Is it Crazy to Race During Taper?

Tomorrow begins the last full week before the Richmond Marathon.  After two months of dry, warm weather, the forecast for November 12 calls for a 55% chance of rain with a high of 57 degrees during the race.  If I had to be picky, I could do without the rain, but the temperature and cloud cover is pretty close to perfect for racing.

The taper cycle for this marathon is different than any I’ve had so far because I’m racing twice in the last three weeks.  The first was the French Broad Half Marathon and tomorrow is the inaugural Zero 5K happening in flat Carrier Park where I train most days.  I had originally planned to race the Vance Rocket Run 5K tomorrow, but after jogging the course and its SEVEN hills, my coach and I came to the decision that it was not going to be beneficial for Richmond and pounding out those downhills could actually contribute to a little more muscle damage that I’m not willing to risk at this point.

Flat and fast it is.

So why am I racing a 5K a week before my marathon?  Shouldn’t I be tapering and resting and only doing a little marathon-specific work?

Yes and no.  The point of a fast 5K right now is to open up some speed in my legs that I haven’t felt in a while.  The faster speed of a 5K also pushes me into the racing red zone for just a little while, practicing one more time what I will feel like when I am pushing myself harder than I ever have before in the last few miles of the marathon.  Yet the 5K is short enough that I will be fully recovered by race day.

In other words, this is mental strength training.

I do not expect to PR at this 5K since I have not been putting in the kind of speed training specific to the 5K.   But you never know.

My PR is 19:33 (6:17 pace) from the Downhill at Dusk 5K back in June and as the name implies, it was mostly downhill, so I have gravity to partially thank for that time.  I know that I’m am much fitter now, but I have a lot of marathon miles in my legs.

Another nice benefit to racing during taper is that I have something to distract me rather than just getting bogged down by the taper tantrums.  Most marathoners struggle with taper because it is such a shift from our normal running routine.  We feel nervous and cranky and heavy and we miss our runners’ high.  We doubt our training, worry about eating too much and gaining weight.

Having this shorter goal has helped shift my focus to what is right in front of me.

Another nice distraction from taper anxiety has been this week of coaching at Runners Connect. I truly love the community of athletes we are growing and I’m enjoying being a part of so many runners’ journeys.

But I have never sat in front of a computer so much in my life!  I’m still working in real estate and plan to continue doing so for the foreseeable future, but I typically do not spend hours upon hours staring at a screen.  My eyes are tired at the end of a coaching shift and by butt feels suction cupped to my chair.

So today, I  installed my high-tech stand up desk.

img_20161104_080539

My glutes feel better already.

 

#richmondready

Yesterday was the longest long run of this marathon cycle training for the Richmond Marathon on November 12.  Twenty-two miles.  That capped off my biggest volume week at just over 82 miles.

I’ve run 80 miles per week in both of my last two marathons, but this was the best so far.  I feel strong and fresh as opposed to being sore and tired.  It’s a good sign.

This particular long run was not yet another Long Slow Distance.  It was a quality workout that had over 8 miles at or faster than marathon pace.  After 10 miles of easy running (in the 8 to 8:30/mile range), I had 8 surges of 90 seconds each at 6:30 pace, with 5-minute “floats” of marathon pace (goal is 6:52) in between, finishing the rest of the run easy.  The goal of this workout is to simulate the pace changes you might have in a race and to keep you running fast when tired.  It is also a great indicator of marathon readiness; if you can nail the floats at goal, you’ve got a great goal.

I’m proud to say I executed this one perfectly.  My surges averaged out to be 6:26 and my floats 6:51.  Right on the money.  More than any other workout so far, this one that combines length with speed tells me a lot about my fitness and the possibility of achieving my goal.

But it doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion. Am I really #richmondready?

Renowned marathon coach Greg McMillian, famous for his running calculators, wrote an article for Competitor Magazine that just happened to pop up on my feed after my run yesterday.  It’s called “Six Key Factors to Achieving Your Marathon Goal.”

Would I pass McMillan’s test?  Let’s see.

 1. Stable mileage?  Check.  After a summer mostly staying in the 50 mpw zone, I gradually moved up to the sixties during August, up to the seventies for five weeks through Septmeber, and just crossed over to 80.  I like big mileage and can handle it because the majority of my running is very easy.

