I keep talking about how excited I am for marathon training to start in two weeks, but there are definitely aspects I’m not looking forward to. While this will be my first full marathon training cycle, the Hansons’ plan for the half marathon, which I’ve done twice, is very similar. The only difference is the full marathon plan has more mileage. While I’ll be very familiar with some aspects of training, others will be completely new. And a little scary!
I’m excited about a lot.
Running a lot. Both times I’ve done Hansons, I’ve loved running higher mileage. I love the routine of running six days a week. Running less in my off-season has always felt strange to me. Running all the miles definitely makes me feel stronger and better. And I love that marathon training is just a really good excuse to run as much as I want to!
Running more slowly. Most of the Hansons’ plan is running very easy. Easy running has a ton of physiological benefits, which I described last year, and it also reduces the risk of injury and burnout. This spring I’ve been doing a lot of runs with friends, and I usually go faster than my easy pace. Especially because of the heat and humidity, I’m looking forward to slowing down.
Running with a purpose. I’ve been living it up during my off-season and enjoying the freedom of running when and how much I want. But I still have my old training plans from my March goal race pinned up at work and home because I can’t bear to take them down. I love seeing my training plan in front of me, and I love working my way through it and experiencing the highs and lows of each run. This training cycle will be especially meaningful to me since it’s my first marathon, and I plan to appreciate the journey.
Working with a coach. I’ve said before how I’ll be working with Hansons’ coach Melissa, with whom I consulted last year the first time I did the plan. I really liked working her then and am excited to work with a coach throughout my training. The coaching is set up through a website, where Melissa will upload my training plan that she’ll be creating for me. After every run I download the data from my Garmin (or enter it manually) so that Melissa can easily check my progress. There’s no limit on how much I can contact her, so I’m always free to get in touch with her for questions or advice. Having a coach for my first marathon will take a lot of pressure off of me to make decisions on things I have no idea about, as well as to help me work through the mental demons that tend to haunt me during races. Plus, I’ll be much more motivated to give training my all if I know a coach will be reviewing all my runs.
Getting stronger and firmer. There’s no question that running higher mileage has changed my body for the better. When I was first trying to lose weight, my goal was on being thin. Now my main motivation is to be strong. I love seeing my leg muscles get more pronounced and my abs getting more defined. But more importantly, I love feeling strong and powering through tough workouts.
I’m not too excited about some things.
Eating more carbs. The last two training cycles I followed the nutrition guidelines in Racing Weight, which gives a lot of research and evidence to support a high-carb diet for endurance runners. The high-carb diet worked well for me performance-wise, but each time I got really tired of eating that way. Racing Weight suggests high-quality carbs like whole grains, fruit, and potatoes, so it seemed like all I was eating was bananas, brown rice, and sweet potatoes. I’m not big on whole grains so don’t take the time to seek out new recipes and try new grains. Plus, the more grains I ate, the less veggies and fruit I ate because they’re so filling and there’s just only so much I can eat. With my plant-based diet, veggies and fruit are pretty much my lifeblood, so I wasn’t happy reducing them. This training cycle, I want to try new grain recipes to keep from getting bored and try not to reduce veggies and fruits as much.
Early weekend mornings. In my last training cycles, I woke at 4 a.m. to eat and digest before starting weekday runs at 5 or shortly after. After my goal race, I planned to sleep later, but my body didn’t agree with that. As much as I’ve tried, I’m still getting up at 4:30-4:45 to start running about 5:15. So getting up early on weekdays won’t be a problem for me. It’s the weekend that will kill me! I’ve gotten into a routine of staying up later and having fun Friday and Saturday nights. Since I’m pretty miserable running in the sun–not to mention the heat and humidity–I’ll have to start my longest runs at 5-5:30 on Saturday morning, which will probably mean going to bed Friday night before it’s dark. Ugh! Last training cycle I devoted Sunday to being the one day I didn’t set my alarm and just got up to run whenever. Now, because of the hot weather, I’ll need to get up early Sunday morning too. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to my late weekend nights.
Long run routes. I’m worried about where I should run my long runs. My race is on a flat rails-to-trail with a 1% grade up the first half and a 1% downgrade the second. That trail, as well as other trails with a 1% grade, are close enough that I can do long runs on them, which would be best. However, I know I’ll need more fuel than I can carry, and I don’t know how to make that work. I could leave a cooler at the halfway point with ice water and food in it with a note begging people not to steal it, but that’s no guarantee that someone won’t. I guess I can see if a friend would be willing to leave her car at a halfway point to keep a cooler in. North Park is a good option for long runs because there’s a 5-mile loop, so I can always stop at my car after 5 miles. Plus, there are water fountains and port-o-potties around the loop. However, North Park is a completely different course of rolling hills that doesn’t mimic my race course. The last option is one I really want to do–join the Pro Bike + Run group runs. I love their “no person left behind” philosophy, there will be a pace group I can run with, and long run routes are always supported with water. However, they don’t start until 7:30 a.m., and the routes are usually through the city with frequent stops for traffic and other things. The later start just won’t be doable with my longest runs, and I’m not sure making frequent stops is good for my training. I need to figure this out and would love suggestions.
A few things are very, very scary to me!
Mid-run fueling. I have my general nutrition during the week and pre-long run fueling figured out based on what works for me. But my race has a late start of 9 a.m., which means I will be running through lunch and into the early afternoon. I’m not one of those people who can skip a meal, and I tend to need to eat a lot to fuel my runs in general. I already know that I want to use real food instead of gels while training and in my race. I plan to use boiled potatoes dipped in salt, dates, bananas, and maybe homemade energy bars. But I’ve never done this before and have absolutely no idea how my body will react. I had a lot of stomach problems while racing early on before I figured my fueling out, and I hope to never have that intense nausea and stomach cramping again. I’m really worried about this.
The unknown. I’ve never run longer than a half marathon, so I really have no idea how my long runs and the race itself will go. How will my 16-mile long runs go? What if I don’t like running 3+ hours at a time? What if I don’t have the mental grit to get through the fatigue and whatever else comes up on race day? It’s scary, for sure. But like that cheesy old quote says, “You’ll never discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” What will help me with this is working with a coach. I’ll need to trust her and trust the plan.
While my training starts soon, the first month will comprise all easy runs with relatively low mileage to gradually build up to the harder parts of training that start in the second month. I’ve really liked this aspect of the Hansons’ plan because the buildup is so slow and gradual that the hard parts of the plan never feel completely overwhelming. I’m ready for it–the good, the bad, and the ugly!
If you have any advice for me, particularly on using real food as fuel and where to do my long runs, I’d love to hear it!