A Note To My Future Self That Summer Marathon Training IS Worth It!

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 4.57.36 PMDear Future Megan,

Next summer when you inevitably return from a long run dehydrated and defeated, remember Sunday’s 20-miler. It was epic, it was ahh-MAZ-ing, it was confidence-boosting, you name it. That single run made up for a summer’s worth of slow, sluggish death marches. Yes, it’s hard to see now with stinging sweat in your eyes that the cooler weather will bring with it faster, easier running. But remember that this run proved that it does.

More than once that day, I caught myself experiencing the “runner’s high.” Around mile 12 or 13, we dropped the pace to 7:35. And it felt easy, like we had only 10 steps, not 10 miles, under our belt. I felt smooth and in control, my breathing was relaxed, and I shifted into cruise-control so I could fully take in the gorgeous, sun-soaked scenery around me. (Mind you, I’d been struggling to hold my pace within 8:15-30 range on my long runs so far, so stop feeling discouraged about your long-run splits so far this summer. It’s not worth your time or energy!) Then with four miles to go, I still felt strong, so I decided to try to dip down into the 7s again. I genuinely couldn’t believe it when my splits were all 7:30 or faster. I was giddy for the rest of the day (and week for that matter).

Remember how this run completely changed your mentality going into Marine Corps and how it revealed that yes, you really do love this sport even when you’ve sweat buckets at the butt-crack of dawn Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Remember to feel grateful and thankful for the ability to feel that runner’s high and rush of endorphins that sometimes get dampened by the summer haze. It’s all worth it, I swear. This is your mantra: Summer marathon training IS worth it! 

So go take a cold shower, cozy up in bed, cue up Netflix, and get excited. Fall will be here before you know it!

(One-Month-Out-From-MCM) Megan

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Running is a big question mark that’s there each and every day. It asks you, ‘Are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?” – Peter Maher

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A Spark of (Invisible) Potential

photo“The weird thing about running is how people keep running faster and faster. Take the great example of the four-minute mile. One guy breaks it, then all of a sudden everyone breaks it. And they break it in such a short period of time that it can’t be because they were training harder. It’s purely that it was a psychological barrier and someone had to show them that they could do it. It’s the same thing if you’re a runner and you’re around older runners, you just get a sense of what’s possible. You have no clue, if you’re by yourself, how fast you can run. You have no sense of what your limits are.” – Malcolm Gladwell, September 2013 issue of Runner’s World 

I read this earlier in the week, and though the realization Gladwell discusses here–that the runners already had the ability to break four minutes, they just needed to learn that it was indeed possible–wasn’t necessarily new to me, for the first time it got me thinking. This summer brought with it the re-ignition of my desire to truly train again after a year’s run-for-fun hiatus post college. (Hallelujah!) That means I want to go to the gym, I want to do speedwork, I want to log more mileage. And now I want to run fast.

Now it’s not lost on me that I’m still very much a marathon newbie. It’s a distance that just doesn’t mess around. You have to respect it. And since it’s still so new, I’m pulling numbers out of thin air when it comes to goal times and potential race paces. Yes, I have my first four marathons as benchmarks, but I’m learning from experience that those first few cracks at any distance aren’t worth fussing over when it comes to what you can do down the road.

Screen shot 2013-08-03 at 1.43.40 PMCase in point: My freshman year of college, I decided to try my hand at the steeplechase. I’m (embarrassingly) uncoordinated–this is why I run–but the challenge was exciting and new. (Trust me, when you’ve spent the last six years running in circles, mixing in a few hurdles is a welcome distraction, intimidating as they might be.) I was the lone freshman on a squad of water pit pros who could leap over the water in fluid, powerful bounds. I, on the other hand, was a pencil-diving pro. I remember thinking, Wow, I will absolutely never run as fast as those girls. I know I’ll improve, but I can’t imagine ever touching their times. This was a game of gazelles vs. baby giraffes.

3274_539101569066_5984858_nI ran my first steeple (above, laughing because I was soaked head to toe) in 12:08 and dropped it down to 11:45 by the end of the season. My teammates were running in the high 11:20s (that’s them on the left!). Dang they were quick. It might not seem like much, but over a 3K, seconds are like months. It’s tough to shave off time.

