Self-Sabotage Goals and How I’m Trying to Avoid Them

In my Run of the Mill 5k race recap, I mentioned that when I set race goals, I tend to self-sabotage the closer the race gets. For the ROTM 5k, this came in the form of signing up for the race with two very realistic, achievable goals: to run under 22 minutes (a ~20 second PR) and to place #1 in my age group; and then daydreaming even harder goals that left me unhappy with a solid race day performance.

As the race neared, my confidence (or maybe arrogance?) grew. When I signed up all I wanted a sub-22, but in the days leading up to the race I started to dream of 21:30… or 21:15 for a whole minute faster than last fall’s PR… or even a 21 minute 5k, a huge (and totally unrealistic!) improvement. I should note that I don’t actually train for the 5 kilometer distance and my training didn’t support any of this dreaming. On treadmill ladder workouts, I never practiced more than a 6:53 pace as my 5k pace. My mile PR is still in the 6:30s officially. Pacing 6:45 for a 21 minute 5k would take a miracle… and I was going to be running this race at the tail end of a 60 mile training week.

So instead of sticking to my realistic original goal, I had a mental image of crossing the finish line in a triumphant 21:30, and when I came in at 21:56 and first in the 20-29 age group — achieving both of my original goals! — I was a little disappointed in my performance. Despite hitting my goals and running a decent race, I couldn’t find it in myself to be happy about it.
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I should look much happier in this photo… I smashed my (original, attainable) goal!

And this happens to me far too often. Last fall, I ran a surprising 1:43:38 at the Princeton Half Marathon in early October. I’d done 10 easy miles the day before and expected to come in at 1:47 or 1:48, so I completely exceeded my own expectations when I snagged a 9.5 minute PR! But then, two weeks later as I toed the line for the half marathon at the Baltimore Running Festival, buoyed by my recent and surprising success, I wanted a sub-1:40. Even though I’d run a 20 miler one week earlier and my race was coming at the end of a 5 day streak (I usually don’t run more than 3 days in a row), and Baltimore charts a hilly, challenging course! In hindsight, sub-1:40 was way outside my reach, but I talked a big game to myself pre-race and was totally let down by my 1:44:24… even though it was less than a minute off the huge PR I set just 13 days earlier!

I have countless examples of times that I ran a race with an A+++ goal in mind, failed to reach this extraordinary (and overambitious) goal, and then felt disappointed in myself for a performance I should have been happy about.

Two of my best races in the last year have come from a totally opposite mentality. Rather than dreaming big, I kept my goals realistic and in tune with my training. Last spring I ran the Minneapolis Marathon thinking I could do 4:20… maybe 4:15 — which would have been a 23+ minute PR from my first marathon (4:43). I was then both blown away and overjoyed when I ended up crossing the finish in 4:04:39 — a 39 minute PR and a time that was beyond my wildest dreams. And I was smiling for days after my 1:43 at the Princeton HM, coming in 5 minutes faster than I had expected. In these cases, I set realistic goals, and when I surpassed those, I was full of pride.

And that is the mentality I want to have as I go about setting goals for my two big races this season: the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon on April 3 (this Sunday!), and the New Jersey Marathon on May 1. Rather than set crazy goals that I’d have to be having a miraculous day to pull off, I want to set goals that I have a real chance of meeting. And I don’t want to inflate those goals the closer race day gets!

So, considering my recent race and training times, here are my realistic and unwavering goals for my spring half and full marathons:

Caesar Rodney Half Marathon, April 3
Goal:
1:38-1:39:59 (7:29-7:37 pace)
I want to break the 1:40 barrier, and I truly think I can do it. A half marathon is the perfect distance for me to dig deep. I do 10 or 12 mile midweek runs every week, so 13.1 doesn’t feel like a foreboding distance anymore. The CR course is pretty flat in the first half, with a long stretch of uphill in the middle (about 2.5 miles), and then a long bit of downhill (3 miles worth) before an incline up to the finish line in the last quarter mile. This is pretty similar to the elevation chart for the Princeton HM, and I tend to do fairly well with hills. I am taking a cutback week the week of the race (my mileage in the 4 weeks leading up to the race has been 58-61 miles, and the week of the race I’m cutting back to “just” 40) so that my legs will be fresh and ready to race the morning of April 3.

