When I added the Chicago Marathon to my “must run” list, a lot of people told me it was a PR race. My reaction was usually, “Sweet – who doesn’t love to PR?”
After my crappy Savannah experience and missing my goal time by 3 minutes, I knew I was out for revenge and WHY NOT make it Chicago?
I also knew I wanted to train differently. As I previously (and potentially stupidly) declared, I didn’t want to do speedwork. I’m not against speedwork, but I worried that my body just could not handle both speedwork and significantly increasing my mileage. It was a risk that I took. On top of that – shortened my training schedule and jumped RIGHT in to upping the mileage. This could have been an incredibly dumb decision.
BUT, that was my PR plan. Run more in a shorter period of time — and pray for nice weather.
Good thing it all worked out!
So what REALLY helped me? A few things, actually. Get ready for a list…
1. Enjoying my runs.
When I trained for Savannah, I remember hating my weekly runs. Now, I’m not going to say I love getting up at the ass-crack of dawn to run a 9-miler on a Wednesday before work (especially because E always picked those nights to wake up several times), but once I got up and got up there — I really enjoyed it. I think it really helped that I didn’t stress about how fast I was running. Sure, there were times when I upped my pace so I was pushing myself, but for the most part I turned up my iPod, peaced out, and just ran.
Those were some great runs.
2. Running a 20-miler solo.
The hardest run I did this summer was 20 miles – by myself. It was mid-August and probably close to 95 degrees outside when I finished. I wanted to quit at mile 18.5. I completely bonked. I considered calling my family for them to come get me because I was THAT done, but I remembered that at dinner the night before the kids told me they didn’t think I COULD run 20 miles by myself. So, I sucked it up and finished. It was painful.
Having that experience in the back of my mine, pushed me to focus on nutrition and water during Chicago. I knew I could bonk and it could happen very quickly if I didn’t eat and drink enough. Without that experience I might not have grabbed a banana at mile 22 — or chugged that cup of water.
3. Running with a friend – a fast friend.
After running that 20-miler by myself, I was so ready to find a running buddy. At the time, Tyler couldn’t run Sundays and I couldn’t run Saturdays. It sucked. Thankfully, all of the stars aligned, Dan started a new job with weekends off (I’m still so excited about this!), and I was able to run with Tyler.
He’s also really good at playing ponies.
Now Tyler is 11 years younger than me and has waaaaaay more energy than me (although he does have a busy schedule) – yet, he still runs at my pace. Why? I’m not sure. I’m a good listener? He likes it when people whine to him? Whatever the reason, while he’ll run in my comfort zone, he’ll also push me to run faster at times. I need that push and as much as I bitch at him, I know I’m capable at going faster.
I’m planning on PRing the crap out of my half marathon time this spring – and Tyler is definitely part of that plan (as soon as he forgives me for posting that pony picture).
4. 1/4 Long Runs
I know I said I skipped speedwork – but one thing I did do, and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND is 1/4 long runs (this is what I’m calling it – go with it). The first 3/4 of the run I would run at a normal long run pace (about a minute slower than race pace — for me this was between 10:20-10:40/mile) and then the last 1/4 I would pick it up and run race pace (9:30-9:40/mile). I didn’t necessarily do this every long run, but a good chunk of them. This approach was a huge confidence builder during my last 22-miler. I ran the last 6 miles on wet (it was pouring), tired legs at a 9:30 pace and it KICKED ASS. I did not feel ready for Chicago until that run.
5. Ice baths
Ice baths are….
But, they also helped me recover so much faster.
I didn’t ice bath after ever long run – just runs longer than 14 miles. I usually needed about 30lbs of ice and would shiver in it for 20+ minutes. The kids thought my torture was hilarious.
6. Running, running, and more running.
This is the non-expert, vague advice you were looking for, right?
When it comes down to it, just running and lots of it is what helped me PR. I peaked at 45 miles — I did a 5-mile recovery run, two 9-milers, and a 22-miler. That week kicked my ass, but I was 100% ready for it. I’ve always heard that if you want to run faster, you just need to run – and I didn’t necessarily understand it. But now, I kinda do. It’s still hard for me to run more than 5 days a week – but upping the mileage really did build up my endurance. I am not in my fastest half marathon shape right now — but I think I can easily get there.
7. Recovery Runs
I hated these runs with a passion. HATED. But, they were so important to my training. Most of my recovery runs were painful. I slogged for 5 miles the day after a long run – feeling it in my feet and in every leg muscle. Miraculously though, after that run I felt great. Instead of feeling like I just ran 18 miles the day before – my legs felt rested and ready to go. I will continue to do recovery runs for any future marathons (except this stupid marathon I’m running at the end of the month).
8. Cute Cheerleaders
Have cute people waiting for me at the finish line – and after every run, really, was a huge motivator.
Even if they would tell me how much I smelled after every run. That however, just made me realize that the people who love you the most are also the most honest.
9. Horrible training weather.
As much as I hated. HA-TED. running in the humidity this summer, it did nothing but help me.
I also ran 22-miler in the rain. I actually love running in the rain, but I’ve never run that far in it and I worried about slipping, chafing, and God knows what. Thankfully, that didn’t happen – I just looked like a drowned rat. And an idiot.
It was worth it – especially since up until race day, the weather-people-who-are-never-right were predicting rain — and it didn’t terrify me.
10. Running for Charity
Anytime I thought — I CANNOT DO THIS. I was reminded that there were millions of families that could not do this and mine was NOT one of them.
That’s pretty much the biggest kick in the ass you can give yourself, especially at mile 24.5.
They listened to me bitch and moan for 3 months – and they were super excited when I crushed my goal. That’s true friendship, if you ask me.
It’s also true friendship when they dress up with you on Halloween.
Who am I kidding? You can have the most perfect training cycle and a million things could go wrong on race day. It could have been hot. It could have rained. I could have gotten sick or sprained my ankle waiting around the city. My kids could have boycotted sleep (oh wait…). As much as you can train for a marathon and feel 100% ready (although – does anyone feel ready?) — you can still have a horrible race. Me? I was lucky.
The big question I have now is — how will this training plan hold up with Space Coast (which I am no way looking forward to – why did I think a second marathon would be a brilliant idea?). While I am still running, it’s taken me a little bit to recover (oh, and I ran a half two weeks after my full — kinda dumb). It is mentally challenging me to put in higher miles – and I plan on capping my long run at 16. I’m going to get over this, right? I don’t plan on PRing, but my goal IS sub 4:30. And to have fun. Or something. Maybe my goal should be to complain less than 100 times on race day? That plans sounds more accurate.
Any tips for PRing?? What’s your dream race? Best Halloween costume?