Fast forward to my junior year when one of my all-time favorite running moments happened. I won our dual meet and ran 11:23 (below). I dropped it to 11:17 at the league championships. I honestly still can’t really believe it. No, the pencil diving never improved. I don’t remember feeling like I had done anything different to get there. Sure, I had gained experience by then. But it felt more like a miracle rather than months of work paying off. Finally a good race in a sea of crappy ones.

But those magical races were few and far between in college because my head was so far up my own a** (pardon my French) most of the time no thanks to unnecessary nerves and pressure. I know my brain held me back more than I care to admit.

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Looking back on those races, I think they were hints at my true potential. But since I didn’t really see them that way, or at least fully believe that I really could run faster, I never did. I was stuck running 11:52s my senior year.

A (ridiculously fast) alum told me then and still tells me now that I could go sub-11 in the steeplechase. That’s like telling me I could run in the 3:0Xs in a marathon. (Which she reminded me of again last weekend). To me, that’s crazy talk.

In fact, one of my coworkers truly believes I have the potential to make it to the Trials if I set my mind to it. Again, say what?

Every time both of them say it without hesitation. They genuinely believe I could do it if I wanted to. She’s watched me pencil dive dozens of times, yet she still thinks I can go sub-11. He’s spent hundreds of miles watching my knees knock together, but he still thinks I can run close to a 3-hour marathon. Their faith in my potential is both unsetting and…inspiring?

I’ve spent my whole running career looking at people that spoke of my potential incredulously, like, Hey, that’s great and all, but let’s come back down to earth. Thanks. So far that mindset hasn’t really gotten me anywhere.

But what I’m starting to realize is that they have the ability to spot those sparks of potential. They have a clear view of them without all of the negative self-talk that fogs it up in my brain. Maybe it’s my year-long hiatus that’s helped me see this, who knows? I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m finally getting a sense of what’s possible. And possibly believing in it, too?

So from now on, here’s why I’m going to do to try to help me reach my potential:

  • Keep an eye out for those successful workouts or runs. I remember doing a solo 20-miler in January, and I ran every mile under 8 minutes. I’ll never forget it because when I finished I couldn’t believe I’d done it. I want to remember that run (and the other good ones) when I get to the starting line in October. 
  • Keep an open mind when it comes to race goals. That means not feeling restricted to a specific time goal or pace. I want to run by feel and go from there. If I feel good, I’ll pick it up. If not, there’s always another race.
  • Quit writing off my support group when they’re encouraging me to aim higher. Rather than putting up a barrier, I want to use those opportunities to think about what more I could do to run better.

A 7:30/mile marathon (or 7:00/mile marathon for that matter) seems crazy now. But who knows? It might not seem crazy a year or two from now! I want to leave the doors open for those opportunities rather than locking ’em shut and waiting for something to seep through the keyhole. I want to listen to the people telling me I can break through my own four-minute barrier, rather than telling them that it’s impossible. I know I can trust them since I bet they’ve been in my shoes in one way or another.

QUOTE OF THE POST:  “You have to know your body. It’s part of the beauty of the training process, and once you’ve determined how much your body and mind can take, you can then begin to reach your potential.” – Frank Shorter

MCM Training | 98 Days ‘Til Go Time

Switched roles and was the interviewee at a 5K I ran last weekend!

Switched roles and was the interviewee at a 5K I ran last weekend!

Hello run-blog universe! Long time, no see everyone!

It’s been far, far too long since I’ve posted here. To get my blogging butt in gear, I’m dusting off the keyboard with a Marine Corps Marathon training update, the first of what’ll become a weekly series until October 27.

MCM will be my fifth (!) marathon, and I’m racing it through work with the Runner’s World Challenge, which, by the way, is one of the coolest running programs around. Not only do you get access to my colleagues’ seasoned advice and coaching, BUT you get VIP treatment on race weekend. Know what that means? Private porta-potties. That’s right. Join us, it’s worth it. (Got questions about it? Ask ’em below.)

