Four tips for handling marathon week

Crosscut By 2: Carbo-loading? Last-minute training? And what about Thanksgiving dinner? How to deal with the Seattle Marathon pre-race jitters.
Crosscut By 2: Carbo-loading? Last-minute training? And what about Thanksgiving dinner? How to deal with the Seattle Marathon pre-race jitters.

Editor's note: Monte Enbysk, an experienced (but not elite) runner, was thrown off his Seattle Marathon training schedule by an injury last month. He's chronicling his comeback effort and 'ꀔ if he makes it 'ꀔ his race day for Crosscut. His previous installments are available here.

The Seattle Marathon is less than a week away! Am I ready? I'ꀙm honestly not sure.

If I'ꀙm not ready, it'ꀙs too late now. The last week before a marathon is not a time for hard training, or for running the miles that you didn'ꀙt or couldn'ꀙt run in previous weeks. Your hard training needs to be finished prior to the last two weeks before the marathon.

In the last week before the event, you need to relax, stay loose, and avoid injury. I am reducing my mileage to around 18 miles this week (from 36 and 31 miles the past two weeks). That includes the 11-miler I did Sunday with training partner Stuart Glascock and his dog, T-Bone. We ran the Seward Park loop and then up to Leschi and back along Lake Washington in east Seattle. I also did another four miles Monday morning.

I will run again on Wednesday or Thursday, just to keep my legs loose, and that'ꀙs it. I will try to stay off my feet for at least two days before the Seattle Marathon on Sunday.

Here is my strategy for the last week before a marathon:

1. Rest my legs! As I write this, they'ꀙre tired. My 11-mile "tuneup" run on Sunday was a chance to assess where I am at this stage of training. It went OK, but my legs felt sore and I labored a bit — not good. More running won'ꀙt help. I need rest. If I'ꀙm under-trained but rested this Sunday, that will be better than under-trained and not rested.

Some runners like to do a short jog the day before the race to 'ꀜwake up'ꀝ their legs. That'ꀙs fine for many. My legs will wake up the first few miles of the marathon.

2. Eat smart. There'ꀙs no need to start carbo-loading early. This is a week to watch what you eat. Many people are nervous or edgy the week before the race, so you want to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein, and avoid rich, spicy foods that could aggravate your stomach.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving meal! Just don'ꀙt overdo it. (Watch the bacon-wrapped turkey and Tater Tot casserole.) You'ꀙre running less this week, so you don'ꀙt want to pack on extra pounds for the marathon. Also, drink lots of water all week.

Carbo-loading works best for me the day before the race. I don'ꀙt go crazy on ice cream and French fries — I do that after the marathon — but I typically have a nice plate of pasta the night before the marathon. (Wherever a race is held, Italian restaurants are typically full the night before.)

I also eat carbs for breakfast the day of the race (bagels or pancakes, plus yogurt and a banana). Some people eat very light before the race. I eat a decent meal, because at Mile 20 I'ꀙll need the strength. Do whatever works for you.

3. Avoid stress. Having the Seattle Marathon on the Sunday after Thanksgiving is both bad and good. The bad is the cold, wet weather you must endure during the race and the weeks of training beforehand. The good is that it generally follows a low-stress workweek. Many people work only two to three days during the week, and it is generally a slower week except for Black Friday.

A stressful week at work (or home) can nullify weeks of quality training. It may be wet and chilly at the starting line, but I usually feel pretty rested for the Seattle Marathon. The days before the race are usually good for watching football and catching up on reading; I'ꀙll do my holiday shopping later. (Of course, if my Oregon Ducks are playing, watching a football game could be stressful.)

4. Have a normal week otherwise. There'ꀙs really no need to get nervous for the marathon, but I do the night before the race anyway. I never can sleep; I worry about getting injured, or hitting the wall at Mile 14, or losing my car keys. But once I start running the next day, I stop worrying.

Also, in training for a marathon, it'ꀙs often hard to think about life beyond it. But the race does finally happen. So plan for your life post-marathon, including when your next race will be. Yes, there is a satisfying feeling of accomplishment when you cross the finish line, and it can last for up to a week. But some people, when they get beyond the euphoria, experience a feeling of emptiness because their main goal for some time has been achieved. What do they do now?

I like to have my next run scheduled, and even my next marathon in mind, to give me something to look forward. I often do a 5K the next weekend; but after the Seattle Marathon, I plan to run the Jingle Bell Run 5K in Seattle on Dec. 13 and the 12Ks of Christmas in Kirkland on Dec. 20.

Fellow runners, have any tips you'ꀙd like to share? Please leave a comment below.


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