Staying Motivated in Freezing Weather

We’re in the middle of a freezing cold streak here in Jersey. That, on top of having absolutely nothing to train for, has left me pretty uninspired when it comes to running. Waking up at 6:30 and seeing that it’s 20 degrees out is pretty unappealing. This weekend, I’ll be out in PA, where it will be even COLDER. I was hoping I’d be able to get a trail run in, but I don’t think it’ll happen if the temperature doesn’t break 20.

I was getting back into a decent rhythm last week, but this chill really has me bummed. Winter definitely doesn’t want to leave going unnoticed this year. It’s been pretty mild this year, other than that whole record breaking blizzard thing, and I’ve been getting out there more than I usually do over the Winter. I’m kind of a wuss, so getting me out in the cold is tough. And even when I do get out there, I can usually only stand 3-4 miles.

Winter is definitely the toughest time of the year for me when it comes to running. It’s dark earlier, gets light out later, I’m less motivated, and it’s COLD. I also have less energy than normal, probably because I’m not out in the sun and all I want to do it crawl into a ball under a blanket.

But I try to remember what it feels like once I get outside and start. The chill is really refreshing, and I always feel more accomplished after a cold morning run than after any other type of run. It’s really a beautiful time of year for running. The air feels fresh and clean, and there are way less people out and about.

When I wake up at 6:30 and it’s warm under the covers and I’m comfy in bed, I remember how I feel after a brisk morning run and that’s motivation enough to get myself out of bed–well–about 1/3 of the time, anyway!

RWF–Running While Female

Just about 2 months ago, my fiancé and I moved to a new neighborhood in Jersey City. We went from living downtown in the “happening” area to a more “up and coming” area because we went from renting to buying. It’s a neighborhood we’re still learning a lot about, but I do know a few things–I’ve never felt unsafe walking around or going for a run by myself, a lot of families live there, and it has a TON of potential. Up until this morning, I’ve been nothing but overwhelmingly happy and excited about our decision.

One of my big concerns was finding a new running route. I had a really good one in my old neighborhood, and I like consistency during the week when I need to get in a few miles and then get to work on time. Within a couple days of moving, I found a great new route around a reservoir and a park. It’s hard in cities, finding a good route that minimizes the number of streets you have to cross. I hate getting interrupted by traffic lights, so I liked that a full lap of the reservoir and park meant a whole mile of uninterrupted running. Two months in, and I’ve gotten very comfortable with the route. I even run into a few “regular” people that I see quite often along it each morning.

Today, I woke up for my run at my normal time and headed out. It was like any normal run, except I’ve been incorporating some quick sprints lately in between jogging to get my speed up, but that’s a post for another day.

Anyway, toward the end of my run, as I was finishing up my last lap around the park, I ran into a man walking toward me who had his phone camera out, pointing at me and having it follow along as I ran by him, presumably recording me as I ran. He was also waving at me, fully acknowledging what he was doing. I was immediately taken aback–confused. Then, I was angry. What nerve! I approached him. I told him he had no right to do what he was doing. I told him he was being a complete creep. I cursed a little in between. He looked completely perplexed as I ran away. I felt completely violated.

I know it was a bit of an emotional reaction and probably not the safest thing I’ve ever done. If I thought about it for a minute longer before reacting, I probably wouldn’t have done it, and I’d never do it again because I know that you can’t control how someone is going to react. It’s hard, though, to justify letting him get away with this. Is this something he does often and gets away with? Does no one ever speak up? Does he think what he does is ok? Does he win if I start to change my running path to avoid him now? I feel like I have no control now. I don’t feel safe running in my own neighborhood. I don’t want to alter my behavior but now I feel like I have to run somewhere else.

It’s hard being a woman. Seriously. Women get objectified on a daily basis. I was literally just running in my neighborhood, on a chilly, rainy morning bundled up in pants and a long sleeved shirt (though I should be able to wear shorts and a tank top and also not feel like I’m asking to be objectified by anyone) minding my own business and I was harassed by some ignorant moron. And what can I do about it? I don’t think he technically did anything illegal, but I feel violated all the same. What can we do, as women, to feel safe and also not violated without having to put ourselves in danger by speaking up? What a conundrum.

