Training for the race.

I’m out two miles on the C&O (Chesapeake and Ohio) Canal—a National Historical Park than goes from Washington through the mountains of Maryland and into the eastern parts of Ohio.

The canal starts in Georgetown and goes west. This path is a favorite as it is marked with mile markers, shaded, has water fountains and bathrooms and it is breathtakingly beautiful. This morning after hitting mile marker number 2, I concentrated on my form. Once a week I do ‘form’ work. ‘Form’ work is not about speed or covering a specific distance, but about the technical elements that go into running forward efficiently. You create a mental check list of all these elements and then go over them and test them while running. To do ‘form’ work, I run a 20 minute warm up and then go down the list. Today I make certain my shoulders are relaxed and my arms are precisely at a 90 degree angle and not crossing my chest line. I sustain this for several minutes. Next, I make certain that my head is resting on my shoulders and not moving around. My eyes are looking about 30 feet ahead of where I land. I sustain this for a good mile while keeping the arms and shoulders moving uniformly. Next, I switch to “Running on Air.” This is a rhythmic technique that links your breathing to the landing of your feet. When breathing and landing work rhythmically the body moves forward more effortlessly. I turn back on the path and begin to work on my stride. I run more efficiently with a shorter stride. I begin to concentrate on striding on the ball of my foot. I find the trail below the canal. This is a paved trail with very fine gravel on each side—almost like coarse sand. I get on the gravel to test my stride. If when my feet strike, I make a clumping sound, I’m not running efficiently. I work until the striking and striding are in perfect synch and I can’t hear my landing. I’m running back into the city sustaining a good ‘form.’ I see three people walking on the trail ahead of me. As I pass them, I startle them. They could not hear me coming from behind. This means my form is good and I’m running effortlessly, economically and as aerodynamically as a human can.

So ‘form’ is good, but ‘form’ is only one area of training. Other areas are: distances (or total time spent running), aerobic vs. anaerobic, nourishment (caloric intake), hydration, shoes, pacing, rest-recovery, injuries, weather, elevation and terrain, pulse (maximum heart rate while running or doing speed workouts and resting pulse), body temperature, and physiological and mental inventory. All of these are juggled on a daily basis while an athlete is in training.

Distances (or total time spent running): I have a fantastic base. Because I have been running on and off for over 35 years, on any given day, I could run for 2 hours without a problem regardless of my level of training. So when in training, I no longer train for distances, I train for adding time to my base. This race should take me about 4 hours to complete. Maybe much less? This coming weekend, I will go for a two hour run and the weekend after that for a 3 hour run. Those hours when added together to my total hours run on a particular week will ensure that I can complete the marathon. During the last two weeks of the training I will be tapering—meaning I will not run as much, but on the day of the race, my body should have no problem running 4 hours without stopping.

Aerobic vs. anaerobic: So far my training has consisted of aerobic running. Easy going, no speed work outs. In the next 3 weeks, I will add anaerobic trainings in the form of intervals. For example: I will begin a regular 1 hour run. After about 10 minutes, I will run as fast as I can for 2 minutes and then go back to the normal pace. After about another 2 minutes, I will go back to running as fast as I can for 2 minutes. These are called intervals and during those intervals the body switches to working anaerobically. In speed workouts the body can push itself to a faster pace without the average intake of oxygen. I will not be running the entire race anaerobically, but this kind of interval training can help me lower my average time per mile. I will be able to go a bit faster when going down-hill or on flat terrain while pacing myself more judiciously when running up-hills. Anaerobic training also allows me to force a faster pace toward the end of the race to beat a specific time goal.

Nourishment: I adhere to a strict Mediterranean diet during training. Cooked food begins with onion/garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Whole foods—vegetables and fruits and complex carbohydrates are balance with nuts like cashews and goat cheese for fats. No simplex carbs, starches or sugars. No processed foods or fried anything. Daily I consume at least 2000 clean calories during training. Because I’m a vegetarian, this means eating about 4 full meals a day. Next week, as the training peaks, I will have to eat about 3000+ calories. I go to a farmer’s market once a week and get fresh tomatoes, sweet potatoes, greens, onions and peppers, and a lot of fresh fruits like peaches. I make my own pasta sauce, cold gazpacho, fruit salads for breakfast, and homemade soups which I can then eat over brown rice, barley, couscous, or whole wheat pastas. Last week I made a great ratatouille with a side of couscous. The couscous had caramelized onions, almonds, cranberries and spring onions.

Hydration: This is a neglected area of training. I drink at least 8 glasses of water daily, but during training many more. After a long run, I drink a sport drink with electrolytes. Alcohol and coffee are diuretics so I keep to one espresso in the morning and no alcohol. Long runs are planned on routes with water fountains and on a 3 hour training run, I will take a bottle of an electrolyte drink diluted with water.

Shoes: When training for a race, I have 3 pairs that are alternated. I checked them daily to see how the soles are wearing off. The soles can tell you if you are favoring one leg over the other or striking the ground in a way that could cause injury.

Pacing: Consistency of pace is one of the most difficult things to achieve. Most runners running a race go too fast at the beginning and run out of energy before the end of the race. I run for fun, so my pace is actually fairly consistent. To do the race in 4 hours, I need to sustain a 9 minute, 9 seconds per mile. This is actually very near my training pace.

Rest-recovery: Sleeping well and soundly. After a long run I take the following day off to allow my body recovery. I also cross train. If one day I want to give my body a rest from running, I bike or go for a walk instead.

Injuries: Any pain or ache should be paid attention to. So far, my body is running well. No pain to report. I did take a fall the other day while running, but did not hurt myself. In fact, I bounced back and ran the rest of the way home.

Weather: Weather here is a bit different than weather in Vieques. Training during the summer here can be challenging. For several weeks we had bouts of very high temperatures and humidity that made the temperature outside feel as hot as 100+ degrees. Although Vieques in the summer is hot, the trade wind breezes make a huge difference. In hot weather I run in the park where it’s shaded and feels much cooler. The good news is that the marathon on October 16, should be very cool. I do much better in cool weather.

Elevation/Terrain: Elevation at Acadia National Park will not be radically different from the elevation in DC, and the route is paved, but what could be challenging are the hills and downhills. So I am doing some hill work outs to prepare me for some of the inclines. Every race comes with an elevation chart. I look at the race elevation daily. If I know I have a hill coming at mile 12, I do a run while training that puts me at a hill at mile 12. In replicating conditions during training runs, my body will be trained for the hills and the challenges of running several steep ones during the course of the 26.2 miles up in Maine.

Pulse (maximum heart rate while running or doing speed workouts and resting pulse): All good on that front. All within my age ranges. I monitor my pulse to make certain my exercise induced arrhythmia does not get out of hand.

Body Temperature: Normal. Body temperature is a crucial indicator to determine if your body is cooling itself normally. During a run, it’s natural for body temperature to go up. But during cool down periods one needs to make certain the body cools down again.

Physiological and Mental Inventory: This should be done on a daily basis. If I am having a difficult time motivating myself to go out for a run, I try to determine what is causing the lack of motivation. Sometimes this is due to something in the body or from the mind giving you a clear message to stop and rest. So it is important to listen to one’s body and mind at all times.

Ok, it’s time for dinner—the nourishment part of the program! Whole wheat pasta with extra virgin olive oil, heart of artichokes, Kalamata olives, goat cheese, caramelized onions, and spring onions. Yum!!

Running like mad and happy to know that you are all with me!

José Carrasquillo

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