I get more questions on how much to eat before, during and after a marathon. Hopefully you have been practicing eating on your long runs during your training. After extensive training, reading and practicing, the following suggestions are based on my personal experience. I am not a nutritionist or a doctor, for an expert opinion seek a qualified professional.
Pre-race day – I eat a balanced diet until Wednesday. Remember that most nutritionists recommend at least 50% of your daily calories come from carbs as part of a balanced diet. Of course, you should always try to make those complex carbs with fruits and vegetables.
Wednesday and Thursday, I up my caloric intake and increase the carbs. I am looking for complex carbs, focusing on fruits and vegetables. I snack all day long. Friday, I go back to regular eating. Saturday I eat light all day then I have a pre-race meal about 6:00 P.M. I am not a huge fan of “Carbo Loading” the night before the race because I already did it Wednesday and Thursday. In fact, I like some meat the night before to firm everything up inside me. That’s my routine.
Race-day – I wake up early to eat my race-day meal of oatmeal and a banana. I eat this about 2.5 hours before the starting time of the race. I usually bring a Cliff Bar, coconut juice, water and sometimes a cup of coffee to eat and drink before the race. I sip the drinks and eat a little while I wait for the start. I’ll eat between 100 – 225 calories every hour. This will be different for each one of you depending on your height, weight and gender. Most of you should try to get down at least 100 calories an hour. I also eat some solid food early in the race before going to the gels.
RACE DAY, do not change anything NOW (it is too late or you are taking chances), eat what you have been practicing eating during your training.
Post-race – Try to get some food in you right away. I look for some protein mixed in with some carbs. I drink some sports drinks and walk around. I’ll wait an hour or two before I eat a larger meal.
Take notes on what you eat to see what worked for you or what didn’t. Learn a pre-race food routine. If you can do this with your fuel you can learn to take the guesswork out of your race, relax and avoid the Bonk (running out of gas)
Eat Healthy and Race Well,
Steve Mackel, USA Triathlon Coach
Sleep, how much do we need before race day? Ah, a million dollar question. The answer is: It depends. I think it is funny that the medical community has defined standards by the general population averages and the masses measure themselves by this without testing themselves and listening to their bodies. Everything is individual, figure out where you are.
Eight, seven, six, five hours or less? I like around seven. Ask yourself this question, “How many hours of sleep do I need to feel great the next day?” Have you been burning the candle at both ends? If needed, maybe you can sneak a nap in.
Sleep well early this week. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are key sleep nights. As we get closer to the race, nervousness can kick in. Don’t worry about it at this point and sleep the best you can. The night before your marathon is no big deal. Restless nights are typical. I have never had more than 6 hours before a race, closer to 4 – 5 hours. I take my time getting all my stuff laid out the night before.
So sleep well these next few nights. Pay attention to how you really feel each morning. This is the week to rest and take it easy. Keep you runs short, quick and think about recharging. See you at the Expo or Sunday morning.
Steve Mackel, Beach Runners Head Coach
Power Yoga with Gary Smith
Yoga on the beach in Cambodia
Tuesday Nights: 7:45 (1 hour class bring a towel) $14
Starting Tuesday March 6th at Yoga Bindu in San Pedro
Studio Yoga Bindu
718 S. Weymouth Ave San Pedro, CA
Power Yoga is about developing internal strength through a rigorous dynamic yoga practice. Power yoga combines Vinyasa flow sequences with strength building yoga poses perfect for athletes or those wanting a “work-out” in their yoga practice.
Instructor Gary Smith was certified by Rosie Good in 2006 after his own personal yoga practice for many years. Gary is a competitive trail runner, marathoner, and ultra marathoner. He also teaches people to run effortlessly and injury free through the revolutionary ChiRunning system. He has coached over 500 runners, conducted large yoga classes, and yoga retreats. He recently taught classes in Cambodia and Thailand.
“While I love all types of yoga, my teaching follows my personal power yoga practice. You’ll learn to develop whole body fitness through a rigorous Vinyasa flow sequence followed by asanas designed to open up and strengthen areas of the body that get restricted and tight from traditional Western sports such as the lower back, hips, shoulders, and hamstrings. Athletes that follow my sequences testify to better recovery and performance.”
Yogi Hermit from Angkor Wat
(Finish LA Marathon 2001)
By the summers end of 2000, I was not in good shape. In one summer I had been fired from my job, lost the love of my life, got seriously overweight, and hit emotional lows. In other words, I was a depressed mess.
One thing I remember is standing in the shower and not being able to see my feet because of my belly. For some reason, I just remember that image. And this spurred me to take some action.
I had always wanted to run a marathon. In fact, twice, once in high school, and once in 1999, I had tried preparing for a marathon only to injure myself on long runs. I had no idea what I was doing both times…running in old shoes, no hydration, no eating, no stretching, and certainly horrible power running form.
