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I love running, but sometimes, I love not running even more. It’s hard to believe it’s been just about a month since the Boston “Speed Can Kill” Marathon, and about 2 weeks since I trudged through the Big Sur Marathon to complete the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge. In effect, besides those two days of running 26.2 miles, I’ve run exactly 6 times, only 15-30 minutes each, in the last month. Yay!

Less running, more drinking with friends!

I am a strong believer in periodization of training cycles. Part of this has to do with competing through high school and college. The seasons were clearly defined: Cross Country, Indoor Track, and Outdoor Track. We always took about two weeks of rest in between, give or take depending on practices. Breaks were natural, built-in, and welcome after a hard season or race.

After my LAST college race. I took a whole 3 months of NO exercise after that, and it was glorious.

It’s a little more difficult in the ‘real’ world of running, where there are fun races just about every weekend to sign up for, and no coach setting your competition schedule or telling you when to work out and when to rest. Unfortunately, I think too many runners get caught up in racing and training year-round without a break in between cycles and no real concept of periodization, and ultimately end up burnt out or injured. I get it, there are so many awesome races and marathons to sign up for…it’s easy to want to do them all and do them all right now.

But that’s also the awesome thing about the ‘real’ world. YOU control your training! YOU control your rest! YOU control your goal races. I know everyone is different, so I’m not saying you’re doing it wrong if you don’t split your training into cycles. Everyone’s bodies handle training differently, and everyone has different motivations for running and racing.

However, I really don’t think most people benefit from racing week after week, almost entirely year round, never allowing themselves to peak for a smaller handful of goal races. Instead, it’s just a steady stream of mediocre races at less-than-your-full-potential. I don’t think it’s physiologically or psychologically possible to be in your prime racing shape year-round. Of course, the type of races you do will influence this: training cycles differ in duration if you’re running 5Ks versus running marathons. I do firmly believe that periodization allows me to perform at a high level, while keeping enjoyable and injury-free. I love to race, but I love to race fast more. That means being patient and having 1 or 2 kickass races a year, over dozens of mediocre races.

I’m not a coach, so I’m not going to tell you how to structure your training. Again, it depends on the timing and length of what you’re racing. Google “training periodization” for a better guide than I’d give you. But from my personal experience over the past 3 years of post-collegiate racing, I select a goal race and build my schedule leading up to that. For a marathon, I start to focus on building my base about 4+ months out from the race. As the weeks pass, I steadily increase my mileage. I might schedule in a few races during training, but I use these races as workouts or fitness indicators, not goal races. About ~3 weeks from the marathon, I begin to taper. After the goal race, I take as much time off as I feel I need to recover: physically and mentally. Entirely ‘off’ is key: no physical exercise of any type (besides walking, that’s kinda inevitable..) Sometimes I need a little less than two weeks, sometimes it’s a month.

If you’re not longing for a break after a really hard few months of training or an awesome PR in a race, you’re probably not training and racing hard enough. If you’re back rocking workouts and long runs a week or two after a goal race, I don’t understand you. I’ll be chilling on the couch, not lacing up my running shoes until I’m fully longing to run.

I wouldn’t still be head over heels in love with running after 11 years of competing, chasing PR after PR, if I didn’t rest. It’s one of the most important pieces of the puzzle, and an often neglected one. If I trained hard, all year round, I’d never be able to peak accordingly to run a 3:03 (and soon, sub-3:00) marathon.

Another great part about not running? You get to focus on other areas of your life that got a little less love during your hard training. Like friends, family, and work! Lucky for me, my busy work season just started to kick in after Big Sur. Between personal and work trips, I am traveling every. single. weekend. in May and June. Bring it on, and see ya never, friends!

Sun Valley, Idaho for the Idaho Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics Association Conference

Boulder, Colorado as a sponsor of the Blend Retreat. Gorgeous view from our hike!

After Boulder, I was lucky enough to hang out in Denver for about 2 hours with my college roomie Emily before jetting back home!

And then I went to Dallas for the Team USA Olympic Media Summit

...Where I got to meet Bernard Lagat and was a HUGE runnerd.

And get to hear the First Lady Michelle Obama speak!

Yeah, it’s been busy, and I’ve come to appreciate my bed at home more than ever, but I wouldn’t have it any other way right now. I’m in a very exciting place in my career, and though traveling to events primarily on the weekends isn’t the most awesome way to maintain a normal social life, I absolutely love my job. I’m working more than ever, traveling more than ever, and sometimes I can barely keep my head on straight, but it’s so rewarding to feel so challenged and get the opportunity to do some very cool things.

I’m traveling to San Francisco the next two weekend, but for FUN! This weekend is my sister’s college graduation (wahhhh how do they grow up so quickly?!), so I’m looking forward to a weekend of celebrating with the family. Then I’ll return to CA for Memorial Day Weekend with three friends for a little Napa Valley getaway. At least there’s a bit of fun squeezed into my schedule. And maybe some running, too….maybe.

What’s your viewpoint on periodization in your training? Do you like taking breaks after races, or are you more of a year-round racer? Favorite place you’ve been lately?

I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve written, because it has, and it’s taken me a bit to get over the blahs post-Big Sur and because I’ve been traveling like a maniac. I took the red-eye back from San Francisco on Sunday night post-race, flew to Idaho on Wednesday morning for work and then straight to Boulder on Friday afternoon for work. I’m wiped but will make this hour count while I’m waiting for my flight here in Denver.

The Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge: I did it!

