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.)

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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!

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. 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.

Spring Team

{Fist pump}

Little known fact: I was born in New Jersey.

Jersey Girl.

Jersey Girl.

You may have heard that I’m planning on running the Long Branch Half Marathon in New Jersey this Spring. It’s true. I’m gonna storm The Shore with my 7-something minute miles (hello, 2013 goal!).

You can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can't take the Jersey out of the girl.

You can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take the Jersey out of the girl.

But I’m not doing it alone.

Jess and I are the Run Ambassadors over at lululemon East 66th Street and we are heading up a team of fantastic coaches who will lead long runs EVERY Saturday from January 19th-April 27th.

FAQs

  • You don’t have to be running NJ (or ANY race!) to run with us
  • It’s free
  • Registration, transportation, & lodging are up to you
  • Newbies & veterans are all welcome!
  • We will handle the route, mileage, & field questions

Join us for our first meeting (no run) THIS SATURDAY at 9AM at the East 66th Street store on 3rd Avenue.

Meet your team. Meet your coaches. Set your goals.

Holla.(Image courtesy of lululemon)

Holla.
(Image courtesy of lululemon)

We’re excited to see all of you there.

Now go out and run!

Mentors

In my world, I am a leader. I coach teams, I train clients, I advise students. I am a Mentor. My job, as I see it, is to teach people how to take care of themselves so that they have the information to make changes towards leading a healthier life. I take pride in my job.

Go team BRick!

But everyone needs a Mentor. Everyone needs a place to zone out, to follow the leader, to let go and put 110% toward the effort of yourself and no one else.

This is why when people tell me they want to run their first or second race (usually a half or full marathon), I suggest they get a coach or a Mentor. First off, experience is invaluable. Second, education matters when it comes to how your body works. Third, if you have a goal and no clue how to reach it, shouldn’t you ask someone whose job it is to get people to their physical goals?

Mentors do this for you. They’ve been there, done that, and likely have many an ugly, ill-fitted, cotton race shirt to prove it. They’ve hit the walls and climbed over them. They’ve bonked and gotten back on the road. They’ve made the mistakes so that you don’t have to. They are the ones who make it their business what the latest and greatest shoes, gear, fuel, races, training tricks, and trails are.

They are also the ones who will push you when you need it and yell at you when you’re overdoing it. Mentors will talk you off your crazy ledge and make sure you make the smart training decision, even if it’s the hardest one.

I have lots of Mentors. I’m lucky to live and work in the fitness world and have my colleagues be the ones who push me, advise me, cheer for me, and talk me down when I need it. But how do you find a Mentor?

Two of my favorite cheerleaders and Mentors.

Running clubs are a great place to start. Some people feel more comfortable one-on-one with a personal trainer, in which case a gym is the place for you. Most of the lululemon stores have run clubs with rock star leaders from the community. I actually love my Mentors over at Flywheel Sports.

Ambassador Buddies.

Aleah, Steven, Dani, Jessie, they all push me in ways that I cannot push myself. I’m not ashamed to admit that I need to be pushed the same way that my I push my clients. Sometimes we need someone else to believe in us so that we can believe in ourselves and have the confidence to go another mile, faster, harder, and longer than before.

These are the Mentors in your life. They tell you that you can. They tell you that you must. They tell you not to give up. And you believe in them.

Who are your Mentors? Give them a shout-out here! I want to know who you turn to for the leadership that carries you through your workouts day in and day out. Tell me all about them.

Now go out and run!