ATM: “After The Marathon”

ATM was coined by my #bff/brf Jocelyn – that glorious period all marathoners wait for when they get 3-4 hours of their weekend back and, presumably, a bit more time and energy to do things that you’ve put off because of running.

When I was “training” and “racing” (put in quotations as, let’s get real, I wasn’t vying for an Olympic medal or anything), the ATM period was one of my favorites. Free from any prescribed training plan, I could do what I pleased and, gasp, REST.

Here’s what I’ve learned after 6 marathons about this golden period:

1) Marathon Hunger Strikes One To Two Days Later: The day of the marathon I’m not super hungry. The day after and the day after that – CLEAR THE BUFFET.

I'll take two...

I’ll take two…

2) Motrin Is Your Friend: I only discovered this last year. I was in the OR all day the day after NYCM last year and was manipulating the uterus during robot cases (you can google that if not sure what it is), which involves sitting in small spaces (if you’re me and they are center docking the robot). I got stiff. I took 600 mg motrin and I was a new person. I did this every 6 hours for a few days thereafter. Just don’t do this if you have kidney problems…

2013 Finish

2013 Finish

3) Your Return To Exercise Is Really Up To You: And, how you feel. After 6 marathons, I’ve run the gamut in terms of time off. I’ve taken anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks off.

After Eugene, I ran the Wednesday thereafter because it was a most beautiful spring day and I couldn’t NOT go outside. So, I ran-walked 3 miles with lots of breaks. After New Jersey in 2011, I took 3 weeks off (2 planned then 1 extra because I got sick). After NYCM last year, I went to spin one week later (I mean, Charlee, who had yet to move back, was in town – how could I not go?).

Happiness is grapefruit candles...

They really get you with those grapefruit candles…

What I would recommend is this: do not sit completely still. This will make things worse. Go on a walk tomorrow and another time this week. It will help loosen things up and make your return to running, spin, or whatever it is you choose to do a bit easier when that time comes.

Whatever you do, don’t go run or spin just because you see people on twitter or instagram back running again. They aren’t you. You are you. Do you.

Just being me back in 1990. And, Ally, just being herself, too.

Just being me back in 1990. And, Ally, just being herself, too.

4) You Are Likely To Get Sick: I’ve gotten sick after 3/6 marathons I’ve done – a viral illness. Your immune system gets slightly depressed after the stress of a marathon and BOOM! – you’ve got yourself a nice little virus.

[This may have also happened to me as some of my marathons were near tests in medical school so I would come back and basically study for a couple days straight i.e. not exactly ideal rest/recovery.]

 

5) You May Have No Motivation To Run OR You May Have All The Motivation In the World: I’ve had times where I didn’t want to run again for another month and I’ve had others where I ran 12 miles two weeks later (again, after Eugene, when running and I were on the most beautiful honeymoon in Fiji together).

During the running honeymoon period of 2013…I was doing an 18 mile "workout" here -- WHO WAS I?

During the running honeymoon period of 2013…I was doing an 18 mile “workout” here — WHO WAS I?

If you’re not into running, that’s ok. You just dedicated your spare time to it for the last 12-18 weeks. Take a break! Try something different!

If you’re still into it, then you go girl (or boy).

If you’re wanting to try new things, check out my two favorites: SoulCycle (faves are Jaws, Charlee, Akin, Emma L, Bethany, Sydney, Madison, LB) and Flex Studios.

6) Beware The Endorphin Fueled Next Race Sign Up: Its bound to happen. You feel so buzzed now that you give your credit card over to active.com for race entry fees. Just beware this phenomenon.

TELL ME: HOW’D YOUR RACE GO? HOW WAS IT WATCHING? 

It looked cold from the confines of my bed where I slept 16 hours last night, just 10 shy of a sleep marathon.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

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About That Marathon…

So, yeah, I’m not running it.

I’ve become an exercise class junkie (can I get some sort of sponsorship to pay for these?) and running long distances has gone on the back burner.

Working 80 hrs a week will do that to do.

