Training Couch to the Marathon: Your Questions Answered, Round IIII, Krista DuChene

Couch to the Marathon: Your Questions Answered, Round IIII, Krista DuChene

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An odd thing happened to us last week at EachCoach, the running page of the National Post. A celebrated American runner had promised to answer our reader’s questions but, when faced with the deluge, he pulled a DNF and left us in a bind. Enter the Canadian marathon heroes. Rather than see the questions go unanswered, we turned to our country’s greatest runners: Reid Coolsaet, Krista DuChene, Lanni Marchant, Rob Watson and Dylan Wykes. In fine form, and not afraid of hard work, each of the champion’s gave their response, and all this week, we’ll feature their expertise. Yesterday, Reid Coolsaet, Olympian, rock star, and second fastest marathon runner in Canadian history, took the questions. Today, Krista DuChene, dietician, mother of three, iRun columnist, and second fastest female marathoner in Canadian history,  gets down. Krista is pretty amazing—she once ran a half marathon on a broken leg. Here’s what she had to say:

June asks: Do you think Boston will be able to accommodate all qualifying runners in 2015?


Krista responds: Yes, Boston has an excellent reputation and is a high-class event. I do believe they will find a way to accommodate the runners in a fair and equitable way.

Terrie asks: I am planning to run a half marathon on October 12. I have been training. I ran 18 today.  What should I be practicing my long runs at? How should I practice my tempo runs?  I would like to finish the half marathon at 1:50. This will be my 3rd half marathon. But I’ve never finished less than 1:52.

Krista responds: Typically, each week I do intervals (i.e. speed work), a long run that is slower than race pace, and a tempo run that is faster than race pace with a 12-16 week training block.

Dean asks: During a marathon, how much and what do you typically drink and how many gels do you eat?

Krista responds: I mix Eload and Eload “Fly” with water, which I consume in combination with gels during a marathon. The volume of fluids varies, depending on the weather, but the amount of carbohydrates remains the same. Aim for approximately 55-75 g carbohydrate/hr and 400-800 mL fluid/hr. Practise in advance to know what works best for you and your digestive system!

Khavita asks: How does your diet differ from the start of training to a few weeks prior to your big run? 

Krista responds: With about six weeks left to go before a marathon, I really tighten up my already balanced and healthy diet. Less snacking and smaller quantities help get me lean for race day. Of course, I consume more carbohydrates in the week leading up to the event so as to maximize my glycogen stores.

Vanessa asks: What is the beat piece of advice for getting to Boston? How did you tailor your training to get faster and stronger?

Krista responds: Consistency is key to getting faster and stronger for any marathon. Set goals with a coach or mentor and work your way backwards to determine what you must do now to succeed.

Wendy asks: My concern is a solid race nutrition and hydration plan. For my age and weight (130), I am having a hard time understanding the carb loading before a race, and what my plan should be during my race. I was told to try different things during my long runs. I have tried gels, fig newtons, dried fruit, nuun in my water bottles. Nothing has clicked. The last couple of weeks I have been using Hammer Perpetuem. I like the idea of just one item (and water). Is this enough?

Krista responds: While food is perhaps more appealing than gels as a way to consume carbohydrates, gels are more practical. Try various brands and flavours, and rather than gulp one all at once, sip it slowly. Consuming an electrolyte drink is also important during the race. Practice using the drink provided by the race, ahead of time.

Sylvain asks: Energy gels help me when I run long distances. Those with caffeine are particularly effective but may cause gastrointestinal hyperactivity (not a good timing…). How can I reduce this side effect?

Krista responds: Perhaps if the caffeine ones cause GI distress for you, they should be avoided. Otherwise, drink appropriate amounts of fluids prior to and after consuming the gel. And sip rather than gulp the gel.

Paul asks: I’m a runner who’s been running for 22 years.  In 2010 I switched to running barefoot do decrease the severity of chronic injuries.  What do think of barefoot running?

Krista responds: There are mixed reviews and the pendulum has gone both ways from the necessity of a “full support” shoe to “barefoot”. Carefully find what works for you, slowly easing your way into any new change. And of course, consult with your treatment team (e.g. physio, etc.).

Theresa asks: I’ve been running for a year now (I am 45), my biggest challenge is not listening to the voice in my head that tells me I should stop and I can’t do it. I’m running my first 10km this month and would like to work up to a half in the spring. Any advice on how to beat the voice in my head?

Krista responds: Practice in your training runs, to ignore and fight off that voice in your head, particularly at the end when you are hurting and vulnerable. Remember, “What will be your story when you are finished?”. No regrets!

Chantal asks: I am training for the Toronto waterfall  this upcoming October. I am doing a half. I also qualified for the boston marathon of 2015 and will know soon enough if I will be attending. Meanwhile I am trying to get myself a better runner and faster. I do speed work and hills. Any suggestion to pass from 3:37 to 3:30 for a full marathon? Nutrition what should I add. I eat very healthy fruits, vegetables and lean meat?

 Should I run the Boston to compete or have fun with the amount of runner attending?

Any suggestion would be greatly appreciate.


Krista responds: Weekly speed work (intervals), tempo, and long runs are part of my training plan. Consistency in a healthy diet and improved training by gradually increasing mileage with faster workouts, will allow you to succeed over time. As for Boston, have fun being the best you can be!

Sandra asks: I’m an older female runner (50+), but I just started running seriously in the last 2.5 years.  So the good thing is I think I still have young legs. LOL  But, the problem is that I’m not sure what I am really capable of running.  In Boston, I ran a 3:55 marathon.  I would like to run faster and have been reading the literature on how to improve my times. However, I find the philosophy is all over the place. It is clear, you have to run faster to get faster, but I’m wondering what type of speed work you would recommend in my case at my age? Is it best to concentrate on longer tempos and/or Marathon Pace runs, or 800 meter repeats, or longer repeats or should I be doing all of this?   I am currently trying to peak at approx 130 kms per week and am training for a Dec Marathon.  

Krista responds: I hate to do this but it’s the same advice as the earlier question—in a nutshell: typically, each week I do intervals (i.e. speed work), a long run that is slower than race pace, and a tempo run that is faster than race pace with a 12-16 week training block.

Akii asks: This past week I’ve been ill and unable to run, missing a planned 15k race last Saturday and leaving me very frustrated.  How do you bounce back from a setback that interrupts your training?  Do you go right back on schedule in terms of distance, intensity, etc., or do you ease back into it with some shorter, slower runs?

Krista responds: Sometimes we get sick/injured because we are over-training.  Look at the time off as a chance to rest and recover. Do not attempt to make up for the lost training. Ease your way back into it and you will soon find that you didn’t lose any or much fitness.

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