Prepped, Ready & Hydrated Kara Takes NYC

This Sunday, Kara Goucher will compete in the TCS New York City Marathon. We will be live tweeting her race on Sunday morning.

BONUS: In preparation for an exciting race weekend, we got to chat with Kara about all things NYC marathon. Enjoy!

2014 Philly Rock n Roll Half Marathon

Kara Goucher 2014 Philly Rock n Roll Half Marathon, photo via our friend Oiselle

How are you feeling as you about to head into the TCS New York City Marathon?

I feel great.  I feel healthy and excited.  I know that I am not in the best shape of my career, but I am healthy and I have made the most of the last three months.  I feel grateful to be running.

Which food do you like to fuel with the night before your race?

My first choice is rice, veggies, and fish. I’m easy though, and  usually pasta ends up being the easiest to get.

What was your best training run leading up to the New York City Marathon? The worst?

Hmm, that’s hard to pin point. I had some good quality long runs that gave me a lot of confidence.  I also had a set of kilometer repeats that made me feel fit. But I’ve also had some really windy long runs that really drove me crazy.

What’s your favorite segment of the course?

The last ten miles are the loudest.  I like that way that it sort of builds over the first 16 miles and then it is mayhem when you come off the Queensboro Bridge.  There is so much going on in the NYC marathon, the boroughs, the neighborhoods, the scenery is always changing.

Which flavor of Nuun will you drink while on course?

I will be drinking the Lemonade flavor.  It is so light and crisp, perfect for race day.

Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions?

I like to listen to music to drown out the chaos around the start and just zone in on myself.

If you had to pick your favorite pump up song, what would it be?

The song I want to hear on my ipod before I have to go to the start is Chandelier by Sia.

Where will the “cheer zones” be for Adam and Colt?

They will be inside watching the live feed and then will come out to the stands when I have a couple miles to go.  Adam will be a wreck.

What’s your favorite way to celebrate post-marathon?

I love to go out with friends and family who came to watch.  I just want to be around loved ones.

What’s your favorite thing to do in NYC? (Not running related)

Go to new restaurants!  There are endless opportunities.  I also love a stroll through Central Park.  It makes me feel like I’m in a movie.

The Four Secrets of Ironman Success

A Nuun Ambassador since 2013, Jennifer Schaffner is currently preparing for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, which will be her ninth Ironman since 2010 and her second trip to the Ironman World Championships. When not training, Jennifer practices law and spends time with her husband and nine year old twins. Jennifer lives in the foothills west of Denver.

The Four Secrets of Ironman Success

By: Jennifer Schaffner

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With the Ironman World Championships quickly approaching, I thought I would share my personal secrets to a successful Ironman performance. Whether you are tackling 140.6 for the first time or gunning for a Kona slot, I think the keys to a successful race are the same. Those “secrets” are consistency, familiarity, experience, and the tricky one–luck.

Consistency:

I started training for my qualifying race, Ironman Boulder, back in September 2013. At that point, I didn’t even know I would race Boulder, but that’s when I started working with my current coach and focusing on trying to improve my bike and swim. I have always been a relatively strong runner, but improvements on the bike and swim have been elusive.

After a disappointing race at Ironman Whistler last year, I realized there was a lot of hard work to be done if I wanted to try to compete with the top girls in my age group. For the bike, this work mostly took place inside my house, at least three days per week, sitting atop my Quintana Roo, going nowhere. Spending a lot of hours on the trainer is not exciting, but in doing this, I finally started to make some gains. Not only did I mostly ride the trainer to prepare for Ironman Boulder (and am preparing the same way for Kona), but also I repeated the same handful of workouts, which allowed my coach to make an apples-to-apples comparison of my fitness week to week. Regardless of your goals, it is the day in day out work that matters and it is nearly impossible to “cram for the exam” by trying to stuff six months of work into the final weeks leading up to the race.

Familiarity:

The second secret of Ironman success is familiarity with the course. If you are lucky enough to have an iron distance event close to your home, you should consider racing that event because you will have a huge psychological advantage over competitors who are flying in for the race and most likely have not seen the course before.

I learned this lesson the hard way. In 2012, I raced Ironman St George without having looked at the bike course beforehand. The bike was physically very challenging, but it was also more mentally challenging than it needed to be because I didn’t know what to expect. I think it’s invaluable to know what you’re in for on race day. Eliminate as many surprises as possible!

For Ironman Boulder, I rode the entire bike course in training on two separate days, each of which had different conditions. Because of that, I knew the course could either ride fast or slow depending on the wind. Going into the race, I had several conversations with a good friend who was also racing and lives in Boulder. I told her what I had been telling myself for months: we know these roads really well and we won’t let anyone beat us in our backyard!

In preparing for Kona, I think familiarity with the course will be a huge help. In 2011, even though I had seen the race on television many times and had previewed the run and bike course before race day, it wasn’t until I was out there, that I understood what the cross winds on the way to Hawi were like or what it was like to run in the heat of the day up the gradual hill coming out of the Energy Lab. Once you have ridden or run a course, you understand it much better than if you just see it from the car. If I don’t have time beforehand to pre-ride the course, I try to ride or run one or two of the challenging sections to bolster my confidence and eliminate surprises.

Experience: 

The third secret of success is experience. Other than some recovery time here and there, I have not taken significant time off from training in over four years. I believe that training and racing are cumulative, and by the time Ironman Boulder rolled around, I had a very good idea of what I could do on the course given my training. I am also pretty good at pacing and managing my nutrition at this point, which can be two huge areas that less experienced athletes need to tweak. Some people can hit it out of the park on their first shot, but I think those people are genetic outliers and their experiences are more the exception than the rule. More commonly, it takes a few races to figure out your best way to train for and race Ironman.

Luck:

The fourth and final secret is luck. This one is frustrating because it involves things that are largely outside of your control. One of the reasons I like Ironman so much is that race day is like a giant puzzle to solve. Things are constantly happening in the race that forces you to reassess or change your plan on the fly. I try to prepare for an unlucky situation by telling myself that I will try to remain positive all day, regardless of what happens. I also try to minimize bad luck by checking and re-checking my gear obsessively and only racing with gear and products I have tested in training.

Whether you maintain a good attitude or beat yourself up mentally can have everything to do with how you will regard the day. I hope to not have anything unlucky happen to me in Kona, but one of my main goals for the race is to have a plan for managing my attitude. If I can remain positive and keep things in proper perspective, I have promised myself that I will view the day as a success, regardless of the time on the finish clock. This time around, I am also much more appreciative and grateful for the opportunity to race in Kona because I now realize that each race is not necessarily going to be a Kona-qualifying day and I appreciate how much hard work it took to get to the start line.

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?”