At first, I felt guilty about NOT wanting to run a marathon and thought “something must be wrong with me” since I’ve been head over heels in love with long distance running for the past few years.

When I finally “gave it up,” as they say, it was a huge relief. Someone actually congratulated me on NOT doing something (there’s a first for everything I guess).  And then I realized that running marathons all the time is not entirely normal. It’s a huge strain on your body and a lot to ask of yourself week after week, long run after long run. I just happen to be socialize in a community where weekend marathons are a normal thing.

And, to be honest, it’s nice to say “no” to something. To realize that saying “no” takes a lot more courage than saying “yes” sometimes.

So, for now, I’m trying to figure out how to print money in the basement I don’t have to fund my quotidian, average daily exercise need – 45 min to 1 hr usually about 5 times a week, 3-4 minimum (sanity minimum that is), and 6 if I’m lucky.

BUT, for those of you who ARE running the NYC Marathon or another marathon in the next few weeks, here are my ever so humble amateur runner tips. These are now tempered by my residency glasses, meaning I don’t get too worked up about too much outside of the hospital (I mean, besides get wait listed at SoulCycle or FlexStudios).

1. STRATEGY: Having a marathon pacing plan is fine. But, here’s the meat and potatoes of it all. It’s about putting one foot in front of the other, speeding up if you feel good, slowing down if you don’t. If you want the simplest race plan, it is as follows:

A. Smile as much as you can the first 10 miles. Don’t be an idiot. Don’t run too fast. Don’t waste emotional energy on anything. Have fun ONLY.

B. Once you get to 13-14, if you feel good, you can run faster.

C. Once you get to 21, it’s going to hurt no matter how well trained you are. At this point, employ the “if you feel good, speed up and, if not, then            slow down” plan. And, if you’re in pain, that’s normal.

2. TAPER: Don’t hate it. Use this time to do things you didn’t have time to do while training and running 3 hours each weekend. I highly recommend starting a new TV series. Netflix can be really useful. Or a book.

3. IF YOU’RE STRUGGLING WITH YOUR MENTAL GAME: Purchase “Golf Is Not A Game Of Perfect” by Bob Rotella or “Run: The Mind Body Method of Running By Feel” by Matt Fitzgerald. You will not regret it. I’d read these anyway, even if you’re brimming full of confidence.

4. THE MORNING OF: The morning of a marathon, I like to repeat something really cheesy and positive to myself. Something like, “You’re doing something amazing today! You’re going to run 26 miles! That is awesome. Not everyone can do that. You are amazing.” It will help make you excited about the race rather than fearful, dreadful, or thinking about mile 21.

When in doubt, repeat “You’re doing something amazing today!” Cheesy works, guys.

5. YOU BURN 2600 CALORIES NO MATTER WHAT: You can have that DQ Blizzard no matter what. That’s really what we all do marathons for, right?

SOME NYC MARATHON SPECIFIC TIPS:

1. WAITING ON STATEN ISLAND: It can be cold on Staten Island. TAKE LOTS OF EXTRA LAYERS TO WEAR while you wait around for a few hours to start running. I highly recommend going to Kmart and buying extremely large and warm clothing to wear. I have been known to wear a snowsuit (go look in the boy’s section). I did not regret this.

NYRR donates all of then clothing “shed” to charity.  Warm win-win.

Also, bring the following: a snack and water, toilet paper, an old heat sheet if you have it.

The latter two you will need when you inevitably pee on the bridge when you wait there for like 30 minutes. Like the good runner you are, you will be trying to stay well hydrated before the start. Don’t hate the bridge pee, embrace it. Everyone does it. Even [professional runner] Lauren Fleshman.

2. THERE ARE MORE HILLS THAN YOU THINK: So just be aware of that. Specifically, there are hills at miles 8-10, mile 13-14 (Pulaski bridge), The Queensboro Bridge, and the uphill grind from apprx 110th street to 89th street….and, of course the finish. 🙂

3. TAKE IT IN. There’s absolutely nothing like the crowds of the NYC Marathon. It MAKES the marathon. It would’ve been the whole reason I was running it this year (if I did). The crowds will get you through the race. Trust me, from last year’s experience. Even if you’re having a “bad” race, things are going as planned, so on and so forth, please enjoy the crowds and people. It’s really special if you let it be.

