It’s hard to believe the San Francisco Marathon is just 3 days away––and even crazier that I’ve been training for nearly 4 entire months now. Here’s how the 2nd half of my training went down, and some details about how I’m prepping for my first 26.2 on Sunday!
HARDEST LESSON LEARNED
The first 8 weeks were were somewhat of a roller coaster between experimenting with different kinds of fuel and running distances farther than I had ever run before, including a soul-crushing 16 miler.
I’m not going to lie. That run left me hating everything about marathon training and wanting to quit entirely. Afterwards I turned to my marathoner gal pals for some words of wisdom and they all seemed to agree that my body wasn’t fully recovering between training sessions––cumulative fatigue was the culprit. It was Jacquelyn who convinced me to take an entire week off from exercising altogether, with the exception of one yoga class and some light walking.
Boy am I glad I listened to her. That recovery week made all the difference and allowed me to refocus on what was important: letting my body dictate my training schedule rather than what was written on my calendar.
Good news! I’ve made major strides in the fuel department during the past 7 weeks. For pre-run fuel, it’s whole bagels or bust now, preferably toasted with a pat of melted butter and a hefty sprinkle of salt. No more weeny pieces of toast or lone bananas. My body seems to thrive off of a hearty dose of carbs right before a long run.
In regards to mid-run fuel, I abandoned real foods after getting more mashed sweet potato on my shirt than in my mouth, another unfortunate part of that terrible 16 miler. I tried some of those Honey Stingers you guys raved about and um, well, my life has been changed––so thank you! Even though I don’t love gels I find them to be the most effective and the Honey Stingers are pretty easy to get down with a few swigs of water. I’ve only been able to get the Vanilla flavor though, so let me know if there are better ones out there I should hunt down.
ACHES AND PAINS
An early piriformis flare-up had me worried at the start but resting, stretching, strengthening and regular foam rolling has––knock on wood––kept me pretty much injury-free. I treated myself to a few sports massages over the past several weeks too. We’re not talking the “sports massage” you get at the spa though. These massages actually made foam rolling my IT Bands feel enjoyable. Each session was 90 minutes of lower body work––most of which I spent gripping the table and clenching my teeth while the masseuse kneaded out all of the kinks in my legs. It hurt so good I’m going back next week for a post-marathon massage to help undo Sunday’s 26.2 miles-worth of tension.
LONG RUN RECAP
18 Miles: Boy was I dreading this one after the worst run of my life the week before. But with fresh legs and a full bagel on board, I physically felt way better this time around which did wonders for getting my head back in the game. We also took it a bit slower and seemed to find our sweet spot in terms of pacing. Yay! Pace: 9:33/mile
14 Miles: It’s crazy to say but after 18 miles, 14 felt short-ish, especially with these ladies! It turns out my grad school BFF Anne and Monica were in town for a blogger event that week. So they join Erin and I for our long run before work along the Embarcadero. It was such a treat! Pace: 9:01/mile
20 Miles: We figured 20 miles before work would be rough so Erin and I did this one on a gorgeous Sunday morning. We left from Dolores Park and basically did a massive loop around the city, including a trip across the bridge and back. We took our time, stopping for a few photos and a couple of gels along the way, and finished in Golden Gate Park where the hubs greeted us with ice water and a lift home. We were physically and mentally exhausted by the end but I will say, finishing 20 miles felt pretty darn good. After a shower and a power nap, we regrouped later that afternoon for some celebratory beers, bites and soccer-watching with the boys. Pace: 9:45/mile // Elevation gain: 1250 feet
16 Miles: Still feeling tired from our 20 miler the weekend before, Erin and I made the executive decision to dial this one back to 8 miles. Hooray for listening to our bodies! We also happened to be on a weekend getaway with our men so the run took place in the blazing sun along some beautiful Santa Barbara beaches––quite a change from San Francisco, which as earned the summertime nickname: fog-city. Later that night we celebrated our 8 miles with Mexican and salty margaritas. Pace: 8:56/mile
22 Miles: This one felt long––like really long––and rightfully so. But Erin and I braced, and paced ourselves for the longest and farthest run of our life and did it! We ran the same course as the 20 miler but closed the loop and finished back in Dolores Park, exactly where we started 22 miles prior. I can’t even describe the feeling of accomplishment that overcame me after that one! Pace: 9:53/mile // Elevation gain: 1250 feet
14 Miles: Tapering tends to get a lot of hype among marathoners and, I admit, I never fully understood why until I experienced it for myself. It’s basically like the best thing ever after four months of long runs followed by even longer runs. Pace: 9:14/mile
12 Miles: It pains me to say this but Erin rolled her ankle earlier last week and had to sit this one out. [Insert the biggest sadface ever]. She’s resting and recovering though and we’re hoping for the best on Sunday! As for the run, it was a chilly, misty morning here in San Francisco and my legs were just over it after 5 miles so I turned around and called it at 10. It was definitely an anticlimactic end to my training but… I’m saving up all of my celebrating for Sunday! Pace: 9:07/mile
For me, the next few days are all about keeping my legs fresh, catching up on sleep, staying hydrated and kicking up my carb consumption. Oh, and picking out my race-day outfit, obviously.