However now that the week of the race is here, I can hear myself thinking, “But what about 1:35? How close to that could I get?” And I am shutting that down right away! I am not going to start daydreaming about super fast times. I am going to stick with my 1:38-1:39:xx goal no matter what, because I know that’s a time my training has set me up to run. And looking at the weather forecast, I’ll probably be running in challenging conditions (20-30 mph winds and about 40-45 degrees at the start if I’m lucky!), so it is best to keep my goal very realistic.

New Jersey Marathon, May 1
Goal:
3:26-3:32 (7:52-8:05 pace)
Last fall, I know I was in shape for a 3:40 marathon, had I not gotten injured 10 days pre-race. So this spring I want redemption in the form of a kickass BQ time. 3:32 would get me under the Boston buffer I hope — last year’s cutoff was 2 minutes 28 seconds under qualifying time (and was a record high). I am in much better shape now, both physically and mentally, than I was last fall, and I’m optimistic about how fast I can run a marathon, because lately I’ve been doing tempos at the end of my long runs and meaning to run 7:55-8:00 pace, but hitting 7:40s with ease. 7:45-7:50 seems to be a great cruising speed for me these days, but I don’t want to make a lofty goal of pacing under 7:50 for the whole 26.2. I think something in the 7:50 range will be challenging in the later miles, but achievable — plus I’ve never paced under 9:00 minute miles for a marathon, so I’d love to skip the 8:00s altogether! I’ve got a big taper in my schedule in the two weeks before the race, so fresh legs should yield fast results!

Does anyone else tend to make self-sabotaging goals, and how do you avoid letting it get into your mental game?

What are/were your goal races this spring and how have you gone about setting goals?

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Training Recap: March 21-27

As weird and meh as my last training recap was, this week was the total opposite. All my runs were pretty darn spectacular, and it was one of those weeks that reminds me why I do this whole marathon training thing. So let’s recap!

Monday, March 21
6 miles at recovery pace with the Joe to Go crew which went about as well as a recovery run can go: slow, but felt better at the end than I did when we started. In the afternoon, I got my stability work in: single leg balances, single leg calf raises, single leg squats, lunges, squats, sit-ups, and bridges (regular, single leg and extended).

Tuesday, March 22
Rest day! Did my core work in the morning: sit-ups, leg raises, scissors, bicycles, clamshells, push-ups and planks.

Wednesday, March 23
10 miles in the morning, with lots of roving aches, but calf pain was gone! And the roving aches certainly didn’t hold me back. Typically my midweek long run is about a 9:00 pace, but this morning I somehow managed an 8:30 overall pace!

6 miles in the evening in some warm, windy conditions. Somehow ended up running 30 seconds per mile faster than I typically aim to do my afternoon recovery run, so I went to bed with fingers crossed that it wouldn’t affect my Thursday morning speed workout.

Thursday, March 24
8 miles of speedwork on the treadmill in the morning. Paced 8:11 overall, and I decided to try out a wave tempo workout, which I got from this post from NYC Running Mama. My “wave” miles were 7:44, 7:43, 7:41 and 7:40, so spot on! Vascilated between 7:20-7:30 for the half marathon pace half-miles and 7:53-8:00 for marathon pace half-miles. I thought I was going to die on the first wave, but by the last one,  I was feeling strong!

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6 miles in the evening with my Pacers store group. We went surprisingly fast and somehow my legs still felt really fresh despite running 30 miles over two days. Great way to end the double down midweek block!

Friday, March 25
Rest day! I did my core work in the morning: sit-ups, bicycles, Russian twists, modified Supermans, bridges, planks, push-ups, lunges and squats.

I did run ONE mile though to try out three pairs of shorts. I would run a lap around my apartment complex and then dash back inside to change shorts. I tried Oiselle Toolbelt Rogas (size 6 and 4) and must be between sizes; the size 6 barely stayed up no matter how tight I cinched the drawcord, and the size 4 felt like I was flashing my butt cheeks to my neighbors. Then I tried on a pair of Oiselle Distance shorts that I’ve been bumming around in for months, and they worked surprisingly well! I vowed to try them on my Saturday run. (I will probably end up writing a blog post about my shorts crisis which required the trying on of 3 pairs of shorts and dashing in and out of my building… sooner than later. I have a lot of opinions about women’s running shorts!)

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Tried the Distance shorts with my singlet… and then ordered a second pair in a color that matches a little better!

