Hi my name is Gucci Mane, I’m addicted to everything.— Gucci Mane, Addicted
Cold weather sucks unless you are on the slopes.
I move less in the winter. I am always cold in the winter.
In the morning, those warm covers are so hard to take off.
Worse, the body naturally stores more fat in the winter.
That is fat that I have to lose in the spring. I wanted to skip the store-more-fat part.
I run 15-20+ miles a week 10 months out of the year, in addition to working out. Last year, I discovered the magic of walking during the winter (10,000 steps/day). This year, I wanted to turn it up a notch.
One day in November, my legs were feeling good, so on a Sunday night I decided to run a half-marathon (13.1m) before work the next morning.
When I finished, I looked down at my watch.
After seeing this, I thought, “Damn, I guess I need to run a marathon.”
A 7:20/mile pace without any race-day adrenaline or special prep is pretty good for a casual runner.
I looked up upcoming races, and Miami in February sounded nice (at first). It was full and I was 1,500 on the waitlist, so I had no expectation of getting in and considered the Ventura, California marathon in February, too.
I got an email on 12/6/21 saying, “Watch Your Inbox tomorrow.” The next day (12/7/21), I got an email saying I got in.
The race was Sunday, 2/6/22, which was 9 weeks away.
I signed up and created the training plan above. If you are interested in doing a race and unsure of where to start, Google a few training plans. See if those are reasonable distances for the timeframe. If not, extend the timeframe. Customize the plan so it suits you.
You can do any distance if you give yourself enough time to train. Start slowly and build up.
Signing up for a race sharpens my focus.
This is the first thing I have really trained for since the Mountain Lakes 100 in 2016. Immediately after signing up for something like this, I start taking sleep, recovery, and food more seriously.
I felt pretty good about my foundation because I had already been running.
I did all but one week of training in Maryland. The temperatures ranged from wind chills in the single digits to low 50°s. Miami temperatures in February average 65°-75°…
The temperature difference was the only thing I was nervous about. On Race Day, it would be 40-55° warmer than the weather I was training in.
The ideal temperature for a long run is in the mid 40°s. Yes, it is cold at the beginning, but after you warm up it feels perfect. (It takes one mile to warm up when the temperature is above freezing, two miles when it is below.)
The worst part about cold weather is not low temperatures. It’s the wind.
I would rather run in warm rain than in cold wind.
I rarely target a pace. Generally, I run based on how I feel. The pace takes care of itself.
The main goal was to get faster without getting injured. Easier said than done.
I usually love running, but I did not enjoy the training.
In a sense, that was the whole point of doing it, though. I would not have worked out as hard during the winter otherwise, and therefore, would be in worse shape.
Week 1: My legs felt great.
Weeks 2 & 3: My legs were tired every day.
Week 3 in Georgia was a wakeup call to hills. I did a 10m run on the Big Creek Trail in Forsyth County and it was the steepest long run I have done in five years. My lower calves were on fire and the inclines were so long, I would take a 30 second break at the top of hills to take a picture as an excuse to stop.
Long runs were on Thursdays and Sundays.
I developed a blister on my right pinky toe. It eventually callused, but still caused irritation through the race.
Week 4: Covid Omicron variant. You know Covid is getting weaker when the first time I had it I was in bed for 10 days. The 3rd (or 4th?) time I had it, I could run 15 miles.
Week 5: I got to a point where I was dreading each run. It snowed 6″ on Jan. 3rd.
I am cold from the moment I get out of bed. My fingers and toes, specifically.
Normally, I wake up, do my pre-run routine and I am out the door. When it is colder than 35°, I start doing chores, thinking that every moment the sun is up, it is getting warmer, and the two-degree increase will make a difference.
I am the world’s biggest wimp for the first mile of a run. When I walk out of my building and I am hit with that freezing 8 mph+ wind, I feel like it is a step below torture.
Then, like an Elon Musk dream, one mile into the run, I turn into a machine.
The training plan called for two 20 mile runs. During the first one, legs were tired from Mile 15-20.
My tendonitis was killing me. My Achilles Heel so to speak, was my Achilles heel.
Week 6: As you can see in the plan, Mondays are non-running workouts. I alternated between boxing and yoga, with occasional days dedicated to chest & back.
