official first day

Today was my official first day of Chicago Marathon Training. OK, technically, Mondays are “no-running” days, so I guess my official start might not be until tomorrow… but that’s beside the point. It is Day 1… the Kick-Off. For the next 18 weeks (4 months!) I will be racking up the miles to run Chicago. Although it is my second marathon, I am still nervous beyond belief. My last marathon was over 2 years ago, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. (FYI, the hardest thing I’ve ever done was climb 4 14,000-ft mountains in one day, last summer.)

First of all, I trained through the winter — BIG mistake! I remember running 15 miles in 15 degree weather… by. my. self. Torture. I actually went and bought new running clothes to keep me warm… and my gatorade froze during my run, making it even harder to stay hydrate. Oh, and another training run, 16 miles I believe, I had to do after a huge snow storm… I did 8 2-mile loops in my neighborhood because the sidewalks weren’t clear on the busy street I normally run on. Again, torture.

So, problem 1: solved… training in the summer. Guaranteed, St. Louis isn’t exactly known for its cool summers. If it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. My plan is to do my long runs early before it gets too deathly hot… but, in all honesty, I would rather run in 90 degrees than in 9 degrees.

The other major things I dealt with were proper fueling/hydration and injuries. Looking back on my past marathon training + nutrition log, I ate crap. And lots of it. For instance, going to the gas station on my way to work after my 20-miler to buy 3 soft pretzel sticks. Not exactly what you call nutritious (OK, so it could’ve been way worse). And, jelly beans on the run (frozen, of course) were not exactly appetizing to say the least.

Lately, I have been reading the book Thrive and Thrive Fitness by Brendan Brazier, a vegan Ironman triathlete. Being a vegetarian leaves me a lot of healthy but low calorie foods. In these books, he gives recipes for healthy meals, along with how and when to fuel before, during, and after training runs. Some of his recipes call for some unusual ingredients, but I get the gist of it and plan on following some of his advice along the way. I also plan on figuring out what works and what doesn’t straight from the start… so wearing my Camelback for my 8 mile WILL be happening this weekend, although I normally don’t hydrate during runs unless I’m running over 10 miles. But, again, St. Louis heat…

And that leaves the injuries. My feet suck (thanks, Mom). I ended up with not 1, but 2 neuromas in my left foot, thanks to marathon training and my lovely hammer toes (again, thanks, Mom). Painful. I guess I’m lucky it wasn’t worse, but in all honesty, it took me out of training right towards the end for 2 weeks. I haven’t had many problems with them since, but I’m just recovering from Hamstring Origin Tendinitis and have been struggling with Plantar Fasciitis for a year now. Both are under control, but my chiropractor is on stand-by just in case something flares up.

Also, I’m still learning what my body can handle. Most marathoners log 40-50 miles per week… the most I’ve done per week is about 35, and pretty sure I ended up injured. But, would I go, I go all out. Being an exercise scientist (I use that term loosely), I understand the importance of rest. But, to me, that usually means don’ t run, but doing anything else is OK. This is what caused the hamstring issues. So, I’ve mapped out my plan and it includes less mileage (still under 40 miles per week) along with the all important rest day.

The Plan
My running program comes from Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 program. It has decent mileage and a good build up. I don’t have the base mileage I would like coming into the program, due to the ham injury, but I think the mileage is low enough that I should be OK. My biggest issue with this program is that I will only be running 4 days per week. I am used to running 5 days per week and I am nervous that I will go CRAZY only running 4. But, the Intermediate 1 program seemed like a bit too much mileage for my body to handle. So, I might throw in a recovery run 1 or 2 days per week… just NOT on my scheduled rest day. Just a really easy 2 mile run… nothing that’s going to kill me or my long runs.

I am a huge advocate for weight lifting for runners. It has helped with my running immensely! If you are a runner and not lifting weights, you should be. I really think running specific is great, but I also want my arms to look good in my tank tops this summer. The best program I have found, for me, for general strength and toning is Jillian Michaels’ Making the Cut. I started this program in January, following the strengthening program almost perfectly (there is also a section on nutrition that I didn’t worry about since it didn’t fit my vegetarian diet or the fact that I don’t need to lose 10-20 pounds). My arms had never looked better! Then, I got busy and couldn’t fit the 45-minute long workouts into my schedule. But, being a (currently unemployed) teacher with LOADS of time in the summer, I figured this would be fabulous to get my arms and abs sculpted again. Her workouts have you strength training 4 days per week, 2 chest days, 2 back days… a little much while training for a marathon. So, I am doing 1 chest day, 1 back day, and then a heavy lifting day 1 day a week to keep my legs nice and strong.

My last component is yoga and core strengthening. Yogadownload.com has been a blessing in podcast form. I have been loving their free 20-minute workouts! I plan to do yoga and core strengthening (from Thrive Fitness) on my scheduled rest day. I figured this is the best thing my body can do, and not overly taxing on it.

But, my biggest thing while training for Chicago is to listen to my body. I can’t stress this enough. If I’m sore, I need to take it down a notch. It’s OK to skip a workout. Life happens and gets in the way of marathon training (of course, summer running clubs help combat this problem). I am just trying to make it to the start line injury-free this time and hopefully enjoy the running since it is what I love to do.

Here goes nothin’.

(Sidenote: we will hopefully be going out to some frozen custard place this week…. stay tuned as we also begin our Frozen Custard Tour 2010!)