2.  Long Runs? Check.  Yesterday’s 22-miler was great and I’ve had two other 20s and two 18s.  One of the twenties was not quite up to speed, but it was only a few seconds off.  “Successful marathoners are usually the ones that not only get in the long, steady runs,” McMillan writes, “but they’re the ones that recover well in the few days that follow.”  I feel zero soreness today, which I’m extra happy about.

3.  Grooving Goal Pace?  Check.  The nice thing about running those faster strides is that in comparison, goal pace felt much more under control.  I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy, but it’s comfortably hard.

4.  Leg Durability?  Check.  I haven’t felt leg soreness in a very long time.  This is a huge difference from past marathon cycles.  It certainly helps that I’ve eliminated the high-intensity strength training, in favor of simpler body-weight routines.

20160925_112021

5.  Fueling?  Check.  I’ve been really happy with my homemade gels.  No tummy issues and they go down smoothly and easily with a lot less water.  My caffeinated Salted Peanut Butter with a touch of protein was perfect for the back half of yesterday’s workout.  The Lemon Cream Pie will also be with me in Richmond.

20160812_112414

6.  Mental Toughness?  Check.  I earned this one at Boston this year.  Toughing out a PR in less-than-ideal conditions was the hardest race I’ve had.  I think I’m even better prepared now.

Barely lifting my feet up on Boylston
Barely lifting my feet up on Boylston

My score: Six out of six!

There’s is still a little over a month to go before the race.  I’ve got a tune-up half marathon along the French Broad River on October 22, which will be another good test of my fitness.

But the big miles are now behind me and I see big breakthroughs ahead.

 

*top photo of the James River in Richmond, VA courtesy of www.rvanews.com.

 

From “Eh” to “Hell Yeah!”

If marathon training were easy, everyone would do it.  Actually, that’s not true.  If marathon training were easy, most runners would get very bored and would do something else that was a real challenge.  Overcoming difficulties is a big part of why we run.  There’s really nothing better than doing something hard well.

So what do you do when you’ve had a string of good runs and then all of the sudden you get smacked in the face with mediocrity? (It’s not a hard slap.  More of a smear with a wet sponge.)  I’m not talking about the runs when you are dead tired, or sick, or sore, or just not feeling it.  I’m talking about the runs that start out just fine and gradually dissolve into an ego-bruising struggle.  It’s the kind of run where each time you look at your watch you imagine the GPS satellites have exploded in some cosmic crash because you can’t possibly be moving that slow.  It’s not the run that is an undeniable failure; it’s the run that’s just eh.

My long run last weekend was one of those eh runs.

It was 20 miles with miles 12-18 at faster than marathon pace.  I’ve been running my easy miles during long runs very slow lately and I thought I’d pick up the pace to a still easy, but more reasonable 8:30 pace, just to keep it a little more real.  I also decided to practice eating a lot more than I normally do on a long run to try to better simulate race day.  A marathon nutrition calculator that my coach had sent said that I needed nearly 600 calories during a marathon to fuel properly.  In Boston, I hit the wall hard somewhere between miles 20-23 and I don’t know if not eating enough was to blame for part of it.  So I thought I’d eat a bigger than normal breakfast and take a 100-calorie gel at mile 3, 7, and  just before 12.

That might have been a mistake. I wouldn’t say that I was really sick to my stomach, but I certainly didn’t feel great.

I got to mile 12 and picked up the pace.  6:51.  Well, that was a bit too slow, I told myself, but it’s okay to take the first mile conservatively so that I don’t fade hard later.

Mile 13 came in at 7:09, 24 seconds off.  Wait, what?  I was breathing hard.  It felt like marathon-pace effort.  I felt some stiffness in my legs, but that’s to be expected.

I tried to regroup. 6:55 for mile 14.  Okay that was at least in the ball park.  I’m good.

7:16.  Really?  You’re kidding me.  No way.

7:08.  Still not under 7?  Jeez.

One more to go, I thought, so make it good. 7:01.  Huh.

I jogged the last two cool down miles home and felt halfway good about the run, because no matter how you look at it, 20 miles at any pace is an accomplishment.  The other half of me felt eh about it, since I feel like I have the fitness to have done this run as written.

