One Look Back at 2015 to Go Two Steps Forward in 2016

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Kicking off 2016 without defining your health and fitness goals is like taking a road trip without knowing your final destination. Sure, there’s a time and place for wandering around aimlessly — but it’s not what you want to do if you’ve got an idea of where you’d ultimately like to go, which most of us are in the process of mulling over right about now.

One of my favorite posts on this exact topic from last year was, “9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Next Season,” based on my fellow Coeur Sports teammate Kecia’s blog post evaluating her 2014 triathlon journey in order to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2015. She just did the same for her 2015 season, and it inspired me to do a reprise, as well.

The point here isn’t just to pick a few things to accomplish willy-nilly over the next 12 months; it’s about reflecting on the previous year and taking a look at what went well and what needs improvement before planning for the future.

As a reminder, here were the five goals toward which I was working in 2015, as well as how I think I did on ’em:

  1. Seek Balance. I did have a nice mix of races for time and for fun, so I’ll give myself an 80% for this one!
  2. Train Smarter. I’ll give myself a 50% on this one because I was consistent, but it could’ve been more measurable. 
  3. Face Fears. Ditto — 50% here. Points for recent consistency in the pool, but toward what am I working?
  4. Push Myself. The duathlon, ultra and century ride all fell through after Baby H came into the picture = 0%!
  5. Give Back. This one’s my only 100%; we knocked it out of the park with LUNA, and are pumped for 2016.

So with that in mind, here’s my stab at the nine questions outlined in this article from USA Triathlon, which will allow me to more effectively evaluate the season and plan for next year:

1. In hindsight, were your season goals clear and attainable?
Did you achieve what you set out to do at the start of the year? Knowing what you know now could you have aimed higher, or were you somewhat unrealistic in your expectations of your time, commitments or the physical skills you needed to develop? Use hindsight as a barometer for thinking ahead to next year and create goals that push you and inspire you to go for it.

Hm…yes and no. Knowing in the back of my head that we might be starting a family this year — and having the timing of it up in the air — prevented me from being as specific as I would have liked with respect to my goals.

For example, when it came to “training smarter,” I talked about building an aerobic base using heart rate, continuing strength training and pre-hab to activate glutes, along with regular cross-training for flexibility and functional fitness. All great things, yes, but I should have made them measurable — e.g. hit a certain range for heart rate training or designate a number of days per week to focus on pre-hab, etc. — in order to be able to better track progress.

2. What were you most proud of this season?
Was it the improvement you saw in your swim, bike and run splits? Or your dedication and ability to balance your other responsibilities around the sport? How you overcame setbacks and still performed at a high level? Think of the big things and the little moments that you look back on with pride and delight in what you accomplished.

Although I’d love to claim a shiny new PR here, this just wasn’t the year for that. But I am most proud of the fact that I’ve been on top of my game when it came to cross-training in 2015. From kettlebell to barre, bootcamp to yoga, spin to kickboxing — you name it, I’ve tried it and had a blast challenging myself in the process.

3. What would you like to duplicate next year?
Perhaps it’s working with the same coach or training plan, continuing to do a variety of races and taking on big challenges that excite you and motivate you to train consistently. Of the things that you really enjoyed, what would you like to be sure you experience again?

The first half of next year will be interesting, to say the least, with Baby H making his or her entrance on the scene. But I think, at least at this point, I would like to try maintain some kind of consistency when it comes to working out to re-build my foundation — as well as weave a heavy mix of cross-training into my marathon training in the second half of the year.

Signing up for different classes this year kept me from falling prey to boredom, but I have a feeling that being committed to classes in 2016 will be more about holding me accountable when I’d much rather be cuddling a cute little baby…or catching up on sleep.

4. What frustrated or disappointed you the most this season?
Did you struggle to see consistent improvement in your speed? Fail to summon your determination when things got hard? Were you unable to overcome nagging injuries? What concerned you and took some of your energy away from the positive things?

Just like last year: injuries. Although my plantar fasciitis has cleared up, my SI joint has been plaguing me for two years now.

