Race Day Gamble

First off, congratulations to everyone who ran the Marine Corps Marathon this weekend. You guys know how I love the Marines and this race, so OORAH! to all my fellow runners!

Big fan.

Big fan.

This weekend is the New York City Marathon. For so many runners, it’s a bucket list race. And it’s great, it really is. Running all 5 boroughs is something I wish for every New Yorker to experience once. It’s electrifying.

Of the 40,000 runners toe the line this Sunday, most would have trained for this day for several months, logged hundreds of miles, and perfected everything from fluid to chafe prevention.

You can do everything perfectly…

…and it still might not be your day.

I might use this meme too much, but it's just so perfect.

I might use this meme too much, but it’s just so perfect.

There are too many reasons to list as to why you might bomb out your race. The bottom line is that it’s ok.

It’s ok to be mad. It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to be disappointed. It’s ok to not want to smile when people say, “Smile! You’re a marathoner!” It’s ok to want to kick those people in the shins. (It is not ok to actually kick people, didn’t your mother teach you anything?)

It’s ok. It sucks. I’m sorry that it wasn’t your day.

You can try to figure out what went awry. You can re-play the race in your head to see if there’s something you need to adjust. You can try a different training program next time.

In the end, it’s sometimes just not your day. Getting your mind wrapped around that idea helps in the absence of an actual explanation. In that case, chalk it up to a shitty day and move on.

Hang your medal proudly next to the others. Eat your celebratory meal. Enjoy the week off from running and know that it’s just one race. You’ll get over the disappointment, I promise.

Promise.

Promise.

There’s another race that will be your race. You’ll find it.

Now go out and run.

 

Realism and Running

Have you read The Sports Gene by David Epstein? Go read it and then come back to this little blog post.

As we get heavy into marathon season, runners will be scrutinizing their training plans and performances, analyzing the data to explain the outcome of their chosen race. Blame will be placed on Mother Nature, hydration, lack of training, overtraining, injuries, illness, food, and the Man on the Moon.

(Image courtesy of davegranlund.com)

(Image courtesy of davegranlund.com)

Does it matter?

Your performance on any given race day is not necessarily indicative of your ability to perform at a certain level. Even the pros have a bad day when their training has been “perfect”.

Dennis Kimetto at the Boston Marathon in 2014. He dropped out. On Sunday he ran 2:02:57 and broke the Men's World Record in the Marathon. (Via Luke Maher @LWarrenMaher on Twitter)

Dennis Kimetto at the Boston Marathon in 2014. He dropped out. On Sunday he ran 2:02:57 and broke the Men’s World Record in the Marathon.                                                     (Via Luke Maher @LWarrenMaher on Twitter)

But what if it keeps happening race after race? No matter how you adjust your training, your fuel, your gear, your PT, you just can’t seem to get there with your running.

What gives?

Everyone has the capacity to run, it’s part of our mechanics as human beings. BUT everyone’s body also has a speed threshold, even the pros. We all top out at a certain speed, a certain distance. It depends heavily on our genetic make up. Within that genetic component is your body’s ability to respond to training.

Basically, some people have it, some people don’t.

(Read the book)

From a physical therapy standpoint, some people’s body mechanics are perfectly designed for running. From the top to the bottom, their alignment, weight distribution, and gait are perfect. When body mechanics are messy and asymmetrical, that’s where the wheels come off.

Asymmetry and less than perfect body mechanics wastes energy, uses muscles and joints in the wrong way, and put you at greater risk for injury with every step you take. Most important to the majority of runners, it will greatly affect your ability to hit certain paces.

Except Priscah Jeptoo. Her form is crazy but she still smokes the field. 1% anomaly.  (Image courtesy of iaaf.org)

Except Priscah Jeptoo. Her form is crazy but she still smokes the field. 1% anomaly.
(Image courtesy of iaaf.org)

We are not the 1%. The 1% is Dennis Kimetto, Deena Kastor, Meb Keflezighi, Usain Bolt, Shalane Flanagan, Jenny Simpson. These people are genetic anomalies whose bodies operate at a completely different level than 99% of the population.

So should you be really disappointed that you haven’t qualified for Boston? Absolutely not. Should you keep trying, year after year, through injury after injury, training cycle after training cycle? That’s up to you.

If you hate it, stop. Don’t torture yourself trying to achieve some goal you think everyone else in the world has met. Run shorter distances. Stop running. Try swimming. Take up yoga. You might be awesome at boxing, I don’t know.

Point is, there’s nothing wrong with you just because you can’t run a sub-4:00 marathon. Nothing at all. And if you want to keep going, rock on. But if you want to take a break, do it.

Join me at Refine Method!...or the bar :)

Join me at Refine Method!…or the bar :)

Now go out and run.

(I received no compensation whatsoever from Penguin Books, David Epstein, or anyone else involved with The Sports Gene. I just really, really liked the book and science in general. You should read it.)

My Favorite Track Workout: Ladder Up

I’m the biggest fan of track workouts. Last summer, it was Track Tuesdays and I would meet my (MUCH faster) friends Birdie and Minnie and they would lap me while I do my favorite workout.

Just a normal day at the track wearing makeup and a skirt.

Just a normal day at the track wearing makeup and a skirt. Just kidding. I look gross during track workouts.