But in 2000, I was ready to change my life around by training for and running a marathon. I called up my buddy James, and used my considerable persuasive skills to convince him to train with me for the Los Angeles marathon. James was my mountain climbing partner so we both had the mentality to train for and accomplish a difficult athletic task.
Training for the Marathon
I’m not sure where I got my training program from but it was fairly standard…2 runs in the week followed by an increasing long run on the weekends.
In all the training went well with James. We trained on the strand linking Torrance beach to El Segundo. But the longest run we did was about 18 miles leading up to the marathon. Which I’ve learned is not enough.
The running helped my emotional situation. By getting out and running it took my mind off my troubles, my heartache, myself. Yet I still had a belly that was not shrinking despite the long runs. But I was getting a lot more endurance, feeling better about myself, and was deepening my friendship with James.
The crazy thing was….I was smoking at the time. Not a lot. But still a half pack a day. Insanely enough, I would finish a long run then smoke some cigarettes.
The night before the Los Angeles marathon, I was so nervous I smoked close to half a pack.
And I do remember one day about two weeks before the marathon simply freaking out from fear that I was not prepared enough. I was mortified that my body would break down on the course and I would have to explain to all my friends and family why I couldn’t finish the marathon despite all my best laid plans. I remember having to sit in my room in front of my closet, meditate, and pray to God for answers about what to do.
I was paralyzed with fear of not finishing. And the answer I received in that session has guided me through many marathons now…don’t worry about the results…just focus on what you can do today to prepare…today…not yesterday…not tomorrow…but today.
And I walked away from that closet that day. And went for a run on the cliffs of San Pedro…the same cliffs Beach Runners are now running…and saw pelicans riding the wind…and the ocean crashing on rocks…and the sun go down…and…
I let go. I let go.
I could only prepare for the marathon by going for a run that day. That’s all I knew. And that was enough. I would have to believe…have faith…that I would finish. Because that is what faith is…a hope in the unseen. I was scared. I felt underprepared. I felt my smoking would not allow me enough oxygen to finish. My higher power would have to give me the strength to finish because I didn’t feel strong enough.
And that’s all we can ever really do to prepare for a marathon. Do something today…right now…to prepare. Take 10 deep breaths. Go for a run. Stretch. Do yoga. Close your eyes and visualize crossing that finish line. Rest. Eat a salad. Plan a run.
Just do something. Because that was the answer to fear for me. Go running and pray or meditate. That’s all I could do. And through this develop some faith.
Running for Yourself
So the morning of the marathon I’m standing in line for the porto potties with about 1000 others (I’m not kidding) and guess who I see?
My ex girlfriend with her new guy. This was no coincidence. I loved that girl all through graduate school. But I was a mess at the time, didn’t have my act together, far too much partying, too immature, unable to make a commitment to anything, preferred the company of my buddies…and so… she moved on… while I was under the delusion that she’d sweep all my shortcomings under the rug…wait around for another few years…marry me…and we’d live happily ever after.
I spent many training runs obsessed with thoughts of her. Running up hills pissed off determined to finish this marathon to prove to her that…yes…I could actually finish something I started…that yes…I could make a commitment…that yes…I could live a healthy lifestyle.
And there she was.
We exchanged pleasantries like you would with an ex. Her new boyfriend was running the marathon also. She said she had to go…obviously trying to not be seen with me and she walked away with her new guy.
And I stood there. And it dawned on me how much time I had spent training…preparing for this marathon…for someone else other than me. I had really started training to get my thoughts off of this girl I had loved soooooo much. To heal my broken heart.
So in this crowd of 24,000 runners, thousands of spectators, I saw the one person I needed to see in order to close that chapter of my life. Right before I ran
James and I stood in the back of the largest line I’ve ever been in. The start of the marathon. First time LA marathon people will be amazed at the experience. James and I prayed. We joked with others. I prayed some more. Randy Newman’s “I love LA” blasted on the loudspeakers and we were off. God was going to have to guide me through this race because I had no idea how to.
Finishing The Marathon
The run went well. Up to about mile 16 or 17 when James began complaining about leg pain. His complaints and pain got worse mile my mile. I was hurting also. We only knew power running so of course we had started much too fast, had poor form, and ran pushing and pulling with our leg muscles, tiring them out much too early. The wall hit about mile 19, and James began walking. I was popping Advil like an addict trying to deal with the pain. And James started saying he would be unable to finish. I got pissed.
“There’s no way we did all that training to quit now,” I said. I suggested we stop and pray. Which we did. Not sure whether that helped him but it sure helped me. I had to ask for more strength to finish.
