Post Marathon Reflection

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So this year I finally decided to try the Hansons Marathon Method. I had looked into the plan several times after seeing the success of so many of my running idols, but I was always intimidated by the amount of weekday miles it included and the absence of super long weekend miles. I was very skeptical, only because it was not what I was used to.

Now, it should be noted that I have never been formally trained by a coach, never been given a “training plan,” never run for a team, etc. For the first five years of my running I scoured the internet for training plans, read books and articles, and experimented with my running. My training consisted of a hodgepodge of various training plans leading up to my first three marathons. And, every time I went out for a run, I was trying to see how fast I could go. I did not have “easy run” days or true “speed workouts.” How silly I was! Varied workouts with different goal paces is the way to go.

It wasn’t until this past training cycle that I not only decided to fully commit to training the Hansons way, but I also joined an advanced marathon training club where I was instantly surrounded by coaches and other hard working like-minded runners. Again, this was different than what I was used to. I completed nearly all of my runs solo before joining the group, so this took some getting used to.

I very quickly began to love the camaraderie and support I received from my coaches and newfound training partners. Before too long, I considered these people close friends. I can honestly say now that I would do anything, within reason, for them.

The main thing I learned through my training this year is the thing I read over and over, but never really followed:

Don’t go out too fast.

It’s so simple, isn’t it? Ease into it, then go fast at the end. Use that energy you’ve been saving up to blow through that finish chute and throw those arms up as you cross that finish line!

Doesn’t that sound fun? It really is.

You see, I have learned, through my personal running mistakes, that you can sort of “fake it” with shorter distance races. 5Ks, 10Ks, even half marathons. You can go out a little too fast with those and still salvage your race. But the marathon, that is a beast of a race. Those that are walking or barely jogging at the finish line are most likely doing that because they started out too fast, left nothing in their tanks, and are now suffering. I know that’s what happened to me at the conclusion of my first three marathons.

So, all of that being said, I chose to reflect on my marathon race with the Hansons “Assessing Race Success and Determining Future Direction.”

Was I able to complete all of the training as scheduled? If not, did I run more than scheduled or less?

  • Yes and no. Yes, except when I had the flu. Yes, except when I was out of town, got turned around, found my way, and chose not to risk losing my way again and skipped a couple of miles. So, I guess this is a no. Can it ever be a true yes? Maybe I can find out next year.

Was I able to hit all of the prescribed workout paces? If not, were there specific workout types that gave me trouble?

  • Yes and no. Yes, except for when I almost passed out after taking too many salt pills. Why was I even taking salt pills? I don’t even sweat that much. There’s an example of me trying something unnecessarily and then suffering. Stick to what works. Stick to the plan! No one told you to take salt tablets! So, let’s try for a resounding yes on this one next year.

Did I run any of the workouts, easy days, or long runs faster than prescribed?

  •     Yes. I’ve already been yelled at about this. I get it now. I won’t do this again.

Was this training cycle at a higher level of weekly mileage than usual? Higher than I’ve ever done?

  •     Yes, and hell yes!

Was the goal pace faster than I’ve ever run? Was goal pace too aggressive?

  • Hell yes! Not too aggressive. I finished right under my goal time. Yay!

Were my goals appropriate relative to recent performances and fitness?

  • Yes. Even though it seemed lofty, my goal was right in my wheelhouse.

How well did I execute my race plan? Did I start too fast? Too slow?

  • Excellent. I started out easy & opened it up after mile 20 for the last 10K. I can finally say that I did NOT go out too fast! I’m so happy to report that I trusted my training & ran according to my plan. Everything fell in line perfectly.

Did I have people to race? Was the crowd support good?

  • Interesting question. For the first 20 miles I ignored everyone around me except for my awesome running partners, and concentrated on my goal marathon pace and not going any faster. I sort of put blinders on, as I am ever so tempted to pass people in the beginning. As far as racing people during the last 10K, it honestly wasn’t even like that. I’m so happy to report that I was simply finally able to open it up and drop below my goal marathon pace, and that just meant I passed everyone around me. I can’t even count how many people I passed during that last 10K. The crowd support was amazing. Houston never disappoints.

What was going on in my life during this training cycle?

  • Just life. The same old, same old. Full time job, married, two children who participate in extracurricular sports and need help with homework, transportation, etc., household chores, shopping, strength training. weight lifting, cross training.

Was my life more stressful or less stressful than past training cycles?

  •  I would say it was the same amount of stress as past training cycles.

What was my pre-race routine like compared to past cycles?

  • It was the same. I like to get to the convention center early, check my bag, use the restroom, and attend Mass.

Did I get sick during this training cycle?

  • Yes, with the damn flu. It was horrible.

