marathon training

Running advice roundup

by lachicaruns on

totr-running-advice-roundup

I’ve been very fortunate that running has brought many gifts, including a plethora of runner friends. In particular, I’ve been blessed with very experienced runner friends who’ve mentored and encouraged me.

Thanks to them, I’ve learned a bunch of lessons, often without going through the pain of making too many mistakes. As part of today’s Tuesdays on the Run link-up hosted by runner bloggers MCM Mama Runs, My No Guilt Life and Marcia’s Healthy Slice, I am sharing some of the best running advice I’ve gathered. Be sure to click on the hyperlink to read more:

I can no longer say I’m a newbie, but I continue to need my runner tribe as I continue on this journey. Hopefully, you can learn a thing or two as I do.

What’s been some of the best running advice you’ve gotten? Feel free to share your post here if you’ve written about this topic before. (Click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

Yup, it happened today. I used a popsicle stick to smear Vaseline on a guy’s nipple.

You see, I volunteered at the Capital City River Run with my running group, Team Playmakers. It was at mile 9 for the half marathoners; mile 22 for the full marathon. The weather was perfect for standing around, handing out oranges, M&Ms, pretzels, Gatorade and water. Too warm for running, really, so a lot of the runners coming through were on the struggle bus.

ccrr-table

Great set up to volunteer for today’s race.

But we thoroughly enjoyed helping runners — or at least giving them a few words of encouragement — as they came through.

A welcome sight for most runners: paper towels dipped in ice water.

A welcome sight for most runners: paper towels dipped in ice water.

Everyone helped out, including some friends who ran their races then came back for the fun. I was inspired by so many who kept running or walking, even when they were obviously suffering.

My friend Vicki came back to help after she finished her half marathon.

My friend Vicki came back to help after she finished her half marathon.

I even got to run for the last four miles with my friend Angela who was running her first full marathon. She was hurting. She was miserable. And she probably wished she were anywhere but on that race course.

Yet, she just kept going. All the way to the finish line.

Angela killed that race course.

Angela killed that race course.

In the end, she and our friend Dena celebrated their accomplishment: they joined the marathoners club.

Dena and Angela join the marathoner tribe.

Dena and Angela join the marathoner tribe.

As for the guy and his Vaseline-needing nipple. He was on mile 22 of his marathon when his chaffing got so bad that he stopped by our table to see if we had Vaseline. I went to hand him the stuff on a popsicle stick when he lifted his shirt, pointed to the spot and I, well, swabbed it.

He thanked me and ran off. It’s not what I had in mind when I signed up to volunteer, but I did say that I wanted to pay it back for all of the people who have helped me during all of my races. Can I consider that debt paid now?

Have you ever needed Vaseline for race-day chaffing? Have you volunteered at a cheer tent? What’s the weirdest thing you have seen on a run or race? (Click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

lessons-learned-at-my-first-ultra-marathon

This 44-year-old just ran for more than 31 miles through trails so muddy that moving forward felt more like skating than running, hills steep enough to leave her winded and for so many hours (more than 10) that just about any GPS watch would have died. Just a week after doing the Run Woodstock 50K, I’m still a bit shell shocked but pretty darn proud of myself and my runner friends who took on this challenge.

lachicaruns-mud-vicki

Rain = muddy trails.

Through all of that, I learned a few things. Things that I hope will help anyone new to running longer distances or even someone training for their first ultra marathon:

Trust — and follow — the training plan. I happen to have a one-track mind, so printing off a training plan or putting all of the runs on my calendar and scratching them off helps me stick to the plan for weeks on end. This was probably the most important thing I did to prepare to run such a long distance, just four years after I began running using the Couch to 5K app. I was tired and sore for a few days after the race, but I also recovered quicker than I have for previous 26.2 mile runs.

Run Woodstock map.

Run Woodstock map.

Ultra-marathon aid stations are the bestest. My ultra runner friends pretty much dangled the promise of potato chips, soda and M&Ms as the incentive for us newbies to sign up for the race in the first place. The spread (which also included cheese sandwiches, pretzels, fruit and other yummy food) did not disappoint. This particular race had aid stations every four miles, allowing us to break the 31 miles into more-manageable goals, which makes for a great head-game strategy.

The Run Woodstock utra marathon aid stations served as a huge incentive to keep going.

The Run Woodstock utra marathon aid stations served as a huge incentive to keep going.

