(Long Overdue) Race Day Takeaways from the Marine Corps Marathon

This post is long overdue, I’ve had it partially written for awhile, but it definitely took me some time to process my thoughts on the Marine Corps Marathon (it’s been almost a month already!) and I wanted to share some of them as I begin to prepare for my next marathon in January.

Honestly, posts like this are mostly for myself since I consider my blog my “training journal” and often look back through it, but I also hope that by sharing my experience maybe someone else can take something away that’ll help them in their training!

Thoughts on Fueling.

I need new fuel.  I’ve been struggling with my fueling recently and after the Johnny Kelly Half Marathon back in May where my usual fuel of SportsBeans didn’t sit well (as in made a return appearance shortly after I crossed the finish line…) I should have really worked to experiment and find a fuel that worked better before my fall marathon training started.

Instead, I kept using the SportsBeans because they were easiest to carry (I’m sure gels are easier, but I HATE the texture!).  During the Hartford Marathon again they didn’t really sit well, but at that point with Marine Corps just 2 weeks away it was too late to make a change.  And again, the SportsBeans threatened to make a return appearance several times during this race (fortunately they did not).

With a January marathon quickly approaching I’m working to experiment with some new fuels and find something that works better for me – I’ll be sure to share updates and reviews of what works for me!  (And suggestions??)

Thoughts on the Marathon Distance.

The marathon distance needs to be respected.  With the Marine Corps Marathon being my 8th 26.2, I think I got a little complacent and maybe didn’t go into the race with as much of a plan as I should have.

I had completed the Hartford Marathon only 2 weeks earlier and had experienced some pretty intense knee pain for the last few miles, so I wasn’t really sure how my body was going to handle another 26.2 miles so soon.  My only plan going into the race was, “see how you feel and go from there”, which in one sense since I was not running with any sort of goal in mind wasn’t a terrible plan, but in the end I think that lack of plan hurt me…

Thoughts on Pacing.

When I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2013, I negative split the course by over 9 minutes, something I was very proud of!

This year, I crossed the halfway point in 2:08 feeling pretty good and having recently come off a PR of 4:20 at Hartford, I think I got a little cocky and thought maybe I had another PR in me…

I picked up speed and then quickly faded resulting in a 4:27 finish, a POSITIVE 11 minute split.

The halfway point is NOT where the race starts in the marathon distance.  The smart move would have been to hold back my pace until around the 20 mile mark and then if I had gas left in the tank at that point, go for it.

Lesson learned.

Thoughts on Recovery.

Honestly I usually pride myself on my recovery after races.

I am diligent about rest, ice, foam rolling and stretching, but after a rough race at the Marine Corps Marathon, when I really SHOULD have been doing all of that, I didn’t.

Due to some bad fall race planning I jumped right back into races with Falmouth in the Fall the weekend after Marine Corps and the Wine & Dine Half Marathon (that wasn’t a half marathon) the weekend after that!  And now I’m right back into marathon training with the Walt Disney World Marathon in January right around the corner.

I didn’t really let my body rest and recovery and let me tell you it let me know that on my long run this past weekend.

I think it’s important to review races (and experiences in general!) and try to learn from them, so going into my futures races and marathons I hope I can re-visit this post and remember some of these takeaways from my less than stellar Marine Corps Marathon.

What’s the biggest race day lesson you’ve learned?

How did you find the fuel that worked best for you?

20 thoughts on “(Long Overdue) Race Day Takeaways from the Marine Corps Marathon

  1. I think every race teaches you something, but the marathon is the one where I relive the race more than others due to the distance and time and effort. I’m lucky that I can easily fuel with gels, although like you, I think the texture is gross. But they sit well in my stomach so I just swallow them and keep on running!

    • I agree, I think it’s the training and effort that goes into a marathon and then the fact that it’s all over in a few hours that makes it really stick with you. You put so much work into training and then if you have a bad race it’s not like you can just go out for a do-over in a few weeks!

  2. This is a great article Danielle! I can no longer use gels and sport fuels. I stick to real foods like apple sauce prior to the race in those squeeze pouches, goldfish pretzels during the race when my tummy starts to grumble because of hunger, and then gummy bears for the sugar to help fight off the mental monkeys. I only use Nuun or water on the course for hydration. I usually use Nuun the days prior to the race and water at the race only since I have the salt in the pretzels.