And in that prayer I heard an answer that still guides me today. “You will get the strength to finish by helping others”.
“You will get the strength you need by helping others.”
With that answer I started what has been a six year practice for me now. “James, you can do it.” He was cursing in words I can’t repeat here, but after words he told me my words were pissing him off so much, he found some energy to keep going.
I began saying motivational words to the other struggling runners around me, “Hey, great job.”. “You’re almost there.” “You’re my hero.” “You’re looking strong.” Anything to keep them going. Some looked surprised at me, but most were like, “Thanks”, “You’re looking great also.”
And the more I began to turn my attention to others, to helping them anyway I could, to using every cliched saying I’ve ever heard in the movies, the more…I forgot about how my legs were feeling…and trust me…they were killing me…the more I helped others…the more strength I was finding to finish.
James and I found our legs again at about mile 24. For first time marathoners this is very important, you will hit a wall, feel completely exhausted, like you cannot take another step, but you must, you find the strength somewhere, somehow, and then magically, between miles 21-26 your legs will gain a new energy out of nowhere, enough to power you to the finish.
So James and I crossed the finish line four hours and forty two long minutes after we started (4:42). We jumped up and down hugging one another and I cried. I cried for the lost girlfriend, I cried for my grandfather who had recently passed away, I cried for the family dog (my old running buddy) who also recently passed, I cried for all the times I had tried to accomplish something and failed, I cried for myself, that I had done something good for me. I had done the impossible. I had done the training. I had done the spiritual work. I had found some belief that “Yes, I can succeed.”
The Spiritual Journey
James and I could barely walk for days afterwards. James told me repeatedly out on the course that day, “I will never do this again.” And he hasn’t.
But I found something out there. Something about myself, about God, about helping others, about faith, in the training and the pain of mile 19. A seed was planted that day. A seed that has grown into doing the LA Marathon a total of four times, the Long Beach marathon twice, the Big Sur marathon, the Catalina marathon, and an ultramarathon. A seed that grew into ChiRunning and me becoming a marathon coach. A seed that grew into Yoga and teaching yoga on the grass to 100 runners at a time. A seed that grew into my current body…30 pounds lighter…stronger…more flexible…and smoke free.
A seed that grew into the tree of current running and coaching practice. It brings tears to my eyes to even think back to the origins of this journey that has led me to Beach Runners, Yoga, SoCalRunning.com, and writing this massively long blog entry.
Thank you for taking this journey into my past with me. And the journeys we take every Saturday. And I have faith that you will find something out there on the Los Angeles marathon on Sunday, something that will sprout into a beautiful tree in your life. Keep your heart, ears and eyes open that day.
Because that something special is waiting for you.
Good luck everyone,
Why is the Catalina Half marathon called the ultimate trail run?
I don’t know why other people call it that – but I do know that it was the hardest 13 miles I’ve ever run. I’m tired, I’m sore, and I’m happy. It was a great run. I honestly don’t know why I signed on for this. I really wasn’t looking to do another marathon any time soon, but I wanted to keep training with the Beach Runners. And I’ve already run the Pacific Shoreline Half twice – PR’d there in 2004 at 1:49. So I guess I was looking for a new challenge – and I sure found it.
I had to get up way early – 5 am. We had to get on the boat before 6:00 am to catch the 6:15 am boat. We arrived at Avalon about 7:30 – me, Steve, Gary, Jim, and one of Steve’s private coaching clients, Mark Kirsh. Mark is just too much. He’s been running a marathon a month. He just ran I think it was #11 last Sunday – the ING Miami marathon. He qualified for Boston – and he’s running that in March or so.
Anyway – I had all of the usual pre-race energy – I got my packet, my number, pinned it on my Beach Runner’s technical shirt. We got in line – it was such a small field – I’m like Gary – I really like these smaller races.
Immediately – Steve and Gary take off like jack rabbits on crystal meth. Mark was pretty much keeping up with them. Jim was somewhere behind me. I started out doing 8:00 minute miles – and they were all out of sight after the first half mile. We saw a guy smoking a cigarette with his girlfriend before the race – I passed him at about the first ½ mile. We kept climbing and climbing. We rounded several more curves – again – more climbing. Then after the first mile marker – we had a slight downhill. I was doing 6:30’s at that point for a few hundred yards. Garmins are great, aren’t they?
Then we went uphill again – and I thought to myself – I can handle this. Then we got to the water stand and the trail started. It was steeper than the road. I thought – this should level out some time – then it got steeper. Right after the Mile 2 marker – I passed Mark – he had stopped and was taking a drink of water. Then – more climbing. And it got steeper – and I walked a little – maybe 20-30 yards. At this point – I was doing 12-13 minute miles. I love my Garmin. This was my first race with it.