Coach Sarah had some welcome words for me after I logged my workout.  “Claire, I’ve never once made it through a marathon build up without at least one run like this,” she told me.  “It happens to everyone and the best thing you can possibly do is to let it go and move on; it in no way means that you are not fit. Try to keep your confidence high, the next one will be better!”

I know she is right.  If I nailed every workout I was given, the only thing I would learn is that my goal is too easy.  I have chosen an ambitious goal because it’s big and scary and there’s a likely possibility that I won’t achieve it.  But there is also a small but real chance that I can make it happen.  It will take more weeks of hard work, a willingness to be uncomfortable, and a healthy dose of good luck to cross the finish line in Richmond under three hours.  I know I have it in me.  Somewhere.

All I have to do is find a way to use that eh run as fuel for my next hell yeah! run.

 

 

 

Let Me Be Specific

It seems so obvious when you think about it:  train for your race by mimicking what you will face on race day.  For 800 meter runners, that means a lot of time on the track running (you guessed it) 800s.  But for all but a very few elites, marathoners don’t run the full marathon distance in training because it’s more damaging to your body than productive.  And on the other end of the spectrum, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to bust out short sprints on the track in the middle of marathon training.  Speed is important, but weekly doses of super-quick, intense track workouts aren’t developing the systems that you use during a marathon.

We need to get specific.

I’m 8 weeks away from my race and this week I had two marathon-specific workouts.  Tuesday was a hill to tempo and Thursday was a basic tempo and I am happy to say I nailed them both.  Here are the basics of each and what they are designed to do.

Hill to Tempo

After a 3 mile warm up, I found a nice hill and sprinted up it six times for 90 seconds and jogged back down.  The effort is supposed to be about mile pace, but pace is not helpful at all determining speed on hills.  So I didn’t look at my pace at all, just clicked the lap button and raced uphill as fast as I could.  Ninety seconds is an eternity when you are going all out!  I quickly learned that my high-knee, on-my-toes sprint fizzles after about 15-20 seconds, making hauling my body uphill so much harder for the last miserable minute.  So I cut that nonsense out and used my regular stride as fast as I could and I actually got faster with each interval.  It seems that the “don’t go out too fast” warning applies universally to all distances.

After the hills were done, I took a three-minute rest and water break and headed down to the park for the tempo part of the workout.  The idea behind this is that the hills tire you out and strengthen your legs at the same time, making the tempo effort harder, as if it were late in the race.  The plan called for 4 miles between 6:50 and 6:55 and I stayed in that box, even cranking out a 6:36 last mile! (What?!)  I finished with a 2 mile cool down and a happy dance.

Basic Tempo

Tempo runs are some of my favorite runs.  I like to get into a groove and just lock my pace.  The idea behind tempos is to run “comfortably hard,” or even “hard, but controlled.”  Some people say a tempo is the fastest pace you can sustain for an hour.  My schedule called for 6:50 to 7:00 pace, which is the pace I hope to sustain for three hours!  But the key to tempos is not to run it as hard as you can, but to stay right in the zone at your current fitness, not your goal fitness.  I knew not to start out too fast and my first mile was 7:01.  Then the rest of the miles just flowed: 6:40, 6:41, 6:47, 6:44, 6:51, and I pushed the last mile with a 6:38.  So technically, I ran this too fast, but I really felt fantastic.  Not that it was easy, but it was not hard.  I would say the hard end of medium pace.  I did pull out all the tricks with this one, drinking beet juice and caffeine 90 minutes ahead of time, and the weather was just a bit cooler than I was used to.  I know I got several more humbling workouts coming up, but this was a great confidence booster!

In a couple weeks, I have another marathon-specific workout, the 2×6.  After a warm up, I’ll run two sessions of six miles at 6:50-7:00 pace with a crazy-long 10 minute break in between.  The long break is meant to stiffen up your legs and break your flow so that the second set feels even harder than it should.  Again, this is another technique to mimic the challenges of race day without running the marathon distance.  I remember this one from my last training cycle and I pretty sure I did okay with it, so we’ll see.

While I’m sad to be missing Tuesday nights at the track with my running friends, I know the track is not where I need to be right now.  I’ll be logging lots of road miles in the next 8 weeks and the track will be right there where I left it.

The Michigan: I’m Supposed to Be Having Fun?

