I Think We Need A Break

Five years ago, I signed up and trained for my first marathon. The entire process was like a dream, pushing my body to do something I never fathomed I would be able to do. As we’ve talked about previously on the blog, I did not grow up an athlete nor a runner.  In fact, while I spent a great deal of time outdoors growing up, I was only on a formal sports team four times in my life and each year I dreaded the physical fitness test mile run more than a doctor’s appointment or getting shots.

The 2010 New York City Marathon was a day that will forever remain in my brain, each mile still is imprinted and I could recap the entire race course experience to anyone today, even five years later. Each mile was a miracle as I pushed through the boroughs, taking in every single mile with a huge smile on my face.

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Since then, I continued to sign up for one marathon each year. I had a different goal for each marathon, but primarily my hope for each was to improve my time. Five years and five marathons later, I have improved my time from my original 5:29 marathon but I’ve spent the past four years, finishing short of the goal I had in my mind. Completing a marathon, regardless the pace, will always be an accomplishment in my book. As someone said yesterday, moving 26.2 miles on one’s own two feet is something that most people never dream of doing, much less in 5 or so hours.

Therefore, when year after year, my body falls short of the goal I’m chasing, I finish the 26.2 miles with my head hanging lower than it was when I started the journey. At 30 years old, I do not have anything left to prove to myself when it comes to the marathon. I have successfully completed 5 at this point, I know that my mind and body are capable of accomplishing the distance. But, what I have also learned along the way, and unfortunately my friends and family as well, is that my body really does not enjoy the distance.

I am thankful and blessed to have suffered no physical injuries during five marathons but I have suffered one too many emotional injuries. Each year, somewhere between mile 15 and 22 the wheels come off. In most cases, it seems to be attributed to heat, which also explains why my best experience to date was the Philadelphia Marathon where it was below freezing at the start. As someone who sweats a great deal, I can’t seem to hydrate or take in enough fuel to overcome nausea, muscle cramps, or in yesterday’s case severe quad cramping and vomiting.

What started out as being something that I loved has grown to be something that makes me think less of myself. I beat myself up internally for not achieving a goal which based on my training runs, half marathon time and speed workouts seems achievable. I question the twelve to sixteen weeks of my life, dedicated to marathon training, trying to figure out where the process went wrong. I question the forty-eight hours leading up to the marathon, wondering what I should have or shouldn’t have eaten. I drive my husband, who is the most supportive and incredible marathon cheer leader and spectator, crazy with agony as he watches my self esteem diminish along the course.

I know that there are people who run marathons for fun and would tell me that I am too hard on myself and that every marathon won’t be a personal best. I know that the goal is to enjoy the miles and focus on the fact that each one is a gift. Trust me, yesterday during the toughest miles, these were my mantras. Every ounce in my body, especially in my legs, wanted to stop at mile 18.

But, after five years, I think that marathons and I are ready for a break. While I enjoy the training process, I’ve stopped enjoying the race day, which is unfortunate but true. There are too many other things in my life which bring me great joy to continue doing something which doesn’t make me happy. As I reflect upon this training cycle the things that I enjoyed most were my speed workouts and tempo runs. There is no question that I’ve become a faster runner in the past 12 weeks. I set a new half marathon PR and have set multiple unofficial 10k and 5k PRs during training runs and speed workouts.

Yesterday, though the Berlin Marathon was everything everyone promised – beautiful, flat, filled with amazing spectators, and a bit chaotic, I never enjoyed the race itself. For almost five hours I waited to find my groove and enjoy the experience only to finish without ever reaching that point. My happiest moment was chatting with fellow runners in the starting area, motivating one runner who was about to embark on her first marathon.

While sitting at dinner, a few hours later, a reader proved that they knew my running records better than myself, quickly making me realize that yesterday was 2 minutes short of a PR. As I sat there in tears, Bo asked me why I continue to put myself through this each year. Before last night, I had never truly thought about it. Maybe it’s because as a health and wellness blogger I am surrounded by so many incredible people who take on athletic feats each day. But, what I realized is that what was once a huge accomplishment had started to turn into just a habit that came around each year, choosing what the next fall marathon would be.

So for now, while I know the marathon and I may meet again one day, I’m ready to focus on other things such as triathlons and shorter distance races. The half marathon will always be my favorite distance and I would love nothing more than to enjoy a few, especially while combined with European travel to new cities with Bo or girlfriends.

Thank you for your support these past few years during the roller coaster of marathon emotions.