Last year I worked the event and got to celebrate post-race with all of the Challengers. No matter the outcome of their race, every finisher said MCM was an incredible experience. One runner’s recap even moved me to tears. That was all the inspiration I needed to want to join in myself in 2013.

So here we are, just 98 days away from 26.2 miles through our nation’s Capitol. And let’s just say my training is off to a, uhhh, bumpy start. The RW Run Streak got me hopped up on speed and strength, which helped me run a post-college 5K PR of 19:42 (and snag a top overall female win!) at a race my old teammate puts on in honor of her mother last weekend. I’ve also been consistently hitting the gym two to three times a week, and I’m already feeling stronger head-to-toe. (And get this, I figured out how to enjoy planks, even the dreaded side planks! Rather that holding a position until my core gives out, I’m rotating positions every 20 seconds, doing at least three sets per gym session. Plus, according to my roomie, shorter bursts are better because you’re more likely to hold proper form. Rock hard abs, here I come!)

photo 2But…that momentum came to a screeching halt when I went on vacation with my family last week. I did one glorious run with my Dad on the beach, but that was it. I’ll be honest, whenever I’m with my family, running goes on the back-burner. I hardly ever see them, so the time is precious. I’d rather be with them than on the roads alone. I’ve got 50 other weeks to do that.

As much as I needed to hit the mental reset button, I’m ready to dive right back in to training. Taking a week off from the get-go has left me a bit anxious, but I know that my off-season streak and newfound need to lift stuff has given me a solid base. Since strict day-by-day plans are still the bane of my existence, I’m going to keep up my flexible routine. Here’s a rundown of my goals and what I’m hoping to do training-wise:

  • This race marks just over a year anniversary since my first marathon. I haven’t run as fast since, so I’d be thrilled with a PR. Don’t care by how much, but you know, deep down I’d love to cross the line in the low 3:2X’s.
  • Speaking of that uber-successful first marathon, I went through my training log and wrote down what I did for my long runs leading up to Steamtown. The goal is to more or less copy that progression since it worked so well last time. Don’t fix what ain’t broken, right?
  • Ideally I’d like to do some sort of speed session once per week, because I finally got the itch to do genuine workouts. It took a year, but the desire has returned. Whether it’s doing Wednesday intervals at work or throwing a tempo run into the mix, upping my turnover to offset those long, slow distance runs will hopefully make me faster come October.
  • No excuses, I’m going to lift at least twice a week. A third time and/or yoga is a bonus.
  • I trained through the heat last year and it paid off. Every time I want to skip out on a run because of the sauna-like conditions, I’ll wipe the sweat out of my eyes and focus on that fact. Yes, summer running sucks, but remembering that it’s only going to get cooler will make those miserable miles worthwhile. And hey, maybe that’s why I ran as fast as I did at Steamtown!

Long story short, my weekly routine should look like this: 1 long run + 2-3 lifting sessions + 1 speed workout – any heat-related excuses = a successful Marine Corps Marathon.

That being said, I’m off to the gym! Tomorrow, I think I’m going to break out the earbuds, knock out 12 miles as early as possible, and use coffee, a strawberry-banana-chocolate crepe, and a nap as incentive to get ‘er done.

Until next week, happy running everyone!

QUOTE OF THE POST: There’s no such thing as bad weather, just soft people. – Bill Bowerman

Sisters in Sport | March Madness + Gearing Up For April

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PR! – A high point from my March training.

Simply put, March was just madness: every smokin’ fast long run was countered with a crappy one, my get-serious-for-Boston training plan probably got more views from y’all than from me (but I ran a half-marathon PR, so I must be doing something right…right?), my confidence level was more wobbly than my yoga poses, and speaking of yoga (and core), yeah, that didn’t happen much this month either. My butt was much happier on my couch than on my mat. Not okay.

Today, I’m in the midst of the infamous “taper crazies.” Mentally, I’m equally freaking out about this cold I can’t seem to shake, but confident that come April 15th, those 60ish vertical long run miles with pay off. Heck, my half PR proved that I am in shape. Deep down, I believe I’m going to have a good race. Just get me to the line. Now. Please.

