Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Preparing for my 1st Marathon

As the namesake of this blog suggests, one of my long-term goals is to run in the Boston Marathon. To date, I have not run a marathon. Come November, this will change and I will run in the Savannah Rock n' Roll Marathon. While I haven't run the full 26.2 miles, I have a fair number of shorter races under my belt, including 2 half marathons. These races have suggested to me that the whole enchilada is it's own beast and I will need to prepare more intentionally than I traditionally have for shorter distances. I've been able to get away with a lack of preparation/ignorance in short races, which because of their nature are quite forgiving to the novice. With this in mind, I've identified some running challenges that could become pitfalls in a longer race:

1-Shin Splints. After subscribing to the minimalist footwear dogma I got shin splints, which I had never experienced before. Turns out cushioning on shoes does serve a valuable purpose and is not solely (pun intended) to rob one of proprioception and cause atrophy of one's lower limbs. I pounded the pavement on some long runs in my Vibrams one too many times and paid the price. As I've laid off the long pavement runs, switched to mostly dirt trails in the Vibrams, and allowed myself recovery days, this problem has been tenuously kept at bay. The problem I now face is the all-pavement marathon I must train for. After doing some research, I decided to purchase Nike Free Run+ 2 for my long pavement runs. Reviews like this one of  the first iteration of the Free Run, coupled with trying on pairs in-store, to news that the 2nd version had more toe room brought me to the decision. I bought a slightly used pair on eBay and took them on their maiden voyage through the ghetto today. I was not disappointed. While they are far from a barefoot experience, they maintain portions of experience that I want-ie a fast, lightweight gait. As I hoped, the cushioning is adequate but not excessive. There are more runs to do in these new kicks and I will make a full review in the future.

2-Blisters-My feet are not pretty. I've grown accustomed to allowing large calluses and blisters to form one on top of the other and have basically just dealt with them rather than actively trying to prevent them. This is fine while doing short runs. Normally I'll start feeling hot spots somewhere around the 4 mile mark, regardless of the footwear I don. The problem here is that these hot spots evolve into acutely painful and crippling blisters on longer runs, which could seriously hinder my training and ultimate race in November. Barefoot prophets tell me that if I had the right barefoot form, I could run barefoot or shod for hours and come out with baby-soft immaculate tootsies. I think this is horse crap. If I did adopt the barefoot form suggested, with no pushing off; rather a light, centaur-esque prance, I could probably reduce blisters. But I would be slow and I don't enjoy running that way. I want to develop speed and endurance, and I want to like my running. Therefore I reject that idea and will find another way to deal with blisters. Reason tells me that my footwear choices have as much, if not more, to do with blisters as does the force with which I push of the ground. That being said, I develop blisters when my feet become saturated in sweat-4 miles or 30-40 minutes into a run. It's hot in Savannah and I've heard good things about Drymax Hot Weather Running Socks. So I'm giving them an extended trial and as of now, they are my race day choice as my feet have had less hot spots and really are much drier than with other socks. The shoes I wear are also a factor here, for now the Nike Frees seem to couple nicely with the Drymax socks.

3-Chaffage-This became an issue especially since moving to Georgia and running exclusively in humid conditions. Bag Balm has become my lubricant of choice for extended runs. It is viscous enough to stick around for the duration of a long race, it works, it's cheap, and if it's good enough for udders, it's good enough for me.

4-Cramps-I have very little experience with cramps, in fact, the only real problem I have had was during the last few miles of a half-marathon in February. My legs got rigid and my pace suffered terribly as a result. The great collective runner's mind tells me that cramps are a result of dehydration. So I need to drink more (apparently a lot more because I drank quite a bit during that race) and probably turn up the salt consumption so I don't sweat out everything I put in. As longer training runs test my hydration limits, I expect to have more experience in this area and develop a specific plan for race day.

5-Fatigue-This goes without saying, but there are two things I plan to do here. One is figuring out how many carbs I can put in without making myself sick. I'll probably be using gels on race day. Two is simply training adequately. I plan to do 2-4 short runs during the week and a long run (taper up to ~20 miles) every Saturday.

6-Side aches-I'm still figuring this out, as I often can't tell if these are going to occur or not. The less I can have in my stomach while running, the better off I tend to be. On race day I will eat breakfast ~2 hours before start time and play the cards I'm dealt after that.

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