Race Week Diary
By: Marc Bergman
I don’t claim to be an expert or a master of prose or even a decent narrator, but I’d like to share what goes on in my week before a big race. I’m no Meb, but in the marathoning world I can claim to be experienced, consistent and have a track record of delivering good results.
Today is Sunday, 7 days out from the Philadelphia Marathon, and appropriate to start getting things organized, at least mentally. First thing, let’s check the weather. Saturday night is a low of 45 and a Sunday high of 61. It’s a 7 AM start so if the forecast holds up it will be great running weather. I opt to squeeze in 4.5 miles between when my kids get picked up and church. From today on, I’ll be wearing my purple Adidas Adios 2 as I’ll be racing in a fresh pair of yellow ones. 7 days out, I like to do a first pass at clipping my toenails, just in case I screw up. In the afternoon, I make sure to sample my last carbohydrates before 3 days of carb-free training. This includes a brew or a few with friends since if you haven’t heard, beer is carb rich (see carb-loading Friday and Saturday!). Before bed, I consume my last piece of lingering Halloween candy, also carb-rich (also see carb-loading Friday and Saturday!).
It is now Monday, 6 days out from the Philadelphia Marathon. Put in an easy 6 miles first thing in the morning. Today is going to be OK, I have carbs stored from the weekend, but as the week progresses, I may appear cranky and hungry. Some people wonder how a vegetarian could survive on a low-carb (I try to be close to zero) diet with no fruit, nuts, beans, and most vegetables. My answer is simple: pickles and celery. These are my 2 dietary staples for 3 days, along with some spinach and tofu, and occasionally some cheese or eggs for adding protein. Today I also get my final maintenance check from my Physical Therapist Troy at Sports Performance International. Everything is looking OK. For dinner I will make a pot of vegetable broth with kale, tofu and mushrooms that will serve as my main meals until I leave. Soup is great for maintaining hydration levels and taking in sodium and vitamins. I would argue it’s the best race week meal.
Come Tuesday morning, I have a challenge. A workout 2-3x3K @MGP with only 200 jog recovery. Oh yeah, basically on empty. The first 3K started out sloppy and felt like I was going faster than MGP based on the breathing pattern. The second one seemed more conservative and slower so I decided to check my ego and bail on the 3rd one. Turns out, they were both the exact same split, and both 10 seconds per mile faster than MGP. Maybe thats a good feeling on the second one. Another morning of pickles and celery before I head to Dr. Cunnington, who will perform painful arrosti techniques to my hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors. Hot dang, that hurts, but ultimately heals. Hopefully. Check the weather again, Philly is holding steady. Before dinner, I took my kids to the track for their workouts. My 7 year old daughter is training for a 1K and set a mile PR tonight. I get an extra 1.5 miles. More soup. Now I think about making a list of important things yet to be done: book the kennel for the dog, laundry, packing. Eh, maybe tomorrow.
Last day with no carbs, but really 2 runs left. This morning I dropped my car off for an oil change and ran back to the house. Now things are getting close. Laundry must be done. Check. Most of the day is pretty busy just working from home, but that reminds me of the things I don’t do the week of a race. I don’t volunteer at schools, go to the gym, start eating meat or make out with strange women (those are Schrup’s rules). It may seem weird, but I like to get sick 2 or 3 weeks out, so that my body can fight anything in that last week, but since I remained healthy through the optimal sick period, I better keep it clean and safe. This afternoon, I met with my coach to go over travel and pre-race logistics and of course: the race plan. We traverse through topics like a rapid fire game show, but we arrive at the same conclusion. The race plan will be steady, not as progressive as in the past and the JFR the last 3 or 4 miles. I’m not scared of the goal or of sharing it, I want to average 5:50’s for 26.2 miles, and I may die trying.
