We are three days away from the agony and the ecstasy that will be… the Long Beach Marathon. Just thought I would offer a quick pre-race overview of the training season.
First of all, it seems like I’ve been in constant marathon training mode over the last 12 months. This time last fall, training was well underway for the 2012 LA Marathon which, of course, I did in March.
After that, to be honest, I was pretty fucked up. I couldn’t believe the residual effect the race had on my body. So I took a good 6 weeks to gradually get back into a running groove, and by May 1st, I was more or less officially training for Long Beach.
I’ve had an excellent training season in prep for this one. The usual little things aside, I’ve stayed injury free, with not one single running session missed. I trained on my own for the first couple months, then rejoined my Fleet Feet running group early July, which had been underway with training for Long Beach since April. All along, I’ve kept close tabs on my progress with my trusty Garmin watch, and all of my times and average paces have been faster (with “faster” being a relative term for my slow ass!).
My goal – as I’ve stated around here a couple times – is to come in under 4:00. I feel like I’ve done everything possible with my training to make that happen, but I know there is always the good ol’ “Marathon X-Factor” that can come into play – that unexpected variable – so I’m not stressing it. As long as my legs will move and I can keep my form relatively intact, I will motor through this motherfucker in search of that time come Sunday. If my legs lock up or I get injured, I’ll deal with that then.
Better Training, Recovery and Diet Points
Here are a few things I’ve done this time around that have made a difference, I feel.
1. Superior rest and recovery practices: For LA, I was still brashly adhering to my typical no-sleep heroics, even in the height of training; getting 3 hours of sleep before these 18-mile runs, and following my usual erratic sleeping patterns while juggling both marathon training AND my usual weightlifting regimen. Stupid. When did I think my body was supposed to recover? This is partially why I feel like I was constantly dealing with these “phantom” pre-injuries last season; always something on the verge of breaking down, it seemed.
This time, I’ve really made an effort to get longer, better quality sleep, more often. There have been plenty of 3-hour nights, I’m not gonna lie. But in general, I’ve become a better, deeper sleeper, and I think this has been the single most dramatic thing I’ve done. My body just feels more recovered and well-rested. (Not that this is any huge newsflash. It’s just that proper rest has always fallen into the “do as I say, not as I do” department!)
Also, on the recovery front, I’ve been even more diligent about icing the knees and shins, even when they didn’t necessarily need to be iced. And, perhaps most importantly, I’ve become best of friends with the foam roller and the massage stick.
I have both of these on hand in my living room… sitting there like pieces of contemporary art, as a reminder to “grind it out” 2 or 3 times a day. The difference it’s made in keeping my legs loose has been dramatic and, I really believe, largely responsible for the excellent recovery times between runs.
2. Cleaner diet: Last time out, I was determined to maintain my 200-pound bodyweight through the bulk of the training, just to prove it could be done on a vegan diet. Mission accomplished. (Wound up going from 204 to just under 200 for the race.) However, the number one thing that required besides hitting the weights hard and steady was… a shitload of calories! And I was happy to oblige, especially in consideration of some of the personal issues going on with my family through the last couple months of training. I guess I found a little solace in food, AND I was trying to keep my weight up, so this meant a fair amount of vegan “junk food” along the way.
Of course, I was still knocking down all of my usual super-clean stuff (one or two Ultimate Meal smoothies per day, 10+ servings of fruits and veggies, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts, etc.) And obviously, my diet remained 100% vegan, as it has for the past 20 years.
BUT – there were a lot of Mexican food dinners with tons of chips and quac… and plenty of gluttonous Chinese food takeout extravaganzas… and vegan pizza… and popcorn… and a regular array of vegan desserts and … you get the idea. And while I still managed to lose a bit of weight (!!!), many of these foods did not serve my training efforts. So, I tightened things up considerably this time around and have limited myself to smaller portions of these kinds of foods on occasion, taking care not to ever bring vegan sweets home.
Additonally, I’ve added a “superfoods veggie-blend” concoction to my daily routine, instead of the usual few times a week. More on this later.
I’m still knocking down a crazy amount of calories on most days, but I’ve also dropped a few more pounds, since cutting back on a lot of the “recreational” foods. It’s been a cleaner, better way to eat, and I can feel it in my training.
Also, I’ve been fanatical about getting plenty of water on each run, even for the shorter 5-milers. As my watch beeps at each mile mark, like Pavlov’s dog, I reach for one of my water jugs and grab a few sips. Every mile, even if I don’t feel especially thirsty. Dehydration at a marathon is a lesson you only have to learn one time!
3. A Few Training Tweaks:
I know there have been a number of things I’ve improved on, but here are a few:
A) This time out, I tried to never run two days in a row, so I switched my mid-week run to Thursday. Of course, this leaves a day less time for recovery before the long Saturday run, but that seems to be better than running the day after a typically intense Tuesday hill or speed run.
B) I’ve added more leg strengthening movements and extra core work. After all, anything we can do to strengthen those muscles that would defy us in the later miles, we might as well. Like I always say, “Pay now, or pay later!”
C) I’ve leaned on my pace at key times. If I felt good, I would go ahead and keep a faster pace here and there, even on some of the long runs. And while this wouldn’t have been advisable last time, I think it’s been good this time. Even on my first week of wind-down (which commenced two weeks away from the marathon), I maintained a faster pace this year. I did a 16-miler at a pace that was actually 10 to 15 seconds faster than my marathon pace, and my other two runs that week were even faster, but for only 5-mile runs. Smart or stupid? I’ll tell you next week. But I do know for as hard as that 16-miler was, I did feel better about things afterward, knowing that I kept up that pace. Whether I will be as recovered as I should be on Sunday… who knows?
D) Running in the heat; I actually prefer running in the summer. I’ve always had a high threshhold for heat fatigue, and I guess that holds true for running in it. I did a 12-miler in the 95% humidity (and ulitimately 95-degree heat) of Panama City Florida, and it sucked. I did a 7-miler in 95 dry-ass degrees of Las Vegas, and it wasn’t nearly as bad.
And here in LA, I found that I could knock out 10, maybe 12 miles in the heat of the day without much problem, when I had to. But I tried a 16-miler in 95 degrees in LA (during the heat of the afternoon) and it kicked my ass, to be honest. I started feeling really fatigued (heat exhaustion?) and had to actually walk/run the last couple miles. Got my monkey-ass sunburned, as well. Lesson learned.
Point is, I did a number of runs in notably hotter weather this time out, which arguably made things a little tougher, which hopefully made me a bit stronger runner as I step into the pleasant, 70-degree ocean-side environs of Long Beach this Sunday. Again, we’ll see.
Concerns for the Day
I have two things on my mind at the moment. A light groin strain (from heavy lifting) that bothers me when I walk, but not run), and this ongoing IT band issue that flairs up on the high miles, and has been constantly reminding me of its presence this past week with a light tingle. I’ve been icing the shit out of both of these areas, resting as much as I can, and hoping that neither one will be a factor on Sunday. Fingers crossed.
Anyway, I think those are the highlights. Probably way more info than any of you cared to know about, regarding my training. Still, I’ll give a final report shortly thereafter, and hopefully find a more consistent groove with this blog…