Showing posts with label marathon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marathon. Show all posts

November 5, 2018

Berlin Marathon 2018 Race Recap

September 16, 2018 I ran the freaking Berlin Marathon! It was my 7th marathon and 3rd World Major Marathon. It was quite the experience! So much on an experience it’s taken me a month and a half to finally get this post live.  I plan to blog about my time in Germany as well as how I planned for this trip, but let’s just focus on the race for this recap.


Planning for the Berlin Marathon
Like many large marathons these days, the Berlin Marathon uses a lottery system. Check out their registration page for information on registering (Registration for the 2019 race ends 11/7/2018)! The entry fee this year was 125€-this does not include a race shirt (you can pre-order one when you register). The race also has you choose between a post-race poncho and being able to drop a bag of clothes off for after the race, which is unlike other races I have run.

I talked a little bit about my training in recaps one and two-I never got to my final training recap before flying out to Berlin (whoops!).

Travel-wise I booked roundtrip flights to Munich. We left Thursday from Baltimore, arrived in Munich technically Friday morning, and caught a small flight from Munich to Berlin later that morning. It was a bit exhausting not flying straight into Berlin. I’d also probably give myself an extra day or two to get acclimated to the time change before an overseas race. I wanted things to be relaxing so I booked a hotel in the Mitte neighborhood, right near the Alexanderplatz and a train station.

2018 Berlin Marathon Expo

The race has over 40,000 runners, and I heard the expo was very crowded Saturday, the day before the race. After checking into our hotel and grabbing a bite to eat I headed over to the expo at the old Berlin Tempelhof Airport (the place is huge and has lots of history-one of the 3 iconic European pre-World War II airports!). We got there with just over an hour to spare. The expo was really crowded and took a bit of time. 

The expo included time outside of the airport as well as two full airport HANGARS before getting to the actual bib pickup in the back. First I showed my bib confirmation and then ID, then received a participant bracelet I needed to get into the expo and race corral. The official gear was by Adidas, and if you have ever raced a World  Marathon Major or huge marathon you know it gets crazy crowded plus some things sell out. I picked up my pre-ordered race shirt, and I also bought a race t-shirt (youth sizes for the win!) and hat.


There was the 6k Generali Breakfast Run the day before the race that thousands of people participated in. I instead went to a November Project shakeout run. It was fun to meet people from some different tribes as well as see a few friends and of course get a sweet spray-painted tag on my shirt.

Later in the day I spent way too much time on my feet walking around and doing some sight-seeing. I even spotted some of the Berlin Marathon Inline Skating race which is so unusual. I had pizza the night before the race and an alcohol-free beer. It happened to be a Neapolitan Italian pizza place that was some of the best pizza I've ever had.

Race Day

The Berlin Marathon begins later in the morning, just like the Boston Marathon. Wave 1 began at 9:15 AM, but maybe because I was jetlagged it didn’t feel very late in the day. I left myself plenty of time to navigate the pre-race area, but ended up having LOTS of time before the race. I hopped a train from right by my hotel and then walked right over to the starting area by the Reichstag Building. Bag check around 7:45 AM was very quick to get through. There was a giant field where I hung out.

Race photographer caught me checking out social media
I even found a little port-a-potty with like ONLY 3 people in line as I was walking over to ask someone which way the start corrals were (MARATHON RACE DAY MAGIC!). The race area was near the Tiergarten which is like the Central Park of Berlin. It was easy to follow all the signs to bathrooms and the race corrals. I was in the last corral of the first wave.

I spent a lot of time just waiting around in the corral. I ended up meeting a woman from the Boston area and another from New York, both who recognized my November Project tagged tank top! It was truly amazing to be in such an international race surrounded by runners from all different countries, hearing so many different languages around me in the corral. 

They had a big jumbo screen playing videos with runners speaking about the race in different languages and then played some Shakira song that everybody but me knew. It was also really cool because we could see on the screen when the hand cyclers and elites started.