    In terms of my training. Well this year all diligence went out the window. Cocky about finishing a marathon – sure, I was that way. Then after MCM I got a slap in the race that you don’t disrespect that distance. I still have to put in some long runs for Dopey in January! And already I am saying to myself (and my friends are also thinking this) – it’s a Disney race, we will finish because we will stop for characters and can walk a lot. I need to get back on the wagon and do the right thing. But it’s a little too late to get in a 23 and a 26 prior to Dopey so I’m working up to at least 20 with multiple daily sequential runs in there as well.

    Hope to see you in January!

    • I think I’m going to have to try out some of these suggestions Pam, I especially like the idea of the pretzel goldfish and gummy bears!

      I agree that in a way the Disney races are “easier” because of all the stops, but I still want to go into them trained well so that I enjoy the experience as much as possible. That being said my knee is really bothering me recently so I’m nervous about these long runs!

  3. I like the Honey Stinger chews and will put each half a package in a ziplock bag and put them in my pockets. I know others who use honey sticks, pretzel bits, and other solid food. I can’t do gels either because the consistency will not allow me to swallow the gels.

    • I actually used to use the Honey Stinger Chews, I just bought a few backs to see if going back to them works better for me! Have you tried the new grapefruit flavor?? I really like them!

  4. My stomach has gotten progressively more sensitive. I’ve stopped eating while I run and I now cannot handle the Gatorade at all. The lemon-lime flavor makes me sick to my stomach so I stick with water. The one thing I still love to get on a race course: ORANGE SLICES. God bless the sainted people who hand those out, so much more refreshing than banana.

  5. I am very lucky because I don’t have a sensitive stomach AT ALL. I can eat almost anything on the run without too much worry. But I definitely did some experimentation last year when I was training for my first half. Basically I just tried a new fuel on every long run and ranked them by taste, result, ease of packaging, ease of eating etc. I really like Honey Stinger chews right now, but like I said I’m not sensitive, so I eat whatever.

    • Oh my goodness, orange slices during a race are heaven!

      It’s weird, I used to be able to eat anything during a run, but the past year or so it’s gotten more difficult…definitely doing some experimenting during my training this time around to find something that works better!

    • Haha, oops, that response was supposed to be to Nicole’s comment!

      I used to be able to eat anything during a run too, but for some reason the last year I’ve gotten a little more sensitive. I do like the Honey Stinger chews, I think I am going to go back to trying those out!

  6. My stomach has gotten more sensitive unfortunately so I have no idea what works any more and what doesn’t and the gatorade seem to mess with pretty much everything now (but if my stomach is empty, I handle it fine, go figure).

    Anyway…if it makes you feel any better my split was a positive 25 minutes! (Or something like that lol)

  7. I learn something from EVERY. SINGLE. RACE. I’ve made so many mistakes along the way, so I always try to turn a bad race experience into a lesson I can take into my next marathon.

    As far as fuel, the only gels that I can stomach are Honey Stingers — they’re not so thick (Gus make me SERIOUSLY gag), and I love honey, so they work. I typically use Clif Bloks, though; they can take a little longer to chew (obviously), but have never bothered my stomach.

  8. I alternate Clif shot bloks (margarita and whatever flavor sounds good): 1 every 2 miles and then switch it up and do a Clif Shot (usually mocha) every 8-10 miles.

    I saw above some people were talking about applesauce and I am all about it. I am currently out of applesauce but often take it on marathons as food to eat (it is so much easier for me to take in applesauce than a banana)

  9. I’m the same way: “Honestly, posts like this are mostly for myself since I consider my blog my “training journal” and often look back through it, but I also hope that by sharing my experience maybe someone else can take something away that’ll help them in their training!” Me exactly! And I have gone back to past posts to problem solve, encourage myself, etc.

    Fueling is so tough. I’ve got major GERD issues when I run, so I’ve experimented a lot. I used to do Sports Beans, then switched to Clif Shot Bloks, and have finally settled on Clif Shots. For whatever reason, they’re the easiest on my stomach (and I’ve tried all the gel brands—Gu, Hammer, Carb Boom, PowerBar, etc). I’ve also had some success with Honey Stinger Waffles on training runs, but I just find them difficult to carry so I don’t use them in races. (They’re great for a long treadmill run, where I can just set them down). Really, I just tested, tested, tested over the years to find what works best for me. Good luck!

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