Since October begins my full marathon training plan while simultaneously beginning my Fall half marathon race season, I wanted to get more information about the marathon process and distance running experience. I decided to reach out to a fellow fitness and running motivator, Jamie Walker, of Fit Approach and one of my SweatPink Sisters, that moved me with her race recap of her 75-mile attempt last year and really jolted my urge to get into distance running myself.
Name – Jamie Walker
Age – 30
Location – San Francisco, CA
Distance Races Completed – 5K, 10K, 18K, Half Marathon, Marathon, 50K, 50 Miler, 100K
Favorite Race – One of my very favorite races was the Chimera 100K. It was one of the most challenging courses I’ve ever done but also one of the most rewarding. The course itself was wild and beautiful and filled with wildflowers and plants that looked like something out of Alice in Wonderland. The course was also full of steep hills and steep descents.
I loved how “out there” I felt but that same feeling was also what really terrified me about the course. I was really “out there.” I think what I loved most about this race is that it challenged me both mentally and physically and really took me places I never knew I would go as a runner. It was the first time I had ever experienced a night run and learned a lot about being prepared with proper lights as well as how to manage the lows. I had some super high highs and some super low lows (especially during the night portion).
I was out for almost 15 hours on the trails and had very little access to crew or aid stations. It forced me to really focus and be present during the race but also to let go and be OK with being out there.
What was your least favorite race –
I think my least favorite race was the American River 50 miler. It was only my second 50 miler ever and I showed up very under prepared. I arrived around 4:00 am at the start line and it was lightly misting. I was wearing a tank top, shorts, and hat and I was carrying a hand bottle with water, Advil and tums. I had no crew and no drop bags. By the 5:30 am start, the sky opened up into a full on downpour and basically continued on for the 10+ hours I was out on the course.
Beyond that, I found the first 27 miles to be pure misery as they were along a bike path – a paved bike path – which wreaked total havoc on my joints. By the time I got onto the trails, my joints were so tight and out of control that the last half of the race was pure torture for me.
Towards the end of the race, I stopped being able to drink water or take in food at the aid stations. I was so drenched and cold that all my body wanted was to be warm again. I was using so much energy trying to warm myself up that I put my body in a shocked state. My hands swelled up to the size of my head and I started to cry to myself. Somewhere along the last 5 miles, I felt like I lost my mind. I was in a constant state of running, walking and crying. And then we hit the last, steep uphill climb – Cardiac Hill – and it was so saturated and slippery from all of the rain that I almost couldn’t get any forward progress. I resorted to getting down on all fours and desperately crawling my way to the top.
What is your favorite race memory –
One of my very favorite race memories is when I was attempting my second 100 miler, Born to Run. I had just had a really rough 15+ miles out on the trail (my stomach was having issues) and came in through the campground where my crew was in a low place. The minute they saw me coming, they came running up to me. Becky (my fellow SweatPink sister) had running clothes on and volunteered to run with me for my next 10 mile loop, Jenny Maier (another SweatPink sis) was bringing me soup and candy and Alyse and Casey were there helping me out of a soaked through tank top into something else and doctoring my blisters. And if that wasn’t enough to make me feel special and loved, my 6 year old niece came up donning her camelback and running clothes and decided she too was going to run with me. She made it about 1/4 of a mile and between running with her, the amazing support from Becky, Alyse, Casey, and Jenny, they gave me the strength to keep pushing through my pain.
What is your favorite distance to run and why – I think my favorite distance to run is 50 miles. I think it provides so much physical and mental challenge coupled with an amazing adventure. 50 miles is a long way – what you experience and see along the journey is often something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
What runner do you find inspiration from – There are so many runners that I find inspiration from that it would be hard to pinpoint just one. My SweatPink sisters inspire me every day with their tales of triumph, challenges and motivation. My local running friends like Larissa Rivers (a new mom, running badass and Strava enthusiast), Jenny Maier (SweatPink sister, new ultra runner, marathoner), Becky Stifter (SweatPink Sister, new trail runner who just completed and won her first 22 mile trail race and awesome friend), John Hayato (ultra marathoner, SweatGuru Expert, and badass triathlete and soccer player), Jon Luchessi (SweatGuru Expert, amazing friend, and motivation to sign-up and complete the Squamish 50 Miler) amongst so many others inspire me on the trails and make me want to be a better person and a better runner.
What’s your favorite running motivation quote – My favorite running quotes are as follows:
- Forward progress, just keep moving!
- Embrace the highs, manage the lows
Do you follow a specific training program?
I don’t follow a specific training program or miles per week plan. When I first started running, I tried a training program and found myself falling off that plan because I was busy or couldn’t do a particular amount of miles on the particular day because of other commitments, work, or other reasons. I found the training program to be really counterproductive (and overly stressful) for me to stick with.
I started focusing on quality over quantity and that has worked for me for the past 10+ years. I focus on running quality miles if I don’t have time for a long run – pushing myself on hills, or doing interval sprints. I strength train about 3 times per week using mostly free weights and body weight exercises and I commit to doing yoga on a regular basis (or as often as I can during the week even it’s it just a quick 10 minute session in my living room).
In peak training season, what does your typical training week consist of?
In peak training seasons, I typically try to run 3-4 times per week and continue with my regular strength training 2-3 times per week and yoga routine. I also try to fit in longer miles on the weekend and incorporate some hill training.
Do you train with a running partner or do you run solo while training?
I do a bit of both. I enjoy running with others but also find it peaceful to run alone at times.