I had planned to fuel with a mixture of Honey Stinger Ginsting gels, Huma Gels, a couple GU gels and carrying Nuun Hydration in a handheld bottle because the on-course nutrition was different from standard Gatorade such as in most big U.S. marathons. The race actually offers the option for us non-elite runners to have bottles of fluid on tables (just like the professional elite runners). There actually wasn't that many bottles on the tables so I probably should have done that! They had iced and hot tea on course which was unique. I had a few cups of the iced tea which was yummy and okay on my stomach. There were also some different sport gels and these things called gel chips that were cola flavored-I had one on my race bag from the expo. It tasted like a cola marshmallow. The electrolyte drink was Beetster which yup, is beetroot plus other extracts like lemon. I love beets and drink beet juice before races, but didn’t want to mess with it during the race.

There was a big balloon release at the start of the marathon which was so fun! 

Miles 1-6: The first few miles of a marathon are always exciting. I told myself to settle in and try to not get caught up in all of the runners around me. It was awesome trying to soak it all in. I kept reminding myself that I’m in Germany running the Berlin FREAKING marathon right now! Very quickly I found out the water stops were a mess due to plastic cups (see my overall recap bullet points at the end of the post) so it was hard because I usually follow the squeeze-the-cup drinking method during races.

Mid-run selfie right after the start

Miles 7-12: Around mile 6 or 7 I found the 3:30 pace group come from behind me and decided to stick with them. With pace groups sometimes I get anxious because there’s a lot of people clustered around them, especially in a big race like this one. I was looking out for my boyfriend around Mile 8 because that’s when we planned he would be able to see me since we weren’t sure how he’d get around the course. I didn’t see him which was honestly a bummer because I thought it was the only time I’d see a familiar spectator face on the course. I was still feeling pretty happy and good during these miles. 

I didn’t feel as comfortable as I wanted by the halfway mark, but I tried to just focus on sticking with the group and not looking at my watch. There was plenty of sights to take in and lots of beautiful scenery running around Berlin to distract me from the mileage left to go. 

Miles 13-18: At this point I was trying to tell myself that I was feeling strong and all was well. Yes, I spent a lot of time during marathons playing mind games with myself! I was running pretty consistent splits which is something I apparently do well during big races (according to my boyfriend who was tracking me and trying to find me). I was trying not to look at my watch really (which I had in miles so no worries about kilometers throwing me off!). I was sticking with the 3:30 pace group and really focusing on just staying with them. There were a few times from 16-18 that I got ahead of them which felt good. I had moments of getting anxious that the group got ahead of me when I slowed down or stopped at water stops plus I like being more near the front of pace groups to avoid the feeling that I’m chasing rather than running with the group. With the later start date plus the warmer-than-usual temperatures in Germany for the race (and my whole trip) I was feeling warmer than I liked. The high for the day ended up being 74 degrees so it was definitely in the 60s by 11 AM- noon.

Miles 19-finish: I was not feeling hot for most of these miles. It was probably a combination of the jetlag, it getting warmer out, plus just being at the end of the marathon. My legs were feeling tight, and the pace wasn’t feeling easy. I walked through the water stops and stopped to stretch my calves out at Mile 23. Despite feeling crappy, my pace wasn’t super slowed down. I looked at my watch and saw I could still make it under 3:35, which was my goal for the race so I asked myself “how badly do you want it? Do you want a BQ because you can get it girl”. I decided at Mile 23 I wanted it, and I pushed it to the end. 

From Mile 21 to the end I focused on just hitting the next mile marker (via my watch, because kilometer markers were obviously more frequent). It was so VERY exciting to run through the famous Brandenburg Gate. I knew that the race finish was past the gate so that last 0.2 ish miles was definitely in the pain cave. I started crying once I was running through the Brandenburg Gate because I was so happy and grateful to be running my 7th marathon and be in Germany.

Crossed the finish line in 3:31: 27. It was my second fastest marathon. I was hoping to have a bigger kick the last 10K to get sub-3:30, but I'm still really happy and proud of this race. I'm happy that I mentally fought through and made the decision to keep pushing when the going got tough. 

Smile and stop the Garmin! 

Once I finished I had my obligatory my-legs-are-on-fire-I-feel-nauseous crouch down followed by the usual volunteer telling me to “keep moving along”. I got a water and my bag of snacks (ALL BIG RACES should bag snacks so I don’t have to carry everything!). Since I had opted for the poncho instead of dropping clothes off, I got my nice thick Berlin poncho.

