by Dathan Ritzenhein | Oct 06, 2012 | | Comments Off
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is just a day away and I’m feeling good about the challenge ahead. A number of people have asked me how I approach different phases of the race. Today, I’ll share my strategy for the “during”.
Split the Race Into Segments
One of the best recommendations ever given to me was dividing the marathon up into a number of smaller manageable pieces. For example, I could split the Chicago Marathon into five different races – four five-milers and then a 10K to add up to the full length of the race. Tackling five smaller races is much more manageable to me than one longer one, and helps me focus on what I should be doing at each stage of the race.
Let the Mental Take Over
As my body starts to get tired, I have to rely more on the mental side of things. It becomes a balancing act between monitoring everything internally, while also reacting to the course and the competition.
Everyone’s fueling plan during a race is going be unique, but as a start, I recommend following some of the recommendations I learned from the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI):
• Know your sweat rate to customize a plan to meet your unique needs
• Sweat rate can be calculated by measuring body weight before and after a training session in the same environment as competition. Keep track of the fluid consumed, and calculate this formula:
• Sweat Rate (Liters/hour) = (weight loss – fluid intake (L))/exercise time (hours).
• Use sports drinks to provide fluid and electrolytes. G Series Pro Endurance Formula is on the course of the Chicago Marathon and over 300 other endurance races. It contains 200 mg sodium, per 8 oz. serving.
The longer the race, the more important ingested carbohydrate becomes. Everyone’s carbohydrate intake is different but I worked with Asker Jeukendrup at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute and he recommends 30-60 g/h for 1-2.5 hours and up to 90 g/h for 2.5 – 3 hours. Math is hard enough, let alone doing it 20 miles into a race, so figure out beforehand what your needs will be!
We all know there’s no secret formula for winning a race or achieving a PR. Just like anyone else, I could be in the best shape of my life, but if I go out too fast, I might fade over the latter stages. I look at each race differently and create a strategy based on how I feel, the weather and the pace of my competitors. If I need to make adjustments to this strategy during the race, I will. You are your own gauge, so keep that in mind as you tackle the race.
As you know, I’ve been hitting the roads over the last couple of months, putting in 110 miles a week, training for the 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The transition from training for track to marathon distance is never easy because it challenges me in different ways physically and mentally. That goes for race day too. As someone who has recently gone back to training for a marathon, I’ve been getting a number of questions on how I approach different phases of the race to endure the 26.2. Here are a few aspects I focus on.
First and foremost, I always try to get 8-9 hours of sleep two nights before the race. While it would be ideal to get a good night’s sleep the night before, between my nerves and having to wake up early, I usually don’t. If I bank a little sleep, come race morning, I feel well rested and focused. It is always hard when I start to taper because I finally have energy again, but making that effort to unwind before bed always helps.
Whether it’s a short or long distance, I recommend a series of dynamic stretching routines over static stretches on race day. There’s a great article on Competitor that outlines the difference between the two. Static stretches are exercises in which you gently stretch your muscle for 20-30 seconds using body weight or opposing muscle groups. Dynamic stretches are exercises in which you move your muscles through exaggerated repetitive motions in order to increase flexibility.
To see examples of my favorite dynamic stretches, watch episode 9 from the Gatorade web series, Inside Endurance, when I showed them to endurance athlete, Ryan Sutter. It will give you plenty of options and the appropriate time to do them.
I highly recommend sticking with your fueling routine from training. Race day is not the time to make changes to your nutrition intake. Introducing new foods could upset your stomach, especially when combined with nerves.
As a Gatorade athlete, I’ve had the opportunity to visit The Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI), where they’ve conducted tests to help me understand how to maximize my performance through sports nutrition and better understand my fueling needs. Here are a few things I have learned:
3-4 hours before
Proper carbohydrate intake before the race tops off the body’s glycogen stores (especially if the workout or race is in the morning) and helps you to avoid hitting that wall during the race. I usually start my race day off with a cup of coffee to wake up (but not too much to upset your stomach), eat something simple like rice, which is easily digestible (try it with just a splash of milk and cinnamon and sugar), and then I drink Gatorade Endurance formula. Try to make sure and get the endurance formula for race day, the extra electrolytes will be essential once you get out on the course.