Pregnancy has caused it to flare up for different reasons, and I’m hoping some time off from running will help. But I know this will be a big goal for 2016: Finding the root cause of this SI trouble and addressing it so I when I’m able to train, it’ll be full speed ahead.

5. What do you not want to happen again next year?
Were you unprepared for some races and found you performed better in training than in racing? Did you take yourself and the sport too seriously, forgetting to have fun along the way? Look for insights from question four — things that you need to avoid in order to be at your best. Put emphasis and focus on things that you can control or influence.

Basically, a repeat of years past where I know there’s a lingering issue but don’t address it before proceeding with training. If it’s there now, it’s not going to go away as I push my body harder and harder.

6. What did you learn by going through these experiences?
We all have good and bad days (and races and seasons) but what you take away from them can make all the difference the next time around. Despite the challenges or painful times, what valuable lessons did you learn? What meaningful lessons can you take forward as you build on your experience as an athlete? How can you catch yourself from slipping backward the next time you hit a rough patch?

It’s not always about the PR, the epic race or going longer/further/faster. Some seasons are for that, yes, while others are more for taking time to regroup, reflect and refocus. And grow babies!

I’ve also learned to keep the bigger picture in mind (being pregnant definitely helped with this). Health and fitness is about playing the long game, and there are so many ways to honor your body and feel a sense of accomplishment, so it’s been rewarding getting to explore different parts of that.

7. What decisions did you make that were empowering for you?
Think about the conscious decisions you made about what you committed to or improved: your nutrition, getting support from a coach or community, your approach to training and recovery, how you managed your life around your workouts, the number or frequency of races, etc. What were some of the most important decisions of the year for you, both related to triathlon and other parts of your life where relevant? And therefore, what decisions must you make for next season to experience even more success?

Opting out of races, whether it was restraining my itchy trigger finger the day a race’s website opened for sign-ups or even bailing on a grueling century ride in poor weather conditions when I knew my body was in need of rest. I felt torn every time, but am happy in hindsight that I went with my gut in those situations.

Also, I’ve enjoyed dipping my toes into the waters of alternative and preventative medicine, be it chiropractic manipulations, acupuncture sessions, regular massage or prenatal movement classes. Not only have I learned a lot about my body through this kind of work, but it also feels great and helps to (hopefully) keep some of those injuries at bay.

8. What habits seemed to hold you back from achieving your potential?
We all have them. Recurring ways of behaving and thinking which sometimes we realize — even when we know it’s not in our best interest — and sometimes we don’t. What causes you to skip training sessions? What do you tend to say to yourself during a race or training session, or when the alarm goes off before sunrise? In which ways has your diet been limiting your body’s potential? Where have you procrastinated or not been as disciplined as you’d like to be? Be really honest and list the items that you must change in order to achieve your goals.

I probably sound like a broken record, but I need to quit ignoring my body when it’s trying to tell me something. I’ve learned time and time again that if something’s bugging me, putting my head down and trying to train through it is not going to make it go away.

So while I would like to make at least a goal or two that really pushes me in 2016, I won’t until I know that my body is strong enough and healed enough to handle it. I won’t let my enthusiasm for going after a new goal with my usual zeal get the best of me again!

9. What decisions should you make in order to have your best year ahead?
Building off your insights from all the previous questions, what will you continue to do, where do you need to get extra help, what will you stop doing? This is a critical step, take your time and identify the key decisions you need to make.

I know myself well, and that means I’ll be anxious to jump back into things as soon as possible after Baby H comes in March. But rather than leap-frogging to a crazy goal to get myself motivated, I know I’ve got to have the resolve to take baby steps in order to build a solid base.

I’ve got to be ok with a half-step forward instead of the alternative — going too quickly and having to take two steps backward — as I heal and get “my” body back. 

For example, starting up a marathon training program before I regain my post-baby continence (something I’m genuinely worried about after reading up on the subject and chatting with other mom runners) is probably not the best idea. It took 10 months for my body to make a baby, and I know it may take a while afterwards for it to figure out what the “new normal” is.