I’m still pretty down about it, and I don’t know where to go from here. What am I going to do tomorrow morning? I don’t want to give up the thing I love because of one idiot and I don’t want to have to change my routine to avoid him, but I’m extremely nervous to go running there again.

Our neighborhood is safe, and I love our neighborhood. I hate him for making me feel like I’m not safe and that my neighborhood is somehow betraying me. I know it can happen anywhere too, which is the scariest part. Has anyone else run into a similar situation? How did you deal with it?

The NYC Marathon

I did it! I’ve officially finished a marathon–and arguably the biggest, most popular marathon in the world, the NYC Marathon. It was a crazy experience from beginning to end. I finished in 5:09:14. I was really aiming for under 5 hours but I’m happy just to have finished, considering this is my first marathon. I also thought this would likely be a “bucket list” type of thing that I would never do again–but now I’m really thinking my first will not be my last. So I’m SURE I’ll eventually get in under 5 hours!

The Ferry
The SI Ferry was insane. My assigned time was 8 am, but people really show up whenever they feel like like it because the ferry is free and open to the public. So a lot of people with earlier times came later and created a HUGE backup. I was lucky enough to sneak in onto the 8 am with a bit of luck and knowhow since I’ve taken the ferry in the past.

The SI Ferry Terminal
My start time was 11 am and I got to SI Ferry Terminal around 8:30. Knowing I had plenty of time, I followed numerous other runners in waiting in the warm terminal rather than the start village. I grabbed a bottle of water and sat down, mentally preparing for the day. Then, I decided I’d get into the ladies room like (here was my biggest mistake) thinking I’d prefer that over a port a potty later on. However, the line took FOREVER and right when I got near the front people started warning us the last shuttle over to the start would leave at 9:40. I decided to give up my much coveted spot in line so I could grab a shuttle. I got outside and quickly realized it wouldn’t be so easy to just grab a shuttle. There were THOUSANDS of people backed up in a line waiting for shuttles. It ended up taking at least 15 minutes to catch one. So pro tip to anyone running the NYC Marathon in the future–get on a shuttle ASAP after you get off the ferry. It’ll take a WHILE. The shuttle was at least 25 minutes to the start area.

The Start
I got off the shuttle, quickly found a port a potty (toilet paper was long gone–always bring toilet paper), and went over to my start village area. By the time all was said and done, it was around 10:30! I got into my corral after the 10:40 wave went and threw my layers in donation bins (luckily it was already about 60 degrees out and I didn’t need anything more than my shorts and t-shirt). I really had no down time to hang out in the start village. I feel like I JUST made it to the start on time and I left my apartment that morning at 6:50 am. Crazy!

The Start

The Start

The Verrazano
It’s so crowded when you first start, you really can’t run the pace you want to. Some people were walking to save energy since running was almost as slow as walking. My first mile was probably like 14 min–which honestly was probably a good thing. The Verrazano is a pretty big hill. I was too busy taking the race in to really get any good photos, but here’s what I did get

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Brooklyn
Brooklyn was nice and flat–thank goodness. I really made some decent time in Brooklyn, and I saw a couple friends/coworkers along the way that I didn’t expect to see, which was nice. My fiancé, friends, and family were posted up around mile 12 and I was very happy to see them when I did. Brooklyn was the only spot where I played my music actually. It gets a little quiet in a couple sections, and I was still a little nervous, so it helped calm my nerves. I turn my music off right before mile 12 so I could fine Sean and crew more easily and I never turned it back on!

Queens
Queens was short-lived, but I’ll never forget that bridge! The Queensboro bridge is evil–EVIL. A very very mean parting gift from the people of Queens. It’s right around mile 15 and that hill is VERY unwelcome. It’s not the steepest hill ever, but it lasts what feels like forever. You can’t see the end, and you just keep thinking this HAS to be it. It’s probably at least 3/4 of a mile. Any the bridge doesn’t have any spectators helping you along. Beautiful views, but definitely the worst part for me. I think it really took a lot out of me.

