6'0 tall, former athlete, mother of 3, struggling to keep up on the RUN of daily life.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Learning to Run

Teaching our youngest son to write and oldest son to spell I realize something…everyone learns differently.  I may think that I am explaining things simply but to them I could be talking Swahili. 

Thinking back to when I was Learning to Run I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  There were so many things to learn about the sport and my own body.  These things cannot be learned from a book (or a Blog) most are pounded out on the pavement, however, I can pass on some things that I have learned over the past 5 years that may be helpful for those just beginning this wonderful adventure.

Endurance: How long can your body continue to run?  The only way I was able to figure this out was to test my limits.  I took the right approach to this, following a training plan and gradually increasing mileage to gain endurance.  So far my cap is the Marathon, 26.2 is about all this 6’0 mamma can handle.  When I first started running if you would have asked me if I could run a marathon I would not have believed it.  With time, training and experience I gained physical and mental endurance.

Pacing: It is fun to watch our 7 year old run.  He takes off like a bullet, so FAST… before long his little body is spent and he has to stop.  He does not realize that if he slowed down and paced himself that he would be able to run longer and eventually get to a point where he could hold that FAST speed longer. 

When I was training to qualify for Boston it was very important to train my body to go the pace I expected it to go on race day, race pace.  But did I need to run that pace every day?  No way!!

When you are learning to run you will quickly learn your comfortable pace.  For some that may mean walking.  Over time that pace may get faster or slower…but you will never enjoy running if you don’t find your Happy Pace and accept it.

Hydration: I drink water all day long.  I will never go anywhere without water with me. Knowing that about myself I know that I need to have access to water for longer training runs and on hot hot days.  You may not know that you are dehydrated until it is too late.  Each person is different when it comes to their hydration needs, weak bladders or stomachs can cause some folks to pass up water all together, especially during a race.

Hydration is not an easy thing, it takes trial and error like anything else.  I like to carry a handheld water bottle, some people hate that.  I have heard of people creating their own water stops near their house and planning their route to pass it, which is a smart idea for those who prefer not to carry something.. However for me, I would be tempted to go into the house J 

Electrolytes are also important, some can be rough on the tummy.  My main tip is to NEVER TRY NEW THINGS ON RACE DAY.  Trial and error is to be done early on in training so you know what you can and cannot take.

Fuel:  I should not even approach this topic as I am always learning. I tend to stick to the peanut butter toast or oat meal before a run.  But since I have been pregnant I have no clue what I can eat before a run.  The key is to have enough in your system to give you energy and keep your motor running, without causing you to visit the closest bush..  Fueling while running is critical as the miles begin to pile up. 

For example, you have 2 pieces of toast and some peanut butter… maybe 400 calories.. After 4 miles you may have burned off your breakfast.  Now what??  A quick visit to the local running store (or online store) and you will see there are countless projects that claim they will help you refuel.  I like to try a variety of things to see what works best for me.  I can’t eat the jelly beans, they hurt my stomach, but Gu Chomps work great.

When I ran the Eugene Marathon and qualified for Boston I believe that much of my success that day was due to pre-fueling.  Putting fuel in the tank before I ran out.  Early on in the race I determined set increments to take Gu chomps and Roctane Gu and I stuck to my plan even when it did not sound good.  Along with the right amount of water I had the energy I needed to maintain my pace all the way to the Finish..

Injury Prevention and treatment: As a former college athlete I feel like I have a leg up in this arena.. literally I tore my ACL in my left knee my Senior year in college.  Although I don’t feel I could have prevented the injury, I learned a lot about treatment, rehab and most importantly, listening to my body. 

There is a difference between pain and injury.  Running is painful, that is no secret.  Little aches and pains appear and disappear with each step.  The trick is to take care of the little things before they become BIG things.  Rest, ice, sleep, foam roller, there are many things you can do to keep your body in tip top shape.  But injuries come with the territory, if you are lucky you can find a Dr. who will help you to work through any issue and come back stronger than before.

Speed: Speed is not learned.. Speed is developed.. With time, training and a certain amount of PAIN.

Races:  There are so many elements that come into racing.  You can learn something at each race, whether you are on race #1 or #100, there is always potential to have something go wrong.  Below are my (anal) tips for race day:

·         Drive the course if you can, this will help you mentally prepare and is especially important for Half Marathons and longer.
  • Lay out your gear, shoes, tag, bib, etc. the night before.  What you wear on race day should have already been worn at least 1 run before to make sure there are no fit issues. 
  • Charge your electronics the night before: Ipod, Garmin, Iphone, whatever you have, make sure they have the power to get you to the Finish.
  • Know where you are going and arrive EARLY!  You want to have enough time to take a wrong turn and still have plenty of time to park.
  • Carpool- If you know of a friend, neighbor, etc. that is running the same race and it makes sense to drive together, do so.  This cuts down on stress, congestion at the race and is better for the environment.
  • Use the facilities!  You may not think that you have to go and the long lines are intimidating, but better that you get it out now then on the race course.  TIP- generally in large races there will be porta potties near the water stops, if you have to go on the run that would be your chance.
  • Rally support.  For first races having a support crew can be a huge lift, especially when you are ready to quit.  Friends, and family who are there just for you, to bring you supplies, take photos and cheer you on at the Finish.  People may not realize how important it is, so ask in advance and make a plan of where you will see them along the way.
  • Pose for the race photographers.. don’t let it throw you off your stride but it is fun to have a nice photo after the race, even if it is mixed in with some crazy t-rex arms photos, like me..
  • Lather up with Body Glide to avoid chaffing- nuff said.
  • Set yourself up for success.  Do not start too close to the front or too far back.  You want to be able to easily get to your pace without having to weave around people or being pushed too fast.  Setting out too fast can cause major problems pretty quickly.
  • Most important- HAVE FUN!  You have worked hard for this.

Gear:  You can run in almost any climate with the correct gear.  I have my go-to outfits for rain, cold, heat, etc.  The worst part about the right gear (shoes, bras, socks, tops, bottoms, etc) is that it is EXPENSIVE for the good stuff.  All I can say is it is better to have one really good pair of socks you wash over and over than it is to have 10 pairs that give you blisters.  Try on your gear, if it is not comfortable when you try it on, it won’t be comfortable on the run.  Invest in a hat, visor, sunglasses, gloves, beanie or ear cover, good jacket, high visibility gear for night time, a headlamp, get fitted for shoes, compression socks for after long runs, and whatever else will help you maintain your comfort and safety over the miles.

  • Those are my tips.. join the conversation.  What have you learned on the run that you think people should know.
  • Or if you are a newer runner- what questions do you have?  


Carla said...

Congratulations! So exciting!

Great tips. I totally agree with the nothing new on race day saying. One thing I've learned is that what works for my friend may not work for me. Trial and error, like you said, is the key.

Good luck with everything!

carrie said...

AWESOME post!!!

Amy @ Run Mom Run said...

Great post! There is so much you can learn about doing, and so much you can learn by researching. Thanks for sharing!

Average Woman Runner said...

Great post Mel! I will forward to a friend who is training for her first half :)