Then I rounded another curve – and it seemed like around every curve – it got even steeper. So I made sure I had my lean, and that I was taking short steps, and I remembered the uppercuts. For about the next 3-4 miles – I was pretty much run-walking. When it got less steep – I ran. When I got to another steep portion – I walked. When I got to mile 5 – my total time was 1 hour, 5 minutes. Usually on a half marathon – I’m at or past mile 7 at the 1-hour mark. Then I got discouraged. I was thinking this is the slowest half marathon I’ve ever run – but the scenery was unbelieveably beautiful. Steep cliffs, deep blue or aquamarine, turquoise – so many versions of blue in the ocean.
On parts of these hills – 5 or 10 people in front of me and 5 or 10 people behind me were walking – so I knew it wasn’t just me. These were tough hills. Just like mile 19 in the San Diego marathon – everyone I was with walked.
I always thought of myself as a trail runner – I’ve done PV with Gary, I’ve done El Moro in Orange County several times – there’s a great 10-mile loop there – but nothing prepared me for this. I’ve never run 6 miles continuously up hill – and it kicked my butt. Then I also mixed in some of Danny’s sideways/sidestepping – and that seemed to help. Then I got to the top around mile 6 – and my legs felt like jello. I was so whooped – and I wasn’t even half way done. I was going to finish – you pretty much have to on this one – but it wasn’t going to be pretty. Then I had a little downhill – and I let myself go and that felt great. A woman passed these two guys – and they said something discouraging about taking downhills too fast. Those guys obviously don’t know much about Chi running. Then it started going uphill again – really steep – and I heard Mark behind me. He said “Hey Chief” and we walked that hill and ran some more. We probably ran together for a mile or two. Then I was on my own again. And I was tired, and sore and I wondered what I was doing here. And my shoulders were sore from all of the upper cuts.
I was hating this stupid race. Why do they even call it the Buffalo run when you don’t see any buffalo? And what’s up with a 16 or 18 minute mile? My 84-year old mother can walk faster than that. I was hating life at this point.
What was I thinking? Why in the !@#$%(*&^% did I decide to run this race anyway? Obviously – I wasn’t thinking or I wouldn’t be getting up at 5 am to get my legs beat with baseball bats and get my ass kicked and handed to me on a platter. I could be in bed, curled up with Michele instead of this torture.
Then it was getting hot – and I stopped for water and Gatorade at every aid station. I also had some of those Cliff blocks. Then it was not as steep and I pretty much ran every mile. I saw Steve and Gary – it was about mile 7.5 for me and 9.5 for them. They looked tired and didn’t say anything to me. Then I hit another aid station – and some more water, Gatorade, and cliff blocks – and I saw Mark on his way down. Then I had one steep part – then it leveled out – then I hit mile 9 and turned around – and it was all downhill after that. I hit the aid station again – got a handful of Cliff blocks – and kept running. At mile 10 – it was still pretty steep. I was running 9 to 9:30’s at this point – but it was really steep and it was rocky – and I was afraid of slipping on the rocks.
Then I hit the aid station right past Mile 10 – filled up on more water, Gatorade, and Cliff blocks. By this time I was getting some kind of sugar buzz and getting all liquored up from the Gatorade and Cliff blocks – and I was running behind 2 guys – we were doing 9 minute miles – which is pretty good. By this point the path was wide, flat, and no rocks. It was still steep – but I decided that I didn’t have to run behind these guys – I was a Chi Runner – and I leaned forward a little – and took off. Within a 20-30 yards – I was doing 7 minute miles – and passing everybody I could see. I flew by the guys I was running behind – and not only passed everyone I could see – I flew by them. I’ve kept up with Gary stride for stride on a PV run – not under race conditions – but I’ve kept up with him under training run conditions – and I’ve got some of his magic/mojo for running downhill.
I continued to pass people. I checked my Garmin – I was doing 6:13 to 6:30 minute miles – and loving it! I passed at least 10-15 people. I was going so fast – I almost missed one of the curves. I was within about 1 foot of going over the edge before I corrected myself. It was pure gravity pulling me down. I just let go – leaned forward – and let my stride kick out the back and let myself go ridiculously fast downhill. It was one of the best kicks I’ve ever had in a race or a training run. When I passed people – it wasn’t just passing them – I flew by them. It was so fun. Then after 2-3 miles of this exhilaration – we got to the road – and it was still slightly downhill but not as steep – and I kept passing people. I was doing 7:00 to 7:30 minute miles by this point – but I continued to pass people – and it was so fun. No one passed me while I from mile 9 on down. And I said to myself – I said self – no one passes the Great White going downhill. (The Great White was a nickname given to me a long time ago by some people I worked with).
