So much has happened in marathonwiner world over the last month or so.
I ran my 2nd marathon and shocked myself and the rest of the world with a completely unexpected PR.
I finally learned why racing a 10k is so difficult and so hated in the running world.
I met lots of new runner friends, and thanks to running with them, I do believe I am actually getting faster. You can call it stupid, but I’m sticking with it.
I have grown to appreciate, and even LOOK FORWARD to, speedwork–the dinner dates after the summer 5k series certainly contribute to that, but doing Yasso800’s outside for the first time (ever?) turned out to be 4832904 more enjoyable than trying them out on the treadmill. Then again…what running isn’t better outside vs. on that mean black belt?
I took the RRCA run coach certification course (where I again met lots of awesome people and had a real-life Shining experience–details later?) and PASSED MY TEST (yes, please go start telling your friends).
I ran a 50 mile week during my “off” month. Was this stupid? Maybe. But it feels good to be able to put down some heavier mileage with a little more ease than in the past.
Speaking of stupid…that leads me to this long overdue story I’ve been wanting to share about my success at the Buffalo Marathon and how I did absolutely everything wrong to get me there. Every training plan, running book, professional or even recreational athlete–even the run coach class–supported the fact that I should have crashed and burned about 6 miles into the Buffalo Marathon. As someone who recently received coaching certification, I should be touting the benefits of dedicated training and not straying from a plan. But there’s also something to be said about doing everything wrong leading up to race day, then digging deep and seeing what your capable of. So here’s what I did wrong.
1. Tweak the training plan at the last minute.
I haven’t run a whole lot of races. But for those that I have, and for those that I had a designated training plan for, I followed that plan to a tee. Especially, the taper period. I had heard so many stories about how rest was just as important as the building period come race day, and too short of a taper could lead to fatigue and race day disaster. So when a plan called for a solid 3-week taper, I reluctantly followed it. My plan for Buffalo was not followed well from the get-go, but it was alright because I knew when I signed up for the race that wedding season (read: a million weekends away from home) was going to interfere with when I did my long runs and when I got that rest day (or 3) in. I did not, however, plan for insomnia and having to push my last run of 22 miles to about 2 weeks out from the race, thus giving myself a 2 week taper instead of 3 week. But again, I went into this training period knowing I’d have to adjust, and I was fine with the 2 week taper.
But then I failed to follow my usual taper plan.
2. Ignore the taper at the last minute.
Usually I try to spend taper time eating well, sleeping well, avoiding all alcohol and running easy. Well, my taper period before Buffalo was shortened to two weeks, which I spent hitting high miles and hitting the bar at my uncle’s wedding a week out from the race. Oops.
3. Wear brand new clothes that you’ve never run in before.
Ok this is just flat-out stupidity. Two days before heading upstate, I went shopping in hopes of finding cute summer sundresses to wear AFTER the race. Instead, I came home with cute summer running clothes, made of 100% cotton. And for some reason, thought it’d be a good idea to sport them on race day. My thought process at the time was “I’ve never had an issue with chaffing before, and this 100% cotton tank is loose-fitting. It won’t bother me at all”. The thought I should have had in response to that was, “Well genius, when have you ever attempted to run more than 6 miles in a straight-up cotton, much less 26.2 miles, much less on a hot summer day?”
My race photos were super matchy and cute. My underarms are still showing the battle wounds.
4. Experiment with new fuel. On the course.
I’ve heard horror stories of people trying out new fuel sources during training runs that end in projectile vomiting all over the side of Central Park. And yet, I thought it was a good idea to do something similar at mile 7 of my first-ever spring marathon. I deserve a trophy for smartest racer of the year.
In my short running history, I basically have always stuck to the same plan of small, simple breakfast prior to run (these days, its a Honey Stinger waffle) and a GU or two during the run, depending on the distance and how I’m feeling. Sometimes less, never more.
Well, just before I left for Buffalo a good friend of mine gave me a little “good luck” goodie back stocked with waffles, GUs and some Honey Stinger chews. I brought them along thinking at the very least, maybe I’d snack on some chews after the race, as me, the JD and my friend made our way to our post-race boat trip.
But when my friend dropped me at the starting line, I found myself still clutching my little bag of Honey Stingers. Never one to waste, I just held on to them, at this point thinking “well maybe I’ll want one along the course” or “maybe I’ll see a fellow runner in need and I’ll come to their rescue!” (no really, this thought crossed my mind. I’ve had a lot of running heroes in my day, and I wanted to reverse the roles for once I guess). Well just after I crossed the 10k mark I got really tired of carrying the little pouch. And for that reason alone, I opened it. And similar to how I can never have “just one” cookie or “just one” piece of candy. I ate the whole bag.
Afterwards I had that very girly moment of “why did I just eat all that? I wasn’t even hungry. That was stupid.” Turns out. It wasn’t so stupid. Because (and I credit this to those chews) I wound up having enough energy to bang out sub-8:50 all the way to mile 17 or so. Honey Stingers FTW.
5. Go out too fast.
This does not fit the rest of my unmistakes because no obvious good came from it at the end, but I still did something that most seasoned runners would “tsk tsk” at, so it makes the list. I told myself even as I was warming up before the gun that I could take this race as slow as I wanted. Afterall, my entire reason for signing up for it was to give myself a slower marathon than in Richmond, and create a mental buffer for New York.
And yet for some reason, I lined up with the 8:50 pace group. I told myself (are you noticing a trend here? I lie to myself. A LOT) that I could start out with them, see how I felt, but would likely drop back a few miles in. But of course a few miles in, I started to find my groove and pick up a little bit of a competitive edge. When I was still running just ahead of the 8:50 flag carrier at mile 6, it became my goal to avoid the lovely man holding it at all costs. A few times, around mile 8 and again at 11 or so, he and his posse got dangerously close. At the halfway point, he even got ahead of me, and I watched him hand off his pacer wand to the next runner. I surged ahead as fast as I could and from mile 13-17 played a game of rabbit, bouncing in front of and behind the 8:50 group. Eventually, I realized that there was no way I could keep surging on and off for another 9 miles, and started to see the group as an ally. They had pushed me through the first 17 miles, so I might as well make friends and let them carry me through the rest.
Some of us may know how the rest of the story goes. I made it to mile 20 in under 3 hours, and took that as a cue to calm down and take my time to a sub-4 finish. Could I have stayed with the 8:50 pace group? Maybe. But maybe I would have also wound up depositing those chews all over the course as well. I didn’t negative split. I didn’t even come close. But I tried something new, pushed myself hard, and shaved 5 minutes off my time. Lesson: while it’s not smart racing and it will never come recommended (and I can’t prove my finish would have been better or worse otherwise), I went out fast and it worked out pretty well.
Now that I’m (one CPR class away from being) a certified running coach, I know more than ever that not following my plan well, not taking the taper seriously, wearing new clothes, experimenting with new fuel and going out to fast are all poor tactics to recommend to anyone. And I likely never will.
I also know this sounds like I’m tooting my own horn in many ways. And that’s also not the case (count how many times I called myself stupid, I meant every one of them).
The point is again, that you are ALWAYS capable of surprising yourself.
You want to run a marathon? You don’t need to give up your life. You certainly don’t need to give up your wine. You don’t need to skip your best friends wedding to get in a long run. You don’t need to own the latest Lululemon tank or top of line sneaks to be able to run (but if you have a favorite brand I suggest sticking to it come race day…another unmistake I failed to mention). You don’t need to know what negative splitting means. You certainly don’t need to own a garmin. If you want to run a marathon, you just have to want to run a marathon. And then you can.