Let see why I couldn’t get what I targeted during the recent marathon. I just wanted to do some self evaluation about it, trying to see it from some different angles. And while it is unfair for me to compare my performance with anybody else, I’ll just do a simple analytical comparison between my ‘old’ me, and my ‘new’ me, with respect to preparing for and running the marathons.
Training is the key factor. My philosophy (cewah) is simple – “If I can train for it, I’ll do the race”. I don’t mind missing some races if I know I won’t have the luxury of time to train for it. And being a weekend husband and father, my weekends are very limited for training as I want to spare much more time with my family, rather than being on the tarmac.
1.1 First Marathon
So, for my first marathon, training effort was just focused on getting the higher mileage endurance, since it was my first ever attempt. The mileage itself (42km) scared me. No speed work at all. I started off with 1.5hrs and then 2hrs running, then up to 20km distance, then up some more to higher mileage gradually every weekend until I peaked at 35km with some bad aches on the knee joints and the foot base.
It was a big suffering after passing half way mark. My knee joints and foot base started to hurt so badly that I had to walk from 18km mark or so. Nevertheless, the endurance stamina built, managed to bring me to the finish line.
1.2 Second Marathon
Endurance felt good (so I thought), so I tried to include some speed training, trail running and stairs training (which was in conjunction to the few trail running events I took part prior to the marathon), but nothing was properly structured. The speed training was still minimal, but I could notice some little improvement in that department. In some of the trainings, I managed to score sub 1hr for a 10km distance. LSD was still done during the weekends, but peaking and tapering strategy was a little bit out of order. I didn’t once go beyond 30km-ish in any LSD, if I’m not mistaken.
Well, I could feel I was running a little bit faster as compared to before, and quite strong for the first quarter. Somehow, fatigue crept in after half way mark and that forced me to start some walk breaks. Getting to 30km, pain paid me a visit at the leg muscles, and decided to stay until the end of the 42km journey. Getting the PB might be due to the speed training which I included in the training regime.
1.3 Third Marathon
Thinking that I need more mileage so that I won’t feel the pain beyond 30km as happened before, I re-focused my training more into LSD mode. Speed work and strength training was almost non-existence, trail run and stairs training were totally zero. LSD training was pretty good, considering the mileage clocked at every session was around 30km plus-minus, and managed to maintain that consistency for at least three weekends if I’m not mistaken.
Although big cramps attacked me since 24km mark, my energy and endurance level was tip top all the way until I finished the race. It was the cramp pain that forced me to slow down. From the start until that 24km point, I managed to follow the 4:30 pace, with some few minutes advantage. It felt good to feel a little bit stronger than before, but when the cramps showed his face, the drama began and the whole scenario turned 180 degrees. I believe it was the sustained energy and endurance level that pulled me through for another PB, in spite of the pain I was having.
Nutrition and supplements are my second concern, before, during and after any race. It’s definitely the fuel that drives the engine, right? Let see how different they were in these three separate real cases.
2.1 First Marathon
Being my first time, I had no experience and a very little knowledge of what should I intake before and during the race. I knew about PowerBar gel before. But little did I know about ORS, and also little did I know about Glucosamine or Calcium supplements. It was like an experiment ground, to see what worked and what didn’t, and what was lacking. I totally can’t remember about my hydration plan though. What I remember was that there were not enough drinks at some water stations.
A big regret for not starting on the Glucosamine and Calcium supplements much earlier during the training season. The massive knee joint pain was the only thing that I remembered about my first marathon, until now. I can’t recall much about ORS though. Maybe because I was not running fast and had so many walk breaks due to the pain, the cramps only get into my calves on the final km. Not a biggie there.
2.2 Second Marathon
Lesson learnt the hard way earlier. So, Glucosamine and Calcium supplements have been taken continuously almost on daily basis. Much improvement I could say, as I didn’t get any more knee joint pains during and after any LSD training, no matter how long or how far I ran. So, that’s good. Anyway, during the race, I limit my PowerBar gel, but brought more ORS. As on the hydration strategy, I stopped at every water stations for drinks, and I only drank from my Fuel Belt when I already felt thirsty.
Not taking enough PowerBar gel might be a wrong strategy and a mistake as I felt my energy was unsustainable after half way mark. Perhaps, I’ve gone into dehydration state once in a while too, with the improper hydration strategy. Cramps were kept at bay, fortunately. Thanks to the better ORS replacement tricks.
2.3 Third Marathon
Glucosamine and Calcium supplements were continued as normal. PowerBar gel intake was doubled during the race. But I took salt replacement (ORS) strategy for granted. I only brought along two Nuun salt tablets. One tablet was taken at the starting area (diluted into my Fuel Belt drinks), and the next one was taken already too late. The 10 minutes hydration strategy was applied, with the help of my stopwatch timer as a reminder.
I will definitely remember to bring enough PowerBar to sustain the energy level throughout the race. Plus, I had no problem downing a gel without drinking water. And definitely the lack of salt replacement was a big mistake here. This might be one main contributor towards me getting the massive cramps that day. The new hydration strategy was truly awesome, I’ll be practicing it more often after this.
So, above are the two basic and very important angles I was thinking about on why it is still difficult to get better timing for a marathon. One is training, and another one is about nutrition. I’m not stressing out myself here with high aims or targets. And I still run for fun as a way to embrace a healthy lifestyle, more than for the competition. It’s just nice to know that we can further improve ourselves by what we do, and it feels even better to know that we can become stronger or faster, even at this elderly age. These are the bonuses, the icing, on top of the fun of the run itself.
Of course there were few other factors that gave either positive or negative contributions towards the race like the race course itself (hilly or flat), weather conditions, the crowds, race organization (especially water stations) and what was happening to us (physically and emotionally) the earlier days before we ran the marathon. But for me, many of these are beyond our control, so why bother so much, right?
And I’m still going to experiment few other things for my future races, insyaAllah, just to see whether my ‘future’ me can be better than my ‘current’ me.