Because there’s literally no rhyme or reason to my March training, here’s a rundown of what went down:

  • I learned that I’m still apparently NOT ready for any sort of structured training plan. Bummer. The stress I felt trying to fit in each and every workout was simply not worth it. What I actually ended up doing was probably pretty close to the plan, but I ran on my own terms. And I was a happier runner because of it. I haven’t given up on trying (and actually sticking to) a plan yet, but this marathon build-up just wasn’t the right time.
  • That being said, I PR’d in the half by exactly a minute and a half…after maybe three hours of sleep. That means I’m in as good as (if not better) shape than I was in college when I ran my old PR. I think I averaged 7:09 pace, which is well below my hypothetical, probably-far-off-in-the-future marathon goal pace of 7:30s. It wasn’t easy, but I certainly wasn’t dying. This sparked a huge pre-Boston confidence boost…
  • …that quickly came crashing down on the following Monday when I got a killer cold. I took it easy all week and consumed more Vitamin C than chocolate (which says a lot with all that Easter candy at my fingertips), but the darn thing is still lingering around today. It made for one incredibly slow long run, too. It’s amazing how one weekend you can power up every hill with ease, and then two weeks later you might as well be carrying a 50-pound weight on your back because the pace feels like a death march. The wind was effectively sucked out of my sails.
  • I dabbled in three (Yay!) potential cross-training activities this month: (1) I did a flow yoga class at work, which was the perfect balance of strength, stretching, and relaxation. Perfection, especially for runners. This needs to become a weekly thing for sure. (2) I did a strength routine with some of the guys from work, and afterward I was sore in all the right places, meaning my (weaker than my arms) glutes. I think it’ll become my much-needed strength routine come summer. And (3) I rode a legit road bike! I haven’t ridden a bike in 5+ years, so this was a true test of that “It’s like riding a bike, you never forget” saying. A friend and I rode four laps around Prospect Park in NYC (about 14 miles), and it was equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. I was focused on every bump in the road and crossing pedestrian–I was, again, very wobbly–while I tried to maintain some sort of consistent pace (or in the cycling world, “cadence”). I was amazed by how my quads screamed going up any hill (big or small), but my breathing remained steady and in control. Talk about using different muscles! Overall, it was a very fun, but very different experience than running. But, I bought a cycling kit this week, so I’m game for trying it again! Maybe this could turn into something a bit more serious! (Gotta figure out how to turn the thing first though…hmmm.)
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    Yeah, I RODE this. Pretty intense, huh?

    To legit to quit!

    Too legit to quit!

  • I participated in the “Second (Not Quite) Annual Jeff Dengate Hill Challenge” >> A race that’s one mile up, then one mile down a huge hill by RW HQ. (I think it’s about a 450-foot elevation gain.) It’s an unofficial competition we do during lunch, and we stagger our starts from slowest to fastest so you’re always chasing (and being chased by) someone. As expected, it hurt like hell, but it was SO much fun! I beat my old record by about 15 seconds, running the mile up in 8:28 and the mile down in 5:57. Why we do this to ourselves, I have no idea. (BUT Heartbreak Hill/Hurricane Point, I’m ready for you!)

Looking forward to April a.k.a. my crazy/ridiculous/epic spring racing month, the overall goal for the month is confidence in all aspects of my life from work to relationships to racing. There are SO many exciting things happening this month, and I don’t want to ruin them with blah lapses in focus like I had in March. So this month, I want to:

  • Soak in every second at Boston. I want to get in some solid reporting for work, spend some quality time with my Dad, meet as many of my virtual twitter friends as possible, get inspired by just being at Boston, and then most of all, run the race to the best of my abilities and simply be happy with the result. If the uncontrollables work in my favor, a PR would be perfect.
  • Be smart with my post-Boston recovery so that Big Sur doesn’t kill me. I want to use the week-and-a-half break to catch up on work and most importantly rest, rest, rest.
  • Embrace running Big Sur. Hopefully I won’t still be out of commission after Boston so I can cruise through Big Sur watchless, iPhone in hand ready to take photos of the gorgeousness. I want to go into it with the same mindset I had before Disney–have fun.
  • Stay healthy. Sleep as much as I can–I have to master sleeping on planes–and remember to pop those Vitamin C pills!
  • Still have something left for the cherry on top of the cake: the Golden Gate Relay. It’ll be my first relay, and I want to enjoy it!

