Back to Back Half Marathons

This challenge of running two half marathons in one weekend was certainly a learning event and an experiment. This post is about what I did leading up to the back to back races and also what foods I ate (and should have ate) between the two races.

Back to back race prep

Leading up to this double half marathon weekend I took some measures, also because I was going for a specific goal on the first half.

My training had been going well, and I was familiar with the course for the Livermore half so I thought it could be a PB so I wanted to do whatever might give me an advantage. This included:

  • Sitting at work and standing rarely (I stand most of the time, typically)
  • Stretching my legs (hams, glutes, calves, hip flexor) at my cube 3x/day and put Kinesio tape on my calves to loosen them
  • I fueled properly the day before
  • Two days before I restricted (not sure if that was a benefit)
  • Observed two days of no running leading up to the first half
  • In the evenings on the two days of rest, I stayed off my feet as much as possible
  • Ensured plenty of rest leading up to the half
  • No drinking alcohol the week prior
  • Drank plenty of water (thanks to nuun!) the two days leading up to the races
  • I took a low dose of magnesium 

Fueling in-between back to back half marathons

Fueling is important when running a half marathon, but what if you are running two halfs within a 25 hour time period? It takes 24-48 hours for food to be stored as glycogen for muscle use so basically you have to start eating during your run or right after! But at the same time you don’t want to be full for the race the next day. The goal is to eat simple, low-fiber carbs (high-glycemic index), which convert quickly to energy in between the two half marathons.

What I ate in between my back to back half marathons (Sat: Livermore and Sun: RnR SF)

Here’s a listing of what I ate after crossing the finish line of the first half marathon and before I went to bed. You can see what I ate the morning of the second half marathon on my RnR SF race report.

  • 1/2 Kind bar (I couldn’t finish it because my body was not interested in that right after the hard effort)
  • Banana
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • French Fries
  • Purity Peach drink
  • Kidz Clif Protein bar (peanut butter)
  • 1/2 package Pro Bar Bolt without caffeine
  • 1/2 kids clif chocolate chip bar
  • Corn bread with a little butter and strawberry jam
  • Zucchini bread with a little butter
  • Homemade Oat bars
  • Carbonated water with real lemon juice and splenda

What I learned through all of this is that next time I will plan a little better regarding fueling between back to back half marathons. (And yes, there may be a next time! I’m training for my first full marathon in Sept.) Here is a sampling of what I learned through this:

  • I didn’t eat even close to 2000-2600 calories between the finish line and the start of the next race.
  • I wasn’t hungry at 3:30am before race #2 but by the time I got to the starting corral I was starving and my tummy was audibly rumbling. I was concerned about putting more gels (sugary substances) in my stomach and whether it would hold up (it did!).
  • I didn’t plan ahead of time the list of simple, low-fiber, high glycemic index carbs that I should eat, so I just went with what I felt like eating, which wasn’t much.

Items that were on hand in my house that could have been part of the fueling plan:

  • Apple sauce
  • Oranges
  • Craisins
  • Kidz Clif bars
  • Recovery powder drinks
  • Blueberry smoothie
  • Rice
  • Candy: skittles, starbursts
  • Gluten Free Bread
  • Tator Tots
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Golden Gate Trails Half Marathon (#12)

Wow, 12 half marathons in two years. Let’s let that sink in for a bit.

This was my second half marathon trail run and with 2400 feet of elevation gain it was certainly an accomplishment. I was tired for two days after and sore all over. The good kind of sore. No injuries!

Rivers throughout courseDuring the entire race it was either raining, down-pouring or raining with wind that stung like hail. I enjoyed every minute of it. =) The Orange Mud Hydroquiver double barrel was an excellent accouterment for this endeavor.

My calves started to tighten around mile 8 when I’d run the hills so I walked most of them. I didn’t mind the walking because this was a training run for a half in March. You can imagine how happy I was when even with the walking and the weather/trail conditions, I came in under my estimated time of 2:56 (official time 2:51)!

I kept my head in the game and this was the right distraction from life this particular weekend.

After finishing, I couldn’t help but smiling and filling with joy as I walked to the ocean and soaked my legs up to my thighs in the ocean. I mean, how often do you get to go into the ocean fully clothed with shoes and all?! I felt like a kid!

Ocean Ice Bath

In the stall of the bathroom at the restaurant pebbles kept coming out of my shoes and my socks while I changed, which only reminded me of how much fun I just had. Brunch included recovery eggs and potatoes along with a gang of November Project friends.

Before the start, fellow NP

Beer and a bubble epsom salt bath followed at home to round out a fantastic Sunday.

