The Top 5 Marathon Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Marathon MistakesAh, the marathon. Twenty six point two miles of wonder, joy, and things waiting to go wrong. It’s hard to have a perfect race, but there are some things (aside from following your training plan) that you can do to make your experience as successful as possible. Start by avoiding these common marathon mistakes (that even the pros sometimes make).

1. Skipping Aid Stations

It was October 1999, in St. George, Utah. I was running the St. George Marathon. I was in great shape. I had trained all summer for this race. The race starts at an elevation about of about 5,000, it has a net elevation loss of 2,500 feet, which is misleading because much of the first 20 miles of the race are full of rolling hills, and what seems like plenty of elevation gain. It didn’t matter though. I felt fantastic. I was rolling along, at about a 7:15 pace. I felt so good that I didn’t want to mess with my stomach by taking in any gels or other sustenance (I had a history of extreme nausea during the second half of marathons).

This strategy worked fine until mile 20, and what should have been a final downhill cruise back into town. I hit the wall. Hard. I slowed down, struggled not to walk, and couldn’t even find a final kick as I approached the finish line.  What should have been a 3:10 marathon PR, ended up 3:16, still a PR, but not as easy to celebrate after losing over a minute a mile in that last 6.2.

I learned a hard lesson though. Start fueling yourself early and continue throughout the race. Practice during training so that your body adapts, and, either find out what they will be handing out in your marathon, or bring your own. Another tip when running through aid stations: Skip the first table or two, grab a cup from a volunteer, thank them, then pull out of the slow lane by the table (without blocking those that are bypassing the station). Try pinching the top of your cup. It will make it easier to swallow without spilling most of it down your front. If you’re using a gel, take it before your fluid.

2. Not Tapering Correctly

Tapering is hard. Who want to stop, at the peak of their training, and gradually do less for the last two or three weeks before their important marathon? It seems counter-intuitive. Won’t I lose too much fitness? Many a runner, from beginner to pro, has given into that temptation to run “just one more long run.”

Don’t do it. This is science people. After months of hard training, your body needs some recovery time so that it is rested and raring to go. Follow your training plan, which will probably allow some type of speed training up until the last week of your taper. Eat properly, drink plenty of fluids, and rest. Your well trained body will reward you with a good race. Find more information about tapering here:

Taper 14

Click on the photo for the full article.

3. Trying Something New

Whether it’s that adorable outfit you picked up at the expo, or the fuel that they are handing out at the race (if you didn’t plan ahead and use it during training), trying something new during your marathon is generally not a good idea, and could be a recipe for disaster. Many a runner has regretted choosing to run in those cool shoes that they picked up for such a great price, only to be plagued with blisters, knee pain, or other problems, midway through the race.

Everything that you will be using during your race should have been tried out during training. Even if you have a new pair of the same model shoe, test drive it for a few runs before your event. Plan your fuel, your race day outfit, your morning breakfast, ahead of time, based on what you have been doing during your training.

Marathon Quote

4. Starting Too Fast

This is probably the most common mistake among marathon runners of all levels, even the elites. When my husband Alan ran his first Boston Marathon in 1992, he had qualified, at the age of 43, with a sub-3:00 hour marathon. So, there he was, on the start line alongside the likes of Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter. Even as his jaw dropped to see those marathon legends next to him, a wise runner near him said, “Watch out. Don’t get caught up with these guys, or you’ll pay the price.” Then the gun went off. Alan tells me he hit the 10 mile mark in an hour. He managed to recover from those 6:00 minute miles (which would be a 2:37 marathon), by finally catching himself, slowing way down, and managing his race.

What is it about running that tells us, after training for months for, say, a 4:00 hour marathon, that once we get started and find ourselves running 8:00 minute miles, that some little imp inside our head says, “Yes! This is your day! You can run an half hour faster that you planned!”

Don’t listen to that imp. He lies. Stick to your running plan, and run at your goal pace, or even a little slower, as your start. Work through those nerves, don’t worry about what the other runners are doing, and run your own race. You’ll thank yourself. Remember, there is no such thing as “money in the bank” in marathon racing. It just doesn’t work that way.

