Category Archives: Training

On Marathon Training//Surprises

Let’s wrap up this little series, shall we? In May, I ran my first marathon. It’s taken some time for me to process the accomplishment. It’s kind of like any other big milestone – graduation, marriage, etc in that (at least for me) it takes some distance to really gain perspective to figure out what it really meant. You can check out my other two posts about training here and here.

marathon-surprises

 

Surprises.

  1. It gets easier, but is still a challenge. What I mean is, making running a habit, and sticking to your training plan becomes easy. It’s just what you do. If you follow a typical 16-18 week training plan, your longest run before the race will be around 20 miles. Those last 6 miles on race day, even with the crowds and the support and the pace groups were absolutely killer for me. So even though fitting in running became easy, the race itself was still a challenge.
  2. Choosing a race close to home has both pros and cons. I signed up for the Vermont City Marathon thinking it would be much easier to run a course I could practice on. Although it was definitely mostly nice to know where I was going next and what sections of the course were tricky, I also knew which sections I couldn’t stand and dreaded (which, unluckily for me, was the part at the end that I could have really used some happy thoughts). I think that next time I might choose a race in a place I’ve never been…
  3. Your time matters wayyyy more to you than it does to anyone else. I was slightly disappointed with my final time, but anytime I mentioned this to someone, they looked at me like I had five eyeballs. The accomplishment of finishing a marathon, especially your first one, totally outweighs the amount of time it takes you to complete it.
  4. Rituals/habits are totally okay! It’s not OCD or anal retentive to do the same things over and over prior to raceday. I ate the same food before every long run, took the same amount of water, wore (pretty much) the same clothes. On race day, when your butterflies feel as big as birds and your emotions are running high, it’s really nice to not have to think about what you’ll wear, what to eat, how much to drink, etc. Knowing that everything was the same really helped me get into the zone and quieted the doubting voice in my head.
  5. You are capable of much more than you think you are. Every long run was a bit scary… but pushing through my doubts and fears and learning to quiet the negative voice in my head made me realize that I can do anything. Fear, although an awesome evolutionary tool, should not dictate all of our decisions. Overcoming my fears and anxieties about running has paved the way to being braver in “real life” (like starting this blog!).

 

 

*Photo from the marathon, taken by my husband, Casey. I was surprised to see how happy I looked!

#Exerstreak2013

hungermtn

Last weekend, Casey and I went for a hike. It was a perfect fall day – crisp air, some leaves left on the trees, sun shining, blue sky. The trail was uncrowded and I was so excited to cross off a fun item on our fall list. The trail included waterfalls, breathtaking views, and a rocky climb to the top. By all accounts, it should have been the best. day. ever.

But.

I was not feeling it. In fact, I came pretty close to ruining it and just giving up and heading back to the car. I don’t know exactly what the problem was, but I was having a hard time. Like gasping for air, lemme sit down and rest a minute, give me a gulp of water struggling. Honestly, it was so far from the fit, marathoner, I love exercise! persona that I had come to love and I felt… guilty. Angry. Embarrassed.

I was pretty glad that it was just Casey and I. I think I may have had a mental breakdown if there were other people with us who witnessed me in this state. I did my best to suck it up and just keep on walking… but I could feel his slight annoyance. I don’t blame him either. I am like the least patient person in the world, so being slow and feeling like the weakest link was killing me.

Slow and steady though. With Casey’s encouragement I made it to the top. Things felt much better up there, honestly. It reminded me of marathon training, and how there is a point in every run that you want to quit… but if you do, you never quite find out what you’re capable of. And the view from the top/finishing what you start is the best part!

So I am super thankful that I have a patient husband, and am kicking myself into gear. The post-marathon slump/blues is a thing! I have had minimal interest in running since May (when I’ve exercised lately it’s been more of “obligation/I SHOULD do this” kind of thing versus an “I WANT to do this” kind of thing) but now, I am ready to roll. I hated feeling out of shape last weekend.

Here’s my plan. Last year, prior to kicking off my actual marathon training, I participated in the Runner’s World Holiday Run Streak – running at least a mile every day from Thanksgiving until New Years. I did pretty good – I think I only missed a handful of days. This year, I am kicking it up a notch. Starting on Halloween, I will run at least a mile a day until New Year’s Day (Oct 31 – Jan 1), and will track my runs on Instagram using #exerstreak2013. I would love company – feel free to join in! I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to head into the dessert holiday season with a few extra runs under her belt (any excuse to grab an extra cookie, amiright?!!).

Lace up! Let’s hit the road.

