The Marathon: Don’t Let It Run You

There are many different avenues in which a runner goes through to make the decision to register for their first marathon. The marathon distance poses a challenge. It tests limits, it has the power to change someone. It demands commitment and sacrifice, but the glory that a runner claims when they cross that finish line is the ultimate prize.

The commitment and determination that helps a runner wake up before the sun to run those 8 miles before work actually has the potential to derail their training and ultimately their race. Runners are ambitious and hard to slow down. When we set out to do something, and invest time and money into it, we will not be stopped. But marathon training is a balancing act. The body’s limit will be tested, but there are moments we need to listen to our body and step on the brake to allow for recovery before we fall into the dreaded overtrained state that will eventually lead to injury.

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I don’t regret my first marathon experience. Although I struggled with injuries, that was my path. I needed to have those experiences to learn and grow, both as a runner and as a person. However, for those aspiring marathoners out there, here is what I learned and would do differently the second time around (whether or not there will be one).

1. Have a Plan (But Be Flexible)

Have a training plan, but don’t be married to it. Other commitments will come up and when they do adapt. All will be well if you miss a run…seriously.

It is also important to have a training plan that fits you and your goals. Understand and know yourself as a runner. Do not compare your training to anyone else, because what works for them and their body, may not be right for you. I cannot stress this enough.

2. Progressive Increase in Mileage

Having a progressive approach for your weekly mileage is crucial! Don’t convince yourself that you need to catch up and run more because you believe that it will make you faster/stronger quicker because it wont. It will make you slower and weaker.

I foolishly tried to convince myself that the mileage I built from swimming and biking equalled running mileage, but in reality running puts a massive amount of stress on your musculoskeletal system. I did not allow my body enough time to adapt to the stresses.

3. Recover Well

Let your body recover. Thats’s where the magic happens. It is better to be slightly undertrained than injured on race day. Trust me, your body will welcome the additional down time. If you absolutely feel like you need to be doing something, foam roll, get a massage, take an epsom salt bath, or stretch. Do the little things.

And eat well. Nutrition is often overlooked, but it is extremely important. Good, real, whole foods have the ability to speed up recovery.

4. Strength Train

For the majority of time, running consists of moving in one plane of motion, the sagittal plane. Our knees, elbows, hips, and ankles are constantly extending and flexing. Moving in one plane for an extended period of time has the ability to wear down certain joints, tendons, and muscles. Muscle imbalances then occur. Strength training has the power to alleviate these symptoms and it has the power to prevent them altogether.

Balance and stabilization exercises for the core and glutes are a great place to start.

5. Restorative Yoga

This type of yoga is brilliant for recovery. Training related injuries occur more often to connective tissue (such as ligaments and tendons) than muscles because connective tissues lack blood supply. Restorative yoga increases blood flow thus aiding in the recovery of ligaments and tendons. It will truly give your body and mind the time and space it needs to heal.

 

Have you pushed beyond your body’s limit because of ambition and determination?

Do you have any additional advice for the newbie runner or lessons you learned from your first marathon?   

Chicago Marathon Training Week 9: 9/29-10/5

Race week is here and it is about the only thing on my mind and about the only thing I want to talk about. It has consumed my life! I have a slight case of nerves, but I am more excited than anything.

With every race, first time or not, there are always uncertainties. It is hard to tell if my body is prepared to take on all 26.2 miles, but my mind is prepared. I know I can do this. Whatever happens out on that course, I am confident that I will be able to push through. Which is really half the battle.

I had a good week of tapering, here’s the recap –

Monday: 30 minute recovery ride on the trainer (6.8 miles) – nice and easy.

Tuesday: Evening 4 mile run (9:10) – I felt really good during this run, progressively faster each mile, ending with a 8:54. Most of my runs end by going up a steep hill. I usually do not look forward to running up the hill, but at the end of this run I was smiling! It was that good of a run.

Wednesday: 1 hour Power Yoga class during lunch. I had not been to yoga in a while and well it hurt/felt amazing. Glad to be back.

Thursday: Early morning 5 mile run (10:05) – I was super sore from yoga and super paranoid that a skunk or creeper man was going to attack me (as I was running in darkness). Fortunately, none of this happened.

Friday: Rest day.

Saturday: So cold, so early – easy 3 mile run (9:41).

Sunday: A sunny and WINDY 8 miles (9:53). This run sucked. First half went great, then I headed back and was running into the wind the next 4 miles. I felt sluggish and I needed water, which of course I didn’t bring because it was only 8 miles…

Total Milage: 20 miles

In addition, I am still doing the functional strength exercises for my gluteus medius and stretching/rolling like it’s my part time job.

