Things I’ve Learned from Marathon Training

Ok, so I’m only at the halfway point in my marathon training, but I think I’ve already learned some really valuable lessons from it. I was going to do this post right before I ran the marathon, but now is as good a time as any.

1.  Picking the Right Marathon

I picked the Savannah Rock n Roll as my first marathon for a few reasons.

  • I wanted it to be out of state so I had a change of scenery.
  • I wanted it to be in cool weather – so I chose a November race.
  • I wanted to run my first Rock n Roll race.

I met all my criteria; the problem is I didn’t realize at the time that I would need to train for a November race in the summer. The news often describes Florida weather as “dangerously hot.” Not ideal for training. Plus, it makes for some pretty craptacular runs that make you wonder if you can even finish a marathon in the first place. It was pretty dumb of me not to consider.

If I could do it all again, I would have picked a race in February so training could start in November.

2.  Picking the Right Training Schedule/Group

I chose a 3-day per week training schedule for a few reasons.

  • I wanted to do the least amount of running possible so it wouldn’t take away from my personal life too much.
  • I didn’t want to burn out during training.

While I love Marathonfest (the group I do my training runs with), they started training way to early. With Marathonfest, there is over 4 months of long runs each weekend. I’m half way through and I already feel like I’m ready for the race with one 20-mile run under my belt. Next time, I would only do 3 months of training. Maybe less.

3.  Running with Friends or a Group

I decided to join Marathonfest because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t do all my runs without some type of formal meet up. I love sleeping in and once it gets hot outside, I don’t want to leave the house. So, I’m really glad I joined this group. Before Marathonfest, I only ran on my own. Running with someone is so much better. I had no idea. Not only have I met some really awesome people, but it’s nice to be with others that are working toward the same goal. They encourage me to keep going when I don’t think I can and they tell me it’s ok to cut my long run short and try again next week if I’m really struggling.

Sometimes just knowing I will see my group every week is what helps get me out of bed at 3am when hubs is just going to bed after a fun night out.

4.  Being Committed

Marathon training takes away from your social life and other commitments. A lot. While I knew what I was getting into before I began, I didn’t realize how much it would suck. Hubs hangs out with our friends on Friday nights or does other fun things while I go to bed at 8pm. Then I get up at 3am to run while he’s just going to bed.  Unless your significant other is an understanding anomoly or lives in another town, just know that it will affect them as well. Not just you. You are taking time away from your family and friends, and chances are, they don’t like it and miss you.

If you cross-train (which you should), it takes extra time too because you need to work that into your schedule on top of your running. Most of the time, I feel like my schedule is all work, training runs, other workouts, and picking up around the house. I don’t have a lot of free time for relaxing.

5.  Gaining Weight

Running long distance does not mean you will lose weight. In fact, a lot of people gain weight during marathon training. Yes, you burn a lot of calories, but you also want to see how much is “all you can eat” at a buffet until they kick you out. I’m usually really hungry for two days after a long run. And that second day of hunger is a rest day where I’m not burning any calories.

Yes. Best to cut down on that parsley, fatty.

Of course, marathon training teaches you the importance of experimenting with running gear and fuel and a bunch of other things that I think half marathon training will teach you. But I’ve found these 5 things to be unique to marathon training.

Did I leave anything off the list? What have you learned from marathon training?

Tips for Running with a Pace Group

A few months ago, I started running with my first running group. The group that I’m a part of has many different groups that are divided up according to your expected race finish time.

Because there are so many people in my expected finish time (4:30 – 5:00), there are several different groups that are training at my target pace. So far I’ve run with three of them. One of the groups is large (about 40 people), one is approximately 15 people, and the smallest group has 4 people. This is what I’ve learned from all of those groups.

1.  Show up on time

Pace groups leave right at their scheduled time, so show up 15 minutes early so you are warmed up and ready to run on time. If you’re late and the group has already left, chances you’ll catch up to them are slim.

2.  Run against traffic and always yield to traffic

You need to be able to see the traffic coming so you can react. Don’t expect cars to look out for you on the road. Cars and bikes have the right of way. Move out of the way for them or allow them to pass. Also, wait for walk signals at traffic lights. Oftentimes you’ll find that cars will stop for you, but don’t expect that they will.