So without further ado, here goes nothing! Keep an eye out for race reports. I’ll do my best to write them as soon as I can!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “In my experience, there’s one constant to every marathon: fear. You stand on the starting line, and you wonder: Am I going to make it today? The marathon makes you feel naked—a runner in only the sheerest clothing. It can strip you, it can humble you, it will extract a harsh penalty if you don’t treat it with high regard. The day I stop fearing the marathon will be the day I stop running them.” – Amby Burfoot, 1968 Boston Marathon winner (and probably one of the coolest people I know.)

Conquering The Lonely (But Lovely) Long Run

photoWhen I was in high school, I did most of my training on my own with no one but my coach there to push me to hit my 400-meter repeat splits. Those solo workouts made me mentally tough and self-sufficient when I was out running, but there were (far too many) days when I’d make up an excuse to skip practice. I needed and depended on my parents to keep me focused so I could stay on track with my training. Back then, I loved running, but hated having to put in the work day in and day out.

College was a baffling but exciting shock to my system – I remember what a strange feeling it was to instantly have 20 committed, motivated girls to train with, and I grew to love having my best friends beside me on nearly every run. I cherished those silly long run conversations about God knows what, and, even though it took some serious time to adjust, I learned how to work with a pack during workouts. I hardly ever ran alone.

Starting my job at RW meant replacing my lovely ladies with the endlessly goofy guys on staff. Not only are they super knowledgeable about all things running, but they became my support system throughout my first marathon build-up last fall. Having them beside me on every single early-morning long run and blazing hot lunch run played an immeasurable role in the success of that first 26.2. I know I’m already a smarter runner because of them.

Long story short, I’ve come to rely on my built-in training partners.

But, for loads of random reasons, I have to train for Boston alone. Thankfully, I’ve still got the guys for some of my weekday runs, but for those long marathon training runs on the weekends? Just me, myself, and I. I’m not at that point in life where I need the time alone. I’m also a marathon newbie, so I’m still getting used to being out on the roads for forever. (Sidenote: I have the upmost respect for those runners who train for marathons completely alone.)

For most of the past three months, I’ve spent one weekend morning mulling around the house, trying to build up the motivation to get out the door for my long run. Let’s face it, it’s tempting to stay in where it’s warm and there’s a steamy mug of coffee close at hand. It sure beats trudging through slush for two-plus hours, right? This past Saturday was no different. I’d planned on doing my long run on Sunday, but as always, my Twitter feed was bursting with relieved tweets about successfully completed runs. It’s amazing how much a few 140-character posts from strangers can be just the kick in the butt I need. Plus, the beautiful blue skies and fresh snow were calling!

I knocked out 16 miles. Heck. Yes.

Now, I’m learning to love my lonely long runs. I’m starting to find a rhythm when I’m out there, and a 15+ miler (sort of) feels like an eight-miler. It’s becoming less of a mental battle to get out and get ‘er done. I’ve also realized that you really can’t cut corners when training for a marathon (or any distance for that matter!) NO EXCUSES! Here’s what’s helped me lace up and conquer those long runs:

