Marathon training can drive you bonkers. I know this yet I still fall for it every time. After that great track workout and generally feeling much stronger, I had a long run last week which had me questioning everything. It was 17 hilly miles with some at a tempo pace. Now granted I'm not really used to doing long runs with some tempo miles (at marathon pace) too often. This was going to be a hard workout. make no mistake about that.
It was a very cold morning (low 20s!) but fortunately dry. EC and I met as planned at Gas Works park and headed off towards Discover Park and some hills. It was a nice easy warm up. We then met up with the group at Discovery Park and did an easy 3 on the loop trail. Easy yet those hills force a more moderate feel which we expected. I was carrying a small container of water and planned on a three gels although I brought 4.
And it was a good run overall. The Magnolia Loop is one of my favorites for both running and biking and the views never disappoint. Once we start the rolling loop course, we sped up to planned tempo pace and it felt good. It was a little hard to tell what pace to aim for with some of the downhills and I was dreading the mile climb back up to Discovery Park. My hip started to creak a bit and my feet were starting to feel a bit sore. We were at 13 miles with 4 left to go mostly downhill and I just felt like I was out of gas even though I was going downhill. The last little bump of an uphill dragged me right down and I had some pretty low moments thinking about the disasterous Seattle marathon of last year.
I was holding EC back. She of the cheerful and perky demeanor even at mile 15. But she's not from the area so once we were to an area she knew, I sent her on ahead and trudged on. Blah. Eventually I made it back to the car and checked in with EC (sending her off with some banana bread actually!) and went on with my day.
And looking at the run, I honestly didn't slow down as much as I thought but there was no denying the lack of any oomph at the end. the next morning though I went out for an easy run fully prepared to turn right around if I felt at all off. And? I felt great. Not stiff or sore and well paced with a low heart rate. What? Crazy making, I tell ya.
Now this past week, I've managed to duplicate that same challenging track workout and have it feel easier plus nailed a tempo workout midweek. What gives? During the last marathon training cycle, I never really had any good long runs. Is this cycle going to be the same even though I am handling more quality workouts in general and feel much stronger?
So discussing this with Coach, she really wants me to up my caloric intake on long runs. I had 3 gels. I tend to hit them early enough but then fall off taking them during the middle miles. Could that be it? On that long run I also hadn't had much water over 13 miles, just 10 oz. Running at the general pace I do, that's two hours. Ten ounces just doesn't seem enough. The recommended carb intake is about 40-70 grams per hour. Each gel has about 100 calories and 25 grams. Running at a harder pace will tend to burn the fuel faster so she wants me to try having a gel about every 4 miles. Ok, that's a lot of gels! And then that means I need to take in a bit more water plus I'll tend to add an electrolyte capsule in there.
and then I kept reading and found some studies which show distance runners tend not to eat enough in general to support their activities. I can vouch for an increased appetite but I often forget to increase portion sizes and bring other snacks. I tend to eat the same quantities day in and day out. My weight is the same but I've noticed that the fancy scale I have has shown my muscle percentage has grown while fat has decreased. That's good really but calls for a re-evaluation of what I'm eating.
Saturday rolls around again and it's time for another long run. Granted, we (EC and I are delighted that we have ended up so well matched for pace!) were just out for an easy long run this week. No tempo miles and on an easier course but still a bit challenging in it's own way.
I carried water again and refilled as needed. I had gels at 4, 7, 11.5 and 15. I was tired at the end of the run but I didn't have any trouble keeping up with the general easy pace we were going and I didn't have nearly the desire to stop as often happens. Often I feel like I have to stop to dig at a sore hip or stretch a hamstring. I was still having some little tweaks but not as big of a deal and EC was not chomping on the bit to go any faster either. Hey, I wasn't holding her back.
Overall, I call this a success. Next week is the Mercer Island 10k and a needed and desired cut back week. The following week is another at pace long run and I'll be curious to see how it goes.
I've always wanted to have fewer gels in general partly because of cost and partly because I've heard of many runners who really don't need that many calories. It just goes to show we are all an experiment of one and it's important to find out what works (and does not work) for you.