You think you’re so smart.

3.  Tell someone else in the group or a group leader if your going to use the bathroom

Someone will wait for you so you don’t have to run alone. Oftentimes the running route is different depending on your distance, so you don’t want to be left behind and get lost.

4.  Leave your headphones at home

You might think you need them and some people in running groups do listen to music, but your run goes so much faster without it because you have people to talk to. Even if you don’t like to chat while you run, it’s fun to listen to everyone else’s conversation and it makes those long runs go by much faster. Also, no headphones means your more aware of what’s happening around you.


5.  Bring a light that makes you visible in the dark

A lot of pace groups start long runs early in the morning and not all areas will be lit. Make sure to bring a headlamp, glow stick, or another type of light that makes you visible to others. I have run directly at someone on the sidewalk before and not seen them until it was too late.

Why? Why are bunnies so rude?

Also, anything that helps light your path is beneficial. Tripping on a curb at mile 5 of 10 is never fun when you have to limp a few miles back to your car. Plus, you don’t want to risk injury. You’re already doing that by running high mileage anyway.

6.  Learn the route

This isn’t always possible if your group changes the route often, but you want to pay attention to street signs and landmarks. I got completely lost from my running group when the faster runners were in front of me and the slower runners stopped for someone going to the restroom. I had no idea where I was. Luckily I found a random runner and decided to follow him, which lead me back to my group.

Do you have any tips I forgot about?

Oh, and thanks to Michelle for inspiring this post. Smile

The Motivation Post

Every now and then, I’ll get a comment from someone about how motivated I am when it comes to working out. But the thing is, I don’t necessarily feel motivated. I just feel like it’s part of my every day life – kinda like my addiction to TV, bad jokes, and thought bubbles.

Basically, I do it because it makes me feel good, so I don’t think about it much – until now. So, here are the things that keep me motivated enough that I don’t have to think about motivation.

1. Scheduling Workouts

At the end of each month, I schedule my workouts for the coming month with my personal trainer. I make sure to schedule them around my marathon training and around any plans I may already have set.

I pay for all the sessions up front, so they are set in stone unless there is some type of unforeseen circumstance. There are times when a scheduled work out rolls around and I don’t want to do it. But that’s why I have a schedule to begin with. So I’m kept accountable and I show up.

Oh, and I don’t view a last minute happy hour as an unforeseen circumstance. I schedule all my social activities that arise later on around my workouts.

2. Working Out with a Friend

There’s a reason I work out with personal trainers. There is NO WAY I would do weight training on my own. I could run all day long by myself, but when it comes to weights, if someone isn’t there making me do it…I won’t.

If you can’t afford a personal trainer, find a friend. They keep you accountable and more likely to stick to your schedule. I used to get frustrated by all the money I put toward personal training each month. But then I discovered it’s a big part of my motivation. It’s for my health and that’s never a bad thing. Plus, this money used to go to dive bars every weekend not so long ago. I’d rather that money go toward improving how I look and feel about myself than to a bunch of drinks that will make me gain weight.

3. Surrounding Yourself with Like-minded People

I like being around other people that are active. Working out with my hubs is 100 times better than working out by myself. Running a race with a friend is so much more fun than running a race without one. And meeting my running group at 5am on Saturday morning to run 15 miles is way better than running 15 miles by myself just so I can sleep in.

People who have the same interests keep you motivated.

4. I’ll Never Forget I Used to Look Like This

I won’t lie. It scares the crap out of me to ever look like this again. Mostly the hair. And that tank top. Oh yeah, the weight too.

Get a crappy picture of yourself and post it on the fridge for some motivation to pass up that late night ice cream. (Psst…Hi Lisa!)

5. Reading Success Stories

One thing I like to do is browse the Health page on MSN. They always have success stories. I love the before and after ones where someone has totally overhauled their life and lost a ton of weight. If that person can lose 100 lbs, I can get my ass off the couch and do something active for 30 minutes a day.