With just over two months to go until Richmond, my Tuesday workouts are getting much more marathon specific.  Gone are most of the short sprint intervals on the track, replaced by long alternating-pace miles on the road. This Tuesday was the Michigan.  And it’s a beast.

The Michigan is a Runners Connect staple, usually done once per cycle, so I’ve done this one before (attempted is more accurate).  There are lots of variations of this workout invented by a track coach in the mid-1970s at Michigan University.  Our version is like a double-decker Dagwood with 2-mile slices of marathon pace as the bread:  after a two-mile slow warm up, sandwich two 2-mile segments of marathon pace around a faster mile at 10K pace, then speed up even more and add a schmear of 800 meters at 5K pace, topping it off with another 2 miles at still-fast marathon pace, with a two mile cool down, NO REST (that was in all caps on the schedule).

It’s a lot to chew on.

The point of the no rest mandate is that this workout is teaching you how to race.  Hopefully you will not be varying your pace this dramatically during a real race, but this simulates the increased effort necessary at the tough last few miles when your body just wants to slow down or stop.  When you speed up at the end of a workout, the following set becomes exponentially harder, making the effort required to run the same pace much higher than at the beginning. In other words, you are getting the stress of racing a marathon, without actually having to run one.

The paces for me this time didn’t seem all that scary since I’ve been feeling pretty good lately: 6:50 for marathon pace, 6:35 for the mile, and 6:25 for the 800.  I’ve only run one hilly 10K and my 5K PR is a little faster than 6:25/per mile so the paces given to me were more based on my marathon goal rather than based off shorter races.  But I knew that this would be a tough one to get through.

If you just look at my GPS data, I ran this workout almost perfectly. After the warm up, miles 1 and 2 were medium effort and right on at 6:50 and 6:53. I sped up for mile 3 and while it was harder, it still felt okay and I clocked a 6:33. When my shoe came untied at mile 4, I happily stopped my watch, took an 5 extra seconds than necessary to tie it and breathe deeply (6:45). One of the water fountains is out of order at the park, so I stopped for water at mile 5 convincing myself that I should because I wouldn’t see one again later (6:57, slowing a bit).

Then I prepped myself mentally for the 800 (did I stop then, too?).  I took off in a panicked, hyperventilated state, pumping my arms as hard as I could.  I was so shocked to see that I had actually beat my goal time (6:20 pace) that I just stopped, panted and regrouped. During the last two fast miles, my brain was getting tired and I forgot that the 800 threw off my even mile splits so I stopped at 1.5 miles instead of 2. Then I realized my mistake and finished it off (7:05 and 6:48).  After catching my breath, I added a half mile to the cool down because runners are weird like that and can’t stand uneven numbers.

What this tells me is that physically, I am in shape to handle this workout, but something is holding me back from executing it perfectly. I know that I am much better at steady paces than alternating ones, so I have to figure out how to transition better between paces without stressing out about it.

After I logged my workout, many of my fellow Runners Connect members commented that they have been there and just stopped as well.  I wasn’t feeling any pain, just a general sense that the effort was hard.  There was no conscious thought telling me “go ahead and stop now;” I just stopped.  While I am happy that I made it through on pace, I have room for improvement.

Michael Hammond, one of my coaches, zeroed in on my real issue, and it’s one that I never would have come up with on my own.   “The Michigan is a tough workout for even the most well-trained athlete, so you honestly cannot read into it too much,” he said. “Shifting speeds that much throughout one workout is just plain difficult.”  Then he added: “To me it sounds like your main focus on these workouts is to relax. Changing paces shouldn’t be a stressful event – try to think of it instead as a fun game. Personally I always liked alternating pace stuff better – varies it up, makes it more fun and interesting.”

Wait, what?  Running is supposed to be fun?!?  I mean, I’ve heard that somewhere before, but really?  Even the hard stuff?  I’ve always joked about running not being fun and in the beginning, like an entire year, it honestly wasn’t.  My husband would say, “have fun!” as I went out the door and I would always grumble, “I don’t run for fun.” I definitely enjoy myself now, but I never think of it as a game, except perhaps during a race when I’m trying to pass someone.  Could something as simple as “go have fun” be serious training advice?

I know that when I relax I run better, but actively trying to have fun?  I’m hoping that having fun is easier than the Michigan.  I’ll let you know.

