The year 2019 has been a whirlwind. It is June and I’ve not written a single blog post all year. All of my social media viewing/posting time has dwindled. Every bit of my free time has been invested in one activity…. Running.
Never in life have I imagined wanting to do a marathon. Especially not at age 37. While I agree, I’m not old yet. It seem like runners should obtain goals like marathons, ultras, and triathlons during their peak athletic ages (which by most doctor’s standards is considered 21-30).
During training, I’d get asked often by friends, family, coworkers or acquaintances why I was planning to even attempt a marathon. Contrary to common belief, not all of the people who love you are always the most supportive. My response became it is a bucket list item. Which now it was/is. However it goes way beyond that. I invested time in myself in a way I never have before. The experience changed my life in a way that post marathon I’m still struggling a bit to settle on my purpose/priorities.
With my lifestyle changing so much once I finally found that a high fat diet was the right fit for me, I found brand new energy levels. I started running again which I have always enjoyed although I’ve never been exceptionally fast. What I do excel at is stubbornness, endurance and ability to not give up.
Having good friends who were already running and pushing themselves, it was easy to get roped into their next challenge – a marathon. I posted last year about my first half marathon. I resisted a long time before setting that goal. There was no resistance towards the marathon. I was ready to challenge myself and see what I could do. In the process, I learned so much and these are in no order of importance.
First: I tend to neglect myself. I’m busy with work, life and kids. Though I have more energy and was setting aside more time for myself for working out, I have never dedicated the amount of time it took to train for a marathon. Every day was a set schedule. Here is an image of our training plan.
Second: Getting over the guilt of putting myself first when it comes to never missing a run. It is hard to say kids I love you, but I have to go do a run every weekend. Now my kids did not really care. They would facetime from their iPads if I was taking too long to complain and get a status of when I would be home. My husband was very supportive and helped schedule-wise to ensure I got training in. Nevertheless, I still felt guilty of making my needs first priority. This is the biggest inhibitor of signing up for another marathon in the future.
Third, how amazing it is to have friends to keep you motivated and help forget the guilt. Training was an 18 week grueling process with accountability to my running mates where we tracked each other on the RunKeeper app daily and met on the weekends for extended runs. Long runs were full of conversations, pain and laughter with no exception allowed for weather.
Even if you go on vacation and the weather is perfect and you want to be lazy! Too bad, you still gotta run. Helps to torture a friend and just vacation together!
Perhaps the best part of training is the miles spent with friends. A marathon is only 26.2, but there are hundreds of miles of preparation work to get there.
Fourth: Expect hills. There is no such thing as a flat run unless you are running on a treadmill. Whatever run is mapped, plan on hills.
Fifth: No joke on the pain. Yes you get sore with long runs. Or your feet hurt from the miles of the day. These are expected from pushing your body to new limits. What got me was the unexpected, chaffing! Who knew with extended runs there would be so much chaffing!?!? The first time I went 15 miles, there was a little chaffing on my back. After all the runs 15 miles or more, there would be new places of pain I’d find as the water in the post run shower hit the chaffing rash like an inferno of lashing.
Sixth: The salt and clothing. The chaffing is caused by the salt pouring out of my skin with the excessive sweating and clothes rubbing it. I was constantly changing up clothing to see what worked best. I prefer tank tops on shorter runs, but for long runs it’s long sleeves. I found no use for short sleeves. Long sleeves attributed to less chaffing in general, but there is no way around the sports bra. My torso would be eat up at all the clothing lines.
Seventh: Still the salt. It is all about replenishing the salt. Of all the nutrition I played with on long runs, I came to realize all I needed was salt/electrolytes and water. The SaltStick fastchews were by far my favorite for taste and ease of carrying. I think in general for keto these are amazing.
The only other things I put in my body besides water and saltstick was black coffee for some caffeine pre-race and nicotine lozenges. I find both caffeine and nicotine to be helpful on a long run in small doses. I do not smoke nor would I suggest smoking.