This week has been all about rest, rest, rest. I will check in on Saturday for one last post before the big day!

 

Chicago Marathon Training Week 7: 9/22-9/28

The days are getting shorter, the temperatures cooler. Even though the sun hasn’t been coming up ’til 6:30AM around here, I am loving the crisp air and soaking up each warm day. The weather has been perfect – mid 50s in the morning and mid 70s (sunny!) in the afternoon. Why can’t it stay like this forever?

Training wise it was has been another solid week. Mileage was cut to 75%, next week to 50% and the final week to 25% (excluding the race). So, nothing really exciting happening here. Just boring tapering of mileage, staying healthy and focusing on my goal. Let’s recap:

Monday: Morning 5 mile run (9:39 pace). Perfect start to a busy day.

Tuesday: Rest day.

Wednesday: The past couple days were hard to get out of bed early, with the sun coming up so late. I had a dentist appointment at 5:45PM so I wore all my running gear to the dentist and mapped out a 6 mile run from there (9:15 pace). The run felt really good and it was my mission to race the sun. I was only in the dark for the last mile! Get it done no matter what.

Thursday: Early morning Hard Core class (:30 min). No, it was not easier than last week…feel the burn! :20 minutes of functional strength exercises and stretching. Then I got back in the pool! I could feel a loss of strength and I went super slow – :30 minutes for 1,800 yards.

Friday: Rest day.

Saturday: Only 4 miles for the day (9:39 pace)! 4! A nice jaunt around the neighborhood. Watched the Spartans defeat Wyoming in their Homecoming game. I can’t wait for Saturday when I travel to East Lansing for the Nebraska game!!

Sunday: Last double digit run before the big one. I teamed up with Whitney and Lynn again for 12 miles (10:15 pace). We started our run at 6:30AM because the Bears were playing the Packers at Noon. Since I was done so early I grabbed coffee at Somethings Brewing and headed home for a shower. I spent the rest of the morning outside on my porch finishing The Hobbit (great book), sipping coffee, and refueling on banana and sprouted grain tortilla, pb wraps.

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Read through the athlete guide! Doing everything I can to prepare!

Mileage is going to be really light this week. I may get a little taper crazy, but I know my body needs the rest so I will not be doing any more than what is on my schedule. As I mentioned, I will be doing a bit of traveling over the weekend to visit Michigan State. I have not been back since I graduated (May 2012)! It has been too long, so I am very excited to meet up with a few friends and soak in the beauty of East Lansing. We play Nebraska who is also ranked, so it should be a good game!

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Badly placed celery hahahah

 

Chicago Marathon Training Week 6: 9/16-9/21

Last week’s recap is coming at you a little late, but good news is peak week is over! Done. All down hill from here.

I’ve gotta admit though, compared to half ironman training, it didn’t feel like that big of a week…even though I logged 20 miles on Saturday…!!! Just two years ago I was unable to run one mile, I’d say that is an accomplishment! Training for triathlons, specifically the half ironman, has really given me a ton of mental strength and I plan to use this edge to push through the last part of the marathon.

Monday:

A morning 5.3 mile run (9:39 pace).

Tuesday:

I woke up extra early to get to a Hard Core class at 5:30AM. It was 30 minutes of straight ab/core work, no break. Wow! I was able to hold on for most of class, but had to back off towards the end. Only makes me want to come back for more!

An hour spin class followed. I haven’t been to a spin class in a while and couldn’t help but chuckle at the crazy high intensity and energy coming from the instructor.

Wednesday:

8 miles after work (9:15 pace). It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and my legs felt like feathers. I ran one loop around Poplar Creek bike path – A nice change of scenery. Functional strength exercises followed.

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Typical view in Illinois

Thursday:

Rest Day.

Friday:

5 mile #runch (9:18 pace). No better way to blow off work day stress with a lunch time run. Functional strength exercises as well.

Saturday:

The big day.

After a good night of sleep I woke up early to drive down to Busse Woods in Elk Grove Village for the 20Miler. Sponsored by Chicago Athlete and Dick Pond Athletics this event is held annually for Chicagoland residents training for a Fall marathon. It is not a race, there is no timing or clocks, but it does come with a fee.

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A very professional map of the course

I decided to sign up because what better way to tackle 20 miles than with 800 of my closest running buddies. But really, it a supported 20 mile run with aid stations (water and Gatorade) every 1 1/2 to 2 miles, medical staff, many restrooms along the route, pacers, and a post-run picnic.

