Preparation: Since April, I tried to follow Hal Higdon’s training schedule. I was traveling a lot for work in May so it didn’t perfectly follow the schedule. (something I can improve on in the future). As race day was approaching, I wrote down my training results every day to keep track of my progress, but I didn’t stress out about missing one or two training days. My mentality was “I won’t sacrifice my work (startup) for training. I will do as much as training as I can during my free time.”
D-1: I picked up my bib at the marathon expo on Saturday morning and met a friend for lunch. After that, I had to rush back to office to take care of some work emails / meeting. It was stressful as I tried to finish everything before 7pm. When I came home for dinner, it was already 7:30, so I had a quick dinner. My original plan was eating lots of pasta but I ended up eating Korean food (rice with tofu soup). Next time, I want to plan a more relaxing pre-marathon Saturday so I have more time to mentally prepare and pay attention to my pre-race meals. *After doing some research, I learned that many experts recommend runners to eat carb heavy meals 3-4 days before the race. Loading up on carbs only the day before the race might not be enough for runners who run 26.2 miles.
Race Day: Woke up at 2:50am. Had one banana & oatmeal. The night before, I had everything I needed for the race day ready, so I had enough time to enjoy my breakfast and get some stretching done. I used to use a hydration belt (with multiple small water bottles) but I switched to a Nathan water bottle. I found it more comfortable to carry the bottle on my hand than wearing a belt. (Everyone has different opinion on this. The best way to find out what works for you is trying different methods: wearing a camelback, a hydration belt, carrying a water bottle or not carrying anything.)
Ups: My race starting time was 5:32 but I arrived the location at 4:30. I had enough time to check my bag and use the restroom. I enjoyed having a relaxing prep time and the Bay Bridge view before the race starts.
When I first ran the SF full marathon a couple of years ago, I was running late and had a small anxiety attack. There were so many people and it was not easy to navigate. I had to rush to drop my bag and find my wave group. When I got there, the race for my wave group was already starting, so I jumped into running without being mentally ready (each wave group has different starting time).
I was happy that this year, I managed to get there early. A marathon is more fun when you are relaxed and ready 🙂
Downs: Around mile 15, I felt lightheaded and dizzy which I didn’t experience during my previous races. I was not sure what was going on in my body. I assumed that I was dehydrated and drank more water at the water stop. The dizziness went away for a while. but around mile 23, it came back. My last 3.1 miles was pretty painful as I didn’t feel strong.
I Googled and read some articles to find out what caused those symptoms. I learned that what I experienced was Hyponatremia which is pretty common among runners. Hyponatremia occurs when you have a reduced blood sodium (salt) concentration in your body. It happens when you drink too much fluid during prolonged exercise. (Source: Understanding Hyponatremia)
I ran first 7miles without drinking any water. At the mile 7 water station (Golden Gate Bridge), I drank three cups of water and ate GU chews. Between mile 7 – mile 13, I drank water at every single water stop.
I didn’t know anything about Hyponatremia before my race, so it didn’t occur to me that drinking lots of water can be dangerous.
Lessons: Finishing the 26.2 race is not that difficult. (anyone can do it with good preparation) However, finishing the race STRONG is difficult. It requires study, strategy and dedication. Understanding your body and doing research will help you come up with right strategies. Everyone has different body types and eating habits. You should find what works best for you. Finally, you need dedication to execute your strategies. I feel humbled to realize that although I’ve finished multiple marathons, I still have so much to learn and improve. Until next time!