In the end, here’s my parting advice on marathons that should be taken with a grain of salt seeing as I’m not a professional runner nor psychologist nor Ghandi.

Of the 6 marathons I’ve run, my best and most enjoyable marathons have come when I was running for a reason bigger than a result.

When I ran the NYC-turned-Richmond marathon, I wanted to (as I wrote at the time) “express my appreciation for my health and ability to run” and to actually enjoy a marathon. And, it was. 

When I ran the Eugene Marathon (where I qualified for Boston and probably the fastest marathon I will ever run), I was so in love with running and the training process that I almost thought of my running that marathon as a performance, a ballet of sorts – something so memorable and moving that anyone who saw me run could tell that I loved what I was doing.

And, when I ran the NYC Marathon last year I wanted to prove to myself that as long as you loved what you were doing, you could do anything, no matter how many hours you were working or how many people told you it was a “bad idea.”

So, that’s my biggest tip – figure out WHY you’re running that isn’t a goal time. And, run for that.

Race happy – enjoy!

TELL ME: RACING A MARATHON? YOUR GOAL? LIKE ME AND SKIPPING OUT THIS YEAR?

Until next time…

 

 

Observations on Unconventional Half Marathon Training

Hi there! I’m still here! And, by here, I mean the hospital, my apartment, SoulCycle or Flex Studios.

Way back when (alright January), I wrote about not training for a half marathon coming up. Then, I didn’t run that half because I wanted to sleep (#internproblems).

In the depths of the polar vortex, I had imagined the Miami Half would provide the kick in the butt to start training for May’s Brooklyn Half. And then after I didn’t run the Miami Half, I figured that the winter would turn around and I’d be doing long runs again in no time. Half marathon in May? No problem.

The weather sort of turned around, but my “training” didn’t. Of course, I will still exercising a fairly good bit, but long runs, tempos, even running in general? Well, it just didn’t quite pick up as the months went by.

Since November’s NYC Marathon, I’ve been on a huge spin kick. I love running and still do, but I just usually wasn’t feeling it. And spin? I was feeling it.

The last time I ran over 8 miles prior to Saturday….

The last time I ran over 8 miles prior to Saturday….

No good blog post would come without some analysis of largely unimportant details of a 20-something’s first world problems. Thus, I thought about why I was so spin crazy all winter/spring and not run drunk as usual. I think I spent what equates to a small wedding fund at SoulCycle this winter for three reasons: 1) indoor heating; 2) music; 3) community/people. In the throes of intern year, when you all you really want to do is drink some water and sleep, the thought of running in the cold alone is fairly bleak. Inside exercise? Check. Getting lost in music and forgetting about the labor floor? Check. Having some sort of unspoken peer pressure by those around to work hard? Check. Add more classes to that cart.

As May drew closer and closer, I did start to get slightly concerned that I might crash and burn in this half marathon, especially since I had told my co-resident, Meagan, that I would “pace” her through her first half, which would require me to be in some kind of shape.

Sure, I was exercising a lot. But, would it be enough? Since analysis is my middle name, I thought this through a little bit.

I estimated that my exercise/workouts were broken up as follows:

– 10% pilates (new obsession thanks to this power tool)

– 50% spin (including a lot of “doubles” and a few “triples”)

– 40% running (including a lot of run/spin or run/pilates combos)

I equate a 45 min spin class to be the cardiovascular equivalent of a 5 mile run. I also consider it like a “mini” track workout or tempo since its often high cadence against moderate resistance and potentially this evokes some sort of fast twitch neuromuscular stimulus or another equally fancy term.

If the above was true, then doing a double or triple spin was like a long run (double spins feel like a 12 miler to me and triples feel like a 16 miler in terms of my cardiovascular stimulus). Or doing a spin + 4-5 mile run was like getting in a 9 or 10 miler. Or so I hoped.

