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The Wall – All the training won’t prevent it, only I can break through it. November 7, 2006

Posted by Woody in Uncategorized.
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There are plenty of people out there discussing “The Wall”. The Wall, is the plain and simply truth that most people’s bodies are not capable of storing enough fuel to go for as long a time as necessary to complete the marathon distance.  Most associate the wall with the point of glycogen (carbohydrate) depletion. The result is inadequate blood sugar in the brain and active muscles. The feeling has been described as total fatigue, and exhaustion. It then comes down to the body’s production of ATP, when the carbs are gone it has to use fat to produce ATP. Now, I have plenty of fat for it to use to produce ATP, the problem is that using fat ATP is only produced at half the rate that it is with carbs. So… that production will cause, for most people, the pace to slow to a walk and for some that walk would be a struggle.

So how do I prepare for this experience psychologically and physically? Well, physically, my body will not really be ready for 26.2 miles. I have to accept that. Sure I just said that I ran sixteen and didn’t feel that bad.  In fact, I run a comfortable pace, and that last 1/4 mile, I pick it up, I run proud and “cook” that last bit. I pretend that the finish line of my ‘solo runs’ is the marathon finish line. I charge across, head high! That instills fear in me. So far, I do concentrate on running, breathing, limited self-talk and that last bit of visualization.  I have used a combination of associative and dissociative mental techniques. But, on the long runs I only use these in a limited sense.  Maybe I am using these techniques more then I realize. But I have a concern about hitting that wall. Am I going to remember these tools to knock it down? Part of me feels like I haven’t hit exhaustion since my twelve mile run. Maybe it’s cause I am using these techniques more then I realize I am. Here’s where the psychologist can jump in with comments about how this is all working cause I don’t feel like I am using these techniques enough but yet I finish a sixteen mile run and feel good about it.

Physically I have been great about training. I haven’t missed a day. I have completed all the miles that the training requires and some. It has been said time and time again that if you can complete eighteen miles you can complete 26.2. They say that on marathon day there is a camaraderie with thousands of people who I won’t know, who share my same goal.

There are four factors that determine whether or not I will hit the wall.  The level of glycogen at the start of the marathon, amount of carbs I  consume during the run, level of conditioning and pace I run.  Increasing the amount of carbs the week of the run while decreasing the amount of carbs used that week will greatly increase the amount available the day of the run.  I have been training with a fuel belt that consist of Gatorade and carb boom (carb gel packs).  It is my hopes that using much Gatorade, and carb replacement gels will greatly assist in wall avoidance.

There is an old marathon saying that the last six miles of a marathon is the last half of a marathon.  I know I have to accept that I will hit the wall, and that I need to make sure it doesn’t stop me before my body can switch from burning carbs to burning fat.

I read some real heart warming stories this week about  hitting the wall, pushing through it and what worked for some people.  I can’t say I won’t hit the wall. I can say that I plan to do all that I can to prepare for and conqure it.  Not finishing this marathon is NOT an option.

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