1/2 Marathon Training – only 6 more days!

OK.  Less than 1 week to go.  Last weekend ran farthest ever AGAIN, 12.3 miles.  Ran a bit slower than I would have liked but the heat has been oppressive.  And I did not walk at all, just enough to drink a 20 oz Gatorade at about my 7 mile mark on our beautiful Chicago lake front.

Last long run this week.  Plan to run as close to 13 miles as I can with the focus of staying healthy and injury-free.  I still have to better pinpoint how much liquid and sodium I need over the race to feel good during and after the race.  This is still a problem I am having, particularly after a long run.

Here is what I have learned from our Gatorade scientists from the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) in Barrington, IL.  To determine how much water you lose during a workout, you weigh yourself before and after.  That is your “sweat rate” and you can measure it in oz/hr.  Ideally you would want to be replenishing it during exercise but before works also; it all depends on you and your tummy.  

Here is an example using my sweat rate:  I weighed myself before and after an hour long cardio workout, I consumed 20 oz of Gatorade during my workout and I lost about 1 lb, or about 16 oz.  That meant that for that hour I exercised, I lost 36 oz. of water in my body. (Note – this figure may vary in a different environment so you should do this multiple times.) The Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) recommends replacing closer to 20 oz for every 16 oz or 1 lb lost – this is because we will probably lose some through urination after exercise and we want to account for enough fluid to replace all sweat losses.  Therefore, I should replenish that liquid afterwards at the very least so I am not dehydrated after the activity.

Another issue that endurance athletes (or people exercising for more than an hour) have is the risk of Hyponatremia, which refers to a lower-than-normal level of sodium in the blood. Sodium is essential for many body functions including the maintenance of fluid balance, regulation of blood pressure and normal function of the nervous system. Hyponatremia has sometimes been referred to as “water intoxication,” especially when it is due to the consumption of excess water, for example during strenuous exercise, without adequate replacement of sodium. 

So we have that going for us. 

According to MedicineNet.com, The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) recommends the following hydration guidelines for exercise:

  1. Two to three hours pre-exercise: 17 to 20 fluid ounces of water or sports drink.
  2. Ten to 20 minutes pre-exercise: 7 to 10 ounces of water or sports drink.
  3. During exercise: Fluid replacement should approximate sweat and urine losses and at least maintain hydration at less than 2% body weight reduction. This generally requires 7 to 10 ounces of water or sports drink every 10 to 20 minutes. Include carbohydrates in the beverage if the exercise is intense or lasts more then 45-50 minutes. Water alone will suffice, and save calories, if the exercise is moderate or less than 45-50 minutes.
  4. Post-exercise: Athletes should weigh themselves nude before and after workouts to learn how much weight is lost from sweat (water and salt) and then ingest fluid equal to 150% of the weight loss, ideally within two hours, and no more than four to six hours after the event. Including sodium in the drink allows fluid volume to be better conserved and increases the drive to drink, and carbohydrate in the drink will improve the rate of intestinal absorption of the fluid as well as replenish glycogen stores in the muscles and liver.

This is really enough to make my head spin.  Not that I can’t figure out how to solve the problem, it is really the physical logistics involved in ingesting that much at the proper intervals, while I am running 13.1 miles. 

And we haven’t even talked about carbs and energy yet.  NATA states to “include carbs…if exercise lasts more than 45-50 min”.  Definitely if you are exercising for more than an hour you need carbs.  GSSI recommends “up to 90 g” of carbs for every hour you are exercising.  Your body physically cannot store the carbs you need for a very long workout or activity, like, for example, a marathon.  Your body does have enough fat to last more than an Ironman competition that takes 10-14 hours (yes, even those with disgustingly low body fat). 

The key I am learning is the balance.  Per my GSSI scientist colleagues (go to their website to learn more, I am paraphrasing to explain things the way I understand them – http://www.gssiweb.com/), you don’t want to necessarily overload on fluid before as you might end up with GI (i.e., tummy) issues and/or uncomfortable sloshing.  Depending on the endurance activity (biking vs. running), you may be able to tolerate more pre-drinking before biking as you don’t have as much jostling as running.  An issue can be the urge to go to the bathroom during exercise based on when you had the pre-fluid.  If you are running a race, or if you have an aversion to port-a-potty’s (like me), you want to ensure this doesn’t happen.  Some recommended fixes are to drink closer to start time, or far enough before for the excess to make it through your system.  Adding electrolytes could help you retain more of the fluid and allow you to pre-drink a little excess. 

Then they told me, “The best thing to do is try it in training first.”. 

Hmm.  Sounds reasonable but I only have 6 days to go so I have one more time to try it out in training, then on to the real thing. 

So here is my plan:

I lose about 36 oz of fluid per hour and I plan to run the 1/2 marathon in about 130-140 mins, or 2 hrs and 10-20 min.  Therefore, I will lose 36 oz x 2.25 hrs = 81 oz total.  My plan is to have a 32oz Gatorade during the hour before the race.  That will give me 400 mg of sodium and about 53 g of carbs, (I will need at least that much every hour).  So, during the race, I will need about 49 more oz of fluid, which I really don’t know how to ingest.  I can pretty much get the carbs I need during the race with Gatorade chews (24g of carbs per pack of 4) but the liquid is the tough part for me.  At every station during the race, I will have to take 2 cups of Gatorade; I would guess there is about 4 oz in each of the cups they provide at races. 