 

 

The Volume Building Begins

There are 86 days until my goal race, The Richmond Marathon.  I’ve kept my mileage in the 50-mile-per-week range over the summer and this will be the first week I’ll hit the 60s since training for Boston.  And I’m looking forward to it.

Everyone’s optimal mileage is different.  Some people race marathons well running fewer than 50 miles per week.  Elites run upwards of 120 miles per week.  For the last two marathons, I peaked just over 80 and I think that’s my sweet spot.  I’ll spend the next month in the 60s, then 3-4 weeks in the 70s before hitting 80 for one or two weeks.

The majority of those miles are very slow.  I run my easy runs 2-3 minutes slower than marathon pace.  I truly believe this is what has kept me almost injury-free since I began running (knock on wood).  Building the endurance engine happens at any pace, but injury and overuse tends to happen at high speed, so it makes sense to go slow on easy days.  I also believe the time on your feet, rather than the amount of miles you run makes a big difference, which is another benefit of slow running.  You are simply out there much longer to run the same distance so your body spends more time building up your aerobic system.

Some people get away with running less mileage because they cross-train more, but again it’s the time spent exercising that matters.  I cross-train, but mostly strength training and plyometrics (fancy word for jumping exercises).  Many of my running friends bike or play another sport that serves the same aerobic purpose as my slow running does for me.  I’ll swim for 30 minutes once or twice a month, but that’s about it.  I just want to run.

Yesterday, I had a tempo run where I was supposed to hit marathon pace for 5 miles.  It was not happening.  There were lots of reasons why: it was hot; it was humid; I didn’t have enough sleep; I didn’t eat enough before the run; I had a stressful day at work; and I am still recovering from blood donation last week (that’s the major one).  I got within 8-15 seconds of goal pace for four miles and then stopped.  I breathed a bit then told myself I would try again and just get through that last mile.  After a quarter mile, I peeked at my watch and I was over 30 seconds off and decided just to slow down and call that mile part of my cool down.  I’m still pleased that I got in some good miles, but the speed (and all those red blood cells!) is going to take a while to come back.

This weekend’s long run is 18 miles, all easy pace.  It’s been months since I’ve run that distance and I’m looking forward to stretching myself again and getting into the meat of marathon training.  The nice part of the Long, Slow, Distance run is that there is no pressure other than to keep moving forward.  No times to hit, no self-judgment, just keep going.  I know not all of my long runs coming up will be so gentle (some will be incredibly hard), so I’m going to simply enjoy it.

Have a great weekend!

 

Copycat GU Gels

Well, that didn’t take long.  I really didn’t want to make a gel out of maltodextrin.  Without really knowing much about it, maltodextrin just seems like a weird laboratory concoction that companies must use because it’s cheap or shelf-stable or something.  It can’t possibly be good for you and it’s about as far from a whole food as it gets.

So why did I change my mind?  Science.

20160810_163912

What in the world is maltodextrin anyway?  It’s a powder that is created from a starch (usually corn, but any starch can be used, like wheat or tapioca) by adding some acids and enzymes.  It is technically a complex carbohydrate, but it acts even faster than simple sugar in the body.  When you are exercising hard, you want the fastest fuel available (in other words, something with a super-high glycemic index) to get glucose to your muscles and maltodextrin is it.

For a really in-depth analysis of carbohydrates specifically for running, check out The Science of Energy Gels. I love this site!  Jonathan Savage has broken down exactly what the most popular and obscure gels are made of and what they do in the body.  One of the many eye-opening things I’ve learned is that the difference between complex and simple carbohydrates only refers to how heavy the molecule is, not how fast the carb hits the bloodstream.  Small molecules are simple and big molecules are complex.  But as Savage writes, “This division into simple and complex is unfortunately crap (biochemistry term meaning ‘not useful’).”  So simple carbs like fructose have a low glycemic index and are slow to digest while maltodextrin digests quickly.  And it’s even faster than pure glucose.

But speed of digestion is only part of the story.  Ever wondered why every commercial gel pack instructs you to drink water with it?  That’s because in order to process the carbohydrate, your body needs a certain amount of water and each type of carb requires a different amount.  Maltodextrin requires six times less water than glucose and frutose!

This is the part that convinced me to try it.

