Judging from our Google analytics, these posts have tens of thousands of returning readers weekly (insert smiley face here; actually have no idea if anyone beyond a few loyal commenters read this). With that being the case, there’s no need for me to rehash my intro from last week’s Q & A Part 1. Just in case you missed it, here it is. For the rest of us, I will proceed straight to Part 2, which covers what to expect in the week before and after race day.
Q: Let’s talk about the night before VCM. What should/shouldn’t I eat? How do you deal with race related jitters/nerves?
A: You will probably be a mess the night before. Not only are you tapered down and antsy from not running as much, but your first full marathon is staring you in the face. Set out your race outfit, put your number on your shirt and find a movie or show with which to distract yourself. Eat what you eat every night before your long run. Think about all the miles you’ve put in and be confident that you’ll see the benefits tomorrow. If you start creating rituals before your long runs now, those rituals can be huge in reducing nerves when you mimic them on race weekend.
A: I know you don’t want to hear it, but for first timers, the goal should always be to finish. You may have a goal time in mind and that’s okay to help frame your training, but the first time is about crossing the finish line. Everything else is just cake. (Ed. note – that comment was directly squarely at me, from my coach, not at you, the reader. Sarah knows me and my competitive drive quite well, and knows I will be disappointed if I don’t run the marathon in my goal-time.)
Q: Come race day, weather could play a huge role in my experience/results. Any way to prepare for the variance in possible weather conditions? How do I deal if it’s hot & humid, rainy, windy, etc.
A: There’s not much we can do about the weather except acknowledge it, put on extra Body Glide and gripe about it afterwards. If it’s hot or extremely humid, consider adjusting your goals. If it’s windy, try to stay relaxed. Fighting the wind will tire you out. For rain, Body Glide is key as is a cap to keep rain off your face. If it’s a monsoon, consider doing plastic baggies in your shoes and having someone out on the course with extra socks.
Q: As this is my first VCM, should I take advantage of the pace runners? You were a pace runner last year, do you find that adds a lot of value to the uninitiated such as myself?
A: Pace groups can be an excellent way to reduce stress for new runners or complement the achievement of goals for people going for a personal record. A pace leader can help take your mind off the task at hand and do the hard work of staying on pace. One downside of pace groups is that they tend to be large, which can be a pain at the aid stations. If you can, try to stay just ahead or behind of your desired pace; 50 yards for the whole race isn’t a lot of time, but a lot less hassle.
Q: If you train with a fuel belt, do you wear it on race day? With all the water stops, you don’t need it, right?
A: This is up to you. Some people choose to wear the fuel belt because it takes out one unknown element of the marathon. Others choose to use the water stops. If you are someone with a sensitive stomach, it makes sense to stick with what you know and not risk a different flavor of Gatorade on your stomach. (That said, you should already be training with the sports drink that will be on the course.) I’ve never had trouble with water stops in smaller races, but definitely wish I’d had my belt in Boston last year when the water stops were chaotic and I struggled to get cups.
Q: A lot of places recommend walking through water stations; your thoughts?
A: I’ve done both. In races where I was feeling dizzy or like my hydration was off, I walked so as to get more water/sports drink into my system. I’ve also had to walk if I’m wrestling with a Gu packet. At this point, I usually just run through. The whole point of the water station, though, is to support your hydration and nutrition, so if walking maximizes your ability to do that, that’s your best approach. And a handy hint for cups: fold the rim in half to reduce spillage.
Q: What would you tell me if I’m about to collapse at mile 22?
A: It’s only 4 more miles, which you’ve done 1000 times in training. Break it up into the smallest chunks you need to, be it to the next tree or to the next mile marker. Every step forward gets you closer and like all things, this too shall pass.
Q: I’ve heard someone should run with me miles 21-25 if possible. How do they get to me on the VCM course?
A: While it would be great for everyone to have a friend with them for these tough miles, imagine the nightmare of that many extra people on the course. It’s great to have a friend set up to cheer at the far end of the bike path, but they shouldn’t join you for more than a few yards.
Q: What do you wish you had known ahead of time that you didn’t know prior to your very first marathon?
A: To not stop doing core work! I’ve never had back pain like I did after my first marathon and I attribute it to not being diligent about doing a core routine. The other thing I wish I’d known was to worry less. I sprained my ankle about 10 days before my first marathon and was convinced I was toast. I rested it, fretted and still had a great debut marathon with no ankle pain.
Q: Am I going to be able to walk the day after the race? What should I do at home that night to make that more likely?
A: To be honest, you’re probably not going to be moving smoothly. The marathon is an incredible physical undertaking and it takes a toll on everyone from beginners to elite athletes. The first key is to try to keep moving when you finish and to get a recovery meal in you quickly. As awful as they can be, consider taking an ice bath or standing in Lake Champlain for about 15 minutes. To ease the misery of ice baths, recruit someone to add the ice after you are already in the water – much easier than trying to convince yourself to get in. Anti-inflammatories can help manage discomfort and a bath that evening may feel good as well.
Q: What’s your favorite recovery method? Ice bath? Massage? Do you recommend massage?
A: I do an ice bath after any run longer than 2 hours and wear calf compression sleeves. Instead of traditional massage (which is a great option), I use a Foam Roller. Massage can be a great option, but like anything, shouldn’t be tried for the first time in the week before KBVCM. Be prepared that you will be tender for quite a few days afterward if you want to schedule one then. Finally, the research is mixed, but there is some to suggest that massage immediately after an event can exacerbate pain and impede healing because of the high number of microtears already in the muscle.
Q: What’s the best way to deal with post race recovery and the impacts running 26.2 has on your body? How much time off should I take before I resume running?
A: You should plan to take at least a week off from running and limit all activity to low impact, short sessions. If you are feeling good after a week, you can start running one or two days a week at an easy pace. You should keep things very light, easy and unstructured for up to a month after the marathon. Listen to sore muscles and consider doing cross training to keep up fitness without stressing the body.
Huge thank you to Sarah for participating in this exercise. I know I learned a lot as well as gained some comfort from what I thought I already knew. Happy running and see you next week.