5. Judging Yourself Too Harshly

So you’ve been training hard. You have hit all your targets, stuck to your plan. You followed all of the advice above, raced smart, fueled correctly, all of it. You know you’re on pace for that elusive PR. And then…it doesn’t happen. You fail.

Marathon Quote 3

Whoa. Back up! Erase that last word. You did all of the things above. You finished 26.2 miles with pride and strength. There is no failure in that. So many things go into the perfect race. Things over which you have no control. The weather. The race route. Road conditions, hills, turns. Sometimes things don’t fall into place. The stars don’t align.

Instead of beating yourself up, analyze what happened. What went wrong. Was it just a bad day? Were you ill? Take a look at the big picture. Then, pick yourself up, and try again. (After an appropriate recovery of course.)

On April 23, I will be running my 37th marathon, the SLO Marathon. Believe me, I have made all of the above mistakes over the last 18 years of running marathons. Hopefully I’ve learned from them. Although I will not be trying for a PR in San Luis Obispo (those are long behind me), I plan to run strong and smart. If you’d like to join me, you can save $10 when you register by using the code WOODAMB.

While this post is about marathon mistakes, many of them apply to races of any distance, especially the half marathon. What would you add to the list? What is the biggest mistake you made at a race of any distance?

5k Friday: Your 12 Week 5k Training Program, Week 4

Your 12 Week 5k Training Program, Week 4

By the end of last week, you had accomplished several things. (Did you miss week one? Click here.) You were able to run five minutes at one time. You were also running about 18 minutes during a single workout, with very little walking. Is everything feeling good? Any aches and pains? Take a body check from time to time. Even though we’re taking things slow, you are still adding a great deal of exercise into your life. Be smart, if you’re feeling sore or tired, it is okay to take an extra rest day now and then. Your body talks to you. You just have to listen.

This week, we will be adding an optional extra running day into the mix. It will be shorter and easier that the others, but still it will be an extra day. Because of that addition, we’re not going to make a huge change in the length of your running intervals, but we will cut down a little on your rest intervals. If you have any shin or knee pain, do not add this extra day (and you should probably take an extra day off). Remember, each workout starts with an 8-10 minute brisk walk and ends with a 5 minute slower walk, stretching and icing.

Day One: Repeat last week’s day six workout: After your warm up, run for four minutes. Walk for one minute. Run for five minutes. Walk for one minute. Repeat both intervals.

Day Two: The point of this workout is to decrease your walking rest periods while maintaining your running intervals. Warm up, then run for four minutes. Walk for 30 seconds. Repeat two more times. This is a little less total running than we’ve been doing, but because we’re adding on another running day tomorrow, we don’t want to overdo it.

Day Three: (Optional) You may be feeling tired this morning, but unless you are hurting, try to push through it. It will be a pretty easy workout. After your warm up, run for three minutes. Walk for 30 seconds. Run for four minutes. Walk for one minute. Run for five minutes. Cool down.

Day Four: Rest Day. Strength, Yoga, Pilates, etc. are okay.

Day Five: This is your key workout of the week. Hopefully you are feeling strong after your rest day. Warm up. Run five minutes. Walk for 30 seconds. Repeat three more times. Cool down.

Day Six: Repeat day five, with only three intervals.

Day Seven: Rest Day. You can take it completely off if you’d like, or do some weights, etc.

Congratulations! You’ve been running for a month! Great job! Next week we will lengthen the intervals, and one of the workouts will be all running (except the warm up/cool down).

Running Faster

 

Refer back to this post for information on whether you’re ready to add speed to your workout, how to find your goal pace, reasons for each workout as well as the first week of workouts to add to your training.

The Workouts

The Long Run: This week add one half mile to your run on one day of the week.

The Interval Workout: We’re still on the track for this workout. Warm up for about a mile. This is a ladder workout. Each interval will be a little longer than the previous. You will be running each interval at about the same pace, about 90-95% of your max effort, though, so be careful not to go all out on some of the shorter intervals then not be able to keep the pace on the longer ones.

