Saturday, October 31, 2015

Post race training and plan review

So, as I've been spending my time not so much exercising and definitely not so much eating well, I decided to keep reliving Chicago Marathon and wanted to make a mental list for myself of what worked well and what did not work well this training cycle.  This may not be super exciting for everyone else, but for me, I want to be able to look back on it.

I trained a bit differently for this race as I payed more attention to nutrition than I have ever before (thank you Earon), I did a lot more cross training, and I included some tempo runs and faster runs into my training, paying attention to the pace I maintained during runs.  It was the first marathon that I went into setting a pacing strategy and plan, and a number of other things I did differently.

So, what worked well and where could I have done better?  In both training and the actual race, let's check it out.

What worked well:
  • Paying more attention to race nutrition.  I have to admit, that I was resistant to this at first, but now I have been talking to most people about what worked well letting them know that I think the focus on nutrition was good for me.  I trained with the Gatorade Endurance that they would have on the course - and it was also my first time at all training with Gatorade.  I used salt tabs for the first time to replenish sodium lost through sweating.  And ate more Gu Chomps than ever before.  Usually when I run, I don't like to eat during the run - because part of why I run is diet control.  Why run if I am going to replenish calories with sugary Gatorade?  However, it is important if you are racing for a time and want to maintain your endurance throughout the whole race.
  • Training on hills for a flat race.  When I first moved to Atlanta I hated the hills everywhere.  I am learned to embrace them a bit.  I still hate running directly from my apartment because it is a mile of steep uphill in either direction from where I live.  However, I did some hill repeats on morning runs and tackled some hills on all of my long runs as well.  Knowing that Chicago was a flat marathon - it was essentially doing free speed training!
  • Making a mental plan for the race.  I think studying the course, putting together a plan for how to run based on effort, and having a few key things to focus on throughout the race was really helpful.  I liked having a bit of knowledge about what to expect, not just a plan for running a marathon, but for running THIS marathon.  I have heard mixed reviews from friends on reading race reports for a particular marathon, but for me, it helped me be really prepared and it is definitely something I will do more of for goal race moving forward!
  • Cross training at the beginning of training.  Since I had an ambitious plan for the summer that included triathlons, and actually training for the triathlons, rather than in past summers, I did a lot of cross training throughout the first months of summer.  It helped keep me super fit!
  • Morning runs.  Man, do I just love getting my runs done in the morning.  I think it is a key way for me to fit in training, and having a morning run (with friends!) just gets me into the day feeling like a super hero.
  • Hydrating well the week before.  I know everyone always says this for races and I have mostly payed attention to it, but for this race, I did a ton!  I then eased off the day before and morning of, and felt great throughout the race.  I learned the lesson of nutrition this year when I nearly died during my 7-mile run on that one hot day!
  • Chiropractor and massage.  I was so nervous about the pain in my hip right before the race.  However, seeing that chiropractor and getting a sports massage was amazing. I am a true believer in their effectiveness because I had NO pain from my hip during the race and the best recovery of any long run throughout training.
  • Hal Higdon Novice 1 training plan.  When I trained for my first marathon I used this plan.  When I trained for my second marathon I bumped myself up to the Novice 2 training plan and I got really burnt out.  I really had liked how I had ramped up with Novice 1, which included longer mid-week runs whereas Novice 2 had midweek mileage not going as high, but had more 15+ mile long runs.  I returned to Novice 1 and it worked well for me!! I definitely at some points was wondering, "Should I be doing more long runs?" but when my schedule got crazy, I felt good with the amount I trained and I feel confident in that plan, which I also added my own pace runs, cross training, and additional exercise to, by the way.  But for mileage?  It was great.

What could have been done better:
  • Don't give up on cross training midway through training.  I wish I had not given up on my cross training in the middle of the race.  Granted, my training got compromised when life got busy and I was on the road for 4 weeks, but I would like to do a marathon where I keep steady all the way through.
  • Eat healthy all the way through.  So, it wasn't just my cross training that went out the window as the marathon training got into the last two months and the travel got crazy.  I also stopped counting Weight Watchers points and paying attention to my eating for the last few months.  I mean, I still was eating fairly healthy, but also indulged a lot more and gained some weight in the last month.  I realized that this is a pattern that has happened the last month of every marathon I have done.  I think as the mileage gets harder, the will power I have is focused on getting those runs in, and I lose it on the healthy eating.  There have also been unforeseen circumstances that have come up with the last month of every marathon I have done.... traveling Europe for a month, moving to Atlanta and traveling all over, and then this year, and well you know what happened with the travel again.  Someday I will make it through a training plan and stick to all these aspects the whole way through.  FUTURE GOAL.
  • Work on my core, abs, and butt.  So the chiropractor asked me about my core work.  And my masseuse asked me about what I do for my glutes.  And my answer to both was, "Umm..." so I really want to focus on these areas to improve.  I hate doing abs and core work.  I want to work on it though and make it a focus rather than skip it.  I always assume if I am running and exercising and doing all that stuff, it has to be working my core, right?  Apparently that needs its own exercises.  Go figure.
  • Doing actual speed work throughout all of the training.  I did speed work during half marathon training, which I credit with a lot of my success in getting faster.  I also mentioned that my hill training ended up being like speed work, but I would like to incorporate more tempo miles, speed work, and all that sort of thing into runs and training for a full marathon in the future and think that could help me to improve.
  • Running with a heart rate monitor.  So, I've gotten this advice a lot.  And I'm convinced that as I work towards running for time rather than just running to run, having some guidance as to what my heart rate is would be helpful.  I will be looking into that over the next several weeks!
  • More stretching and foam rolling.  I need to get better at this stuff too!  It wasn't something that I payed any attention to until I needed to.  Meaning, when I was hurt and trying to get back on track.  In my next cycle - focusing more on this will be a priority the whole marathon through, not just in the clutch moments.
All in all.  I ran a great race.  A perfect race perhaps.  I am really proud of my training and looking back, I already wonder a little, "Did I really do that??" in both the commitment to training and to marathon itself.

It was an AMAZING year of setting goals and crushing those goals.  I am so, so proud of myself for how I set out this year of goals and how I managed to crush all of them.  How I set personal best times for myself in nearly every single distance.  How I tried new things and I pushed myself to do things I've done before even better than ever.  My improvements from January 1st to today are amazing to me.  I am looking forward to doing an "2015 recap" already and reliving the accomplishments and goals of the year.  However, I also can't live in this year forever and pretty soon.. it's time to set new standards!!!

Thanks everyone for reading along if you're still here and also, happy Halloween.  I am going to go back to my Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, pumpkin beer, and Law & Order: SVU reruns.  Hope you are having a more exciting night than myself :)


  1. This is a great review--good reminders for all of us! Have you ever tried reformer pilates? I LOVE it for my core work, and it definitely gets the glutes too and some stretching. I feel so strong and long and lean after class, and I think it's really helped me stay injury free. It's also a nice change of pace from super intense running.

    1. Thanks, and no I have not tried reformer pilates but I similarly have heard amazing things about it!! Thank you for the recommendation!!