First Ave
What everyone says is true–the crowds here are crazy! So loud, so amazing. Definitely not a place to turn on music. I took it all in–it was a little overwhelming, but it gave me the energy I needed to keep going. It’s also a very long, slight uphill so it’s smart to take it a little slower. Throughout the course, I opted to use my own water bottle–I brought a handheld with me–but I was running out. I knew I was going to Sean and my family and friends at mile 18 again, so when I did I handed Sean my bottle and asked him to refill it for me. I knew I’d see him again at mile 23. This is why it’s SO important to know your friends’ plans on where they will be meeting you throughout the race. From miles 18-23 I just used the aid stations knowing I’d see Sean again at 23.

The Bronx
Let me tell you–don’t take the Willis Ave Bridge lightly. It’s a smaller hill, but after dealing with Queenboro and First Ave, it’s still an unwelcome hill, especially since you’re getting up there in mileage by that time. The Bronx was short-lived but FULL of energy. A really cool vibe up there. Unfortunately, I was starting to tire QUICKLY up there. This is also where I witnessed my WORST experience of the race. I saw a girl with a knee brace just collapse onto the ground and scream out in pain. To get so far and have that happen–I couldn’t even imagine. I couldn’t stop short to help her (other people behind me were able to) and someone else told cops to get medical aid for her, so there was nothing I could really do except send some good vibes and hope that she was able to at least get some medical help and finish the race by walking the last 6-ish miles. I really hope she did!

Back into Manhattan
Once I left the Bronx and got back into Manhattan, I was in uncharted territory. My training plan only had be go up to 20 miles, so once I was beyond that I didn’t know how I’d react. At around mile 22.5 I felt like I couldn’t run anymore. I saw the 5 hour pace group fly past me and I knew I wouldn’t be able to catch them. That’s when I decided it wasn’t worth continuing to run. I was hurting and I just NEEDED a break. I figured I’d walk for like 1/4 of a mile and then start up again to meet Sean and company at mile 23. Wrong I was. Once I stopped, I felt EVERYTHING. My body felt like it was breaking down. I had some lower back pain leading up to the race that I felt shooting down my whole leg once I stopped. For a brief moment I felt like I didn’t even have any legs. My feet were so sore, my muscles were revolting. Once I was walking, so many spectators I passed were so sweet “Come on Nicole you’ve got this”, “Looking strong Nicole, just a few more miles”. I texted Sean and told him I was in pain and walking. Everyone got worried. I found them at mile 23.5, stopped, talked to them, stretched, grabbed my water. I wasn’t sure of my game plan, but having everyone pulling for me was so helpful. It really gave me the motivation I needed to finish. I knew the sooner I finished, the sooner I’d be able to go meet up with them and EAT. Haha. I was in the middle of the TERRIBLE mile 23 hill, so I continued on, walking up that. Once I got to the top, I started running again and didn’t look back. It was the hardest 2.5 miles of my life, but I finished strong, running through the finish. At the end, I wanted to cry, and I almost did. It was a really emotional experience. I was so thankful to have so many of my friends and family there pushing me through the finish.

Finisher!

Finisher!

At the finish, everyone was walking around like a bunch of zombies. I totally understood why. My legs were revolting against me. I couldn’t believe the incredible pain I felt. All I wanted was a seat and some Advil, but I had to get through the finish area, get my poncho, and find my family in the masses. Once I found them we pushed through the crowds to take a subway downtown and avoid the uptown craziness. There, we grabbed some AMAZING pizza at Kesté–highly recommended (although the staff will push you out at the end to seat more people–which was pretty rude).

The Day After
I’ve never felt the kind of sore I felt yesterday. I am SO GLAD I took two days off of work. I couldn’t even imagine having to go up and down all the subway stairs on my commute to work. My quads were (and still are) in so much pain, getting up and sitting down are practically impossible. Going up and down stairs is SO hard. Even just walking–I’m limping around like an old woman. Feeling a bit better today after 2 baths with epsom salts and a bunch of BenGay and Tiger Balm.

