Post-Marathon Blues

All of the hard work leading up to a marathon can take a lot out of you. All of the early mornings and weekend long runs can limit your energy for social encounters, and sometimes non-athletes don’t understand the sacrifices. But in the end, after you cross that finish line, the sacrifices are all worth it.

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More than just the training though, one of the most difficult things about running a marathon is realizing that it is over. The post-marathon hangover is real. You will analyze your splits, assess how you felt leading up to the race (and during), and in some cases start planning your next 26.2 mile trot!

Below are some tips to help you get over the post-marathon blues, and get focused on progressing as a runner and an athlete.

1.) Recovery the RIGHT way! After the race, try and get in a nice mix between carbohydrates and protein.. Chocolate milk is one of the most effective recovery drinks. Bonus it is also cost effective. Then within 60-90 minutes get in a meal rich in carbohydrates. (Trust us, save the beer until after the protein has been ingested (1).)

2.) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Oh did we mention to hydrate? A key part of recovery is replenishing fluids and electrolyte losses. Sip on Nuun throughout the day, to help get back to a positive water balance state, and to pump electrolytes back in your system for adequate muscle recovery.

3.) Take in some Vitamin C – your immune system is heavily compromised during endurance activities. This means your need for Vitamin C won’t increase during, but it will increase after your marathon. Pick some foods rich in Vitamin C to help combat any illness that may follow (1). (Any citrus fruit should work.)

4.) INDULGE! This is the time to indulge, and treat your self to some sweet snacks, and beer. You deserve it, after all your hard training and dedication.

5.) Stretch-help loosen up the muscles that just took a beating.

6.) Take some time off of running to reflect. We know this sounds corny but, most first-time marathoners do not think they will ever run a marathon again after the first one. However, over time runners have been known to come back around to the idea of running 26.2, again. On the other hand, some runners jump back into training too quick. As a result, they do not give the body enough time to recover, which can lead to injury.

7.) During your reflection think about what worked and what didn’t. When planning for your next adventure, take note of the workouts, fueling/hydration techniques, and every day nutrition strategies that worked for you.

8.) Let us know what your next race is going to be. We want to cheer you on!

First Marathon Tips

Throughout the month of September we’re posting the best tips and tricks we can find to help you through your first, or next, marathon. You can find tips on fueling and how to stay on track for race day here and here, and stay tuned throughout the month for more Marathon Month articles, giveaways, and running fun.

For this installment we asked our friend, and one of the most inspiring athletes we know, Kara Goucher to take us through what she learned during her first marathon. Lucky for us she learned a lot, and is sharing her own best tips and tricks below.

 If you have anything to add, be sure to leave your own marathon tips in the comments below.

0513_Nuun_1960 I ran my first marathon when I ran the NYC Marathon in 2008.  Heading into the race I was terrified.  I had never run further than 23 miles and only done that once. I did not have typical marathon training and had only 8 weeks between my Olympic 5000 meter and the marathon. Plus, there was a lot of media hype around my debut.  But I learned a lot during that experience and it changed my life, and my perception of myself, forever.

Here are a few things I learned along the way. Hopefully you can use them to your advantage during your first, or next, marathon!

Don’t panic if the race goes out too slow.  I had a goal to break the American Course Record.  It was 2:26:52.  Our first mile was over 6:30 and I remember thinking, “not gonna happen today,” but I crossed the finish line in 2:25:53!  The race is a long one so there is a lot of time to make up time.

Practicing taking in calories and fluids is crucial.  I did not practice much race nutrition before my first marathon.  Boy, did I regret that on race day!  I had a hard time absorbing the liquid I was drinking and the gels I took did not sit well in my digestive tract.  You must practice so your body is ready to absorb them while running.  Now, I practice my race nutrition once a week.  I am confident my Nuun and gel will go down easy and be absorbed.

During a marathon when you feel a loss of energy, there are lots of places to pull energy back into your race. For example, when I started to feel tired in my first marathon I soaked up the cheers of the crowds.  I immediately got a surge of energy from their cheering.  Take advantage of all the excitement around you.  When you need a little power surge, take in the cheers.

While running conserve energy when possible.  My first NYC Marathon the weather was chilly and windy.  Paula Radcliffe seemed happy to set the pace, so I positioned myself right behind her.  This allowed her to do the thinking and allowed me to get a little protection from the wind.  Take advantage of those around you and tuck in.  Get towed along for a mile or two and save some energy for later.

Don’t try to sprint on the downhills to “bank some time.”  The marathon is a very long race to run and to be honest; it doesn’t really start until the 18-mile marker.  Run as even as you can to protect your muscles for as long as you can.  You will be grateful later.