I waited too long to do yoga. Every muscle in my body was too tight. This causes nonobvious injuries. Years ago, I would pull my lower back muscles because my hamstrings were too tight. Similarly, I got Achilles tendonitis because my calves were too tight. I felt like a new person after yoga.
Saturday: 8° wind chill. 20 miles. Coldest temperature I have ever run in. No gloves. Tied for longest run & the peak of training.
The hard part was over, sort of. Time to start tapering.
Week 7: On Wednesday, I put my new race shoes on to break them in. They were too tight. I ran in them anyways. They are expensive so I was reluctant to buy another pair, but I knew I needed a half-size up, so I ordered the correct size and charged it to the game.
Started to feel faster. Increased speed to 7:58/m for 16 miles.
Week 8: The legs were feeling JUICY. For some reason, that’s the word that came to mind all week. I was feeling like a fully charged battery in a new iPhone.
When you train hard for something, your body knows the event is coming up. The excitement converts to energy. As you taper the mileage, your legs have time to recover and rest. You go faster.
A 4-mile run started to feel like a walk to the mailbox.
Without putting in any additional effort, I ran 12 miles at a 7:13/m pace (even after a night of drinking). This was my fastest run at this distance.
Week 9: Going into the week, I felt as good as possible. Ideally, I would have gotten to Miami a week early and acclimated to the 40-60° temperature difference. My discipline only goes so far though, and I would have gotten distracted by Miami things if I went earlier.
I checked into my hotel at 9:30pm. At 10:00pm I ran 4 miles around the Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s little one-mile island.
This was the first time I had noticeably sweat on a run in 9 weeks. I had run five times as far without sweating. How would this affect me on race day?
- Training Shoes: Saucony Kinvara 12
- Race Shoes: Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 (half size up for two reasons: 1) this shoe fits small 2) heat and long distances make your feet swell)
- Compression Shorts: WOLACO North More Short 6″ & 9″ inseam (higher quality than Lululemon’s tights & pocket fits iPhone XS 12 Max)
- Compression Tights (Temp below 44°F): WOLACO Fulton Pant (3/4 length)
- Shorts: 6″ Lululemon Surge Linerless
- Training shirt (Temp below 44°F): Tracksmith Downeaster Crew (merino wool)
- Race shirt: Legends Tank Top
- Training Socks: Various (Feetures & Fitsok wool are my favorite)
- Race Socks: Tracksmith Speed No Show
- Chafing prevention: Sport Shield
Anything shorter than 14 miles, I can eat a banana, drink pre-workout (Alani-Nu), and I’m good to go.
Anything longer than 14 miles, I will do the same thing, plus a bowl of oatmeal with protein powder mixed in.
I bring two GU-gels with 40mg of caffeine on long runs. On a 17-21 mile run, I take one about mile 7-8 and another around mile 13-15.
The night before long runs, I normally eat a sweet potato and salmon for dinner. What you eat two nights before matters, too.
I avoid trying anything new on Race Day, so I condition my body to expect the same food the day of the race. So, each Sunday morning, I usually ate the same thing.
- Pre-workout: Alani-Nu
- Protein: Dymatize ISO 100
- Energy Gels: GU Jet Blackberry
I am always drinking water. I probably drink 1.5 – 2 gallons of water per day. Your body gets used to most things you do to it. Since I was training in the cold, and barely sweating, I got my body conditioned to run 15-20 miles without needing water.
Sweating in warmer temperatures would change that, but it would help lessen the shock.
My target time was to finish in under 3 hours and 30 minutes (8:00/mile). I would hurl myself in front of a Smart Car if I was slower than that.
I slept fine. There is a trick to sleeping before a big race. It is common to sleep badly the night before because of the excitement. However, people perform well despite sleeping badly, so that one night of sleep doesn’t matter that much.
When you accept that it’s okay if you don’t sleep, you relax, and then you sleep.
Breakfast: Banana, Oatmeal (135 grams) with oat milk (75g) & protein (40g).
There were 2,519 entries into the Marathon (9,914 in the Half-Marathon).
As in life, there are so many ways things can go wrong and much fewer ways they can go right.
Everything that you want in a race can be summarized.