Would I do anything differently? I’d probably train up to 22 miles next time, and I’d do more hill training. I’d probably add in more “hard” sprint workouts since I really didn’t do any of that. I was focused on just getting comfortable with the high mileage this time around.

So would I do it again? Hell yea–but not next year. I’m getting married next year, and I’m in 2 weddings (the maid of honor in one). I don’t think I have the time to dedicate to all the training I’d need to do next year, and I want to maintain some level of sanity leading up to my own wedding.

But I’ll keep this blog up of course, and likely do a bunch of half marathons which require a lot less training. I’m looking to keep a solid 10 mile base over the winter.

Thanks NYC!

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20 Miles and Tapering

Last Saturday was my peak training run, and the first time I’ve ever run 20 miles. Since moving to The Heights, I’ve been able to take advantage of some good elevation changes while running. I planned it out so I’d hit a really big hill around the 16 mile mark. I was a little nervous about it, knowing that most of my training has been pretty flat, but I knew that it would be a HUGE confidence booster if I could do it. One of my biggest fears going into Marathon day is how I’m going to handle the hills on the bridges. I’m happy to say, even 16 miles in, I was able to conquer that hill without issue. All in all, it was a pretty good run. I finished in just under 4 hours and I felt pretty good after….just really sore ankles and knees. Assuming I’ll run a bit faster during the Marathon, I’m really hoping to get in under the 5 hours mark. It’s not a lofty goal, but it’s my first marathon so I’ll really just be happy if I’m able to finish without hurting myself!

This weekend I was supposed to run 12 as part of my taper. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t in the cards for me. Sean and I recently got engaged (yay!!) and we spent the weekend looking at venues and worrying about furnishing our new home. I just couldn’t bring myself to get up early to run before venue shopping. I haven’t been getting the best sleep lately (likely due to all the stress of having to do a million things) and I needed to take it easy. I’ve also been feeling pretty sick and the last thing I want is to make it worse 2 weeks out from Nov 1. This morning, I just wasn’t feeling it. I was starting to burn out pretty hard a few weeks out from my 20 miler, and I really just felt like I needed a break. That, and I hurt my neck on Friday morning during a 5 mile run. Instead of the 12 miles, I ran 2 with Sean on a pretty tough course that goes up a VERY steep hill. I felt like my breathing recovered really well after the hill, so I was happy with the effort I put in even though I couldn’t do 12 today. Tomorrow would usually be my rest day, but I’ll probably get in a couple miles before work to make up for this weekend. I’m not too stressed about it. I have my base and I’m ready to go. If I can add on some extra miles this week, and maybe do 10 instead of 8 this coming weekend, I think I’ll be set!

I just got my bib # and start time from NYRR this week. I’ll be starting at 11 am (and hopefully done by 4 pm haha). In just 2 short weeks I’ll be running in the NYC Marathon!

One month out and I’m feeling the pressure!

Yesterday marked the official 1 month countdown until the marathon. I really felt like that was an enormous milestone, but i was just too busy to even have a moment to myself yesterday. We’re in the middle of moving, and this week has been a challenge. I had a 12 mile run scheduled for tomorrow, but knowing that we had to wake up early and move the remaining things out of our apartment tomorrow and move into our friend’s for the night (until we can get into our new apartment on Sunday) I just felt like it would be impossible. That and impending hurricane “doom” (that has now been squashed) forced me to change that run to BEFORE work on Thursday.

Let me tell you–when you work all day and come home to packing and moving boxes out of your current apartment and into your new apartment every night, your body is shot. I’ve never felt this kind of exhaustion before. And then after moving a bunch of heavy crap all night I decide to wake up at 5:30 am for a nice 12 mile run before heading into the office (and then coming home to move MORE crap). What is wrong with me? I don’t think I’ve ever been as dedicated to anything before!

Buuuuut it’s almost over. Next Saturday will be my peak mileage at 20–and from there I start to taper. I’m excited for the taper period because I think my body really needs to recover before Nov 1. My knees in particular have been feeling pretty sore lately. Over the next month I’m hoping to focus more on yoga and swimming because yoga will help stretch me out and swimming is much lower impact than running.