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Sweet socks

TO SUM IT UP: I started with the 10:00 minute pace group and felt great. Now, I usually do my long runs at a 10:15-10:20 pace so I should have known better, but I wanted to see if I could keep up. My pace increased as the miles went on, which is not what I want to happen come race day. Hopefully by mid-October it won’t get as hot as it did.

By mile 2 I had to use the bathroom, so I made a really quick stop and then ran to catch up with the pace group…not the best idea as I then was going under the 10:00 pace. I walked through majority of the aid stations and took 4 Clif Bloks over the 20 miles.

By mile 10 I was starting to decline, but I just kept chugging along at my pace. Around this time I passed the fenced in area where there are elk! They were just sitting there, chilling, and I was envious. I finished in 3 hours and 34 minutes. 10:40 pace. I am pleased with this effort. I never took a break or stopped my Garmin (except for when I used the bathroom once). First time doing 20 miles, ran 5 strong miles the day before. I might actually be able to complete this marathon.

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I downed a Core Power and Cool Mint Chocolate Clif Bar after making some new friends and headed home for a much needed shower. Then after a big lunch I was able to lay down and relax. These are the moments I love, refueling and recovering after a big training day. No other feeling like it.

Sunday:

Lazy Sunday morning. After hitting up the grocery store early (I was craving fruit) I spun out for 35 minutes on the trainer – EASY. And then did my functional strength exercises.

I had the usual aches that come from running 20 miles, but I was really sleepy too. And it has carried over into this week.

I am in taper mode now and I welcome taper with open arms. My body has been taking a beating and it is ready to rest, recover, and rebuild before I run all 26.2 miles come October 12th.

Chicago Marathon Training Week 5: 9/8-9/14

I am back to running!

I was able to hop right back into my training plan last week and if felt great. Fortunately, with rest and a pair of brand spanking new Brooks Glycerins, my heel pain has subsided.

I have modified my training plan to better accommodate me and my body. As this is my first time training/running a marathon I am learning on the go what is best for me and what my body can handle. Everyone is different in this aspect. Some runners can run every single day and that is awesome for them if that works, but my body needs more rest between each run.

Since my arches are incredibly high and rigid they give little support and do not absorb the shock from the impact each stride brings. This impact shoots up my leg and to my knee. My gluteus medius/hips are also weak so they are not giving the support my knees need either. I have incorporated strength exercises into my weekly training that target this glute. I am also getting on the bike more as a form of cross training and I am getting in my stretching and rolling after each training session. However, I am not swimming or doing yoga because of the discomfort/pain it causes in my  left arm and shoulder blade.

This past week started off slow, I was still bummed I couldn’t run, but it ended well!

Monday:

Bike – 35 minutes on the trainer 8.3 miles.

Tuesday:

Rest day – I started doing my strength exercises and rolled out.

Wednesday:

Run – I wanted to be cautious with my first run so I ran my 5 miles on the treadmill (9:36 pace). I had slight discomfort in my right heel and knee to start, but it became unnoticeable by the end. 30 minutes of strength exercises and stretching followed.

Thursday:

Rest day – A good friend that I met while attending Michigan State was flying into Chicago for a wedding in Wisconsin. I had not seen her in over 4 years! So I gladly took a half day off work and toured around the city with her. After I picked her up from the airport we parked at Soldier Field and grabbed Divvy bikes and rode around by the lake. It was a cool and cloudy day, but so much fun!

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Divvy riding counts as cross training right?

We also dug into a good ‘ol Chicago style pizza. Cheeeeeeeeeeese!

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Friday:

Run – On the treadmill again, 8 miles (9:34 pace). My heels and knees felt even better than they did during Tuesday’s run.

Saturday:

Run – I opted to stick with my training plan and run the 12 miles prescribed even though I missed my first 20 miler the week before. I wanted to ease back into training, not over do it the first week back.

I joined in with the mother-daughter combo, Lynn and Whitney, who are also training for the Chicago marathon. They had 20 miles to tackle so I ran the first 10 with them and then made my way back to their house for 2 more.

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I had an awesome time running with them. It really makes the run go by faster when with company, which I feel like I never do. I’m always going solo. I can’t wait to run with them again.

The rest of the day I was running around doing errands before I permanently sat my butt on the couch to watch football.

Sunday:

Bike – An easy 45 minutes on the trainer to recover from yesterday. Plus 30 minutes of strength exercises and stretching/rolling. I had to send my Garmin 910xt back because my elevation does not work. I feel lost without it! But, a new one should be in my mailbox by tomorrow. Yay!

Total: 25 miles

It was a good week getting back into the swing of things. This week has started off good too. Saturday I will be running in the 20 miler. It should be more fun than running my 20 miles alone. Also, this week is the last big push before taper begins! This marathon is coming up faster than expected!