Was I dealing with any injuries this training cycle?

  • Nope, but strangely enough every year in the past I did. I ran more miles under a more aggressive plan, and stayed injury free. I’m going to give all the credit to the Hansons plan. That was the only thing I did differently from past years.

What was my sleep like this training cycle?

  • I’d say it was about the same. I went to bed a little later on Tuesday and Thursday nights, but still got my requisite 6 hours of sleep a night.

What was the weather like this training cycle? Did I adjust for weather?

  • It was standard Houston weather. Muggy and hot for most of the training cycle. I de-rated for humidity as suggested by my coach.

Last year’s post marathon reflection was sad for me. I missed my goal … by a lot. I regressed from the previous year. It was disheartening, but I learned a lot from it. Had last year’s marathon not happened, would I have trained as hard as I did this year? I’m not sure.

This year was different. This year I ran my fastest time yet and managed, by 21 seconds, to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This gave me a tremendous boost in confidence and made me realize that my dream of one day running the Boston Marathon might be closer than I thought. Could I run 2-3 minutes faster and creep into Boston Marathon acceptance? I’m going to try my hardest to find out.

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Runner Principles to Live by

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As I embark on the 2018 Chevron Houston Marathon, I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about my running.

This whole running journey I’ve been on for the last five years has been a wonderfully difficult ride. The first year was spent building a base for running. In that first year I really wasn’t expecting much out of myself, for my goal was to run a 5K. For a non-runner, running a 5K is a monumental feat. The first six months were very tough — I truly thought that I might have to give up on running. I made slow progress, though, and I stuck with it.

At some point I gained fitness, conditioned my body, and I started to believe I could do this whole running thing. As time went on, I’ve made bigger running goals and achieved them. There was a period of time there where I was improving at a very rapid pace and it was wonderful. Now that I’ve done quite a bit running wise, I am experiencing diminishing returns — I am not enjoying big improvements, only slight improvements. I know, realistically, that I cannot continue to expect huge gains, and I simply need to be patient and concentrate on how far I have already come.

This made me realize that I am at the point where many runners burn out and quit. I can’t let that happen. I must remember why I started running and why I continue to run.

So, in order to better do this, I made a list of the runner principles with which a runner should abide:

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1. Run for yourself.

Remember that you are living your own story and it is a great story. The famous Teddy Roosevelt quote “Comparison is the thief of joy,” holds true here. When we compare ourselves to others we discredit our hard work. Competition is great, but instead of fixating on those that are better or stronger than we are, we should focus on beating our own best records. The magic is in each one of us runners, not in our paces or distances. It’s in us. Each one of us.

 

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2. Don’t forget to love running.

Remember that you do not run for a living and it is okay to make mistakes and take your time with your running. This is a hobby. This is for physical fitness, recreation, and mental health. Sure, focus on your form and technique. Do your speed and hill work. Complete your long runs. Practice your mental toughness during runs. Do all of these things, but don’t forget to love the run. Enjoy the wonderful running community. Enjoy the beautiful scenery during runs. Love the childlike feeling you experience during runs. Love the freedom. Do what you love. Love the run.

 

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3. Don’t put yourself down.

Don’t discredit your hard work by telling people you aren’t fast or strong as a runner. You are fast to many people. I think when we say to people “I’m really not that fast,” We’re telling them that because we don’t want them to be intimidated by us, and we also don’t want them to expect anything spectacular from us. Even if we are average, but we don’t quit, that is amazing. That’s truly what makes a great runner. This is spectacular and we should be proud. We should all be proud of our running.

 

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4. Accept advice, praise and motivation from other runners.

Remember that runners are pretty fabulous people. They don’t judge other runners, for they know, all too well, what it feels like to fall down. Runners struggle on a regular basis. It’s either the humidity, or the snow. An injury, or a lack of motivation. A hectic schedule, or a life change. It really could be any number of things, but the point is that we struggle and we support other runners. Take advantage of the community.

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5. Don’t get discouraged.

Don’t think about how far you still have to go to reach your ultimate goals, think about how far you’ve already come. Every day is a test. Will we be strong enough to continue fighting? Every day that we continue to fight we are stronger. Focus on that. Don’t be discouraged by a long term goal and how insurmountable it feels. Keep crushing those smaller goals.
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6. Don’t quit.

Please don’t ever quit because you feel like you are not progressing fast enough. Be patient. So much of our running success is dependent on our confidence and positive attitude. Accept that you will have bad runs. Accept that you will not always be excited to go for a run. Accept that you will lack inspiration and motivation at times. Accept these things and just keep going. Just don’t quit. Keep running.

So, as I gear up for another Chevron Houston Marathon, I am taking the time to commit these runner principles to heart.

Keep running, everyone.