There may be some controversy about listening to music while you run, but when I’m alone, I almost always train with music. These headphones are Bluetooth and sync up with my Garmin 645 Music watch. They have a mini version, which I got because my head is small, and it’s not too bulky in the back.
Now for those of you who don’t run with music, I understand safety is a big concern. It’s a valid point, that you are less aware of your surroundings with music in your ears, especially for road runners. But these are different! They are bone conduction headphones which means they sit outside your ear so you can still be aware of what’s going on around you. They work and sound just as well as regular headphones, in my opinion, and it’s not like people passing by can hear what you’re listening to either.
Music can be considered a training hindrance for a few different reasons. For starters, it’s easier to tune out your performance and slack off on pace and form. Then sometimes you might find yourself actually running to the beat of whatever song is playing at the time, which may not coincide with your goal for your workout. But on those long, slow runs, sometimes the music helps the miles fly by.
I certainly don’t encourage listening to tunes while you’re racing, but as long as you’re smart about it, I think training with music is fine, and sometimes beneficial for the mental side of running. Just make sure it’s a help, and not a hindrance.
Laps are mind-numbingly boring and I hate doing them. It’s part of the reason why I call pool workouts “pool purgatory.” The other part is due to my lack of gills. However, pool workouts are undeniably great for cross training, recovery, range of motion, flexibility, and your breathing. Sure, a lot of people wait to incorporate swimming until they are injured, but I think it’s highly beneficial to get in the pool (or lake or ocean) BEFORE you are chronically injured or sentenced there by a Physical Therapist.
From a runner’s standpoint, swimming is great for strengthening hip flexors, promoting ankle flexibility, strengthening the back muscles to help with running posture, and increasing lower abdominal strength. If my legs are too sore and inflamed to go on a recovery run, then I jump in the pool and swim some laps to get the recovery benefits from the circulation.
Lengthy swims are particularly good for endurance athletes. Everyone has their limits to how much they can train before any more is damaging to their muscle endurance. But because swimming is zero impact, it enables athletes to push past those limits and build a stronger, more efficient cardiovascular system.
Swimming is a full body workout and it is tiring. It feels odd for me to be physically tired without feeling skeletal muscle fatigue. But besides getting the running benefits from pool workouts, it’s also a relaxing and peaceful form of exercise – as long as I can remind myself of all the benefits on the days when I really dread the pool.
Rest is training, too. Everyone needs rest and recovery, both physically and mentally. For me and my training, I take recovery pretty seriously. Physiologically speaking, growth only happens through rest and repair. Most of the time it’s like a set of stairs, in that you don’t always let yourself fully recover before working out again until it’s time to taper.
I have at least one day a week that is completely workout-free and usually work-free. I don’t use run streaks as part of my training because I’m not physiologically on board with them, though I understand there’s a mental factor in the reasoning behind it.
There are a few basic recovery principles I use besides rest. After all, rest is only a small part of recovery.
After a long and/or hard effort, I’ll usually do a recovery run the next day. It helps keep the blood flowing through those tired, achy muscles desperate for nutrients.
Speaking of nutrients, fueling is crucial. Know what you’re going to have after your workout before you start. There’s two different windows I try to hit. The first is within 20 minutes post workout – the sooner the better. I opt for a carb/fluid/electrolyte focus (VegaSport Recovery Accelerator). The second window is between 60-90 minutes after my workout, with a protein shake (VegaSport Protein).
If I have a muscle or tendon that’s starting to nag or I’m just really sore, I’ll apply a comfrey ointment or other herbal lotions.
I try to set aside time set aside for foam rolling and use of other self-care tools for at least 20 minutes every night (with the exception of my rest day). I use foam rollers, tennis balls, a thumper, cupping therapy, a lacrosse ball, Roll Recovery R8, and various others that I’ve accumulated over the years.
I do get at least two professional massages per month, partly due to my job, but I think it’s important for athletes, too. You can do a lot yourself, but nothing beats someone else doing it for you.
Getting a good sleep regularly has been a struggle for me since…well, since I graduated high-school and started to adult. Part of it is my personality. I tend to stress and be more anxious than I have to be. But sleep is the body’s time to repair, and it’s crucial to a high-intensity active lifestyle.
Recovery is a lot of work – that’s why I consider it 50% of training. There’s a lot of different and conflicting methods of recovery out there, but everyone has something. Find what works for you and make recovering just as important as the rest of your training.