I am also learning that thinking too much about the hydration and the especially logistics involved is not my thing.  In addition, all of this has to occur at 6:30AM, which is really not my thing.  Therefore, right now I am thinking this will be it, maybe one race a year, but nothing longer.  But we will see after Sunday!

The other part of my training was my “wine detox”, which, in full disclosure, I am not keeping up with (in particular last Sat.) but definitely have reduced my intake to assist in my hydration.  Will try to completely abstain this week.  Again, we will see.

Any other words of widsom from runners/athletes?  Of course, comments are welcomed from anyone, even couch potatoes.  After the race on Sunday, I will be joining you as I recover on my couch, very potato-like, watching TV with J and my dogs.  They probably won’t even notice I was gone, since I will be home by 9AM. 

Wish me luck!!!

My Journey to 10K

I have always been active and in pretty good shape, doing such things as kick boxing, step aerobics and boot camp training classes, but I have never considered myself a “runner”. Until May 2011, that is, when we were herded down to Grant Park in Chicago for the Chase Corporate Challenge. We all work for Gatorade, so it was difficult to tell my coworkers, “No, 5K (3.1 mi) is too much for me, I will take a pass”.

When the experienced runners wanted to “warm-up” by running from our office to the starting line, I was leery and lagged behind with a few others.  Seriously, were they crazy?  Not only was it 40 degrees outside, it was at least 3 miles to the start of the 5K race.  We took a cab to Starbucks, which was fairly close to the starting line.  Warm-up complete!

So there I am, freezing and waiting to run, hoping I will complete the distance without killing myself.  Most of my coworkers run marathons and compete in triathlon races so I would be lying to say that peer pressure did not have a hand in getting me outside to run.  Did I mention that until now I had only jogged on a treadmill?  Running in a race with thousands of people in downtown Chicago is entirely another story.  My approach was to run at a pace that made me comfortable since I didn’t train at all for this, therefore I didn’t have a gauge on how long of a run I was doing. It worked and I survived; time was 27:41, not bad.   I felt pretty good about it, actually  So I decided to keep running.  Next up – a 10K.

We have a lot of trainers and scientists that work for our brand and I was determined to utilize the information at my disposal.  To be honest, before I started working here, I didn’t realize the scientific benefits of Gatorade or electrolytes or even carbohydrates.  I knew carbs gave you energy but my knowledge stopped there.  At this point in time, I was working on a project to launch a new beverage to drink before you workout, G Prime (4oz pre-game beverage). I learned that before your race or workout, you need something that will give you energy (calories, carbs) but not leave you jittery (caffeine).  This particular product has 30g carbohydrates and 110mg of sodium.  The specifics of why I needed these things did not resonate at the time but I started drinking it before I ran and I really noticed a difference.

I never ran in the past because I did not enjoy it, plain and simple.  I never reached that “runner’s high” or state of relaxation I hear people touting.  I got stomach cramps and muscle cramps and that was enough for me to not push forward with this activity.  After I started drinking G Prime before and Gatorade during my workouts, I realized that these things that prevented me from running in the past weren’t happening anymore.  I have a degree in Industrial Engineering so I am a problem solver by nature.  I knew I introduced a new variable to my workouts but I wanted to understand this better.  After talking to my peers and other subject matter experts, I started to understand a little about the science behind the great-tasting red (or blue or purple) drink.

By adding Gatorade to my workout, I was easily able to start running faster and farther.  I had the energy to keep going and wasn’t stopped by stomach or muscle cramps.   This is mainly due to being hydrated (Gatorade is 94% water), and by adding sodium and potassium (the other 6%) which helps with the cramping.  I learned that you had to drink enough fluid to prevent dehydration without over-drinking.  When I drank just water, I felt too full and had that “sloshy” feeling in my stomach (note that is not a term that the Gatorade scientists used).

So I trained for about 3 months, running 1-2x per week, for my 10K.  I continued the other portions of my workout (kick-boxing primarily) since I wanted to cross-train.  I tried to run at a comfortable pace, increasing distance without compromising how I felt.  I was not as regimented as most runners with my training schedule but I did what worked for me.  By the time I got to the weekend of the 10K, however, I was getting cold feet.  I realized I had never run that far in my life (6.2 miles).  But yet again, I had peer pressure to contend with, as this was a charity race for Susan G. Komen and I was leading the team to organize our company’s participation.  So again I had to do it!

The unfortunate part of running races is the early morning start time as well as the cold and rain in this particular instance (i.e., not fun), so I was a little concerned about the outcome. But I ran the race in about 54 mins and the seed was planted.  I was determined to keep this going and improve my time and distance.

After all of this, I still had a lot to learn.  This was a work in progress. I knew I needed to continue doing what worked for me but not much more than that.  At this point, I started thinking about my next race and goal.  There was a 15K coming up in 2 months so I signed up for that.  Training for that was a little more serious (9.3 miles – that was scary to think about) so I knew I needed to learn more about how to ramp up to that distance.

Next up….a 15K!