Saturday, March 26
8 miles with some of the Pacers crew down on the New Jersey Marathon course. We ran 4 miles up from the finish and back. We ran back to the finish against a headwind, which is probably going to be the same case for race day, so it was really good practice. Now I’ll have a clear picture in my head for pre-race visualization practice. I wore the Oiselle Distance shorts (with generous amounts of Vaseline, just in case) and they worked out great! No chafing, and plenty of storage: I put my phone in the rear pocket and could have comfortably put at least 3 gels in the side pocket. I felt really fast in them too, which is a bonus! I ended up pacing 7:58 which is pretty much ideal marathon pace, and my last mile was a 7:23 against the headwind… all good morale boosters!

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Sunday, March 27
16 miles, with the last 4 at marathon/half marathon pace tempo. Paced the first 12 nice and easy at a chatty 8:30 pace with a running buddy, and then did the last 4 miles at a 7:30-7:50 pace. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull off a tempo pace after running at race pace the day before, but I surprised myself by pushing to a 7:29 on the final mile despite some killer (short and steep) uphills on the road back to my apartment. 16 miles is sort of my favorite training distance — long, but not too long — and this was definitely the fastest I’ve ever run the distance, at just 2:13 and change. It felt great!

Total miles: 61 excellent miles!

All in all, this was a great, confidence-building training week. Every day was rated a smiley face in my training log. My right calf isn’t 100%, but it isn’t holding me back and it gets better every day with foam rolling and massage. I’m embarking on a big cutback this week; my last 4 weeks have all been 58-61 miles, and this next week will be just 40 miles, ending the week with the Caesar Rodney half marathon, which has been my goal HM all season. I’m really excited to see how hard I can run on Sunday!

(All pictures from my instagram!)

Spring Favorites!

I’ve seen some of these in the blog-o-sphere lately, and I love giving people recommendations — whether they want them or not — so I thought I’d add my spring favorite list to the fray now that spring is officially upon us!

Running Gear/Apparel

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Saucony Bullet Capris (List: $65)
These are the perfect capris for the kind of in-between weather we see during spring, and they’re my favorite training bottoms. The rear zip pocket is stretchy and can hold a gel or two, but the real bonus are the pockets on the side of the thighs which are super roomy (can fit my iPhone 6, if I wanted to run with it) and are great for holding gels and/or trash. They’re not too thick or too thin, so they’re a perfect choice for those days when you start a run at a temperature fifteen or twenty degrees colder than you finish it!

 

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Nike Women’s Dri-Fit Digital Dot Running Shirt (List: $40)
I spotted this shirt on Running Warehouse and was dissuaded by a friend from buying it… only to have this same friend surprise me with it for my birthday last week! I wore it out for a run, and I am certain it will become my go-to shirt for my midweek long runs since I’m starting in the dark again (for just a few more weeks, hopefully). The print on the shirt is made of a reflexive accent material, so without wearing a reflective vest, I’m still high-viz to the cars whizzing past me on their way to work. The shirt is comfy and stylish and is now part of my running safety apparel… double win!

 

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Nathan QuickShot Plus Flask (List: $20)
This has been my go-to spring time water bottle. Unless it’s much above 50 degrees, I don’t need a full 18 oz of water on the run, so I’ve been taking this little guy with me. 10 oz gets me through a 16-18 mile run just fine on a cool day, and the pocket holds my ID, apartment key and one gel or a baggie of dried pineapple (my between-gel snack for long hauls). I also have a larger 18 oz version that I take with me on warmer days or 20+ mile runs that holds 2 gels comfortably.

 

Fuel/Nutrition

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Honey Stinger Acai Pomegranate Gels
I LOVE THESE GELS SO MUCH. They’re delicious and sit well in my stomach, which every runner knows is of utmost importance. The first time I had one on the run, I almost died of happiness. Plus, they don’t make my hands all sticky when I open them. I just wish I could find them locally and didn’t have to buy them in bulk!

 

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Honey Stinger Chocolate Waffle
I was skeptical about the chocolate flavor, but after trying one from my local running store, I bought a whole box on sale at Running Warehouse. They’re my go to option before my midweek long run when I need something quick and quiet (gotta respect the roommates’ sleep!) at 5:45 in the morning!

 

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Nuun – Lemon + Lime and Strawberry Lemonade
I always tried the Tri-berry Nuun and didn’t care for it (but oh how I wish I did!), so I thought Nuun just wasn’t for me. Nope! All I needed was sample tabs of different flavors, and I fell in love. I’ve been drinking Nuun in my water on high mileage days and while on my long runs. It’s tasty, it’s fun to watch the tabs dissolve, and the sodium content is great for replenishing on the go.