 

 

*Photo from the summit of Hunger Mountain, looking Southeast (ish)

On Marathon Training//Merits

This past May, I ran my first marathon…and it was well, overwhelming. It’s taken me awhile to fully process it, and I am finally getting around to posting my thoughts about the entire experience. I’ve decided to break it all up into three sections; here is the second (read the first, Challenges, here).

marathon-1

Merits

Well, there must good parts to training for and running a marathon, right? Otherwise why would so many people attempt it? I’m not quite sure what I hoped would come from the entire experience, but here are some things that I learned.

  1. Scheduled Exercise is amazing.
    If you pick up any women’s health magazine, it will surely be spouting the benefits of regularly scheduled exercise. I can attest that having a plan and sticking to it made a huge difference—and not just in my level of fitness. Despite being tired or sore or busy, knowing that I had to run a certain number of times per week or on a certain afternoon was a game-changer for me. Although I have always enjoyed exercise (previously through team sports or group exercise classes.. it has taken me awhile to truly love running), and in spite of the knowledge that motion changes emotion (ie after a terrible day or stressful week or too much ice cream, a good workout can completely alter your mindset), I struggled with my level of dedication. It is a weakness of mine to be overcome by my list of things to do and stressed out/burned out after a tough day or week and it was easy to cut exercise from the list first. However, knowing that I most likely wouldn’t achieve my goal if I didn’t run enough helped to ensure that training was of the utmost priority. Sticking to the plan definitely helped me finish (and in a reasonable time, even if it wasn’t quite as good as I was hoping for) and did wonders for my mood and mind (more on that later).
  2. Goal Setting
    Sticking to the plan was much easier once I made several goals of differing levels of attainability. My goals were (from simplest to most difficult): 1. Finish the marathon; 2. Finish under 4:15 (or as close to the four hour mark as possible); 3. Qualify for Boston (BQ – for my age group that meant finishing in under 3:35, or about an 8min/mile pace). I knew that if I stuck to the plan I would definitely be able to finish. My final time was 4:30:05, which was just shy of my second goal, but still respectable for a first-timer. The final goal was definitely a stretch, but is also something to strive for in future races.
  3. Mental Sharpness
    Besides the physical benefits of being in good cardiovascular shape, I felt that all of my time running was really good for my head. I solved many problems (both work and personal) while I was out pounding pavement. In fact, it was during several runs that I cooked up the plan (and perhaps the courage!) to start blogging. Running for me definitely helps lower my stress levels, and clear the clutter out of my head. There is something about the repetitive nature of running that lends itself to thinking without thinking. Maybe that doesn’t make sense, but I am definitely not the only one or the first one to notice; many articles have been written about the boons of simple repetitive tasks to aid in problem solving or an overactive mind. It’s something that is easy to forget when you’re in the thick of things, and something that I constantly need to remind myself of. Running/exercise changes your perspective, even if it’s only a quick mile or two or a half an hour of your day.
  4. Dedication = Success
    It seems to me, that if you are dedicated and completely focused on achieving a goal (any goal!) and have the correct tools in your arsenal, you can most definitely succeed. Similarly, I think that passion matters much more than talent. I am not built to be a long-distance runner, and I (still) don’t count myself as an expert on the subject. However, I put in the work and the time and was able to make it happen. No, I wasn’t as fast as I wished to be, but I did finish! If you want something to happen, make it happen! Make a plan, stick to it (well, to a certain extent anyways. It’s not likely you’ll figure out the most perfect plan on the first try…but you know what I mean), and remain focused on the outcome you are hoping for. I feel like I surprised myself by what I accomplished and wonder what else I can do that I don’t think that I can… we are our own worst enemies in that we know (and therefore can exploit) our own weaknesses better than anyone. Finishing the race helped to quiet that little voice in the back of my head who tells me that I “can’t.”

I feel like there are so many more things that I want to say about training, but can’t find the words for… so many more benefits of running so far and training so long.

It’s the feeling that you get after a tough run, the run where you so badly want to stop, but struggle through and keep going, and you finish it and you are so tired (and sometimes nauseous) when you get back but then you force yourself to eat something and rehydrate and then you feel like you can do anything because you just ran “x” miles and for “x” hours and wow, how many people spend their weekend doing that, and oh man, the race is coming up, and you’re going to kill it, except it’s so much more than you have ever done, much farther than you ran today and can you even do it… yes, you’re working your butt off and putting everything you have towards it and you are going to crush it!

Have you ever felt like that before? Like you are simultaneously exhausted but soaring, proud but apprehensive of the next challenge.. so many contradicting feelings but ultimately confident in your efforts and your plan? Like you have no choice but to keep going and to finish what you started. Unsettled, but good, ready for the next step. That’s how I felt. More to come.

 

 

*Photo from around the third mile in the VT City Marathon, taken by my husband, Casey. 