Once we were back on the road – I only passed 3 or 4 people – and I couldn’t see anyone else to pass up – so I ran with this guy from South Africa for a while. Once I got to the last half mile – I saw a chunky guy to my right – and I said to myself – this guy is toast – I’m totally passing this guy up – and I did – I blew right by him. And I had about ¼ of a mile to go – and I saw this woman – and I said to myself that she was not finishing ahead of me – so I leaned forward a little more and blew right past her as well. Then I had about 200 yards to go – and I wanted to finish strong – so I kept up a strong pace –then I saw I Steve and Gary with their cameras filming me – so I totally had to make sure I had the proper form – the lean , the arms, etc. for a Beach Runner – and then I was done. And I was so glad to be done with this race.
Even though none of us made it to the podium (we did meet several people who did – such a small field) but I’ve got my own awards.
First of all – the Sandbagger Award – is a tie – going to both Gary and Steve. Before the race – both of those two were whining about how little they had trained, how out of shape they were, yada, yada, yada. Gary was in Thailand and Cambodia for a month – Steve had the herniated disc – by the way these guys were carrying on on the boat ride over – you thought these guys couldn’t even make it to the finish. Steve even said he was just really going to take it easy. We started out – Gary was filming the start and it took him a while to catch up with us – but we started doing 8:00 minute and 7:30 minute miles. They took off pretty fast. After the first ½ mile – I totally lost them. Gary ended up finishing at something like 1:56 – 6th in his age group – Steve was around 2:03 and he made it 12th in our age group. Both of those guys smoked me by 20-30 minutes. So much for taking it easy and being so out of shape.
Mark Kirsh gets the “I can’t believe he’s here” award. After my last marathon – I spent 2 weeks sleeping in and stuffing myself in Italy. He ran the Miami marathon the week before the Buffalo run. And it wasn’t a flat race – it was pretty darned steep. I can’t imagine running this race a week after a marathon.
Jim gets the Most Improved Award. Jim is doing remarkably better on hills since the last time I ran hills with him in Palos Verdes. Steve, Gary and I were discussing how much progress he’s made since last summer. Way to go, Jim.
Jim also gets another award – the Babe Magnet award. Just looking at Jim – Babe magnet isn’t exactly the first thing that pops to your mind. Jim’s a decent enough looking guy – but not really what I would consider a Babe Magnet. Then he puts on the Uncle Sam hat. I always wondered why he wore that hat. It’s not really aerodynamic. And it doesn’t really shade his face much – but it sure does get a lot of attention from the ladies! He had several pictures taken with babes – young, older, and everything in between – and sometimes several women. Congratulations – Babe Magnet.
And that concludes my race report. Will I run this next year?? I don’t know. If I could only do some more hill work………….
Beach Runner and SoCalRunning Member and “Good ol Boy Yoga Teacher”,
A Little Beat Up Just Past The Finish Line
I believe that you learn the most on Race Day. You learn about what you are made of and how you race as evident in Roni’s and Gary’s previous posts.
My experience last Saturday taught me a few things. First, my competitive spirit needs to be reigned in. Second, I take unnecessary risks. Third, I love a hard challenge. Fourth, I dislike being passed. Fifth, I really appreciate the support of my friends and supporters out on the course. Sixth, food, food food. Seventh, Gary found his race gear.
I know I wrote I would take it easy and enjoy myself last Saturday. Well, if that is going to happen in March at the Catalina Marathon, I better find different running partners, Gary is just too strong for me right now. We unintentionally pushed each other. The truth was the first five-mile of uphill was great pacing by both of us. We met all sorts of people on the course. At mile 3 John from La Mesa ran with us and we talked about shoes. John, looking for a deal told us about how his shoes were two sizes too big but he got them for half price. it didn’t effect him, he was a good runner. Then I ran with Gretchen. She had great form and a quick cadence. She was fun to run with and finished on the podium. She passed me at mile five and flew downhill. I didn’t see her again until I crossed the finish line. At about the same time I told Gary to go on without waiting for me and he flew by Gretchen.
At, mile seven it got steeper and I started passing people. With only one more mile of steep hills I had to make the most of it. People ahead of me were walking. One goal I hade was not to walk anywhere in the entire race. I succeeded.
Then the downhill came. I knew I had to go easy for my back’s sake. I did not know what I was in for. I should have figured it out considering how steep the uphill sections were.
This race really benefits the fast downhill runners like Gary. I was and had to be cautious with my back. By mile 11 I let the negative self talk creep in. I had been passed by 14 people in the last 2 miles and I did not like that. I knew I should probably walk yet my competitive nature would not let me. I was going slower and reducing the impact, trying to protect my back and for good reason, it was feeling strange. I cannot afford another injury. As a coach I should know better yet I kept a fairly strong pace and was only passed by a few more people. All I could think about was what a dumb thing I was doing and for what, the glory? I had already been past by 17 runners on the downhill.
