Lessons I’ve learned (and relearned)

I’m now at the halfway point of this very unusual and slightly disjointed training cycle.  I’ve changed my training plan three times, changed my key race from Skagit Flats to Portland, and have tried to convert from an evening to a morning runner. I’ve approached my training in a different way, had a few setbacks, and learned some good lessons (some of which I learned last summer, but I guess I’m a little slow).

Lessons learned:

1. Yoga is not optional. While training for Vancouver, I did yoga in the morning and ran in the evening. I loved this schedule and enjoyed my regular yoga classes, as they provided time to stretch my tight legs and build strength in my upper body. Unfortunately, since switching to morning running, yoga has fallen by the wayside. As a result, my arms and upper body are weak and flabby, and my legs are tight. Last Thursday I set out for a tempo run in the morning, but after running 8/10 of a mile (my head wasn’t in the run at all), I realized that if I ran home, I could make it to the 6:30 am yoga class. So that’s what I did, and it was glorious. I am now committed to 2-3 morning yoga classes a week.

2. I’m mentally and physically not ready for high mileage. My least favorite runs are always my recovery runs. They are so slow and boring. In order to run high mileage, these recovery miles (often referred to as “junk miles”) are necessary. But my body isn’t recovering well enough after these runs, so my legs still feel like crap on my next run. Having a slew of crappy runs and just slogging through miles is not fun. So I’ve made the executive decision to significantly cut back my recovery miles every week (no more than 8 miles total) and focus on high-quality runs, not a bunch of junk/slow miles. That means I’ll probably hover around 35-40 miles a week (a far cry from my original plans), but I think I will benefit more from this approach.

3. Training in the summer is tough. I’m a total sissy when it comes to running in warm weather. If it’s anywhere near 70 degrees, it’s too hot. The weather in Seattle has actually been pretty nice, which means I have to wake up early to get my runs done before it gets warm. Trying to get through runs while I’m still half asleep is mentally and physically tough. Since I hate running when it’s warm, I just have to suck it up and continue my morning runs for the next 4-6 weeks. 

4. Training for and running a marathon is supposed to be hard. And that’s why I love it. I prefer marathons over shorter distances because the marathon requires discipline and dedicated training. If you’re in decent shape and occasionally run, you can probably show up and run (probably not race) a half marathon. But the marathon is a different animal, and most people, myself included, can’t wing a marathon. I have to work hard for 4 months, which is why crossing that finish line feels so sweet.

Running 26.2 miles is a humbling, gratifying and life-changing experience. You never know what will happen on race day, which makes good races and PRs so satisfying.

I watched the men’s Olympic marathon this weekend, and I was so inspired and fell even more in love with the sport. Check out the smile on Stephen Kiprotich’s face as he crossed the finish line to win the men’s marathon. That is pure hard-earned happiness. While we all can’t be elite runners, marathons allow mere mortals like me chase after our own goals and white whales. I can only imagine how big my smile will be when I cross the finish line with 3:34:59 on the clock.

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