Training from the mile to the marathon.
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  • The 50-Mile Experiment

    Posted on July 18th, 2010 CoachGreg No comments
    Noah finishes 50 miles.

    Noah finishes 50 miles.

    On July 4, one my athletes, Noah Moore, completed the Qu’est-ce que c’est? 12-Hour Run. Noah has made some remarkable progress in the last few years, having lost nearly 100 pounds and turning into an accomplished runner. I love working with Noah. His enthusiasm is contagious, infecting those around him. This enthusiasm has also changed his family’s approach to health and fitness.

    When running his marathons, Noah has struggled with finishing well. He starts out great and by the time he hits 20 miles, he’s crumbling. We started our coach-athlete relationship as he was tapering for his first marathon. He was very dissappointed in how he finished the race. His refueling was good - he just cramped badly in the final miles of the race. The same thing happened to him in the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon.

    As we began looking at training for this year’s Monumental Marathon in November, we reviewed last year’s training and racing. We agreed that our plan of attack would include several 20+ mile runs. Noah recovers well and I felt that going the longer distances would not only help improve his time but that his body would also adapt well to going longer. Now, as a result of his 50-mile run, I think he’ll finish faster but that going longer will only help minimally in the cramping department.

    Every runner is an experiment of one and Noah is no different. We talked through a plan for his 50-miler that included fueling and hydration. I couldn’t crew for him the whole day but he did have someone there in the morning while I was a work. He had everything in place. I met him before the race, snapped some photos and headed to work with a plan to return that afternoon.

    When I returned, Noah was past the marathon mark, at mile 27 or 28. When he came through the checkpoint (The run course was a one-mile loop.), he was not in great shape. I could tell he was having problems forming thoughts - he was a bit goofy. As he took off for the next loop, I started asking his crew about what he had been eating, his rest, and his hydration. Based on that information, I was certain he had not been drinking enough.

    Next time Noah came through, I took his water bottle and filled it 3/4 full of Bana and topped it with Powerade. I made him stop long enough to drink about 2/3 of the bottle and then sent him out again. The next time in, I made the same concoction and this time made him sit down. I told him he couldn’t go out again and until he drank most of the bottle. When he finished half the bottle, I topped it off and sent him out again. By the time he came back, I could tell he was feeling much better. Noah later admitted that, in his delirium, he thought I was trying to drown him. Seriously. Dehydration can really do you in - people talk about the physical aspects but when you’re losing electrolytes as well, you don’t think properly and muscles don’t work well.

    By the time Noah finished 31 miles (50K), his family had arrived and he had made a 180 degree turn around. He was lucid and feeling good. He was weary but wasn’t cramping. From that point forward, Jen, his wife, Peyton, his son, and I worked together to ensure he was staying well hydrated. He eventually finished 50 miles by the cutoff time.

    The following week we reviewed some of the things we learned. I made mention that in the Marine Corps Marathon that I drank at least one cup of water and one cup of Powerade at each water stop. He admitted that he did not drink at every stop and only drank two cups at a couple of the stops. We have similar sweat rates in the early morning heat and humidity - about 64 ounces in an hour. Folks who sweat heavily cannot replace everything they lose in an hour, so having a good hydration plan is essential.

    We also realized we would have never learned that it was electrolytes and hydration that was the issue in his marathons. Only when he recovered quickly once he started drinking well did we learn what the real culprit was in the poor finish in the marathon.

    Lessons Learned

    • Create a hydration and fueling plan.
    • Follow the plan. Don’t abandon the plan because you start out well.
    • Account for fuel, fluid, and electrolyte loss.
    • Practice the plan. You need to know what works.

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