 

Podcasts:

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Another Mother Runner
Now I know I’m not the target demographic of this podcast, as a totally-single, definitely-not-a-mother, barely-an-adult young woman, but I am a runner, and these ladies know their stuff. I listen to their weekly ‘cast and have been binging through their back catalog as far back as 2012. Sarah and Dimity get me through my walks home from campus with a smile on my face, though I must admit I don’t listen on the run because I just can’t listen to a running podcast while running… run overload!

 

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Dear Hank and John
This is my go-to podcast for long runs. I like to listen to conversational podcasts while I run, and I’m a long-time Vlogbrothers fan, so this Vlogbrothers podcast is a perfect running podcast for me. It’s a perfect distraction on those long, arduous middle miles. It’s a perfect blend of learning new stuff and entertaining dubious advice.

 

What podcasts do you all listen to on the commute, on the run, whenever? I’m always looking to add to my list!

What gear are you excited about this spring?

 

Training Recap: March 14-20, 2016

To kick off my first training recap post, of course I had a totally atypical schedule.  I usually run Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, with doubles on Wednesday and Thursday. But last week I took Monday off and ran doubles Tuesday and Wednesday, then took a mini-vacation to visit a friend in DC on Thursday and Friday, then ran my usual miles Saturday and Sunday. But also last week I was babying my right calf after my 5k (see race report here!); the stiffer-than-usual shoes made for some really tight and painful calves all week. So, let’s recap, shall we?

Monday, March 14: Foam roll and core work (sit-ups, leg raises, scissors, bicycles, clamshell extensions, pushups and planks). That’s all, folks!

Tuesday, March 15: 6 miles in the morning. Splits all over the place and calves giving me problems with my shins and ankles. Not a bad run, but definitely not good.

8 miles in the evening, a hilly route that I was looking forward to because I was running hills from my usual long run routes, but coming at them from the opposite (and in many cases, more difficult) direction. It ended up being a challenging but strong workout and I surprised myself by pacing in the low 7:50s overall which was about 30 seconds faster than I’d anticipated.

Wednesday, March 16: 10 miles in the morning, legs dead and pace slow. Calves super tight. Foam rolled in the afternoon.

7 miles in the evening with the Pacers Wednesday night group. Ran a mile to the store, then 5 with the group, and a mile home. It was gorgeous weather, good company, and my calf felt okay after having just been foam rolled.

Thursday and Friday, March 17 and 18: Trip to DC! Drove down in the morning, spent a day and a half walking all around museums, then drove back Friday night. Very compact visit!

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Saturday, March 19: 7.2 miles. Beautiful, sunny, and legs felt fresh. Calves were still pretty tight and didn’t start to loosen up until 4-5 miles in. Spent the rest of the day in compression socks and gave myself a hard calf massage in a hot bath that evening.

Sunday, March 20: My birthday! The big 25! I ran 20 miles to celebrate. Calves felt much better after so much babying the day before. Ran plenty of hills. I could almost trick myself into thinking my calf was feeling totally normal by the time I got done. Another hot bath calf massage not too long after the run and compression socks all day. Wrapped up the day with dinner and dessert at Cheesecake Factory with some running buds.

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I use a Believe training journal to log my runs (as well as Garmin, My Fitness Pal and Strava… I’m a data junkie!) and use a smiley face rating system. Most of my runs this week were small smiles or “meh” faces like this :/ My hilly route got a 😀 face, because it was a strong and surprisingly fun run. Should have done more core work this week. I am trying to get in the habit of foam rolling 2-3 times per week and doing my core work 3 times without fail. This week it just got away from me. But judging the way my back and hips were aching at the end of my Sunday long run, I really need to remember to get the core work in. It’s easy to skip, but it’s important!

Run O’ the Mill 5K (Clinton, NJ)

Start and conditions:
8 am start, high-30s at start, low-50s by awards at 9 am

Results:
21:55, 7:01 pace
Splits: 6:46, 7:20, 7:00, allegedly paced 6:20 for the last tenth of a mile

Course description and event logistics
Started off with a gentle downhill, a small rectangle in town, then right back up past the start (pass the starting line about 1.2-1.3 miles in). From about .9 until mile 2 is a slight but definite uphill until the turn around, then you get to run that hill back down to the finish line. While there were many local runners at the race, it was not a spectator-laden event. There were maybe a dozen people spectating in the first mile, and then no one besides course marshals the rest of the way. It was a pretty quiet race which gave me a lot of time to do mental math and question if I was really going to hit my goal time or not!

