Gold-Medal Marathon Training Advice from 2004 Olympian Kate O’Neill Tenforde of runcoach.com (Facebook Q&A recap)

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 8.47.11 AMEarlier this week, we hosted a live Facebook chat with 2004 Olympian Kate O’Neill Tenforde. During the chat, Kate (who now works with our official training partner, runcoach.com!) offered her marathon and half-marathon training advice and answered questions from both new and veteran runners. Read on for a few highlights from Wednesday’s chat, or you can read the full transcript here

Q: I do well with shorter runs and can maintain the same pace until I get to about 6-7 miles, then I always teeter out. Any suggestions for longer runs?
A: There could be a few things going on here – boredom, fatigue, or dehydration. If it’s boredom, try to find a running buddy. Look for someone who runs a similar pace. The runs will go by so much faster if you have someone to talk to. If it’s fatigue, you might need to start out a little slower or incorporate some walking breaks at regular intervals. If it’s dehydration, getting in some more water or sports drink will make a huge difference. Check out this article for some tips on hydrating.

Q: I was training for the half last year when I fell and broke several bones in my hand … I have not run since. How do I put that fall out of my mind?
A: My advice is to start back on a trail. Look for a well-groomed trail or field with good footing. That way there will be fewer obstacles. Dirt or grass will also be much softer. You’ll feel much more secure knowing that you are on a soft surface. Also enlist a friend to come with you. Talking with a running buddy will help ease the anxiety and tension.

Q: I’m going overseas for vacation for two weeks – right in the middle of training. Do you have any suggestions so I don’t end up going backwards and having to start all over when I get back?
A: Try to fit in whatever running you can. Most people find it’s best to squeeze in a workout first thing in the morning. That way they can enjoy the rest of the day. Call the hotel beforehand and ask about local running routes. You might even be able to squeeze in some sightseeing on your runs.

You probably won’t be able to run every day so look ahead at your schedule. Figure out the most important workouts that are coming up (probably long runs and pace runs) and prioritize those.

Q: What are the best ways to train for hills and for a good kick at the end of the race?
A: Whenever you add in hills, adjust your paces accordingly. When you are running hills, you should pay more attention to effort than the time on your watch. You’ll run a slower pace on hills – don’t try to maintain your regular pace.  … Regarding your finishing kick – Staying on top of all your training will allow you to finish the race with a strong kick. In addition, we recommend starting out conservatively on race day. For the ½, we suggest that you start 5-15 seconds per mile slower than your goal pace. By the 2nd mile you should be running at around goal pace while listening to your body. For the marathon we suggest that you start 15-30 seconds per mile slower than your Marathon Goal Pace (MGP). You should run the 2nd mile at 10-20 seconds/mile slower than MGP. Try to get on pace by the 3rd mile and stay on pace until 18 or 20 miles when the race starts.

Q: I’m very concerned about how to fuel my body, and I’m afraid I’ll get started & not be able to finish. Any tips?
A: When people think of carbo-loading, they often just think of the pasta dinner the night before the race. But don’t limit yourself. Carbs can include rice, bagels, bread, tortillas, oatmeal, and baked potatoes (without the skin). Have a full meal the night before. … Do not over eat, but make sure you fill up. On race day, eat some calories early in the 400-500 range of carbohydrates including the sports fluid you drink.

For a mid-morning race, you may want to have a few extra calories because of the late start or have a snack in the 100-200 calorie range. Drink Gatorade (or any sports drink that doesn’t include protein) and/or water frequently to ensure you are hydrated (clear urine is a good sign). You should stay well-hydrated throughout the morning before the race. At some point prior to the race, stop drinking so you can empty your bladder before the start. It is important to refrain from over-consumption of water alone, as that will drain your body of needed electrolytes.

Take a bottle with Gatorade/sports drink to the start with you and right before the gun goes off drink 4-8 ounces. This is your first water stop. If you drink close enough to the start you shouldn’t have to go to the bathroom – the fluid should only drip through your kidneys because most of your resources (blood) will be in your legs and out of your gut.

Energy bars aren’t necessary, but stay on top of hydration. Drink early and often (4-8 ounces of sports drink every 20 minutes). If you prefer gels and gus over sports drink, take the gel/gu with the 4-8 ounces of water. Most races offer water stations every few miles. Check out the race website beforehand so you will know what to expect. It is better to consume enough fluid early and sacrifice the later stops if necessary.

Q: I’m a new runner, and I’m having a hard time deciding 1/2 or full. Do you have any advice for undecided newbies? 
A: That’s a great question. The marathon definitely has a special allure. If you’re up to 13 mile long runs, you’re definitely on track to complete the full 26.2. That being said, the half marathon has some great benefits. Your body will recover much faster and you can race again much sooner. If you’re on the fence, maybe stick with the half this year and aim for the full in October of 2014.

Q: If I miss a long run, am I doomed?
A: Definitely not! Most runners (even the best in the world!) miss a few workouts along the way to a race. The important thing is that you get back on track and figure out how to do things differently in the future. For example, if you were too tired to run, look back on what you did the day before – Did you stay up late partying or stay at the office too long? Were you too sore from running stadium steps the night before? Whatever caused you to miss the run, try to fix that heading into next weekend’s long run.

Have an additional training question you want answered? Post it in the comments, or share with us on Facebook or Twitter. We’ll pass them along to have our experts respond with their advice.  

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