My last blog I summed up why I crashed and burned at the biggest meet of the year. As I was relaxing in the hotel that afternoon before I was headed to the track I had endless, “I wish I would have done it this way” ideas pop into my head. Most of these are no brainers, I’d like to share what I learned from my experience. Finally I’d love to contribute to the world some of my personal “secrets” that have continued to help me succeed.
The attitude -“Act like a horse. Be dumb. Just run.” “Pain is temporary, pride is forever”, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. These quotes are great when you are mid-race and need to gut it out, but dangerous if you take it to heart daily and just ignore red flags. Being stone cold and trying to stick to an ideal plan on paper while disregarding all reality of a given situation is a recipe for disaster! Sometimes that dumb horse’s leg breaks and they have to be shot. Don’t let it happen to you. Thankfully I haven’t been shot yet, but that’s only because I’m disguised as a human. (Besides my broken leg occurred during a soccer game, no stress fractures to date!)
What I Need to Improve On/You Might Too
😣 Communicate with your coach!! Pretty much a given, but even when you are ashamed of how you handled life’s challenging situations or embarrassed by how you’re not able to recover, the only way to improve your situation is honesty and speaking up. I was just trying to be submissive. I wanted to suck it up and not cause any more drama saying I needed another day or 3. I had taken endless days off in the winter from my illnesses, so I had made up my mind that somehow I HAD to hit every workout or I would be subjected to more feelings of “you are always missing workouts, you are not going to hit any goals” from thoughts and voices of others.
😣 Listen to your body! It doesn’t matter how tough you are, if you are constantly pushing through brick legs, it is telling you- “You are ridiculous. No, a 3 day taper at the very last second leading up to your race is not going to solve your endless dead legged/energy zapped problems!” Once again, even if it looks terrible on paper to have another random day off, it’s better than showing up and barely getting your legs to come off the track. Besides, you also look ridiculous, especially around actual professional athletes getting their workouts in on the same track.
😣 You can’t cheat distance running. I cheated last year and got away with zero long runs and pretty minimal mileage– I would imagine in the 50’s at the max but I didn’t even keep track (that is also my next goal-keeping track without obsessing). This season I rushed into speed work again without the standard “base training phase”. Once you get past the year mark, especially when your pregnancy hormones have dissipated; there is a law that states your previous years and years of long run base are gone. Good luck trying to walk normal on your recovery days, you will NOT handle the high volume workouts so well this time around.
😣 Cross train! To runners it seems terrible to have a “0” miles day in your log, especially if you sweat for over an hour and even worse- you didn’t even get to workout outside. It can be pretty heartbreaking to see your weekly mileage suffer as you still are putting work in… but it does feel pretty dang good to use different muscles. Even better if your right side is way more sore than the left from favoring it in the steeple or turning left way too often. It can be so much more effective than “recovery runs” when even 9 minute pace makes your legs feel like they are actually screaming so others can hear.
😣 Forget your past seasons and trying to measure up to them. You are in a constant revolving state as a human, and it is unrealistic to think that just because you did something last year, it will automatically mean you can do it again or better. Try to be in the moment and respect life’s constant changes. Stop obsessing about PR numbers and splits- remember its more about competing. If you compete well, the numbers will come.
Post PR Season Syndrome- noun. The belief that you will run each important race in any future season as fast or much faster than your PR and anything less is failure. Leads to impatience, unrealistic expectation, rushed fitness, obsession of splits, forgetting about racing. End results: frustration and severe disappointment. Athletes who have struggled with it: See Alan Webb and Julia Webb.
Another separate fact related to my event-
The women’s steeple has evolved. The days of sub 10 being a wow factor are over. The US Women’s level of competition has finally caught up to the men. Men have been competing since 1900, women are only in their 14th year since the NCAA offered it (and only 2 Olympic Games opportunities). It took a 9:48 to qualify for the finals this year, and there wasn’t even a World Championship team spot on the line. Compare this year’s final to the Olympic Trials only 2 years ago (even tougher and not all of the top US competition even showed up!)
For this year- Letsrun.com preview pointed out that a quarter of the field (7 women) had a 12 second PR or faster in the 2014 season going into the race! Emma Coburn just set the American Record a week ago with a 9:11.42. Back in 2001 when I ran a 10:50 as a freshman at the D3 national meet, I remember getting an email stating “you have ran the 63rd fastest time in the world”. That time now ranks 900,293 (jk). This is all a good thing, but a reality check for myself!
Back to my own journey training/competing-I obviously had multiple areas to work on. The good news is that I was highly success in many areas that have previously been a struggle- and I have made a habit to solve a few of my other training mysteries this year. Here’s what I have to share.
My Successes and Wisdom
👍Hydration with a coffee addiction I am in love with Nuun! I use it when I’m headed into a longer run or dealing with hot weather. Great when I get that need to hydrate, but the more water I drink, the more I pee. I have tried Pedialyte for severely depleted states (but a miracle can’t be bought for $5.95). I have cut back my coffee consumption down to once a day-12 oz max and ONLY if I have a run planned within the next few hours.
👍Iron levels Proferrin is awesome- a heme source that is highly absorptive in which you can take at any time! My ferritin levels used to be terrible- we’re talking max high teens even while supplementing. Now they are comfortably over 30. I also take advantage of any sleep disturbances (3-5am) with an extra dose of ferrous sulfate and vitamin C. This is the only point during my waking hours I have an empty stomach.