5. Getting Compliments and Seeing Results

When I first joined Weight Watchers and lost 26lbs, I couldn’t believe how many people complimented me. It made me want to keep doing what I was doing. It felt great. Once those compliments start coming in, be it for weight loss, or finally doing your first non-girly push-up, it keeps you going.

6. Keeping a Routine

The more I work out, the more I want to work out. Getting into a workout routine is amazing like that. Even on vacation, I try to plan workouts because I feel so much better when I do.

In the past, when I’ve taken a few weeks off from working out, I have no desire to get back into it. If any of you out there are in a workout rut where you just can’t get back on the wagon, set a workout schedule for 2 weeks. Make sure it’s one that works for you and your current schedule. If you don’t normally get up and work out in the morning, you’re not going to magically start loving it.

Set a schedule for whatever activity you like that you can stick to for two weeks, and after those two weeks, you will feel motivated to do more. It always works for me.

7. Buying Something New

Everyone has bad days. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and think everything in my closet looks terrible on me and I feel like a cow. Some days you eat more than you want to and the scale isn’t where you want it to be. Well, that happens to everyone and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. When those days are at their worst for me, I do my hair like I’m going out on a Friday night – even if I’m staying in the house. Good hair always makes me feel better even if my muffin top is covering my belt that day.

Another thing that helps me is buying a new shirt. Wearing something new always makes me feel better. (Note: This does not work for pants. Get the SHIRT.)  For everyone that says they can’t afford new clothes, there’s a cute $4.99 shirt at Ross waiting for you.

Not that Ross.

8. Getting Off the Couch

Stop sitting on the couch and feeling sorry for yourself. Do something active. It’s not too late. Vacuum, stretch, walk around your neighborhood, go for a run, jog in place, do some jumping jacks, ride a bike, go to spin class, do sit ups during commercials,  see how many lunges you can do in a minute. Do something. If my 73 year old mom can walk around downtown San Diego with me for 8 hours, you can get off the couch.

(Oh, and isn’t my niece adorable? Yep. She is.)

What are your motivation tips?

Do’s and Don’ts of Running a Half Marathon

Now that I recently started marathon training, I wanted to reflect on all that I’ve learned from the nine half marathons I ran last season. I know a lot of you are better experts than me at racing, so this may be old news for you. If not, this is what I have learned so far.

DO: Go to bed early the night before.
DON’T: Get 5 hours of sleep because you’re running around trying to get your gear ready at the last minute. Or because you just discovered Sleep Number beds.

Lesson Learned: Chances are you’re going to be anticipating the morning, which means tossing and turning for awhile (at least for me). That 5 hours of sleep can easily turn into 4 or less and you want to feel your best in the morning.

DO: Test your fuel before the race.
DON’T: Eat or drink something new during a race.

Lesson Learned: I knew this and didn’t listen. I took my first (and second) Gu during my first half marathon only to have stomach issues during the race and find myself so nauseous after the race that I couldn’t walk for two hours.

Yes we do.

DO: Wear clothes you have ran in before (especially shoes).

Wear that cute new running skirt for the first time that you bought just for the race.

Lesson Learned: Just because you look cute in a running skirt doesn’t mean your thighs don’t still rub together. Luckily this was a 5k and not a half marathon, but I still had a rash afterwards. Now I don’t wear that skirt at all.

DO: Hydrate for a full week before your race.
DON’T: Try to suck down as much water as you can the day before the race.

Lesson Learned: I didn’t know this for a long time and only hydrated the day before. I can tell a big difference. I don’t feel thirsty during a race when I hydrate all week. If I just hydrate the day before, I’m dying by mile 2.

DO: Lay your running gear out a day before your race.
DON’T: Get your running gear ready the morning of the race.

Lesson Learned: I think this is the only one I’m really good at sticking to. This ensures you don’t forget anything. Instead you can leave your iPod in the car like I do. Leaving it in the car in the morning will make you way more irritated than if you just left it home to begin with.

DO: Wake up early to eat breakfast.
DON’T: Eat too close to the race start time.

