As my performance at Eugene marathon continues to sink in, I have thought long and hard about how I qualified for Boston Marathon. While I’m very happy with my performance & kinda amazed by it all, I also want to reflect on what I’ve learned about myself as a runner so I can continue to grow in the sport.
I keep asking myself the same question. What was it that made me cross the finish line that fast? Was it my training? My tolerance for pain? My experience with failure? My <3 for running? A combination of all those things with a lil fairy dust sprinkled in there? I don’t think there is a perfect formula to qualify for the much sought after Boston Marathon. If there was, everyone would be doing it! I do think there are a few things I learned along the way that helped set me up for a solid PR, and the rest of it, well, it just happened, and I will be forever grateful.
Things that helped me:
- 2 years of nonstop endurance work
In 2008 I ran my first half marathon and HATED IT and thought people who did full marathons were stupid/insane. Then, something inside me shifted, and I started training with Nicole for our first full marathon in 2011. Then it was triathlons all the way to an Ironman distance with Team WODS in 2012. The past 2+ years my life have basically been a nonstop aerobic, endurance-building, training fest, and I’ve been lucky enough to have great training buddies by my side the entire way.
- Training that emphasized recovery
In my early training days, I trained long and hard and didn’t take time off when my body needed it. I thought I needed to follow my training plans to a T. Then I learned about the concept of recovery. Ahhhhhh. I had rest days. When I felt like crap, I didn’t run. When I was falling behind on sleep, I didn’t run so I could get enough rest. I incorporated swimming and mobility sessions for active recovery. I also learned to love ice, epsom salt baths, compression socks, stretching, foam rolling, and massages/ART sessions. I didn’t overtrain. Sometimes less is more.
- Experience with failure
I trained for 1 year before I toed the start line at Ironman Coeur d’Alene. 9 painful hours later, I was pulled off my bike and told I had missed one of the time cutoffs by 10 minutes. My race was over. I experienced my first DNF and sheer disappointment sunk in. I cried and cried and cried some more because I felt like something had been taken away from me. It was MY goal to get. Why didn’t I get there?? I learned how to deal with failure and picked myself up and started training again. This time, with a little extra grit. (I finished my next IM 5 months later!)
- Mental preparation & visualization exercises
The plan was to not let my head get in the way of my body. (This has happened before.) Coach made me write down every last detail of how I’d be feeling and what I’d be doing pre-race and during the marathon. I wrote a novel. I started to belive it. I also wrote down my worst fears and anticipated every single thing that could go wrong. Then I identified which ones I could control, and which ones I could not.
- A certain race day state of mind
I was calm and focused and have never felt that collected. I even had some fun out there! This is important coming from someone who used to FREAK OUT before every triathlon. I ran with purpose and determination for all 26.2 miles and even made some new friends along the way. When it hurt and I started to slow down, I found ways to re-focus on my race and pick up the pace again.
- A passion for running
I love running more than I love any other sport. I’ve always kinda known that, but my experience at Eugene Marathon reinforced it for me. My experience with triathlon has also been incredible, and I learned a lot about myself in that sport as well. Still, running is where my heart is.
- Sufficient calories on the course
I upped my calories for this marathon. I used to take a GU every 40-45 minutes. Now I take one every 30 minutes so I’m taking in 200 cals/hour. Even I think that sounds like a lot for my little body, but my coach had me do it, and it works for me.
Things that I still need to work on include, but are not limited to, the following:
- My running form!
It’s grotesque. I may never be a “pretty runner” but I still have a LOT of work to do. Part of that will come with strength training which I’m excited to get back into! I told my coach that I need a six pack. He said more like an eight pack. Geesh. The other part will come with fixing these hip issues…
- Addressing my foot and hip pain
I’m still semi-injured 2 weeks post-marathon, and my feet hurt to the touch. I’m in the market for orthotics. My IT band still says hello from time to time as well. Not normal! I told myself while racing Eugene that I didn’t care if I finished injured. I just wanted to push myself and DO IT! Now I’m dealing with it.
It would be great to be able to KICK IT the last 10k of a marathon. Great runners are able to do that, and I want to be a great runner some day. I need to keep running and training to get there. (Check out how the London Marathon went down. The winner was able to come from behind and overtake the entire pack that all started off a wee bit too fast.)
- Salt & fluid intake
I drank when I was thirsty and ignored salt intake during marathon training this time around since it was so cool out. Coach was like ummm no you need something more than just water out there, so I made a last-minute change and started sipping Gatorade around mile 18/19 on race day. Luckily it worked out, but that was a lil risky! I don’t normally calculate how much water I drink on long runs or during races. I probably should since proper hydration is key to a good workout.
I think a very wise person once said, you can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control how you react to the circumstances. That’s definitely a big part of being an endurance athlete. The longer the distance, the more room for error and for crazy things to happen. You need to learn how to roll with the punches and deal with them the best you can.
Nicole and I have had many gchat convos and have ready many blogs to understand why some people qualify right away and why it takes others longer. It pretty much makes our heads spin because there isn’t a clear answer. At the end of the day, I think she summed it up perfectly. The marathon is a BEAST. Be happy with every finish because that in itself is a WIN!