Tag Archives: Chicago Marathon

Time To Taper: When It’s Too Late To Train For Your Marathon.

A good portion of you are running one of the many major marathons taking place over this next couple months: Berlin is this weekend, London next weekend, Chicago and Boston the week after that, and NYC on November 7.

As people do for these races, many of you are probably in an overthinking sense of semi-panic about getting trained and ready for these races. I’ve seen multiple accounts of people now injured ahead of these races, so I know the following advice is relevant.

Most of you are now about 2-3 weeks out from your race. This is now the time you should be tapering, not training hard or long.

Don’t forget: Your body can only gain fitness adaptions from any individual workout after about 8-14 days. Anything you do within 8-10 days of the marathon will not manifest in any training benefits until after your marathon. Any hard workouts within 8-10 days won’t do anything other than tire you out and possibly get you injured.

Many argue for tapering within 3 weeks of a marathon, but I’m with Jonathan Savage on the ideal taper being 2 weeks, with a gradually reduced volume of running at mostly your goal marathon-pace, e.g. instead of a workout of track repeats you’re generally better off doing a few miles at marathon pace and calling it a day. So anyone 3 weeks out at least has through this weekend to train long or hard before they need to wind it down.

At the same time, a lot of injuries happen within the month before a race because runners, generally knowing this truth, do the equivalent of cramming for a final exam, trying to jam in as much training as possible feeling they didn’t do enough the previous couple months. They overtrain within the last 4-6 weeks ahead of their taper, and then get hurt.

It’s a risk I clearly recognize with my own training for Indy in November, and one I have to balance against restoring training volume and best getting ready for that race. Granted, like NYC runners, my race is farther down the road, and I should be reaching peak volume anyway with my taper ideally happening in late October.

But those of you running Boston, London, and Chicago should be in your taper phase, and at this point any hard workouts are unlikely to significantly benefit you. The time to get the work done has passed. You’re either going to be ready or you’re not, no hard training you do from now to then will do much of anything at all to change that, and any long runs or hard work you do in the interim is more likely to burn you out, injure you, or otherwise leave you at less than your best condition for the race.

Side note: In fact, the only real benefit or purpose of any long run the week before a marathon is to tap into your glycogen stores so that any subsequent carb loading will best re-load them before the race. The goal isn’t to get in a hard workout to get you ready. Most would almost be better off cross training this workout for 2-3 hours than running at all.

So unless you want to join those people who now have a sudden injury to their calf, knee, hip, ankle, etc. with 2-3 weeks until their goal raceā€¦ recognize that you won’t benefit from hard/long marathon training within about 2 weeks before your race, and start wrapping things up now. You had 2-5 months to get ready, and at this point you can’t undo the past.

Any hard work from 2 weeks out until race day is much more likely to get you injured than it is to get you ready for your marathon.

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Would I drop out of the 2019 Chicago Marathon?

Despite growing up in the hot Las Vegas desert, I actually don’t like hot weather. To this day I still struggle a lot in warm temperatures. This might have something to do with why I acclimate so well to cooler wet climates like Seattle and the extremely cold winters of Chicago.

I work hard year round to acclimate to rising or falling temperatures. Spring and summer not only are no exception but in my case it’s crucial to handling runs in summer heat. My forehead for some reason won’t sweat for some time when it warms up (it eventually will by mid/late summer) and that exacerbates how hot conditions feel for me.

Also, with a bigger frame than other runners, I absorb and retain heat a lot better than others. That’s great in winter, and not so great in summer.

I have a hard time with basic runs when it gets hotter than before. 65-70 degrees will probably feel okay in September, but right now it’s like a sauna of death for me to run in. I have a hard time going more than a couple miles without stopping, and in suitably hot conditions I may even have to stop for good after a couple miles.

If regular runs are hard, you can imagine what speedwork and races feel like. Speedwork at least usually allows you to stop and rest every few minutes. A race, however, demands a non-stop effort until you reach the finish line. Even a 5K may be too much if it’s warm enough.

Now consider the challenge of running a full marathon. By itself in ideal conditions it’s a monumentally difficult feat. Add in any warmth above 60 degrees and you’ve exponentially increased the difficulty. Once temperatures reach an otherwise mild 70 degrees you actually begin to put runners’ health in danger.

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Practicing fueling during marathon training

A lot of people struggle with fueling during a marathon because they aren’t used to running with food or drink (beyond water or maybe Gatorade) in their stomach.

I have a fairly strong running stomach. I’ve even gone as far as to eat pizza before heading out on a speedwork workout, and done well (in no small part thanks to having a bunch of fat and carbohydrates at the ready thanks to the pizza). I obviously wouldn’t recommend going that far, but I have on many occasions eaten a full meal and then gone out on a run without trouble.


Yesterday I segmented 11 miles into three separate runs, as I ran to the Loyola women’s hoops game, then back towards home.

After the game, before my 2nd run to Montrose Beach, I stopped at Raising Canes and treated myself to a Box Combo with some lemonade, because why not.

But instead of waiting a bit for the meal to digest, I immediately crossed the street onto the LUC campus and took off for Lincoln Park.

