by Jeff Soileau, V.P. + Training Coordinator of Alamo 180
As our big race approaches and your training mileage gets longer and longer, it is important to remember a few simple tips to make the long runs and race day more manageable.
Imagine preparing for a cross country trip in your car. You make sure your car is in great working order, your tires are properly inflated, your oil changed, and your antifreeze/coolant replaced. But wait! You forgot to put gas in the tank! Guess you won’t be going too far after all… The same goes for your body. You do your maintenance runs during the week. You take care of your shoes. You wear proper apparel. Don’t forget to eat! It can be catastrophic to go into a long weekend run without “gas in the tank.” It doesn’t have to be much either; wheat toast or a bagel with peanut butter, a bowl of oatmeal, or a scrambled egg with some juice. Heck, even a donut is better than nothing! Every athlete is different as to what they can tolerate, so start experimenting now to find what works best for you. The morning of your big race is the wrong time to change or start a new morning meal. It is also important that you refuel during your run. This can be accomplished with various gels and supplements, but most professionals agree that refueling is necessary in workouts exceeding 1.25 hours and should be ingested every 45 minutes to maintain peak performance.
As an athlete exercises, the body’s core temperature rises. The body responds to this increase in heat with a ‘unique-to-mammals’ cooling system: perspiration. As the body perspires to regulate temperature, water and electrolytes are released onto the skin. As the water evaporates, the body cools itself; at a cost. Under extreme conditions like heat, humidity and prolonged physical activity, (marathon training in south Texas, anyone?) sweating causes the body to lose water and electrolytes, so it is important to hydrate during exercise. Humans are uniquely developed for endurance events in that they can drink and eat while moving, so plan on taking some water with you. Some good advice is to hydrate early and often, and to mix water with electrolyte replacement, as water alone will not be enough. Hydrating early also refers to the day or days leading up to your big event. Some things to limit or avoid are caffeine and alcohol, as they are diuretics, which can cause the body to excrete water (makes you pee).
It is easy to run fast for short distances, however, many athletes have difficulty with runs in excess of 5-6 miles. This is where having a plan comes in handy. Plan to use short, walking intervals to help conserve energy and to recover. An example would be to plan to run for 5 minutes, walk for 1 minute. Do this the entire duration of your run. It doesn’t have to be exactly this formula, so work on what works for you. You can plan your walking recoveries based on water stops, time, or distance covered.
Also be aware that pacing is often affected by things that are out of our control, like heat and humidity. It is suggested by Olympian and coach Jeff Galloway, that for every 10 degrees above 60, a runner’s pace may be affected by a much as 30 seconds. So based on typical temperatures in south Texas during the summer and early fall, (averaging 100 degrees!) a runner’s pace could be slowed by approximately 2 minutes per mile!
All of these things combine to make for harsh training and racing conditions, however, practicing in these conditions will help prepare for racing under the same conditions. Start experimenting with different fueling, hydration and pacing methods, so that when your big day arrives, you will feel confident in your abilities and will have a great marathon or 1/2 marathon race experience!