Why does the amount of water matter?  Obviously you are going to be drinking fluids during a marathon, so is this really even an issue?  YES!  A gel with 20 grams of maltodextrin (and nothing else) requires 2.2 ounces of water to become isotonic (fancy word for becoming the same concentration as your blood and therefore absorbable) and a gel made with fructose or glucose needs a whopping 12.8 ounces!  If you take 2 gels an hour, you’ll need to fill your stomach with 2 and a half pints of water, just to absorb the gel. If not, it will just sit in your stomach, probably causing all sorts of gastro issues.  Not to mention that means you need to stop 6 times an hour at water stations and drink the entire 4 ounce cup without spilling.  Yeah, right.

So why do I add fructose at all?  Since there are different pathways in the body to metabolize fructose, adding a little to either maltodextrin or glucose allows you to absorb more calories of carb per hour than either carb alone.  More calories per hour means more energy!  I’m willing to trade drinking a little extra water for more calories.

So where do you get maltodextrin?  You can buy an 8-pound tub on Amazon, which would make about 181 gels for $23.  I chose to go to my local homebrew supply store and buy 8 ounces for $1.50, just to be sure I liked it.  It works out to be about the same per pound, so I’ll support local.

Enough science!  Here’s the recipe for chocolate. Sub a teaspoon of lemon or lime juice for the vanilla and cocoa for a citrus flavor.  For peanut butter, swap the cocoa for 2 teaspoons of peanut butter powder like PB Fit.

Serves 1 gel

Copycat Chocolate GU Gel

5 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 20g (about 3 tablespoons) maltodextrin
  • 375mg (1/32 teaspoon) salt
  • 350mg (1/32 teaspoon) Morton's Lite Salt (optional, but good for potassium. Omit or sub salt if you don't care about it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cocoa
  • 7.5g (about 1.5 teaspoons) agave
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons water (you may prefer more or less, so add slowly!)

Instructions

  1. If you have a digital scale, it is much easier and more accurate to weigh the maltodextrin and agave rather than measure. Mix all the dry ingredients first then add the wet, going very slowly with the water. Maltodextrin becomes a liquid very easily (that's the point!), so add more or less water depending on your preference. Seal in a custom made FoodSaver bag or fill a gel flask.
Cuisine: Endurance Gel |

Notes

This gel requires about 10 ounces of water to become isotonic (absorbable). Use less agave if you want to drink less water. Calories: 99, Carbohydrate: 25.2g, Sodium: 233.5mg, Potassium 87.5

7.6.4
11
http://theplantedrunner.com/copycat-gu-gels/

 

 

Apple Pie Endurance Gel

Last weekend was my son’s seventh birthday.  Instead of a cake, he wanted apple pie.  So I found a recipe for mason jar hand pies and went to work.

20160723_163426

They turned out so cute and were so great for a party!  No plates or forks to deal with.  So yummy.  And with the leftovers, I crumbled a few into my homemade vanilla ice cream (coconut-milk based) and made apple pie ice cream. Dangerously good.

As I was making the apple pie filling, I thought, this would be so good as an endurance gel!  I couldn’t find anything online to use as a base recipe, so I made my own.  I think I have a new favorite!

Your body can only handle so much sugar during long distance running, but it has been shown that a 2:1 mix of glucose to fructose allows your body to absorb more than either source alone. Plain corn syrup (not high-fructose) is a cheap and easily available source.  Agave syrup is anywhere from 50-90% fructose (it’s hard to pin that number down since processing varies), so I like to use a mix of those syrups in my gels.  They both have a light texture that is easy to swallow on a run, rather than a thick, toothpasty feel that some commercial gels have.

Instead of chopping apples and boiling them down for syrup, I bought a can of frozen apple juice concentrate (55% fructose, 20% sucrose, 25% glucose) and it worked beautifully.  With the addition some salt for sodium and some cinnamon and ginger for flavor and potential anti-cramp powers, I had some seriously tasty fuel for pennies.  Because the apple juice concentrate has so much sugar, this gel has more calories than my usual recipe with the same volume, which I think is a good thing.  Less to carry!