Interval 1: 200 meters (halfway around the track)
Interval 2: 400 meters
Interval 3: 600 meters
Interval 4: 800 meters
Interval 5: 1000 meters
Interval 6: 800 meters
Interval 7: 600 meters
Interval 8: 400 meters
Interval 9: 200 meters

Finish with a cool down and a good stretch.

The Lactate Threshold Workout: We are back on the road for this workout. After your warm up, increase your pace to about 85-90% of your maximum effort. Maintain this pace for one mile. Drop the speed and jog for about 3-5 minutes. Repeat one to three more times, depending on you current mileage (don’t exceed the distance of your long run). Finish with your cool down and stretch.

Remember, in addition to these workout, you can run another one-three days during the week, nice easy, shorter runs (recovery runs). A sample schedule can be found in this post.

Week four is in the bag! Great job!

Honolulu Marathon, Blog School, Mimi Kirk and More!

I have a few (kind of random) things that I want to share with you. From the educational (Blog School), to the healthy (Mimi Kirk), to the (for me) exciting (Honolulu Marathon), to the mundane (health insurance), I decided to just jam it all in one post.

Going Back to Blog School

Blog Genie’s Blog School is back and if you’re a blogger, you really should think about signing up. Rita Berry kicks off school season on February 2 with a free, three part “Road Map” to blogging.

Blog-School-Screenshot

The Blog School Traffic Roadmap, 3 part training is totally free and will give you the tools and strategy you need to start building your traffic, whether you’re just starting out or have been blogging for years.

  • The 2 critical components you must get right before you build your traffic
  • Why promotion is the last thing you do to build your traffic and why most people try it first (and why they get frustrated)
  • The most valuable blogging exercise you’ll ever do, it’s what I still do every time I start a new blog or product
  • How to blog less for more traffic
  • Why the way we think about blog traffic is backwards and how correcting our mindset makes traffic so much easier to generate
  • The difference between high and low quality traffic and why you can create a better and more successful blog with less pageviews than you might think

I was a student in the first session of Blog School, so while this is affiliate link, I speak from experience that it is totally worth the investment.

Honolulu Marathon

In case you missed my Instagram post:

(I thought it was kind of cool that @HonoluluMarathon reposted this!)

Yes indeed, I signed Alan and myself up for the Honolulu Marathon! It seems like spur of the moment, but it really wasn’t. We’d hoped to go last year, but the stars did not align, so when a friend tagged me on a link to the early registration (only $55!), I took the plunge.

In case you didn’t know (or didn’t read the Instagram comment above), Honolulu was my first marathon. I wrote about it here. I’ve done the race six times, but I haven’t been back since 2003. Eleven years, but our plans will be the same. Fly over to Oahu on Friday before the race. After the race on Sunday, catch an island hopper over to Kauai, our favorite island, and spend four or five days in Hanalei. It’s a great place to relax after a marathon. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually want 2015 to fly by because the 2015 Honolulu Marathon is on December 13.

Medical Insurance

It sounds kind of silly to get so excited about something I took for granted while I was employed at my former job, but my new medical insurance starts on February 1! Yes, I have been uninsured since I was fired last summer. All that time, in spite of being really healthy, I’ve been worried about getting sick. Fortunately, it hasn’t happened (or won’t happen in the next 10 days, knock on wood). Thank you ObamaCare. Before my last job, I was denied affordable health insurance because I had a pre-existing condition: exercise induced asthma (I mean, come on, how ridiculous is that?). I will sleep much better now.

Fascial Stretch Therapy

I don’t talk about it very often, but I have been dealing with chronic lower back pain for several years now. I’ve tried a few things, including a chiropractor, stretching, and medication, but it has continued to be an issue for me. I’m sure some if has to do with what I’m doing right now, sitting here typing for a couple hours at a time. I think that finally I have found something that will make a difference.

Although Stretch to Win and Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST) have been around over 20 years, most people haven’t heard of this undulating stretching technique that focuses on fascial continuities, rather than isolated muscles. Fascia is the connective tissue that that form sheets or bands beneath the skin to attach, stabilize, enclose, and separate muscles and other internal organs. FST is a special and specific technique that addresses the nervous system and joint capsules to help our muscles, which are surrounded by fascia, to function better, relieve pain, and correct minor structural issues of the body.

