Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Marathon Experiences X 2

Long post alert! 
Do you have your cup of coffee or tea? Awesome! Sit back and relax...here we go!

On Sunday March 15th, I went to the LA Marathon to cheer for two of my girlfriends that were running the race. Both Sheralyn and Tara are amazing athletes. Sheralyn was thisclose to going to the Olympics in soccer and is a really great runner. When I met Tara, she was intensely training for Ironman Coeur d' Alene! They are both beautiful, smart, wonderful women and talented runners. I wanted to share their stories for two reasons:

1. Other runners can draw from their experiences and perhaps gain valuable information for future marathons.

2. Who doesn't want to read about kick butt women athletes?!

They both have wonderful stories to tell and I'd love to share them with you...

Tara in pink shirt on left - Sheralyn in green shorts

First is my friend Sheralyn. Through our love of running (and our sons were in the same preschool and kindergarten class!) we became friends. 
Many philosophical discussions, insanely funny stories, mothering musings and a half marathon in Malibu have happened over the years of running together. From planning dinner parties to the best sports bras - we've covered a lot of subjects in many, many miles of running.
Sheralyn always amazes me how she manages to make running, studying and raising three boys look so effortless...

Sheralyn ran the LA marathon in 3:31 and qualified for yet another Boston Marathon!!

Here is her running story...

Growing up as a soccer player, I learned to love running at a very young age. After playing 4 years of Division 1 soccer in college, at 22, I was eager to hang up my cleats and lace up my sneakers. I immediately fell in love with running. The sense of peace and freedom I felt when outside in the fresh air brought a dose of confidence to my young & impressionable heart. Aside from the spiritual boost and mental sharpness, running has brought me friendships. Unique, special, and completely unconditional "runner" friends. More than anything, as a runner, I cherish my "long run chats" - the women that I run with have become my life long friends.

At the age of 30, I ran my first marathon, and was blessed to qualify for the Boston marathon. I ran it for the first time in 2004. Soon after, I got married, and had my first son. 17 months later my second son was born, and 24 months after that, my third son arrived. I was so incredibly blessed to have flawless and easy pregnancies. With all 3 boys, i ran until the day I delivered. Each baby was over 8lbs and my doctors told me that runners often deliver large & lean babies because the maternal running causes the placenta to become ultra oxygenated and fueled! 

I ran my first post baby marathon in 2014 (LA marathon) and was lucky enough to again qualify for Boston! I ran Boston for the second time in 2014, exactly 10 years and 3 babies after running it for the first time. It was an overwhelming experience - I was flooded with gratitude: for my 40 year old stubborn legs, my beautiful family, the cities and streets I've toured in my sweat & sneakers, and for the courageous and beautiful women I've ran with throughout the years. 

With a lifetime of soccer, running, and now raising 3 boys, I become obsessed with fuel" aka: energy!  In 2012 I decided to take my curiosity and make it official by returning to grad school. I am currently a graduate student studying to become a licensed, registered dietitian with a Masters degree in Nutrition from the University of Alabama. Although my specific focus is in pediatrics and family wellness, my studies offer me the opportunity to better understand human physiology and performance biochemistry - which often comes in handy for my marathon extraordinaire friends like Natalie Mitchell. :)

Sheralyn's 3:31 was achieved during the heat of the marathon in a calm, cool and collected manner. She felt great afterwards and wasn't sore that day or the days following.

She also did not hit the "wall" during the critical mile 18-20 mark that many runners have experienced during a marathon.
A friend of hers is running the Boston Marathon next month and after much research, here is her advice for avoiding the dreaded wall...

So, I started thinking about the 18 mile wall. Although performance is not my area of expertise, I do have a healthy dose of biochemistry and physiology in my noggin, so thought I'd give the situation some thought. 

I'm sure you've heard about aerobic vs. anaerobic conditions.

