Lessons from My Worst Race

Erika, Patty and April posed an interesting question for today’s Tuesday on the Run topic: What was your worst race? Worst kind be defined a lot of different ways – missed goals? horrible weather?  injury? DNF?

For me the race came to mind immediately – the Wicked Half Marathon.  countdown_wickedHalfYou can read about the full debacle here. This was an ugly race for me because I was sick. In hindsight, I knew I didn’t feel well when I left that morning for the drive up to Salem, but I ignored the early warning signs and went anyway. I knew something was off as I waited for the race to begin…again I didn’t heed the warning. You see where this is going, right? Long story short, the wheels came off the wagon a mere 5 miles into the race. I made my first ever in-the-middle-of-a-race porta potty stop, briefly considered the nearby med tent but instead chose to keep going. I went from a run, to a shuffle, to a walk. And yes I did finish, but I was so sick afterwards that I had to wait around almost an hour post-race before I could drive myself home. (Turned out I was at the front-end of a virus that stuck around for several days!)

Lessons learned?

Listen to your body! — Yes there are times to push your limits, but it’s most important to heed the warning signals your body is giving you. There will always be another race.

My kids are a great source of motivation — They eagerly ran, walked and cheered me through the course. As always, they were a great source of inspiration!

Runners are wonderfully supportive — I met some great runners along the course who stopped to check on me and encourage me. And I bonded with many other “walking wounded” all determined to finish the route.

Mental toughness will carry you a long way — While physically my body had given up on this race early on, I still found a way to will myself on. It’s an experience I’m sure I’ll reflect on, the next time a race gets tough.

What was your worst race? What did you learn from it?





Wicked Half Marathon Recap

countdown_wickedHalfOn Saturday I headed up to Salem for the Wicked Half Marathon. This race was to be a training run for me – a chance to make sure that the stomach issues which have plagued me during races this year were behind me and a chance to test my race pace.

Well nothing about this day went as planned.

Given the fact that I’m still sick a couple of days later,  I can now say that I was battling some kind of bug during the race. The wheels came off the wagon at mile 5 – for the first time ever in a race I made a porta potty stop and struggled to keep running/walking through mile 10. Just after the 10 mile marker I was only walking. My stomach was a nightmare – I was really nauseous and had the continual feeling that I was going to be sick. I seriously thought about packing it in and taking a DNF but what kept me going was my kids out along the course.

Boys at wickedSince the course was open to traffic, J and the boys were able to leap-frog me along the course, so I saw them multiples times. They cheered their hearts out and it really kept me going – the boys even came and ran along with me a little bit. I wanted them to know that even when things don’t go well that you don’t give up! So when I just didn’t think I could manage a shuffle any more, I walked.

I ended up connecting with a woman named Dawn whose ITB had her walking since mile 4! We stuck together and encouraged each other and the other “walking wounded” we encountered along the way.  As we passed the 12 mile marker, we talked about trying to run it in. Dawn really didn’t think that she could but she knew I really wanted to try (I just couldn’t bring myself to walk across the finish line!) so she encouraged me to give it a shot. I did and ran/shuffled to the finish. I waited for Dawn to cross the finish and we gave each other a big hug! Isn’t it amazng how quickly you can bond with another runner over the course of just a few miles?!

Best moment – my son telling me he was proud of me! Doesn’t get better than that!

Every race experience teaches you something about yourself right? So I take this experience and dig in for the next couple of weeks and get ready for the BAA Half.


Nutrition Update: My Food Frenemy

In my quest to get to the bottom of my GI issues, I have been keeping a food journal – I admit not as faithfully as I probably need to, but I am starting to see some patterns worth noting.

A big thing that’s jumped off the page for me is the trouble dairy seems to be causing. “OK – not a problem” I thought I will simply eliminate all things dairy….except there’s one little indulgence I’m still struggling with….

Source: TastyKitchen.com

Pistachio – my favorite!
Source: TastyKitchen.com

Ice cream! Sweet, creamy, cool refreshing ice cream. Ice cream is one of my all time favorite summer indulgences. I’ve often joked that I run so I can eat ice cream. Well in true frenemy-style, this favorite treat of mine is wreaking havoc with my running! So while I’m not yet willing to cut all ties with ice cream, we will definitely be seeing a lot less of each other this summer.

Do you have a food frenemy?


Missed goal – #WhatsBeautiful Update

As you know I’ve been participating in Under Armour’s “What’s Beautiful” campaign. I’ve been hard at work on my stated goal:

“Focus on speedwork, strength training and core work so I can own new PRs for the 10K and the half marathon; and most of all, be a stronger version of myself!”

My first chance to achieve part of that goal was running Boston’s Run to Remember…. but I fell short of my target by 2 minutes.

My stomach went south around mile 8 and despite my best effort I couldn’t overcome those lousy two minutes!

So what do you do when you fail to reach your goal?

Have  a pity party? Question how hard you trained? Take time off? All of the above?