Tempo – maybe my favorite, maybe. Done at a comfortably hard pace, they’re key to making my marathon faster. I try to push the pace, but also keep the splits even. If I’m coming off of a rest day the pace might be faster than one done in the middle of the run-week, but the goal (effort) of the workout remains constant no matter how tired my legs are. Depending on where I’m at in the training cycle, these runs are anywhere from 3-10 miles and once or twice a week.
Easy/Recovery – for active recovery and getting in the mileage. The body needs time to recover from hard workouts, more than just that half mile jog at the end of a session. These miles make up the bulk of my marathon training.
Intervals – The distance and number of reps will vary depending on what I’m training for and where I’m at in the cycle, but the shortest I’ll do is 400s and the longest, 3 miles.
Long – My long runs for marathon training vary a bit, but with purpose. They could be anywhere from 12-28 miles and either at a steady effort or easy pace – sometimes a mix.
Akron crushed my spirits like no other marathon had before. I felt physically ready to go well under three hours, and I was dying to prove my current capabilities. Realistically at that point, I didn’t even need every little thing to go right to get under three – to at least be done with the “Breaking the 3-Hour Barrier” thing. But I didn’t. I wasn’t even close. Though I knew I was capable, WOULD I ever?! All of my future goals seemed hopeless. Kyle pulled up my face and said “I believe in you.” I broke down with the realization that I wasn’t sure if I believed in me anymore.
I took a week off with low, easy mileage then tried my best to stay focused and not give up. I tried to tell myself that big disappointments like that were bound to happen because part of truly understanding and conquering the marathon is getting crushed over and over again and learning how to overcome the mistakes.
Though the hip pain I had during the race was due to changing shoe brands and quickly went away, it was still unilateral, which means that side needed a little extra TLC. I decided to try out a sports doctor who did dry needling and developed knee pain shortly after that. I couldn’t pinpoint the real cause of it, but knew it was probably due to unraveling muscle tension. We thought it was the IT band, but it was sticking around and not getting better. I was told to run through the pain, but I couldn’t get all my mileage in. I had gotten two solid weeks of training done, but now a month out from race day, I was struggling to put in the work before taper time. Then I got hit HARD with a cold and that took me out for a week. I know it doesn’t sound that long, but for me that’s a long time to be sick. I can usually kick something like that in about 12 hours. Maybe the extra down time would help my knee? Nope. It made it worse (with muscle tension stuff a lot of times not moving makes things worse). Now I was desperate. I didn’t know if I could even finish a marathon, let alone run a personal best.
Kyle and I were heading to San Diego to spend Thanksgiving with his family. At this point, I couldn’t run a mile without pain. My last ditch effort to fix this thing was my old acupuncturist. He has crazy good knowledge of the human body and in the past I responded well to his trigger point acupuncture. I made a last minute appointment and he informed me it was actually the vastus lateralis that had a few spots of scar tissue built up in it. So after the needles, he scraped that out (yes, it hurt a lot). I was so sore after, but knew instantly that it was going to be okay. The next day I ran 13 miles pain free, along with the rest of the taper.
With renewed hope, race weekend was here. I didn’t get in the training I wanted, but I had experience on my side, and I was so relieved to get to the starting line pain free. So what was I going to do now? I could stick with the 3:00 pacer and just focus on getting under 3:00, even if it would just be 2:59. Maybe I could go for my goal time at Akron, which was supposed to be a 6:25/mile pace. OR, I could just chase the 2:45 pace group and do my best to hang on to the pack. It’d be risky because I didn’t think my fitness was there to hold on for the whole race and it’d probably mean hitting a wall hard and maybe not even finishing under 3:00. But WHAT IF…
Race morning was one of the smoothest ever for me, having everything planned, getting where I needed to be, having the right nutrition, and wearing enough throw off layers. I really only had to wait around at the start for an hour, which isn’t bad compared to the big races like Boston and New York. The weather looked like it was going to remain perfect as we all crammed into the starting chute. I looked down to see a sea of nothing but Nike 4% Vaporflys. I had to chuckle. The elites and seeded runners were off and we followed right behind. I went out at what felt like tempo pace, but ignored the buzzes on my watch. The 5k clock put me at 19:32, which was well under 3:00 pace. I didn’t care, I was still going for it. Then just after mile 4, my knee started to hurt. WHAT?! It had been totally fine, but I guess with the low mileage week of taper, there was still some tension in the surrounding muscles that needed work. The pain wasn’t bad, but I knew that since it started this early it was going to get pretty ugly. Now I definitely had to keep pushing to try and bank as much time as I could. At the 10k I was at 38:58, and the 15k 58:55. The 2:45 group was still in my sights, but it was time to let them go. The pain reached another level. I told myself to just get to the half and then reassess. I reached that point at 1:23:23. That was enough right? I thought it was. Now I just needed to focus on 6:50s. Anything less than that I could bank. Mile 14 was when I first looked at my watch for the split – 6:33. I felt like I was running so much slower than that. Alright, just get through mile 16. The pain kept getting worse. Should I drop out? No, I wasn’t giving this one up without a fight. After mile 17, my knee started to buckle and I told myself to pull it together and get through 20. Miles 18-20 were 6:51, 6:45, 6:54. Was that enough? What did I need? I figured I could still pull it off with 7:15s for the last 10k. So I focused on that, one mile marker at a time. I got through mile 23 and looked at my watch time. I was going to make it! Even if I did 9 minute miles the rest of the way, I was going to break 3:00. Focus! Mile 26 was my slowest at 7:30. I made the final turn to the finish and saw 2:55 on the clock. That was so worth it. I was so happy that I didn’t quit. Even though it wasn’t my goal time, I FINALLY broke 3 hours, qualified for some free entries next year, and am able to move into Chicago’s ADP for 2019. Oh man, my knee hurt so bad.