20160726_151513

Serves 1 gel

Apple Pie Endurance Gel

5 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon frozen apple juice concentrate
  • 3 tablespoons pure corn syrup (Karo is a good brand)
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients well and pour into a gel flask (silicone travel bottles work great!) or into homemade FoodSaver bags.
  2. Store in freezer until ready to use.

Notes

Each gel contains 147 calories, 34 carbohydrates, and 173mg of sodium.

7.6.4
8
http://theplantedrunner.com/apple-pie-endurance-gel/

And the Winner Is…Richmond!

It’s official.  I’ve got my goal race!  Today was the final day to register before the price increase, so I signed up for the Richmond Marathon, 135 days away on November 12.  (I’m a sucker for a deadline to save $10!)

It looks like a beautiful course along the James River.  Not too flat, but not too hilly either.  Hopefully, my family can join me and we can make a little trip out of it.

Here’s the course video:  https://youtu.be/8YSQWjFP-W4

Let the training begin!

Missing the Marathon

I knew this was coming. As much as I’ve needed a break from training for a marathon, I’ve been searching online for my next one.  Here are the contenders:

Seven Bridges Marathon, Chattanooga, TN, October 16, 2016  Set in downtown Chattanooga, this course weaves over the Tennessee River.  There’s not a ton of elevation change, but there are a lot of turns, so perhaps not the fastest course, but it certainly looks beautiful! 3.5 hours away.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah, Savannah, GA, November  5, 2016  I have a friend in Savannah, so this could be a good option.  But reading the reviews and stories from last year, I’ve pretty much decided to skip this one.  It was hot for a marathon (humid and in the 70s) and they ended up running out of water and cancelling the race before it was over.  Many people didn’t get the chance to finish and two people died. Yeah, no. 4.5 hours away.

Anthem Richmond Marathon, Richmond, VA November 12, 2016  Billed as “America’s Friendliest Marathon”  Richmond is known as being a fast course, with close to 10% of the field qualifying for Boston.  It has a big purse for the winners so lots of elites show up, plus music and beautiful scenery on the course.  But it’s about a 5.5 hour drive for me, which could be a deal breaker.

Kiawah Island Marathon,  Kiawah Island, SC, December 10, 2016  This is a flat and fast course despite the number of turns.  If the weather is cool, this is an ideal race to PR.  But if it’s not, like last year’s race in the 70s, it could turn into a slog.  The best part of this race is that I already have a few friends signed up so carpooling and sharing accommodations make this a pretty attractive choice. 4.5 hours away, but with carpooling, no big deal.  Running this late in the fall would also allow me to race Shut In on November 5.

So about Shut In.  I missed racing Shut In last year because I had the flu.  I was well enough to cheer on the racers, but not enough to run.  I hated missing it and vowed that I’d be back this year.  But now I’m not so sure.  I’m torn because I’ve been off trails so much and I’m finding it hard to get into the trail mentality. I can get there, but something is pulling me back and I’m not sure what.  I was so excited about it last year.  Where has that enthusiasm gone?

I’ve talked to a few people about it and most think that I could race Shut In and still do well at Kiawah.  They are 5 weeks apart so I would have time to recover.  Sounds like a plan, right?

But then I talked to a running coach that I recently met who asked me about my goals and what I really want.  I told him I was still chasing a sub-three-hour marathon, but also wanted to run Shut In.  “Do you want to run a fast marathon?” he asked.  “Absolutely,” I said. “Then train for the marathon,” he answered.  “Shut In will always be there for you.  Your speed won’t.”

I instantly felt a sense of relief.  Yes, that makes sense.  I would love to run a great race at Shut In, but not as much as a faster marathon.  That’s it, I thought. No Shut In.

And then just to confuse me, he added, “I’ve trained people who’ve run both and they set PRs at Kiawah.”  Ahhh!  Why did he have to say that?!

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what other people say, even if they are amazing athletes and coaches who know far more than I do.  What matters is that I am excited and happy and feeling good about my choices so I can go into training 100%.  Trying to do well at a steep and technical trail race while I’m in marathon build up is not the right choice for me.  The other way around might not be so bad, so I could choose Chattanooga and still race Shut In, but that’s what I was trying to do with Chicago last year and I ended up getting sick, not uncommon after an intense effort like that.

So while I still plan to hit the trails more this summer, I will do it for the pure love of being in the woods and not with any goals in mind.

Unless someone talks me into it…