And, in the meantime, the most important thing for me to remember is to not put the cart before the horse. Or, in this case, the race before the runner!

Stay tuned for my 2016 S.M.A.R.T. goals…

What were your biggest lessons learned from 2015?
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Struggle with Running? 6 Tips to Make Training Easier

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There’s no shortage of advice out there when it comes to running further or faster, but what if getting to the start line is enough of a challenge in and of itself?

How do you make training less daunting when running is a total struggle?

I get asked this question a lot from people who are interested in training for a specific event but either A) are new to the game and don’t know how to get started, B) have a history of injury and/or medical conditions that prevent them from following a typical training plan or C) have crashed and burned in the past and realize that a more realistic approach is needed.

Believe it or not, at one point or another in my 20+ years of running experience, I’ve been in each of those places!

Disclaimer: Although I’m a former ACE-certified personal trainer, I’m not a running coach or a medical professional, so seek their guidance before following any advice you read here or elsewhere; this is just some insight I’ve gleaned from years of trial and error. 

First, have you cleared it with your doctor that you’re cool to run? If not, that’s priority numero uno. Second, get your expectations in order because there’s no quick fix here; the best approach is to follow the tortoise’s lead: slow and steady.

Also, keep in mind that one of the biggest reasons people “hate” running and/or end up abandoning it is because they get impatient, rush the process and it ends up being a miserable experience all around.

So instead, let’s talk tips for making training less about competition and more about completion so you step up to that start line confident, healthy and ready to run.

1. Take a typical training plan, and double the time it takes to prepare. For example, if your goal is a half marathon and the plan you want to use is four months in duration, give yourself eight to properly gear up for race day. Of course, we’re not talking twice the amount of hardcore training; we’re talking about giving yourself a longer runway to ease into running — without feeling the pressure of time — before actual training begins.

2. Start slow, stay slow and keep it comfortable. There’s a misconception that running has to suck in order for it to be working. Not so. If it’s uncomfortable, slow down. If it’s painful, stop. One tip here, which a lot of my triathlete friends swear by, is to calculate your heart rate ranges and use a heart rate monitor to quantitatively force yourself to slow down. Most of us are pushing too hard, so it’s often surprising to see how slow you really need to go in order to stay within range and build a true aerobic base!

3. Never underestimate the power of NOT running. I experimented with this concept as I was training for my first marathon back after a major injury (stress fracture in hip…followed by years of thinking I would never run 26.2 again). Knowing that when I run every day I can pretty much count on an injury, I found a plan where I was running only three times week and cross training and/or resting the other days. It worked like a charm! Not only did I get a personal record on race day, but I crossed the finish line injury-free.

4. Don’t get fixated on “running” the entire event. Put bluntly, you’ve got to know the constraints of your body, and sometimes running for hours on end in a longer event is just too much. That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do it, it just means you may need to adjust your definition of what “running” the race means. If your goal truly is just to finish, make it your mission to figure out the equation that’ll get you there in one piece.

For example, in my last marathon, I had a pre-stress fracture in my tibia and had to take five weeks off during peak training for it to heal. I ramped up as best I could toward race day, but there was no way I’d make up the mileage and be able to run 26.2 without potentially re-injuring myself. So I consulted a coach, and we made a game plan for me to set my watch for 10-min jog/1-min walk increments. It was still was painful, yes, but I made it…and was only 10 minutes off my personal best time.

5. Get up close and personal with all kinds of cross-training. If running beats you up (like it does me), rely on other forms of cross training to develop cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength. I cycled like crazy during those five weeks off from running during that last marathon training phase, and I credit it for helping me maintain my fitness despite having an injury. Of course, some running is important to get your body used to the movement, but otherwise swimming, biking, hiking, etc. are all awesome ways to condition yourself silly.

6. Put your faith in preventative care practices. One of the most important keys to success in running is what you’re doing when you’re not running. Think of it as banking good karma with the running gods every time you hit up a yoga class, break out the foam roller or take time for a stretch session. Supple muscles are strong, yet loose, and less prone to injury; take care of your body, and it will do the same for you. Plus, another bonus is that it’s a good brain break from all the other training you’re doing!