The view from Jersey City during my 18 miles run a couple weekends ago

The view from Jersey City during my 18 mile run a couple weekends ago

Three things that have me a little nervous–first, I’ve only trained on hills a handful of times this year. Second, I feel like the jump from 20 to 26.2 is HUGE. Last weekend when I finished my 19 mile run and I started to walk, I hardly noticed a difference in speed haha. I was pretty wrecked. I know I know…race day adrenaline. But honestly whenever I’ve trained for half marathons in the past I always trained up to 10 miles and relied on adrenaline for the last 3.1 and I can safely say I always felt a pretty big difference between 10 and 13.1. Third, I’ve been training SLOW. Part of my thinks my GPS watch doesn’t work well in my area because when I train in Central Park I’m at least a full minute per mile faster than when I train in my neighborhood. Maybe that’s a good thing–maybe I’m putting in way more miles than I even think I am! After the marathon I’ll loop back and reflect on how prepared I think I was. It’s a little too late to change much, so I’m hoping all the miles and workouts I’ve put in pay off!

When Life Gets in the Way of Training

The weather’s changing so I’m feeling a cold coming on. I’ve been training 5-6 days a week for 14 (or more) weeks. I’m planning a major move that will leave me and my boyfriend and the kitties (and all our stuff) temporarily without a home for a day/night. I’m exhausted.

But I’m still waking up every morning and doing SOMETHING.

In the beginning of this training plan, I mapped out my goals. The plan actually calls for 2 days of rest a week, but my goal was 1. I built that in with the caveat that if I’m having a rough week I can still take 2 days off. I needed that more than ever last week.

Last week’s training culminated in a 13 mile (recovery week) trail run because I was out at my boyfriend’s parents’ house getting some moving logistics taken care of. I don’t do a lot of trail runs…and I never wear my glasses when I run. Needless to say, 2 miles in I tripped over a really sneaky rock and fell. I finished the run but it wasn’t easy. Usually, the day after my long run I’ll take a nice easy 4-5 mile run. I elected to skip on Sunday, and let me tell you, it felt great. I NEEDED that day off.

As I sit here with my lentil soup, next to my Throat Comfort Yogi Tea and my honey, lemon, and ginger, planning out our move, I am anticipating an ugly week ahead. Moving in a week and a half and dealing with closing and money and moving out on day and moving in the next–on top of a possible cold–it’s all pretty stressful.

But I still wake up and run. And hopefully I will next week too. Maybe getting a cold now is a blessing because I’ll get it out of the way for the fall season before Nov. 1.

Life happens and you get sick and you get busy. It’s important to build in at least 1 optional rest day into your training. Mentally I see it like this–every week that I’m able to get 6 workouts in is a huge win because it’s more than what my plan calls for. Every week that I need to take an extra day feels great and I don’t feel guilty for skipping a day.

Aches and Pains and Running 43 Miles in a Week

The Marathon is less than 2 months away and I’m about 3 weeks out from my last serious long run (20 miles). Yesterday, I ran 18 miles and the weekend before I ran 17. I ran 43 miles this week. The difference between 17 and 18 seemed significant, but it could have just been the difference in weather and the fact that I really needed new sneakers (my current ones have about 350 miles on them right now).

When I finished the 17 miler, I felt pretty good. When I finished the 18 miler, my calves, ankles, and knees were really sore and my legs felt like jelly. It wasn’t a bad run, but it was pretty slow. I’m ok with that though. The long runs should be slow. I don’t want to hurt myself. It’s a really strange feeling getting to 9 miles and turning around as the halfway point. I didn’t feel weak or tired during the run, but felt a little woozy immediately after until I ate. I feel pretty good today, though–and I’m really happy it’s a rest day. Funny enough, the sorest part of me is my arms…probably from carrying my water bottle for 18 miles.