The volunteers are even better. Aid station volunteers are more akin to a NASCAR pit crew. They approached us, immediately helping us find just the perfect treat to give us a boost, talking about the course and in one instance, even giving their socks off their feet to a runner who was struggling with blisters.

Charlotte, an experienced long-distance runner, raised our spirits.

Charlotte, an experienced long-distance runner, raised our spirits.

Your body will rebel. Rain and mud can leave one’s feet soaked, meaning a high chance for blisters. Water retention was pretty common, giving several of us the tell-tale sausage fingers. I’m not sure how to address this in the future, but I suspect I need to take in more salt and fluids, both.

Sausage fingers.

Sausage fingers.

The drop bag is better than CatsTo get the full 31 miles, this race had us run the same loop twice, meaning we could have a drop bag at the beginning and also halfway through the loop. I was fortunate enough to have Brandess’ tips for packing a drop bag, so I was prepared. When we found out we could have two bags, we included a fresh pair of trail shoes and socks in the bag halfway through the course, allowing us to switch out shoes for the last five or six miles. My feet and mood were both grateful.

I cut up plastic binder dividers, wrote my information on them with a Sharpie, and tied them to my drop bags so I could find them.

I cut up plastic binder dividers, wrote my information on them with a Sharpie, and tied them to my drop bags so I could find them.

Runner friends will see you through anything. Not only did I get to run with the best runner friends in the universe, but a couple of our friends who didn’t even have a race traveled with us, cheered us on, took lots of pictures and video, and even helped one of us change out of her shoes after our ultra. Yes. Seriously.

Our friend Michelle helps one of our runners change out her shoes after the race. Not pictured is our friend Janet who cheered all of us and recorded the day's events for posterity.

Our friend Michelle helps one of our runners change out her shoes after the race. Not pictured is our friend Janet who cheered us on and captured the day’s events for posterity.

You are stronger than you thought. I may have felt better than I thought I would, but running for more than 10 hours took a toll on my body. I was tired and hungry. I just wanted to take a hot shower, eat all the food and go to bed. But my body did carry me through 31 miles without failing me. Our friend Vicky got hit by a falling branch. Shannon was stung by a couple of bees and picked up an unfortunate case of poison ivy. We saw 100K and 100-mile runners who were barely shuffling along. But we all kept going and met up at the finish line.

My friends Shannon and Vicki finishing the 50K, even after getting hit by a branch, stung by a bee and getting poison ivy.

My friends Shannon and Vicki finishing the 50K, even after getting hit by a branch, stung by a bee and getting poison ivy.

Our friend Corey stuck with Melissa to make sure she finished her first 50K.

Our friend Corey stuck with Melissa to make sure she finished her first 50K.

There’s no miracle recovery cure. I rested a lot the day after the race, but made sure to stretch, use the foam roller and put my legs up the wall. I also drank tons of water and took Aleve on the second day, typically my hardest post-race muscle-pain day. The closest thing to a cure, however, is a sports massage, which inevitably gives me fresh legs. Ahh, relief.

While most of my familia and friends thought I was nuts for attempting my first ultra marathon, the whole event was a huge success. I’m not yet committing to my next one, but I am certainly glad that I got to this one and hope it inspires you to sign up for your first 50K if it wasn’t on your radar before.

What have you learned from running your longest distance? Feel free to share a blog post if you’ve written about this topic before. (Click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

“You’re crazy” (with its accompanying head shaking) has got to be the most-common response from anyone who learns that I’m training to run 31 miles. For fun.

I often start to explain just how rewarding and fun this whole idea is, but the other person typically either continues to tell me why no sane person would choose to run an ultra marathon or to list reasons why these long distances are bad for me (wear and tear, knee problems and other injuries).

What if they really listened? Could I really articulate just how rewarding all of this training is? How good it feels to be so tired after a double-digit run that all I can think of is a nap (after I eat a donut!)? Just how much more I get out of the run than I expend in time or effort?

