Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Marathon Training Question

Dear Jen,

I came across your blog while trying to get more info on training for a marathon with a stroller. Your time at the Marine Corp Marathon is good, at least by my standards! Do you do ALL your training with a stroller?

I'm thinking of seeing if I can get in shape for a spring marathon but I have very little opportunity to run without the stroller and it is the one hobby of mine that my baby son and I can enjoy together. So I was perhaps going to try an experiment where I train exclusively with the stroller (and maybe go to a weekly spinning class). My longest run will probably be a hilly 18 miler. Do you think a one-year-old would sit in the stroller for over 2.5 hours?

I have one session that I do now where I push the stroller up a short but steep hill and jog down it repeated. And another when I run fast for a minute and slow for a minute. However, for the long runs I have to keep it fairly slow as I live in a city and have to keep crossing roads! I guess for my long runs I need to get out into the parks?

So far my best time is 3:45. I doubt I can better that, but I'm wondering if I can still beat 4 hours!?


Thanks for writing. I appreciate the compliment following my most recent marathon attempt! I don't do all my training with a stroller now because my husband and I have been doing "date runs". In 2004, however, I did all my training runs for the Honolulu Marathon with my 18 month old daughter while my husband was deployed. Some of those runs were 3 hours long and she was fine. It was basically like this:
Hour 1: Enjoy scenery, sing songs, etc.
Hour 2: Sleep.
Hour 3: Eat snacks.
Presumably your son is pretty comfortable in the stroller for an hour or more already. My advice is to try to run at a time that he typically takes a nap so that he will sleep for a big chunk of the run. Bring lots of snacks he can feed himself. I did 3:59 in that marathon.

If you do all your training with the stroller, however, it is difficult to know what pace you'll be able to run without the stroller in the marathon. For a single stroller, subtracting one minute per mile from your long run with stroller times is probably a safe estimate. Also be careful with your hydration. Running with the stroller, I get used to drinking whenever I want, but the race will have water stops only every 4 +/- (?) miles, so keep that in mind too.

After training on hills for what turned out to be a relatively flat marathon, I realized that it is important to train on similar terrain as your race. Hills aren't always better just because they are hard. It would be great to find a route with minimal street crossings both for safety and for making your legs practice going and going without so many stops. You already have to stop periodically to "adjust" things for your son.

Good luck!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Berlin Wall

The anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall has been in the news and that got me thinking...wouldn't it be just a little convenient to have a wall separating the two sides of the double jogger sometimes? Since that, at the very least, would be very heavy, here are some other ideas for keeping those little hands to themselves:

-There is "My Francesca" and "Baby Francesca" (the doll). Some people may shy away from giving baby dolls to boys, but I've found it really helpful to fill my rough-n-tumble boy's hands with something that he can give a good squeeze to if he just can't resist the urge. He has his own Francesca, so he can keep his hands off of mine! Sometimes it is his airplane instead. Anything big enough that he needs to use both hands to hold on to it.

-2 separate blankets in cold weather. They can tuck their hands inside instead of mittens and that keeps them to their own sides.

-Or if the weather is warm, you can take their shoes off so that the kicking is less effective.

-Tight harness so they can't lean too far forward. (Also makes it easier to steer. Probably safer too...)

-Snacks and drinks in duplicate. You would think that a 3 or 4 year old would find Zwieback toast or Biter biscuits to be disgusting...until you don't offer him one!

-Emergency pretzels sticks. Never get caught unprepared. Great for relatively clean snacking as well as math games!
Me: "How many do you want?"
Sp: "Four."
Me: "OK, here's two. How many more do you need?"

-Two sets of headphones attached to a splitter so both kids can hear the music, but not each other. (I only break out these big guns for runs >= 10 miles.)

-Toys TIED to the stroller so they can't get thrown overboard.

Every child is different. We could pass hours just singing with my oldest daughter, but now if I try to sing anything, my son yells at me, "Don't sing!" What do you do?

#5 at 5

So, it was now a couple weeks ago, but I finished my 5th marathon (the Marine Corp Marathon) 5 weeks after the whole appendicitis fiasco. In retrospect, I do remember the doctor saying something about how my stamina wouldn't be what it used to be for a while. that is what she meant! The short story is that I lasted 3 hours. Unfortunately, I only covered about 21 miles in that 3 hours and the last 5.2 miles were a combination of walking, jogging and hobbling. Lucky for me (?) my husband was pretty much ready to throw in the towel at that point too. At least it was a lovely day and it fit our definition of a date!

Unlike the last time I failed to make my "goal" time at the Marine Corp marathon, I don't feel bad about this one. I stayed hydrated and well fueled. I really don't think I started out too fast. I just think that my body had 3 hours in it - at whatever pace I saw fit. Besides, I did achieve my down-graded goal for this round of marathon training: I didn't die. (I realize that sounds overly dramatic, but I'm actually being completely serious.)

I also need to thank my two youngest kids for putting up with this marathon training nonsense! They've spent countless hours sitting in the jogging stroller with minimal complaining. I couldn't train like I do if they weren't so great! Don't forget to thank your kids for tolerating your idea of fun :)