My office is closed today for Rosh Hashanah, so I was able to finally get myself over to Hoboken Fleet Feet (I love Fleet Feet) and buy a new pair of sneakers. I’m a Brooks person, and I stick to the Ghosts right now (I might explore different lighter models eventually but I want to stay consistent for the Marathon). I bought a new pair back in the middle of June…I’m a size 8 in regular shoes but usually do an 8 1/2 in running sneakers. Back in June, the guy in the running store thought I could benefit from a size 9 but they felt a little big and clown-like to me at the time. Fast forward to Sept and I’ve had a bunch of bruised toenails from my long runs over the summer. They don’t feel great and I’d like to prevent getting more. I was more willing to give size 9 a shot today, so I brought my orthotic to try with the shoes. They felt pretty good, so I’m going to run in them tomorrow (5 miles) and see how it goes. From everything I’ve heard, you really need a bunch of room to let your toes spread out in the toe box. If you’re getting a bunch of bruised toes when you’re running, there’s likely a problem. These will be my Marathon sneakers, so it’s pretty exciting!

What does your training schedule look like?

For the past 11 weeks, I’ve been running 4-5 times a week (usually 5), cross training one day, and resting one day. Before that, I was slowly building up to a comfortable 8 miles. The Hal Higdon Novice 2 plan that I’m (loosely) following has the first long run at 8 miles, so I figured I should build up to 8 and be very comfortable running 8 before starting my program. I usually add in an extra day of running to my week, as the program I follow has 2 rest days. If I need the 2nd rest day, I take it.

I spent a lot of time deciding what my cross training would be. I have been running for probably 5 years now, and doing not much else. Every once in a while I’ll dabble in spin or yoga or I’ll get to a gym and lift some light weights. I’ve never had a strong core, but I’ve always wished that I did. I ended up going with spin on my first week of the program, mostly because there’s a studio a block from my apartment and it’s reasonably priced. I also wanted something more cardio than strength. When I made that decision, I had no clue the amazing gem of a spin studio I had stumbled upon. I got to my first class and realized these bikes were like no other spin bikes I had ever seen. They’re called Real Ryders–they are on a hinge so that you can “turn” left and right by engaging your core. In the standing positions, you have to engage your core just to keep the bike steady. You get a total body workout this way. After my first class, I was toast. I came back to the apartment drenched in sweat and Sean thought I was the grossest. Not really, but kind of. It is SUCH an amazing workout. I’ve been going once or twice a week ever since and I can really feel the difference in my core. I don’t think I could ever take another spin class on a bike that isn’t a Real Ryder. I feel like I work three times harder on it versus a traditional spin bike.

Within the next month, I’ll be moving to a new neighborhood in Jersey City so the studio won’t be as close. That coupled with the fact that they recently significantly raised their prices if you’re not a monthly member has me looking for a new cross training routine. My new neighborhood has a community pool and a reasonably priced yoga studio, so I’ll probably swim laps some weeks and do yoga other weeks.

Cross training is probably one of my favorite parts of the week (other than my rest day of course). I love running, but 5 days a week gets really tedious…especially now that my long runs are 15, 16, 17+ miles. It’s also really important because it helps me build up my extremely pathetic core strength.

50 more days to go…this is getting real!

Since you’re training for a marathon, are you losing a ton of weight?

When you run an average of 35-45+ miles a week, people probably expect that you’ll lose a TON of weight. If weight loss is your primary goal, training for a marathon probably isn’t the best method. That amount of exercise will destroy calories, absolutely. However, calories are energy and energy is what you need to complete a 10-20+ mile long run–so you need to eat, and you need to eat a LOT.

I’ve never exercised this much or this consistently in my life–even before my NYC Half PR a few years ago my longest run leading up to the event was 10 miles. Not only am I running 40-ish miles a week (I’m up to 17 miles for my long run), I’m spending at least one day a week cross training. With the amount of calories I’m zapping, my body is BEGGING me to replace them. After a long run, I’ll immediately replace calories with coconut water or a smoothie before I eat my first meal of the day. On a good day, I’m hungry every couple of hours–but I typically find myself hungry again an hour after I eat. I find myself eating constantly, and needing to consume larger meals, and snack frequently in between meals. I find myself seeking out the most filling foods (which also happen to be pretty calorically dense)–beans, hummus, carbs. My appetite is a result of my body needing to replace the calories I burn working out so I can keep going. Increased activity leads to increased calorie intake leads to a relatively stable weight.