Well I’m having none of that! I’m choosing to …. Assess, re-group and get going! While I’m ticked off that I missed my goal, there are some good lessons to take from the race and training cycle to help fuel me as I get ready to go after my goal again:

  1. During this training cycle I ended up not running enough longer runs with RP miles – in part because of the timing of other races I had on the schedule and because of a cranky ITB 
  2. Once I started paying attention to the strength exercises Coach Bennett gave me for my IT, the IT became a non-issue in my training and in the race.
  3. Looking at my splits I can see that my time on the track is starting to pay off.
  4. While there was more core and strength work  during this cycle, this is still a weak link for me.

So as I go after my 10Ks this summer and start training for my fall half marathons, I WILL:

  • Put in more long runs with RP miles
  • Keep doing the exercises my Coach gave me
  • Continue to hit the track and hills for speed
  • Be consistent in my core and strength work
  • Find new nutrition game plan – while I treated every long run as a dress rehearsal for my races in terms of fueling something’s going terribly wrong on race day. So I’m starting from scratch here – I will keep a food journal and go back to trying new options pre-run. I will not let my stomach derail another race!

 So what do you do when you fail to reach your goal?


Nutrition Update: Fueling Options

Back at the end of February, I mentioned (HERE) that I wasn’t loving the way I was feeling on my runs and that it was time to take a much closer look at what I’m eating – both on run and rest days. So for the past couple of weeks I’ve been running my own little pre-fueling/fueling test lab, experimenting with different options on my long run days.

Here’s some of what I’ve learned so far:

  • Before runs, I’m finding that either a whole wheat English muffin with almond butter and a little honey or Honey Stringer Waffles with half a banana seems to be sitting well with my stomach.
  • The Stringer Waffles and banana don’t seem to have as much “staying power” so with this combo I need to start fueling sooner than the 5 mile mark.
  • I read that coffee can help pre-race — I’ve tried a half a cup a couple of times and the jury’s still out on that one.
  • While in the past I’ve been using GU Chomps during my runs, I do not enjoy how stiff and difficult they are to chew when the temps drop, and they require a lot more water to get them down – which leads to the dreaded sloshing feeling…not pretty!
  • Huma GelI recently discovered Huma Gels and so far this is a win as a fueling option – no stomach issues, they’re all natural, they taste good and my energy levels were good – win!
  • Still trying to work out the best timing on when to take a gel. Usually I take one at 5, 8 and 11 during a half marathon, but in my last race I started getting light-headed at mile 12 and I was forced to walk for a minute or two. So I’m still working on whether I need to fuel more often in those later miles.
  • For now I’ve gone back to just plain water during my runs – I kinda wanted to get the gel thing resolved before introducing anything else.

I’m feeling pretty good where I am so far – especially since I still have weeks to go before my next half marathon at the end of May.

So tell me – how often do you fuel on a long run? What’s your favorite fueling option?

*The opinions expressed here are from my own experience. I am in no way affiliated with the products mentioned.


Returning to Hills

Today marks the return to hill work on my training plan.

I’ve been looking forward to today with an odd mixture of dread and glee.

Yes I said it…glee! Because while I know in the moment of running repeats, my quads will be burning and I’ll be cursing like a sailor  that there’s the other side – there’s the strength training and confidence building that only running hills can bring.

And I’ve seen the results – last summer Coach Bennett introduced me to hill work and I truly thought the man was trying to kill me 🙂 Then I faced ZOOMA’s hilly Cape Cod course and the Newton hills of the Chilly half! While both courses were definitely challenging, the hill work Bennett had put me through prepared me both mentally and physically and I PR’d both courses! That’s where the glee comes in, from knowing the potential payoff.

So for the next few weeks, Thursdays are Hill Days and I say “Bring it on!”

Do you do specific hill training? Or do hills make you want to run screaming in the other direction?


Lessons from Training

As I make my racing plans for 2013, it seems only fitting that I do so based on lessons I learned during the past training cycle.

Lesson 1 – Get comfortable with  being uncomfortable
Almost from the outset, I remember looking at the workouts, target paces and mileage Coach Bennett had laid out for me and often my thought was – “he wants me to do what?!” But I chose to work with a running coach because I wanted to shake things up, right? So good bye comfort zone!

Lesson 2 – Trust in the training
Despite being uncomfortable, I followed my plan as it was laid out.  This was much more a test of me getting out of my head (fighting the “I can’ts” or “What ifs?”), and just taking each run as it came.

Lesson 3 – Hill work will make you stronger
‘Nuff said here.

Lesson 4 – Listen and be kind to your body
As much as I embraced my plan, I was also careful to listen to my body and cut a run short or take the rest day when I needed it. I was also diligent in what I call “proactive self care” – in the form of lots of foam roller, icing, massages and a lot more yoga. Collectively, I believe this all helped me to stay off the injured-reserve list.

Lesson 5 – Reflect and find the positives
My bi-weekly calls with Coach Bennett were so critical for this. As I mentioned HERE before the ZOOMA Half Marathon, the biggest gift Bennett gave me was to help me to take the time to look back, whether it was the past 2 weeks, the past month or the entire training cycle. To remind yourself of the challenges faced, obstacles overcome and successes all help to put your mind in the right space.

For 19 weeks I worked with Coach Bennett – through the crazy heat of summer, through hill work, through a sometimes cranky ITB, through many, many miles…and the results this fall were 3 races and 3 PRs. But more importantly, I believe I’m a changed runner, which will hopefully serve me well as I get ready for 2013.