I bring this up because, while I didn’t feel sick running with such a disgusting meal in my stomach… the inevitable gas you’d expect from your stomach led to a realization.

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Some random thoughts the day after my marathon

I am definitely sore. At first yesterday I thought, “Well, this doesn’t feel much worse than after a 20 miler.” But deep down I knew better, and sure enough the soreness stiffened up and felt decidedly worse this morning. I had to work today, so there’s no day off to rest up. Back at it.

When I’m on my feet and moving around, movement gets easier and I almost feel normal. If I sit for extended periods, then getting up feels painfully difficult.

The saving grace of good running form is that, even when you’re very sore, that form can still carry you somewhat comfortably if you have to jog across a street or similar.

Others who ran the Chicago Marathon struggled as well. A few had great days, but many experienced, skilled marathoners I know reported this was one of their harder marathons. They didn’t have ridiculous hiccups as I did, but many slowed quite a bit towards the final 10K… very unusual for people who have run a few of these races. They know about the wall and how to prevent it.

Part of the issue was the sneaky humidity. The cloudy 60 degree weather did obscure for many how much the humidity would be a factor. It hinders sweat evaporation, which became an issue when the wind wasn’t blowing, and when it wasn’t raining.

And of course that occasionally substantial rain was an issue. Never mind getting you all wet. The extra water does weigh your clothes and shoes down and add weight, which slows you by about 2-3 seconds a mile per extra pound. It hit most runners before the halfway mark, and I imagine the long term effect of the watered down gear plus the high humidity contributed to slowing people down late.

I have some theories on what may have caused my hiccups.

  • I drank some protein rich fluid during the 1st half, and it’s possible it sat in my stomach with any water I took in, hindering digestion and backing up traffic in my esophagus, triggering hiccups.
  • I hadn’t practiced fluid intake as much in my training, and while I was skilled enough at it to do so without problems, perhaps the combination of pace running while taking in occasional fluid strained my breathing tract enough to trigger the hiccups. It’s also possible I took in some air at some point and that triggered it… though if that were the culprit that should have cleared up after a bit.
  • Perhaps, despite being in control otherwise, my body was intrinsically freaking out from the combination of long moderate running, nutrition intake, dealing with weird and occasionally wild weather, etc. Perhaps the hiccups were a sign of it beginning to give in, even if my legs and lungs were not.

I think one key adjustment I can make for next time is to not worry about carrying nutrition for the next marathon, certainly not the next time I run Chicago (if/when that happens). It seemed like Gatorade and the bananas or other products provided later on would have been more than enough.

I always run with the mindset that if I don’t bring nutrition for a long run, I am up the creek. This might be true in a race like Vancouver, where their energy drink is something no-calorie like Nuun. But for Gatorade races, that is probably enough.

In fact, I was not prepared for how many people on the South Side had food to offer passing runners. I was shocked. It was a veritable buffet from West Loop all the way to Bronzeville. Had I known there would be so much available I wouldn’t have even carried anything. Between that, on-course bananas and Gatorade that would have been more than enough.

The South Side portion of the course was so much fun, even if I was miserable for much of it and didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have otherwise. The spectators really bring the energy down there on race day. The king bee of it all had to be the marching music played as you enter Chinatown. You have got to see and hear it to believe it… especially if you’re on about mile 20 of a marathon.

I’m on the fence about putting in for Chicago’s lottery for next year, especially since I’m not certain of what my living and job situation will be by next summer. I may end up moving, and if I leave Chicago I’m not going to be too keen on coming back just for a marathon. But I feel like it’s a race I should definitely do again.

That’s all for now on random thoughts. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll have some less random, more evergreen material. Meanwhile, hope you’re doing well, especially if you’re coming off a marathon like I am.

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Hiccups, but the Chicago Marathon is done

I had a bad case of the hiccups at mile 14, and it impacted my breathing while running to where I had to run/walk the rest of the way. But I did finish in a bit under 5:26.

I had never had anything like that happen to me before. I was on pace for 4:10-4:20 and feeling good physically, when suddenly I began hiccuping so badly I couldn’t breathe. I tried holding my breath, tried stopping, drinking water… nothing could stop them. At best, whenever it seemed I had gotten them to stop. I’d resume running for 1-3 minutes. Then they’d come back and I’d have to slow to a walk again.

The resulting run/walk was a miserable slog, and it definitely exacberated any exhaustion I was feeling. If finishing wasn’t so important to me, I’d have possibly dropped out. It was somewhat aggravating knowing in the later miles I was in condition to run at speed, but this was holding me back.

I ran/walked until 40K, where I decided hiccups be damned that I would run the rest of the way, and I did. I even kicked hard like a 10K at the finish.

I feel great about finishing. I don’t feel great about the hiccups derailing my run. I am still sore and tired, and if there’s one saving grace it’s that the forced walking might have made the run less of a beating on my body. We’ll see how I feel over the next few days, but I notice I’m having an easier time walking and taking the stairs than others, even though definitely it’s a struggle.

It does feel good as well knowing I can certainly improve on 5:25ish, that I’m more than capable of 4:00-4:15 and possibly better the next time out. If I can figure out over time what caused the hiccups, I can run the next marathon without any… hiccups.

Now, two weeks off.

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