Friday, December 28, 2018

2018 Lows & Lessons

This year was a mixed bag in terms of running. It started out well with a half marathon PR in Houston and my strongest-ever training cycle leading up to Boston. Boston went as well as could be expected given the high winds and heavy downpours, and I was happy with my performance. Then, I was sick for a good portion of the summer and unable to run. I was very cautious about returning to
running, and ultimately was able to resume normal training by mid-August.

My first few races back were flops (a ten-miler and a half marathon), and then I bonked my first long run in over four years! This put me in a little bit of a mental rut. I turned 40 in November, which meant entering the Master's division for most races. Then, things quickly turned around for me when I broke 20 minutes in the 5K, and then set a 6-minute marathon PR in 3:15. So the year started and finished on high notes, with some struggles in the middle.

That's the Cliff's Notes version. In my Instagram story, I posted the best 5 and the worst 5 running moments of the year, and I received quite a few messages from people telling me how much they appreciated me talking about the worst moments.

Often on social media, we tend to sugarcoat things and only post about positive experiences. So I decided to focus my year-end blog post on three "lows" and what I learned from them, and how they made the "highs" so much more rewarding.

March 4th: The Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans Half Marathon
Original race report is here.
In this race, I was hoping to set a new half marathon PR. I knew I was in better shape than I had been six weeks prior when I set my Houston PR, and I thought I would be able to shave about a minute off of that time. After the first three miles, though, I realized that the heat and lack of cloud cover was going to foil my plans, so I purposely slowed down. After another couple of miles, the slow down was no longer by choice-- I was bonking. Despite that, I was able to hold a respectable pace in the 7:30's.

This race confirmed, for the ump-teeth time, that my body doesn't tolerate heat. It was only 60 degrees, which most runners found to be pleasant, but without any acclimation or cloud cover, I was baking. When I ran the Rehoboth Beach marathon in December, I ran both the first half AND the second half in almost the exact same time as this New Orleans race. So even though I was bummed in March, it made my marathon achievement in December all the more sweeter-- knowing that I ran that I ran two of those 1:37:40's!

April 8th: The Crystal City 5K Friday
Original race report is here.
I was just finishing off the strongest training cycle ever, having run 320 miles in the month of March, 7 days a week, averaging 72 miles a week. This included VO2 max work each week, so I felt like had
both endurance and speed. The weather for this race was not ideal (a little windy and warm) but since it was a short distance and I was in such great shape, I thought I could PR. That didn't happen. I bonked, feeling like crap during the final mile, and ran a disappointing 20:47, which was 30 seconds slower than my PR at the time.

I was down on myself but my friend Allison (who is always able to offer me a new perspective) suggested that running a Friday night race after a long, stressful day at work wasn't the ideal circumstance to PR. Some of my Instagram followers pointed out that it's unlikely to PR a 5K during marathon training, but I disagreed with that. I still maintained it was possible to PR a 5K during high-mileage training if you had been working on speed.

About six months later, I not only PR'ed the 5K, but broke 20 for the first time during marathon training. In fact, When I ran the Crystal City race, I was about 16 days out from Boston. When I ran the Turkey Trot in November, I was 16 days out from Rehoboth. I was at the exact same point in my training for both races. I learned that Allison's theory of a weekday night race not being ideal was spot-on, and that it was possible to PR a 5K in the midst of high-mileage training.

November 16th: A long run failure
Original blog post is here.
This run hurt. It was meant to be 22 miles, starting at a pace of around 8:00 and progressing to 7:35 by the end. The snow we had gotten the day before screwed up my original route plan, and resulted in a much later start than anticipated, throwing off my fueling plan. To top it off, it was a very windy day.

I could tell by mile 11 that I wouldn't be able to keep up my pace for the remainder of the run. I felt
like I was exerting way too much effort for the paces I was running. I slowed down a lot in the 16th mile, and ran a very tortured 17th mile, culminating in me stopping completely. I walked a mile, and then did a very slow jog for another mile to get home. My legs were wrecked, and the next day I ran my slowest recovery run in years because my legs were in such a bad state.

The previous weekend, I had missed my goal at the Richmond half marathon. And four weeks prior, I had been way off of my goal at the Lower Potomac 10-miler. So, mentally I was feeling a little defeated. I did trust that I was putting in the work and that I still had a shot at a great marathon, but I didn't have any training runs to support that belief. Furthermore, the fact that this training cycle got a late start meant that I didn't have a lot of long runs under my belt. In fact, only an 18 miler and a 20 miler up until that point. And the race was three weeks away!

I learned a lot from this experience. First, bonking a long run doesn't equate to having a bad marathon. Although it certainly made me respect the distance and the effort level. Second, you don't need a lot of long runs if you are consistently running high mileage. I only had 3 runs over 15 miles leading up to Rehoboth Beach: 18, 20, 22.