Logistics for this race were so simple. I pulled into a grassy lot around 6:50 where there were volunteers from NJ-NY track club directing cars into widely-spaced rows (this was very easy to get out of post-awards as well since half the participants were gone by the end of the ceremony). The next block down was where the community center and packet pick-up was. Super easy. Checking in took me about 1 minute, and everyone was really nice and helpful. I was parked and pinning on my bib by 7:05. There was no bag check, but people kept their bags in the gym or outside with no issues since the only people there were race volunteers/coordinators and participants/participants’ families.

Training
I didn’t train specifically for this race. I threw this into my race schedule two weeks ago as a fun event. I really just wanted to PR at a 5k with all this great new training cycle fitness. This 5k was at the end of a 60-ish mile training week, so it was probably not the best conditions to get a huge PR, but I really wanted to nab a sub-22 minute 5k and knew I could do it.

Gear and fuel
I had a bowl of oatmeal before I left my apartment to drive the 45 minutes to the race, and drank a cup of coffee in the car on the way. I wore my Oiselle Pacers singlet, Saucony Ignite tight shorts, some Feetures socks, and my teal Saucony Breakthrus.

Now, with the shoes, I wore them because I’ve had amazing speed workouts with the Breakthrus on the treadmill. However it’s 50/50 when I run outside in them. When I run in them at group runs at night: no problem. When I’ve run in them on a Saturday morning: problems galore! I had considered bringing two pairs of shoes and deciding between them at the race, but then last-minute chose to just take the one pair because the Breakthrus are so fun and cute! (Note: stop making running gear choices based on cuteness!) So around 2 miles into the race, my right shin got really tight and felt like it was about to cramp.  In hindsight, I wish I’d brought my tried and true Saucony Ride 8s along. They may be a bit heavier, but they never give me any issues! Had I worn different shoes, I think I could have done sub-7 for pace and cut maybe 15-20 seconds off my time overall.

Goal(s)
My goal originally was sub-22 minutes and #1 AG placement. But as the day got closer, I started to tell myself I could do 21:30… maybe even 21:15 and take a clean minute off last fall’s PR!

I tend to self-sabotage in this way. My original goal was spot-on and achievable. But I often let myself dream big and set harder goals as the race nears, and then I am disappointed not to reach them even though I knew it was a long shot anyway. This is a big mental hurdle I want to overcome this racing season (and I’ll probably write a blog post all about it).

Your finish and feelings
Overall, I finished in 21:55, which was a 7:01 pace on my Garmin (clocked it at 3.13, so a very fair course!) and 7:04 by the race results. I came in 1st in my age group (women 20-29), I placed 6th out of all women and 36th out of all finishers. I nailed my original goals for this race: I came in under 22 minutes and first in my age group. I am going to call this a success, even though I was a bit disappointed (only because in my head I wanted 21:30, a 6:55 pace, even though my training only sort of supports that kind of time). My second mile really dragged my pace down (7:20!), and I just keep thinking that if I’d been able to push it a little more on that mile, I’d have run an even faster 21:XX and broken the 7 min pace barrier. Oh well. There’s always next time! I refuse to let this bring me down or let myself think of this as a “bad” race when I achieved the (realistic!) goals I set for myself when I signed up for the race 2 weeks ago. I need to stop setting self-sabotaging goals, or I’ll never be happy with my race performances!

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Post-race happy face. Even though my shins were quite upset with me.

And, well, in summary…
Overall, it was a good race, and I’m glad I made the (beautiful and scenic!) drive up from Princeton. The race had a fun, local feel: AG awards for 20 and up went by whole decades, but they had AG awards for 0-8, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, and 15-19 to reward as many kids as possible for being active, which was awesome. Special shout-outs went out to AG and overall winners who were local runners, be they adults or local high school athletes and local running clubs.

Though I didn’t go above and beyond my goal for the race, I got done what I went there to do, and it was an excellent way to kick off my spring racing season for 2016! Looking forward to more PRs! Next race: April 3 at the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon!

 

General format is borrowed from this article in Women’s Running.

