I've been enjoying this last month off, so to speak, and sleeping in a bit and running short distances. I'm under strict instructions NOT to use a watch (of course, I have to...just to know where to turn around usually...but I swear I am not looking! much) and am trying to use this time to recharge a bit before we start the process again after the first of the year.
I thought it might be helpful if I record a few things I did, and explain some that I thought worked and some that I screwed up.
I know, I know...almost 18 minutes off a marathon is NOT a "screw-up." I don't want to sound like it was. But even on a great day, we can still learn something.
What I did do: low-mileage, higher intensity training
Okay, so you high-mileage, high-volume purists in the house are going to probably disagree with me here, but LOWER mileage with higher intensity seems to just work best for me. I know it may not for you or others out there, but when my volume creeps up, that's when I get super injured. I'm a firm believer that this is the best method for me. I think I only had two weeks where my running mileage topped 40 miles. I also only ran one 20-miler. In the past I've done 2 or 3 of those. Furthermore, I continued my streak of never running more than 20 miles except for a marathon and thinking people who do so are awesome but a little bit crazy. For me, running that many miles does way more harm than good.
Now, these long runs were KILLER, though. I'd do a 16 miler where miles 10-15 started at race pace and dropped down to 7:20/mile. Typing that sounds painful; running it is even more so. But it helped me not only get faster but trust myself when the race started to really hurt. I think it kept me from bonking long before I did.
What I didn't do: fuel properly
So I know part of this is that I worked really hard to lose some weight. And I'm always a little afraid that it will come back. Also, I have a sensitive stomach so I have to be careful of eating too close to my running and what I eat while I run. Because of this, I don't believe I ate nearly enough both before and during my long runs. I'm going to have to experiment a bit with this.
Case in point: the very last calories I consumed pre-race were some oatmeal and a breakfast bar at 5:30am. Then NOTHING until around mile 7.5, which was around 8:45am. That is ENTIRELY too long of a deficit before taking in some calories. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I only was able to get down some sports drink (a few sips at aid stations) and about 2.5 gu's in the entire race. So it wasn't surprising that when I demanded my legs GO GO GO at mile 23 around 11:10am, they pretty much gave me the middle finger.
Coach Emily emailed me what she eats before a half-ironman, and basically, it's Thanksgiving Dinner. I was kind of shocked. And she's pretty much the tiniest, leanest person in the universe. So I need to let go this fear that fuel will make me gain weight and accept more that it is necessary. You'd think that after 11 years of racing, I'd already know this, and I sort of do. But I think I needed to really be hit over the head with it. Nutrition will always, ALWAYS make or break your race. I will be playing around with this during the next training session, for sure.
What I did do: train with people slightly faster than me
Aside from giving me a nice big slice of humble pie often as I gasped along the side of the road, swearing and trying not to die, while watching my running buddies seemingly effortlessly gliding ahead of me, this was really a good thing. It's easy to be a big fish in a small pond, but it is harder to show up week after week and know that the pack is a little faster than you and use that to try to be better. They are too cute because they claim that running with ME made them faster...I was like, no dudes. You guys pulling ME along made me faster. And you know what's really cool? We all got faster. Ana had a breakthrough run and huge PR at Columbus, Katie ran a 3:30 and was the 2nd overall female at her race, and Kim absolutely annihilated NYC with a 3:32. You'd better believe I'm making them run with me in the snowy, slushy, nastiness that is CLE in February and March!
That's all for now. I'm sure I'll think of more, but I know things went MOSTLY right. I just need to make a few more adjustments to clear this hurdle come April 13.