I also learned that the treadmill is not my friend. The day before that long run, I had done my easy run on a treadmill. And even though I kept it to a pace of around 8:50, my legs started feeling sore and achy about halfway through it. I had run a very hard workout the day before, so instead of giving my legs the chance to recover, I beat them up even further on the treadmill, and then proceeded to tackle 22 miles the following day.

Other low moments and final stats
Getting sick over the summer with my mono-like virus was obviously a huge low. Thankfully (or not) I had come down with this summer illness multiple times in the past and I knew the quickest way to recover was to simply do nothing for a few weeks. No running, no walking, no going to work, no leaving the house. With this approach, I was able to go back to work after 4 weeks and I was able to resume normal running after 6 weeks. This is short compared to the 3 months I spent sick in 2012 and 2016.

My total yearly mileage as of today is 2,350. This is my second highest-mileage year ever, and it includes six weeks off due to illness. Last year I ran just over 2,500 miles.

Here are my weekly and monthly graphs for the year:

Weekly Mileage

Monthly Mileage 2018
Happy new year and thank you to my blog readers!

7 comments:

  1. I always appreciate that you share the highs and lows of your training and racing. I think there's a lot to be learned from keeping it real. Running is never perfect and I don't like when people only share the good stuff!

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  2. OK in past comments I think I noted your running the best of your career this year considering the awesome sub 3.5 hr performance in Boston, the 5k PR and your mega-smokin 3:15 performance last marathon. With that said, yes you had those other races not go all what you were hoping to accomplish...but that is the way it goes in running and it isn't always just what the training has been up to the race...sometimes you come in to it not in your high-end of energy cycle or the conditions at race create aspects that you don't run or can hold the speed.

    Your long run of 22-mi that you call a "failure" I don't see it that way. Just conditions, other aspects, or just the energy-point you at that day didn't work out to fulfill the full training objectives for that run. Doesn't mean you failed...in fact coming off that less than desirable LR...you ran some of the best races of your career! No runner can keep running maximum to what schedule or race goals dictate every single day...you don't do so good some days or some races...but it is collectively the accumulative training effect that allows you to run some of those most awesome races you have posted about.

    There is no exact recipe that keeps the runner at max performance every day across the year's training and racing cycle. You experience lows or not meeting specific run or race objectives and goals, but your Coach put a training regimen you followed and made all attempts to meet the training objectives for those races. And this past year you got 3 races at least...deserve cake to eat!

    Revel in your "lows" you experienced past year...dance with joy for the "highs" or Pr's you accomplished. Your best year running ever!

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  3. Love reading how you were √≠mproving and setting new PR’s. There is so much to learn about failure sometimes and succesful training most of the time. I knew you were finaly were going to break up your Marathon PR this year!!! After finishing an stunning training program.
    I look at you going even farther on 2019, you sure will be running around 3 hours.
    I am excited running the Houston Marathon on January 20th... looking forward to lower my 3:25 hr. done in Boston 2018 where we finaly met during the 5 k race by coincidence at the epic Boylston

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  4. Wishing you and your husband blessings and a Happy New Year, sure will meet you on the road back in Boston!

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  5. Well this is what I have to say... Take my joking aside about calling you old after bonking the 22 miler as while maybe you didn't see it as me trying to say lighten up and don't get too down, that was the point of it. I had total confidence in your abilities and still do.

    I have loved getting to know you this year and seeing your amazing progress running. I'm sure you have greater goals but think about where you were years ago and your struggle to qualify for Boston. Now you clearly SMOKE IT!! Well below the time for the ladies that are under 35 as well.

    I hope this past year has taught you a lot... Never let the bad days get you too down. I think it's good you share both the ups and downs though. We are all human and emotions get to every single one of us whether we are male or female. I think it's good for everyone else to see both sides too because we all experience it. Just know your history running and know that just because a few races don't go well doesn't mean you're over the hill. I think you are an amazing person, not just a phenomenal runner.

    At some point I hope you'll just be proud you're still doing it... I'm struggling with that right now personally and a few other things you are aware of that we have discussed. I'm so proud to have your respect and friendship. Great wishes for the end of a successful year in 2018 for you and continued success going forward.

    Also, don't ever forget the positives you have done for others. That's truly what makes life rewarding in the end!! Proud to know you and that's for being the person you are!!

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  6. that's = thanks at the end of my post LOL

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  7. Those are some amazing graphs. Lows teach so much about the highs, thanks for sharing those.
    I was in town for Cherry Blossom the weekend of your frustrating 5K and the weather extremes in 24 hours were crazy. I know it's the typical midatlantic spring weirdness, but it seemed even more so that weekend.
    Hope you have a healthy 2019

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