Even though you feel like you are dying, you can keep moving forward! During the last 3 miles of my NYC Marathon in 2008, I had been totally broken by the two women in front of me. It became about protecting my 3rd place position.  I felt like I was slowing down, but I just kept trying to relax and continue to put one foot in front of the other.  Later I saw my splits from the race and you know what?  I never really slowed down.  My perception was that I was slowing, but it was really just the feeling of fatigue taking over my body.  Keep moving forward.  You are probably going faster than you think.

If this is your first marathon get ready for a life changing moment! When I crossed the finish line I was completely overtaken with emotion.  I had never been through such a journey in my life.  The ups and downs, on training and on race day, make it a wave of emotion you cannot replicate.  I am always emotional when I finish a marathon not matter what the outcome.  But that first time you finish a marathon, there is nothing like it.  It changed the way I perceive myself.  I saw myself as strong and capable in a way I never had before.  It made me wonder, “What else could I conquer?”

Six Tips to Help You Stay on Track on Race Day

As race day nears, many thoughts go through a runner’s mind. But don’t worry, race day (or week) jitters are normal! In the week leading up to a race it’s best to stick to your plan, and trust your training. Don’t worry about what the latest research article, or your training partner, recommends. You’ve been training for months now and it’s best to follow what you’ve practiced and stick to what you know.

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Here are some tips to help you stay on track for race day:

1.) Stick to the plan – be confident in your training, make sure you do not feel hungry at any point during race week. Keep fueling your body with familiar foods for the effort it will put out on race day.

2.) Stay hydrated – keep fluid intake up, but be careful not to over drink. If you notice you’re using the bathroom more than usual, or if your urine is clear, then you are drinking too much plain water. Drinking too much plain water can flush critical nutrients away from your body, adding electrolytes (sodium) to your water will help pull water to your cells, helping you hydrate efficiently.

3.) Avoid indulgence – avoid the foods you know you shouldn’t be eating this close to a race. Save the tasty desserts and beer for the finish.

4.) Practice your plan – pick a longer training day once the date nears, and do everything you would do during the race for that training session. Wear the same gear, wake up the same time, and eat the same things. Practice makes perfect.

5.) Stay focused – there’s no point in getting nervous about the race, or trying to figure out whether or not you trained enough. Focus on the things you can control, like hydration and fueling.

6.) Get enough rest – sleep is important, not necessarily the day before the race; but make sure you get enough rest the days leading up to the race.

Avoiding Common Nutrition Disasters

Throughout the course of a marathon or long training session an athlete has to pay close attention to hydration and fueling strategies. This not only helps maximize performance, but it will also help prevent complications.

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We’ve all heard horror stories about runners trying new products that end up doing more harm than good. It’s important to realize that each individual absorbs nutrients differently. This means what works for your training partner may not work for you. Therefore, experimenting with products, and fueling strategies is the best way to ensure you’ve done everything to perform at your best.

Below you will find some common fueling and hydration mistakes that can occur during a marathon, and tips on how to prevent them.

1.  Dehydration & Bonking

Athletes that drink only to avoid thirst and take in calories only when they feel low often end up running on empty.

Follow these guidelines to ensure you are properly fueled and hydrated before your next marathon training sessions:

– Hydrate throughout the day

– For 2+ hour workouts:

– Drink: 16-24 fl oz per hour (1,2)

– Aim to take in 100-250 calories per hour (carbohydrate rich) (1,2)

– Follow up caloric intake with fluids to help increase the delivery of    nutrients

2. Drinking Too Much

Overconsumption of fluids is starting to become more and more common during long running events and marathons.

Use these tips to avoid the overconsumption of fluids:

– Experiment with different amounts of fluids until you find a range that works best for you.

– Do not exceed 24 fl oz per hour. This is the maximal rate of intestinal absorption and anything more may lead to Gastrointestinal distress (3).

– Drink electrolyte-rich beverages to help your body make the most of the water you’re drinking.

- Electrolytes (sodium) help the body process and retain water, and get water to muscles and cells (1,2).

3. When To Eat

Give your body too much time in-between meal and training sessions, and you may bonk. But if you give your body too little time in between eating and training you can experience Gastrointestinal distress.  It’s important to practice timing, and find a window that works best for you.

Follow these guidelines for the ideal timing of nutrient consumption:

– Give your body 2-3 hours after consuming a meal before you exercise

– For shorter workouts (less than 90 minutes), give your body 30-60 minutes           to digest a snack

– 30 minutes after your workouts, consume a carbohydrate and protein rich             beverage to maximize training effort.

Every runner at one point or another has experienced these issues. The good news is that they are preventable. It just takes a little practice, to find out what works best for your training.

Additional Resources:

1. Fink, H.H, Burgoon, L.A, Mikesky, A.E. (2009). Practical applications in sports nutrition. (2nd ed., pp 220-254). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, LLC.

2. Clark, N. (2008). Sports nutrition guidebook. (4 ed., pp.183-185). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

3. Noakes, Tim. (2012). Waterlogged. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.