Pilates was a plus in the strength corner.

This left only one real variable, which was the one I was most worried about — time on your feet.

I learned from Steph that I lot of your long runs were just getting used to being on your feet and running for that long. It helps your muscles, tendons, and ligaments adapt to that stress and get stronger. And, that was the one very crucial thing that I was missing.

Slight oversight.

A little more of this may have been useful...

A little more of this may have been useful…

To sum up the analysis: 

General cardiovascular endurance + moderate strength from pilates – time on feet aspect + the square root of 20 =  Half Marathon?

Turns out, everything went well, as it usually does in these complicated first world problems for 20-somethings.

In fact, I had a lot of fun. Pacing someone in their first half was even better than running your own PR in a way.

To be fair, my legs did NOT feel used to running 13.1 miles and I started to feel a bit heavy legged by about 10 miles (pilates the night before also may have had something to do with this). But, I didn’t feel terrible either. Meagan and I finished in 1:53:43 (amazing first half marathon, right?!) which I thought was really great. Judging on how my legs felt at the end, I think that 1:53 was about the limit of my leg strength/power. They just weren’t quite used the pounding of 13 miles and the leg power needed for that, which I’m glad I now realize when I approach future races (NYC Marathon 2014!) with likely unconventional training plans.

Unconventional includes 18 x1 jumping selfie attempts. #nailedit

Unconventional includes 18 x1 jumping selfie attempts. #nailedit

After I wasted all that brain space analyzing whether I could physically run 13.1 miles (when my longest run since November’s NYC Marathon was 8 miles), I realize that what was really missing from the above equation and, perhaps, is the most important variable is this: your mind and attitude.

Over the 5 years I’ve been running and racing, I’ve gone from seeing running as a thing I “needed to do” or “have to do” to now something that I get to do. Running, going to spin, taking pilates – it really is a privilege. Not everyone gets to do it. And I do. And, I’m really thankful that my body is able to do it and that I have the time and resources to do so.

Can't talk about my running roots without mentioning my running buddy OG, Erika. Thanks for inviting me to run that time. It worked out ok.

Can’t talk about my running roots without mentioning my running buddy OG, Erika. Thanks for inviting me to run that time. It worked out ok.

What I learned from the Brooklyn Half was this: When you run from a place of joy and appreciation,the result is so much sweeter, no matter the time on the clock. 

This only took me about 5 years and half a billion races to learn.

On a final note, don’t underestimate your power. Even a lowly intern can convince her senior residents to run a half marathon.

NYU OB/GYN - excellent surgeons in excellent shape

NYU OB/GYN – excellent surgeons in excellent shape

TELL ME: WHAT YOUR SPORT HAS TAUGHT YOUR ABOUT ATTITUDE, MENTAL TOUGHNESS, OR SOMETHING RELATED TO THE BIG ORGAN BETWEEN YOUR EARS. 

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NYC Marathon 2013: Convincing Myself Otherwise…

If you spoke to me around May of this year, I would have sworn up and down that Eugene was my last marathon. It’s was why I trained so hard for it, right? That last hurrah before residency?

FinishLineMedal:Smile

I had no intention of running the NYC Marathon for myself this year. In fact, I chose the “refund” option for my 2012 entry after the cancellation. I thought it’d be impossible to do a marathon as an intern.

However, the opportunity to run for Every Mother Counts made me convince myself otherwise. After spending some time on labor and delivery, it became very apparent how dangerous pregnancy and childbirth can become in certain situations. The thought of having to walk 5k to receive basic medical care while in labor, which many rural African women have to do, fueled my desire to raise both awareness and funds for EMC, which seeks to remedy this and other barriers to prenatal and obstetrical care.  One look at this video compelled me to take the plunge into another 26.2 mile journey.

Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 9.51.12 PM

The more I run and the more I go through life, the more I realize that most situations are determined by how you look at them.

Hugh Downs may have said it best: “A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but, rather, with a certain set of attitudes.”

More simply stated, attitude really is everything.

