Thursday, October 15, 2009

My First Marathon – Part 1 – Before the Race

On September 20, 2009 I successfully finished the Sydney marathon in 5:01:25. It’s my proudest achievement to date as it took me three months of full time training and it was still an unimaginable challenge in the end. I thought it would be great to write down the key processes I followed during my training and hopefully it may prove useful to any first time marathoners and help me improve my training processes for my next big race.

It all stated when I read the book, “50 Marathons in 50 Days” by Dean Karnazes. It’s a remarkable book with a wealth of knowledge for runners. I didn’t have too much time for training but I decided that a dedicated, intense 3 month training would be sufficient as I was relatively fit at that stage (I used to run around 15km a week and cycle and do a couple of Muay Thai sessions a week.)

Here is the training process I followed:

1) An overall 3 Months of training broken down into 2 intense weeks sessions followed by 1 recovery week session.
Week 1: Intense Week
Week 2: Intense Week
Week 3: Recovery Week
Repeat over and over again for 3 months

2) On an intense week I aim to do at least 2 long runs and 2 normal runs. The longest run was on Sunday (as the marathon is run on that day) and I keep upping my distance each time I do this run. I usually tried to add 0.5 – 1 km more each time, but some times I could not follow this. But I never ran less than my previous highest distance.
If I ran 20km on one Sunday, on the next Intense Week sunder I try to push for at least 20.5 or 21km (more if possible). If I can’t make this distance I somehow at least push my self to 20km. I feel it’s important to maintain this ‘continuous improvement’ as it trains your mind to overcome challenges.

3) On a recovery week, I took it easy and did around 3 easy runs. (5 – 15 km each)

4) Based in my few years of running various races, I realized that each race almost always puts you through 3 distinct phases. I call these phases “warm up”, “chronic” and “home stretch”. These are mental and physical phases you go through.

Warm up: This is the easiest phase as your body and mind is ‘fresh’, your excited and looking forward to the experience. You may be a bit stiff but a few km into the race you usually warm up and feel great.

Chronic: I came up with this name during a run where I completely mentally switched off. I said to my self “this is too chronic”, I know it does not mean anything but my mind was so switched off I just said it and to me it best describes this phase. During this phase you start to tire and your body starts to get sore. Your mind starts to play tricks with you and starts to make you doubt your ability to finish. The mid way point of a race happens during this phase and that’s when you really start to ask yourself “Why am I doing this?”, “I’ve only made it half way and I don’t have what it takes to go on, lets quit now”. This is normal and so long as you are not physically hurt you have to shut the voices in your head and keep going on, just thinking about reaching the final “home stretch” phase. This phase is usually where you ‘hit the wall’ in longer runs.

This Nike commercial video I found best describes this:

Home Stretch: During this phase you somehow control those voices in your head and start to realize that with each new step you take, you are getting close to the finish line. Even though by now you are barely able to put one foot in front of the other, you somehow push yourself as all you can think about is crossing the finish line.

5) For my run, I broke off the total distance in to three equal smaller distances and mapped it to the three phases above.
First 14km: Warm up
Second 14km: Chronic
Final 14km: Home Stretch

6) When I trained I kept this breakdown in mind and during the race, I only focused on achieving one phase at a time. When I started the race, all I saw in my mind was hitting the first 14km, after I achieved that all I though about was the second 14km and finally focused on the finish line. Breaking long distances into short ones, helps you keep focused and calm.

7) As for diet and nutrition, I usually eat pretty healthy and the only thing I did different for diet was ‘carb-up’ on a night before a long run and never skip meals. As for supplements, I focused on ‘recovering fast’ after long runs so each day (throughout the day and not at one go!), I took around 2 Mega Men multi vitamins (GNC brand), around 6000mg of Fish Oil, a antioxidant supplement (proven supplement for muscles that are damaged after long runs) and extra protein drinks.

8) As for hydration, I followed my own hydration plan I wrote up here

9) And finally, I mentally prepared my self for the race weeks in advance. I did not touch alcohol for 5 weeks prior to race day and I really pumped myself up to have an ‘adventure’, because I make each run I do an adventure I never get bored and can keep running for hours on end. To do your best on race day, you need to ‘start on the right foot’, in other words when you take your first step you should be mentally ‘free and happy’, if you are troubled and afraid of what’s coming up you will start on the wrong foot and the road ahead would be much worse than you could possible imagine.

Read my next post for my experience during the actual marathon.

1 comment:

Jail Break said...

Nice post, thanks for sharing this to us. Looking forward always for more updates. Great job well done too, Congratulations ! It was a great race, and exciting !