Aerobic conditions are known as glycolysis. This is the process that your body goes through under conditions where you have enough oxygen to fuel your muscles during a race. In glycolysis, your body can convert (in order of preference) carbohydrates, fat, and protein into energy. To stay in this zone, you fuel regularly, drink water, and keep your heart rate within a certain range (more on HR below.) Obviously, during a marathon, you need to stay in the state of glycolysis. Most studies indicate that if you stay within 70-80% of your max heart rate you will remain in glycolysis.

Conversely, anaerobic conditions occur if you enter a space where your body can no longer deliver enough oxygen to your muscles. In this state, your body can no longer use glucose (created from glycolysis) for energy, so it attempts to obtain energy in a different type of way.  This alternative path is called the Corey cycle (or lactic acid cycle.) Here, your body attempts to convert lactase to energy because it no longer can perform glycolysis. This is a very short lived energy source and quickly produces lactic acid in the muscles - this is your "wall" feeling because lactase can't provide sustained energy. Only glucose can provide sustained energy. Studies indicate that once you hit 80% of your max HR, you begin to enter the Corey cycle. 

So, the question is: for you, at what heart rate do you stay in "glycolysis" and at what point does your body enter the "Corey cycle"? (Aka: mile 18)

This breaking point is obviously different for everyone. After doing some digging, it seems that trained marathon runners can stay in glycolysis at about 78-79% of their max heart rate. (Side crazy Kenya fun fact - they can stay in glycolysis at up to 80-85% of their max HR.) For most trained athletes, in a marathon, once you go beyond 78-79%, and stay there for too long, you will enter the Corey cycle. 

So, if you take a SUPER rough estimate of your max HR (220-age) and multiply by .78, you can calculate the range you should stay in to remain in glycolysis. E.g; 220-37= 183, 183 x .79 = approx 145. Case in point, my average yesterday was 143, and I didn't produce any lactic acid. Was not sore or tight at all.

Obviously there are training programs to help you tweak this, and surely if you based your percentage off your known vo2 max vs. the canned equation above,  you could get a much more accurate picture of your percentage and your exact line between glycolysys and Corey cycle. (I'm assuming your true max HR is much higher), but I wanted to give you an example of how it works.

The mystery of your "wall" is solved, no need to bump into that situation again. :) 

Interesting, right? I for one haven't ever really kept track of my heart rate, but this really makes me rethink it all...

You can read more about avoiding the wall HERE and HERE!

For Sheralyn's fuel plan...

It's actually a SUPER technical fuel plan. (Just kidding: my plan is not pre-planned, I usually show up with a cotton tshirt & soccer shorts with no pockets, I like to keep it light when I run, I always find enough food & support along the way.) 

The night before the race I had 2 glasses of wine, 3 pieces of pizza, 4 fried mozzarella sticks, and a bowl of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. I was really hungry! The next morning I had a luna bar & coffee plus 2 cups of water. 

During the race, I stopped for water whenever I felt like I needed to. I'm guessing I stopped at about every other station. I always grab the cup, fold it in half, and sip from the folded spout for about 50 meters. This way I don't get air in my stomach or water up my nose & down my shirt! I grabbed a gu from the cliff station at mile 12 and slowly sipped it for about 1/4 mile. At mile 16 I grabbed a twizzler from a kid on the side of the road (don't worry, I didn't push him over or anything, he offered it up!) At mile 19 I grabbed another gu from the cliff station, but held onto it until mile 22. At mile 22, I ate a pile of gummy bears (again, poor unwilling Johnny loses his candy!) and I ate them along with a gulp of gu. From 22 on, I kicked it in, and my last mile was sub 7! I felt perfectly fueled. 

And here is her philosophy on marathon training...

I am no expert and I obviously run for fun. But you asked, so I'll tell. For me, it comes down to a few principles:

1. Train for fun and set some realistic goals
2. Cross train several times per week
3. Hydrate & eat enough calories! 
4. Think of yourself as a life long runner, not someone who is simply "training for the <add marathon name here>" 

5. stick to your guns and BE CONSISTENT

Bingo! Spot on advice :)

Tara is next! Not only is Tara a great athlete, she is also an amazing singer and wonderful friend.
Tara was the friend I talked about in my year end running recap HERE about helping me through one of my first runs post nursing SBG.

