Lessons From The Zeitgeist Half Marathon

Back on November 5, 2016 I completed my 3rd Zeitgeist half marathon, a challenging race that climbs nearly 1,200 feet over two accents. I consider this my yearly test of endurance since it is a good distance with a substantial climb.

This year, the Big Z provided me with a new challenge. I decided to attempt the race without doing any long run training. I wanted to see if just doing my day to day CrossFit training would prepare me for 13.1 mile course.

Ultimately it did. I actually shaved off 7 minutes from my previous Zeitgeist half marathon time. So the immediate results of the performance felt incredible as I crossed the finish line.

But it completely wrecked me for the rest of the day. And all day Sunday as well.

Here is what i think happened.

A map of the Zeitgeist half marathon

It’s a diet thing

Leading up to Zeitgeist, my diet was very balanced. It was an equal balance of carbs, fat and protein.

For a steady regimen of CrossFit, this diet has been working just fine. Strength is increasing, good marks on intensity, etc.

However, training is not just for the muscles and energy systems. You have to train your gut, too. This was something I learned years ago when I was training for a half Ironman. An employee at TriTown was helping me find a good calorie source to take during long workouts. He suggested that you should always test the new supplement in action several times before the actual race. You never know how your body is going to respond after taking in just once, twice or even three times.

The worst thing that can happen is your body rejects what you are putting in to it during the race. I believe I proved him right.

While the pre-race calories I ate were balanced, my in-race calories were all carbs. Sugars. And lots of them.

I had used the Gatorade G-series stuff in the past with no problems. But I also used to eat a lot more carbs and sugar every day. And I hadn’t touched the stuff since last year.

Here’s what I took in:

  • Pre-race “Sports Fuel Drink” – 25g carbs (23g sugar)
  • In-race “Energy Chews” about 1 per mile – 24g carbs (16g sugar)
    • 14 total in 2 hours for 336g carbs (224g sugar)
  • In-race 20 ounce original Gatorade drink – 38g carbs (35g sugar)

This came out to be 399g carbs, 1,596 calories and 282g sugar.

Considering that on average I’m consuming around 100g of sugar and 200g of carbs per day, I can easily see why this was a bomb sitting in my stomach.

It’s a training thing

You still need to train for what you are doing. There is no substitute for that.

You can’t expect to perform your best at something and wake up the next day feeling great if it’s the first time you’ve done it. Not if it’s hard, anyway.

I guess that was the point, though. I wanted to show that doing CrossFit alone for a year could improve my Zeitgeist half marathon time. But this was probably a case of setting the wrong goal.

In the big picture, who gives a crap if you can improve one thing one time if it ruins you. The next day, my three kids sure didn’t care that I shaved off 7 minutes. They just wanted to know why Daddy could barely get them to the park that afternoon.

It’s a learning thing

So…was it worth it? Of course. But mostly because I’m going to learn from these mistakes.

The aftermath will be a great reminder that preparation is still the key to success.

I fully intend to try a challenging half marathon again. I have to admin, for a week after this Zeitgeist half marathon I swore I was done with races.

But I have to know if I can do better. There are still a few goals out there. I need to see if I can break the 2 hour mark (I was 43 seconds short this year). And I need to see if I can do it and still function the next day.

On to the next: Race to Robie Creek

Looking forward, Robie Creek is in April and it is a very similar half marathon, even a little more challenging. If I’m in town that weekend, it would be a great test.

But this time I’ll do things a little different. I’ll still be CrossFitting but I will definitely be adding some longer aerobic work. And with that work I’ll add some fuel testing and training as well.

Train the gut and train the body. Thanks for the lesson Big Z!