InsideOut client: Ann Domigan... Boston Marathon Qualified - off-road - in the Green Mountains!
Caroline Kavanagh | Sep 18, 2021
Isn't running a marathon "on-road" tough enough? Obviously not for Ann! Ann navigated the diverse and undulating off-roads of New England on the USATF-certified Green River Marathon course. The "road" surface was mostly packed dirt-and-gravel with a few sections of pavement at the end. The training suggestions for such a course are... "run on dirt roads, rolling hills, and long downhills to prepare, as even experienced marathoners complain about their quads after this race, so train for those hills!" Well... Ann simply hit the "cruise" button and sailed for 26.2 miles finishing in 5th place in her 50-59 age group (Ann's at the top of the group at 59yr) in a time of 4:00:22. This result qualified Ann for the Boston Marathon! Her age group competitors who squeaked in ahead of her did so by slight margins. Ann's pacing? She never slowed down! Her mile run splits varied insignificantly. You could reverse the numbers and it wouldn't appear unrealistic as splits for a race result. Expert level pacing. Just so you know, her main sport isn't only running, she swims and bikes too. She has been tearing up triathlon courses all season and garnering top level results in every event. Her distances? Olympic, 70.3 and maybe an Ironman this winter. There are zero signs of her slowing! Ann simply embraces race challenges. Give her any distance, terrain or weather condition and she will outrun, outlast and outperform. Congrats to Ann for yet another superb performance! Below is Ann's race recap and a brief summary of nutritions role in her accomplishment. ..............
Ann's race recap... The race started at 7 am on a misty mountain top. The road surface was packed dirt with minimal loose gravel. The race launched with a large shout out by the director... “GO!” Timing mats and mile markers were in place with limited aid stations.
The first mile had a very steep descent. It went on for long enough that I wished it would end! Everyone was still jovial and plenty of runners passed me. The first water stop was at mile 3 - I knew my predetermined water intake, so it was a grab and go. Next mile would be time for my fuel intake. This was my fueling strategy for the entire race. Hydrate then fuel. It worked really well to keep me focused.
The course started at the campus of the former Marlboro College in the Green Mountains of Vermont and followed the Green River as it flowed down toward the Connecticut River, and ended at Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, Massachusetts. At about mile 10 it was a slow climb up the first significant hill of the course and then downhill and across the Green River Covered Bridge in Guilford. From the covered bridge, it was down a dirt road for about 3.5 miles to the Vermont – Massachusetts state line. Fueling and hydration – on point! Around mile 12 my right quad started to get tight, I pressed on...... Starting at mile 17, for the next .5 miles, it was a climb on what is called “Airstream Hill” for the vintage airstream trailers that used to be parked there; this hill rose 80 feet over that distance. Fueling and hydration – check! I reached the most challenging hill on the route at about mile 20.8. This is what they dubbed “heartbreak hill!” The CAUTION at this point was for runners to be extremely careful on this big hill, as the curves are tight, sight-distance for traffic is limited, and there are dangerous drop-offs on the left side of the road. This hill rises 85 feet in a half mile. From the top of the hill, there’s another half mile of dirt road :P I knew once I got beyond mile 21 the uphills would be over. My energy level was still good. I knew I would finish. It had been 5 plus years since my last marathon, and I did have doubts. But not after the half way point. I kept my pace even, except for the giant uphill. Fueling and hydration – YES!
After "heartbreak hill" area, the dirt road turned to pavement. The last 5 miles were in the sun, through cornfields. We were warned that this is the most brutal part of the race. We lucked out with cool temps (never reaching 70) and overcast. For that, I was grateful. I kept pace. I knew I was going to be close to breaking the 4 hour mark. My GPS started to get weird, and was no longer the same as the mile markers. My watch would say the route was longer than 26.2, so I just kept on with my pace and didn’t try to figure out what I needed to do. I was too mentally exhausted to do the math. I kept pace. Fueling and hydration – clockwork!
Finally, the campus where the race ended came into view. It was still a mile or so away, but it was close. I kept going. My pace never slowed. Finally....the finish line in sight..... The last 200 yards were on grass, I guess they figured we needed to traverse all surface permutations ;) I crossed the line - official time - 4 hours and 22 seconds. GOAL ACHIEVED!
I had forgotten how hard it is to run a marathon. My memory has now been officially jogged ;) My fueling strategy worked! Energy levels stayed consistent throughout and the rhythm of my intake kept me mentally focused. It broke the long race up into small chunks that were easily achievable. Boston Marathon in April - here I come!
Ann began optimizing her nutrition early this year in preparation for her triathlon race season. The approach was systematic. The big picture focus started with overall daily nutrition to maximize health, well-being and to improve athletic performance and exercise capacity. The details encompassed key nutrients, food selection, portion sizes, meal timing (micro-periodization) and hydration. Ann quickly embraced and applied the principles in perfect form. We progressed into the InsideOut Lab with assessments on both the bike and run. These tests are done targeting race paces/heart rate ranges in order to establish her unique carbohydrate needs for racing. From there, a rough fueling strategy was put into place and Ann began practicing these plans in key training sessions. Shown below is a data segment of Ann's run metabolic assessment. This particular graph shows energy expenditure from fat, carbohydrate and total calories at targeted half and marathon run heart rate paces.
.............................................. Run Assessment Data: ..............................................
The key data used for her race fueling is carbohydrate oxidation. Faster run paces burn higher amounts of carbohydrate. These numbers are her 100% CHO burning for one hour. These are the numbers used to determine her race fueling strategy. A few relevant factors in determining race fueling intake is whether or not she had any history of gastrointestinal distress while racing. With a negative on this point, it meant she could start with a higher amount of carbohydrate intake to begin her fueling practice. This was done during key training sessions were she was mimicking race pace and distance. As an aside.... I also take into account current fueling intakes, as in general, athletes tend to resist change. For that matter, don't we all? :) I find incremental shifts work well. Success builds upon itself. Wins and improvements open up possibilities for more of the same. Ann began experimenting with a multiple transportable carbohydrate sport nutrition product that would support higher intake and she also completed sweat rate tests at varying temperatures to establish hydration needs. All of this was accomplishment throughout the race season with additional specific race focus in the weeks leading up to the marathon. Fine tuning and adjustments were made along the way. On marathon race day, Ann was prepared as her race fueling strategy was successfully practiced in multiple training sessions. Intake and hydration was roughly double her former consumption. Superb results with no energy level drop-offs!
What will Ann's Boston Marathon race fueling strategy be next April? There's always room for improvement and clearly "on-road" a sub 4-hour marathon is in order! Huge congrats Ann!