Lesson Learned: I still don’t give this the amount of time I should. It’s important to allow your breakfast to digest and let nature take it’s course. In the words of Dan, Michelle‘s husband, “you can’t PR if you don’t PRP.”  (PRP = Pre-race Poop. Thanks for that Dan. So glad that phrase will be in my head for the

Also, it’s easy to get stomach cramps and feel sluggish if you eat too soon before a race.

DO: Eat a meal the night before the race that you have eaten before.

DON’T: Eat a greasy burger and fries because it’s carb loading and they have more carbs than what you normally eat.

Lesson Learned: That hamburger was before the Gasparilla Half Marathon. I made close friends with TWO port-o-potties during the race. The grilled chicken and potato were before the Iron Girl half marathon and I had no stomach problems. I’ve learned that major carb loading  just doesn’t work for me. I have to eat what is normal for me and that doesn’t involve overloading on carbs.

DO: Eat a race day breakfast that has worked for you in the past.
DON’T: Eat peanut butter toast with a banana because all your favorite bloggers eat that and it works for them.

Lesson Learned: Peanut butter gives me gas.

DO: Start running conservatively.
DON’T: Feel like you need to keep up with every runner that is speeding by you at the beginning of the race.

Lesson Learned: The start of a race is when your energy is highest. You’ll want to pass all the people just to get out of the crowd. Try to avoid this if you can because more than likely you’ll burn out. And let your friends take stupid pictures.

DO: Hydrate before you feel thirsty. Fuel before you feel hungry.
DON’T: Wait until you feel hungry or thirsty. By then you are already dehydrated and undernourished.

Lesson Learned: I don’t have any problems with the hydrating. I need my Camelbak during a race because the water stations are never enough. I’m still learning this fueling thing. I know when I need to eat, I’m just too scared to do it. Running and eating and Paula do not get along. Usually I can handle really small things like sports beans.

DO: Stay Positive.
DON’T: Worry about the what-ifs.

Lesson Learned: I have a really hard time staying positive. I’m constantly worrying about my stomach issues and a slew of other issues (a slew!). I do know that during the one race where I kept repeating positive thoughts in my head, I PRed by 2 minutes, even with stomach issues that started at mile 8.

Did I miss anything? What are your do’s and don’ts for a first half marathon?

How to Know When to Stop Running

As runners, we often push ourselves through discomfort to get through a run. But lately, I’ve been thinking about when it’s right to ignore the discomfort and when it’s time to throw in the towel.

Last week, my friend was telling me about her friend’s husband that had a heart attack while running. It took 10 minutes for someone to find him and get help. He didn’t make it. He was 37.

I saw 2 girls passed out in the middle of the Gasparilla Half Marathon last week with medical personnel surrounding them. And even I felt like crap during that race, but kept going till the end.

I found an article on when to stop running, and I thought it would be good to share. This is taken from Runner’s World:

Discomfort in the Upper Body
The symptoms of a heart attack can be subtle (an ache or feeling of pressure in the chest, arms, neck, and jaw), and they won’t necessarily drop you to your knees. Don’t assume it’s heartburn. Seek immediate medical attention.

Faintness, Lightheadedness, Nausea
Take a time-out and reassess the situation. It might be that you skipped breakfast, or it could be something more serious like a heat-related illness. Cut your workout short. If you don’t feel better after resting and eating, see your doctor.

Shortness of Breath
If you are wheezing or if you have trouble catching your breath within five minutes, take a break. Pay particular attention to whether you are using ancillary muscles–lifting your shoulders to try and increase capacity, forcing air into your lungs. If the symptoms persist after five minutes of rest, seek immediate medical attention.

Pain in Joints
Expect muscle aches as you challenge yourself, but never accept pain in joints during or after exercise. This can lead to serious injuries of bones, tendons, and ligaments. See your doctor.

Unspecified Pain
Pain is your body’s way of identifying an injury and wrenching you away from the stressor to protect you from further harm. To run through it, you’re going to have to override your body’s natural instincts to protect itself, which isn’t smart. Pain is injury. See your doctor.

These all say to see your doctor which I’m sure isn’t always necessary if you have one of these symptoms, but I think it’s good to at least know what to look out for and to remember your health is more important than finishing a race.