How do you make training suck less?

Year in Review: 2014’s Highs & Lows

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October’s Best & Worst of Racing Link-Up post was so much fun that I figured I’d revisit each of this year’s races in the same manner.

So on the eve of 2015, I’m taking a little walk down memory lane…starting way back in January with our chocolate-fueled 15K and ending with December’s holiday-themed run.

I was going to add up all the mileage, but instead of boring you with stats, I’ll just get to the good stuff 🙂

Best Post-Race Bellyache

We soared away with mega sugar highs after January’s Hot Chocolate 15K. Not only did Kelly, Ben and I have a blast running the scenic route, which looped around Golden Gate Park and down Highway 1, but we also (over)indulged in the most decadent post-race spread of fondue, hot chocolate, marshmallows, cookies and all kinds of other goodies.

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Best Mid-Race Meetup

You know it’s going to be a good race when you become fast friends with someone you meet two miles in (hey, Molly!) and get to hang out afterwards with the one and only Catra “Dirt Diva” Corbett and her running companion, a dachshund named TruMan. Just some of the many amazing running memories that Vivi and I — college friends reunited as running buddies — made at the Chabot Trail Run 30K in February!

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Least-Intimidating Triathlon

At home and on a whim, I signed up for the LifeTime Fitness Indoor Sprint Triathlon with my friend Colleen in March. Not only was the 10-minute swim, 30-minute bike and 20-minute run a nice way to ease into triathlon for the year, but it was also a great workaround for being able to “race” while there was still snow on the ground outside.

Best of all, though? The 10-minute locker-room transitions, which may have permanently ruined us for “real” ones.

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Friendliest Faces Race

Our entire SF community came out in full force for the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco Half Marathon back in April. The weather cooperated, I helped pace Barry’s Bootcamp owner Adam Shane for the start of his first 13.1 finish, and friends and family came out of the woodwork to run and spectate along a course that was much tougher and hillier than anticipated.

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Worst Race Ever

Lest you think this rundown of races is all rainbows and puppy dogs, I present to you my darkest moment from the 2014 season: the HITS Napa Valley Olympic Triathlon.

Struggling with sickness and self-doubt, I battled for more than four hours through a panic attack on the swim, not being able to catch my breath on the bike and a miserably hot run that day. But as far as my performance was from perfect, I’m proud that I didn’t quit — and, hey, it can only go up from here, right?!

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Most Revealing Race

If you’ve never run Bay to Breakers in May in San Francisco, you’ve got to add it to your runner’s bucket list. Not only is it the oldest consecutively run annual footrace in the world, but it’s also some of the best people-watching and partying you’ll ever witness in the city. And no, don’t count on a PR, but do plan on getting an eyeful while covering the 12K course.

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Ultra-Freakin’-Awesome Race

Each time you run farther than you’ve ever run before, it’s an exhilarating experience. Jamie, my pacer extraordinaire for my first Canyon Meadow Trail 50K Ultramarathon, fortunately understood this and dealt with my exclamations every mile on the mile after 26.2: “Guess what? This is officially the longest I’ve ever run!”

And it may have been the first, but it won’t be the last…

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Biggest Post-Race Double-Take

As in, I had to check the race results twice to make sure I read them correctly. Hubby paced me to a shiny, new 10K PR in the Beaverton Sun Run, and I credit the Hanson’s marathon plan for the speedy finish. Sure, I got injured soon thereafter from the sheer volume and high threshold of training (plus lack of pre-hab), but it was fun while it lasted!

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Best-Worst Race Experience

Was it real or was it a dream? You may never know…because after more than 24 hours of being awake, driving and running for almost 200 miles the hallucinations start to set in. I can’t even really do justice to the insanity and hilarity of an overnight relay, particularly the “Mother of ’em all,” but I can say that this year’s Hood to Coast Relay was something I’ll always remember!

