Monday, October 12, 2009


I have really enjoyed reading everyone's race reports as it is very inspiring. Like I posted in my PDX race report I completely bombed out the last 6 miles. That being said I am curious what everyone else does for the last 6. How do you fuel through the race? What do you do mentally to get through it? Any advice would be welcomed. Thanks


Tall Girl Running said...

I've run four marathons and have yet to avoid hitting the wall somewhere during the last six miles. I've been able to push through it in order to finish but only with a significant loss in time. I really believe my struggles aren't caused by mistakes in fueling or hydrating but rather my stubborn insitence in starting out too fast. Even though I run negative splits all the time in training, I can't seem to discipline myself to do it in the race atmosphere. All that excitement and adrenaline dooms me!

I'm not sure what approach I'll take next, whether it'll be to force myself to slow down during the first half of the race or to train by starting out too fast and practice staying strong 'til the end.

Rest assured you're not alone with this dilemma! Hopefully we can both figure out what will work best for us to each overcome it.

Cal said...

I guess I have been lucky in the two full marathons that I've run. I haven't hit the wall and have felt pretty good during the last miles(I have hit the wall before-sadly during a half marathon that I wasn't fueling at all for-so I do know how it feels-horrible). My dad tells me that if I haven't hit the wall in a marathon...I'm not pushing myself hard enough. That might be true but I guess I like to play it safe and feel good at the end. I take GU's at miles 5, 10, 15, 19 & 23 of the marathons and that seems to work well. I also start drinking Gatorade at every other aid station after mile 6...And I usually wear my hydration belt with some extra water and gatorade if I need it. I guess it's my security blanket. I have also started out the marathons at a comfortable pace and remind myself that I have to run for 26 miles. I do think that the last 6 miles of St. George was easier than the last 6 of my first marathon (Salt Lake). I was able to do my first negative split in a race. St. George's last six are basically downhill and the crowds are great which helps to keep you going. Salt Lake's were flat and then a uphill at the 25th mile-that made me want to cry.
Anyway, I'm not the greatest runner in the world and like I said...I like to play things safe, which will probably never get me a great time, I guess I'm out there to have fun and be happy...but Good luck with your future races, it seems like I learn something from every race that I do that I can carry on to the next!

Cadence said...

Hey , wanted to give a shout out for a running app I developed for iPhone and Touch pods. Its called Cadence, it plays music from your iTunes library that matches the speed you are running at. You select the Beats per minute you want to hear, it plays all the music that match the beat. Helps to keep you on pace.


Can said...

Do you hit the wall in training?

If you're not hitting the wall in training then your problem is probably going out to fast. In order to prevent bonking at the end, and if you're someone who just can't seem to help going out too fast during a race, then you may want to stick with a pace group if the race you're running has them. They're great to keep you at a pace that will help you finish strong. You can either stick with the pace group you want to finish with, or start with one just a bit slower than that and see how you're feeling during the race and then move up if you're feeling good. I've had a hard time with starting with the slower and moving up, so I prefer to just stick with the pacers. Besides, the pacers have great advice (how best to tackle uphills, downhills, they're remind you to keep your shoulders down and all those things we have a tendency to forget while we're running, and most have some great words of advice in the last miles of a race).

Make sure you're getting your gels/chews/whatnot in at regular intervals and that the timing of them is something you've practiced during your long runs. I've found, for me, that taking them at miles 6, 10, 14, 18 and 22 works great. But it may not be that way for everyone.

And something that a lot of people don't realize or forget is that you need to drink 8 oz of water (NOT sports drink!) when you take your gels to make sure that the carbs are routed to your muscles as quickly as possible.

Also, make sure you experiment with different gels. Some offer things others don't. My two favorites are the new Roctane from GU, that has extra amino acids in it to slow down the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles, and then Accel Gel, that has a 4:1 carb to protein ratio - the protein in it is supposed to help sustain muscle endurance. =) I usually end up taking 3 Roctanes and 2 Accel Gels during a race - switching them every other one.

I also start drinking the Gatorade at every hydration point after mile 5, other than when I'm taking a gel, then I'll do water. This is more to help prevent me from getting dehydrated though (I'm prone to that), but it may help preventing hitting the wall too. ;-)

Can said...

Like Cal said, our dad always tells us if you don't hit the wall you didn't run hard enough. I'm not necessarily sure that's the truth. Our dad raced in a time before energy gels were around, so he has a deluded sense of racing, in my opinion. LOL

But unlike Cal, in a lot of races I have an all-out thinking. We have a joke that my race mantra is "It's either a PR or the ER." =) (and, yes, the ER has happened a few times...).

But I think there's several kinds of "walls"... there's the complete glycogen depletion kind where you feel like you can barely pull one foot in front of the other - it's not that you hurt at all, or your mind isn't willing - it's just there's no fuel left in the tank and you're running on fumes. This is something that is easily preventable (the majority of the time) if you're getting your sports drinks and gels in at regular intervals.

Then there's the lactic acid wall - the kind where your legs are burning and cramping and whatnot. This is a bit harder to prevent from happening - especially if you're really truly racing and not just running.

And then there's the mental wall.

On this past race in St. George I didn't hit the glycogen wall, or the mental wall, but I did hit the lactic acid buildup wall. And the thing that I kept telling myself, and this is true with the other kinds of the wall too, is that chances are it WILL GET BETTER. Run through it, knowing that your body goes through phases dealing with things. Just because you happen to be hurting pretty bad in that moment doesn't mean you'll continue to be hurting bad, or that it will hurt worse. It's not the case all the time, but as I learned during that past race, my legs were shaking at times, and my calves were burning at times, but that was just in sections. It would be bad for a while, then it would improve for a while... and the cycle continued like that for the rest of the race.

Another thing that helps is to run for a cause or have someone or something in your mind that helps you push through those tough times. Think of something that was harder than this that you made it through - or think of someone who is going or has gone through much worse. It really does help. ;-)

Oh, and here's one more piece of wisdom that I picked up the night before my first marathon. I went and listened to a lecture by Amby Burfoot (of Runner's World) and he told us that when you hit that point where you don't know how you're going to make it to the end look around you. Chances are there is someone near you that is in much worse shape. Say something to this person. Tell them a joke, tell them a story... whatever. Just make them smile. Doing that will help lift up both that person, and yourself. He called it "the Gift Mile". =)

And here's a great article from Runner's World that talks about pacers and has some great words of advice in it, and things to think about in those grueling last 6 miles of the race. ;-),7120,s6-238-244--12854-2-1X2X3-4,00.html

I hope that helped a bit. =)

Heather said...

Great words of advise. Thank you for your thoughts. I think that I ran into a few problems after reading your comments. We spent the night at a friends house the night before and I brought my water belt but forgot the water bottles. I use the Honey Stinger chews and have through out my training. Anyway, I still used them but didn't always do it at or before an aid station so some times I took them with out any fluid. Also, I did not stay with my pacer only to have them pass me at mile 20. It was pretty painful to watch them run off into the distance. I think that going out too fast was a huge problem for me. I never "hit the wall" during training. These are definitely things that I am planning on working on for my next race. Again thanks.

Priscila said...

I need to start running! I bought the Bob stroller just for that reason and I havent used it to run once! Thanks for motivating me!
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