Yes, I AM happy with my performance. It was a big positive split, but I don’t regret running it that way. It’s what I needed to do in those circumstances. I’m glad I could experience the course, with all it’s rolling hills. I was a little bummed that I didn’t get to run with a pack (there wasn’t much with 2:45 group ahead and 3:00 group behind), but I guess I’ll look forward to that at Chicago. I was also sad that I didn’t really get to race it either. The last 10k in the marathon is where you usually get to see some race magic happen, but as the runners kept passing me I just had to keep focusing on not stopping.
On to the next segment of “My Story!” It’s called 2020 Vision (you have NO idea how long I’ve been waiting to use that one…because I also have horrible eyesight).
I’m a little bit psycho…a little bit you don’t know what you’re made of until you’ve tasted your own guts, until you’ve helplessly felt all will and mental control being ripped away by your body’s physical instinct to survive. When I first started running, I didn’t know my limits and it took a while to get a grasp on knowing when to push and when to quit.
My first experience with this was when I got a stomach ulcer from running too far without food or water. I didn’t know why the pain was so awful, but I had four miles left and no other option but to keep going – I don’t know how I made it home. One time I went out in a heat wave, and somehow drank more water out of my Camelbak than I put in. Once, I tried to quit a run early, feeling that if I pushed to the end I wouldn’t be okay. But it turned out, I wasn’t okay anyway and Kyle had to come pick me up from the roadside. I spent the evening vomiting Pepto Bismol and listening to him say, “If you throw up one more time, I’m taking you to the ER…” Another time, I finished my run 1/2 mile from home. I stopped to walk, but I couldn’t and I realized I only had a short window of time to get water before it would be too late to avoid an IV. I didn’t have time to call Kyle and wait for him to come get me. I stuck out my thumb and all I remember is an old beat up mustang and a guy with a backwards baseball cap. He drove me the short distance back to my apartment where I again, spent the evening vomiting.
I’ve run myself into the ground far too many times, more than I care to admit. They aren’t circumstances that I’ve tried to get myself into or that I’m proud of. In fact, all of them were pretty stupid/dangerous. But when I find myself that desperate, it humbles me in a way that could only be described as knowing I am not enough.
Distance running is undeniably a spiritual experience – whether you are an atheist, believe in God, cling to a religion, or claim to be label-less. Mind, body, and soul we go out and inevitably separate and re-join the three when we push our limits, giving us a whole new understanding of ourselves.
So often in the running community do I see and hear people talking about “faith” and “trusting God.” After a success story they “thank God” and begin to preach the prosperity gospel – that if we have faith in God, He will give us what we want. Bible verses like Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” are thrown around as inspiration. Honestly, I have a hard time cutting through all of it. It makes me hesitant to speak up about my beliefs because I don’t want to be thrown into the middle of that. The link below explains what I think on the matter pretty well.
I believe running is a gift and I’m thankful for the ability and opportunity to pursue it competitively. But as a Christian, I am not promised worldly success. It’s not about me. My life is a tiny part of a bigger picture that I can’t see. I believe the Bible is God’s Word and that it’s true, but no where in there does it say we will have health and wealth if we follow Him – actually quite the opposite.