My Running Renaissance

What I call my Running Renaissance began in April 2014, when I had the idea to train for my first full marathon. Let me tell you how this happened.

Up until this fateful April, I had been content to run half marathons and trudge along with painful knees and an out of shape mental game. However all that time I had spent NOT running in 2013? Apparently that did wonders for my knees… all that time off healed them right up! When I went out one day for a 7 mile run and returned home only to realize that my knees weren’t sore and I wasn’t even tired mentally… that was when I started to get the idea. A half marathon? Of course! A full marathon? Perhaps!

As I got through an 8 mile run… a 10 mile run… a 12 miler… all with ease, I decided to give 14 miles a try at the end of June. And while it wasn’t a breeze, it wasn’t painful — physically or mentally. So I shopped out a few marathons within an afternoon’s drive of Princeton and decided on the Baltimore Marathon. We had a family friend I could stay with, and that was that. I registered and tweaked a Hal Higdon training plan to my liking and got on the training band wagon.

That first training cycle was not ideal by any means. I would run 16 or 18 miles on a Sunday and then half-ass my way through meager mileage the rest of the week. I think I topped out at 32 or 35 miles in a week during that training cycle. I was definitely overtraining; my long runs were often 50-66% of my weekly mileage. I ended up with a calf strain after a local half marathon that utilized some sandy trails for a couple miles — a hot late August race that netted me a 2:02:02 finish and a blow to my confidence — and then suffered with IT band pain in the weeks leading up to my marathon.

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But race day morning, my knee finally bounced back and gave me no problems. However that marathon was a hot mess. I was so anxious I barely slept the night before. I felt confident when we started. The first few miles were a breeze. But I started to deflate around mile 11 and by mile 14, I hit the wall… and the many hills of the Baltimore Marathon. I walked about 30-40% of the next 12 miles and came across the finish line at 4:43:43. It was a true slog, and I was exhausted, but I was done. And I was the fittest I had ever been in my life… so immediately I began shopping out my second marathon.

I decided on the Minneapolis Marathon (not to be confused with the Twin Cities Marathon!). It was May 31, which was right after the end of the first year of my Master’s program, so I could fly into Minneapolis and meet my parents at a hotel and we could stay there for the weekend, then they could bring me back home to Iowa with them. It ended up being a great plan. Recovering from my marathon in the gigantic, soft guest bed at my parent’s house was a great way to kick off my summer vacation!

Training for Minneapolis went much better than training for Baltimore, but it wasn’t perfect. I had some overtraining strain my left calf, but I was able to run through it and it went away on its own in June. I ran the half marathon at the New Jersey Marathon that spring as my race prep race and surprised myself with a 1:53… a 5 minute PR! It was my ninth HM and the first one in which I didn’t walk a single step. I felt unstoppable.

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The race in Minneapolis went much better than Baltimore as well. Though my training still maxed out around 35-40 miles, I was much more mentally prepared. I started out pacing 8:40s as the first half of the course trends downhill. My parents met me at mile 11 to give me the water bottle I’d carry the rest of my race, the pocket filled with gels. They barely made it down to mile 18 in time to cheer me on as I was still running a much faster pace than we’d planned on the night before when we came up with their spectating plan. My dad ran with me from about mile 18.5 to mile 20.5 which was a big mental boost. And then I slogged through the last 5+ miles alone. Going into the race, I expected a 4:20… 4:15 at  best. I was shocked to cross the finish line in 4:04:39, a 39 minute PR!

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And so I wondered… if I stepped up my mileage, how much faster could I run? I hadn’t really done anything new this training cycle besides add about 5 miles a week to my schedule. What if I added even more? How much faster could I get… could I qualify for Boston?

And so the summer of 2015 was the summer of “trying out high mileage to see if I crash and burn.” And you know what? I didn’t. I didn’t do a single mile of speedwork from June through August; all my miles were easy. But I stepped up to 45, then 50 miles a week. By September, my training range was 45-60 miles. And I had an amazing racing season. I dropped my 5k PR from 24:40 to 22:17. I lowered my half marathon PR from 1:53 to 1:43:38. I expected that I could run my fall marathon in 3:40… maybe even somewhere below a 3:35… I was not-so-secretly hoping for a 3:32 so that I could qualify for Boston under the buffer time.