Ok, three days later (as my coach says)I am “feeling well trained,” better known as sore. My back is ok and I already spent this beautiful morning running with an athlete I train. I hope I learned my lesson for next month. One other lesson I learned is that I bonked a little. Next time more food or a gel on the course. I had to eat a lot after the race just to feel better. Yes, I was a little grumpy after I crossed the finish line.
I have to say that the Buffalo Run attracts very strong runners. It was the most difficult half marathon I have ever run in and very rewarding. Look out for Gary in the American Trail Championship. Thanks to my running buddies, my friends that called me to wish me luck, the volunteers and all the mother nature for providing the beautiful scenery and perfect day.
Musings after finishing dead freaking@#$%&* LAST at the Catalina
As in all life the victory is really in the journey, no matter how %#$
%%&^ long it takes, in this case it was 4hrs 20-minutes.
This ill planned, and minimally trained for day became a vision
quest, mourning the loss of loved ones and reaffirming the beauty in
From such an early age i was told ” second place is no place”, and
more recently “age and treachery will always triumph over youth and
talent”, neither axiom related at all to today…What does, is that
with a resolve of spirit and help and guidance of well placed mentors
(beach runners, / john garey pilates), and the love we carry for each
other I was able to finish. To engage in an event, both restorative
Thank you all for caring, encouraging and congratulating.
Beach Runners Gary (with bloodied knee), Mark, Uncle Sam (Jim), Steve, and George
“i have come to treasure that part of myself a lot, that part of me never, ever gave up. regardless of how intense the pain. that is the part of me that will get me through the Bardo. i trust in this and continue to cultivate this part of me. racing helps me stay in tune with this priceless part of me” Steve Ilg
My Buffalo Run Race Report, February 12th, 2007. Catalina Island, California.
My initial goal was to just finish the race. Considering my running shape was not good. Mainly because I had spent a long vacation in Thailand/Cambodia and did limited running while I was over there.
My longest run was about five miles. I saw more bars than long runs.
However my yoga routine was consistent…3 times a week and sometimes more. During my yoga routine I was working my core/abs hard and working on both body and inner strength. So I was getting stronger. Always pushing some kind of limit.
So I had no idea how I would do on the Buffalo run, which I figuered would be quite hilly and difficult. The Buffalo run is a half marathon, with over 1500 feet of elevation gain. And on trails. Hard. Difficult. Scenic. Not too many runners. My kind of race.
To my advantage I had somewhat of a base after doing a lot of trail running in November/December culminating in doing my first ultramarathon on December 23rd.
After an early boat ride over there, Steve, and Beach Runners Mark, George, and Uncle Sam (Jim) arrived in Avalon. While we were all expecting rain, the weather could not have been any better…warm, slightly cloudy, and crystal clear.
In other words, ideal running conditions.
After a quick breakfast, the race preparation was on. Long sleeves and jackets got quickly stashed away in backpacks as there was no rain in sight and the weather was warm.
The total number of participants was limited…maybe 300-400 tops if even that. I’ve done the alternative…Los Angeles Marathon with 23,000 runners. And I much more prefer the smaller races. Its easier to meet people, the course is not crowded, you have space to pass people. There’s many benefits.
The gun fired and we were off. Typical of my race I dropped a water bottle from my fuel belt within 100 yards of the start. Fell behind Steve but then caught up to him.
My goal for the first eight miles was simple…keep up with Steve Mackel. After running with him twice on the Mt. Baldy race, I know he kicks serious ass uphill. The fact is I am not that fast uphill. I am steady, I am efficient, but not fast.
Steve is fast uphill. I’d let him do the pacing. Even though he is recovering from a serious injury, he has been running well the last month so I figuered he’d have some juice.
Within the first few hundred yards of the we lost the rest of our boys. It was a hill right off the bat, steady climbing, like we do in Palos Verdes. And I love hills. Then we got on the trails.
And we kept going up and up and up.
We’d turn one corner and see another set of switchbacks up a hill. In all, the first six miles were uphill. Both Steve and I, as accomplished hill runners, found a pace we were comfortable with, and just settled in.
Within miles we were passing runners who started out too fast. Our form was great, moving to the metronome, arms swinging, taking short strides. The key on the uphills as a chirunner is to run efficiently. Basically the goal is to not run with your leg muscles but rather with your core and upper body, relaxing your whole lower body. That way once you get to the top, you’re fresh and then can start passing exhausted runners.
Steve got ahead of me between miles 5 and 6 but not far, maybe 30 yards, as I was working my ass off to keep him within striking distance. At this point, I could feel my lack of training the last month but I just began breathing heavier and heavier flooding my muscles with oxygen. If nothing else using yogic breaths, I can breathe heavier than my fellow runner, a major advantage early in the race.