👍Eating “Bad” Food - I have to constantly remind myself in training that when the intensity and duration increases, you need some mega calories to keep the fire burning. It can be tough when you’re appetite is off or you’re finishing a race late at night. Many runners can get caught up in eating way too healthy (guilty). The best solution to unknown fatigue (when you visibly have not been gaining weight) is a day of pigging out. I usually feel the best in workouts or runs the day after I thought it was unnecessary to add on a late night desert with zero “healthy” ingredients.
I struggle with eating enough when I’m not working out. I am not at all inclined to eat a lot if I haven’t earned it. I cannot stand being tanked up on energy knowing I don’t get the outlet to move. I believe it’s from the irrational fear I’m going to turn into the size of an average American overnight if I start enjoying the feeling of laziness associated with eating (sorry Jim Gaffigan- view “LAZY” here). I’m always at my healthiest weight when I’m running the most – I have no restrictions and feel good about eating cookies and ice cream.
👍Being lazy When and if at all possible the choice is to do something strenuous (aka taking your kid to the zoo) vs non (laying on the ground while you’re kid gets high quality entertainment walking on top of you). If you are deep in training and/or there is an important race coming up- choose non. I love rollercoasters and rides. Yet I have only been to a theme park on 2 occasions since I started running 14 years ago (that’s pretty sad!) I associate that with standing in line all day in the hot sun eating funnel cakes and having dead legs for about 2 weeks. I’ll take up my thrills of going on the monkey bars and swings at the local park, saving myself 10 hours of exhaustion. I have to add another Jim Gaffigan clip – Disney Land – he is so wise.
I learned from the pro – Alan Webb. He’s got this covered and goes to great lengths not to move when/if at all possible between training sessions. True story- during his achilles injury we went to the Holocaust Museum in downtown D.C. and he opted to be pushed around in a wheel chair. Since my daughter loves the swings, last trip to the park he brought a stool.
👍 Music amazing addition to your run to boost your mood. Especially those days when you don’t feel like moving. I finally upgraded my playlist and I can’t tell you how well running with one good song can change your day. The key is to not overdo it as the “amazing” factor takes a dive after each consequential use and you get sick of your fav songs.
👍Treadmill (vs stroller all the time)- Finding a gym with cheap childcare has been life changing (Check out 24 Hr Fitness)! For non parents, finding a treadmill surrounded by mirrors is also very helpful to monitor and correct form flaws.
👍Low Fiber Diet – We’re talking right a day or 2 leading up to race day. I had huge success with keeping my time in the bathroom minimal on race days and what shouldn’t be- is a big relief to me! I completely back off from excessive fruits, vegetables and the dozens of weird ingredients they put in “healthy” energy bars and foods. (Flax, chia seeds, inulin fiber…) So much easier not having to scramble to find a portopotty for the 5th time in the past hour just as you’re about to line up.
👍Nerves I really enjoyed each race day and had another successful year without the race day dread/nerves to waste my energy on. The combo of fiber and nerves have been historically the worst thing to sabotage my race day potential. I credit maturity and the reality check that my running results don’t really mean much to anyone except me. Yet I can be very hard on myself, so I do fear how I’ll react when a race doesn’t go well!
👍Painful track sessions did not scare me. I used to get anxious all day if I knew a tough one was coming. Worse with racing. Another reason why my nerves have subsided. I somehow seemed immune to gut wrenching pain of the hard sessions. Doesn’t mean I didn’t have to hide near the bleachers yelling obscenities at myself to toughen up before I appeared to toe the line before the next. Thanks Chappelle Show! My theory – when you’ve grinded out workouts for so long, and you are getting older, you realize that pain in that format is a gift. It won’t be long (relatively speaking) til you are forced to retire and someday you will eventually even die. I still had the fresh memories of not being able to workout in the winter months. That pain is way worse!
👍Laughter and Love- You need it to survive life during hard training (or being a human). I am so lucky to have my family and friends! I love you Alan and Jo Jo! I also need Portlandia, Jim Gaffigan, and all ridiculous comedy without swearing every line (or I start cursing too). Think Dumb & Dumber, Billy Madison, Napoleon Dynomite and preferably edited versions of Chappelle Show.
👍Alcohol – Another one in the feel good category. “I will never discourage you from a drink” – Alan on the subject of me consuming it. Basically I am much more mellow and likely way more fun to be around. It only takes a pathetically small amount. We’re talking like 4-5 oz of wine a couple times a week. If I get through the whole glass or a single beer, I’m past the necessary point (which makes sense based on weight). You get the desired effects and you’re good to go the next day without hangover symptoms. I have yet to do a beer mile, and would probably take 45 minutes.
👍Jesus – He’s right there with alcohol (only kidding). My personal promotional stance on God’s only son is that you need Him. You can have the longest, most successful career, do all the things right without self destructing like I do, and in the end, it won’t really mean much if you don’t have something to bridge the gap between here and the afterlife. When running fails you, it leaves you feeling empty. I know it has done that to me and I know there’s a purpose behind it. I accept that as God calling me back to reprioritize my life. Alan has influenced me heavily- that walking the walk is way more important than talk. Still it doesn’t hurt to mention it. There are so many people who don’t put much thought into concept that faith could/should (in my opinion) be something to be taken seriously. I just want to send a reminder that maybe it should matter. In that regard my role models in the professional running world would be Nick Willis, Meb Keflezighi, Josh McDougal and the Halls (Sara and Ryan).
Those aren’t all my secrets but a large sample of what I have found to be working. I’m hoping there is a next time for me to get a quality track season in so I can use my new found knowledge toward PRs, but I have to look at reality. I’m at the point in my life where I’m ok with taking a step back and focusing on what’s necessary for my family – finding my place and putting my energy into a new career. In the mean time, I’m living each day to the fullest and taking advantage of all the running I can get in while being ready for a life altering/ necessary change for overall good.