Part I Training
Avoiding the Fall From Pace and Belly Smacking Into the Lactic Acid Pool
Rules to Run By (Heh, Heh, Heh)
I’ve had it up to my CoolMax hat. Everywhere I turn
there’s another marathon training program designed to assist one in easily completing a marathon. Standing. In one piece. Coherent.
Well, it’s just not fair to us veteran marathoners whose running history began with not only hitting the legendary wall, but becoming encased in it and staggering to the finish with a demented half-grin.
When we began running marathons, the concepts of lactate threshold training, VO2max, and heart rate monitors weren’t even around. We were the naïve souls of the pre-energy-gel era. The running relics. We proudly wore the battle scars earned from running the last 10 miles of the marathon with mind-altering glycogen depletion producing a lovely hallucinogenic state. That was a true runner’s high!
We overtrained, inadequately tapered, and didn’t drink or eat properly. Through sheer ignorance we unflinchingly violated every present-day cardinal rule of proper race preparation and marathon running. We went bonkbig time, but just assumed that was all part of the process. Delirious was our middle name..
I’m tired of now watching people cross the finish line with a big smile, having done everything correctly from training to pacing to fueling. They don’t appropriately display my initial marathon look of having had a tryst with a fast-moving steamroller while pulling an enormous tank stuck in deep quicksand. No, they look tired but not exhausted, thirsty but not dehydrated, slightly sore but not slithering on spaghetti legs. It’s just not fair! Where’s the delirium? The unfathomable fatigue? This isn’t right.
We more seasoned runners need to stick together. We must generously give new marathoners the opportunity to experience the lovely agony we encountered. The complete enervation, the nausea, the cramps, the crater-size blisters. We came, we ran, we withered!
Nietzsche wrote, “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.” We’d help them get stronger than ever if they’d only follow our veteran words of advice.
1. Taper, schmaper. Taper? You’ve got to be kidding. You want to lose that finely tuned conditioning you worked so hard for? That rapid leg turnover? You’re a virtual running machine. Cut back? No way. Keep that consistent training going right up until a day before the race. And to gain the psychological edge to go the distance, it’s always a great idea to do your last long run a few days before the marathon. This just reinforces that you’ve got what it takes. Don’t worry about “dead legs” come race day, as adrenaline and fan support will overcome that completely.
2. Speedy start. The key to a successful start is to place yourself as near to the front as possible. You want to get caught up in the faster pace of the elite runners and make certain you annihilate your planned pace in those first few miles. This way you’ll already be well ahead of your goal target, and the mental boost you’ll receive is immeasurable. Just get as far ahead of your target time as quickly as you can, and the stimulus of the race will keep you going the rest of the way. Take advantage of all that pent-up energy in the first half of the race. Go! Go! Go!
3. Bathroom discipline. Let’s talk anatomy. You drink fluids; you eventually have to expel. Do you want to have to waste time stopping for a port-a-potty at mile 18? I think not. The key is to forego
all fluid offered at the various aid stations. Additionally, you won’t lose those valuable seconds by slowing down to grab a drink. Recognize that if you’re really thirsty there will be plenty of fluids available at the finish line. That is an extra incentive to get going, as unquenched thirst and a parched throat are great motivators.
4. Caffeine combustion. Give yourself a great big kick-start. If you’re a regular coffee drinker, then simply quintuple your normal intake. If you’re new to the caffeine connection, then three cups will do you just fine. Don’t worry about upsetting your stomach, or the diuretic effects of coffee, as that’s quite a small trade-off for a good opening mile time.
5. Try something exciting. You’ve trained hard and should reward yourself with something new and special for the race. The best thing would be a brand-new pair of shoes, or a different make of socks, or even a new breakfast cereal. Maybe Fiber Flakes or Bran Buds! Mix things up a little for the big day.
6. Uphill, downhill. Attack hills with reckless and utter abandon. Hunch over, lengthen that stride, and sprint up as fast as humanly possible. Get into some solid oxygen debt and then jog leisurely downhill while putting the brake pedals on. This way you’ll get the hill out of the way quicker and enjoy the slow pace on the backside while exchanging high fives with the spectators.
7. Goo riddance. Do you think Frank Shorter won a gold medal by downing energy gels or other goos over the last 10 miles? I think not, as the only goo Frank was familiar with in the 1970s was Shoe Goo, and that was something you really wouldn’t want to ingest. Don’t rely on a shot of strawberry-banana flavored pudding-like food to get you through the sudden lightheaded feeling at mile 20. Just close your eyes and plow ahead. Be a trooper.
8. Postrun recovery. Once you cross that finish line you deserve to simply lie down. Don’t expend any further energy; stop the strain train right there. Just take a seat and let those lactic acid pools build right up in your legs where they belong. It may make you sorer tomorrow, but let’s just think about today.
If new marathoners would only adhere to these rules to run by, they’d bring a depraved little smile to the face of some old-time marathoners. Heh, heh, heh!