Eighth: A word of caution for water. I am thirsty always, even when I am not running. I can run around an hour (first 6 miles ish) without requiring the replenishment of some high quality H2O but that’s about it. With extended runs, I got tired of carrying bottles or the apparatus to put them on my running belt and finally invested in a Nathan bladder backpack. It was perfection to run hands free with 2 liters of water at the ready.
It was so glorious the first usage of the backpack, with what felt like unlimited water, that I didn’t pay attention to how much I was drinking. That day I also tried using some grapes as carb ups which I have tried minimally with success prior. After the 18 miles, I was driving home and started to feel a little nauseous. I’ve never vomited before from running so thought it would pass. Nope. At a busy intersection of Versailles and Man-O-War (near Keeneland), I am trying to pull off the road as I projectile vomit what tasted like white wine. It was straight water with a little grape peel but already was fermented from stomach acid. My husband and kids complained of the smell for weeks to come. I attempted to clean it up, but again it was water. Lesson learned to not over hydrate. Plus I lost the stomach for attempting any more grapes during a run.
Ninth: Back to the backpack. Seriously it is amazing and the best running investment I made. There is room to carrying all the things (kleenex, saltstick, nicotine lozenge, chapstick, water, inhaler, etc.) plus a cell phone battery pack. When I completed the marathon, I was at 100% phone battery because it was pretty much charging the whole time. With the GPS tracker and music/audio books/podcasts, phone battery will not last the duration of a marathon alone.
Tenth: When you gotta go you gotta go. When running, there is no way to know when your intestines will wring in pain. Maybe it is running to the hills or whatever random restaurant you can find. The people will stare and you can’t care.
In so many posts, I have the same theme of acceptance. Accept it is going to happen and plan for it. Race day morning I took Kaopectate just in case. I also fasted and didn’t eat the night before. During race, I made no potty stops.
Eleventh: Ketone tracking. In smaller runs (under 6 miles), I found no change in ketones. I track with KetoMojo. However, on long runs there was significant impact. A ketone burning state is measured in 0.5-3 mmol/L. Here is a screenshot of side-by-side ketone test before and after a 20 mile run.
Ability to start in high ketone range is also the reason why I have no reservations on fasting prior to runs. I efficiently burn both fat and glucose now with my ketogenic lifestyle. If I start a run in a fasted state, then I am immediately going to use ketones after stored glycogen in muscles. This metabolic process is faster for me than a normal high carb runner. The science behind low carb athletes is pretty amazing and I recommend reading The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance if you are interested.
Lastly, you can’t forget about the shoes. I’ve posted on running shoes before, but I have to say Brooks have been the winner for me over the last year or so. I’ve gone through a couple of pairs and do a full size up now. These brooks made it through all the training miles and the big day.
The whole marathon training process introduced a new view on how to properly care for myself. I thought more about nutrition to fuel my body to new peaks. Lord knows how hungry I would get after runs. The saltstick was nice to keep stomach growls at bay during a run, but after I am usually ravenous. I lost no weight during training.
I invested more in pre and post workout nutrition focusing on amino acids and leaving BCAA for after/recuperation. Post long runs, it truly is about compression leggings and socks for quick recovery.
My body temperature drop from profusely sweating with a run to teeth shattering freezing after (even when it wasn’t cold) was more dramatic than I expected. There were drives home that innocent bystanders riding with me were in misery from my heated car with heated seat inducing extra special heated scent from my completely rancid salt covered body.
I had a goal to finish the marathon under 5 hours, but had my hopes on 4 and half hours. I came in at 4:55 so was a little devastated. This time has me debating another marathon sometime in my future, but nothing planned yet.
I am truly grateful for physically being able to accomplish this goal and some humbled by my supporters and cheerleaders through training and the marathon! I think before signing up for a marathon my best advice is to find your pack.
The lack of direction is incredible afterwards with not having a planned daily schedule of runs. I’ve tried figuring out where to use my time for additional goals I have of just spending time with family/friends, doing more yoga/meditation and writing (like this post). I guess time will tell.
Here are additional race day photos.
This was the KY Derby marathon in Louisville, KY. Here are images of the map.
I did get the t-shirt, but also decided to commemorate with a new tattoo.
Happy running, friends!