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Favorite Street Cred Race

Yes, I’m referencing the location, but I’m also alluding to the fact that, after five weeks off during peak mileage building, I had something to prove with this race — and, per usual, it was to myself. Both being able to run and highlight my hometown, plus be able to finish the Detroit Marathon was an incredible way to cap off a fall full of physical frustrations.

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Most Instagrammable Race

No joke, the first thing I did when I found out we were moving to Oregon was to put the lottery date for the Silver Falls Trail Half Marathon on my calendar because I heard it had some fantastic scenery. And the price we paid — in crazy elevation changes, rough footing and cold, crappy weather — was totally worth it!

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Most Spirited Race

From the looks of some of the creative costumes involved in this event, I have a feeling several of the participants may have taken the holiday “spirit” part of the race literally. Not only did Carolyn, a fellow LUNA Chix teammate, finish her first-ever race with flying colors, but the Jingle Bell Run 5K for Arthritis also ended up being an ideal way to round out the year just the way we started: with friends.

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Looking back, I’m feeling really thankful for a year chock-full of memories made, laughs shared and miles covered with friends and family.

Cheers to an even more eventful 2015!

Which moments are you most thankful for from 2014? I’d love to hear!

Race Report: 2014 Detroit Marathon

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They say that you learn more from the races that don’t go according to plan than the ones that do, and I learned two big lessons yesterday:

  1. Even though a race can go very differently from how you originally imagined, it can still be awesome for other reasons.
  2. Sometimes it’s best not to be left to your own devices; the guidance of a third party (i.e. a coach) can help immensely.

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But I’ll back up to the beginning… Even though I set two alarms — one at 4:45 and one at 4:50 — because I was worried I’d oversleep, I ended up waking up around 3:45 in a panic about my race-day attire. The weather, which had been hovering around the 50’s and 60’s all week, had dropped into the low 30’s and would only get up to the low 40’s toward the end of the race.

I only packed a tank, but once I decided to run 26.2 “ultra-style” with my gear, I bought a t-shirt as added insurance to keep my hydration pack from chafing. But when I tested my arm sleeves during my 10-miler last week, they rubbed the inside of my arms, so at 4:00 yesterday morning I made a game-time decision to run in a long-sleeve top with a t-shirt over it.

Like I said before, a lot can happen over 26.2 miles, and you don’t want chafing to be any part of that!

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Hubby dropped me off a few blocks from the start line at 6:35, so I had just enough time to dash into Cobo Center — Detroit’s big convention hall where they held the pre-race expo — for a quick bathroom pit stop before heading over to my corral. It was (literally) freezing outside, so a lot of runners were huddled inside until the last minute, but I got out of there ASAP because I’d have to fight the crowd to get to my corral.

Because my original anticipated finish time was 3:50, I was in corral D. I just happened to line up next to that pace group, bunching together with everyone to share body heat, and smiled to myself. Let it go; let them go, I thought, and made a mental note to check my ego because we’d be parting as soon as I started my 10-minute run/1-minute walk plan for the race.

As “Lose Yourself” blared on the loudspeakers, the horn blew for the start of each wave of corrals and, before I knew it, we were off! I hung with my group for the first 10 minutes, settling into a comfortable pace, and then watched the swell of people move off into the distance as I pulled over to the side for my minute-long walk segment.

“Save something for the end,” became my new mantra, as well as, “I might be seeing some of you later!”

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At this point, I still wasn’t sure if my leg would hold up, so I told Hubby and my parents that we’d plan for a few checkpoints along the way. The first of which was mile three, just before I’d cross the Ambassador Bridge into Canada. It’s one of my favorite parts of the race, but I knew that if my leg was giving me trouble early-on, I’d have to bail there because my cell wouldn’t work once we crossed International waters.

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Luckily, besides some minor twinges, I was feeling ok (definitely not 100 percent, but good enough to keep going), so we crossed over the bridge as the sun rose. My pictures don’t do it justice, but you get the idea; I was more focused my form while high-fiving the border patrol and then tackling the uphill portion.

I did, however, pull over and take a quick selfie during my next walk segment. Not only did these one-minute breaks become my lifelines later on, but they also allowed me to document some of the course, which I thought would be fun for posterity’s sake!