My third marathon was late in November at the Philadelphia Marathon. And despite all my amazing fall races, this one did not go well at all. I decided during my taper madness to do some yoga, despite never doing yoga otherwise. And in the midst of this yoga, I strained my right hamstring. And because I was in a taper, I had no way to evaluate how injured I was. I optimistically believed I’d be fine by race day. But oh boy, was I wrong!

The race started and I was on pace, hitting my 7:55-8:10 splits on the nose. I was feeling good, feeling confident. But around mile 9 or 10 of the Philly marathon there’s a hill. Basically the only major hill on the course. And after that I could not get my pace back on track. My legs felt weird and tired. I thought about pulling away with the half marathoners and cutting it short, but — ever the optimist — I chose to continue on the marathon course. By mile 15, my calves started to cramp. Then my quads. Then my feet. All my muscle groups were overcompensating for my strained and uncooperative hamstring. By mile 18, I figured it’d take me just as long to drop out and walk back to the finish than to just push on and run-walk the last 8 miles, so… continue I did.

My amazing Oiselle teammates met me around mile 24 and ran with me to mile 26. I just had to make it through 0.2 miles on my own at the end. But those last miles were miserable. I was swearing up a storm, almost in tears, and I instructed them not to let me stop under any circumstances! I was running on cramping feet, and I was in so much pain. I crossed the finish line in 4:02:32, a two minute PR. On one hand, I was happy to have finished at all, but on the other hand… I had wanted to run thirty minutes faster. I was disappointed. I even cried a little — the only time I have cried at the end of a marathon to date! — because I was so mad to have all that season’s hard work be “wasted” because of my stupid hamstring.

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I let myself take a week to have a pity party. I rehabbed the hell out of my hamstring. And then I got back at it. I got back to 35 mile weeks… then 45 mile weeks over winter break. And I started up training at the end of January 2016 at 50 mile weeks, with my schedule’s training mileage ranging from 50 to 65 miles per week. In my mind, I’m not training as a 4-hour marathoner. I know that I could have done 3:40 at the very least at Philly. I’m working hard not only for a BQ but for redemption, to prove that my fast fall times weren’t flukes, and that I can run a Boston Qualifying time… and even faster.

For the first time since I started running ten years ago, I finally see that I have some potential in this sport. As a high school and college athlete, I thought that I just wasn’t fast… as if fast was a trait you were born with. But it just took me a lot longer than some to realize that to be successful in running doesn’t require innate ability. Rather you have to learn to be comfortable with discomfort, to embrace suffering, and overcome self-doubt. Now that I’ve finally learned that I can do this, I’m eager to see how far and how fast I can push this body of mine.

 

About Me & About My Running

My name is Kristine, and among many other things, I am a runner. And since this is a running blog, let me give you a rundown of how my running journey up until my personal Running Renaissance (a time of my life that requires its own post to do it justice!).

As a kid, I always hated running. I’m not sure why. I loved riding my bike all around the neighborhood. I loved sprinting around outside playing games with my friends. But the twice yearly mile run in elementary and middle school? I hated it. The four laps around our gravel path at my elementary school — a thrilling adventure on my pink bike — was a drag when traversed by foot. The three laps around the soccer fields at my middle school was an intimidating set of rolling hills. One year, I gave up completely and “ran” the mile in 17 and a half minutes… I walked all but 2 minutes of that mile.

And yet when it came to choosing sports to get me out of gym in high school, running was the first sport I chose. Fall term of my sophomore year I tried cross-country. That summer I skimped on my 1, 2 and 3 mile training runs, finding even the two mile loop around my neighborhood endlessly tiring — probably because I decided to go out and run them at the hottest part of the day, which can be oppressive in Iowa’s summer humidity. I did cross country for two years. I wasn’t very fast, I wasn’t competitive, and I barely tolerated it. But I didn’t want to take gym at 6 am, so I suffered through 7 mile run-walks in 90-degree after-school heat in August and froze on blustery, rainy October days. To say I liked running in those days is a gross overstatement… I tolerated it and I got okay at running two or three miles at a time, and that was good enough for me.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 8.08.28 PMI spent a lot of my time in HS XC looking confused.

However when I began running, so did my dad. He quickly passed many running milestones: a 5k… then a Fourth of July 8k… then a half-marathon… and then in the fall of my junior year he ran his first full marathon at the Quad Cities Marathon. I was inspired and made the mistake of saying, “Dad, if you can run a full marathon, I bet I could run half of one.” And so he challenged me to train the next spring to run the half-marathon at the Quad Cities race the following fall. And even though I didn’t really like running all that much… I did it. I came home from runs in tears because it was too hot or it was too cold. I suffered through a pinched hip flexor and through multiple flare ups of my right IT band. I went out and ran as hard as I could and then suffered for miles on end. My dad pulled me along on 10 or 11 minute miles on my training runs… then went out the next day to run his own at a much faster clip. But still, I trained.