So, I convinced myself that running this marathon would be a GREAT idea. I would be raising money and awareness for a great cause. It would motivate me to run on days I didn’t want to. And, best of all, I could run it with one of the coolest moms I know (besides my own mom), Gia. 

giamecloseup

Residency blazed ahead a blistering pace and “training” fit in where it could. I didn’t tempo, mile repeat, long run workout, 800 repeat, or do any of the other traditional workouts one might associate with marathon training. In fact, I missed a couple of long runs. I ran or spun when I could and convinced myself that what I did was enough and that, in fact, being an OB/GYN intern was actually high intensity interval training disguised as work (which sometimes it feels like it is).

By the time last Sunday arrived, I was over the moon excited – probably the most excited I had ever been for a marathon. (Or maybe I was also just really excited to have the weekend off of work…).

IMG_0871

In my “YES… I’m off all weekend” excitement, I told the “team” (Addie, KScott, and Gia) that we were going to run free and race inspired. I had the next four hours off from any thought of residency, ACGME, logging work hours in New Innovations, CREOGs/Prolog studying, cleaning my apartment, organizing the piles of stuff on my desk, answering emails of which there are too many, or any other obligation I had.

The race itself was the antithesis of every other marathon I’ve run. I didn’t wear a watch. I didn’t think about a split or goal time other than the fact that I thought I’d like to finish at or just under 4 hours to save my legs the extra beating.

IMG_0873

The race started and despite all excitement and the reality that I knew I was running a marathon, the whole situation didn’t seem real. I couldn’t believe I was there. After an entire spring of proclaiming that I was done with marathons as residency wouldn’t allow time for that, here I was….running another one.

Miles 1-10 were so mesmerizingly distracting that I don’t remember much about how I felt. What I do remember was how awesome the crowds were, how nice the views were, and how excited Gia and I were to see VC, G1, and G2 at mile 8. As Gia went to swoop up her two twinkles, I decided I needed a kid, too, so I gave Addie’s little Q a great big hug, which probably traumatized the poor unsuspecting kid.

To be honest, around miles 10-13 I started to feel my quads ache a twinge in both my right IT band and left lateral knee. I knew at this point I had two options: freak out about it or keep moving forward.

I’ve found that most of my marathons mirror what’s going on in my life at that point in time. Residency somewhat forces you to get used to this state of constant, relentless forward motion and progress. You have to keep moving.

So, just like I had for the past several months as an intern, I did what I had been doing – I kept moving forward.

By Mile 16 my quads were done and thus began the rest of the most painful marathon I’ve ever run.

Yet, it was the most fun I’ve had running a marathon at the same time.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around how that’s possible.

Anyways, since I was in quad pain fest, I did have a doubt or two along the way that I would actually be able to finish. 10 miles is a long way to go on dead legs.

At mile 20….I actually couldn’t believe I had made it to mile 20 without cramping or collapsing. And, oddly, my overwhelming thoughts from that point forward were “you’re here! you’re doing it!” which comes straight out of Charlee’s SoulCycle class.

And, finally, after 6 more miles of relentless forward motion and telling myself “you’re here! you’re doing it!” over and over, I made it here:

FINISH LINE!

FINISH LINE!

And, shortly thereafter, found myself here:

IMG_0885

I made the trek from Staten Island to Central Park in 3 hours 55 minutes and 43 seconds and I couldn’t be happier.

The poncho may have had something to do with that happiness.

The poncho may have had something to do with that happiness.

A final HUGE thank you goes to my marathon buddy and #sisterinsport, Gia.

From a long run my last weekend before starting residency.

From a long run my last weekend before starting residency.

One hot day way back in July, I ran 16 miles with Gia (and RB!) as part of her Chicago marathon training.As we ran up and down the hills of the Palisades Parkway (of which there are many), I talked about how cool it would be if I did a marathon this fall “just to see if I could.” Gia encouraged me. She believed in me probably more than I did at some points. And even when I was struggling in those last 10 miles, she never left my side (despite my telling her “go! run faster!” I think every mile of the last 10). I couldn’t have picked a better friend to share 26.2 miles with. Gia, I’m lucky to call you my friend!

