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Reflections on Big Sur Marathon & Training

May 9, 2022 | Running, Running Advice

It’s been 10 days since I ran the Big Sur Marathon and my first marathon since 2019. During the race I started to reflect on what had gone well in training for marathon number 14, plus things I’d change in terms of both training and preparation for the Chicago Marathon in October.

Reflections on Big Sur Marathon & Training

Reflections on Big Sur Marathon & Training


I listened to a podcast yesterday talking about consistency (which I have a whole post on planned after some thought provoking comments on the pod), but one of the suggestions was to look back at your training from your last marathon cycle and seeing what your ‘graph’ looks like. Are the number of runs and rough mileage building (with a few cut back weeks) or are there big peaks and troughs?

My long runs were very consistent, thanks in part to a lot of half marathons, but my speed workouts and overall weekly mileage was less consistent throughout the 16 weeks than I would like.

Luckily, my friend Liz is doing the London Marathon the week before Chicago and so I’m hoping she’ll help keep me accountable when it comes to Run Club track sessions to get that speed work in. I’ve also reflected on what ‘life stuff’ hindered training before, and trying to anticipate barriers to training over the next 5+ months and limit the impact on my important training days. I text my coach Ash to ask if I could do my hard workouts on Weds and Friday (so that I can go to my run club’s track sessions whenever I can), and to ideally have rest days/cross-training or shorter recovery runs on the days I’m working at the hospital. All about setting myself up for success with consistency going forward.

Strength Training

I did zero strength training in the 4 weeks leading up to race day due to a crazy work and travel schedule (unless you could skiing as leg work!) I could feel that in my legs and abs in the later stages of the hilly race. This is something I was really consistent with during lockdown when I had 2 x 30 min PT sessions via Zoom or in person each week – however since I stopped those and started running more, well the strength is often neglected.

This week, I went back to the group gym session I have gone on/off to since Feb and had a tough workout on Wednesday. I hurt for days afterwards…and realised that it probably isn’t the right kind of strength work to be doing right now. My whole body ached, and I struggled to find the energy to run the next day. Whilst I love the group functional training sessions, I’m not sure that 3 classes per week is the ideal to pair with marathon training and my BQ goal! Ideally I’d still like to go once per week but I’ll see how it works and what I do to supplement the strength.


Since swapping over the Garmin Fenix 7S I’ve been wearing my watch 24/7, which has meant I have pretty good sleep data from this marathon training cycle. Let’s just say, no wonder I felt exhausted a lot of the time. After analysing a couple of weeks of data, I can see how horrible my sleep was, averaging around 5-6 hours a night consistently, sometimes less.

This past two weeks of downtime post-marathon, I’ve tried to let myself sleep a lot more and have noticed that a lot of my REM sleep comes in the morning – much of which I was missing out on with 5am alarms to run/workout before work, whilst my Deep sleep is happening at the start of the night (not enough of it!). Now that I’ve cut my hours, there isn’t the same requirement to squeeze my run in so early 4 or 5 days a week and so I’m going to re-jig my workout schedule as mentioned above to increase my overall sleep and aim for more deep sleep! Below is my data from a couple of days – including a work day and 2 weekend days where Tom was on earlies hence the ‘awake’ at 4am!


I’m pretty happy with my on-course nutrition and hydration. I carried my own water pack with 2L and drank most of it, and had 5 Huma chia gels, roughly every 4 miles. In previous races nausea has set in later in the race, whilst that never happened I did feel hungry very early on in the race. I was genuinely looking forward to my gels each time and took some of them slightly early. Needless to say, my pre-race nutrition could use a lot of work.

I tried to carb load for the first time, and opted for high carb meals, snacks and drinks however due to timings during the day and my lack of preparation, I ended up having brunch and dinner plus snacks the two days before race day which made it tricky to hit my estimated carb requirement for proper carb loading. I ate a lot of Rice Krispie marshmallow squares from Starbucks – an easy 20g carbs!

Additionally my travelling pre-race breakfast needs work, as does my nutrition and hydration when there’s a long wait on race morning!

Reflections on Big Sur Marathon & Training

Race Kit

I loved the Sweaty Betty cycling shorts I wore on the day – zero chafing, no riding up and with pockets. Very likely these will be my Chicago shorts too (I just took advantage of the 25% off at Sweaty Betty to stock up on another pair). Highly recommend if you like a cycling style short or are looking for something that will stop that inner thigh rub!

Shoes wise I wore the Hoka Carbon X3 (read full review here) which I loved on race day, I had no blister issues – except for on my left little toe from the camber of the roads and the pressure on the side of my foot. For Chicago I’m going for Super shoes – undecided which brand/model yet but I’ll be testing them out over the next few months. I will be using the Hoka Carbon X3 on long road runs in training though!

Hydration pack was from Nathan Sports they are my favourite for on-the-go hydration with either their backpacks or handhelds. They exact pack I wore isn’t in stock but this option is this season’s version! Sadly I wont be able to use this during the Chicago marathon as their rules limit backpacks/hydration packs but I do plan to bring a handheld with me for the first few miles at least probably with a carb/electrolyte mix.

Do you take the time to reflect after a big training block? And have you ever tracked your sleep data? I’m so intrigued to learn more and track my sleep this cycle!