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!

Taper Running

Tapering is one of those things that everyone does but few people know why. And it frustrates most runners to have itchy feet for 2-3 weeks on top of having race anxiety.

Slide1It’s a stressful time.

It’s also completely necessary in order to have the best race you possibly can. When you push and push and build your training and mileage up, your body eventually needs time to rest, recover, and rebuild. This process cannot happen without rest.

Hence, tapering.

But you can still do kind-of workouts during your taper. The key to tapering right is to cut down the mileage AND the speed. Here are a few workouts that are Taper Town appropriate.

  1. Modified Tempo Run: 2 miles up, 2 miles at goal race pace, 2 miles easy.
  2. Casual Yasso 800s: 2 miles up, 2-3 x 800 at goal race pace, 1 mile easy.
  3. Chatty Kathy Run: Grab a slower friend or someone else who’s tapering and go for a run at a conversational pace.

Running is the best way to catch up with friends!

Running is the best way to catch up with friends!

Tapering is a much needed break for your body. Respect it and you give yourself the best odds possible on race day. Ignore it and pay the price.

"The price" being seeing my smiling face in the medical tent.

“The price” being seeing my smiling face in the medical tent.

It’s your choice.

Who’s tapering for what race? Are you guys going bananas?

Now go out and run!

Stressed Out

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m hyper-aware or I know more runners who are tackling the great distance of a marathon, but man oh man, I’ve never known SO many runners with stress fractures.

stress-cartoon

It feels something like this, actually.

I don’t know what the hay-ho is going on out there (I have a guess but I’m not sure people would like my educated guess…) but I’ve never known so many runners who are sidelined with stress fractures.

Let’s be clear about what stress fractures are and why they happen.

Stress fractures are incomplete, often hairline, fractures that occur commonly in the femur, tibia, or any of the bones of the foot. Stress fractures happen over a prolonged period of time due to excessive repetitive stress placed on the body.

(Image courtesy of Radiology Assistant)

(Image courtesy of Radiology Assistant)

They do not, DO NOT, happen overnight.

Reasons why stress fractures happen:

  1. Overtraining. Too many miles. Too many weeks of training. Too too much.
  2. Undertraining/improper training. Think only doing 3-5 miles 2x/week and then blasting out massive long runs on the weekend.
  3. Diet. Lack of nutrients (like in exercise anorexia or compulsive exercise disorder) make your bones brittle and go *snap*.
  4. Improper footwear. Think Vibram (my least favorite).
  5. Bad body mechanics. Imbalances in the body get amplified in repetitive sports.

And guess what? Every single one of these is preventable.

Every. Single. One.

  • Hire an educated, experienced coach (ahem, more than a weekend course).
A GOOD coach, that is.

A GOOD coach, that is.

  • Do not start your training 16 weeks before the race. Training begins in the off season with strength training and speed workouts.
  • If your diet stinks or you think you might be at risk for developing the Female Athlete Triad, seek the guidance of a Registered Dietician or a Licensed Nutritionist.
No good. (Image courtesy of FemaleAthleteTriad.org)

No good.
(Image courtesy of FemaleAthleteTriad.org)

  • Please, please, please get your body mechanics checked by a physical therapist. We are trained to do this and more outpatient orthopedic facilities (like Finish Line PT) are starting pre-hab programs to do just this for athletes.
  • PTs can also evaluate your feet, knees, and hips for which shoe would be best for you. Seriously.

If you think you might be developing a stress fracture, get to your orthopedist for some imaging immediately. An incomplete fracture (stress fracture) can lead to a complete fracture and surgery with one run.

That’s right. You’ve been ignoring that nagging pain and one day it just goes bananas.

Pain in the same spot that doesn’t let up and hurts every time you run, walk, put pressure on it is a glaring sign that something is wrong. Guys, if it hurts, don’t do it.

Simple, right?

If you’re sidelined from your race this year because of a stress fracture, I’m really sorry. But there’s hope! Treatments are amazing, PTs make it their job to fix runners like you, and you can be back on the road in a few weeks/months.

Don’t despair!

Be smart. Hire someone smarter. Work hard.

Now go out and run.

Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays: Next Time

Happy Tuesday, friends! So many of you ran in Chicago, Baltimore and on Staten Island this weekend and the Fall racing season has only just begun!

So many races coming up!

So many races coming up!

The runners I’ve coached officially start their races this weekend. At this point, I’m just the person who talks everyone off the I-can’t-do-this edge. That’s my job.

But what if they really can’t do it?

Training for months, making travel plans, missing out on weekend events and parties just to get to the BIG DAY and NOT run? That’s frustrating.

And what is everyone going to tell you?

“There’s always next time.”

Ummm, yeah. Not what you want to say.

Ummm, yeah. Not what you want to hear right then.

It’s hard not to want to punch someone in the face who tells you, in your darkest moment, “You’ll get ‘em next time.”

Really, cuz I didn’t train for next time, I trained for THIS TIME.

I feel you, guys. But here’s the reality of the situation:

  • You’re too injured to run.
  • Your body just can’t take it this cycle.
  • The race is cancelled.
  • The hurricane is NOT changing course.
  • You’re pregnant.
  • There’s no way you could have predicted XXX crisis/emergency.

So, yeah. There’s next time.

images

Next time you’ll train smarter.

Next time you’ll choose a different time of year.

Next time you’ll know better than to try and do a marathon during finals/end of quarter/holiday season.

Next time you’ll hire a coach.

You know. Cuz it helps.

You know. Cuz it helps.

Next time you’ll cross train.

Next time you’ll see a PT when something STARTS hurting, not after 3 months.

Next time you won’t fall to pieces halfway through.

Count yourselves lucky that there will be a next time. For some runners, they’re not sure they’ll get to run this time, forget about next time.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but those of us who have been here wondered if there would ever be another next time.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but those of us who have been here wondered if there would ever be another next time.

So put on your big girl/big boy pants and figure out what you can do next time to make it better than this time. You can do it. I know you will do it next time.

And having a next time is way Better Than the Alternative, isn’t it?

Now go out and run.

Setting Goals

First off, congratulations to everyone who completed a race this weekend, especially my friends who rocked the Hartford & Chicago Marathons. Shout out to my training buddy and school wife, Birdie, who now resides in PR City with a shiny time of 3:06:14.

That’s right. She’s MY friend.

Jealous?

I am a full minute slower than her but she puts up with me :)

I am a full minute slower than her but she puts up with me :)

Hey Birdie, way to go.

I am asked by my runners and lots of other newbies how they can figure out a realistic goal time for their next race. It’s something of a random equation that has mostly to do with training, a lot to do with how gutsy you are, and a little to do with race day conditions.

(Image courtesy of Runner's World)

(Image courtesy of Runner’s World)

  1. Never assume you’ll run as fast as your best long run.Β That was practice and it was likely several miles shorter than your race. If it happens, great! But it’s not the best way gauge your race day speed.
  2. Do several time trials of several different distances throughout training. You’ll be able to see if you’re making progress and figure out what race pace is for you.
  3. Adjust your race day goal time for race day conditions. Running in 56 degree, slightly overcast with no wind conditions is a WORLD of difference from 76 degrees, sunny with a head wind.
  4. Have an A, B, and C goal. My A goal is to finish feeling good and upright. B is the best time I can hope for, given my training. C is a realistic time based on past races.
  5. Know your body and look to your training for strategy. If you didn’t practice negative splits during training, don’t expect to see it during a race. Your race day strategy will likely mimic your training strategy, so keep good track of your runs!

That said, anything can happen on race day. You could have the perfect day, the greatest feeling in your legs, and have the race of your life that kicks every single one of your long training run’s butts. Or, the conditions could still be perfect and you bonk.

It happens.

(See #4)

The smiliest I have EVER been at a finish line. You'd never know my body was trying to kill me (literally).

The smiliest I have EVER been at a finish line. You’d never know my body was trying to kill me (literally).

The best thing to gauge your race time is your cumulative training performance. You’re 800s, mile repeats, tempo runs, and long runs are the best indicators of how what kind of condition you are in for race day.

Trust your training and get gutsy. Leave it all out on the road and see what you can do.

And have fun!

Anyone racing this upcoming week? What race did you finish last weekend? Go ahead and brag about it!!

Now go out and run.