Soreness/Injury Report

  • Pre-race Injury: No injury. Spasming back. Tight hamstrings.
  • Taped: Both knees, hamstrings, calves.
  • During: A couple of times the calves tightened and so I walked. My hamstring was only slightly tight on the run.
  • Post Race: Not much stretching after the race. 5 minutes of soaking in the ocean. 1 hr drive home. Took a salt bath after I got home.
  • Day after: Sore hamstrings, quads, neck, shoulders, back. Calves were a little sore, not bad at all!
  • Two days after race: Sore hamstrings, quads, shoulders.

Golden Gate Trail Coastal Trails Elevation 2015

Livermore Half Marathon (#7)

Number 7, wow. And Half Marathon #1 was just a little over a year ago.

This was the inaugural event of this half, and is put on the same organizers of the SF US half. They are also planning an Oakland Half, which will be the second for that city.

The Livermore Half Marathon expo was the night before the Saturday race. The expo was on the green outside a theater and quite small 9 booths. The town of Livermore is quaint, with some pretty good looking restaurants. It’s set in a lesser known wine country of the SF bay area.

I knew this would be a nice race even though I was injured and on tired legs because it was my birthday and was just for fun, but I had no idea how wonderful it would end up. I had an unexpected running buddy which kept me motivated and was the sole reason for my steady negative splits.

I made sure to start out slow among the chaos of runners unguided by pace/corral markers. I did my usual run walk which meant I was running on the sidewalk a lot because running in the angled part of the street near the gutter is less than stellar, but that changed by mile 3.5 when the course turned into a park with a pedestrian only path.

There were meadows upon meadows. So pretty. I made sure to take in the moments – to be present and look around. There were a number of small hills through many vineyards, which made the course interesting. The route wound past a golf course with a hole named “Lombard” after the famous crooked street in SF.

The final few miles were back in the city. Looking to the left I could see the tents for the after party, the shoot and where I’d double back to cross the finish line. I was so happy to have completed this on such tired legs and with an injury. As I rounded one of the last corners, I saw the 2:30 pace group waving people to pass them. They were way out in front of their time and were holding back so they would cross at the correct time. I couldn’t believe I’d come in around 2:30! I had been running without feedback from my Nike+ app on purpose (this was a fun run), so I really had no idea what my time would be and was expecting something closer to 2:40-2:45. What a nice birthday surprise.

There were very few people clapping and cheering on the people who were finishing, it was extremely odd but that didn’t stop me from having a huge smile on my face because I was about to finish.

I turned around, after getting my medal, to wait for and cheer on someone I had chatted with on the course. As I was passing her around mile 10, a friend of her’s called her name from the sidelines, so I said “Good job, Jesse”, asked if this was her first half, it was. She was probably 14-16 years old. As she neared the finish line, I called her name and cheered her on, then walked over to hear and congratulated her. She said she enjoyed the experience.

Another birthday delight was having my favorite donut, blueberry cake, after the race, free with race entry, along with champaign. I had checked a gear bag with two shirts like last time and boy were they needed. There was no rain during the race, but the wind picked up and the sweat was chilling me as I stretched and sipped champaign.

There were aid stations every other mile, which was the perfect amount to keep my palette wet. I had oatmeal in the morning, and only Bolt chews during the race. The after party was in the middle of town, which left little space to sit to stretch and no space that would have been soft enough for some stretches. I bet next year it will be better organized and I’d certainly do it again, especially if it’s the weekend of my birthday.

Soreness/Injury Report

  • Pre-race Injury: Left groin pull. Both calves were sore the days leading up to the race due to race the previous Sunday. The day before the race the left calf was feeling fresh, but the right was still sore. Tight Achilles/planter facia (more on left than right).
  • Taped: Both knees, groin.
  • During: Tylenol and Aleve. Left hamstring tightness mile 0-10. Left groin pull mile 0-4. Calves a medium soreness the entire route.
  • Post Race: Stretched at home, then ice bath within 4 hours of the race and continued with Tylenol. Left groin pull low pain, right calf soreness more significant than left but both were mild after the ice bath.
  • Day after: Aleve all day. Ice bath in the afternoon after foam rolling. Soreness in the back. Calves more sore after foam rolling and ice bath. Groin pain was low, and only when twisting would it hurt.

Racing Strategy: Start out fast or slow?

Let’s take a look at one example of starting out fast (9:21 pace) and starting out slow (11:05 pace). Both ended with relatively same time (within 21 seconds of each other, official time). Starting out fast certainly made for an unpleasant rest of the run, was harder to keep myself motivated and in the end didn’t gain any time. The fast start had four +25 increase in pace interspersed throughout the entire race. When comparing, the fast start was less steady of a pace than the slow start. You can see miles 8-13 of the slow start varied less than +/- 10 min/mile aside from mile 12 where I got a second wind to get around the crowd of runners or perhaps it was the anticipation of the finish.