- Feel good
- Gear works
- Good conditions
I wore a heart rate monitor around my chest for most of my training runs, without a single issue.
The battery lasts weeks. I charged it before the race. It would not turn on or connect on race day.
Thankfully, it has no impact on performance. The point is, something unexpected is going to happen and go wrong. The mentality has to be, “I am going to deal with it and keep going.”
The little details.
I thought the race started for me at 6:00am. The starting line was 1.5 miles from my hotel. I jogged there as a warmup and left the hotel at 5:15am to make sure I had plenty of time.
Caffeine takes about 15 minutes to kick in. If I drank my pre-workout before I left the hotel, it would kick in too early. So, I made it in a shaker cup, poured it into a water bottle, and ran with it to the starting line.
I wanted to listen to music. My playlist was approaching perfection. The AirPods Pro last about 3 hours, meaning they would not last the whole race.
My shorts had one small back pocket on the waist, and my compression shorts had two small pockets. Phone in one and two energy gels in each of the other two (four gels total).
I was able to squeeze the charging case in the one pocket in the shorts. This meant that I would be able to take the AirPods out right before the race started, instead of at the hotel, adding 45 minutes of listening time.
I wish I had known how the start times work.
There are 11 Corrals (A thru K). I was Corral C.
Corral A is the Elite Group (19 people) and they started at 6:00am.
Every 5 minutes the next corral would go, so I started at 6:10am.
My resting heart rate during the day is in the low 50s.
Out of curiosity, I looked at my heart rate at 5:59am: 125 beats per minute. This was comparatively insane.
Outwardly, I looked calm. On the inside, I felt like I could run a marathon.
When the race finally started at 6:10am, I felt like I was holding back a wild horse.
A common mistake is to go out too hard. This is why objective things like your watch time and heart rate are useful. They are more reliable than your feelings. If you are not careful, you could easily go out and run the fastest mile of your life. You would regret that a few miles later.
I deliberately held back. It was also crowded at the beginning. Don’t worry, that changed.
The course was well designed. The first part of the race is in the dark along the bridge from Miami to South Beach. The bridge is over three miles long, and the port is right there, so you are running along a line of cruise ships. It was surreal. Dead silent. Thousands of runners in the dark, with beautifully lit, enormous, empty ships next to us.
It was dark for the first 10 miles, so it was relatively cool. There is a huge incentive to finish a morning race fast because it becomes a feedback loop. The longer you are in the sun, the harder the next mile is, which means you are in the sun longer, which makes the next mile even harder.
I felt like I was on a scooter for the first 15 miles. I was floating. My legs felt detached from my body. They were doing all the work, I was just along for the ride. I have never felt like I had more energy in my life.
I was consistently running in the 7:30s.
The race really got interesting at Mile 15.
I am out on this bridge. The sun is out now, and there is no shade. Running on concrete. It is hot and getting hotter.
Basically from the beginning, my time was improving each mile. This is about as good as it gets.
Then, at Mile 15, I looked down at my watch and, exerting the same energy, I noticed my mile time tick up to 7:41. More input for the same or worse output.
It was like working harder and getting paid less.
I held that pace for 3 miles, then it jumped up to 7:50.
If I was floating the first 15 miles, I was working from Mile 15-20.
After Mile 17, it was a war zone.
A woman pulled down her pants in the middle of the road and presumably lost control of her bowels in someone’s front yard behind a wall (since losing control of your bowels is apparently a thing during marathons, and there were plenty of Porta Pottys every mile or so). I did not look back to confirm. People were laying in the middle of the road, cramping. Police were helping them stretch.
Runners’ bibs fell off. This is devastating because the timing chip is on the bib.
Without the chip, you cannot officially complete the marathon.
You are faced with two options: Go back to try to find it so you can post an official time, or run your race and have the self-satisfaction of having completed it and approximate your time with your watch.
They do not give out medals for that.
Those people were panicking.
This is where it becomes a huge mental battle.
As you get exhausted, you become emotionally sensitive.
You see these terrible situations and you feel bad. You have to block it out because thinking about it leads to doubts and doubt is the last thing you need going into the last part of the race.