What are your suggestions for avoiding overuse and injury prevention during the training period?
One of the best ways I know to help provide injury and avoid overuse is to make sure you’re incorporating strength building exercises into your routine – whether with free weights, yoga, pilates or another type of activity you enjoy. It’s just as important to build up a base of muscle tone as it is to put in the miles.
Some easy things you can do on your own and don’t need a gym or a yoga class for are: lunges, reverse lunges, squats, push-ups and planks (keeping your core strong is great for injury prevention!).
What are your suggestions for the week before and pre-race nutrition? Do you carb load? What do you avoid?
I have an extra funky stomach so I really try to keep it super simple the week before a race. I tend to stick to simple carbs and I try not to eat cruciferous veggies (while I really like them, they don’t always like me!).
I also try to avoid any dairy products as those can sometimes do strange things to my stomach.
How do you condition your mind during the race to be able to complete the distance?
Conditioning your mind for the race is often more important (and more difficult) than conditioning your body. To keep a strong mind on race day, I try to get a little extra sleep the week before a race (I’m not always a great sleeper) and I try to remind myself that running is supposed to be fine.
I also repeat mantras to myself which really helps when I’m hitting a low point.
On race day, I find that helping another runner – whether sharing food on the course or words of encouragement also helps keep me from getting a total demon mind.
What do you typically run with on race day? Do you carry a hydration source or do you run with music if it is allowed by the race organizers?
I typically carry a Nathan hydration backpack filled with water, Advil, salt tabs, Honey Stinger waffles, Picky Bars, candy (candy is my favorite thing to have on hand when I’m feeling low – usually flavored Tootsie Rolls, Swedish Fish or anything sour), and Gus (peanut butter, mocha and espresso flavor). I also carry a little money, my ID, and wet wipe packets. Oh, and a headlight and flashlight if the distance calls for it.
What is your suggestion for race attire to prevent overheating during the race? Do you layer with throw aways for cold weather races?
I really hate sleeves so I tend to stick to a comfortable, quick drying tank top, sports bra and a long sleeve shirt for cooler miles which I can usually stuff into my pack if need be or tie around my waist. I prefer to run in shorts unless it is really cold out – in which case I might bust out some running tights.
For colder runs, I also keep gloves handy.
What do you recommend for fueling options and how much water consumption for hydration do you recommend?
I am still getting better at this myself. I try to take small sips of water more frequently. I try to take in a bit of sports drink and food at each aid station. Because of my stomach problems, I have also been working on eating early and often meaning I’ll typically consume more calories in the beginning of the race.
I think I’m doing about a gel (or equivalent in calories) every 1.5-2 hours or so.
I think people really need to practice and find what works for them when it comes to hydration and fuel as we’re all so different. Some people may need to take in more calories more frequently. For me, it’s always my biggest challenge.
Do you run or walk through water/aid stations during the race?
I usually walk through aid stations and use it as time to fuel up, socialize and rearrange my pack or throw away any trash I’ve been carrying around.
What, if any, adjustments should you implement if you feel extreme fatigue during the race to prevent injury?
If you’re feeling extreme fatigue, you may want to try slowing down your pace a bit or practicing some kind of run to walk routine. It might also be good to try and consume a few more calories and can be really good to try taking in something like Coca-Cola so that you can get a little caffeine, sugar and calories in your system without being too hard on your stomach.
How do you deal with bathroom emergencies (if you ever have) during a race and if you have, do you find them a common expectation during every distance race?
Unfortunately for me, this is probably the subject I know the most about. I always carry Wet Wipe packets so that I am prepared for any kind of bathroom emergency. I also try to use any bathrooms or porta potties when they’re available along the course.
For my extra sensitive stomach, I usually carry tums and ginger candies in my pack and drink coke at aid stations to help soothe my stomach.
What are your suggestions for cooling down post-race and in the following weeks for recovery?
For me, getting in some good easy miles – whether walking, running or hiking – the day after the race can be so beneficial. It really helps the legs flush out the acid built up from the race and recover more quickly.
Ice baths and Epsom salts are great if you can stand to do them. And there’s really nothing like a post-race massage if you’re lucky enough to get one!
I also think it’s important to fuel up and hydrate for recovery. I like drinking a LOT of Gatorade the couple days after any race. While it’s not the healthiest beverage on the planet, my body seems to crave the electrolyte, sugar and calorie replenishment.
What are your suggestions for post-race recovery and shoe compression options to have on hand and ready to go?
I don’t really use any shoe compression recovery things. I have my cool massage stick and foam roller and that’s about it.
I am always very interested in trying out post-race compression items though.
How long do you give yourself between races to prevent injury or overuse by participating in another marathon distance or greater?
I like to give myself at least one month in between long races. I once completed a 100K and then two weeks later ran a 50 miler and really struggled during the 50 miler. Even though my legs felt fine in the weeks after my 100K, once I got back out to do the distance I noticed how much recovery they still needed. I was in a lot of pain within the first 15 miles or so which was not good and made for a very long, slow and painful race.
Any other insight into marathoning that you feel is important to consider that was not included in the questions above. This can be more than one thing if necessary to be addressed for better informative content.
I think the most important thing to remember while training for any run – whether a 5k, 10k, half, marathon or ultra – is that it’s supposed to be fun. You’re out there to challenge yourself but you’re also out there to have fun. Don’t forget to smile (I swear it helps me run faster and farther) and talk to / encourage the other runners on the course. Having fun out there will help you do it again and again!