IMG_0301

And, finally, Jocelyn, we missed you!

Come back, JCB!

Come back, JCB! This is how I feel now that you live in Oregon.

If you made it this far. Congratulations! This is now the end.

Recap: I ran a marathon. For Every Mother Counts. It hurt really badly. But, probably not as much as walking many miles while in labor. And that’s why I ran the marathon in the first place.

Until next time…

 

Track Appreciation 101

Since I’ve gotten hit by the running bug, I’ve run a slew of road races.

First "race" in May 2009

First “race” in May 2009

I’ve done a litany of track workouts.

Be "1" with the track

Be “1” with the track

But, never a track race. I’m home for vacation and saw that my hometown’s local track club was hosting a summer series of track meets. To make sure I wasn’t going to be in over my head, I emailed the race director to make sure this wasn’t some series for sub-elite quasi professional runners and I would just be getting lapped the whole time.

Thankfully, being that this is Knoxville, TN and not Kenya, there was a huge range of paces. I ran the 2 mile and times in my event ranged from 11:59 to 20ish minutes. It was an extremely supportive environment with everyone cheering for everyone. People there ranged from ex-collegiate runners to recreational runners. It was a good entre into track.

I was a little apprehensive about how this whole track thing worked since the limit of my track knowledge is from going to the Trials last year and watching it on TV. Are you supposed to stick with the people who go out really fast? What if you trip on other people’s feet at the start? Will I feel like I am being chased?

Genes - my grandfather, who ran for Emory Track and Field back in the day -- cool pic, huh?

Genes – my grandfather, who ran for Emory Track and Field back in the day — cool pic, huh?

Fortunately, my questions were answered when people around started to ask “how fast are you taking this out.” I said 7 min pace, two girls said 6 min pace (thanks, but no thanks), and the next person said 8ish (and so on and so forth, very diverse range). So, I figured this was gonna be an “imma do me, you do you” race, which was fine by me. Life is really just about instagram opportunities these days, anyways, right?!

I had a little support crew on my side though. Anybody remember CGT from 5K fame?

My little running buddy, CGT.

My little running buddy, CGT.

CGT has become quite the trackster as of late, qualifying for the Junior Olympics in both the 1500 and 800 (PRs of 6:10 and 3:03, respectively). She just turned 11 two days ago.

CGT so graciously offered up coaching duties for the evening. In fact, she made me warm up, taught me drills (“this is what we do before track meets so you should too”) and showed me how I should do strides (ADORABLE!), and then also had me cool down. She asked to wear my watch so she could run across the infield and call my split each 200.

Callie (in white t shirt) giving me my split and Chase, her brother, cheering me on from the sand box, umm, long jump pit.

Callie (in white t shirt) giving me my split and Chase, her brother, cheering me on from the sand box, umm, long jump pit.

CGT’s coaching was superb (per her assessment, she got me “on the podium” as I was 3rd). She was sad that I lost my hip number as “I needed to keep it since it was my first track race” and made me take a picture of my watch with my time for posterity, naturally.

Here is said photo...

Here is said photo…

To answer any questions that most likely no one has:

– Track is really fun. You should do it if you have the opportunity.

– You do not feel like you are being chased the whole time.

– Getting lapped is not as bad as it seems (I got lapped by the winner, who ran it in 11:59).

– Find a posse if possible; I highly recommend cute 11 year olds

Callie and I

Callie and I

And, to give you a perspective of how far Callie and I go back (it would include her ultrasound pics, but I don’t have those)…

My sis, bro, and little cheerleader CGT

My sis, bro, and little cheerleader CGT. Back when Callie would cry when her mom left and we had to bargain with her (with cookies and such).

At a Taylor Swift concert...Ally and I helped them make those tie dyed t shirts.

At a Taylor Swift concert…Ally and I helped them make those tie dyed t shirts.

