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New Hampshire Marathon Race Strategy

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, September 17, 2013
in Road Races

In just a few short weeks I will be running in the New Hampshire Marathon. My last 20 mile training run is behind me and I have started my 3 week taper. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I decided to enter this race simply because Newfound Lake has been a frequent vacation spot for me over the past 10 years and I thought it would be cool to actually race on roads that I have completed countless training miles. It is really a beautiful course at a great time of the year.

I thought it would make sense for me to share my marathon strategy for this race since I know the course so well. This is a very challenging course. If you were looking for a PR course this is not it. There are several demanding hills on this course that will test your legs both going uphill and downhill.

The strategy I am using to tackle this course is not for everyone. If you are a strong marathon runner or someone that is looking to run a specific time then my strategy is not for you. If your goal is to finish the race intact with hopefully some zip in your legs for the last 10k then consider my strategy.

My goal is to finish the race with enough energy left to take advantage of the last flat/downhill 10k. What is my current pace? I completed my last training run on the course last Saturday and ran 20.5 miles at 8:32 pace. I parked at the school where the race starts and ran the entire course. I only skipped the out and back portion of the course that heads out to Sculptured Rock. If you are looking to run a solid race consider my may work for you.

Start to 8.5 miles

The race starts on Route 3A right in front of the Newfound Memorial Middle School. This first section of the course is completely on route 3A and has no turns. That is the good news. The bad news is that most of this section is uphill. The key to this first section of the course is pacing. Having a tough uphill soon after the start is very dangerous to an inexperienced or nervous runner. You will be full strength and the temptation will be to power up the first set of hills. not make this mistake. Start this race very slowly and gradually pull yourself up the first couple of miles.

Soon after you pass West Shore Road (check out course video and map here) you will have a short but nice downhill and then you will be faced with a short but tough uphill. This is the first hill I suggest you walk. Yes,  I said walk at the 2 mile mark. At this point you probably think I am crazy and that you are in better shape than me. All I can tell you is that I left my watch running for all of my walking breaks and averaged 8:32 last weekend. The goal is to walk when you feel your pace slipping and your heart rate accelerating. It just does not make sense to push your body over the "red line" at the 2 mile mark. If you walk 20-30 steps on the steepest part of the hill you can stay in control and not burn out your legs.

I use this walking strategy on the first hill after West Shore Road and the last big hill right before the left turn on North Shore Road. If I am having a bad day I may walk a few steps on a couple of other hills on Route 3A as well. This whole first 8.5 mile section is either uphill or downhill. There are no flat sections. This strategy also works for me because as soon as I start running again I return to my steady pace. I also take advantage of the downhills on this section by lengthening my stride and increasing my speed. I do not lean back and slow my pace.

North Shore Road to the Village Store (Miles 8.5-11)

This next section is short and is all on one road. No turns on this section. As soon as you take the left on North Shore Road the first feeling you will have is relief that you are finally off route 3A. Unfortunately you will not have a lot of time to think as you will immediately be faced with a screaming downhill. I stay in control but I do take advantage of this downhill to make up some time. If you are not a confident downhill runner this part of the course will not be enjoyable for you. After flying down the hill there are a couple of tough but very short rollers followed by a tough climb to the top of Devil's Hill. This is the next hill on the course that I walk. I make it about half way up and then walk the rest of the way. At the top of the hill you will have no time to rest as you will be faced with the toughest downhill on the course. This is an extremely steep downhill. I run down this hill but some of my friends walk down it to save their legs and avoid injury. Again, if you are not confident it doesn't hurt to walk the steepest part of the downhill to save your legs. After you get past this downhill there is another short but tough uphill as you approach the Village Store and then the road flattens out.

Out and Back to Sculptured Rock (miles 11-17)

This next section is more rolling hills but does have a few flat sections. Since this part of the course is still early in the race you need to ensure you do not increase your speed too dramatically on the flats. There are also several tough uphills in this section. After the turnaround you will head back towards the Village Store so you will know what is ahead of you on the return. There is another hill I walk on the return trip to the store. Again the key is to listen to your body. If you feel that walking would be similar to the pace you are "running" then switch to a walk and save your legs. Way too early to exhaust your energy stores at this point. The key to surviving this section of the course is to maintain an even pace.

West Shore Road to Route 3A (miles 17-24)

This part of the course starts with a couple of tough uphills. I use my walk strategy on a couple of early climbs on this part of the course. There are a few tough uphills from miles 17-19 and then you hopefully will be able to take advantage of the flattest part of this course. After you crest the hill shortly after Berea, you will have a nice downhill and then the course is flat or slightly rolling for the remainder of this section. This past Saturday I ran 7:58-8:08 pace for miles 19-24. The only exception is one tough but short uphill at the ice cream stand before taking a left to stay on West Shore Road. I actually walked about 20 steps on that hill and used that opportunity to take in nutrition (Snickers Bar) and Gatorade. (See my nutrition plan here)

This section has the most beautiful views on the course as well with the iconic Newfound Lake view right at mile 20.


At the very end of West Shore Road just before the right turn on to Route 3A and the final section of the course there is another short but very tough uphill at the church. I walk this uphill and take on some final nutrition before my push to the finish line.

Route 3A to the Finish Line (miles 24-Finish)

This final section is the easiest section of the course. That is if you think the last couple of miles of any marathon are easy. Remember that tough uphill that started the race?  Well, here is some payback. You now get to run down that hill to finish the race. The last section of this course is mostly downhill all the way to the finish. If my strategy works on race day I hope to still be running a solid pace to close out the race.

