On Saturday, I finished Week 4 with an 8 mile long run. I had a good amount of energy the rest of the day, which I think is a positive sign. Yesterday, I rested, even though I wanted to start on Week 5. However, I want to be conscientious of avoiding overuse injury, and so rest days after long runs will become increasingly more sacred as my training progresses.
Week 5 is significant because it is the first week that the long run hits double digits (10 miles), and also the first week that the cumulative mileage goes about 20 (Week 5 amounts to 21 miles). What are some of the important things to focus on this week? Self care–or–hydration, fuel, and rest.
Hydration is an especially appropriate subject to focus on because we are having our first heat wave of the summer over here in northwest Washington. Hydration for marathon training does not just mean steady consumption of water throughout the day; it encompasses strategic compensation for additional fluids lost during long runs by drinking 8 ounces per 20 minutes of running time for each long run. That is in addition to the 6-8 cups a day recommended for good levels. I can usually internally feel when I should drink more water (before thirst hits), but the best indication is urine color. Pee should be light or clear… if it’s on the dark yellow side, that is a warning sign of dehydration. In addition to water, I personally enjoy electrolyte replenishing drinks such as Gatorade during long runs. I think that if I’m going to get really sweaty and the weather is warm, alternating Gatorade and water is a good way to go.
Nutrition for running is a comprehensive and broad subject, and there are entire blogs and books out there that discuss nothing more than this. My approach is pretty simple–it’s to maintain an 80/20 ratio as best as I can. 80% whole and minimally processed foods, 20% other things that are tasty. Marathon training has a way of curbing your unhealthy eating habits even if you don’t try. It’s really unpleasant to run in the evening if I’ve eaten something greasy for lunch. I know that… so if I know I will be running, I really try to eat something that will digest well and won’t give me intestinal problems later on. On the other hand, nourishing sources of higher calorie foods are also important. I like nut butters, Greek yogurt, and granola to meet this need. I stay away from energy bars and try to eat something real of substance instead, even if it means packing and washing extra tupperware 🙂 During runs that are longer than an hour (and that’s about 6 miles for me), my go-to fuel is GU. I know it’s nasty and akin to astronaut food, but it gets the job done. Not much to digest, and the energy metabolizes and boosts the muscles pretty quickly. I also really like the sport jelly beans. Those taste a little saltier.
Rest, rest, rest. Rest is important, but also staggeringly challenging for the first-time marathoner to wrap her head around. I feel so great! Why wouldn’t I run today? Waaaahhhh…. Well, one concentrated memory back to my IT band pain, and I start buying in to the rest day with more enthusiasm. Running makes for sustained impact on the joints, and it’s critical to let fatigued muscles recover after long runs so they can work to protect skeletal alignment and integrity during future runs. Stretching is a huge component of the rest and recovery cycle. Stretching for distance runners is the most important and impactful at the end of a run. I spend more and more time after runs and on my rest days stretching. It really does help.
The second half of the chapter on Week 5 discusses positive visualizations. I hope to share some of my visualizations with you later this week.
Happy running, and keep cool this first week of July…
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!