On Marathon Training//Challenges

What a beast. Marathon training was so much more than I ever imagined. I mean that in the best way possible. It took more, it gave more, it surprised me more. It’s taken me awhile to process it all, actually. My race was in late May and I am just now feeling like I am recovered and can dissect it. I’m not sure if it makes much sense, but it’s kind of like any other big life event that you plan for—there is a ton of build up and preparation and thought, and then all of a sudden, the day is here, it’s happening, and before you know it, it’s over. Just like that. Although it’s taken me some time to kind of remove myself from all of that and really see it for what it was, I wanted to share my thoughts on training for and running a full marathon. I’ve broken down my top takeaways into three categories—here is the first.

adamant 20 miler - finish

 

Challenges.

The obvious first, shall we? Everyone knows that training for and running a marathon isn’t easy. Even though I enjoy running (gasp!) and have run a handful of half marathons, I never really identified myself as a runner (just want to be clear that anyone can do this. I still do not really feel like a “real” runner, whatever that is). However, the desire to run a full marathon has always sort of lingered under the surface, and this year, before I turned 25, I decided to go for it. I was as prepared as I could have possibly been for the mental struggle—it’s hard enough to wrap your head around how far 20+ miles actually is, let alone run it. I knew that part was going to be difficult and took a couple of steps to alleviate/distract myself from the distance.

  1. I saved my headphones/music for my weekly long runs only.
  2. I constantly mixed up my routes to keep things fresh.
  3. I ran a 20 mile race with some friends a couple of weeks before the actual marathon, which really helped me solidify my race day plan and eating habits.

Honestly I expected much more physical anguish during training than there was. Sure, I was tired, like, my whole body was absolutely exhausted, but I wasn’t super sore, which was a huge relief. I think there may have been a few hilly long runs that did my legs in a bit, but for the most part, with post-run stretching and intermittent (not consistent at all) yoga sessions, my body was okay. Post-marathon, however, I was absolutely beat. My legs were like stiff dead weights for days. I’m not sure why or how those extra 6 miles destroyed me, but they totally did. I think next time (oh man, I think there’s going to be a next time!) I will spend some more time post-race with the foam roller.

But despite the mental and physical fatigue, my biggest challenge throughout my training was eating. Eating while running, eating enough food, eating the right foods that wouldn’t be rejected mid-run. I have a feeling that this is one of those areas where everyone is extremely different, but here is my basic eating strategy while training.

  1. Track calories to ensure I was getting enough (I used an app called “LoseIt”). At the beginning, I really struggled with this—I was super fatigued during all of my runs (even the short ones) and couldn’t figure out why. Turns out, even though I wasn’t particularly hungry, I wasn’t getting nearly enough calories for the amount I was burning. I bumped up my intake of calorie rich foods like avocados and drank a protein smoothie every morning for breakfast and a protein shake after each long run.
  2. Consistency. I ate a lot of the same things over and over again because I knew that they worked. Protein smoothies for breakfast (Stronger Faster Healthier Vanilla Protein, kale, banana, almond milk and a handful of frozen blueberries), sandwiches and cut raw veggies for lunch, simple dinners. On my long run day I always ate peanut butter banana pancakes and drank half a cup of coffee. It helped so much to know that my body was properly fueled and prevented any stomach issues from surprising me mid-run. Post-run I would mix up a protein shake (My favorite was Zico Chocolate Coconut Water mixed with Stronger Faster Healthier Chocolate Recovery protein).
  3. Mid-run fuel. This took me a looong time to figure out, but after experimenting with many things—peanut butter packets (too sticky), trail mix (too much chewing), Gu (gross.. I could never choke that goopy stuff down)—I finally figured out a strategy that worked. Every 2 miles I would drink a bit of water (not too much! Just a sip) and every 4 miles I would eat half a Clif Shot Blok. A whole block was too sticky/chewy for me to handle, but a half was manageable and plenty to keep me going. Towards the end of the race I think I may have eaten more often, but I’m not sure if I actually needed the energy or just the distraction of chewing/swallowing.

Lastly, marathon training takes up a lot of your free time. Knowing this going into it and being mentally prepared to spend most of my “me” time outside of work pounding pavement definitely helped me to be successful. It was something that had to be scheduled… I spent the better part of most Sundays preparing for a run, running, and recovering from a long run. Having a support group makes a huge difference—my husband would meet me halfway through my long runs with water, snacks and extra socks, some coworkers joined me on my shorter runs, and a group of friends cheered me on during the race.

In spite of all of this, finishing was totally worth it. More on the happy parts of training to come.

 

 

*Photo from the finish line at the Adamant 20 miler in April, taken by my husband, Casey.