On September 28, 2008, I ran my first half marathon at the Quad Cities Marathon in a torturous 2:18:22. My dad was next to me every step of the way, urging me to keep moving, stop crying, etc. I remember being about 9 miles into the race and holding back tears wondering how I was going to make it through 4 more miles. Cheating my way through my training runs — cutting them short or stopping for long breaks in the middle — had caught up to me. But I finished. I earned my t-shirt, I got my medal… and I was hooked.

That winter, my family took a vacation to Disney World for the Marathon Weekend in 2009. My dad ran my second half marathon with me — this time in a much improved 2:06:45 — and then ran the full marathon the next day. We trained through brutal cold for that race. We slipped and slid over ice-paved bike trails and wore burglar-esque face masks. And it was all worth it to spend that glorious week in Florida wearing race medals around our necks.

And then that spring… we headed to St. Louis for another running weekend. My dad ran the full — per usual — and I ran the half. I had the ambitious goal of running under 2 hours, and I barely made the cut: 1:59:19! I pushed so hard that final mile that I almost passed out walking through the finishing chute. That was the first and last race that I chafed miserably; it was a rainy race, and I didn’t even know that my shorts had chafed the back of my thigh… until I got into the shower back at the hotel. I have never forgotten Body Glide or Vaseline since!

After I graduated high school, I decided to give cross country another try in college. I figured that with my half marathon fitness, I would be able to perform better than I did in high school. And that was true, but I also suffered quite a bit by upping my mileage too much too soon. I wasn’t able to do much of the summer training because of a nasty bout of bronchitis, so jumping from 15 mile weeks to running 5-7 miles 5 times a week… my knees and my shins were a mess by the end of the season. And I was still one of the slowest runners on the team. Needless to say, I did not go back.

That semester of cross country made me realize that what I had liked so much about running when I did half marathons was not necessarily the distance, but that I controlled when and how far I ran. I hated coming to practice unsure of what I had to do. When I was running half marathons, I found joy in designing a training schedule, mapping routes around town, and having complete control over my running. This is what I still love about running today; I’m a total control freak about it, and that’s okay.

But I didn’t give my knees time to heal from the injuries sustained during that cross country season. I suffered tendinitis in my left knee for years. I ran on and off, and then decided to give half marathons another go in 2012. I ran a local HM in May with an agonizing 2:21:53. I was horribly underprepared for it and I was ready to quit about 5 miles in. But I finished to the cheers of my college friends and my family, and I remembered what I liked about running half marathons: the medal and the sense of accomplishment… even if that half marathon felt awful, everyone else was impressed and encouraging.

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My dad and I pre-race.

Then that fall — fall of 2012 and my last fall semester of college — I went to Chicago for a semester. To ease the transition, I decided to sign up for a couple more half marathons, so that I would have something to look forward to when I got there and perhaps feel less homesick. And it worked! The weekend after I moved in, I ran the Chicago Half Marathon in a time of 2:06:26, a marked improvement from my May race time. Then I ran the Chicago Monster Dash in October in 2:09:15. I had been aiming for a sub-2 hour time, but I was thwarted by a recurrence of my tendinitis problems.

I graduated from college in 2013, and didn’t do much running for a year. I was tired of training through IT band pain, tendinitis pain, another pain in my knee from a crushed plica band (crushed during a pre-dawn run). I was tired of pushing myself through runs that always felt too long, too hard.

When I started college, I weighed around 120 pounds. By the spring of 2014, I was half a pound away from 150. Seeing myself at 149.5 pounds was a bit of a shock to me. I’d known that I’d packed on a few pounds my senior year and the year since I graduated, but I hadn’t realized I had gained quite so much. Through that year, I had  ran a few miles here, a few miles there, but I didn’t have any motivation. But as spring — and my 23rd birthday — approached, I decided to start running again. After I got accepted to Princeton for a Masters program in Near Eastern Studies, I picked out a few races that would fit into my schedule and decided to get off my butt, put my running shoes to good use, and lose a few pounds.

And that was when my Running Renaissance began.