Thursday, October 11, 2012

Race day woes and oh no

This running thing ain't easy. Scratch that. Running isn't so hard - it's racing that can be tricky.

I mean, you would think that all you have to do is train, throw on a pair of sneakers and get going.

Maybe for some.

Not for me.

I have suffered from just about everything you can during my races. From massive tummy troubles like what happened at my San Diego RNR marathon debacle to painful, ridiculous cramping as what happened to me at the Hollywood Half and most recently having to battle a host of negative thoughts and issues last week at the Long Beach half… plus other little rumbles and bumps along the way.

Some of you probably have some challenges too. Maybe for you it's 'hitting the wall,' dealing with chafing, blisters, bloody nipples, injuries or other fun stuff. 

It sucks. You train for months, you look forward to the day, you plunk down this large amount of cash and then BAM. OH NO. NOT NOW! Why today? Why does (insert woe) have to be happening?

Uh. Why do we run again?  Running is fun!

We could let these issues stop us in our tracks but most of us are committed to the sport, the lifestyle, the awesome feeling we get from accomplishing goals, the incomparable feeling of crossing that finish line, and yes, even the bling.

So here are three issues I've dealt with and how I've tried to improve - everyone is different so you'll need to experiment with what works for you. 

Tummy Troubles (Runner's Trots, cramps, nausea…): Ugh. I am queen of the stomach ache. It really is the big thing I'm always dealing with. I have IBS, dairy sensitivities, gluten issues, and on top of all that - nerves. It all sends my GI tract over the edge. Good times. It's a wonder I ever make it thru a race without "pantsing my poop." 

I've learned to live with it best I can. I eat very blandly the days leading up to the race (A little quinoa pasta, some rice, no dairy, nothing spicy, nothing with too much fiber, avoiding fatty stuff.) I experiment with nutrition and hydration well before race day and have swapped from commercial sports drinks to coconut water for electrolyte replacement. I still had some tummy trouble running this past half but it was markedly better than previous races for me (no potty stops!). I also pop an Immodium prior to the race for extra insurance. After having to run off-course during my marathon to a 7-11 to buy it 12 miles in, I usually carry some in my race belt just in case.

The tough thing with the tummy thing is finding the right balance - you have to hydrate and have nutrition when racing half and full marathons -- I'm still working on getting it perfect. Found out during my last race that skipping a heartier breakfast (oatmeal) for a lighter one (rice cake with a little PB) didn't work for me. I need the calories and I felt hungry and like I was fading by mile 4.

PS: This is common advice worth repeating. NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY. Not a new sports drink, not a new gel, not a new breakfast.  NOTHING. 

Cramping: (Legs) Aside from stomach cramps, I seem to have been suffering a lot from cramps in my feet, calves and hamstrings during the last few miles. This really sucks. I had such an awful time in Hollywood that this cramping thing has really worked its way into my psyche and is seriously "cramping" my style. I have been researching how to avoid this and there's a plethora of different advice including: making sure you are well hydrated, making sure you have enough electrolytes, making sure you are trained enough and stretching.

Am I smiling or grimacing
from cramps?

Well, I don't stretch much so I'll start by trying that next time. I've been working on hydration and perhaps I have to up my nutrition? I've been using 2 gels during halfs but maybe an extra one (for the electrolytes?) would be helpful. Maybe I should try salt? I am definitely going to take weight training more seriously. I also may try taking a magnesium supplement because I read that, people who cramp could be deficient in magnesium. This will be a continual work in progress but I'm determined to find a solution to this problem.

Negative thoughts: Well if you're like me, sometimes half the battle are the bitches in your head. Sometimes the negativity starts because of legit reasons (like tummy troubles or cramps), sometimes it's for other unexplained reasons. Your thoughts are usually MORE IMPORTANT than anything else going on. Your thoughts will dictate whether you let the 50 porta-potty stops make you throw in the towel or power thru to a finish no matter what. Your thoughts will make the cramping and other physical issues fifty times worse or something to overcome. 

If you truly can't continue that's one thing but I can't think of anything worse than letting the voices in my head win by talking me into quitting. DO NOT GIVE THOSE VOICES THAT TYPE OF POWER.

Come up with 2 - 5 go-to mantras to help beat down negative thoughts - I pulled them out of my bag on my recent half… "Pain is temporary, pride forever," "If it was easy, everyone would do it," "Suck it up buttercup, I am strong.""Suffer now and eat a feast later…" Were a few easy-to remember mantras I pulled out. 

My other tricks include, turning on a favorite power song, remembering to focus on all I have to be grateful for and looking for funny race signs. You have to control your thoughts. Learn to quickly recognize when you are going to a dark mental place and then change it. You might have to "fake it 'til you make it" but just forcing yourself to "think of happy thoughts" really does make a difference. If worse comes to worse, call a friend who will give you a quick pep talk and get back on track. 

What are some of the race day woes you've had to deal with? How did you fix them? Any useful books, information or advice to share?

Happy racing!



Unknown said...

trial and is a continual work in progress.

I don't suffer from cramping usually but after reading a recent article, I started taking MG too.

anytime you want to chat about things to try, Im here :)

Unknown said...

Thanks Jen - I might take u up on that. The cramps really worry me and I think have been f'ing with my mind. I'm afraid to run too fast in a half (and terrified to go for a full again) and am willing to do whatever it takes to fix that issue. I'm thinking really focusing on weight training might help?

*~*~* Tracy said...

This is so perfect as I get ready to run my first marathon this weekend! I'm more than slightly nervous and "the bitches in my head" are having a party!

For ultrarunner friend told me to take salt tabs to prevent them, and Tums if one sneaks by. It works ok. I need to experiment more with dosage/timing.

Unknown said...

Thanks Tracy - Tums!? Is that because of the calcium or something? That's interesting. I want to experiment with salt too. I think part of my cramping definitely is a mineral deficiency (that's why I'm thinking the magnesium might help too) I sweat ALOT and by a few miles in my face already feels gritty with salt.

You're gonna do great this Sunday!! Please post back and let me know how it goes!

Josh said...

I had to pull out some mantras during my marathon last weekend. Around mile 8 why foot starting hurting and as much as I wanted to stop, I had to move on.

I used that "Pain is temporary, pride is forever" quote for nearly 10 miles! I knew I could push through with a little encouragement.


P.S.- There's nothing wrong with deviating off course for 7 Eleven during a race. I've been known to get small Slurpee mid-race. LOL! Totally worth it!

Scott said...

Imodium!! I never leave home without it. Take on race day and carry with me.(actually helps keep you hydrated also) And for some reason I always need the chewable or big mind tells me the little caplets don't work even though they are exactly the same. If you sweat a lot then look at salt me immensely. And just know that everyone goes through the GI issues. Do I have stories for you..

Caroline said...

salt tablets are my Best pals helps with muscle cramps and dehydration...I took 4 last weekend it I did not cramp..took 1 every 30 min
you do have to DRINK with them...

Unknown said...

thanks all - I'm definitely going to try the salt! 1 every 30 mins… got it.

nikki said...

you are a champion any which way, jen the runner!

Frickin' Fabulous at 40 said...

Always a work in progress... I think Jen mentioned something about SaltStick. You could check them out. They include more than just salt.

Erica Gorman said...

Oh my! I have the "suck it up buttercup" mantra too...for both my running and darling daughter's crazy tantrums. It makes us laugh!

And for the cramps, I was thinking your electrolyte balance and support the suggestions of salt. It makes sense especially when you add in the tummy troubles. Biologically, the two do fit nicely together.

Good luck and thanks for sharing this!