  • Plan ahead: If it’s actually written down in your calendar, you’re more likely to do it. That way you’ll make time for your run and you won’t be inclined to skip it for other things. 
  • Get it done early: Long runs are traditionally meant for Sundays, but there’s something to be said for crossing it off your to-do list on Saturday if possible. Lift that weight off your back early so it’s not looming over your head all weekend.
  • Get online: You might not have a running buddy waiting for you outside, but creating a virtual support system can become a HUGE motivator. If you tweet that you’re going out for a 12 miler, you don’t want to let your followers down, right? Then go ahead and #runbrag a little afterward to celebrate. Your post-run tweet just might inspire someone else to head out for their run, too!
  • Get your gear on: Lay out your outfit the night before, and don’t hesitate to put it on in the morning. You’ll feel silly sitting in your house in your running clothes, so hit the roads where those kicks really belong!
  • Pick a killer playlist: I don’t depend on music for my long runs, but there’s something to be said for those times when one of your favorite tunes comes on and nudges you to pick up the pace a bit. To be safe, I only use one earbud with the volume just loud enough to hear it. That way, I can’t always hear it if there is a lot of traffic, and it becomes a treat to listen to on the quieter parts of my run.
  • Focus on the half-way point: The first half of a long run is the hardest part for me mentally because I feel like I’m heading away from home. Even if I still have a ways to go, I get excited when I finish half of my run because it really feels like every step I take is a step toward home. Breaking up my run into parts makes it more manageable and less daunting.
  • Be creative with your route: I try not to run the same roads twice, so my route maps zig-zag all over the place. Constantly changing up the scenery can help beat the boredom.
  • Remember that it’s worth it in the end: It feels pretty darn sweet finishing a long run. I’ve found that it feels even sweeter when you’ve done it alone. Savor it.
  • And that steamy mug of coffee? It’ll taste even better after your run!

Figure out what works for you and go with it. What inspires you? What holds you accountable? What breaks up the monotony? I took to Twitter to see how y’all tackle those long runs. Here’s what you had to say:

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Life is short… running makes it seem longer.” – Baron Hansen

Greatest Hits of 2012: This Year’s Highs (and Lows)

Between graduating from college in May, landing my dream job at Runner’s World soon after, and starting my life in the “real world” over 2,000 miles away from home, I’d say 2012 was a pretty darn pivotal year for me personally. Running-wise, I crossed the finish line of my last collegiate race and my first marathon. I got to meet one of my idols, make friends with some of the best bloggers around, and enter the blogging world myself. I ran about 1,500 miles give or take a few. Looking back, this year had SO many highs (and its fair share of lows), all of which helped me grow and develop as a runner. Here’s a look back at my year of running along with what I learned along the way that I hope to apply this year.

After a disappointing senior cross country season, I was determined to turn things around and snag an indoor 3-K PR. Despite having the slowest seed time in the fastest heat at the Patriot League Championships in February, I managed a three-second PR, running 10:22.08. Don’t know why, but I always seemed to find my groove when I raced indoors. Getting over a crappy season to run a solid indoor season was a definite high-point of my senior year.

> You can always bounce back from a slump, so trust that you will break out of it. Stay positive and don’t get discouraged. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!

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Just before the start of my final collegiate race – that’s me second from the left.

As pumped as I was coming off of my indoor season, my body and my brain decided three months too soon to call it quits for my outdoor steeplechase season. I tried so hard to fight past the slump–no one wants to have a crappy final season…go out with a bang right?–but come each race-day I just couldn’t pull it together. I was still hitting my splits and feeling great in workouts, but my time (frustratingly) hovered around 11:52 all season… nearly 35 seconds slower than my PR from the year before. Ooof. My coach still sent me to the league championships, and I was so thankful for the opportunity to don my Lehigh uniform one last time (left). Even though my last collegiate race was one of my worst, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly blessed for the ability to run every single season of my collegiate career. Four years, 12 seasons, countless races. Still can’t believe it’s over…

> Cherish every race that you get the chance to run, even the bad ones. Relish the moment, accepting each barrier you have to hurdle along the way. You’ll come out stronger at the finish line regardless of your time or place.  

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A box of costumes arrived at the office one morning, so naturally we had to do our lunch run in them. 

Now, on to bigger, better things! The summer brought my first runs in my life that I got to do just for me. In other words, in my 10+ years of competitive running, I’d never done a run that wasn’t a training run or workout prescribed to me by my coach. Ahh it felt insanely incredible. Rather than following a training plan, I did what my boss calls “secondhand training” – whatever my coworkers wanted to run each day, be it a tempo run or easy four miles in a tutu (right), I tagged along. Most days I even went without a watch. I was content with whatever distance we ran and didn’t get bogged down by our pace. Along the way, I began to regain my passion for running, and it was invigorating.