1 hour before
Closer to the start of a race, I always go with a smaller snack or meal that’s high in carbs but low in fat, protein and fiber, like G Series Pro Energy Chews, which are easy on my stomach. They give me just enough energy to prime my system and decrease feelings of hunger later in the race. Whether you have a beverage, chew or solid is up to you, just find something that works for your personal needs.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the marathon has so many elements to prepare for and there are always ways to improve your preparation. It takes patience to understand what your needs are as an athlete. I’m still learning what I’m capable of but know that I’m on the right path.
by Dathan Ritzenhein | Sep 08, 2012 | | Comments Off
Now that I am back to full marathon training, I remember how tiring it can be! After having a month of lower volume and tons of speed work, my body forgot what it is like to slog out the big miles and grind through super long workouts and long runs. Thankfully, I really feel like I have hit my stride again and the last weeks have gone great!
After a brief visit in Michigan to see our families, we headed back up to Park City. The altitude is definitely important as a training tool, but it is also the training camp environment that helps me focus completely on training and the upcoming Chicago Marathon. Spending those first few weeks in Michigan was good for me because I was able to decompress from the Olympics and reflect on how far I had come in just one year, but by the time I left I was itching to get back to the monotonous routine.
So far, I have hit my workouts and I think that is because after coming off a whole summer of track, the speed feels easy when I am doing longer workouts. That has been a blessing for this marathon cycle; I never see the workouts as unattainable. Sometimes the distance seems staggering when you see 24 miles for a long run or 15 miles for a tempo run, but I get out and get it done, and have not had any workouts I haven’t been pleased with.
There have been some challenges of course with only having nine weeks between the Olympics and Chicago but the year of training behind me has given me a lot of confidence for the race. I have had my share of beatings from previous marathons so I have so much respect for the event. When I think of some athletes who seem to have mastered the marathon, the common denominator is that they respect the event and they know what they are capable of. I have that respect but I still don’t feel that I know what I can do. I do, however, believe I will be more prepared for this marathon than any other.
To get the most out of this short nine weeks I have had to really focus on hitting the workouts and extra long runs. One thing I had not done much in previous marathon training cycles is spend those extra miles on workout days and long runs, this time I have really emphasized those aspects. When I am out there for hours at a time, it not only gives me that time on my feet to physically prepare, but also helps me mentally to prepare for that inevitable moment in the marathon when it gets so hard that you crack or keep going.
The marathon has so many elements to prepare for. I think that is one reason I always want to come back for more. There is always something to change in your preparation and I am still trying to discover what I am capable of. I guess I just love the challenge.
by Dathan Ritzenhein | Aug 14, 2012 | | Comments Off
It has been way too long since I wrote a blog! The Olympic Trials hit and I have been on the fly ever since. From Eugene I went back to Park City for a week, to Michigan for five days, onto London for the Crystal Palace meet, down to Font Romeu France for three weeks and onto London. After such a crazy summer, it is nice to settle down in Michigan for a couple weeks before heading back out to Park City for a last block of altitude training before the Chicago Marathon.
I suppose the most logical place to start is with the emotional and amazing high of just making my third Olympic team back in June. Going into that race I had the added pressure of needing to achieve the Olympic A standard, as well as getting in the top three. I was confident going in, but of course I didn’t think I would be running in a monsoon. I have never raced in rain as intense as the trials 10k. Still, I had to put that out of my mind and grind out the pace from the front. The relief of crossing the finish line accomplishing both hurdles was incredible!
With only six weeks before the Olympics I had no time to soak in the Trials excitement, we had to get right back into it. I trained hard and after dropping the family off in Michigan I headed to Europe. Three weeks later I ran my final prep race, a 5000m at the London Crystal Palace meet. It was tough coming off of hard training and jet lag but even though the pace wasn’t fast I felt good about getting that last effort in before the Olympics.
The following day I hopped a plane and joined the rest of my Oregon Project group for three final weeks in Font Romeu, France putting the last finishing touches on my training. I had a blast there and was able to run the best speed workouts I have ever done. I felt prepared for almost anything coming into London.
I had so much energy and pop in my stride in the days leading up to the race. When the gun went off, I have to say I felt ready for any scenario, but I didn’t anticipate the first mile and a half to be so slow. It was a little discouraging because I knew the best thing for me was to have a fast pace from the start. Finally, at 6 laps into the race the pace took off. We ran the next 19 laps at 27:00 pace. The hardest part was the constant surging and pace change. Sadly, I fell victim to one of those surges wth about seven laps to go. I lost contact like I wasn’t even paying attention. I was behind an athlete that didn’t go with a surge and all of the sudden I realized I was gapped by 10 meters. I moved around him, but at that point in the race it was hard to close the gap when it was going fast and I had lost a few seconds. I spent the next six laps trying to claw my way back up. I reconnected with the pack then the real kicking took off. Unfortunately, I spent all my energy trying to close that gap and didn’t have much left when the fast last lap came. I definitely showed my time away from racing the big championships on the track.