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Another one of my favorite sights on the course is the view of the Detroit skyline, as seen from Windsor. This is about five miles in and where I began fueling, which ended up helping immensely when it came to keeping both my energy and spirits up throughout the race.

During walk breaks I alternated a bite of Bonk Breaker and a few pulls of water with some sips of my Tailwind flavorless electrolyte drink (ok, and maybe a handful of M&M’s from someone along the course!). The goal was to take it easy to try to avoid gastrointestinal issues, and these all seemed to sit well on my stomach.

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Another one of my favorite parts of a marathon is the spectator signs. There were some along the Canada stretch that made me smile, including “You are NOT anywhere near the finish” and “USA runners, you only need to work 90% as hard here.”

I kept up my 10 run/1 walk ratio and felt like I had a steady pace, so I went into autopilot and switched back and forth between trying to keep my form in check and taking in all the scenery. Before I knew it, we were headed into the “Underwater Mile,” which is the tunnel that runs from Canada to the US.

Although it’s one of the race’s claims to fame, it’s actually one of my least favorite parts of the course. Not only is there not much to look at, but it also gets pretty stuffy in there. I had been heating up in the previous miles, and by the time we were three-quarters of the way through the tunnel, I could feel my shirt getting soaked with sweat.

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But it’s all worth it for what you see when you exit! There’s a huge crowd cheering loudly, plus a banner that we all slapped as we made our way around the bend toward mile nine.

This was the second checkpoint; as soon as I had reception, I texted Hubby and my parents that I was still going. We made plans to meet up around mile 15 as I headed toward my third checkpoint — more of a mental one — 13.1 miles.

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By this time, the sun was up and the air was crisp — perfect running weather. We ran along the Lodge Freeway, which I thought was pretty cool — especially because it was along here that the song “8 Mile” came on my iPod.

No better way to run through the streets of Detroit than with a little music from Eminem!

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I took the opportunity here to take another selfie during my walk break. Then we rounded the corner and went up the offramp, which I think was around mile nine.

This is where my legs really started to protest; oddly enough, it was more my left hamstring and knee, which started acting up — most likely because I was concentrating so hard on keeping my right shin happy. I kept going, but started wondering if I’d have to stop at the half marathon point.

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Around mile 11, I really started doubting myself. But right as I started slipping into that dark place, I felt someone reach out and grab me — my friend, former-XC-teammate-turned-pro-triathlete, Terra Castro! Her timing couldn’t have been better.

We hugged, and I told her about my legs as she asked how I was doing. “You’re good, just keep it up — you’ve got it.” she said, and it was just what I needed to hear to suck it up, re-adjust my attitude and keep moving forward.

The pain was more of a tightness than a sharp feeling, so I knew I could continue safely with with my 10 run/1 walk plan — the battle from here on out would just be as much mental as physical. But I was still going steady when we hit the turnoff between the half marathoners and the full marathoners, so I took the turn toward the full and texted my family that I’d see them at the fourth checkpoint — mile 15!

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The next few miles until I saw my folks were a bit of a grind; there was a long straightaway down a long stretch of road, and I just remember thinking how I had to thank my running coach after the race. I hadn’t run this far since August, and after taking five weeks off during peak training mileage, I was really starting to feel it.

Taking the walk breaks, as he suggested, were extremely motivating. Not only did they give me a chance to catch my breath, but they also were an ideal reminder to refuel and re-hydrate regularly, which I remained diligent about.

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The segment between miles 16-18 was actually another one of my favorite parts of the race. My legs were getting progressively tighter, so it was a welcome distraction to check out the beautiful tree-lined side streets of historic Indian Village with its huge, old houses.

Having spectators line up on their front lawns to pass out beer, play polka music and wave funny signs was also an awesome part of this section. It reminded me of my first marathon in Chicago where people in different neighborhoods would hand out food, drinks and really get into the spirit of the race.

