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Marathon Q&A

by Stephanie on May 4, 2015

Has it really been 3 weeks since I ran the Paris Marathon? I spent 10 whole days in Paris during the month of April, so the month seemed to zoom by!  I blinked, April disappeared and now it is May. Before we started drifting off into thoughts of what to do over summer vacation, I thought I would do a Q&A about my marathon experience (inspired by Tina at Carrots n Cake who just ran the Boston Marathon with Stonyfield).

Marathon de Paris finisher photo

What Training Plan did you follow to prepare for your first marathon?

My plan was a hybrid of RunKeeper’s “Beginner Marathon – To Finish” and Hal Higdon’s “Novice 1″ marathon training plans. Both are designed for runners who want to finish their 1st marathon and can handle 30-35 miles per week.  I trained for 16 weeks and my goal was to run 3-4 times a week, with shorter runs during the week and long runs on Saturday morning.  My weekday schedule varied, it was busy season at work so sometimes I had to skip a planned lunchtime run. To prevent injury and increase recovery time, I also used the Jeff Galloway run/walk method , but used longer intervals of 10 minutes of running followed by 45-60 seconds of walking.  The RunKeeper plan only took me up to a 16 mile long run, but I wanted to break that 20 mile mental barrier so I ran 16, 18 and 20 mile long runs in weeks 12-14 before I started to taper.

Did you gain weight during training?

No! It is common for runners to gain weight during marathon training, so I paid extra attention to my calorie intake over those 4 months. Within 30 minutes of each long run (anything over 10 miles), I drank low-fat chocolate milk. Then I would go home and indulge in a recovery meal, like chicken and waffles, blueberry pancakes with bacon, or a burger with fries. However I tried NOT to use the excuse “I’m training for a marathon” to eat everything in sight the other 6 days of the week.  I maintained my weight between 123-126 pounds during training.

Was it hard to adjust to the time difference in Paris? Do you think this affected your race?

My friends and I left Dallas Wednesday before the race and arrived at 8:00 AM local Paris time on Thursday morning. We booked a flat on Airbnb instead of a hotel, and were thrilled that it was available when we arrived at 10:30 that morning (after claiming our luggage and taking the train from the airport). We took naps, went to the market and took it easy the first day, which helped with jetlag. The first night it was difficult to fall asleep but after that my body/internal clock adjusted quickly. I had no trouble by Sunday, race day, and I did not feel like the time difference affected my run.

What was your goal time for the race?

My goal for the race was to average 10:30 per mile, which is the pace I put on my ASICS pacing bracelet that I picked up at the expo on Friday. This pace would give me a finish time of 4 hours 35 minutes.  I used RunKeeper to track my time and pace and for the first half of the race I was averaging 10:30!  Great! The second half of the race I actually sped up, running closer to 10 minute miles. However for each walk break, I moved off to the right side of the course so I do not get in the way of other runners. I think zig-zagging back and forth from the middle of the course to the right hand side added roughly another mile, because RunKeeper said I covered 27.3 miles, for an average pace of 10:23. My official marathon time was 4:43:39.

How did you fuel during the race?

Since the race handed out bottles of water every 5K, I quickly figured out to grab one and run with it for a while. Then I would eat a Gu every 4-5 miles, followed by lots of water. My favorite Gu flavors are mandarin orange and jet blackberry, so I had three of each flavor tucked in my spi-belt. Although I am not a huge fan of Gu, it was the only fuel that worked for me during training. I did not eat any of the oranges, bananas or sugar cubes that were handed out at water stops during the race.

What did you eat immediately after the race?

I finally ate some orange slices as I walked through the finisher area, now that the danger of falling during the race was behind me. As I started walking towards the metro station to head back to our flat, I decided to buy a steak sandwich from one of the vendors/food trucks right outside the finisher area. I was worried if I waited to long to eat, I might get light headed and pass out on the train. Even though I am not a big soda drinker, I was also craving a Coke so my friends bought me a big bottle of Coke Zero.  Later that afternoon, we shared a bottle of champagne with some cheese and crackers.  After a shower and a change of clothes we went to dinner at Robert et Louse in Le Marais and ate a family style dinner of salad, bread, beef ribs, and roasted potatoes. It was one of the best dinners we had the entire trip!

How long did it take to recover?

The night of the race, we walked to dinner and I could tell my calves and hip flexors were a little tight. The next day we had booked a day long tour of the city by bus, boat and a trip up the Eiffel Tower. I appreciated being able to sit on the bus and boat most of the day since my legs were still sore but overall I felt good. The fatigue caught up with me on Tuesday, so we slept late and visited the Picasso museum a few blocks from our flat then hung out in Place des Vosges, a green square nearby. My friend Donna wanted to go running in Luxembourg Gardens but the idea of running sounded horrible! We flew home on Friday morning and I spent most of the weekend home with my kids, recovering from jet lag. That Monday after work, I was itching to run so I put on my shoes and went for a slow 3 miles around my neighborhood.

Will you run another marathon?

Although I should never say never, I do NOT plan to run another marathon. Running a marathon was a bucket list item, so I went into this race thinking “ONE and done.” I picked a big one, Marathon de Paris, trained hard and ran a good race. Yes, it would have been a completely different experience if I had run a smaller race and had my husband and kids cheering for me at the finish line, but that is not what I chose to do.  However, the race day experience is not the reason why I don’t plan to run another marathon. It was the four months of training that pushed me over the edge! Every single day was consumed by thoughts of running, planning my next run or recovering from my long run. Not only did my schedule revolve around running, but my family’s life also revolved around my training schedule. It was self-centered and exhausting.

What are your plans for your next race?

I was scheduled to run Ale of a Trail, a 5 mile trail run, on April 25th but it was rescheduled due to heavy rains. This past weekend, I joined my friends for the Vineyard Run (5K) in Grapevine, TX because I will run any race that gives me free wine at the finish line. Or beer. Races that give out free booze are fun. On June 6th, I am racing my first triathlon with my friend Donna at the women only Spa Girl Tri in Grapevine.  The race takes place at the Gaylord Texas, with a 300 meter swim, a 10 mile bike ride and a 2 mile run.  My husband was worried about the swim portion, until I told him that we swim IN THE LAZY RIVER. Then he as all “Wow, you could just walk that portion of the race.”  I tried to be offended, but in reality I was thinking the same thing. My swimming skills pretty poor, just a hair above “will probably not drown if you put her in water,” so I should survive.

So what’s next?

This may surprise you but I have decided that after my race in June, I am going to take a break from running long distance. Don’t worry, I am not giving up on exercise and staying fit!  However I have a test that I need to take for my professional career in October, so I have committed to not signing up for races this fall.  On the flip side, taking a break from running gives me more time to try out new & different fitness programs! Less than 10 minutes from my house we have an Orange Theory Fitness, a Pure Barre is opening in the next month and I have agreed to try out a new UFC gym (no, I am not going to be the next UFC fighter). Even better, this summer I plan to spend my weekends at the pool with my family instead of out training for a race!

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