It is very popular at my fitness center right now, and I hope in the future to get certified myself, but last Saturday I became a true believer. We had a fitness event and I, sick as I was, manned the personal trainer booth, doing fitness and body composition assessments. We also had some lectures, vitamin B-12 shots, free chair massage, and other informational booths.

We also did free 10 minute FST sessions, which were the most popular item on the agenda. I finally had a chance to take a turn at the end of the event, and I got a little extra time (about 30 minutes). The therapist worked on my lower body, since that was my main issue. Afterwards I felt fine, but nothing super special. Of course at that point I just needed to go home and go to bed.

The next morning I woke up, and for the first time in months, maybe years, my back didn’t hurt. That was Sunday. Today is Wednesday and I am still pain free. As I said, I am a believer. FST is becoming popular among professional athletes as a way to correct imbalances in the body and improve athletic performance. I really suggest that if you have chronic pain that you look into FST. You can find certified therapists in your area here.

Mimi Kirk at Bikram Yoga University Village

Finally, for locals. My friend Kim, who owns Bikram Yoga University Village in Palm Desert (aren’t I lucky to have two friends who own yoga studios?), asked me to spread the word about a special event she is hosting at her studio on Sunday, January 25. Raw food chef, author, and “Sexiest Vegetarian over 50,” Mimi Kirk will be discussing raw food preparation, along with a food prep demonstration, tasting, and book signing of her book “The Ultimate Book of Modern Juicing.”

Bikram Yoga Event

By the way, Mimi herself is the best model for her vegan, raw food lifestyle. This “sexiest vegetarian” is actually 75 years young!

Have you ever tried (or heard of) Fascial Stretch Therapy? Want to join me in Honolulu on December 13?

A Day in the Life: Wife, Vegan, Dog-Mom, Runner, Trainer

Day 2_10

Today I’m linking with Katie and many other bloggers (see below for the link up) for a “Day in the Life” post!”  I love these posts. It’s like taking a little peek into the lives of the bloggers that I follow. I’ve done this before, but there have been some major changes in my life since then (like a job change for one).

I’ve been sick for ever a few days, and my days have revolved around sleeping, coughing, sitting in bed trying to make the time go by, well, you get the idea. I know you don’t want to hear more about that!  So I picked a day from last week when I was going about my regular business.

3:30 am The alarm goes off. Alan hops out of bed because he leaves to swim by 5:00. I hit the snooze button a couple times, but I’m up by 4:00.

4:00-4:30 am Coffee! Alan and I chat a bit, then I check email, read a few blogs, answer a couple comments.

Day 2_2

4:30-5:00 am Pet feeding time! With seven dogs and two indoor cats, this takes a while. We also try to fit in a short walk before Alan leaves to swim.

Day 2_5

5:00-5:30 am I get dressed and ready to run. It’s finally warmed up a bit, so I’m not dreading getting out before the sun. Still, I bundle up with tights, gloves, and headband, not to mention breaking out the Halobelt and Knuckle Lights. Then, while waiting for the sky to lighten just a little, I go back to reading blogs.

Day 2_1

5:30-6:30 am I get my run done in an hour today. It’s six miles with the middle four at my half marathon pace. Done!

6:30-7:30 am Shower, dress, eat. Then I make my morning smoothie to take with me to work. This is my new habit, now that I have my new Blendtec.

Day 2_7

7:30-8:00 am Drive to work. I keep my mind occupied by listening to an audiobook. Currently I’m listening to Voyager, the third book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

8:00-10:00 am I work with two personal training clients. My schedule is not full yet, since I’ve just been working for a couple months, but it’s getting there. My second client is only 45 minutes, so I have time to drink that smoothie that I brought with me.

10:00-11:00 am I have an hour break between clients, so I go to the yoga class at my gym. It’s a pretty easy class, but sometimes that’s just what I need.