Despite being freaking Germany, land of beer, there is alcohol-free beer for runners at the finish line. I partook in it because German alcohol-free beer isn’t actually so bad, plus electrolytes and all the good recovery things minus the alcohol. Don’t worry, a real deal alcohol-filled beer was in my future.

My boyfriend and I had gotten German SIM cards for our phones so we were able to call/text to meet up together by the Reichstag building. My last text message to him actually didn’t go through because there were so many people using cell phones! When I found my boyfriend he was helping a runner from Italy use his phone to call who he was supposed to meet up with-see so much fun international runner love! 

Once I found out Kipchoge set the world marathon record today, it was SO MUCH COOLER that his face was on the back of the medal! 

I slowly walked back to our hotel to shower and change before having beers and schnitzel. I spent the evening outdoors at a Berlin beer garden with some of my new November Project friends, a.k.a. the perfect post-Berlin Marathon evening.

-The race is huge with over 40,000 and energetic. There are always other runners and spectators around!
-The race is super international with people all over the world running it. It made for a beautiful running community and experience.
-The course is flat and fast-no wonder many world marathon records including the latest this year by Kipchoge (2:01:39) were set in Berlin!
-The races photos looked awesome! I ended up buying all of them because Sportograf, the photography company offered a deal for downloads of all race photos for only 29.99€! Pretty good deal, especially for a race I may only ever run once.

-Oh the plastic cups. The water stops at the Berlin Marathon were horrendous. They were very crowded and bottlenecked but also the race uses plastic cups so the ground was covered with them at the water stops. There was the crunching under my feet and it also made a slippery hazard. I ended up walking a few steps to drink through them.
-On course nutrition. Not the usual Gatorade and water from US races, which I know I can handle. It hard to have to carry enough of what you train with/use, especially depending on the weather and where you are travelling from.
-It’s a big race. This is partially a good thing but can also be a bad thing. You are surrounded by runners the whole time which can feel crowded, especially if you are used to smaller races.

That’s my big ol’ Berlin Marathon race recap. 3/6 World Marathon Majors completed! After a lot of back to back marathon training cycles, I'm ready for the off-season from running and some new goals. 

Have you ever run an international race? Have you ever run the Berlin Marathon?

As always follow along on Instagram @breathedeeplyandsmile to see what I’m doing in the off-season!  

October 19, 2018

10 Tips for the 1st-Time (or Seasoned) Marathoner

So if you can believe it (because I really can't) I have run 7 marathons. I have many friends running their first or second marathon this weekend at the Baltimore Running Festival and then more running at the NYC Marathon, Philadelphia Marathon next month. FYI, at the Baltimore Running Festival I'm running the 5K and then will be out cheering with November Project Baltimore at ~9 mile marker of the half marathon (~mile 22 of the marathon). 

As a seasoned marathoner, I have shared some advice and tips with first time marathoners so I thought I'd share some with the rest of the interwebs. This advice is tried and true for me! Despite my tips and anecdotes remember that marathons are a beast. One minute you could be feeling fine, and then the next minute you could be feeling terrible, despite doing everything right in training or race morning. Respect the distance! If marathons were easy, everyone would run them right?!

1. Carbloading. 
Yes, for a marathon you actually should carbload. Try to eat extra carbohydrates (and less protein and fat) days before the race, not just the night before. However, do NOT go overboad. Stick to the kind of foods you have been eating as you have been training. It's not an excuse to overload yourself with bread and pasta unfortunately. I eat extra carbohydrates as well as a lot of bananas a couple days before the marathon. A good article explaining race week nutrition is here

Pasta with a simple marinara or pizza is my go-to pre-marathon food! 

2. Lay out everything the night before.
I do this before most of my training runs but especially for a large race like a marathon. Race morning you may be anxious like me so it's easier to not be running around frantically searching for your GPS watch or water bottle. I lay everything I need out including my bib, pack my gear check bag, and make sure my cell phone, GPS watch, and headphones are all charged. 