Last run on empty this morning, felt pretty good this time around. After the run and stretching out, I was glad to eat some real food. The day today was very casual as we had a work picnic at Zilker Park and the weather was beautiful. I stayed away from the soccer and softball and opted for some low key frisbee golf with some co-workers. Never done that before, but in this case I think it would be exempt from the “Don’t try a new sport right before your big marathon” rule. The evening gets a little hectic. I have to make sure my daughter’s homework is done, feed the kids and get them to their mother’s house by 7PM. In the middle of dinner I realized that I forgot to get the dog to the kennel by 5, which also reminded me that my laundry was still in the dryer and I have not packed yet. I make sure I have enough underwear, socks, and hats and gloves to accompany me to Philadelphia. Better pack some nicer stuff to cruise around the city too. In all this stress, I finish off the remains of the halloween candy. Time now to print out flight info, hotel info and course maps to take with me before I hit the pillow.
Travel day. I woke up early to shower because I didn’t want to stink up the plane. After my standard airport panic over the check in and security lines, I arrive at my gate to find a number of friendly Rogue faces. The goal for most of today is to stay loose and drink so much water I have to pee once an hour. As I am boarding the connecting flight to Philadelphia, a young lady asks me if I’m running the marathon. She indicates shes “running with friends” and asks me directly if I’m racing. This is the absolute turning point of the weekend. I began by giving her the dance. The dance we all do that starts with: “Well, I’m going to go out there and do my best” and ends with “We’ll see how it goes.” I said to myself, “F— this” and I turned back around and said to her: “Excuse me, Miss. I am racing it, and I’m going to crush it.” This attitude would stick until that gun goes off. We get to Philadelphia and transit ourselves to Center City to check into our respective hotels. Once situated, I hit the expo and pick up my packet and stroll around. I soon realize that it’s 5 o’clock and I have yet to run!!! I jet back to the hotel (across the street) change and hit the road for a quickie 30 minute run. I ran up to the race area to check it out then onto the bike path. I was amazed to see how awesome boathouse row looks all lit up. At this point i realize I forgot my camera back in Texas. I have dinner with some more Rogues: a salad, some rice and some veggies. I’ve been really good and clean so far. After dinner, a friend and I went to a bar to have one glass of wine before heading back. That plan gets derailed instantly and “happy hour” turns into a fun happy night out. Now this is forgivable in my mind because 2 nights before my last PR I was out singing karaoke until 2 am. Eventually, I sleep and all is good.
The day before the day. Get up and grab a quick granola bar before heading out on my run. My run was great, saw so many familiar faces and the last of the beautiful fall leaves. I like to run about an hour the day before a marathon. 20 minutes warm up, 20 minutes fartlek, 20 minutes cool down. The fartlek I do is 5x 1′ jog/1′ easy/1′ moderate/1′ fast. I meet some runners from Team Rogue Sisson for lunch at Reading Market where I eat a whopping serving of vegetable fried rice. Next, time to move on to the Rogue photo at the Art Museum.
It’s fantastic to have so many friendly faces here for support. Finally I retreat to my hotel room to watch the Northwestern game before eating dinner. I dined solo at the hotel restaurant, but there was no shortage of runner friends to be made. Dinner consisted of a veggie burger, a baked potato and some bread, plus one last glass of wine. Now onto the pre-bed night-before-marathon routine. First, take out my contacts and put on pajamas. Next, set alarm for 3:45. Brush teeth. Lay out clothes and shoes. Set another alarm, just in case. Here’s something I do before every race, especially when there is chance of high moisture or rain: grab the hotel provided lotion and moisturize my feet. I’m not ashamed to admit it, it really helps prevent blisters. Get in between the toes, top and bottom. Then, put on your race day socks. Keep those feet moisturized the entire night, then re-apply lotion in the morning. Now, it is time for sleep. Set a third alarm. I have some business to take care of in the morning.
I hope you were mildly interested in the routine this specific experienced marathoner goes through for a week before a big race, and stay tuned for a full race day report.