11:00-12:00 pm I have one more client, then I’m done for the day! On Tuesday, Thursday and Friday I also work some desk hours, but on Monday and Wednesday I’m done after my last client.

Day 2_4

12:00-12:30 pm I swing by Whole Foods to pick up some essentials. I don’t do all my shopping there because it’s pretty expensive, but they have a great variety of vegan and organic food, so I make a point to shop on my way home from work once a week or so.

12:30-1:00 pm The drive home, still listening to Voyager.

1:00-3:00 pm I get home, greet Alan and the dogs, which takes a while (if you have dogs, you understand). Then I grab a snack, since lunch is usually late. Then I’ll sit down and work on my blog post for a while. This week I have a couple of sponsored posts that are due and mostly written, so it’s a matter of proofreading and re-reading what I’ve written. One requires a draft, so I send that off.

3:00-4:00 pm Alan and I go to lunch together. Today (as most days), we go to Subway/Starbucks. He grabs the sandwiches, I grab the coffees, and we eat at Starbucks. After eating, I check my social media, comments, etc., until it’s time to head home.

Day 2_8

4:00-5:00 pm I take some time to sit, relax, talk to my husband, watch a little television, and try to keep my hands off my computer/iPad/phone.

5:00-6:00 pm I give into temptation and check out my social media and blog comments. I also check on my analytics a bit, so I know where I stand for the day. It doesn’t sound like much, but an hour just slips away.

6:00-7:00 pm I start dinner. Tonight I’m making one of my favorites, Risi Salad. As I cook, I enjoy a glass of wine, and turn on HGTV and watch my favorite real estate shows (that’s what’s left over from our “going to be real estate agents” phase).

Day 2_6

7:00-7:30 pm Dinner time.

7:30-9:00 pm This varies. If I have a post that I need to get published, I spend some time fine-tuning it, checking links and proofreading (again). I generally publish around 8:30 pm. If I don’t have a post, I’ll either edit some pictures, spend time on social media, or, sometimes, I might just plop myself in front of the television for the last hour or so of my day.

9:00 pm Bedtime. I usually read a little before lights out, but not for long, because I’m always pooped by the end of the day. And I need my rest if I’m going to get up and do this all over again tomorrow!

Day 2_9

Join the link up and let’s hear about your day! Be sure to visit a few other blogs to share the love!



The Best Laid (Running) Plans…

Monday is usually my day to check in with my recent week of training. After finally sharing my revised training plan for the SLO Marathon, and having a really good start to the week, I was really excited about reporting how great week two of the plan went.

Well, the best laid (running) plans…

Oh, Monday was awesome. I ran according to plan, 6.1 miles with four at half marathon pace. Done, and it felt great! Then things started to go wrong.

Best Laid Plans 3

First, my Wednesday clients changed their training time. That meant I had to shorten my workout, which wasn’t too bad. It was my first interval workout in months, so I didn’t mind have it to shorten it to four-half mile repeats instead of six. I finished with just under four miles, but that was okay too.

Then it got worse.

As I was driving home from work on Thursday afternoon, I started to feel that little tickle feeling at the back of my throat that says that maybe you’re coming down with something. I wasn’t surprised. I’ve been surrounded by sick co-workers for over a month, so it was more surprising that I took so long to get sick. I took an extra dose of Vitamin C before bed and crossed my fingers.

Best Laid Plans 2As I posted on Instagram, I had good company while I was sick.

To no avail. Not only did I wake up with a full-fledged cold, I also had a migraine. It started about 11 pm on Thursday night and lasted until I went to bed the next night (though it had improved a lot by then). I had to call in sick to work and just lay pathetically in bed most of the day. Obviously, no running got done.

Saturday morning I woke up without a headache, but my cold was horrible. Unfortunately I had to work. We were having our January “Fitness Fling,” one of our busiest days of the year and I was needed. The four easy miles on the plan did not get done. I could just barely hold myself up, and when I finally go home I fell into bed.

Sunday was scheduled to be my 12 mile long run. That did NOT happen. Though I felt better in the morning, I had a terrible cough, runny nose, and just felt tired. I felt proud of the mile long walk I managed with the dogs.

