Leading up to today’s planned 20 mile long run – was a monumental shift of my eating habits. A macro-nutrient shift — so that the majority of nutrients come from Carbohydrates. Today, I would put my learnings from last weeks “fume run” to the test. Today’s run – my longest training run prior to the NYC marathon, needed to push back the wall and stoke the fires of my confidence. I was feeling the pressure.
Days prior, my food intake shifted to lots of sweet potatoes, red potatoes, bananas, yellow squash, zucchini squash, eggplant, quinoa, brown rice, and whole grain pasta. The day before my long run, my hydration included lots of water plus Ultima electrolyte replenish-er. I felt hydrated, and my carb stores were heightened.
The morning of my long run – I was up at 5 AM, and immediately consumed whole wheat toast with peanut butter and a banana. I downed that with warm milk mixed with a 2 ounces of coffee – my “poor man’s latte”. I felt stuffed, and not exactly interested in eating all of this at 5AM – but planned to start my run by 7AM – and the digestion needed to occur. My “during run” nutrition was planned on a schedule. The first 6 miles, water only. Starting at mile 6 – I would consume my first Honey Stinger organic gel – 25 grams of carbs – washed down with some water. The rest of my hydration for the next 6 miles – would be Gatorade — 35 grams at least. And this routine would continue until the run ended. Time to put the new nutrition and plan into motion.
44 degrees at 7 AM. The coldest temperatures to date of the fall training season. Hot humid days are a thing of the past. Today I would be joined by Team Sherpa Jill – who has a broken foot, and will be riding a mountain bike along side of me, pedaling with a full cast. This is completely above and beyond bionic woman stuff — but this is how Jill rolls. Supportive, undaunted, and not about to let me run this alone. She will be joining me – starting at mile 6, and would ride the final 14. I had the first 6 miles solo to work out some kinks – and make sure to set the stage for “the perfect run”.
With the running nutrition and strategy in place, my focus for the first 6 miles was running economy. Nobody really tells you how to achieve “running economy” – but for me, it is all about minimizing the use of my fuel. It is about minimizing any extra jostling or jarring motions, minimizing any extra effort, minimizing any heavy breathing – in an attempt to achieve the elusive effortless state. I spent these early miles, setting the stage for today’s long run. If I felt like I was landing hard….I adjusted to land more softly. If I started to hear my breathing, I adjusted to breathe more silently. It is about paying attention to the details – and by making these adjustments early, I finished the first 6 miles with barely a heightened breathing rate, and my footwork felt soft.
Arriving at mile 6 – and not feeling the least bit winded or hungry – I forced myself to consume the first gel pack. It tasted great, but I wasn’t hungry. Consumption, tho had to be done. With Team Sherpa Jill waving frantically at me as I arrived at our rendezvous point – we briefly refilled my hydration bottles – and were off. The next 6 miles took us toward Glen Burnie Maryland along the B&A trail, and I continued to focus on minimizing my fuel usage, and drink Gatorade for both carbs and hydration. By mile 12 – I felt surprisingly great, and consumed my second gel pack. In goes another 25 grams of carbs.
By now we are back on the BWI loop – working our way along the trail around the BWI airport. Team Sherpa Jill does a masterful job riding the mountain bike with a cast, relaying via phone to other Team Sherpa members (Chuck and Pat) my distance stats, and I focus entirely on staying light on fuel use. By mile 16.5 – it is time to turn back toward base camp. Still feeling quite good and maintaining a sweet steady pace – I’m feeling no lactic buildup in my legs. Trying not to feel overconfident – we still have some miles to go. In a month from now, at 16.5 I will begin heading north on First Avenue in Manhattan.
Another blast of goo (gel pack) is consumed at mile 18 – and we are closing in on the preplanned 20 mile finish. Still feeling very good, I remind myself that there are 2 mile miles to go. Don’t get overconfident. Pay attention to energy conservation. Stay light on your feet. We arrive at the 20 mile mark just ahead of our designated destination – so I opted to add a little more distance, and finish at 20.6 miles. Not one bit of lactic acid buildup. I felt so good I could have easily run 26.2 today.
Feelin’ on top of the world – my confidence is now off the charts. Exactly what was needed. Yes – I can do this NYC Marathon thing. Eating right, fueling right and running efficiently – makes all the difference in the world! And above all else, having the BEST Sherpa Team – to motivate and distract me – has made this journey possible. Thank you Team Sherpa!!!!