That's how the last month and a half has been. I go when I want to. Because I can.
I love being in a recovery period. There's no one or no plan to make me get out there and run. Do I feel bad? Of course. But I'm enjoying this time of relaxation before I start training for Boston.
Which begins this Thursday.
The last few weeks have given me an opportunity to reflect on the training for NYC. Below are my thoughts for what worked during those five months to help me prep for the 26 miles.
I run hills every day. If I go in one direction I could run up a hill for 2.5 miles. If I run on another route I end up running up quite possibly one of the steepest hills in DC at the end of my run. If I combine both of these routes and a third route, I end up running 16 miles with 7 gigantic hills.
Hills and I have become friends over the last year without me realizing it. Therefore, when I got to NYC and didn't have any of the normal DC hills, my mind actually considered the course flat.
Yes hill suck. No one in their right mind wants to run them. But if you do them every day then you will get used to them. Your body - calves, glutes, quads and hammys - will get used to them. You'll actually start to enjoy conquering them and seeing how fast you can get up them. When they pop up in the middle of your 1 mile interval you don't sweat it any more.
Because you know that they only make you stronger.
This spring my chiro/pt informed me that my glute muscles were weak, making my knees give-way when I landed. I was determined to fix that. I incorporated more lunges, squats, and exercises that he gave me to strengthen the muscles. I also incorporated more arm and back workouts.
I began to notice my form improve (and I had the worst form). I began to run a little straighter. I began to bend my legs more and use more power. My landings became better. I began to run faster.
The weirdest thing happened in September when I was on a tempo run and I could feel my obliques and back muscles work with my strides. As I powered up the hill they were actually contracting to help me up it. This, I was not expecting!!
There is a reason why we had to do strength training in college. It wasn't until this year that I actually felt the benefits. A strong runner will make for a fast runner. Therefore, strength training is here to stay.... at least while I'm training for an actual race.
I got really good at tricking my brain into believing that pain means that I can only go faster and that hills are things to be eaten for breakfast.
Because I told myself this over and over and over and over.
Every time I came to a hill I became the coach that I am for my students. I tried my hardest to push away that voice that would want me to stop, and to listen to that coach voice that says "Short strides! On your toes! Crest over the top! You EAT HILLS FOR BREAKFAST!"
When races became painful this summer I told myself to pick up my knees and to run faster. No matter what happened, I did not want that negative voice inside my head to take over that run or to ruin my success.
Running is mental. A marathon is the biggest mental challenge that most runners will face. It is crucial to train not only your muscles, but to train your brain in order to finish strong in that race.
I hadn't run a lot of short races since college but I filled up my spring and summer with races. I did not realize just how valuable they would become in my training and in the marathon.
Each time I ran a race I was able to see the growth and progress from my training. My first 5K was painful. A few weeks later I ran pain-free in a 10k but didn't give it my all. Then a month later I hit up a half marathon and got a PR. All of these combined were crucial in the last 10 miles of my marathon. I replayed each race as I got to that equivalent remaining distance of the NYC course.
They also helped to prep for the race day experience and to calm nerves. If you haven't race in a year it might become overwhelming to remember all that you need to pack and what routine works best for you. By November, I had solidified my routine.
Good Food Choices
This summer I experimented a little more with the type of foods I put into my body. I found out that milk and dairy do not sit well with me and they were causing awful cramps every time I ran or raced. I also found out what it was like to train on a cleaner, plant based diet. As much as I don't want to be the non-runner's idea of a "stereotypical" runner, I now understand why non-runners think we eat fruits and veggies. Because they actually help your body recover quicker and give you more energy. In July and August I was able to do a speed workout in the morning, recover with a fruit and protein packed smoothie after the run, have a good lunch, and then get out there in the afternoon to run with the XC team. I felt remarkably refreshed, as if I hadn't run my workout that morning.
Plants work people. Eat them!
I still have to remind myself of that every day .....
After a month and a half off from training, I'll have to incorporate these things back into my life. I've definitely slacked on the running and strength training (I firmly believe that your mind and body need a break from these things one in a while). My diet has also been bombarded with sugar in the last month because of the holidays and my lack of will power.
This Thursday marks day one of the 18 week training cycle. It also marks the day when I have to start considering how I treat my body. Marathon training isn't always about the running. It's about how you prep for the race in your down time: making sure you're rested and that you're properly fueled.
The beauty about a training cycle is that you're constantly learning about yourself in the process. While it's hard work, I look forward to learning something new this training cycle :)