Best Laid Plans

The upcoming week isn’t looking much better either. On the plan is seven miles with 6-half mile LT intervals. Yeah, right. I might have been able to get a few easy miles in, but that clients switched her appointment to 7:00 am on Monday and Wednesday, so I will need to make accommodations for the rest of the week too, even as I feel better. On Wednesday I have an hour between clients in the morning, so I can head out the door of the fitness center, warm up and do some hill repeats right outside the front door. The club where I work is on the incline up toward the Santa Rosa Mountains, so there are great inclines within the gates.

Of course that’s presuming my cold is gone. Or I can run a few easy miles.

So basically, by the time this all plays out I will lose about a week of my training plan. Not too bad since it is early on, but I really want to build the mileage up, especially on my long run. I’m not worried about the speed work. There is still plenty of time to reap the benefits, even if I miss a couple weeks.

It’s just annoying. And I didn’t feel very brave.

Brave

How was your training week? I hope it was better than mine!

5k Friday: Your 12 Week 5k Training Program, Week 3

Run a 5k

Your 12 Week 5k Training Program, Week 3

By the end of last week, you were running up to running two minute intervals, with walk breaks of only 30 seconds. Hurray for you! (Just getting started? Here’s week one.) Hopefully, you’ve been following the plan, resting when prescribed, icing, stretching, etc. Our goal for this week is to bring the running up to five minutes straight! Let’s get started.

Remember, you always want to start your workout with a warm up, and for now, it will be walking briskly for 8-10 minutes. And always take about five minutes at the end of the workout to cool down, nice easy walking is best.

Day One: You’re going to start with last week’s Day Five workout. After your warm-up, run for two minutes. Walk for 30 seconds. Repeat five more times. Finish with your cool down. Do not skip the stretching and icing.

Day Two: Kind of a mixed bag workout. After your warm up, run for two minutes. Walk for 30 seconds. Now, run for three minutes. Walk for one minute. Run for two minutes. Walk for 30 seconds. Run for three minutes. Walk for 30 seconds. Run for two minutes. Walk for 30 seconds. Run for three and a half minutes. Cool down. (If you feel like you need a little longer break after the longer intervals, please go ahead, but don’t walk for too long.)

Day Three: Still your rest day. Yoga, weights, etc. are okay.

Day Four: After your warm up, run for three minutes. Walk for one minute, then run for four minutes. Walk for 30 seconds, then run for three minutes. Walk for 30 seconds. Run for four minutes. One minute walk, then a final three minute run. Cool down, stretch, ice.

Day Five: Complete rest today, we’ve got a big one tomorrow.

Day Six: After your warm up, run for four minutes. Walk for one minute. Run for five minutes. Walk for one minute. Repeat both intervals. Cool down, stretch ice.

Day Seven: Rest. You had a tough week, but look what you’ve accomplished! A total of 18 minutes of running with very little walking time. You can do some strength training, etc. but complete rest is okay, too.

Week three is complete! Congratulations. Next week, we’ll add another running day and increase those running intervals a little more.

Running Faster

CIFRefer back to this post for information on whether you’re ready to add speed to your workout, how to find your goal pace, reasons for each workout as well as the first week of workouts to add to your training.

The Workouts

The Long Run: This week add one half mile to your run on one day of the week.

The Interval Workout: After your four lap warm up, run 800 meters at about your goal 5k pace (that’s two times around the track). Walk or jog for 200 meters. Repeat two more times. Finish with a cool down and a good stretch.

The Lactate Threshold Workout: This week we are doing this by time instead of mileage. Warm up for eight minutes. Run at a pace about 20 seconds slower than your goal 5k pace for five minutes. Jog for three minutes. Depending on your current mileage abilities, repeat once or twice more (don’t exceed the mileage of your “long run” day). Cool down for five more minutes and finish with a stretch.

Remember, in addition to these workout, you can run another one-three days during the week, nice easy, shorter runs (recovery runs). A sample schedule can be found in the last post.

Keep up the good work! See you next week.