The other side of the prosperity gospel is that YOU are the one doing good works and helping (saving) yourself. But the Bible says our “good” works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) and there is no one righteous, not one (Romans 3:10). We are incapable of being enough.
It’s a hard sell, right? No guarantee of earthly success and you can never measure up to be good enough. Well it’s not a selling point. There’s nothing to sell, because you can’t buy it. God’s grace is a gift that only requires acceptance. Our “good works” are only out of response to a changed heart.
The sport of running, particularly road racing, fascinates me. Not necessarily keeping up with all the latest and greatest, but the human performance side of things. I’ve always been interested in nutrition and physical fitness, but when I got into distance running is when I began to look deeper into how the human body actually works. I’ve observed, read, listened, and taken note of all these factors listed below over the past seven years and this is what I’ve come up with:
You have controllables and uncontrollables – things that you can and can’t change that affect your performance.
Adaption – how long you stick with the sport
Diet – what, how, and when you eat
Training/recovery – depends on where you’re at, where you’re going, and general life habits, how much time and energy you allot to running
Form – how efficient you run on the outside (efficiency is also an inside factor that goes with adaption)
Want/attitude – how serious you take it and how much you really want it
Injuries – though I consider these controllable, they’re also inevitable
Breaks – taking several years off, having kids, etc.
Genes – running specific genes. A lot of people don’t believe it, but I think it’s obvious in the running world that if you had parents and/or grandparents that were runners you have an advantage.
Track/XC background – if you’ve had experience in middle school, high school, and/or college, and how far you got. I put this as “uncontrollable” because at this point either you did or didn’t. You can’t go back and change it.
Body type – different than running genes. This goes down to bone structure and healthy body composition ratios for you to train optimally without injury. Rake me across the coals, but there IS a perfect body type for optimal performance. It’s impossible, but if you somehow took two runners that had identical factors except body type, one of them would out perform the other. However, because there are so many variable factors for a distance runner, I don’t believe body type can keep you from competing, even at the elite level. But you do see this start to matter at the elite level (with some exceptions). At the amateur and even sub-elite level body type seems to matter less.
Time – how long you’ve been running and how long you’ve got before you inevitably start declining. Everyone is dying, and at some point you will personally peak. It depends on when you start. Some people start at age 40 (the master’s level) and they end up peaking at 50! Others who have been running their whole lives, see themselves declining in their late forties. There’s a reason why 40 and over is a whole new category. Again, there’s always exceptions.
I’m sorry it’s so hard to read, but you’ll get the idea.
The left side (in red) is the age at when you started running. It goes from top to bottom because…
The right side (in green) is what level you have the ability to reach before your performance starts to decline.
The bottom (in blue) are the uncontrollables and how many you have. Obviously you can mix and match, but that was too complicated for me to put on the chart.
The top (in pink) are all the controllables, which makes your progress go up and down – hence the pink squiggly line over top of the first graph line.
Note: These thought patterns are specific to distance running, if you start and then continue on until you turn 50, give or take a few years. Everything of course is individual.
Taking all those factors and figuring out what works best for you to help you reach your full potential is complicated and frustrating – but also fun! I understand that most people don’t really care to dig into it this much. But I find it helpful in my own training and it gives me a better angle in how to approach accomplishing those big goals I have, even ten years down the road.
In conclusion, and to explain the post’s title, I don’t believe there is such a thing as the “X-factor” – that thing that somehow makes an athlete greater than the greatest, one-in-a-million. I think it’s a matter of having all those uncontrollables and then being able to work out the controllables. Take a look at the top elites in distance running.
Akron is where I’m from, so I was especially excited to be able to go “home” for this 2018 series (scored). The 8k was the first of three, followed by a half marathon in August and a full marathon in September.
Having six weeks off from racing, I was able to get some solid training in for this race and felt really prepared. Being an odd distance, I’d only ever raced it once before and it was on a tough cross-country course, so I figured a PR was “in the bag.” But really, I wanted to place well for the series scoring and match my pace from my fastest 5k – 5:55 per mile.
The weather was pretty terrible. An alert was sent out a few days earlier from the race director with an extreme heat advisory. Salt Lake had been pretty hot, even hotter than the weather in Akron and I had been training in the heat so I wasn’t worried, but the humidity would be another matter. I knew the competition would be tough, cranking out much faster times than I was currently ready for, but I planned on at least making her nervous and then nabbing second. Still, you never know who else is going to show up…
Legs felt great, shakeout run the day before felt good, I was confident in a new nutritional strategy I was testing out, and I was ready to feel the burn! I hung out with my dad (who was running the mile as his first race ever) before heading over to the starting area fueled and hydrated.