In the beginning, I shed quite a few pounds pretty easily, but now I’m evening out. I’d say overall in the last 2 months I’ve lost maybe 10 pounds. That’s not so say I don’t LOOK a lot more fit. I’m gaining muscles I’ve never seen before and I’m losing fat. But I’m not losing a TON of weight. And I didn’t expect to. I would never deprive my body of the calories and nutrients it needs to perform its best leading up to the marathon. Lately I’ve been worried about whether or not I’ve consumer enough the night before a longer run to ensure my energy level is high enough to get me through the run.

If you want to run a marathon, prepare yourself to eat a lot during training. Don’t expect to lose a ton of weight. If you do, you’re going to deny yourself what you need to perform your best. Eat when you’re hungry and make sure you’re getting enough calories. You’ll still lose a little weight and you are going to look and feel fit. Just think about all you can eat without feeling guilty, and ENJOY it. You’re going out on 3-4+ hour long runs and working out almost every day. You’re experiencing aches and pains you never thought were physically possible. You are sacrificing hours upon hours of your free time. You’re going to sleep early on Friday nights (and waking up early on weekends). You’re missing out on countless happy hours and drinks with friends. You DESERVE to eat and enjoy things you’d normally feel a little guilty about. Pasta and bread, yes please and thank you!

What do you eat before/during your long runs?

This is probably the most consistently asked question I’ve been getting since I started training. I actually spent a really long time thinking about the perfect pre-run snack before I started off on my long training runs. Everyone is different, and different things work for different people. My blood sugar dips rather quickly compared to most people, so I’m pretty conscious of it when I run.

Back before I started training for my first marathon, trained mostly in the 3-10 mile range. A lot of times, I found myself low on energy, sometimes feeling on the verge of passing out. I typically just powered through. I knew this would obviously be an issue going into training. I did a lot of research before I started my 18 week plan–reading, podcast listening, etc. My biggest takeaway–in the past I was constantly training in my anaerobic zone and not giving myself the chance to build an aerobic base. When you train in your aerobic zone, your body relies on stored fat for its energy. When you train in your anaerobic zone, your body relies on sugar and carbs for all its energy. It made total sense to me–once I burned off all the sugar from my small pre-run snack, I was toast. I completely ran out of energy. When you train aerobically, you have an unlimited source of energy re: fat.

How do you know if you’re training aerobically? It’s all based on your heart rate. Everyone is different. The best thing to do is find out by getting a blood test. I don’t have time or patience for that, so I used Phil Maffetone’s formula to figure out my maximum aerobic heart rate for training.

It’s been a really hot and humid summer, so it’s been very, very challenging staying below this number, but I try my best. Not, when I go out on my training runs I eat a peach or a few dates beforehand. On my first 15 mile run last weekend, I brought dates in a snack bag and I ended up needing them about halfway through. That was the first time I needed any kind of sugar during any of my long training runs. I got up to 14 miles the week prior without needing any type of snack! I was shocked!

I still have a long way to go to figure out my perfect formula but typically before a long run:

  1. pasta the night before
  2. lots of water the day before
  3. in the morning, wake up and eat a peach or other sugary fruit or some dates
  4. bring dates in case I feel low on sugar during the run

Before a race:

  1. pasta the night before
  2. lots of water the day before
  3. in the morning, wake up and eat a peach or other sugary fruit or some dates
  4. on the way to the race, eat a Larabar (very few ingredients, usually just dates and some kind of nut and dried fruit)
  5. bring dates in case I feel low on sugar during the run

AFTER the run or race I make sure I get protein into me immediately, and usually try to have some kind of juice or coconut water to replenish my sugar and nutrients.

This seems to work really well for me, but everyone is different. In general, the key is to experiment with different routines and see what works best for you!