It’s been quite a year. Lots of highs (1/2 and full marathon PRs, new distances – 55K and 50K, first ever race win, first ever course record, joining a racing team to name a few) and a few really extreme lows (losing a friend way too soon and nursing my brother back from a broken back and neck). As I reflect on the year I see a series of events that fully align with the thesis of the book “How Bad Do You Want It?” which proposes that success in endurance events is more a mental exercise than a physical one. While I have not suffered an extreme blow up at a race or the loss of a limb like some of the examples in the book, I think there is a direct correlation between navigating loss in January and my “success” in running since then. In using the term success I am referring more to my newfound connection to the running I do and not as much to the PRs and race achievements. However, as the book proposes and as I have seen this year, the two are inextricably linked. As I reflect on the year that is coming to a close, the biggest lesson I learned is to let go and appreciate every single step I take whether its on a beautiful trail overlooking Lake Tahoe on a clear day, or wincing a pain while running through a hail storm. I finally learned that running is a gift and an expression of human strength, resilience and community.
The biggest blow up I had in 2015 was – perhaps unsurprisingly – during the race on which I had put the most pressure. I didn’t choke in the traditional sense, but I did under-perform at the Boston Marathon, entirely due to the fact that I ignored my body during training and went into the race injured. Despite PRing, I still feel that there is unfinished business between myself and Boston and so I am returning this year. Training officially started yesterday, but since my current plan has me resting on Mondays, today will be the first actual training run in preparation for Boston. In an effort to avoid being labelled insane (remember the definition of insanity is performing the same actions while expecting different results), I am switching things up this year. Here are the 5 things I am doing differently in preparing for the 2016 Boston Marathon:
- I hired a coach. I know I know, why would an amateur who has no hopes of ever really being an elite take themselves so seriously that they hire a coach? In training for the North Face 50K, I found that I responded extremely well to my track buddy coming up with the Tuesday morning workouts. I think this is part of the “letting go” phenomenon. By giving up control of my training plan I am able to focus on the running instead of worrying about whether I am doing the right thing. I am lucky enough to have access to an amazing network of elites to get advise about coaches and PTs etc and so based on a few recomendations I am now working with Nike Trail Elite runner David Roche. My training plan is already challenging me and pushing me out of my comfort zone by being different than anything I have ever done before, and I am super excited.
- More strength, more yoga, more form. My body is all kinds of imbalanced (this is what caused my meltdown at Boston this year) but now that I have identified the issue, I am working on fixing it. I have found that the work I do not in running shoes is just as important as the work I do in running shoes. This may not be true for everyone, you hear about those freak people who never do anything but run and never get injured, but in the spirit of balance and listening to my body, I know that I need all of these other things to make my running healthy.
- Nutrition. This one should be obvious, but humans are dumb and sometimes we need to learn things for ourselves. I focused on nutrition during my North Face Training in a way I never had before and it paid off big time! I all but stopped drinking during the week which made a huge difference in my energy levels and quality of sleep. I started taking a turmeric supplement and didn’t have injuries apart from the hamstring tendinitis thing I’ve been dealing with for a year. I had concentrated beet juice and/or tart cherry juice every day and felt that I recovered quickly and felt way less fatigued during peak training. I am adding in a multi-vitamin and iron supplement as well. Finally, I focused on eating un-processed healthy meals until I felt satisfied. I didn’t count calories, I just listened to my body and gave it what it was telling me it wanted. After a few weeks of indulgences, I am returning to more mindful eating, but still enjoy a burger and a beer when my body tells me it wants that.
- Prioritizing Fun. I am lucky enough to have the problem of having too many amazing running options open to me pretty much every week. While I can’t say yes to all of them, I plan to let myself do a Ninja Loop or a Tam summit with some friends instead of a solo tempo if it feels like that’s what my brain needs. The training plan is of course there for a reason, and you can’t change up every single run, but allowing for flexibility did wonders for my mind and body during North Face training and I want to carry that through to 2016.
- Not Comparing My Training to Other People’s Training. For some people, this tendency probably seems so ridiculous that they didn’t even know its a thing that happens. Well, let me tell you, it does happen. With Strava and social media it is easier than ever to see what your peers or even your favorite local elite is doing for their workouts every single day. While it can certainly be motivating to see that all of your friends ran today, so really you should get off your ass and run the 5 miles you were supposed to, it can also spiral out of control very quickly. While I can’t guarantee I won’t compare myself to some of the runners I look up to, I will be mindful of it. I won’t try to block the feelings or comparisons that come into my head, but I will acknowledge them and let them go; instead focusing on my plan and my body.
That turned into a much longer post than intended, but I guess I have had a lot to think over during the past few weeks of down time. I hope everyone has a great end of 2015 and a great start to 2016. Any anyone kicking off their Boston training this week, good luck and have fun!