At the top of the hill (6 miles in!!!), a downhill section finally began. My initial thinking was to stay with Steve the whole race. Cross the finish line together camaraderie kind of thing. First race of the season, no rush, no aspirations.
But right off the bat downhill, I began flying. I surprise myself everytime during trail races how fast I am downhill. I just love running downhill. Its easy and fast for me. Steve watching my speed tells me “go for it. don’ wait for me”.
Being polite I say “No. I’m running with you”. But then he tells me, “Go for it, you’ll get a great time.”
So I take off. Flying by people on the downhill sections. I’m like Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Like Michael Jordan draining 3’s on Portland. Like Sarah Hughes on ice. Pure joy in movement.
The uphills start again and just as I was thinking how fast I was going, God reminds me to concentrate and I slip and land on my hands and knees.
Cutting up my knees on sharp small rocks.
I look at my knees after running for another 30 yards and blood is pouring out of my left knee all the way down to my socks. Not good. I need to stop and take care of this.
Luckily enough a rest station was close, I ask for a first aid kit, and quickly put gauze pads on the wound and tape it up. Steve passes me.
The hills begin again. I see my pacer, Steve in sight, maybe 50 yards ahead of me. So I buckle down, breathe hard, and dig deep to catch up to him. Which I do at about mile eight.
We hit the turnaround point, run together for a bit commenting how hard and beautiful the running has been up to this point. Then the big downhill begins. My dream come true…5 miles of downhill running to finish the race.
Using the methods of ChiRunning, I can run dangerously fast down hills, letting gravity pull me down. I run sub 6 minute miles downhill. Nobody passes me. I passed over 12 runners on Saturday.
The last mile was downhill on asphalt, and I have to admit, I was tired from undertraining this season. I could not catch the last two runners in my sight. And I ran with everything I had in me for the last mile. Fast.
I crossed the finish line, feeling proud that I did not wuss out on the run. I ran like a warrior. With pride, with honor, with everything I had in me, with the desire to pass others, and unwielding in letting others pass me.
Yet complimenting everyone I could on their racing, especially those I was passing.
My time: 1 hour 57 minutes. Age place finish: 6th. Anytime you finish in the top ten of your age group is a fantastic finish. Certainly would have had higher if I hadn’t taken the spill, dropped water bottles, took pictures, and dropped my camera.
I am so stoked with this finish for the first race of the season. So stoked. It motivates me to train hard the next month for Catalina, so I can run hard there also. I’m shooting for a top three finish for my age group in the American Trial Championship now.
So all the boys had fantastic finishes also. Steve, struggling with the downhills, finished just a few minutes behind me (2:03).
A heroic performance considering his comeback from injury.
Be sure to compliment Steve on his comeback race. Mark came in strong. George came in smiling and said something we all agreed with, “This was the best course I’ve ever run!” Views of the Pacific, wilderness, and harbors. Five miles of downhill to finish the race. As a ChiRunner he was passing many runners on the downhill section.
And Uncle Sam came in with his typical smiling good spirits. Everyone ran hard. Noone gave up despite the the difficulty of the course.
I’m so proud and honored to be running with ANYONE that chooses to do a hard race…the difficulty is what makes you grow.
But Steve and I are most proud of a Beach Runner named Ronnie. We saw her in line to catch the boat. She has only run a few times with the group on Saturdays. Loving to do the trails in Palos Verdes so much she parks at the Golf Course to ensure she spends more time on the trails. So Ronnie finishes last on the Half Marathon. Last. And she was proud of that finish!!! Steve and I were too. Why?
Because she found the courage to CHOOSE to do a difficult race and found the determination and grit to finish it.
So runners, as this year starts, and you’re making your running goals and planning your races, choose to do a HARD RACE. Quit taking the easy route. Face your fears and do something you’re scared of. Because when you face these fears, and am struggling, breathing hard, and find some strength in your breathing, your faith, your training, your yoga, your teammates, your chirunning, your determination, your faith, your faith, your faith… you will find
The real you. A king. A queen. A warrior.
The Catalina full marathon is in four weeks. I can’t wait. Come join us.
Well I’m back from my Cambodia/Thailand trip. I could write a whole book on what I experienced over there, but I will share these memories more in conversation. Its good to be back and running with this exceptional running community.
I look forward to teaching this group yoga which I practiced diligently on my trip.
My running practice however, slipped up a little bit. I needed a break after running an ultramarathon in December. My goal is to just keep up with uber athlete Steve Mackel on Saturday. My technique is still good, just lost a little cardio with all the fun I was having in Thailand.