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I spotted my family as we turned to exit the neighborhood — awesome, I made it to checkpoint five and was almost down to single digit miles! I stopped for a quick photo with my parents, and heard my mom say, “Go, Jennifer! You’re really going to do this!” as I headed off.

As I trekked toward mile 20, I knew that the toughest part was yet to come. Everyone around me was starting to slow as we all began to feel the effects of the miles. People were pulling over to stretch, I saw one gentleman with a bloody back from the pack he was carrying, and I started recognizing a few familiar faces from earlier on as we continued along.

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No, I hadn’t hit the wall, per se, but I was flirting dangerously close to it at this point, as were all of those around me. But all I could do was keep up my 10 run/1 walk pattern, keep fueling regularly and just put one foot in front of the other.

Although I did literally run through this wall. Couldn’t resist!

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Miles 20-22 took us to Belle Isle, which is a 982-acre island park in the middle of the Detroit River. It’s absolutely beautiful, but I had trouble fully enjoying it because I spent most of this stretch talking myself into not walking the rest of the race.

Knowing you’re down to just six or so miles is an incredible morale boost, but at the same time you’re questioning how the hell you’re going to keep your body moving for another hour. And by this point, my quads were screaming — I was paying for my under-training with a searing build-up of lactic acid — so I gritted my teeth and decided to try to make a time goal to keep myself motivated.

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I spotted Hubby between miles 22 and 23, and he ran alongside me for a few minutes to cheer me on toward the final stretch. He saw that I was majorly struggling, so he tried talking to me to keep me distracted, but I was in no mood for chatting.

At this point I knew I would finish, the only question was how long it’d take me. So try as Hubby might to engage me, I just smiled and thanked him, saying, “I love you! I’m trying to finish in under 4:30!” before popping in my ear buds and buckling down for the final 5K.

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By then I’d eaten my entire Bonk Breaker bar and drank up my 20 ounces of Tailwind, so I took half a Carb Boom energy gel (which I picked up at mile 16) along with a few gulps of water. I had a little more than two miles to go to the finish, and I wasn’t taking any chances by letting my blood sugar drop before the final mile or so.

Seeing the Detroit skyline come back into view helped — so close! — as did a change in scenery along the RiverWalk leading up to mile 25. Just. One. More. Mile. My legs weren’t locking up as badly as they did in my last marathon, but I was SO ready to be done already.

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My parents were lined up at mile 26, which was the perfect final distraction before the home stretch. The finish line wasn’t yet in sight, although I knew we were close, so seeing them right before we turned the corner gave me one last boost of adrenaline.

With the finish line in sight, I kicked it into whatever gear I had left and went as fast as I could for the final .2 miles. Regardless of how many marathons you’ve run, that burst of joy and relief you feel when crossing the finish line never gets old.

Official time: 4:17:17.

My legs were the angriest they’ve ever been after a race; I duck-walked down the chute to collect some food, get my photo taken and meet up with Hubby and my parents. But I was so thankful just to be able to complete this race — not to mention grateful to my PT for getting me to the start line and my coach for giving me a game plan to get to the finish in once piece.

The final to-do item on my race-day list? Kick-starting the recovery process with a deep-dish Pizza Papalis Chicago-style pizza and a warm Epsom Salt bath.

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Thank you all so much for following along and cheering me on for what’s truly been a roller-coaster of a training cycle. Looking through your tweets, posts and comments on race-day morning gave me just the extra “oomph” I needed to keep pushing forward, running happy and appreciating the small victories along the way.

And in case you’re wondering…yes, I still have that sub-four marathon goal on my list. But I’m going to give my body a bit of a break so I can heal fully, focus on becoming a better runner and try tackle some different distances in the meantime.

After all, they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So, I look forward to that next new adventure together!

Detroit Marathon: Week 18 training recap

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Well, here we are — 18 weeks down, and just a few days to go! The bad news is that my calf has been acting up this week (aching after Monday’s treadmill run), but the good news is that I’m at peace with my game plan for race day, which is “slow and steady.”

After training took a turn for the worse in the past two months, my first objective was to heal up enough to get to the start (check!). Now it’s time to focus on getting across that finish line on Sunday.