Slow Start Indy Mini 2:11:04

Slow Start Indy Mini 2:11:04

Fast Start Oakland 2:10:53

Fast Start Oakland 2:10:53

Next race for a time, I’ll start out slow, but perhaps not as slow as a 11min/mile pace.

What’s your strategy for the start of a race, hold back or go with the flow?

Oakland Running Festival Half Marathon (#6)

Training for this race started mid-December on the Jeff Galloway 12 week training plan. I ran consistently 3x per week, even if I didn’t do the speed work. This race was a personal best, but it also had moments of enlightenment. GlycemicIndex

Fueling

Pre race fuel included a number of items on the glycemic index chart with a low index (Sweet potatoes, apples, yogurt, pear) throughout the day, along with some carbs and protein for the morning meal (so it would be digested by the next day). I avoided salty foods because of what happened last time. The number of low glycemic items off this chart was sufficient, but could be improved next time. [AREA OF IMPROVEMENT]

I stopped all ibuprofen the day before race day, and instead iced and used compression on my injuries. I walked quite a bit 4+ miles the day before, and perhaps next time, I can manage my day a little better to reduce the time on my feet.

Race Day

Race day morning included the typical long run breakfast of oatmeal, cranberries, almonds, 1 tbsp brown sugar and cinnamon right after waking up and then nature valley crunch oat bars about 15 minutes before the race started. I had a few sips of tea shortly after waking and could feel the effects of the caffeine so then drank some water to make up 8-9 oz of water per my usual routine. Since this was a race for a decent time, I pulled out the Pro Bar Bolts that contain caffeine (my usual LSD include Pro Bar Bolts without caffeine) and two tylenol (I’ve been battling headaches this week). After a double check of the muni schedule and BART schedule, I set off across the bay with gear bag in hand.

20140324-093726.jpgThis was the first time checking gear. There was no line when I arrived 1 hour before the start but then 15 mins before the start had to wait. Tip about how to secure the gear check bag tag – take the square solid end and wrap it around the string on the bag, then pull the square solid end into the hole on the other end (first enlightening moment of the day).

Gear check is certainly nice. No carrying of articles on the course like post-race fuel, gloves or a jacket. The most important thing I packed was a jacket AND a long sleeved shirt for post-race. I was grateful for the second third layer. In addition, my calf sleeves, sunglass holder, tylenol and advil, tissues, food, and an electrolyte post-recovery drink were brought along. Enlightening Moment Number 2: Utilize the gear check.

Race Report

My sister mentioned that going against the advice of “start out slow” will result in a faster end time and of course I wanted to try this theory, so I aimed for the 2:00 pace group, which would shave 11 mins of my personal best. I figured aim high, but not unrealistic. From the one experience at the SD half, the pace groups start out at about the same pace that they end with or so I thought – read on. I’ve contemplated a lot that perhaps I’m just not pushing myself enough, that I’m holding back. So this time, I wasn’t going to hold myself back as much to see what I could accomplish and if I failed, I was going to fail big.

I certainly remember every mile of this race – every three minutes of running for one minute of walking – and it went something like this:

  1. Great! I am right on the tail of the 2:00 pace group for the crowded first .5 miles. They should really have a wave start for this race – Do I even like this course anymore? Maybe I will skip this one next year. Can’t believe my nike watch didn’t sync to GPS in time, should I start it now? Nah, I should have enough phone battery for the app I started on my phone.
  2. I’m still within view of the 2:00 pace group. This will be an intense run, I’m breathing heavier than a LSD. That’s to be expected since I’m going for time. Can I do this for 11.1 more miles? Yes, I can do it.
  3. No groin pain! Just passed a wheel chair bound person being pushed – go team Ari! Ok, creepy dude who just nudged and winked at me, I hope I don’t see you again.
  4. The 2:00 pace group is long gone, but my Nike+ is still boasting a 9:30 pace – Sweet!
  5. I see a pace group with 9:54 pace, but what finish time does that translate to? I can’t do the math, focusing on running. TURN THE SIGN AROUND! Darn, they are too far for me to see without my glasses.
  6. This S turn at mile 6 is familiar, I walked at this point last year. Oh that was the 2:10 pace group, what? That doesn’t make sense because I’m averaging 9:30. Creepy dude tried to say we were twins because he is wearing a marroon shirt and I’m wearing fuchsia – Yes they are both a shade of purple, but not even close to the same and please stop interacting with me, at this point, I don’t have breath to socialize with you.
  7. I’m doing 9:36 average pace. Damn, slipping, but still faster than my PB, just hold this pace. My legs feel like lead when I’m going slower and shuffling, but if I focus on form, increase my stride and lean (which in turn, I go faster) I feel like I’m exerting less effort. Enlightening Moment Number 3: Practice speed. There is the bronze/copper arch – smile for the camera on the other side!
  8. 9:39 pace WTF! You can do this, just focus on form on every run segment. I MUST catch up to the 2:10 group before the next walk break. Remember, you do have walk break so KEEP RUNNING. What? The 2:10 pace group just said they’ve been going a minute fast and will need to ease up – WTF, aren’t they supposed to be PACING!
  9. Oh crap a random camera person while I’m walking, better run then take my walk break after I pass him. I LOVE howling in tunnels. I haven’t been thanking nearly enough volunteers on this course, I will make up for it next Saturday.
  10. There are lots of people cheering, can’t take a walk break here. Hey, where is the photo setup for the photo taken from above with the painting on the ground as the backdrop, that was a cool photo last year. There’s the lake, just a 5K left – You can do this, no, you ARE going to do this.
  11. I remember they position a camera person at the top of the hill by the gazebo, can’t take a walk break till after! Smile!
  12. Just one more walk break and then I’m done. Ok, maybe 1.5 walk breaks, I can still see the 2:10 pace group. Another camera guy!? Don’t think about the hill, don’t think about the hill.
  13. Am I even moving? Where is my friend? Curse this hill. Ahh – up and over. Oh cool! I heard my name over the loud speaker! Where is my friend?

After running a hard race like this, my preference is to take life slow, grab food, water, stretch, then obtain wine, and find a sunny spot to continue stretching, do some people watching, eat and just rest. I realized this because my LSD running buddy showed up and I felt the need to entertain… to “do” instead of just pulling up a green sunny patch of earth and resting, which is all I really wanted – well that and a bag of cheetos. Enlightening Moment Number 4: Hard effort races require downtime after the race so solo is best unless that person just ran that hard effort with you.

I appreciate her coming all the way to see me, but I failed to have the energy to be the engaging friend (I took the tactic of asking her a bunch of questions so she did most of the talking). After a stretch and obtaining my two glasses of wine we wandered around the after party before leaving for lunch in the city.

I probably didn’t drink enough water on the course or after because I didn’t use the restroom till about an hour after the race, and even then I didn’t have to go urgently. Yeah, my post-race fueling was not A+. I should have drank the bottle of water they provided after the race – I only had the cup of gatorade they handed out at the finish. If I had rested and hung out instead of entertained, I may have thought to drink once I came to my senses and regained feeling in my body. I did get some carbs within 30 mins but probably should have eaten more than just the kidz clif bar. [AREA OF IMPROVEMENT] OaklandHalfMarathon2014RouteOaklandHalfElevation2014

Soreness/Injury Report

Quite happy with no back pain or knee pain post race! So aside from my groin injury, I’d say that I’ve had the least amount of post-race soreness. The lack of back pain, I attribute to the simple back stretches I started doing three days prior to race day. My feet (facia) had sharp pains at time, the days leading up so I wore compression socks for a few hours during the night the night before the race and also wore my compression tights the night before the race for 3-4 hours. Perhaps those helped with the delayed soreness of the calves during the run.

  • Pre-race Injury: Left groin pull.
  • Taped: Both knees, groin.
  • During: Left groin pull and calves around mile 9-10 but otherwise great beforehand.
  • Post Race: Left groin pull is significant, right calf soreness more significant than left.
  • Day after: Soreness in the core, back and calves. Groin pain was intense but Tylenol helped

Do you take notice and smile for the cameras, why or why not? Yes, even though I typically don’t purchase the photos, smiling provides a subconscious boost to your energy and mental state.

March Marathon Madness

What happens when I see a half marathon opportunity on my birthday?

I honestly haven’t thought much about my birthday plans. I frequently do a bowling party but this year that is not an option. So I had resigned to a low key 33rd birth year dinner with Luv. That was until my birth-date flashed before my eyes when I scoped out a new half marathon in the Bay Area organized by, none other than, the US Half organizers.

“Wow, an inaugural half that takes place around or on my birthday!” I could hear, smell and see the years to come that I would run this race.

It’s not the most convenient to get to (1+ hr drive/commute) but that’s not stopping me, in fact, it has solidified my once low key birthday (and future birthdays!) to having the possibility for a grand birth-weekend!

Did I mention this half marathon is in wine country and has a beer check at mile 11?

After a quick conversation with Luv, I signed up and have now increased the number of March half marathons to three.