3:09 & 3:24. 2nd woman in the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge (missed 1st by 3!!!!!! seconds)

And to be honest, it was one of the hardest things I’ve done. Combining a 85+ degree Boston marathon with 26.2 miles of crazy coastal hills and (reported) 40 mph headwinds only 13 days later was brutal. Duh, that’s why it’s a challenge and that’s why I signed up. I loved Boston and wanted to love Big Sur just as much– I wanted the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge to be one of the most memorable things I’ve done.

Spoiler: it wasn’t. I hated it. Okay, maybe ‘hated’ is extreme, but it just wasn’t the blissful race I anticipated. I hate, hate, hate to say that about such a beautiful & well organized race..but here’s why:

After Boston, I took it extremely easy. I glowed, riding my runner’s high for as long as I could. I rested, slept, drank & celebrated with friends, and ran about 20 minutes (no more!) three times in before Big Sur. Slowly but surely, the soreness in my legs subsided and my running gait returned to normal. I felt kinda rested and ready to tackle the marathon! But, I also felt really out of shape when I ran- an easy 3 week taper followed by 2 weeks of next-to-nothing really isn’t conducive to maintaining fitness. Surprise!

Since I had no intentions of racing Big Sur, I took my pre-race prep far less seriously. Since I was visiting my sister in San Francisco before heading down to Monterey on Saturday, I took advantage of actually being able to go out with her on Friday night. We drank until after 2, and I woke up with a massive hangover. So bad, I had to make her stop and pull over to get sick in the car on the way to lunch…and after lunch. I couldn’t stomach food until dinner on Saturday night. Seems I can’t hang with the college kids, but I blame the shots.

And onto Big Sur!

I drove down to Monterey on Saturday afternoon, once my stomach settled, and met Alex & her fiancé Steve at the hotel– we went to the expo and out to dinner, and were in bed around 9:30. Party! We woke at 3:15 a.m. (!!!!) as the buses left at 4 to take us to the start. It was dark and cold, but at least I finally had a use for the throwaway sweats Ali originally gave me for Boston.

Once the sun rose, we headed to the start– the first “corral” was under 3:45…so we hopped right in towards the front. Loved how open it was!

And since I loved how Page and Aron did this for Boston 2 Big Sur last year, we pinned our Boston bibs on the back. What a great idea!

I felt great the first few miles– it was cool, shady, flat/downhill, and we were clicking off miles quite comfortably. I was happy and just felt like I was heading off for a nice long run– exactly what I wanted the day to be.

Yep– I brought my camera to take pictures during the “race”. It was sunny but crisp and cool, and we wandered through fields and the views were spectacular. It was so peaceful and I couldn’t wait until we neared the coast. Until around the 10K, a massive headwind hit as we started to go uphill. It got extremely foggy and dark– it was like we entered a totally different climate.

I can’t even begin to describe how strong the wind was as we worked up the hills. It was the type of wind that blows back/puffs up your jacket and turns your umbrellas upside down. I think I read it was up to 40 mph at points– of course always a headwind. And it only seemed to hit when we were going up the hills. It took so much energy out of me, and while we didn’t care about our time, it was a bit discouraging to see 8:30s start to click off.

Finally, we made it to the 13.1 mile mark- the famous Bixby Bridge- the gorgeous bridge that draw me into the race and that I was so looking forward to. However…the view was a bit obstructed.

I promise this is much more beautiful on a clear, sunny day.

Around this point, I started to feel my IT/Piriformis pain acting up…which really confused me as I hadn’t felt even the slightest twinge there all Boston training cycle. I’ve always had bouts of IT pain that usually flare up for a few weeks pretty intensely, but clears up after ART/Graston while rolling the shiz out of it with a baseball. It’s bothered me at some point while training for both NYC ’10 and ’11, but never while training for Boston this year.

While it started as a bit of tightness around mile 8, it turned into stabbing pain around mile 14 or so. It was the type of pain that would normally cause me to stop and cut a normal run short– the intensity of the pain wouldn’t be worth running through on a normal day, as I knew each mile was just re-aggravating it even further.

I tried to let the views distract me, but I was just in so much pain it was pretty miserable. Luckily (or not so luckily) Alex was having stomach pains and felt nauseous, so we were content to just take it easy. Around mile 17, I started wishing away the miles and wondering why I even signed up for this. I was frustrated that I wasn’t having a great time because this was supposed to be the culmination of such a great journey. I was frustrated that my leg hurt so badly that I was just about limping. I was on the verge of tears for most of the 2nd half of the race and had to continuously tell myself to pull it together.

This was supposed to be fun. Why was I so miserable?! Finally at mile 22, I told Alex I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to go 4 more miles. My body felt like it was going to break down and my right leg was going to fall off. This wasn’t normal “oh, of course my legs hurt, I’m running a marathon” pain. This was “you’re injured and your body is telling you to stop now” pain. But, since I’m stubborn, we kept on running. At least I’m happy we didn’t walk a single step.

I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see a finish line. I wanted it to be over about 16 miles earlier.

Here’s how the race played out for a 3:24: finish.

At least our the Boston 2 Big Sur jacket and medal was pretty sweet. After all, wasn’t the swag what reeled me in in the first place?

Would I do this race ever again? Probably not. I think my first experience was just tarnished a bit by the ridiculous headwinds, the weird fog that made the views less-than-stellar, and the incredibly sharp piriformis pain that made me want to cry and die.

Boston 2 Big Sur, I’m glad I did you, but more glad that you’re over.