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

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.

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.