My second marathon was in Tiberias, along the Sea of Galilee, and it was not unlike my first. Though I’d trained harder in an attempt to run a 4 hour marathon, I failed. Marathon day was unusually hot and sunny for January (79F°), and I didn’t pace myself correctly. I also found that having next to no carbohydrates in my body did not help. As part of my “system” I decided to skip the traditional pasta meal the night before the marathon, and instead ate chicken and salad for dinner. On the morning of the marathon day I ate half a banana.
From the start of the run, I knew something was not right. I did not feel energetic, but I attributed it to nerves. By the 10th mile I realized the race was going to be harder than I’d expected, but I decided to stick to my not very well thought out plan. I ran the first 15 miles with a friend, Benny, who works as a trainer in my gym. Benny had decided to run the marathon knowing he was very under prepared. I, on the other hand, thought I was well prepared.
At mile 15 Benny started to slow down and I decided to speed up a bit (what a mistake). I ran at a good pace for another 5 miles. But at the 20 mile water station, I felt pretty bad and my heart rate was over 160. I tried to slow down a bit but had a hard time. I knew that if I could keep going at the same pace, I would finish within my goal. So I kept on going until -with only 4 miles left – I felt I couldn’t go on (I hit the wall). I started to walk and saw runner after runner pass me by. I tried to run some more but could only keep it up for a few hundred feet at a time. Those last few miles were so horrible, I felt like crying. I felt like I was going to throw up. I was in terrible pain, both physically and emotionally. After all of my hard work and training, I was failing. And I couldn’t do anything about it. I did manage to run the last half mile, and I crossed the finish line running. I completed the course in 4:18. Not at all what I’d hoped for.
It became very clear to me that I was doing something wrong. So with blisters on my toes and my legs still aching, I decided I’d run the next local marathon (Tel Aviv Marathon), and this time, I’d do it right. The Tel Aviv marathon was scheduled for two-and-a -half months later. That didn’t leave me a lot of time to train, but I was going to do it anyway. Two days after the Tiberias marathon, I went out for my next run. It was a slow five mile run. I ran the two following days as well. It wasn’t the right thing to do because my body needed to rest, but I was frustrated with myself, and I needed to commit to the next marathon.
I knew that just training more was not the answer. I needed to change the way I was doing things, so I decided to try something different. I called the dietician I’d met at the Tiberias marathon, who works with athletes, and scheduled an appointment.
The dietician, Yafit, who is also a wind surfer and a cyclist, has a Masters in Physiology. She specializes in preparing athletes for marathons and triathlons.
So I went for my first meeting with Yafit one week after the marathon. She told me I needed to change two things if I wanted to be a better runner – the way I train and the way I eat. “You can’t run a marathon without carbs,” she said.
The first thing I needed to do was to go to a sports health clinic to take a lactic acid test in order to determine the correct heart rate levels for my run.
I arrived at the clinic feeling like my blood sugar was a little low. I had left the house in a hurry and forgot my glucometer. I asked for something to eat at the clinic and the nurse gave me two slices of bread. By the time I started the test (after measuring my body fat and lung capacity), my blood sugar was over 250. The nurse was about to send me home, but I told her to wait a few minutes. I went out and started walking up and down the stairs in order to lower my blood sugar. I came back 20 minutes later and my blood sugar was 249. I was allowed to take the test.
The results of the lactic acid test held some very important information – my body can run forever as long as my heart rate does not exceed 160. Over 160 and I’m running on borrowed time.
On the basis of the lactic acid results, Yafit created a training schedule which included four runs a week and 5 small meals a day. She also told me to run according to my heart rate and not according to pace.
I’ve been doing this for three weeks now and it works. Or at least it seems to be working. I’m faster and feel better when I run.
Again this makes sense – listening to my body’s inner ticker, and not to a watch.