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Berlin Marathon Training – Week 5

Happy Thursday!

My post schedule is all sorts of crazy this week due to our travel to Athens. I hope you all enjoyed Bo’s food tour recap. I’m jealous I couldn’t join but his recap has already convinced me that a Berlin food tour will be the perfect activity on Monday, following the marathon!

Marathon month has finally arrived. In order to ensure that my training is successful during these next three crucial weeks, amongst travel to three different countries, I’m scheduling my training just like i would any other business meetings. Last week I put each long run, tempo run and speed workout on my calendar along with yoga and strength training dates. Waking up early is going to be a hard habit to get back into but I know it is crucial.

Let’s take a few minutes to recap last week’s training, shall we?

Monday: I started the week with a 60 minute yoga class to help my tight hamstrings. This was my first time trying Donna’s hatha yoga class at InnerCity Yoga but I really enjoyed it! The class was less intense than the 90 minute music flow yoga class I typically take on Tuesday nights but I really think it’s perfect for this last month of marathon training. I don’t want to risk soreness for my workouts and this helped take out the kinks without pushing me too far.

1227Tuesday: I pushed snooze one too many times so I slept through my planned morning tempo run and instead ended up having to squeeze it in after work. I listened to Chrissie Wellington’s book to help the 6 miles pass faster but unfortunately nothing made this run more pleasurable. It was one of those runs where my sole focus was getting the miles done.

Wednesday: I kept up with cross training by completing two rounds of Julie’s 20 Minute Bootcamp workout during lunch. It was an awesome workout that moved quickly yet left me sweaty and breathless! I highly recommend this 20 minute workout for anyone who gets bored quickly but wants something that is challenging but easy to follow.

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Thursday:  Rest day!

Friday: I did a 15 mile long run before work as I knew that running in Athens, Greece would be challenging due to the weather and our hotel location. This run went perfectly and I felt really strong. I can only dream of keeping a 9:43 pace for 26.2 miles but for 15 it felt great!

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Saturday: Our flight landed later than expected so this ended up being an unplanned rest day. Ooops.

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Sunday: Our hotel gym only had two treadmills, both of which were occupied bright and early Sunday morning when I tried to squeeze in my weekly speed workout. Bo, nor I, were comfortable with me attempting the speed workout outside as our hotel wasn’t in the best location of Athens. Instead, I covered 5 miles during our 4.5 hour walking tour of Athens, Greece.

Last week wasn’t perfect but I know the areas of focus for this week and the following weeks so instead of dwelling on one missed workout, I am going to focus on the positives!

Your turn – I’m putting together my marathon playlist and am looking for any suggestions. What is your favorite song for a workout or long run? The more random the song, the better. I’m pretty tired of the Top 40 songs on Spotify right now.

 

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Taking A Break from Training

I’m currently sitting on the roof of the JFK Delta Sky Lounge, enjoying the 80 degree temperatures and last bits of sunshine before our evening flight to Europe.

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This vacation has been absolutely incredible in so many ways and I will certainly share more details in the upcoming posts but today, I figure I should take a pause to focus on the one thing giving me a bit of anxiety right now.

The press around Shalane Flanagan sub 2:20 hour Berlin Marathon goal earlier this week made me remember that in just 8.5 weeks I too will be lacing up my sneakers and pinning on my bib to run 26.2 miles.  First of all, my mind is at a loss when I realize that she will finish the marathon before I hit the half marathon point. Second of all, while vacation has been wonderful and I have absolutely zero regrets, I haven’t exactly stuck to my training plan. As I sit here typing this post I think there may be a few anxiety hives showing up on my neck.

This vacation was a much needed chance to unplug. I have been virtually silent on social media, except for a few check-ins here and there and a daily Instagram post. Instead of focusing on an agenda and calendar each day of vacation, as I’ve done previously, I was the most relaxed I’ve been in years. Many vacations I still bring my training plan with me and focus on squeezing in every workout. While that is healthy and sometimes makes sense, for this vacation I knew I wanted to relax emotionally, physically and mentally.