I lay out anything I need because my nerves can cause me to forget. That means laying out my deodorant, sunscreen, BodyGlide (lubricant any part of you that might chafe-special shout-out to guys to protect their nipples too!). If the weather calls for rain (that's a whole other blog post-hello Boston Marathon 2018!) I suggest creating a chic trash bag poncho to keep you dry before the race. Bring throwaway clothes as layers to keep you warm and get rid of at the start line (most larger races collect these clothes and donate them). 

Double duty: trash bag and poncho runner chic look at the start of the Boston Marathon 2018

3. Follow your nutrition plan. 

Fuel early and often. You hopefully have tried different methods of fueling (gels, chews, etc.) throughout training and found what works for you. Stick with what you have been using. Also get on top of your fueling early. Of course you may feel fine the first 13-14 miles, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be taking in any nutrition. (Here's some of the products I use for marathons in this post). Once you bonk later in the race, it's too late to make up for not eating enough beforehand. 

My go-to fueling options: Honey Stinger and Nuun Hydration.
Also if you have a sensitive stomach, I'd be wary of eating other things on the race course such as the gels the race is supplying if you haven't used them before or random candy that people are passing out. I'm all for grabbing a handful of gummy bears and Twizzlers on course, but I know my stomach can handle them! This post does a great job of explaining how to finalize a fueling plan for a marathon-remember you need 30-60 g of carbohydrates PER HOUR! 

Also I haven't carried anything for hydration besides a small handheld my past few marathons instead relying on water stations which were every couple of miles. Hydrate early and often as well. I usually go with the strategy of alternating water and Gatorade at every other aid station. You can squeeze the cup in half if it's a paper cup to make for easy drinking on-the-go or there is also no shame in walking through the water stop to actually drink it instead of spilling it all over yourself. 

4. Don't Go Out Too Fast.
This is true for every race but especially for a marathon. I have been good about not starting out too fast during my marathons but have seen and tracked so many other friends that have fallen into this trap. I know that you are excited and nervous. The start line is a big event and once the gun goes off, people start running fast around you. You may get caught up in all of this-DO NOT GO OUT TOO FAST! Think of the saying "it's not a sprint, it's a marathon". 

I would suggest going out a little slower than your goal pace the first couple of miles. Don't stress out if the start is crowded. Also don't start weaving around people, you need to conserve your energy. At the beginning of longer races I always talk to myself (yes often out loud!) and tell myself to "settle in". To me that means stay relaxed and get into an easy groove of running. You'll be running for hours and have miles ahead of you. I like the car/gas tank analogy as well-conserve your fuel, don't burn a bunch of your fuel speeding and instead put on cruise control. 

5. Pack a gear check bag. 
Or find someone to hold your stuff. For marathons (and most other longer distance races) and depending on the weather, I like to have some things with me post-race. I like having a dry pair of socks and a pair of slides or another pair of shoes. Taking off my running shoes post-marathon feels so good. I also like having a sweatshirt or dry layer to put on. After sweating through 26.2 miles, I can get really cold (depending on race day weather) but at least like having a fresh shirt to throw on. Check out my marathon gear check bag checklist here for more ideas. 

I was shivering after I finished the chilly 2017 Philadelphia Marathon. 

6. Try to stay off your feet the day before.
Depending on if the race is Saturday or Sunday this may be trickier. Really try to NOT do a lot of walking and stay off your feet the day before the race. If you are running a race in a city you have never been to before this can be tough, especially if you have plans with other people or are sightseeing. It's okay to tell friend and family you need to rest before your race. I've tired my legs out a couple times when I ran Chicago and most recently for the Berlin Marathon doing touristy things and walking downtown the day before the race. For the 2014 Chicago Marathon I was sick the week before and did not really run at all that week plus spent the day before the race in bed resting and taking medicine-I ended up having a fine race! Trust your training and rest your legs. 

7.  Get up earlier than you normally do.
I had someone on Instagram ask me how to deal with anxiety and going to the bathroom race morning. I have IBS and actually sometimes have a tough time going to the bathroom before the race. Before marathons I often take Immodium to bind everything up because with my nerves it can be a vicious cycle of my anxiety upsetting my digestive system/bowels which makes me more anxious. Again, not something I would do unless you've tested it with YOUR body before. I also try to wake up earlier than normal. I usually don't leave a lot of time in the morning before training runs because I love sleep, but race morning I try to get up and get moving as well as drink water and eat something first thing. I find that moving around and getting something in my system quickly helps get things moving. 