You get a pain that you have not experienced before. You say, “I have never had this happen before. Do I ignore it? Or, is it important?” And you really don’t know. You just have a hunch.
Your brain wants to tell you anything it can to get you to stop.
Most runners say the same thing: Mile 20 is where it starts to get hard.
Safe to say, that’s true.
6.2 miles to go.
This was unchartered territory, since this was the first time in 5 years I had run more than 20 miles. Never at this pace.
Mile 20 was my last mile under 8:00.
This was also the scariest part of the race.
Remember, the race clock started at 6:00am, but my group started at 6:10am.
So, when I saw the timer, I knew to simply subtract 10 minutes from it.
That is what a normally functioning brain would do.
A dehydrated brain is dumber. I got to Mile 20 and saw the official timer say something like 2:48. I do the math and I am thinking, “I’m slowing down, so if I run an 8 min mile for 6 miles, that is 48 minutes and that puts me past my time. How is this possible? My watch says I am running a 7:44 pace!”
Now, I was panicking.
I could not think about anything else. It made no sense. I was sick of my music.
This part of the course is in Coconut Grove. People are now out at brunch drinking mimosas at restaurants along the course. It felt intentionally designed that way, just to throw the contrast of happy people in your face, at an emotional low.
I run another mile or two before I remember the 10 minute time difference. There is no way to describe the relief I felt. It recalibrated my whole brain.
Messing up something this simple tells you how hard it is to forecast the impact of exhaustion.
Physically, there are two critical things governing a run: your heart rate and your legs.
Your max heart rate is roughly 220 minus your age. For me, that is 188. So that’s my upper limit. I ran an entire half-marathon in Dallas five years ago at my max heart rate. That was bad for my body, but the point is, I am willing to push it.
The weird thing was, although I was willing to push it, my legs did not have it.
If the Apple Watch is to be trusted, my heart rate ranged from 170-177 for most of the race. My heart had the capacity. My quads felt the deep soreness after a leg day…with each step.
Aid stations: There were volunteers handing out water and Gatorade about every mile. Some people grab the cups and drink while running. When you do that, you get about 10% of it in your mouth. I decided to stop and drink the entire cup and get back to running. 5 seconds.
At Mile 23, I did the math in my head, and I said to myself, “Look, you can try to crush it. If you push it from here, you could maybe get down to 7:46 or 7:47.”
But I see people who have been ahead of me this entire race — you do not accidentally get to 23 miles in 3 hours — and these people were stopping, then walking, looking miserable and depressed. Others tried passing me, then stopped.
The thoughts continued to creep in: Can the same thing happen to me? Am I running too fast?
If I pushed it at this point, and a muscle tweaked or something went seriously wrong, I was risking not finishing under my target.
I had taken my energy gels at Mile 6, 12, 18. If I took the last one at Mile 24, it would not get into my system before the end of the race.
So, I took it at Mile 23, at worst as a placebo. I gagged on it, so I only took half. By that point, my body was not taking anything other than water.
I was having to coach myself, “As long as you don’t mess anything up, you are going to beat that. And it’s gonna be okay.” I knew it was going be in the high 7:40s low 7:50s. I said, “Just be okay with that.” I was pleased with that. There was no real difference (to me) between 3:20 and 3:26.
My slowest mile was 24, and then I started trending back down.
My AirPods died at Mile 25. The music had become irritating, so it was a relief.
GPS watches rarely match the official race distances. The race distances are calculated with straight lines. As a runner, you wiggle between the lanes, going around people, turns, getting water.
My watch was about 0.2 miles short of the official distances, so for the last mile I ignored it.
Just get to the finish line.
The last part of a long race is a dark comedy. It is so close, but so far.
Instead of seeing the finish line, I see people running UP a bridge over the Miami River. You wouldn’t think too much of it, if you hadn’t just done 40,000 steps before getting to it.
I make it over the bridge, turn, and start hearing the cheers from the stadium. I would like to tell you it excited me. It did not. The contrast in my facial expressions says it all. I was Zen at the beginning and feeling it at the end.
I drank a half-gallon of water when I finished. I could barely stand up.
At least I wasn’t cold.
Training Plan (Kilometers)
Thanks to James Bunch, Suzanna V. Wood, and Sanam Makhani for reading drafts of this.