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I didn’t gain a single pound on vacation due in part to the fact that I was active every single day whether walking on the beach, practicing yoga in the backyard, biking around the island, or running. My long run was 10 miles and every other run was between three and four miles, far shorter distances than my training plan prescribed. As I have my sights set on a PR in Berlin, I know this decision wasn’t necessarily the smartest physically but mentally I think it was the best thing possible. For the next 8 weeks I will be living by my training plan and this mental break allows me to start fresh. Based on my physique and headstand abilities, I know that I am the strongest I’ve ever been and that my body is ready for any challenge I will give it over these next few weeks. The first few days of training won’t be easy but at least I am fresh and ready. There may not be a washboard stomach in the below picture but there is a heart and soul that craved attempting headstands on a daily basis and finally, after days of trying, was able to hold it long enough for my dad to capture on his phone camera. IMG_1199[1]

Now it’s your turn, what are your suggestions for making my first few weeks of training easier? How do you jump back into long runs after a momentary break?

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Top 10 Marathon Tips – Training

Many runners are in the midst of applying to Fall marathon lotteries, hoping that they will receive the golden ticket to run one of the larger races such as Marine Corps, New York or Chicago. Others are pushing the button to register for smaller, more manageable and easier to enter Fall marathons. Regardless of which marathon you have set your sights on or, if you’re still trying to make the decision, this post will help you know what to think about when training for your first marathon.

I have completed over 50 races in the past few years including four marathons (New York 2010, New York 2011, Philadelphia 2012, Hartford 2013) and will soon begin training for the Berlin Marathon. I find that each training cycle I learn something new about my body, running or the training itself.

 

Today’s post is dedicated to the training portion of running a marathon. Coming soon I will share tips for deciding whether you need a coach, marathon gear, preparation for the marathon, and the race day itself.

top 10 marathon training tips As always, feel free to email me or leave questions in the comment section!

1. Strength training and foam rolling are almost as important as running itself. Strength training is a key component of distance running in order to ensure good running form, avoid injury, achieve higher speeds and mileage, and correcting imbalances. Foam rolling is basically like giving yourself a deep tissue massage on a nightly basis in the comfort of your own home.

2. Glide or petroleum jelly is your best friend. You eventually will chafe and this exposed skin will cause showers and running to make you wince in pain. Glide up so you don’t chafe up. I tend to use Glide anywhere clothing will rub such as feet, thighs, bra line, and underarms. Guys – don’t forget to use Glide around your nipples as there is nothing worse than finishing a run looking like you’ve been stabbed in each nipple. Bloody nipples are not sexy.

3. Do not let marathon training ruin your social or personal life. It won’t be enjoyable if you’re resenting it or regretting your decision. Who says long runs have to be on Saturday or Sunday if you enjoy spending late nights out with friends? Be agile with your training plan while also ensuring to respect it.

4. Before you start training, invest in good running shoes. The choice of style and brand is personal, based on your gait and needs but spending time at a full service running store where they can analyze your gait and recommend a specific model can help prevent injury in the long run. That being said, make sure you replace your model at least a month before the marathon so you’re not wearing new shoes, even the same model, on race day.

5. You don’t have to spend money or time searching for Gu, Shotblocks or other forms of popular running fuel. While these work very well for many people you can also opt to use actual food whether that be dates filled with peanut butter, baby food packets of applesauce or other fruit or granola bars. Whatever you choose, make sure that you use your long runs to experiment with different options so you know what works best.

6. Marathon weight gain is real. However, protein and water are your best friends for fighting off marathon weight gain from eating all the food due to “runger.”  Make sure to increase the protein in your diet as your mileage increases especially on the day of a long run and following. I have found that the easiest way to increase protein in a healthy way is by adding protein powder or high protein Greek yogurt to my breakfast routine, adding an extra portion of lean protein to lunch salads and building nuts into my afternoon snacks. Keep in mind that the high level of exercise and mileage can leave you dehydrated. Water consumption is more important than ever before especially as thirst can sometimes be confused as hunger.

7. Respect the training plan. There is a reason that many beginner training plans are 16-18 weeks in length. Gradually building mileage will help prevent injury.

8. You can’t just focus on the long runs. I’ve known far too many people to get injured due to skipping their shorter runs and then pushing through the weekend runs.

9. Sleep is important to help your body and muscles repair and keep illness away. While I know we can’t all enjoy eight or more hours of sleep per night even 15 minutes extra each night can add up during the course of a week. Make sure to make the most of your sleep hours by nurturing your legs with compression sleeves or socks as this can help with leg recovery, especially once you’re hitting peak mileage weeks.

10. Respect the rest days. My first two marathons I thought that rest day meant non-running days and instead of resting I spent time on the yoga mat or spin bike. This led to tired legs, exhaustion and overall burnout. Now I look forward and crave the rest day as a well earned reward for giving the week’s training 110%. 

Are you training for your first marathon or trying to decide? Feel free to leave any questions in the comments!

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