Final Thoughts

With a tough and technical course like the New Hampshire Marathon proper pacing and strategy are key to a great performance. This course has some tough uphills but if handled properly you should still be able to take advantage of the downhill sections and the last 10k. Don't let your pride get in the way and refuse to walk when your body is screaming at you early in the race. If you are not fit enough to run this entire course then walk the tough parts and run solid on the easy parts. It is a simple strategy that I hope will result in another 8:30 pace performance in 3 weeks!

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Long Run Nutrition: What Should I Use?

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, August 21, 2013
in Training

 If you run longer than 1 hour for any of your weekly workouts, you have probably considered what nutrition may be necessary to improve your performance or to complete the distance more comfortably. Fueling for performance during exercise is a huge industry. If you are looking to fuel your body on your next long run the choices are endless. How do you decide what is best for you? What does your body need to perform?

First of all let me explain my credentials. I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. What I have to offer is personal experience and a lot of trial and error. I have completed 6 marathons, 2 half Ironman races, 2 Ironman aqua bikes, and a full Ironman. I have also completed 40 half marathons. During these events I have made every mistake in the book. These mistakes and a lot of experimentation during training have allowed me to "figure out" what seems to work for me on long workouts.

At what race distance do you need to take in nutrition? The reason why there are so many products and different opinions is because everyone is different. We all have different genetic make-up, fitness levels, weight, backgrounds, etc. All of these factors and many more determine what you need to improve performance or just to finish an event.

One of the funniest things I have seen is a number of years ago Manny Ramirez, who was playing for the Red Sox at the time, hits a home run and after running the bases grabs a medium Gatorade and chugs it down. Now, even Gatorade would have to admit you don't need their product after running the bases. So when do you need it? I typically use the rule that if I am going longer than 75 minutes then I probably need some nutrition.  If I am running for 2-3 hours or longer then I need to plan to intake food/drink every 45-60 minutes to make sure I am fueled and hydrated throughout the run.

Ok, I know I need nutrition. What should I eat/drink on my run? There are many factors involved with this answer but I will try to cut through the mystery. Here are the most important factors for me:

1) How does it taste?

If you are fueling during a marathon you are already in enough pain. Don't make it worse by eating/drinking something that tastes like s*%t. The number one thing for me is I have to like the taste. This is especially important in the later portions of the race when you need fuel just to finish the event. The last thing you need is a bad taste in your mouth.


2) How does your body react?

This requires experimentation. With so many products and flavors out there you have to know if eating/drinking something will result in an upset stomach or bathroom issues. It is essential that you test your nutrition plan in training before race day. One of the biggest "rookie" mistakes is grabbing something new from a water stop during the race and having a negative reaction.

3) Easy to use?

The choices are endless. GU, gels, shots, bars, etc. It is essential that you are comfortable with the product. Some factors here include things such as:

a) Is it hard to chew?  Is it possible you will have to stop running in order to eat? Especially when you are exhausted towards the end of the event. Breathing and chewing can be labor intensive when you are struggling.

b) How do you open it? Can you open it while running or will you have to stop? Will it melt after a few hours making it impossible to open?

c) How will you carry your nutrition? Some are easy to carry and others are more difficult. Will all of the items fit in your fuel belt?

4) Does it work?

Something could get high marks on all of the above points and fail on the most important. It has to work! If you are fueling properly you are consuming 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. There are many other ingredients that could improve performance including sugar, caffeine, electrolytes, sodium etc. Again experimentation is key. Once you know something works in training you can enter your big event with confidence.

So you want details....Here is my nutrition plan for my upcoming marathon in October. I use these items for all of my long runs so I know how my body will react.

Breakfast: cup of coffee, bagel with peanut butter, and one Ensure. I eat the coffee and bagel as soon as I get up and then drink the Ensure about an hour before the event. This combination gives me the carbohydrates and enough calories to give me some power. The caffeine jump starts my system.

During the race: Starting at about the 45-60 minute mark I will eat one mini Snickers bar (yes..I said Snickers) and then eat one every 45 minutes until the end of the race. Throughout the race I also drink Gatorade making sure I drink early and often to get calories and to maintain hydration. Eating a Snickers bar is easy to do and has a great taste. I also get sugar and caffeine in addition to carbohydrates.

I also plan on using my secret weapon at the New Hampshire Marathon. Around mile 17 I will have a friend hand me an ice cold Mountain Dew. This is a totally different taste than Gatorade and is filled with sugar and caffeine. Exactly what my body needs to power through the last section of the race. I first started experimenting with soda on long bike rides during my Ironman training. I ate so much junk food during the Ironman my training partner said I was utilizing the "teenage diet" nutrition plan. But guess what? It don't judge me. Watch the Tour de France. You will constantly see the riders being handed cans of Coke. It works.


After the race:  Cold beer! Celebrate! You did it!

The bottom line is that everyone needs some type of nutrition for long distance events and you need to experiment to determine what works for your body. Whether you use the latest scientifically tested formula or you use Gatorade, Mountain Dew, and Snicker's Bars if you get to the finish line and meet your goals then one choice is not better than another. I don't use products because they are cool or the latest trend. I use what works and so should you. Start experimenting and find that perfect combination that will keep you energized and allow you to cross the finish line.    



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