Eyeing the competition, I kept the nerves down and excitement up. We moved to the top of the starting line and were off. Immediately, I realized it was much harder to breathe than it should have been. I wasn’t starting off too fast, my legs felt like they could keep that pace, but I just couldn’t get any air in my lungs. After about 3/4 of a mile I slid into 5th female and kept my cool, thinking I had 4 miles to catch up to the pack of four leading ladies. However, after mile 2 I felt myself starting to slow dramatically. My legs still felt amazing, I couldn’t turn over fast enough to feel any sort of burn, it was just the air. The heat itself didn’t even bother me. I found myself alone, a few guys coming and going, but no female competitors around. The lead pack was now strung out as I got to see on an out and back, the one favored to win now in second. I pushed with what I could, but again I didn’t feel like I was running hard. It was frustrating. I stayed in 5th and finished well over my goal time, but at least shaved over a minute off my last 8k. After crossing the finish line I swear my legs screamed “Again, again!” My lungs though, were actually sore.
Going from 11% humidity to 85% made much more of a difference than I thought it would. You never really know and understand until you experience it (key in all of my training and racing). I love to travel and race, and weather/environment changes are just part of the game and out of your control. Looking over the top four females’ statistics, they faded in pace at the same rate I did. Take the humidity away, and I’m pretty sure I could have put up a good fight. The heat was a disadvantage for them, because it wasn’t normal, local weather. But I was fine with the heat and I had the elevation drop advantage (4200 ft. to 900 ft.). I also feel confident that my goal time of 29:24 was legitimate – my legs were there. I didn’t run the tangents that well, and I ended up being a tenth over. My average heart rate was 126 and cadence 180. Those numbers should and would have been higher if I could breathe.
My nutrition was a “new” theory I was testing and I think it worked out well, but I’m waiting to check on a few more things before I delve into that bucket.
Time – 31:37
15th of 1781 overall
5th of 1023 females
3rd of 114 in age group
Four days later, I woke up in considerably drier air and got myself out the door for a forty-five minute drive to the start line. I didn’t feel amazing when I woke up, but I figured I’d get it worked out come the 7 a.m. gun time. I got a little turned around trying to park and had to run a mile and a half to the start line – that was my warm up. I felt as ready as I could be and knew that the competition would be tough. I recognized a few, but this race had prize money so that always brings in some others. I purposely did NOT use the nutritional theory from the 8k to continue to gather data.
I tried to stay relaxed, but my shoulders remained tense. I felt like I settled into a reasonable burn within the first few minutes to be able to endure for 6 miles, but it wasn’t good that I felt it so early. The course was relatively flat with a few inclines, but nothing major. The leading ladies began to pull further away as I tried to keep a steady effort. Just before the halfway point, we ran into the 5k walkers (they started at a different place). There were 2,400 of them, and it seemed like we had to weave through every last one. We got a half a mile break from an out and back, but then rejoined them, having to weave around for half the race in total. I was less than thrilled about that, knowing that it definitely slowed my time, possibly robbing me of a PR, but everyone had to do it.
Finishing the race with a headache and feeling sluggish, I headed back to the car thinking things through. From start to finish, I wouldn’t have raced any differently. I didn’t feel properly fueled, which is helpful for me to note. Next week I have a 5k that I will try what I did for the 8k and compare. And THEN maybe I’ll be able tell you more. Besides fueling, it felt like an off day for me. I may have been a little dehydrated, too.
At the end of the day, the results don’t lie. The effort was hard, and that’s what I needed. My time was slow, but part of why I race so often is that I like to test things out. That means having a lot of “less than ideal” racing outcomes.
ADI DAS! I don’t exclusively wear Adidas, but almost. Concerning shoes and athletic apparel, I love the brand, and I always have – for reasons starting with their shoes and then spreading into their quality and fit of clothing. But as running and racing became a bigger part of my life, I researched the company and became fascinated with the story.
The founder, Adolf Dassler, was an honest hard-working man, passionate about crafting the best shoe he could for the athlete. Between family drama, politics, and rising competitors, the Adidas brand has gone through a lot more than (I think) Mr. Dassler could ever have imagined. Initially, he wasn’t even on board with a clothing line. When he was convinced, he wanted to be clear that only sport “practical” clothes were to be manufactured and sold. He scoffed at the thought of starting a swimwear line because you don’t wear shoes in the water (his son, Horst started Arena anyway, but the company was sold in 1990). It was clear his priorities were in the shoe business.
