Saturday, May 4, 2013

Spring 2013: Season in Review

After the Nike Women's half marathon last week, I consider spring racing season over. I spent the winter months building up mileage, putting in the weekly tempos and intervals, and then I backed off the training to taper/recover for my spring races.

I had my most successful training cycle ever and as a result, became faster than I had ever been previously. The lack of injuries and relatively tame weather enabled me to consistently complete workouts. About 90% of my runs went well, or even exceeded expectations and there was only a small percentage where I felt "off". For the runs that didn't go well, I brushed them off and was feeling good within days. I saw paces on my track workouts, tempo runs and long runs that I had never seen before, while not "racing" the workouts- but doing them within the prescribed range and heart rate zone. I peaked in early February and then tackled an aggressive race schedule.

January: Disney World Half Marathon
Cherry Blossom 10-Miler
February: Love Rox Half Marathon
March: Bright Beginnings 5K
March: B&A Trail Marathon
April: Cherry Blossom 10-Miler
April: Nike Women's Half Marathon 

For each month from January through April, I raced a half marathon distance or longer. I can see now that I wore myself out, which is why by the time Nike and Cherry Blossom arrived, I didn't have much left. 

I backed off my training quite a bit in March and April, but I don't think I allowed myself enough time to recover post-marathon. I figured that since I wasn't sore, I could run and not get injured. But recovering from a marathon isn't just about your legs-- it's a whole-body thing, and I wasn't aware of how much I exerted myself during that race since my average race pace was my "easy" pace. I saw it as a 26-mile run at easy pace, something that should only take 3-4 days to recover from. I think my legs saw it that way, but my system as a whole didn't see it that way!

There are many angles from which I can review this racing season. I've been working very hard to look at it in a positive light, to value my hard work and training and to feel accomplished that I gave 100% of myself at each of these races. 

It can be a struggle, though. I am not naturally inclined to be process-focused-- I am naturally inclined to look at my race times and see failure. As I try to have a more positive outlook on my racing, I sometimes find my demons fighting back at me. Avoidance is not a strategy and if I try to ignore the negativity, I think it will ultimately bubble up in some other form later on down the line.

In the spirit of non-avoidance, here are the "demons" that I am battling:
  • Even though I was in the best shape of my life, I only got one PR.
  • The marathon PR I got was nice, but I still didn't perform to my full physical capacity.
  • All that fantastic training, and nothing to show for it.
  • My teammates and running friends are all setting PRs and improving. I am not.
This is me-- looking for failure and finding it. I know that thinking about my racing season in this light will only set me up for failure in the future because it's killing my confidence. I would do better to think about each of the bullet points this way:

  • My one PR was the marathon, which was the "goal race" that all the training was geared for. The other races were not target races.
  • The marathon PR was very significant because I hadn't PRed that distance in 4 years. I had been struggling with anxiety and DNFing. I finished this race strong and worked hard to deal with my race anxiety. It's unrealistic to expect that after years of anxiety-ridden races, I am just going to break out of it suddenly with a 3:30. My mental abilities still need to catch up with my physical abilities and I am showing progress.
  • I didn't do the training to have "something to show for it". I know that I worked hard in my training. I know that I consistently got faster as the weeks went by. I had mono for most of last summer and it a lot of patience, focus and dedication to get back to my previous level of fitness, and even exceed it. This training cycle has given me the confidence to do even more with the next training cycle.
  • Some of these teammates and running friends haven't been running as long as I have, so they have more room for improvement relative to their natural ability. Also, most of them didn't have the same aggressive race schedule that I did and allowed for more taper/recovery between races.
Looking at specific races, here is the way I should be thinking about them.

The Disney Half Marathon was warm and humid. I've never run a half marathon that quickly in hot/humid conditions. So I would consider it a "warm PR".

The Love Rox Half Marathon was a PR for all intents and purposes. I can't officially claim it because the course was actually 13.45 miles and there were 6 large staircases to run up throughout the race. I've never
Bright Beginnings 5K
run 13.45 miles including staircases that quickly, so yes, it's a PR.

The Bright Beginnings 5K was windy and I had just returned from a business trip from Chicago the night before. It was my second faster 5K ever, which is pretty good considering how windy it was and how "off" I felt.

The B&A Trail Marathon was a huge step forward for me. It was the first marathon I had completed in 5 years that felt good at the end.

The Cherry Blossom 10-miler was extremely close to my PR, and had it not been for the wind (which we didn't have last year), I am confident I would have PRed. I went into the race feeling tired and run-down, so my performance was particularly strong given those conditions.

The Nike Women's Half marathon was the only race where I didn't perform well, and it wasn't for lack of trying. I went into it with only two hours of sleep the night before and very little sleep for the week leading up to the race. I didn't quit and I continued to push when things got hard.

Whenever my mind starts to wander to the first set of bullets, I will remind myself of the second set of bullets.  I don't want to avoid or ignore my feelings- I want to face them head on and fight against the urge to be disappointed in how this season turned out.

Up next, I have some short races to practice speed, and then onto summer training where I hope to be averaging 60 mile weeks and peaking at around 65.


  1. I think anytime we put ourselves out there to perform a certain way (w/ all the training and heart that goes into it) and we don't perform as well or perform differently, it's hard to wrap our brain around it.

    I haven't followed you long enough to "know" you very well, but maybe this training cycle was more of a means vs. the end. Meaning, maybe you had to go through the good/bad/ugly this training cycle to prepare you for the next step....whatever that is.

    Sounds like you've celebrated your successes and learned from the things you weren't quite happy with. As long as you're celebrating and learning, I think you're winning :)

    1. Thank you so much for the support. I agree with you- this cycle has set me up for future successes. I need to be patient!

  2. I think it is key to focus on the marathon PR. What races do you have on your schedule next?

    1. I have a 5K next weekend, and a 5K on July 4th. Otherwise, I don't have anything scheduled until a half marathon in September and then Chicago in October.

  3. I think the positives you have noted are important, and far outweigh the negatives. Especially running a solid marathon and PRing at the distance that has eluded you for so long - that is awesome!

  4. Your process goals and takeaways seem greater than any outcome. The longer we race, that seems to happen in some seasons. I like your honesty about the things that are "not right" as well. PRing in the marathon, however-that's gotta have a lot of weight!

    Here's to a successful summer and fall!

  5. I think a break in racing is a great idea! As a few above mentioned, you have far greater things that you took away from each race that "failures." (Note: I don't see these races as failures, but you used that word and I understand...)

    What do you plan to do now running-wise? Are you going to do more base building stuff? Speed? Strength? Cutback?

    1. Yes, base building. I won't resume the hard core tempo-interval-long per week until mid-June. I'll do some 5Ks on the weekends and just build up the easy miles during the week.