My last marathon PR was in 2008 at the California International Marathon in Sacramento. I came into the finish line at 4:52. It was a brutally cold December race and I was in terrible condition. I spent the night in the hotel room throwing up and sucking on ice chips. Since then I had a handful of disastrous attempts at the marathon course. They ended with poor times (one DNF) and injury: IT band, knees, back spasms, plantar fasciitis. When I began considering the IRONMAN distance last year I knew I had to tackle this one particular part: how to train and succeed at the marathon distance without injury. So I signed up for Surf City.

The first step was to improve my form. I went to the track sessions and listened to Coach Mike and Julie Swail. I practiced. Running became fun again. Triathlon has cross-training built in. The swim helps the bike and the run. I incorporated core work to improve my upper body strength. I went to yoga. I ran with Stan who did not hesitate to tell me to stop running like an elephant.

The second step was to find a better training program. I’d been using an old training program (Hal Higdon) on the internet someone told me about. They used it and it worked for them. In retrospect, most of my injuries may have been because of this approach. Then Stan recommended the Runner’s World Smart Coach program. The RW program gave me a custom training plan built on my last half marathon and my desired training mileage (moderate): one day easy, one day speed work, and one long run on the weekend (Saturday.) The rest of the days were cross-training (perfect!) or rest. In Joe Friel’s Triathlon Bible he recommends that long runs be done on Saturdays and long rides on Sundays to help prevent injuries.

The third step was to work out the fuel and hydration. It wasn't until late in the game that this came together, but it did. I wasn't taking in enough calories. And I didn't have enough sodium. Once I resolved these two issues: I felt a lot better.

The week before was a light week on the Ironman Oceanside 70.3 schedule. I did two spin classes, a swim, and two runs. The day before the race I rested. I had my ramen for dinner (with an egg thrown in for extra protein.) Drank water. Focused on the race. Went to bed early.

Michele picked me up on race morning at 4 a.m. I ate breakfast (oatmeal, chia seeds, blueberries and coffee) on the way. We met Ramil and set up the tent in the wrong spot. They re-setup the tent in the right spot. Time ticked down. We watched runners warm up for the marathon. I set my watch and headed to the starting line. I felt good. I reminded myself to go out slow and stick to the plan: 9 min. run and 1 min. walk and take a GU every 4-5 miles. If desired I decided I could cut the walk down to 30 sec. I seeded myself in the corral according to my bib number. I was well back behind the 4:50 pace group. I brushed aside the thought. It mattered only according to the chip time, not the gun time.

I didn't notice any pace groups until mile 9 when I came up on the 4:30 group and passed them. I was feeling great. Between mile 9 and mile 17 I just tracked them down one after another until I caught up with the 4:15 group. I stayed with them until just before mile 20 when my run/walk strategy became very important. I was starting to feel overheated when a guardian angel ran past me and offered salt tablets. I took them at the next water station with a banana and water. Once my sodium levels were restored I refocused on the final miles of the race. My quads were tight and my left heel was raw and bleeding. Every time I walked I felt it. I knew that if I just kept with the plan I would PR and make my goal of under 4:30.

My thoughts during the last few miles went between “run the mile you’re in” and “OMG, I’m going to do it!” My legs hurt. As I came into the finish chute I saw the clock. The gun time was at 4:29 and ticking up. I crossed the line at 4:30 and change. But I knew, because I’d made up so much time between pace groups, that I’d be under it.

It was a long stumbling walk to the club tent. I was happy but cold and my legs were shaking almost uncontrollably. I had to sit down and rest between the finish line and tent. When I got there I sat down again because my legs were done. Thanks to help from Michele, Ramil, Marc, Erika, and Ray I was able to recover enough to get through the rest of Super Bowl Sunday.

Post race I was sore but not injured, tired but not exhausted, and well hydrated.  I’m very happy with how things went. I proved to myself that I can do the training and I can complete the distance successfully. Marathon PR: 4:23:23.  After some recovery time (very important) I will get back to IM 70.3 Oceanside training.

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Comment by Mike Alzona on February 12, 2014 at 11:37am

Fantastic job Amanda...Congrats on your PR! "stop running like an elephant"...hilarious


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Comment by Amanda Barth on February 12, 2014 at 6:12am
Cramping, weakness (not tired - sudden weakness), sick, and an inability to regulate my body temp are the big ones. I notice it most if I haven't adequately fueled prior to endurance training or an endurance event. I'm also a heavy sweater - so I tend to lose quite a bit of sodium.

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Comment by Dr James Johnson on February 11, 2014 at 11:12pm

Congratulations. I'm curious as to your symptoms of low sodium? I've never taken a salt tablet and wouldn't knew when I'd need one.


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Comment by eddie luna on February 11, 2014 at 8:58pm
Congrats tons of info, thanks for sharing Amanda....

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Comment by Ken VerMeulen on February 5, 2014 at 1:03pm

Great Job, Congratulations Amanda.
See you Sunday for the Swim / Run?


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Comment by Jake Steen on February 3, 2014 at 7:26pm

Great job Amanda. Looks like you'll be in great shape for Oceanside and of course, Arizona.

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