Best part about a track workout is that it’s broken up and none of the sections last very long. This workout is my favorite because it hits lots of different gears and makes me feel strong in the end.

Ladder Up

  • 2 mile warm-up (super easy and relatively slow)
  • 4 x 200 meter sprints (200 meter jog in between repeats)
  • 3 x 400 meter sprints (200 meter jog in between repeats)
  • 2 x 800 meter hard tempo (400 meter jog in between)
  • 1 x 1 mile all-out
  • 1-2 mile cool down (relaxed pace)

This is a surprisingly long workout that goes by very quickly when you take one repeat at a time.

Win the argument.

Win the argument.

3 things to remember are:

  1. Maintain the same pace for each repeat in the set (all 400s the same pace, all 800s the same pace, etc).
  2. Your pace should be fastest for the 200s and slowest for the mile, not the same throughout the entire workout.
  3. Maintaing the pace through each lap in the 800s and mile is also key.

This workout is designed to get you in shape, help you find your true comfortable pace, and to find different gears in your pace. And isn’t it nice to mix it up a little on the oval?

Now go out and run.

Heavy Marathon Miles

Oy. You Fall marathoners are in long run Hell right now. 18, 20, 22 miles for three, four, five hours on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Lucky for us, this Summer has been super-mild and most of you have been able to get your long runs done in 70 degree weather.

Lucky ducks.

Last summer was freaking torture and I didn’t even get to run the damn marathon.

Last summer: the one spot on my tank not drenched with sweat. Yuck.

Last summer: the one spot on my tank not drenched with sweat. Yuck.

I don’t feel bad for you guys in that regard. You’ve had it pretty good. But the miles, oooooh, the miles! That’s where I feel for you.

Maintaing focus and doing the hard, long miles day after day, week after week, when you’ve been training for 12+ weeks is not easy. So what do you do when it’s getting to be too much? What do you do when you’re so tired of hearing your feet hit the pavement?

  1. Start the countdown. Make a countdown calendar. Put it somewhere you can see it every day. Update that sucker every single day and celebrate the countdown.
  2. Write down your goals. Do it every day, if that helps. Remember why you’re doing all this training.
  3. Take a break. Missing one workout is not going to destroy your training so if you really need to take a day and get a pedicure, do it. Regroup. And then get back into it.
  4. Check with your coach about your volume to make sure it’s not too much. Too many miles too quickly will definitely cause problems.
  5. Take a cheat day.

If all else fails and you still feel burnt out, maybe it’s not the time for you to run this race. It’s ok to back out if you’re not feeling it. There are few things worse (in your running life) than being at mile 19 of a marathon, hating it, and wishing you had never started in the first place.

download

That’s not a good place to be.

This goes for for all types of training, but runners especially. Take good care of yourself! Get plenty of rest, eat real food, and run with friends. Hang in there, you’re almost done.

Now go out and run.

Secrets

When I first started running marathons, social media wasn’t around. I guess chat rooms were still kind of a thing (does anyone remember chat rooms?!?!) and social media may have been in its infancy but I was definitely not cool enough to be into it.

So when I started training for the NYC Marathon in 2003, I told everyone by email or word of mouth that I was running. That way, I couldn’t back out. Everyone would know. It was a great motivator to get my training in.

Me and my very first marathon medal the next morning. Yay!

I finished! It was torturous, but I finished.

Every year after that, as marathon season ramped up, people would ask, “Are you running?” It was always an enthusiastic “YES” from me. For 9 years, I would share my racing plans with everyone, often times raising money for charities close to my heart.

More recently, I’ve been keeping my big races to myself. I happily train without telling anyone when I’m racing. I don’t share my splits on Daily Mile. I don’t share my runs and progress on Twitter. As much support as the cyber world can offer during training, there is also a lot of pressure that goes along with it.

The Hamptons Marathon (that became a half marathon for me) was a secret race.

The Hamptons Marathon (that became a half marathon for me) was a secret race.

Perfect strangers can track you online during a race and when people know your goals, they also know when you’ve failed to reach them. It sounds silly, but the goals I set for myself are very personal and I prefer to keep some of them private.

When I decided to train secretly (or just less publicly?) for the Hamptons Marathon this past Fall, I was unsure how my post-op body would respond.

From colostomy bag to J-pouch, my little body has been through the wringer.

From colostomy bag to J-pouch, my little body has been through the wringer.

Would my J-pouch hold up? Would I get sick again? Could I really get all that mileage in less than a year after two major surgeries? I signed up for the full marathon, knowing full well that I might need to drop down to the half.

I decided to keep the race (largely) a secret and see how training went.

Clearly, I was happy with my choice to drop down.

Clearly, I was happy with my choice to drop down.

I knew a few weeks before that this was probably going to be the case and I was oddly at peace with it. Because despite the 65 mile weeks, grueling summer workouts, and faster than ever times, I knew what I could do and what I couldn’t do. The half I could do, the full I could not.

It’s not that I’m afraid to publicly fail. I’ve done that plenty of times. It’s just that as I test myself and try new things, I prefer keeping those personal goals tucked close to my heart.

Close to my heart like my Peanut.

Close to my heart, like my Peanut.

Have you ever run a race and not told anyone you were training for it? Or do you prefer to get the support of your friends near and far during training? It’s totally a personal choice and I’m curious if anyone else has switched back and forth like me. Or maybe I’m just crazy…?

Now go out and run!