Based on my experience cramping in the Denver Marathon – where I felt like Rambo being electrocuted against a bed frame of steel mattress coils – my biggest concern in the Boulder Marathon was avoiding cramps. Initially I had one strategy, I planned to drink as much electrolytes as possible at the aid stations. The Boulder Marathon course has 10 aid stations and because you run by some of them twice, they are spaced about every two miles. Some are closer as you pass the 10 aid stations 16 times.
They were all stocked with Gatorade Endurance Formula along with water. Several had GU Gels and bananas and oranges. I drank the Gatorade electrolytes at nearly every aid station. I didn’t begin skipping any until after 13 miles. I figure I drank a total of 1000 grams of sodium from this during the event. The plan I blogged about earlier was to drink twice that, but I would have needed to stop at each aid station to swallow so much liquid. And it’s too much liquid. I also ate two gel packs – which I never do because they suck. These weren’t bad though. They were vanilla bean flavored. And of course I washed them down immediately with water. I also had a few plain waters.
I would say this plan was successful in that I didn’t cramp, except it wasn’t the most controlled scientific experiment because I also wore compression socks. I can’t say for certain that compression socks do anything positive per claims, but I can tell you they feel good. Or at least my calves feel good wearing them. I’m a fan. In the Denver Marathon, I also suffered a cramp in my hamstring at mile 22. I never felt a twinge of cramping in my hamstring Sunday, and of course the socks stopped below my knee. So it’s plausible the electrolytes contributed in this case.
Coincidentally, I found myself chatting with a high school boy running his first marathon somewhere during the final 10K. I noticed him pass by me a bit earlier but now he was stopping at regular intervals to stretch. He told me his legs were cramping. I advised him to drink a couple of cups of Gatorade at the aid stations – which I saw him do at the next one. I don’t know but hopefully this helped him. In our discussion, he was actually well versed in runner’s nutrition and the need for sodium.
My feet did cramp a few hours later as I was getting a massage, but I was in the right place for that to be properly managed. My arches did not cramp during the middle of the night, so I consider the massage successful. As of Monday, I had one nagging knot on the inside of the top of my left leg, but most of the pain was gone by Tuesday. I would have run Tuesday but didn’t have time so I finally ran for the first time on Wednesday in the cold rain that preceded the snow. Actually pretty decent running weather and I got in 8 miles. Felt great.
There’s a part of me that is still disappointed I ran 10 minutes slower than four weeks earlier in the Denver Marathon. But I accomplished some of my goals. I avoided cramps. My core felt stronger and for a longer period. Boulder was a much tougher course than Denver. Denver is largely flat but Boulder is nonstop rolling hills. Based on how weak my pace is the final 10K of marathons, I clearly have more to learn. I know that I’ve yet to train properly for a marathon. I don’t put in enough miles. But I sort of suspect nutrition is still a big component of my 4th quarter decline in pace. I don’t have any commitments yet but I expect to sign up for the Austin Marathon in February. That will be my next test.
My husband also had terrible muscle cramps during the last leg of the Chicago marathon and has attributed it to a lack of electrolytes. Hopefully you’ve discovered what will work for you!
Ed Mahoney said:
Thanks Amy. I’m confident my experience stems from drinking enough electrolytes. And I think I can manage drinking one cup per aid station without it negatively affecting my overall time. There are some races I don’t mind stopping at aid stations and smelling the roses, but generally I don’t like to stop or slow down my pace too much. And I’m not sure whether or not knee high compression socks help but I like the way they feel. Even if they make me look like a school girl.