So overall, I had a great year last year. I ran three marathons and an ultramarathon. I didn’t accomplish my time goals but those are becoming more and more irrelevant for me. I also got certified as a yoga instructor so easily did over 300 hours of yoga last year. That’s why I am so flexible. Its just a matter of doing the work. You all could accomplish things like this also. Have patience and try to do a little more every week than the week before and you’ll get there.
So these are some important lessons I’ve learned from training for 8 marathons and an ultramarathon.
Gary’s Top Ten Tips for Doing a Long Run
1. Drink Water and Electrolytes. Easiest way to do this is to set your watch to beep every ten minutes and when it does, just have a sip of water. Another option is to have a small drink, certainly not a whole glass of water, every mile. Either way would work. the key is not to drink constantly and to not drink too much which will make you feel water blogged. You need to use electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals which help transport electrical signals through your muscles. Without using electrolytes, your muscles can bonk, making you feel exhausted later in the run. I like to use Ultima powder which you can find at whole foods. Gatorade has some electrolytes but also a bunch of corn syrup and enough artificial preservatives for a fifty year shelf life.
2. Be sure to breathe deeply. The best way to do this is to inhale to the count of four and exhale to the count of four. Try your best. Another thing I do is to count breaths up to 50 or 100, something to keep your mind busy on those long lonely stretches. Oxygen and water are the most important nutrients on your run.
3. Eat every hour. You have a few options here. Some people like gels but I find them a little too yucky yucky syrupy. I like to use cliff bars and powerbars. The food is solid and burns more slowly giving less of a spike that you get from the gels. So on a long long run I will take two cliff bars, and each hour eat about a half/quarter of the bar. You need to eat for fuel. You need to eat for fuel. You need to eat for fuel.
4. Relax. Constantly scan your body for any areas of tension. Sometimes my shoulders get tight for example. So I am working on relaxing my shoulders during the whole run, just repeating the mantra “relax, relax, relax” will do wonders, just try it. You will do better when you are relaxed. In fact to go faster, you don’t need to try harder, just relax.
5. Start off slow and run slow until your turnaround point. I know, Steve and I repeat this over and over and over again. But I cannot stress enough how important this on your long training runs. Running slow will allow your body to transition to fat burning about an hour or so into your run. Once you are burning all those Pringles and pizza away, you can run an ultramarathon or longer. But most runners start out to fast and consequently are operating off the sugars in their system which burn out quickly and consequently you bonk and are stumbling along like a junkie looking for their next “gel/sugar” hit. Once you get to the turnaround point then increase your lean, for a slightly faster run back in.
6. Use body glide or vaseline on any area that rubs. For me that means, all around my groin area, between my legs, between my butt cheeks, my nipples, and underarms. I’ve experienced the alternative far too many times and it is painful.
7. Have a conversation with someone you don’t normally talk to. Always a fun goal for me. This will help hours of your run fly by. I have had some of the best conversations of my life on long runs.
8. Say “good morning” to all you pass. This sends positive energy out to the universe and what we send out we get back a hundredfold.
9. Its okay to walk. Remember it is a training run. So if you feel any pain or real discomfort, slow down, walk for a little bit, then start running again. I have seen too many runners in three seasons of coaching try to run through pain which has only aggravated or created injuries. When you feel pain, it is your body sending a VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGE to you, so listen to it, slow down, and figure out what’s going on. This is a training run, so the goal is to stay healthy for the marathon. So if need be screw your “time goal”, “pace” or whatever notion you had in your head of what you were going to do that day and LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.
10. Practice some spirituality out there. Some simple things I do for this include:
Look at birds.
Pray to God.
Thank my ancestors for sacrificing so much for me to do this.
Think of heros that had a lot of strength like Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
Just feel grateful
Hopefully these tips will help you on your long runs this weekend. I look forward do running with all of you.
Phil Sees No Shadow
Friday, February 2, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania – Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see shadow; predicts early spring.
Here we go! Phil, the famous groundhog did not see his shadow and two days later we experienced near 80 degrees on the beaches of So Cal. Driving around this morning I saw trees in bloom, a beautiful sunrise and ran in shorts and t-shirt for the first time this winter. It feels like spring is right around the corner. I’d still like some snow up at Mammoth for some late season snowboarding trips.
So Cal Super Bowl Sunset
With one month left before the LA Marathon, 6 weeks until the Catalina Marathon and next Saturday being the Buffalo Run Half Marathon – the first half of the American Trail Championship, the races this past weekend, the running scene seems to be exploding here in So Cal.
Take advantage of today’s temperatures and enjoy the outdoors. If you raced Sunday, today should be a recovery day, just get outside walk around, soak in the sun, breathe in the air and be. You can do it on a work break, your lunch break oe anytime today. Have fun and smile.
Steve Mackel, Certified Massage Therapist