From its humble beginnings as a family business that started in 1949, Adidas has grown into a multi-company corporation. In all of its 60 plus years of existence, I can’t say I’m ethically or morally on board with EVERY business decision Adidas has made, but as a whole, I trust the brand. Even though it’s not family owned anymore, it still seems to have Adolf Dassler’s “spirit” in it – the hard work and passion to deliver only the best. As a competitive athlete, I’m on board with that mindset.
Adidas shoes fit my feet and I like their sportswear, but I suppose you could argue that I can find another brand that suits my wants and needs. But I am a loyal consumer. When I find a brand that I like, fits my needs, and has meaning behind the name, I’ll stick with it. Adidas has deep roots – simple roots, honest roots. I like that. And it’s why I will choose Adidas over any other.
Part eight! I have to laugh to keep from crying. I’ve said I’ve been trying to hit this time goal for over two years now. While my first two attempts may have been slightly unrealistic, I still stand firm on believing that 3-5 were achievable. Six, I was just happy to run injury-free and seven I felt like everything went well, I just didn’t have the fitness back. But if there’s one thing I know how to do, and do it well, it’s how to hop on the gain train. I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I’m pretty good at recovery. At the Salt Lake City Marathon, I pushed hard and knew that Ogden could give me a pretty big PR if I played my cards right.
There were four weeks in-between, so I kept up my speed work and tempos and just did one long run in the middle. My foot/achilles gave me a nag, but I worked it out and felt really good heading into this race. The course looked smooth, fast, and beautiful. The weather was looking like it would stay clear, but not get crazy hot. I slept hard throughout the week and felt well-rested. There was just one thing I was worried about.
It was about that time for me to start my cycle and I’ve always had issues, but to keep it short, 75% of the time I have a 4-6 hour episode where I’m in intense pain, I can’t even sit in an upright position let alone carry out the day’s tasks, I get lightheaded/dizzy, my face turns gray, I start shaking, and then eventually the pain goes away and the rest of the cycle is fine. However, after all that takes place I’m exhausted and not good for much until the next day.
Unfortunately, the afternoon before the race I found out timing wasn’t on my side for this one. I went to sleep that night for two hours and then awoke with the pain and was up most of the night. Around 3 a.m. it subsided in enough time for me to doze off for 45 minutes and dream that I missed the buses. I woke up and realized that it was just a dream, but I didn’t have time to fall back asleep.
The lack of sleep alone, I wasn’t worried about because one usually doesn’t sleep well the night before a race. It’s the week(s) before that you really should care about. But I did feel that deep exhaustion that I always get after one of those episodes. I stumbled around the hotel room trying to get ready and psyche myself up. I managed to still be hopeful and excited by the time the buses arrived at the starting area – I didn’t feel like there was any other option, but to hope that I could borrow the energy. I found the other track club members that were racing and waited around for an hour and a half.
6:50 rolled around and we all headed to the start line. I made my way to the front because I was vying for another podium finish which meant gun time mattered. I looked around at the competition and picked a few I wanted to beat. Okay, well obviously I wanted to beat them all, but sometimes at the beginning of a race I pick one or two for extra fun and added motivation.
The clock started and a string of guys tore off. In the first mile, I was in second, but wasn’t concerned about the place. I was tired, not sleepy tired, but really really tired. I stayed steady for three miles, and caught up to the first female. “No!” I thought to myself, “I can’t race right now, I can’t spend the energy, and I can’t handle the lead so early.” I tried to relax and keep my own pace. Finally, she overcame me a few miles later and pushed the pace by herself as I gratefully watched her fade in front of me. Focusing on my own effort, I tried to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the mountains, rivers, and canyons. My legs felt great, despite how the rest of me felt. I managed to hold goal pace through mile 7. By the time I made it through the halfway point, I was still in second, but I had no energy. My shoulders felt heavy and I was struggling with thoughts of stopping.
Pressing on through 16, I told myself just three more miles until you get to the hard stuff, and then you’ll grit it out. My legs were still holding up great, and soon mile 20 came. I was surprisingly still in second, and I began thinking that maybe I could hold onto it after all. But tired…so tired. At mile 23 the course turned onto a bike path and some rolling hills. Third female came up behind me and I surged without really thinking about it. I pulled her along for maybe 30 seconds, but she passed me and I couldn’t hold on.
