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Cap City Half Marathon Coach Answers Basic Training Questions

Melanie McIntyre Melanie McIntyre Cap City Half Marathon Coach Answers Basic Training Questions
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Aimee Price

MM: Let’s say someone has just 60 days to train before running a half marathon. And they haven’t run in months. Besides hitting the pavement or hopping on a treadmill ASAP, should they be doing any other exercise besides running to prepare. I’ll be honest. If you want me to do anything other than run, I’m not going to be happy.

AP: Here’s what I would say: walk and run. You don’t have to run all the time. A walk/run program is terrific, especially for new runners and those who are trying to fit in a race on a reduced training program.

Walk/run simply means breaking down your workout into walk segments and run segments, like five minute run and three minute walk, repeat. Another segment could be three minute run, one minute walk. I even did the marathon portion of my last Ironman triathlon this way: 10 minute run, one minute walk.

It’s not just for those new to the sport. It is fondly known as the “Galloway Method” after Jeff Galloway, who trains many runners this way. I have a more detailed discussion of walk/run in my blog on the Cap City website.

Also, resistance training is good for everyone. I would encourage folks to keep up their resistance training routines, two to three times per week until probably the last 10 days before the race.

Core work is especially key for runners. A strong core helps keep our running form in good shape and us moving forward. Core is not just abdominal work. It is also strong back, hips, and glutes. An added benefit is that running and core work together can really help come bathing suit season!

MM: Should you be eating certain foods leading up to a race?

AP: Another great question! Runners need carbohydrates. My buddy Professor Steven Devor, an exercise physiologist at Ohio State, always reminds us that carbohydrates are the fuel of endurance athletes. We need carbohydrates to effectively create energy that will propel us down the road in a running event− in any event for that matter.

Don’t be eating a low carb/high protein diet when you are training for an endurance event, like a half marathon. Now that doesn’t mean to go wild with white bread and cookies; it means getting high quality sources of carbohydrates, like whole wheat pasta, brown rice, fruits, veggies, beans, etc.

We do need to eat before long workouts and half marathons. You ideally want to get in about 250 to 300 calories of mostly carbohydrates before your long runs, about one to two hours beforehand. Things like oatmeal, wheat toast with peanut butter, a bagel, etc. usually work well.

As far as the race itself, practice what works for you. Try eating different things the night before your long runs and in the hours before your long workouts. Find what works and, even more importantly, what doesn’t work. Make sure that come race day you know what you are going to eat because you’ve practiced it before and know that it sits well.

During runs of 1.75 to two hours or more, try to get carbohydrates in while you are running. You’ll need to replace the carbs that you are using for fuel. One of the best ways to do this is by consuming a sports drink like Gatorade −regular, not the G2− Powerade, Heed, etc. This not only gives you the hydration that you need to keep running, but also helps to replace your energy source.

Other options for nutrition on the run are gels or chews like Gu, Carboom, Clif Shots, Sport Beans. Chase these with water and they work just like Gatorade.

MM: Should runners increase the amount of water they drink leading up to a race?

AP: Pretty much everyone needs to increase the amount of water they drink! It’s vital for runners because just a small amount of dehydration can negatively impact performance. During the week, not just race week, runners should monitor their hydration status. It’s easy, but maybe kind of gross. Again, this is from Professor Devor.

When you urinate, check it out. It should be very pale yellow if you are properly hydrated and it is not the first time you’ve gone that day.  If it is dark yellow or orange, you are dehydrated and need to get more fluids.

During the race itself, drink every 10 to 15 minutes. Happily, at Cap City you should be able to hit every aid station and make that happen. Don’t skip aid stations, even at the very beginning. You will thank me at mile 11 if you are hydrating from the very beginning. You will most likely become a bit dehydrated over the course of 13.1 miles, but you want to keep up as long as possible with your hydration from the start.

MM: Now I’m going to ask some hard-hitting questions. First, should I be worried about my nipples during the race? Seriously. I hear that some people’s nipples bleed due to…friction. Also, a friend told me a couple moles she has rubbed against her clothing and bled during the last half marathon she ran. Should I just put Band-Aids over everything and call it a day?

AP: You’d be surprised the things that we talk about during long runs and about what happens to runners, so not much surprises me now! Chafing happens to nearly everyone somewhere along the line. The nipple thing is mostly a male problem, actually, because women have sports bras on that fit tightly and keep the friction away from their nipples.

Men have shirts and singlets that are loose and rub against them and, yes, cause them to bleed. At the end of any marathon, you will see men with two red streaks down their shirts. There is a product called Nip Guards that my male buddies use and one of my coaching colleagues swears by Band-Aids− also good for moles and piercings.

Another product, Body Glide, can be a life saver. It comes in a stick like a deodorant. You rub it onto places that are prone to chafing: inner thighs, underarms, around your waistband, etc. It works like Vaseline, but doesn’t stain your fancy technical clothes! In a pinch, a lot of races will have Vaseline on the course, and you just grab a dab and slap it on!

MM: OK, one last question. It’s race day. You’re running, you’re in the zone. You are owning this half marathon. Then you hit that wall. You don’t know if you’re going to make it. You’re not actually, like, having a heart attack or anything. But you need to push through. Any tips?

AP: The best thing is not to get there in the first place and that goes back to your question about eating. Making sure that you are getting enough carbohydrates and fluids will hold back the wall as long as possible. Another strategy is to start a little slower than your final pace and pick it up along the way. “The Wall” or “Bonking” is simply your body’s response to running out of sugar/carbs to fuel itself and it is now switching to fat as the lone source of fuel, which is a much slower process. Continue to fuel with carbs throughout the race and you’ll be more likely to enjoy the last two miles.

Are you participating in this year’s Half Marathon? Join in the conversation on our Messageboard!

That said, if you hit the dreaded wall, slow down. Walk if you need to. Find some Gatorade, Gu and water, or even cola if they have it on the course. Take them slowly, sip on them for a bit. Give yourself some time and let your body tell you when you can start running again.

Once you start to see and hear folks lining up close to the finish line, you will amazingly feel better and it will pull you through. Use the crowd’s energy. Visualize that finish line and don’t forget to strike that finish line pose for your finisher photo!

To learn more about the Capital City Half Marathon, visit CapitalCityHalfMarathon.com.

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