Me helping Callie to a 5K PR in May 2012

Me helping Callie to a 5K PR in May 2012

TELL ME: DID YOU RUN TRACK IN MIDDLE SCHOOL OR HIGH SCHOOL? HAVE YOU DONE IT AS AN ADULT?

I can’t wait for my next race…

Until next time…

Contemplating a Coach? Here’s Why I’ve Had One

In my [copious amount of] free time, I’ve noticed a lot of talk on Twitter, running blogs, and such about running coaches. Why would anyone get one? Is it worth it?

Steph took me on as her charge in November 2010 and I’ve kept her as the head of my running brain trust since. That poor girl has put up with far too many neurotic emails for what I’ve paid her.

Steph, this is what you're working with. Good luck! :)

Steph, this is what you’re working with. Good luck! 🙂

I originally approached Steph with a very specific, calculated plan in classic Meggie Smith fashion (ie very specific and detailed). I wanted to qualify for Boston in the spring of my 3rd year of medical school (New Jersey Marathon 2011) in hopes of running Boston 2012 right before I graduated medical school. Check it off the life checklist [because life always follows a neat and linear checklist-like plan, right?]. To be honest, I initially thought I’d have a coach through NJM 2011 and then I’d go on my merry way.

My guiding principle in life. The almighty checklist.

My guiding principle in life. The almighty checklist.

Turns out I didn’t qualify for Boston in 2011 (or 2012), I really liked having Steph has my coach, I took a year to do research in infertility, I decided I hated the marathon, then decided I liked it again, and finally, by some stroke of luck, actually qualified for Boston right before I graduated medical school.

Boom! 2.5 years and I finally got it.

Boom! 2.5 years and I finally got it.

[Wow, Steph, you’ve been through a lot with me!]

Steph, what's harder: coaching me or this workout?

Steph, what’s harder: coaching me or this workout?

The cash flow as a med student is slim to none (or rather retrograde seeing as you are paying tuition) so there were plenty of times where I financially questioned keeping her on. Luckily, I was able to pick up enough babysitting and tutoring jobs to make it work, but below outlines many of the reasons I came up with to keep a running coach.

Steph and her groupies

Steph and her groupies

In the end, the decision was always fairly simple. Running made me happy and training to become a “better” runner made me even happier. And, we should invest in our happiness, right?

[Unless it’s cocaine or cigarettes that is making you happy. Then, please, don’t invest in that.]

WHY I’VE HAD AND KEPT A RUNNING COACH:

1.  EXPERIENCE + 2. OUTSOURCING OF THINKING + 3. TRUST/DOUBT ISSUES

My first three reasons for having a coach somewhat go hand in hand so its hard to talk about each separately.

Let’s get real. I’m not training to run a world record or become the next Mary Cain. I could, indeed, read a book or follow an online training plan.

What does reading a book require? Time! And time is money in my world.

You know what else I don’t have a lot of? Running experience. I’ve played thousands of tennis matches since I first started competitive tennis at 14 years old. There are certain elements of the game that you only learn through experience; those unteachable tricks, tips, and expertise that you take for granted once you know them. I imagine running is the same. Steph is the experience I lack and the expertise that I need.

Last, as a member of over-thinkers anonymous, sure I’d read the book, but then I’d spend a month thinking “should I do this workout or that workout” or, we’re getting even deeper here now, “what physiologic system is this working and am I working the right one?” I’m sure I’d wonder if I was pushing myself too hard or not enough. I’d probably doubt what I was doing constantly and change my plan more than Taylor Swift changes boyfriends.

Knowing me, I’d make the process of coming up with a training plan way too complicated and time consuming. Solution? Have an expert do it for you.

Boom! Plan handed to you. Time and mental energy reserved for other things. Plus, if you trust your coach (which I do), its fool proof! Follow the plan and you can’t fail (or, at least, my chances were minimized versus making my own plan).

With two of my running faves, Steph and Gia. And, looks like someone forgot their sunnies!

With two of my running faves, Steph and Gia. And, looks like someone forgot their sunnies!