Just a few miles left, and my pace slowed even more, to an 8-minute mile. All of my time goals were gone, but at least I was in third and I was almost done. The finish line was in sight. The crowd was cheering and as I entered the final stretch, I thought I felt a competitor behind me. I turned to look at the crowd to try and read their faces, and looked at my shadow to see if there was one behind, but I didn’t see anyone. I ignored the feeling. The finish was just ten yards away. Then suddenly, when I couldn’t have been farther than three yards from the line, 4th female came up beside me. Instantly I surged, angry that I had let that happen. We crossed the finish line and I hit the pavement. I thought I beat her, I felt I beat her, but I couldn’t know for sure. I also couldn’t breathe. Or move.
That whole race was a mind vs. body battle. In the end, my mind won – I didn’t quit. But when it was over, there was nothing left to peel me off the road.
After laying down in the medic tent for just a few minutes, my heart rate was 58 and body temperature 93, confirming my exhaustion. My heart rate should not be that low that soon after a race, and the lower body temperature is a way to conserve energy. Those things aren’t really a concern from the medic side, but for my own personal performance log I found it helpful. Once I convinced them I was fine, one of them helped me walk to the results tent (because priorities) but they hadn’t come through yet, so she walked me all the way to my hotel lobby. We were both surprised at how good my legs felt. I finished my recovery drink and rushed to check out of the hotel so they wouldn’t charge me extra for a late checkout and headed back down to the finish festival to find my friends and wait around for results.
Chip time, I knew she beat me by a few seconds. But for the podium, gun time is all that matters, and when the results came through I had won by one second. I found it ironic because just the day before I had answered some questions for a feature in the track club newsletter about my most memorable races. I said one of them was the 2017 La Jolla Half Marathon because I missed 2nd place by 33-hundredths of a second, and I learned that every second counts. I guess I needed a reminder of what that felt like.
The next day, I was able to walk down the stairs normally at work, and was only a little sore in my calves and feet. It was clear my legs didn’t get the workout they had expected. The last time my legs felt this good after a marathon was last June, when I raced hyponatremic. Even though I didn’t come close to my original time goal, I’m happy I didn’t quit, still made the podium, and got some mental strength gains from this race.
COLD! My first race in Utah and it was 30 something degrees. There were plenty of runners in shorts and a tank top, but I was clearly the wimp with my full leggings, long sleeve mock neck top, gloves, and ear warmer – and I was still cold.
The Salt Lake City Track club puts on a three-race winter series with a 5k, 10k, and 15k each two weeks apart. The course(s) are flatter than a fritter. I signed up for the series months ago, before my foot injury, so I had to significantly lower my expectations for myself. I had barely been able to run in the weeks leading up to it, so really all I wanted to do was get through it pain free.
During my warm up I felt a few twinges, but by the time everyone was lining up, I was starting to feel better about my foot. My first mile was alright, 5:56, but then my lungs were screaming no. Not only had I not been able to train but that also meant my lungs hadn’t been able to adapt to the elevation change either. 4,200 feet is a lot different than 200. My second and third splits were 6:23 and 6:26. What my legs never felt in burn was made up for in my lungs. I am out of shape and unconditioned, but my foot remained pain free, and I was/am pretty happy with that.
Being part of the Women’s Open Team for the San Diego Track club meant that I would be partaking in a cross-country race series. I had never done any sort of racing off road before, but I gave it a whirl. I ended up liking it better than I thought I would. The races were competitive, small, and simple (and also pretty cheap). Ranging from 5k to 8k, I completed six of the seven races. Unfortunately, I will be out of town for the championships.
Marathon training conflicted with several of the races and I ended up having the run them the day after a long run, but I figured as long as I wasn’t injured, it would be good training. I like to stay marathon minded anyway. In the end, I think these races actually aided my marathon training and I became a stronger runner.
Running through meadows, up and down rutted hills, jumping over hay bales, sinking into wet ground, and avoiding broken ankles was a new challenge. Racing with a team was also something new to me, and it made the series much more fun. I’m not sure I would have done more than one without my teammates.
I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to at least try cross country. I had a lot of fun, and I’m not saying never again, but these legs belong on the road. I love the speed and the endless supply of competition. Call me a sissy, but I don’t like the higher injury risk of off road racing. Call me a princess, but I don’t like getting my stripes dirty.