Moving on, I was disappointed with my racing tactics, but I am happy to be healthy and ready to keep the great training going into the Chicago Marathon. A year ago I thought I might be done running, so being back and training better than ever is such a blessing.
Recently I’ve spent considerable time considering what it takes to to be one of the best 10,000 meters runners in the world. One thing has become very clear to me is that to be relevant at the world level in the 10,000 meters you need to be competitive in the 5,000 meters. What does that mean? At the simplest level it means being able to run under 13:00minutes. This may not be that shocking of a revelation but it is a realization that has become stronger every day during this last training block as I finally, after two and half years of frustration, have been able to work out with Mo and Galen. Just like all the best 10K and 5K runners in the world, they can compete in both events and be equally successful. That is definitely where I expect to be by the end of the summer.
Watching Mo and Galen run 12:56 and 12:58 respectively two weeks ago at the Prefontaine Classic gave me so much confidence going into the Olympic Trials 10,000m in one week. It really is inspiring to watch your teammates compete at that level knowing that you’ve been running the same workouts. The most powerful source of my current confidence however is not based on Mo or Galen’s performances but on the fact that not since 2009 have I been able to put together this much uninterrupted training. The last time this happened I ran 12:56 and I believe that I am at that level of fitness again.
I had that belief back at the end of ‘09 when I ran 12:56 in the 5K and 60:00 for the half marathon. I ran those races only six weeks apart. Many people might say there is a big difference between a 5k and a half marathon, but I think at the elite level, the difference is very small. The general fitness is the same, the only difference is a fraction more speed at the lower end or a fraction more strength at the upper end, but it is never more than a few workouts away if you have the necessary base fitness and talent.
Training is going great and, with the exception of Hengelo, my warm-up races have gone well. I am confident but perhaps even more importantly as I get ready for the Olympic trials I am driven by a desire never to experience the emotional low I felt after I got fourth in the marathon trials. Although a miserable experience, the drive to make the Olympic team is even stronger now. I definitely wanted it bad back in January but biggest difference this time is that instead of three months of training, I have the biggest foundation of mileage I ever have had in one season.
I remember my old college coach say once that you can’t fake it in this sport when it gets really tough at the end. It is a hard business when you have to put yourself in that kind of pain, and if your heart and soul are not there, it is going show on the track. I am excited for June 22nd and the opportunity to toe the line and make the US Olympic team.
by Dathan Ritzenhein | May 30, 2012 | | Comments Off
by Dathan Ritzenhein | May 26, 2012 | | Comments Off
It has been a week since my 5k at the Occidental/USATF high performance meet. That race was a bit of a surprise. I have trained well for the weeks leading up to the race but I did have a small hiccup which forced me to spend two weeks on the alter-g treadmill and I missed a few workouts. I debated about running it because I had only done two workouts on the track in the week leading up to the race. So Alberto said to run in flats and to just shoot for 13:30.
My training partners Mo Farah and Galen Rupp had already ran awesome in the 1500, going 1-2 in 3:34 which to those who don’t know is equivalent to around 3:52 for a mile, not bad for a couple 10k guys. I got so excited watching that race, I was worried that I used up all my adrenaline. I owe those guys tremendously because they came back just 60 minutes later to pace me for the 5k.
The pace was suppose to go out for 13:20 so we started at the back of the pack and just slowly worked our way up. Honestly, I can say it felt effortless, which is a good sign for this stage in the racing season. Galen dropped out after 4k but Mo just kept going. I felt smooth throughout the race, but in the last 600m it started to feel like a race.
I get excited thinking of how well my training is coming along and I am just trying to be patient and stay healthy. My first thought after that race was, “I’m ready to run fast next weekend”! Then Alberto must have seen that look on my face because he said to just run the A standard next weekend and no faster. Of course I want to run faster but it is important for me to just stay healthy and get back to hard training.
There are big gains ahead for me if I can start working out more on the track and back into spikes. There are 10 weeks to go until the Olympic Games and if I practice patience and stay healthy, I will be there and in better shape than ever.
by Dathan Ritzenhein | May 07, 2012 | | Comments Off
It has been a long time since I’ve lived for months out of a couple of bags. This week I head to Utah to join the rest of the group for the last long push to London. With the trials less than seven weeks away, it is time to get to altitude for the last phase of training. Hopefully if all goes well, I will be back there again after the trials in the weeks leading up to the games.
The thing that is going to make this trip harder than it has been in the past, is that my family can’t be there most of the time. We have been fortunate in our previous adventures to travel as a family, but with Addy being in school now, it makes things more difficult. Three weeks without seeing my family is about as long as I can stand. I think the hardest part is knowing that they are only a 90 minute flight away.