> Lacking structure and embracing spontaneity when training can be one of the most refreshing things you can do. Shed the watch and daily expectations and just run.

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This moment still gives me chills and will stick with me forever!

Then came my first marathon in October. (You can read my full, nitty gritty recap here!) For the first time in a long freakin’ time, I had a race that came together perfectly – I felt strong and smooth, the uncontrollables worked in my favor, and I hit my best-case-senario goal. BEST. FEELING. EVER! Not to mention I qualified and got into the 2013 Boston Marathon a couple days after! Pure euphoria.

> Practicing a positive mindset and cementing a reasonable game plan for months in advance can make executing it come race day a cinch. Shedding the negative energy during training makes it that much easier to knock it out mid-race. 

Despite my coworkers warning me about about post-marathon exhaustion, I was struck by how much the race sucked the life out of me. I felt like I was back to square one again, out of shape and slow as ever for over a month. So not fun. It wasn’t until the day of the would-be New York City Marathon in November that I had a run where I felt like I was myself again. After such a high post-marathon, the recovery period was a yucky low. Now I know what to expect, and I fully intend to let my body fully heal before I try to run again. Mental note for next time!

> Rest is a good thing. Yes, you might lose some fitness, and yes, it sucks missing out on lunch runs with friends. But you’ll make your next build-up that much smoother and keep injuries at bay. Patience young grasshopper. It’ll pay off later.

I desperately needed to get out of the slump, so I decided to commit to the #RWRunStreak, which means running at least one mile a day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. I cherish my off days, so taking this on was a big deal for me. But hey, I needed to get back in shape for the Walt Disney World Marathon in January. Not only did I have some of the best runs I’ve had in a while, but it got me back on track, and it was one of the best decisions I made all year. I made it a full 26 days straight, and I couldn’t believe I stuck to it.

> Making a commitment real by telling friends about it on social media or writing it down in your training log can be just the kick in the butt you need to get out the door for a run and stay committed toward reaching a goal. It’s amazing what encouragement you can get from friends.   

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What a year! =) Looking ahead to 2013, I have three marathons on the calendar so far for the spring and, since I’m already a bit top-heavy, I’m only going to run one in the fall. I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but my goal is to get faster and stronger so I can race for time rather than race to finish. I also hope to keep up this blog and start widening my circle of running friends on the web. The online running community is so incredible, and I want to be a part of it! So 2013, bring it on! I’m ready for ya!

What were your running highlights this year?

P.S. This just came up in my Twitter feed. TOTALLY going to try it! Happy New Year’s everyone!

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QUOTE OF THE POST: “When we understand the privilege of what it means to be an athlete, we are in touch with, and rejoice in, our physical, mental, and emotional strengths and our endless possibilities.” – Gloria Averbuch

Committing to the #RWRunStreak – Here Goes Nothing!

As a part of “Operation: Get My Butt In Gear”/start training for the Walt Disney World Marathon in January (I might not be “racing” it per se, but I need to at least get through the darn thing), I’ve decided to commit to the #RWRunStreak. This means I have to run at least one mile every single day until January 1. I think my longest “streak” capped off at around 10 days, so running for 35 days straight sounds downright crazy. I’ve considered trying a streak before, but I cherish my off days for the mental and physical downtime too much (and I like getting to stay clean all day!). I like my off days so much so that I got into the habit of taking a few too many of them post Steamtown. The race sucked the life out of me more than I anticipated–I felt like I was out of shape for an entire month–and although I needed the rest, I got into a slump. If I’m ever in a bad running mood, it’s when I’m out of shape. Not fun. After running once (once! gah!) while I was at home for Thanksgiving, I realized I needed a serious kick in the butt.

Enter… the #RWRunStreak. I hope that by making my commitment public via this blog and Twitter, I’m going to stick to it! (I even wrote it in pen in my training log–I just started my fourth consecutive book!–and I can’t back out on that!) I’m also going to start strengthening my core so that come Boston, I’ll be primed for a PR. I’ll be updating this post throughout the streak every week or so with my progress, so check back often!