I’m fitting in one last 3-4 mile run today and will try to limit my exercise to light walking tomorrow. MytFitnessPal is actually sponsoring a booth at the expo so I’ll be spending tomorrow afternoon there and feeding off all the excitement. After Erin and I drive the course Saturday morning, I plan to spend the day eating carbs and lounging on the couch while I catch up on blogs and binge-watch General Hospital. The race starts at 5:30am on Sunday so it’ll definitely be an early night for me!
Marathoners: Got any final race day words of wisdom for me? I’m all ears. And legs!
P.S. If you’re heading to the marathon expo this weekend too, stop by the MyFItnessPal booth to say hi and we’ll hook you up with a special marathon t-shirt!
Congrats on your first marathon, that looks really challenging. You go Girl!
Congratulations on all the exciting marathon progress! I can’t wait to hear your recap. I also love how you have discussed training and the marathon on the blog – its been really cool to read it they way you have formatted it!
Good Luck!!!! I am training for my first marathon right now. I’m only on week 5 so I haven’t hit any distances yet past a half marathon which is the furthest I have ever ran (a few times). I’m already nervous about the 16-20 milers so I enjoyed reading about your experiences!! Run on!!!
good luck, elle! my only advice is trust in your training. you will rock it!!
Good luck and have fun! Soon you will be a marathoner. My favorite flavor of Honey Stinger is Pink Lemonade. Yummy!!!
Pasta dinners before a marathon are overrated. Start adding more carbs to your diet now (an extra slice of bread with dinner). Also, sounds gross, but give yourself time to do a “Number 2” before you leave for the race. You don’t want to have to be stressed about that mid-race, or even allowing enough time for that at the Porto-Potties at the start line.
Good luck this weekend!! Sounds like you’e ready to kill it. :)
Best of luck, Elle!! I’ll be cheering for you in spirit :)
so proud of you..will be thinking of ya :)
Good luck this weekend, sounds like you are ready to crush it! Can’t wait to hear a recap!
All of those long runs will give you the confidence that you need to push towards the marathon finish!
If at any point during the marathon you are feeling good; don’t worry, the feeling will pass.
It’s pretty amazing what you can set your mind to and accomplish. Sounds like you’ve learned a lot during training. I hope you are fully rested and run like the wind on Sunday! Best of luck to you on your journey. Even though the race is still ahead, you’ve already become a marathoner throughout this experience!
Good luck !!! You have done the work so now it’s time to run and have fun. My biggest piece of advice is to stick to your plan and don’t fall into the trap of going out too fast. :) Have a great run!
Wow Elle! It’s always best to listen to your body. Good luck on the marathon! I’m sure you’ll do great. =)
Those are great lessons! It takes so long to figure out the right fuel. Every time I think I have it I am wrong. The Honey stingers are awesome.
Looks like you had some great long runs!! Good luck this weekend! :)
Acai Pomegranate is my favorite Honey Stinger, but if you go to Sports Basement in the Presidio they have allll the flavors (of every kind of fuel you can possibly imagine). Good luck this weekend!
Mighty good luck on that race! Taking a week off must’ve been scary. I mean, not even weight training? Wow. I could never do that it would drive me nuts. What kept you sane?
I love your realistic, life happens approach to training! It’s so important to listen to your body and you did just that. I am just finishing up week 7 of my training so I have many weeks ahead of me but this recap gets me so excited! Best of luck this weekend!
So proud of you! You’re going to kill it.
Don’t forget to leave to sandals with Rob for after the race :) Wish I was there to run or cheer you on! xoxo
Nice work!! You’ve got some great miles under your belt and will do great this weekend!!
Word of advice, I wouldn’t drive the course the day before. The course will be well marked and driving the full 26.2 can mess with you mentally a bit…just show up on Sunday, trust your training, and have fun!!
Good luck this weekend!! What an exciting accomplishment. I’m sure you’ll do great!