to cook and eat if you already have everything planned out.

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I keep a protein bar in whatever bag I have (gym, purse, etc) at all times just in case I get the munchies. I make a habit each week (or several times a week) to buy some veggies to chop up and snack on. My favorites are cucumber, green pepper, and tomatoes. I also visit the local farmer’s market that keeps a nice stock of nuts and trail mix items. Generally I go for raw almonds and dark chocolate covered espresso beans (cause I’m weird).

20130502_162544While I do NOT substitute any of these items for meals, I do use them to for snacking. Fueling myself in the hours between meals. If I have a smaller meal because I eat snacks, that’s fine. I’m still getting all the stuff I need.

It’s important to keep a regular schedule of consuming nutrients for the singular fact that you want them to feed your exercise and daily life. I don’t run or function nearly as well when I’m skipping meals or not eating properly.

Eating well not only helps keep your body in the right shape to exercise, but helps combat exhaustion and illness. Sometimes you can’t avoid them for many reasons, but maintaining your nutrition is a good way to give your body and yourself the upper hand.

20130507_212212I emphasize this topic because I’ve unfortunately felt the effects of bad fueling and nutrition while training. For the first few weeks of marathon training in 2011 my energy levels plummeted because not only was I not increasing my calorie intake to keep up with my increased exercise, but I wasn’t making sure it was the right things I needed to be eating. Once my eating schedule smoothed out and I was filling my vitamin and nutritional gaps, I had a better ability to handle my schedule of exercise and life.

I definitely advocate making healthier choices (and there’s so many ways to do it!) in your food, but make sure what and how you eat is set to help you be your best.

Tips: Hydration

shutterstock105510419copysSomething I think is super important for everyone, not just athletes, is taking care of yourself. One of the best ways that’s most often overlooked is your daily hydration. Since some part of the country are easing out of winter and towards the warmer temps of spring, I figure it’s a good time to bring this up.

Now I emphasize this one a lot mostly because I spent nearly all of my years of running in Florida. While we got the occasional cool spell, generally speaking it’s a very warm state. Due to this daily hydration was super important. If I took a 30 minute nap, I usually woke up with the beginnings of dehydration—or at least at the point of dehydration that I was feeling the effects.

The reason I bring this up now is I ran a 10 miler a couple weeks ago. Because the weather had been cooler, I opted not to take a bottle of water with me. Normally this isn’t a problem for me, but that day ended up being significantly warmer than the days before. Added to that, I hadn’t been drinking even regular amounts of water (due to lower temps – I tend to go for hot chocolate). As such, I really struggled the last couple miles of the run to the point of considering just calling a friend for a ride back.

This can happen regardless if the conditions are working against you. However, properly hydrating yourself on a regular basis can reduce the effects or in some cases help you make it through those tougher runs.

If you searched the internet about proper hydration, you’ll get a mix of information depending on whether it’s exercise related, who is writing it, and what their sources are. But something I’ve learned as a long distance runner is that maintaining my daily hydration does the best to keep me moving along in optimum condition.

I’m not a doctor and I’m not saying you should guzzle water continuously. What I tend to do is just keep bottles of water within arms reach. If I’m thirsty, it’s right there. Even if I’m not thirsty, I tend to take a drink from it every few minutes just because it’s there. I’m probably averaging 4-6 20 oz. bottles of water a day. However, that’s spread across a full day and includes the water I’m drinking after workouts under 6 miles (or basically, anything under an hour).

I’ve known individuals who carry around a gallon of water that they refill 4-5 times a day. While I find this a little extreme, I also accept that the majority were guys who are known to generally sweat more than the ladies.

If you’re someone who is more comfortable with exact numbers to help you out, look into figuring out your sweat rate. This will help determine your water intake in relation to your exercise related water consumption. I’m not sure if you can work the numbers out to your required daily intake. But I trust you all to know when too much is too much.

So included below are a few links if you want some extra reading. I wouldn’t take any one as the absolute true, but they might just give you a little more information to run with.

Active.com Hydration 101

National Athletic Trainers Fluid Replacement (a very scientific sort of piece)

NBA Hydration Sheet (some easy to read information broken down into 2 pages)

Testing – Are these legs working?

Yesterday was my last long run of 10 miles before race day. What makes this run important though, is that it’s a pace run. It’s a chance, a week before the actual event, to test out your hopeful race pace.

So after much training, some discussion and general debate, we’ve reached the decision to have me aim for a 3:45 marathon time. This equates to about a 8:35 average pace. Seems reasonable. However, some of my runs have indicated that I can do better than that. Admittedly, I’ll be quite happy with anything at all as a finish, especially under 4 hours.

But yesterday, I had a little more encouragement. My 10 miles at pace ended up averaging 8:22 per mile. If I can do that on race day, I’m looking at a 3:40 or better time. Wow! That’s kind of hard for me to believe, especially as my goal and general training was targeted at a 4 hour marathon.

Luckily, I have several members of my running group pacing in my general time slot from a 3:35 to a 3:45. So I hope between all of them I can settle into something that I’ll keep strong through the whole race.

As of today, 7 days to go! This time next week we’ll know whether I have the physical and mental strength to win this battle.

Taper!

Excitement!

This past Sunday I ran my last, “long” run of 18 miles. That closed out my highest mileage week yet at 56 total miles. I got in an awesome pace run, a great speed workout at the track and my best 18-miler yet (which really isn’t that hard considering how badly 18-milers seem to end for me). Ending that week starts the process of taper, a period of reduced activity that allows your body to recover and prepare for the upcoming race.

As of this post, it’s only 10 days to race day. I’m equally excited (it’s been so nice having relatively shorter workouts) and nervous (which never happens). I’d say I’m subconsciously nervous – I’ve had some wacky dreams of things gone wrong (like forgetting my race shoes), but I myself don’t feel more than anticipation. Though I’m sure that’ll change as the race gets even closer.

The biggest factor? It’s so unknown. It was so reasonable to go run a 14 miler before my first half just so I knew I could do it. The sheer amount of miles makes that unreasonable for a full marathon. So instead, I’m left to wonder if my body, and mind, will be able to handle those last 4 miles. The difference between my longest run and the race distance. Yet at the same time, 4 miles seems like nothing after 22, so why shouldn’t I be able to?

Oh well, the lucky fact of work and school will keep me from thinking on it too much. Plus, preparations and silliness with members of my running group. Car pool caravan! Likewise, I’ve learned that my sister-in-law is coming into town to visit family and to see me race. I’m excited, as so far she’s only heard about my craziness, but not witnessed it.

So fingers crossed with 10 days and counting…

3 Weeks & Counting…

This past Sunday marked exactly 3 weeks out from race day.

I ran my second and final 22 miler, just a bit slower than the first time (but also by myself). I’m now on my last week of training before I enter taper. This week will be my highest mileage at around 55 miles & I’ll finish the tough part of the training with an 18 miler.

After that, it’s 2 weeks of easi(er) runs leading up to the race. I’m definitely looking forward to taper.