Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. So I guess you could say for the past few years, I've been a bit insane. With each of my several failed attempts to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I have made very few significant changes in my training and lifestyle. Yes, I have read countless books, articles and online forums. I added in more speed work, periodized my strength training better and have attempted to clean up my diet. But none of these changes have overhauled my training enough for it to provide me with the results I am looking for on race day.
So do I go crazytown and revamp my life? I honestly do not believe I need to go to such drastic measures, nor do I want to. I have proven to be a strong runner with the routine I have always known and trusted. I have come a significantly long way shaving over an hour off of my first marathon time and only missing my BQ by a mere 2 minutes. My routine fits my lifestyle with work and family and has kept me relatively healthy and injury free for many of years.
But with all that being said, obviously I am missing the boat on something because I keep coming up short. The minor tweaks I have made along the way have just not been enough to secure me a BQ time. So I think it's time to take a good, hard look at what needs to change for me to finally turn my Boston dream into a reality.
First thing's first, my marathon training background...
When I ran my first marathon, I had one and only goal which was simply to finish. Before I began training, I had never raced anything more than a 5k and the most miles I had ever ran at one time was maybe 8. So really had no idea what to expect. I read Jeff Galloway's book, Marathon: You Can Do It, and used the "To Finish" program that had me running 3 days a week. It seemed non-intimidating, it fit my schedule and I was able to still strength train on alternate days. I stuck to the plan and finished my first marathon in 4:42.
I used the same exact plan for my second and third marathons where I finished in 4:07 then 3:53. I learned about speedwork while training for my 4th marathon, but a freak injury to my foot (I'm pretty clumsy) ruined my chances for a BQ then. My 5th marathon was just 10 weeks later. I was still healing from my injury and recovering from my previous marathon, so I figured I shouldn't deviate from the plan I had always known. I finished that one in 3:38, which it is still my current PR.
Heading into training for Chicago (my 6th marathon), I was still on a high from the PR I had in February. I figured since I had come so close then, I should probably stick to the same plan and just push harder, plus I aged up so that 3:38 would be actually be a BQ now. I was having a great race in Chicago until a hamstring cramp caused me to slow down and even walk much of the last 10k. My average pace was the EXACT same as my previous marathon but because the course was almost a half a mile longer, I came in at 3:42, missing my BQ by 2 minutes!
7 weeks later I ran another full, but this one was just to finish. It's a big event for my running group so I was more excited to see them run, plus I got an extra medal for running it three years in a row. A part of me hoped to maybe pull off a BQ/PR that day, but I was realistic heading into it that my body and mind just wasn't up for the challenge that day.
So 6 years, 7 marathons and 5 failed BQ attempts later, I think maybe it's about time I make some changes...
I'm realizing that I am going to need some help designing a solid program and someone to coach me through it. Although I have been running for almost two decades and am a (strength) coach myself, it doesn't mean that I have all the answers. It also doesn't mean that I can push myself and hold myself accountable the way someone else can. I feel like it's time to get this thing to the next level and I feel the only way I'm going to do that is by enlisting the help of a professional.
Stop Flying Solo
Thanks to my crazy work schedule, my husband's crazy work schedule and our two crazy kiddos, it's not always easy to squeeze in my own workout, let alone schedule it around other people. There is a plethora of group runs in my area and several running buddies I can meet up with, but finding the time is such a challenge. Of course I have come to realize that no great things can be done alone and it's time I make time to run with people. Not only will running with stronger runners push me to run harder, but it will also give me motivation, inspiration and of course, accountability. I am looking forward to many more group runs and running bonds being formed in my future!
I'm a big fan of the 80/20 principle; a healthy, clean diet 80% of the time and moderate indulgences the other 20% of the time. For someone who had a very unhealthy relationship with food for most of my adolescence and early adulthood (over and under eating), I find this to be a good balance for me both physically and emotionally. With that being said, there is still certainly room for improvement.. I need to find a way to get in a better variety of healthy foods, especially protein sources, and be a little bit more cautious of my indulgences. If only I could live off of chips and beer! Hoping a more balanced, cleaner diet will not only help me with my racing weight but will also help my digestive system cooperate much better too (which was unfortunately a HUGE factor in a failed BQ attempt a few years ago)!
Strength & Conditioning
Probably my biggest strength is my strength training, I am a strength coach after all. Over the years, I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise in my field that has helped not just the athletes I work with but myself as an athlete too. So I definitely feel like I've got a good handle on that. Where I often fall short is with my mobility and flexibility. I pretty much always wait until something is ridiculously tight then finally address it. So there will be much more foam rolling and yoga in my next training cycle. Another thing I plan to incorporate much more of is swimming. It's a great form of cross training for runners and my current PR is from when I did a lot of swimming during that training cycle, just saying.
Probably the biggest factor that has continually held me back in my goal is my attitude. I doubt myself and give up entirely way to easily. At this point, I feel as if it is partly due to the fact that failure has (unfortunately) become my comfort zone. I know what it's like to fail, but I have yet to experience the feeling of accomplishing my ultimate goal of a BQ. It kinda sounds a little ridiculous but it's almost as if I am afraid of reaching my goal. The goal itself is not frightening. It's not crazy ambitious or out of my reach. It's the aftermath of reaching my goal that scares me. I've been chasing this one goal for what feels like eternity and I'm nervous about how it will all effect me if and when I finally accomplish it. Will it have been worth it all? Will it be enough for me? Will I be able to do it again? What will I obsess about then?
Obviously my irrational fear of accomplishing my goal along with the unwarranted doubts about my abilities and what I am capable of are definitely something I am going to have to work on heading in to my next training cycle and race. Of course it's all going to boil down to preparation. Knowing that I am prepared both physically and mentally will give me the confidence I need to dominate on race day.
I'm looking forward to what 2017 holds. I'm ready to make some big changes so that I can accomplish some big things!