Ready to race

I did it! I ran 80% of a marathon without hitting the wall or experiencing any serious pain. It was my final long run before Copenhagen Marathon, which takes place in only 13 days – on Sunday the 20th of May at 9:30 CEST.

Specifically, I ran 34 km in 2h:57m:11s, which comes down to an average pace of 5:13 min/km. I have realized that a goal of 3h:40m for the entire marathon is more realistic than my previous goal of 3h:30m. I definitely should have begun my endurance training earlier and, in general, have trained a lot more. Mid-december, when I – in a moment of true madness – signed up for the marathon, I envisioned running approx 800 km during the upcoming 20 weeks of training. I have run 631 km to this day and will probably end at 657 km two days before the marathon. I have found it hard to motivate myself for the 22+ km runs, and too often they have been split into a number of shorter runs. Two tangible reasons come to mind:

  1. You have to eat right the three-fours hours leading up to a long run to avoid abdominal cramps.
  2. Afterwards you are busted and will not get anything done the rest of the day.

Of course, you can get accustomed to the former. The latter will probably vanish with more training.

My plan for the final two weeks is to do only relatively short runs, reduce or almost pause my weight training, continue not to drink alcohol, decrease my caffeine intake slightly, make sure that I get enough sleep, do carbo-loading the final two days, eat a large, whole-grain meal approx four hours before the marathon, eat two bananas and some glucose approx two hours before the marathon, and ingest 0.5-0.75 L/hour of water and 50-60 g/hour of glucose during the marathon.

I have ordered some glucose tablets and gels for the marathon. I ran the 34 km as four laps of approx 8.5 km, thereby passing my apartment three times, every time drinking 0.5 L of water with 6% glucose. That gave me an energy boost of approx 3 x 500 g x 0.06 x 4 kcal/g = 360 kcal, which isn’t much, but it probably helped me avoid hitting the wall. Actually, it’s less energy than packed in a 100 g bag of wine gums. Leading up to the 34 km run, I ate three small bananas and a pack of Dextro glucose tablets (47 g). I also carbo-loaded to some degree the two days before. The reason for my choice of glucose is that this simple carbohydrate is directly usable by the body – the brain wants glucose and the hardworking leg muscles want glycogen. The time from ingestion to impact is therefore as short as possible. Other simple carbohydrates, such as fructose, which is the main component of fruits, will have to be converted into glucose by the liver. Complex (or at least “non-simple”) carbohydrates are even slower to be absorbed, as they must first be degraded  into simple carbohydrates in the intestines. I can recommend this page about carbohydrates. Running a marathon sure isn’t the same as running a half marathon…

Besides giving this whole endeavour a dramatic touch by trimming the hair on my head to 6 mm (3 mm on the sides and back of the neck), I have trimmed my chest in order to make patches stick better and to improve the electrical impedance measurements done by my heart rate monitor. Before, patches would fall off, and the heart rate monitor would often be unreliable for the first ten minutes (until enough sweat had been built up). The reason for the kinky patches is to avoid fissure of the nipples – a typical problem for male runners on longer distances. Women have the advantage of bras. I found a package of transparent Compeed patches in a kitchen drawer and they seem to work very well. I never get blisters, so I will not need them for my feet.

I have also spent some time on compiling a rather awesome marathon playlist. It is not final yet, but after having listened to it on my 34 km run, I feel good about it. I know that I ought to run the marathon without music in my ears and enjoy the atmosphere in full, but I have always listened to music while running. It keeps me going. It drowns my annoying breath. Nevertheless, it is too late to gamble with new ideas at this stage. When weight training, metal music usually gives me the mental resources to push or pull an additional 5% – something similar is probably true for running.

After this successful, final long run, I actually feel confident about completing Copenhagen Marathon. Sure, I will be physically wasted the following days, but that was also the case for my first half marathon. Everything has a beginning.