Update on December 2 (Day 7): Before I say anything else…it’s absolutely amazing what a little kick in the butt can do! I was able to string together seven incredible runs – between a stunning eight-mile trail trek up a (small) mountain and an epic solo 15-miler today, I feel like I can really say I’m out of my slump. =) Let me put it this way, my 15-miler felt easier than my six-mile run I did over Thanksgiving break. Seriously. I ran a couple loops on my old Lehigh XC “stomping grounds,” which was refreshing in and of itself, AND I hit a few 7:30s-7:40s mid-run. Mental note for next time I’m in a rut – get back on my favorite roads, blast some music, and go. Shaking things up is a good thing every once in a while!

photoUpdate on December 10 (Day 15): Whoa – I can’t believe it’s been FIFTEEN days so far! I think that’s my all-time longest run streak! (Talk about Monday Motivation!) The highlight of this week of streaking was running in NYC all weekend. I ran in the NYRR Jingle Bell Jog with a few Lehigh cross country alums. And yes, we ran with bells on our shoes – it was definitely a neat way to get in the Christmas spirit! I also completed my first real run in Central Park on Sunday, logging about 13 miles total. I ran one big, six-mile loop and a couple laps around the reservoir. I ran alone and without music, and I loved it. I spent half the time chasing down other runners, which turned my run into a mini fartlek, and I enjoyed pretending I was a New Yorker for the morning as I wove through the park with hundreds of other runners. Yeah, I seriously need to do that again sometime.

Update on December 16 (Day 21): Yesterday I ran 20 miles (20 miles on Day 20! – heck yes!) on my own, just me, my music, and the roads. After doing all but one long run with coworkers in my training build-up for Steamtown, it’s been an eye-opening experience knocking out those runs solo in my abbreviated build-up for Disney next month. I tweeted post-run about how I realized that the hardest part about getting out for those runs (especially alone) really is the hardest part. Once I got into my rhythm a few miles in, I was golden, especially when “Sail” came on! =) For newbie marathoners, I would definitely recommend finding a buddy to get you through those long runs. But I have to admit that once I finished that run yesterday, I’ve never felt stronger or more confident in myself and my running. There is something truly empowering about voluntarily going out for a nearly three-hour run. Try it–it’s worth it.

Today I rewarded myself with an easy, one-mile recovery run, some core, and this post-run yoga session from my girl OmGal:

Keepin’ the #RWRunStreak alive! Over halfway to the finish line!

** Final update on December 26: So…due to a holiday travel debacle that left me suitcase-less (and running gear-less) in Chicago for a full day, my #RWRunStreak came to an unexpected conclusion on December 22. =( I made it a full 26 days–which is ages longer than my longest streak on record–so to be honest, I’m thrilled! The streak got me back on track for Disney (which is just a couple weeks away now!) and I strung together a few surprisingly solid long runs that left me confident in my fitness level. Even though I’m a bit bummed I didn’t make it all the way to January 1, all in all it served its purpose. I took four days off (learn why “none” miles every once in a while can be a good thing here) and had my first run at home today. It wasn’t pretty–the higher elevation kicks my butt–BUT I got to break in my shiny new pink Garmin Forerunner 10, which is freakin’ awesome! It  works exactly how I hoped it would – it’s super easy to navigate, and it tells me only what I want to know (i.e. pace, time, and distance) sans bells and whistles. I have a feeling we’re going to log many, many happy miles together!

Anywho, kudos to those streakers still streakin’! It’s certainly not easy yanking on those kicks when it’s dark, drizzly, and cold outside. But fighting past those moments of weakness to come out on the other side mentally and physically stronger is worth the extra loads of laundry (I almost broke my washer mid-streak!) and lost sleep. Committing to the streak was one of the best decisions I’ve made all year, and I think it’s a training tool I’ll pull out of my back pocket the next time I need a shot of motivation. I’ll close this post with a motivational poster that I thought complimented the streak that read, “Summer body earned in winter.” True that.

QUOTE OF THE POST: “There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstance permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.” – Unknown