What makes it even more difficult is that if things go as planned, we will have to head to altitude again, just a month before the games. The positive is that hopefully I can keep running well all summer, and the only negative is being away from them. My wife jokes that she has seen me too much this past year and doesn’t want to see me very much this summer, only she means that as a good thing, because that means things are going well!
Fortunately for me, I will feel better after the trials when they go back to Michigan to be with our families. I always feel better knowing that they have someone to help them and keep them company when I am gone. Time always flies when you are on the road and racing, but when you are home by yourself it crawls by.
Im ready for time to fly by again, June 22nd will be here in no time.
A week ago my good friend Jason Hartmann ran an amazing race to get 4th place at the Boston Marathon. I was incredibly happy for him and proud of how he has kept going and persevered in a sport that can sometimes be difficult.
Most people know that Jason and I were high school teammates, but some people may not know that he is also one of my best friends. Jason was two years ahead of me in school and believe it or not we never won a high school state championship together! After graduation he went to the University of Oregon, and I chased my dreams at the University of Colorado. After college he was in a tough spot. He had a solid college career, but was still full of untapped potential. The worst part for him was that he was injured his senior year.
This sport we love has given me many opportunities, but the reality for many athletes coming out of college is much harder. Having been injured, Jason didn’t have many options, but with some persuasion he moved to Boulder and lived with us while he got fit again. He worked his butt off day in and day out. We became such great friends over that time, that he was a groomsman in our wedding. Over these years we have been able to share the struggles and victories that this life has offered us.
In 2008 he suffered a pretty bad injury, a stress fracture in his navicular bone along with two other bones in his feet. Having become somewhat of an expert in running injuries and recovery I was very worried. I had seen enough MRI’s and experienced enough to know this was possibly a career ender. It would be devastating news for any athlete
During his recovery, we were both living in Eugene, but after some thought he decided Colorado was better suited for his training. Fortunately, luck was on his side, and he came back from injury without any serious problems. It did take a good six months to heal, but he didn’t need surgery as most people with that problem need a pin put in the bone. Six months, however, is a lifetime in the sport of professional running. No running and in a boot the whole time can make that time drag by.
Jason stuck his nose back in it, however, and he worked his way back into shape. Amazingly, a year later, he won the Twin Cities Marathon. We were so happy for him. He continued that success the following fall with a 2:11:06, in less than ideal conditions, at the 2010 Chicago Marathon. I was amazed because Jason seemed to find his niche in the marathon but he doesn’t fit the physical mold of a world class marathoner. At 6’3″ and 160 lbs, he burns so much more fuel than someone my size.
This fall we talked a great length about the Olympic Trials Marathon. He really put everything into that race and we both walked away not making the team. For me, I knew I had the option to come back and try to make the team on the track, but Jason told me he was going to give Boston a try and I thought it would be tough, but a good opportunity for him.
With his back against the wall he came out and delivered. I was so excited to see him coming in and knowing he had done something special. The marathon is where it is at for him, he knows how to run well for 26.2 miles. The future looks bright and after the years of struggle and watching him try to make it in this awesome but difficult sport, he deserves it.
Great job Jason!
by Dathan Ritzenhein | Apr 06, 2012 | | Comments Off
Running In Circles
Today I am going to run my first track race in two and a half years! The last time I laced up for a track meet I broke the American Record in the 5000m. It is hard to believe that race was in August of 2009. I never meant to be away from the excitement of track this long, but it just worked out that way.
Don’t expect any American Records tomorrow in the 10,000m at the Stanford Invitational. Training has gone well, but this is just the first step in getting back to where I need to be come June. But, let me tell you, I am just excited to race! The goal is to just compete, run as hard as possible, and get use to turning left again. The time doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t even think I will look at the clock. This race is more about being in a big pack and getting another race under my belt.
It is always important to look at a race in perspective. After such a long hiatus from this discipline, I just want to get my feet wet again. The fast time can come later, now is the time for me to get back in the swing of things. Some people may say that running is running, but there is huge difference between road racing and the track. If you are polished in both it is easy to go from one to the other, but there are so many things that are unique to each.
One of the things that makes track so much different is the start time. This race doesn’t start until 9:30, PM! I haven’t started a race later than 9:30 AM in years. There is definitely going t be some extra coffee this afternoon. Another important thing about track is that you have to be flexible with your plan. With dozens of events and sections before my race, there is always the chance of a delay in start time. In road races, things go off almost to the T.
I love road racing and look forward to being back at it this fall, but until then getting spiked up again is going to be really fun!