Monday, October 20, 2014

Notes From the Trail

Feeling a little nervous before the race.
This weekend I completed my second Gunstock Half-Marathon. I finished it faster than last year and more importantly I finished it feeling better. I was tired, I had two purple toe nails, and my stomach was a little uncomfortable for the rest of the day but I was feeling GREAT. I attribute all of this to two big changes in my race strategy: pacing and fueling.

I have never been very good at pacing. I do not have one of those fancy watches that gives me real time updates on speed and mileage and heart rate.  That would really make life a lot easier (maybe I should add it to my wishlist?). I do have an app that records my stats but I don't want to be looking at my phone constantly and it only reports audibly every mile meaning not until I am finished with a mile do I know how fast I did it. Anyways, so I decided to pace myself by going as slow as I could possibly go straight out of the gate. I also listened to scriptures on tape. Nothing like that to keep you going at a slow and steady pace. And, it killed two goals with one stone--kept my pace slow and got me that much closer to getting through the Book of Mormon, marathon style, in the next two weeks. 

I knew it could be defeating watching all those people run faster than me at the start. I knew I was going to be tempted to keep up with their pace. To combat that I did some preliminary mental training. Lots and lots of self talk the week previous was one way to do this. I constantly reminded myself that I would be running my own race and I didn't care how many people were in front of me. I wanted to feel good, I reminded myself. I also spent time visualizing the start, feeling people brush up against me as they passed, focusing on my feet taking small even steps, and watching the trees, the birds, the clouds, the bushes, NOT people.

Two purple toes. Thankful for feet.
It worked! Soon I found myself in a cluster of people that were my same speed. Sometimes I would pass them and sometimes they me. We loosely stuck together through the midpoint of the race when THEY started lagging. THEY were lagging not ME! Now that was pretty exciting for me because usually I'm the one that starts slowing down halfway through but not this time! I had gone slow enough that I could keep on keeping on. That felt great. And what felt even greater was at about 8 miles I started passing people that had been well ahead of me but had totally lost steam and were now barely jogging or walking.  Last year I was one of those people and this year I was zooming past. Hurray!

Last year I took just one Gu gel with me and then drank sparingly on the race course. This year my fueling strategy did not begin on the race course. A week ahead of time I conscientiously avoided all caffeine and stimulant type additives. I did not take Excedrin for headaches, I did not each (much) chocolate. I did not take some of my vitamins that have extracts that could be considered minor stimulants like green tea extract. A few days ahead I started drinking a LOT of water in an effort to super hydrate myself. A few days before I avoided dairy and breads and the day before I ate easily digestible things like fruits and veggies and I had chicken for dinner. The morning of the race I woke up 2 hours early to eat a banana and an energy bar and drink 3 glasses of water so it could all digest and get into my system before the race. I hadn't done any of this last year.

During the race this year I took 3 Gu gels along the course and I drank a full cup at every station. I didn't want to mix my gels with Gatorade but two of the stations had run out of water when I ran through and I had to have Gatorade. I think that caused me my stomach upset--too much carb sitting in there--but I'd rather have a little tummy distress than be dehydrated. I took my first gel about 30 minutes into the race, my second one 45 minutes later and my last one 45 minutes after that. The first two were strawberry banana flavor. It is the kind I always get because I love the flavor and there is no caffeine.  But the third one I took a gamble on.  I tried something I haven't done before and I had a Jet Blackberry flavored gel with 40 mg caffeine. That is more caffeine than a coke but less than an Excedrin. I knew I would be dragging at the end and that the caffeine on top of the carb would give me a little more pick me up. And it did!

Just before the halfway mark the Book of Mormon playlist that I was streaming from YouTube stopped working. That was a little dismaying but it figured since we were running way up in the hills. It was a miracle it been streaming without problem for as long as it had. I ran in silence for a few miles until I decided to turn on music. I accidentally hit an old running playlist. Psychologically this was a great, happy accident. I hadn't run to these songs in a long time, hadn't heard them in a long time, and it made it invigorating and fun to listen to old songs that I loved. This also just happened to coincide with the part of the race where people started slowing down or walking and I was passing them. Also a psychological boost. And this is also about where I took my third Gu gel and had just passed the last water station both a physical boost. Pretty soon I was clipping along at a faster pace than I'd run the whole morning. I was passing people left and right. I was able to bounce down the hills and keep a strong, steady, happy pace. And I ran into the finish line hard. 

It was a fun race this year. I am going to take note of the tricks I used and see if it will work again next time. This filled me with such enthusiasm for running and I'm really looking forward to my marathon in December. Stay tuned for race results. They should be posted in the next day or two.

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