I had plenty of time to wait in the start corral at the 2018 Berlin Marathon

Despite being a coffee drinker, I personally use
Run Gum and not coffee before a race. Coffee does gets things moving, but I don't want to take a chance on the timing. Leave time to get to the race start with PLENTY of time for an extra bathroom stop and for larger races which usually have security and bag checks. Even if I don't feel like I have to go, I always get into a port-a-potty line before the race to try to use the bathroom which helps calm me down too. Anyone else's mother insist they "tried" to uses the bathroom before getting in the car for a trip? 

8. Put your name on your shirt (if it's not already on your bib!). 
Some race bibs now have your name or something else of your choosing, but if not I suggest using some duct tape or kinesiotape (easier to remove!) on your shirt to write your name on. It's fun especially when I've done it during larger races to have strangers cheering you on and calling you out by name. It can be a nice morale boost during those tough miles to hear people cheering YOU on. However if hearing "Go, {your name}" 50x during the race is going to bother, you can skip this advice. 
Before the 2014 Chicago Marathon 
9. Have some landmarks in mind.
Look at the course map and check out some of the major mile markers. Locate practical landmarks such as where water stations and aid stations are going to be. I also like knowing the course landmarks at specific miles. At the Chicago Marathon I know that once I get to Chinatown (and see the big dragon!) I only have a few miles to go. At the Boston Marathon I was focused on getting to the famous Citgo Sign and then those famous turns down Boylston and Hereford at the end. I also like knowing where my friends and family may be. It's nice to know that at Mile X there will be a cheer station or that your family is going to try to see you at Mile X. Those things keep be going during races! 

I was PUMPED to get to the November Project cheer station at the 2017 Philadelphia Marathon

10. The race starts at mile 20.

You may have heard this before, but the marathon is a 20 mile warm up followed by a 10K race. Hopefully you have come up with and used some mental strategies for the marathon because spoiler alert-it is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. I use mantras that I repeat to myself including  "stronger than you know" (sometimes out loud). Also try to relax and not think about how long the race is or how you are going to feel at Mile 18. Take it one mile at a time and run the mile you are in. Also know that going out too fast at Mile 2 will leave you not feeling great at Mile 20. 

I love having mantras on my Momentum Jewelry motivate wrap bracelets. 
There probably will be highs and lows during your race, but crossing that finish line (especially if it is your first marathon) is a special feeling. Remember that it probably will be painful, but pain is temporary. Your journey to the start line is maybe even more important than the actual race, so enjoy every moment. 

Pain is temporary, glory is forever! {Chicago Marathon 2016}

July 31, 2018

Gear Review: Ultimate Direction Race Vesta 4.0

Disclaimer: I purchased this Ultimate Directions vest on my own-this is not a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.  

As a running coach and marathoner, I often am asked about hydration belts, bottles, and vests. I trained for and ran my first two marathons with a Fuelbelt hydration belt with 2 small bottles (that I picked up at a Marshalls on sale). I was never a fan of it, but it seemed to be an okay solution to carrying water on the course. My 3rd marathon, I ran with a handheld water bottle. For my 4th through 6th marathons I haven’t carried water on the course, but have relied on the on-course water stations. With big marathons such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston there are so many water stations that it is easy to not carry any hydration gear with me if the weather is not hot.

The problem has been training in Baltimore hot & humid summers for long distance races. I have been using a Flipbelt with a water bottle or this Peak Hydration Nathan pack for training. I tried a Camelbak on a couple runs a few summers ago and did not like all the sloshing as well as cleaning out the bladder. This summer anything on my waist has been really annoying me. That fact, plus toying around with the idea of running a 50K later this Fall, I decided to start looking into purchasing a hydration vest with bottles.