4. ACCOUNTABILITY

This is one I don’t struggle with that much. If you give me a plan or list, I’m fairly good at following it [translation: slightly neurotic about following it]. However, on days where my motivation waned, having someone to report back to (albeit virtually) usually gave me whatever kick I needed to get out the door. Plus, let’s get real – if I’m paying someone to give me these workouts, I’m going to do them. Not doing so would be like having a gym membership and not using it (ie throwing money down the drain).

5. TO SEE IF I COULD BE BETTER THAN I EVER DREAMED

I think this is probably the real, subliminal reason I’ve had and kept a running coach. When I first started running, I always thought of myself as “destined to be a slow runner” (sometimes still do). I figured the best I could get was hobby jogging. My reasoning? If I didn’t like running for the first 23 years of my life, I probably wasn’t very good at it, which is why I never picked it up as a kid. And, I was very happy with that [hobby-jogging] for a while.

Hobby jogger no more...

Hobby jogger no more…

Somewhere along the way, I remembered that at some point, I was a pretty good athlete. I had fleeting thoughts that maybe, if I put some work in, I could translate that athleticism to moderately good running. Keep up with my friends. See how fast I could get.

Turns out, with a little work, I became faster than I ever really thought when I first got Steph as a coach. It’s been fun to sort of discover myself as a runner with her by my side.

So, thanks, RC!

So, thanks, RC!

While I may have reasoned keeping a coach in a very linear fashion (I pay a you, a professional, to render me a service), I like to think that the coach-athlete relationship I have with Steph is a bit more complex than that. I like to think (I can’t speak for her, obviously!) that Steph is somewhat invested in my success and accomplishments; that we’re more of a team than a purely business relationship.

Steph’s belief in me has often been more than I’ve had in myself. A lot of times, that’s my mental “wild card” in races — if Steph believes I can do something, I should, too.

PrePostRCNew

BOTTOM LINE: Having a coach has saved me time, mental energy, and has made my running and racing experience that much richer. 

TELL ME: HAVE YOU HAD A COACH? WHY OR WHY NOT? WERE YOUR REASONS SIMILAR TO MINE?

Until next time…

Pain Brain

I wrote a previous post on my “Marathon Game Changers,” which outlined some of the mental tweaks I made that helped me [in some respects] have the marathon of my dreams.

Turns out, a lot of those mental tricks I learned don’t apply so well to shorter distances and faster paces.

You see, I’ve gotten really good at this semi-state of concentration that numbs the slight pain of marathon pace (that is, until you get to mile 21) and allows for deviation in focus momentarily away from running and towards, you know, unicorns, Phil Dunphy, Dance Moms, and so on and so forth.

While this works great for 3+ hours of running, a race that is less than a TV show (or two TV shows) can’t afford a lapse in concentration. Or so I’ve come to notice.

I’ve raced two 5Ks since the marathon and while the times have been fantastic for me, the mental state has not.

When the pain sets in (which is fairly early in the race in a 5K), I have gotten really good at convincing myself that I “do not care…I already achieved the goal I wanted (BQ)…who cares what I run in the [insert name here] 5k…do not care…should I just walk?…want.to.stop.” People pass me and, instead of it motivating me to speed up, it further bolsters my argument to myself that “I am fading and should slow down.”

My pain brain wants to quit and is a bit apathetic.

I also need to stop taking the first 800 meters out like there’s no tomorrow, but that’ a bit more easily fixable than my pain brain.

I’m racing a 10K tomorrow and trying some new mental tips and tricks I’ve gotten from friends. We’ll see how it goes.

I guess that’s the nice thing about sports – there is always a weakness to work on.

And, for the public record, I retract my broad statement that one of my running talents is an iron stomach. It deserves a caveat. I have an iron stomach for Gu during long runs and marathons. What I do not have an iron stomach for is short distance racing. I have a very compliant lower esophageal sphincter after pretty much every 5K finish line (ie I vomit).

TELL ME: HOW DO YOU HANDLE 5KS? 10KS?

Until next time…

[PS: This does not mean I don’t like 5Ks. I still do, but I just need to get a bit better at them. 🙂 #5krevolution lives!]