Last month I started to tell you all about my first marathon. I promised I’d be back to finish the story. But then the holidays came and life got busy. So here I am, 6 weeks post marathon, finding myself back here ready to tell you more. Running this marathon was an immense physical and emotional challenge. I was blessed to have my brother as my training partner. I am also incredibly lucky to have an amazing support system who cheered me on every step of the way. I learned a lot about myself through this process. I hope that my journey will inspire you and that if someday you embark on a journey of health and fitness you’ll consider inviting me along.
When my brother and I started contemplating this journey back in the Spring of 2015 I was running a couple days a week as well as doing other workouts at the gym. I had been working on improving my speed and had taken about a minute off my mile. I was eating healthy, a diet full of lean protein, fruits, veggies some whole grains and healthy fats. Still, I knew I would have to make some changes to both my training and my diet if I was going to train successfully for this marathon.
In August of 2105, I started training. I followed a first time marathoner training schedule which initially had me decrease mileage from where I was at and then saw a gradual but steady increase. I increased my running from 2-3 days to 3-4 days. I gradually started increasing my calories and my carbs as my training increased. I kept up with my weekly barre class, yoga, lifting and other workout for a bit…but I was TIRED! So I had to reevaluate. I cut my workouts back. I focused solely on running. I constantly evaluated my diet. It was important to make sure my body was getting enough nutrients from fruits and veggies as well as enough protein for muscle repair and enough carbs and fats for energy. I was used to going for a run in the morning on an empty stomach or with a a very small breakfast – I like to sleep in and I don’t like to feel weighed down when I run. But pretty quickly I realized my energy flagged and my runs suffered if I didn’t eat enough. I started eating more before a run and noticed my runs improved. I made sure to have a protein shake and some carbs post run to repair my muscles and replenish my glycogen stores (that’s where all that energy your muscles use comes from!), and I made sure throughout the day to eat a balanced diet of protein, fats and carbs with plenty of fruits and veggies and plenty of water to stay hydrated. The more I ran, the more I ate. I noticed that if I wasn’t eating enough, not only was I tired and my workouts suffered but I was gaining weight. If I ate more my body functioned better. It’s so important when you are working out and burning calories to be sure to fuel your body to keep your metabolism going!
As marathon day approached, I began to increase my carbs to ensure my muscles had plenty of fuel. I practiced my race day and pre race fuel to ensure I had my best possible race. You hear a lot about carb loading, but what often is overlooked is that you can’t give your body all the carbs it needs in one meal. It takes several days of increased carbs to get enough fuel to your muscles. That may sound like fun, but it’s a lot of work! I followed my pre race strategy and filled up on carbs. On race day I was as ready mentally and physically as possible. I had some oatmeal and raisins for breakfast and was ready to go. I made sure to have some fuel (Honeystinger pomegranate energy gel) every 45-60 min. I alternated water and Nuun (a carb and electrolyte drink) at every water stop. I had an orange section late in the race and a brownie bite halfway through. This race was fully stocked with fuel options which was AWESOME. I felt great, ran a steady pace, and followed my plan to stay steady and walk each water stop. I felt strong up until mile 21. I took a walk break, gave myself a pep talk, and kept going. I finished a bit slower than I would have liked, but I finished. Upright. With a smile.
Life post marathon has been an adjustment as well. I’ve dialed back my mileage, returned to the gym, and reassessed my nutrition to keep it in line with my current training. Health and nutrition is a fluid thing. It’s important to pay attention to the cues your body gives you. If something feels off, it probably is. Stay tuned for how to tune into your body’s cues and how to tweak your nutrition to fell and perform your best!