I’m reminded of the refrain “those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still” but just can’t help myself. So here’s my list of reasons for why long distance running is actually good for me:

  • Running has given me the most active social life I’ve ever had. Becoming a runner has expanded my circle of friends. I also get to do something fun just about every day of the week, whether it’s running at 5 in the morning or getting roped into doing a 31-day plank challenge (I’m looking at you, Jessi).
  • Running has made me more active. I’ve never been a slacker in the active department (camping, hiking, fishing, biking and tae kwon do come to mind), but now I find even more reasons to be active. I do take rest days off, but I enjoy my fitness-related activities more and am a lot more likely to stick to my schedule.
  • Running has encouraged me to set new goals and to push myself. Planning my runs, working on my training plan and, yes, shopping for new gear give me a sense of contentment. But it’s the big-hairy-deal goals that bring me the most feeling of accomplishment. I never imagined I’d be running a half marathon, let alone training for anything beyond 26.2 miles. Just thinking about it makes me smile.
  • Running has gotten me to try new things. The phrase “I don’t do winter” was part of my vocabulary for more than 20 years. Now I run outside no matter the weather and no longer feel like I live in the Michigan tundra against my will. And I’m running through parts of town I’d never even seen before, whether on trails or pavement, giving me a bigger appreciation for my adopted hometown.
  • Running has helped me make better choices about my health. A chica can’t run 20-plus miles on a stomach full of donuts, so I’ve learned to make better food choices, am drinking at least twice as much water as I ever have, am taking my vitamins and am getting more sleep. (I’m doing that last one mostly because I can’t keep my eyes open past 9:30 at night, but it still counts, right?)

And here’s this week’s menu plan so you have more time to run. If you’re new, here’s how I make my list.

What else would you add to the list of reasons why long-distance running is good for you? Add it to the comments below. Feel free to include a link to your blog if you’ve written about this topic.

tips for running your first trail half marathonI ran 13.1 miles through the woods at the Two Hearted Trail Half in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and didn’t die, so I’m now sharing tips on how you, too, can survive — and thrive during — your first trail half.

 

  • Tip #1: Pick your race carefully. Two Hearted was the perfect first race for me. It was well organized, had gorgeous scenery, a well-marked route and made my first experience memorable. I read about this particular race from the Detroit Runner’s race review and it didn’t disappoint.
T-shirt and bib.

Race shirt and bib.

 

Some of the beautiful scenery.

Some of the beautiful scenery.

 

twohearted medal

Two Hearted Trail Half medal.

  • Tip #2: Train properly. Even if you’re an experienced road racer, make sure you put in a lot of trail miles before your first race. I’m fortunate to both have lots of runner friends with extensive trail experience and have a familia that camps, so I have lots of access to places to running trails. One of the best tips my friends gave me was to get used to running on tired legs. That meant a three- to five-mile run most Sunday mornings after Saturday’s long run. It also meant that I was ready for the terrain, even though it was much more difficult than anything I had experienced before.
The course was no joke.

The course was no joke.

 

More of the terrain on the trail.

More of the terrain on the trail.

  • Tip #3: Plan ahead. In addition to training for the type of trails you’ll be experiencing, think ahead about things you may need with you that day. While you don’t need a drop bag like you would for an ultra, I certainly was glad to have many of the necessities I pack in my luggage for my long runs, including bandages for a blister that was forming on my right foot, bug repellent wipes and my favorite Chap Stick. My friend Shannon and I were particularly glad we had bought new Nathan hydration packs for the occasion and we were all glad that we had either sunglasses or a hat on this very sunny day. You’ll also want to know where the race starts and ends so you can make arrangements for meeting up with family and friends. In our case, that was particularly helpful because we didn’t have cell coverage. At all.
I was able to bring my usual long-run items in my hydration pack, including bandages for a foot blister.

I was able to bring my usual long-run items in my hydration pack, including bandages for a foot blister.

  • Tip #4: Bring personal pacers. When I started talking about this trail race, I never imagined that two of my favorite running buddies would sign up to run it with me. It. Was. Awesome. While I know I would have finished by myself, having their company and experience (watch out for that tree stump, here’s how you run/walk through these logs) made the difference between a good experience and a fantastic one. If you don’t have running buddies who are willing to travel six hours to run a race with you, then make friends that morning.
With Shannon and Brandess, whose support was invaluable during my first trail race.

With Shannon and Brandess, whose support was invaluable during my first trail race.

  • Tip #5: Pay attention. The race organizers had very clear instructions both on the race website and in person just before the race about how the trail was marked (with blue flags to our right plus mile markers). There were a couple of spots where we didn’t see the blue flags for a while, but were relieved to see them clearly marking our directions. That said, we kept looking for those little flags because no one wants to get lost in the middle of nowhere, especially with no cell reception.

I hope these tips help you not only survive your first trail half-marathon race experience but make it the best it possibly can be. I certainly am hooked even more than I was before and have a lot more confidence as I look to doing my first trail 50K come September.

If you’re an experienced trail runner, please share your tips in the comments below. And if you’re a runner blogger who’s written about this before, feel free to share your link.