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Here’s what the past week looked like, according to the original training plan:

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And here’s what I’ve actually been doing, as per my run coach’s recommendation:

  • Monday: Run on treadmill (30 run/1 walk x 2), PT exercises
  • Tuesday: Elliptical (45 mins), strength training, PT exercises
  • Wednesday: Run (45-60 mins), OFF, PT exercises
  • Thursday: Recumbent bike (30 min), strength training, PT exercises
  • Friday: Run (30-45 mins), Elliptical/bike (30 min), strength training, PT exercises
  • Saturday: OFF, PT exercises
  • Sunday: RACE DAY!

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As far as race prep goes, I’m treating it more like an ultra and aiming for stamina over speed. This means I’ll be carrying a hydration pack with some essentials instead of going for the usual less-is-more approach to race day.

Since I also lost some endurance during my time-out from training, I’ll need to fuel early and often to avoid the inevitable “wall” as long as possible. So I’m packing salt tabs, TUMS and both water and Tailwind flavorless electrolyte beverage in order to be self-sufficient on the course (this is helpful both physically and mentally, at this point).

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Also in my Ultimate Direction Jenny Ultra Vesta? A few Bonk Breakers, Picky Bars and Hammer Gels, along with my cell phone for emergencies (i.e. worst-case scenario = DNF), which I’m hoping I can avoid by skipping this week’s runs so I can rest up my legs and get my calf calmed down.

I’m hitting the expo on Saturday to get my race packet, but will be taking it easy other than that. It’s an odd feeling worrying less about time/pace and more about my ability to finish, but I’ll be following Coach’s orders and doing a 10-min run/1-min walk ratio to try to get ‘er done as swiftly — and safely — as possible.

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Stay tuned for race updates via social media, and I’ll be posting my race recap Monday. Any positive vibes & healing thoughts much appreciated in the meantime so I can finish healthy and strong; thanks very much!

Detroit Marathon: Week 13 training recap

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One upside to being banned (for the time being) from running? Getting to mix things up for a change with my favorite forms of cross training!

For consistency’s sake, here’s what the schedule would have been this week. Yes, I realize I’m missing out on some peak mileage here (argh), but I keep telling myself that even though backing off may slow me down in the short-term, it’ll allow me to be stronger and healthier in the long run.

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So here’s a snapshot of my actual workouts for the week:

  • Monday: Elliptical (45 min) & physical therapy
  • Tuesday: 6-mile walk & PT exercises
  • Wednesday: Spin class (45 min) & PT exercises
  • Thursday: OFF (migraine) & physical therapy
  • Friday: Spin class (45 min) & PT exercises
  • Saturday: Elliptical (45 min) & PT exercises
  • Sunday: Long bike ride (aiming for 40 miles!)

Nope, it’s nowhere near the numbers or the intensity I should be doing, but I can assure you I’m still breaking a good sweat each day and challenging myself. In fact, it actually feels really good, mentally, to be doing some non-running activities and, physically, to be working some non-running muscles for a change.

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Another tip for staying positive amid a setback is to continue setting goals (within reason, of course) and striving for them. No, I may not be able to hit my weekly running mileage, but I can keep pushing myself on the bike and do some longer weekend rides to maintain that strength and endurance in the interim.

Plus, I’m loving all the quality time with Winnie, and it’s fun to try to keep up with Hubby, who is currently training for a triathlon.

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And in the meantime, I’m being religious with my physical therapy routine. From stretches to rolling, legs lifts to lunges, the exercises are something I can check off my to-do list each day to feel some kind of accomplishment — plus my PT says my mobility, range of motion, strength and stability are getting better, which is just the encouragement I need to keep it up.

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As for when I can get back to running, there’s no clear answer. Most of the aching has subsided in my shin, but there’s still a good amount of tenderness, so we’re taking a wait-and-see approach.

My PT is pretty confident that I’ll be back on my feet in time for my race in Detroit in October, although I won’t be resuming my training schedule anytime soon. All I can say in the meantime is…onward to week 14!