What’s for breakfast? Pumpkin pie! Actually, second breakfast, post-run. This recipe is healthy and delicious, but not really a pre-workout sorta thing. I’m not going to sit here and list all the benefits of pumpkin, but besides that – think about it. You can have a good, whole-grain crust that may not taste as good as buttery, white flour dough, but still does the job. And the filling is super easy to cut out the crap and still taste like “real” pie. Add all these awesome ingredients, and you’ve got yourself a wholesome meal that tastes like desert.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup warm water
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl to form dough. You may have to warm the coconut oil first to make sure it mixes well. Transfer the dough ball to a 9-inch pie plate and press out evenly. The dough will not be sticky enough to roll out.
1 large egg
1 tablespoon buckwheat flour (okay, it doesn’t have to be buckwheat…it can be any kind, I just like to use something different because it’s such a little amount you can’t taste it anyway)
1/4 cup plain, whole-milk, greek yogurt
1/2 cup brown rice syrup (or whatever other sweetener you want, i.e. honey, maple syrup, agave, mix and match)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 16 oz. can of pure pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Whisk all this goodness together in a bowl and pour into pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes.
Take note, that if you don’t eat the whole pie after it’s been cooled, when you take it out of the fridge the next day, the crust will make it harder to cut (cold coconut oil). Also, another option I’ve done with this recipe is to make parfaits. Bake the crust by itself and crumble to pieces, dice up some green apples and bake on a cookie sheet, bake the filling by itself, and viola! Layer away. If you must use whip cream, make sure you whip it yourself. None of that canned crap.
Going into this race, I was pretty excited. I felt like I had good training gains, despite not quite getting my pace back from before my “end of season” break. This race last year gave me my personal best to date, and I was ready to PR again.
Something else that I was trying to keep in mind was that for the previous year’s race, I hadn’t had the four weeks off running at the same time. My break was earlier in the year, due to a January marathon. So, trying to pay attention to the differences in my body and training paces was important to me. All things considered, I felt like I had a 1:23-1:25 half marathon in me.
The morning of the race I felt tired, not sleepy tired, but my legs felt tired. I had had a long day at work the day before. Figuring that my adrenaline would take care of it once the race started, I wasn’t too concerned. During the first three miles, I avoided looking at my Garmin in order to simply focus on steadying my pace and breathing – finding my “groove.” But after mile 4, I could tell I still started a little too fast. I tried to focus and regain control as best as I could. I steadied out, but couldn’t find the “comfortable” burn I was looking for. The feeling of light and smooth eluded me. There was a big hill at mile 9, and after that it was a smooth downhill finish. However, I still couldn’t get my legs to turn over like they should have. I finished the race realizing I just barely beat my previous time by a mere 36 seconds. This disappointment set in. It wasn’t a good effort, and I knew it. I didn’t feel exerted enough, but my legs were so heavy. You can’t have a good race every race, and I’m not saying it was a bad race. But I think I had more in me at my current level of running fitness.
Regardless of my disappointment, it was still a slight personal best. All I can do is keep learning and reflecting. Real progress is coming in the year ahead – I can feel it in my bones. For now, I’m looking forward to a hopeful redemption race with a 15k in a few weeks.
This stuff is amazing. I’ve tried many different lotions and potions for sports enthusiasts and this product line is by far the best. The Jadience brand has a variety of different product lines that fit specific needs, but they all have at least a little jadestone in them. The company focuses on using ancient Chinese medicine to bring about the healthiest “you.”
Stop it. It’s not voo-doo magic or hippie devil stuff. It’s called herb-ology, and Jadience offers a Muscle & Joint line that has a specific combination of herbs to help with circulation, tightness/soreness, and healing to damaged muscles. There is science behind it. Think of it in the same way you combine certain nutrients in foods to get optimal utilization – peanut butter and carrots – the fat in the peanut butter helps the vitamin A get absorbed into your system. It’s the same way with combining different herbs to work together.
There is a long list of herbs in the Muscle & Joint formula so I won’t list them all, but Clematidis, Achyranthis, and Puerariae are a couple that help relax and relieve muscle pain. There is a light “herbal” smell to their products, but I’ve found that most people like it. I use their Muscle & Joint cream the most because it soaks in better and has a moisturizing effect. The gel is nice for targeted areas and the soak is perfect for post long runs and after races. They also have an energizing foot spray that I use pre-race.
Originally, I found this brand through my job. We use it in a few of our services. I’ve since learned that they are local to San Diego, but do have retailers that sell their products across the U.S. You can find them on their website (www.jadience.com) or they give you a list of online retailers that sell their product. It’s pricier than bio-freeze, but it’s really not even in the same class. Buy a small bottle and see for yourself.