...And yes, this is her personality all the time - happy and full of life! :)

This was Tara's overall experience from the marathon...

I've never had gi distress in a race before this Sunday. And "distress" is the understatement of the year. I saw the inside of 12 porta potties... It was so awful that I convinced myself Satan was an official sponsor of the race. Anywho, after some research online it appears I went into early dehydration and it became a vicious cycle for 4.5 LONG hours. I'm actually lucky I finished, considering. Obviously I'm disappointed...because had my tummy been fine, I probably could have knocked at least 30, maybe 40 minutes of my finish time. I also think I exacerbated the problem by eating way too early in the race, thinking I needed to start fueling for that "wall". Big mistake. 

Ugh. There is nothing like GI distress during a marathon.

HERE is an informative article about avoiding GI distress during a race!

Here is our chat about her race plan and fueling...

1. Tell me about when you started drinking during the race... which miles and what did you drink - water? Gatorade? 
I started sipping right out of the gate. Normal for me - I trained that way, as I get thirsty on runs longer than 5 miles. Nuun tablets (which now make me want to puke just thinking about them!) which I carried with me and put in my handheld. Which, for the record, was so annoying and time consuming and I will never do again. I'd rather train with the sponsored drink from now on so I can grab and go. 

2. What did you eat during the race?  
I had one pack of Stinger organic gummies at mile 4, thinking it would help the gi...bad idea, TBone.  Couldn't handle anything else for a while. Took a Second Surge gu (100mg caffeine) around mile 10 because I was starting to bonk. That felt ok.  Sucked an orange slice around mile 18 and another at mile 20. No problems with those. 

3. What did you eat the night before and the morning of the race? 
Roast chicken, baked sweet potatoes. Normal portion. The whole pre-race "carbo loading/giant meal" has never worked for me.  In the morning I made a pb and jam sandwich (white bread to avoid fiber) and half a banana. Ate at 4:30am to give enough digestion time. Also had some coffee. 

4. What training program did you use and how long was your training cycle? 
Um...I kind of made it up as I went but loosely followed a coach/friends plan. It's not my first time at the rodeo, so I knew what I needed to get done.  I ran about 3 times during the week plus a short run sat and long run sun. I squeezed in 1-2 sessions of hot yoga a week, as well.  It was a 3 week build cycle.

5. What was your finishing time?  

6. Will you run another marathon? 
Of course!!! I've been looking online for possibly one in a few months! I want to figure this out and see what I'm actually capable of.  

7. How will you recover from the race (how many days off, massage, etc)?  
I took Monday completely off - was so sore I had no choice! Did about 30 minutes of yoga today. I will do some light walking and yoga until Sunday or Monday and then start back with a 4 miler. No massage this time....my DOMS says no way. Lol

8. What was your time for Ironman Coeur d' Alene? 
My marathon time was 4:45. For Ironman I had a completely different set of strategies and nutrition rules...I was dialed in like a machine. I knew exactly how many calories/electrolytes/carb percentage/fluid I needed per hour and a watch set for every 15 minutes to consume it.  You have to do this in a race that long, because by the time you exit the water you have burned through your glycogen stores...but you still have 10-12 hours of racing in front of you! I ran/walked the marathon at a 5:1 (5 minutes running at an 8:30 pace, 1 minute walking. This was also timed on my watch). I never had a single cramp or GI issue. I smiled the whole time!!! Crazy...

And there you have it - two different race experiences with one commonality - they both finished strong and are true lifelong runners.

A huge THANK YOU to Sheralyn and Tara for taking the time to talk to me about their marathon experiences!!

Have you ever "hit the wall" in a marathon?

Do you plan a fueling strategy before your race?

Do you keep track of your heart rate?

Happiness Is Running Life!


No comments:

Post a Comment