Last week I ran the Sioux Falls SD marathon. What a great event – I can’t wait to tell you all about it, but that’s for a future post! First I want to share with you what I did to prepare for this race. You see, I took my training to an entirely new level for this race. I set a goal for myself of completing this marathon in 4 hours. To date my personal best being 4:09 on a slightly downhill course. This big goal meant big changes.
So what did I do? Well, I took pretty much everything I was doing, and threw it out the window. There are really two major components to marathon training: 1- nutrition and 2- the actual running. I did not approach this marathon the same way as past marathons in either aspect.
Let’s talk nutrition. Most people would say I eat a pretty healthy diet. It consists of mostly whole, natural foods, and I rarely eat out. For most, this would be enough. But for me, I wanted to get to the start line of the marathon at my ideal racing weight and body fat. I quickly realized I had some room to improve. Through some trial and error, I discovered there are certain foods my body doesn’t respond well to. Say goodbye legumes and chickpeas – aka hummus, certain raw vegetables, and soy. I was also working through some fierce sweet cravings. I’ve always had a huge sweet tooth. Nutrient timing became a key factor in overcoming those cravings. Another big change I made was the return of meat. I added back in organic free-range chicken and eggs, and more fish. I also found a line of protein powder and pre and post workout mixes. I learned how to time my meals and macronutrients so that they fueled my body for the workouts. All of these changes also supported a faster post workout recovery.
Training and workouts – some big changes here! I had previously used the Grandma’s intermediate training plan to prepare for my races. It was a good plan, but it wasn’t getting me to the finish line in 4 hours. As a matter of fact, I was getting slower. I did some research on other training plans out there and finally settled on the Jack Daniels plan. He believes many of us run our easy runs too fast, and our tempo/pace runs too slow. Using his VDOT calculator, I was able to determine my paces for each of the various types of runs (easy, marathon pace, tempo, repitition, etc). For the first time I knew the exact speed at which I should be running each run. And I’ll just say, the easy run pace was much slower that I had been running them in the past. The other major difference in this plan from my previous, was the absence of a really long run. The longest run on the JDs plan for me was 18 miles. I was used to putting in several 20+ mile runs which honestly, left me feeling drained. My overall mileage was higher, adding in more miles throughout the week under this new plan. In addition to switching my training plan, I also added in 3-4 strength workouts each week. I focused on exercises that strengthened my posterior chain and upper back, such as straight leg deadlifts, walking lunges, high rope pulls, and various rows.
The big question is, did these changes make any impact? Did I see the results I was looking for? I’ll somewhat answer that question today. I hit a new personal record for miles run in a week (69) and a new monthly mileage high as well. My body did not feel beat up and exhausted. My legs didn’t feel like they had lead weight in them. I finally found a way to manage my cravings for sweets. And lastly, I came pretty darn close to my racing weight by losing about 8 pounds and 4% body fat. These numbers tell me that while I was running high mileage, I did not compromise my lean muscle mass. And, I no longer felt the pain in my back and neck after long runs. These are all pretty big successes to me!
Keep your eyes open for my next post – my race recap and final results!