After much deliberation, I decided to bite the bullet and purchase the Ultimate Direction Race Vesta 4.0 which I found on sale for under $80 (it retails for $114.95). This isn't a sponsored post, I am just sharing my thoughts on the vest because I've gotten a some questions about it. I chose it because it has two bottles that sit up front on the chest, it’s lightweight, and it had good reviews. I ran with the Race Vesta for the first time and had not properly watched the videos on how to adjust it so it bounced a lot. Since properly adjusting it, it has minimal bounce and is my new go-to long run gear.  Here’s an overview and my thoughts on the Ultimate Direction Race Vesta 4.0.


(All information via Ultimate Direction
-Available in two sizes: XS/SM, MD/LG (I bought the XS/SM version)
-Available in two colors: pink or blue
-MSRP: $114.95
-Materials: 4-way stretch woven mesh, 30D coated nylon ripstop, micromono mesh, and 150g flex mono mesh.
-Includes (2) BodyBottles 500s (500 mL soft bottles)
-Volume Capacity: 494.29 in/ 8.1 L
-Weight: With Bottles-9.56 oz. / 271 g ; Without Bottles-6.1 oz. / 173 g

According to Ultimate Direction, the women’s Vesta differs from the men’s Vesta in that it has a different configuration for pole attachment, is compatible with a 2L hydration bladder, includes two zippered pockets instead of stash pockets on the bottle pockets.  
This vest is one of the more lightweight hydration vests from Ultimate Direction, with larger vests including the Ultra and Adventure Vestas.


-Sliding Rail Sternum Straps (adjustable!)
-Extensive Front Storage (2 zippered and 2 bottle pockets)
-Trekking pole holders
-Comfort Cinch TM Technology


The Good

I love how lightweight the vest is. It doesn’t add a lot of bulk and feels really breathable on the run. The fabric is really stretchy too so the vest fits well to my body and feels like it moves with me. I have never used soft bottles before but like them so far. From the placement of the bottle pockets on the front, I am able to use the bite valve on the bottles to drink easily without removing the bottles from the vest.  The bottles in the bottle pockets sit right above “the girls” and feel comfortable and aren’t right up in my face when I’m running either.

I have been using the zippered storage pockets for my gels and fuel as well as my debit card.  I love that the zippers mean everything is nice and secure. The fabric of the vest is stretchy so I can even fit my Samsung Galaxy S9 phone in one of the zippered pockets, but prefer to have it more easily accessible in one of the bottle pockets. I’ve been running with one of the bottles filled with water and Nuun Hydration in one of the bottle pockets along with an extra bottle filled with plain water in the large back compartment that I can switch out. Since I have been using this for running, I cannot speak to the trekking pole holders.

I love that the vest is easily cinched with the shock cords on the top and bottom in the back. On my first run with it, I did not pull the bottom shock cords tight enough and really tighten up the cords in the back to stop most of the bouncing. Once I adjusted it properly, the vest and bottles bounced barely at all.


The fact that you can move the placement of the sternum straps up and down is awesome. I am 5’4” and bought the XS/SM size based on the sizing chart and did not adjust the sternum straps from their original placement.


The Bad

I love the light pink and blue color options, generally speaking but always worry about gear getting dirty. After a handful of runs, I already have a dirt spot on the front of my vest. Sure, it’s easy enough to just throw the vest in the wash to clean it, but I would appreciate a gray color option as well.

As I mentioned, the pack is really stretchy. I haven’t tried to use a hydration bladder in it yet, but have been putting a filled water bottle, extra gels, or something like a light rain coat in the large back compartment. The large compartment doesn’t have any extra support on the bottom so I’m not sure how heavy it would feel if I loaded up the back compartment for a longer race and am worried it might wear out the fabric quickly due to the sagging strain on it.


One last nit-picky detail is that in the right side bottle pocket there is also an emergency whistle which has its own little pocket. It sometimes comes out of the pocket and bounces around which can be annoying. I wish it was just a bit more securely fastened in the pocket.


I think the Ultimate Direction RaceVesta 4.0  is a great, lightweight option for marathoners or ultra marathoners who want a hands-free way to carry a smaller amount of fuel and gear during training runs or for a race. It’s a great option for ladies like me who need to do some longer runs with just the essentials-phone, fuel, and hydration.


Do you use any sort of hydration belt or vest? How do you carry your gear with you on longer runs?