On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The (immediate) future of my racing

As you know, nearly two weeks ago I ran the Marine Corps Marathon.

Then, last Sunday, I ran the New York City Marathon.

And then, my taper for the Flying Monkey Marathon on 20 November officially began.

So what's next?

1. Lose weight. Now that I'm nearly back to where I was speed-wise before I had the blood clots, I need to get back to the weight I was at before them. That's about (gulp) 25lbs that need to go. I'm active enough; I just need to work on improving my eating habits. I'm ready to do this.

2. Develop core strength. My back and shoulders were killing me during the NYCM. This has happened before, and I recognize it as a sign that I have weak core muscles. Luckily this is easy to fix. (If you have any suggestions of core exercises, please let me know.)

3. Run more. I know many of you might disagree with me on this, but in order to do well at the marathon, I need consistent and (relatively) high mileage training. Sure, I can run a marathon with training of 35mpw. But it won't be pretty. I won't finish as fast as I want or as fast as I am capable of. I won't feel good after, physically or psychologically.

I've done marathons that were brutal because I was unprepared. I've done a bunch of those. And I've only done one where I felt confident in my training. Lo and behold, the brutal marathons were all done on 30-40mpw (but I got all of my long runs in!) and the one where I felt confident (and set my PR) was done on 40-60mpw. If I can't get my mileage up higher than it's been lately, I can't ever expect marathons to go smoothly. I'll never fulfill my dream of "racing" a marathon when I'm beginning to struggle by mile 10 or when I'm surprised that I didn't crash. Could "negative splits" ever become a phrase that has meaning to me?

The end goal: Ideally, I'd love to shift my focus to racing a half marathon in the spring. However, taking advantage of Competitor's rare generosity, I signed up for the New Orleans Marathon in March (for $40), and then I have guaranteed entry to NYCM 2012. New Orleans is supposed to be a flat course, so I'm tempted to say that I'd like to go sub-5 hours there (that is definitely my goal at NYCM next year).

I'm not really sure how to focus myself, so if anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.


  1. I remember seeing a great core workout in one of my old Runner's World mags. I found this one http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-393-394--11878-1-1-2,00.html but not quite sure it is the best - may be a good start. Also, something like the Jillian's 30 day shred gets your core worked out AND provides a nice base level of fitness that pairs well with running. I will do the 30 days here and there to get back up to a certain level. The workouts are only 30 minutes and you only need a set of hand weights!!!

  2. That's not a bad idea at all... do you know, I actually own her video, and I have done it all of NO times?

  3. Best core exercise? PLANKS. I hate them with passion but they work (and if I only did them, I'd have the strong core to prove it!). When I did bootcamp classes last year, there was a bunch of different variety of planks -- sideways, lifting one hand and touching the other (without shifting the body), etc. I wish I remembered more, because they kicked my ass badly.

    Also the "airplane" or whatever they call it pose is good for the back. You know, when you put your arms wide on the side then lift your head/shoulders and your legs at the same time and only your stomach hits the ground?

    And... I hate bikram yoga (it's a torture, but it's good for me, I should go back), but guess what also gives you a strong core?

  4. I shall see you in NOLA then! I'm running the half courtesy of that deep discount. :)

  5. I agree with PLANKS. I also love them dearly. (Duh, I'm weird) I have some solid core workouts I can email you!

  6. I'm only doing the half in NOLA so you could run with me! This is not really a helpful training suggestion.

  7. YaY! NOLA bound as well! It's my home turf, and yes, it's flat as a pancake.

    That was awesome they actually honored that, btw.

    and I will see you at the NYCM 2012!

    And Planks. . . that's what I hear too.

  8. How many marathons are you running this year?! DAAAAAAAAAAMN. I am a total sissy ass because the thought of running more than one is a year makes me want to vomit.

    Core -- planks and low planks are great for core and back. To mix it up -- while you are in low plank dip your right hip to the floor dip and then do the other side. Like you are rocking your hips back and forth. Keep upper body stable. It is brutal.


  9. You note an inverse correlation between training mileage and degree of marathon suckiness. While this relationship is likely valid, you ignore an important variable: me. With whom were you training when you ran your PR? Ahhh...ummm...who was it again???....oh yes, me. ME!

    That settles it. Lose the weight if you must, but I think a relocation north of the border is what you'll need to make those high mileage weeks really count.

    And while you are at it, you are welcome to move the Villanova cross country team too. We always ran better when we spotted them on the Wissahick Trail.

  10. Aw boo. I am running the (first ever!) Louisiana Marathon in Baton Rouge in January. That's almost like the New Orleans marathon in March, except, well... not at all, but still! Same state!

    Core exercises, gee. We did a shiz-ton of "core holds" (planks) back in my rowing glory days, and I still think they're the absolute best. I hate all that situp-type crap, but I like planks. You can do so much with them -- go up and down from elbows to palms, lift and pulse arms and legs, go from side to side, and basically really put yourself in the hurt locker (in a good way).

    I also like standing core exercises like the wood chop, or cable pulls across your body. Anything that doesn't involve me doing various iterations of sit-ups is good by me.

  11. You are a badass, that is all.

    Also, do planks.

  12. I'll show you my core workout when you come to DC...wanna see my basement full of medicine balls and funny straps MUAHAHAHAHAHA

    My opinion is that you race too often and wantonly. (Am I saying you are a race slut? aaahhh!) We can all lose a few pounds, strengthen our core and that makes a difference, but you have 3 marathons all gummed up together in A MONTH and during the training that preceded them, you did a mishmash of events that don't seem tuned to what you say you want to achieve in a marathon. (and that's on top of health issues that sometimes slow you down despite your good intentions)

    I think if you're doing halves or 10k races, you might be able to get away with less focus, but I don't think marathons are that forgiving. So I say: try a year of focused training/racing and see where it gets you.

  13. @Tam - yes, yes you're right! You actually were in an earlier draft of the post, but it got waaaay too long.

    @sweatykid - planks seem to be the winner, grudgingly. I like the suggestion of going back and forth side to side with them, because then I can I can hum that song about "doin' the dip" ("you put your hands up on my hip, when I dip you dip I dip") which for some reason popped into my head as soon as I read your comment.

    @kate - I hate it when people give me good, logical, critical advice and they're right. Just kidding. But you absolutely are right. Both this year and last I've been sucked into the nyrr's stupid 9+1 and I absolutely have ended up doing meaningless races. I want to stop that. I will stop that. But I do actually want to lose weight, and not just in the way that everyone does. It's frustrating to have lived most of my adult life at one weight, and then to have gone up 25lbs in a year. And then I can't really eat salad thanks to the Coumadin! It's frustrating. I refuse to diet, but I think I have to find a way to come to terms with my slower metabolism.

  14. I have the same goal list. Especially the weight thing. And maybe the higher mileage thing. First the weight though!

    I like to do a lot of twisting core exercises - sit in sort of a boat position and move a ball from side to side. I do a lot of variations on that but would never do it on my own - my trainer makes me do it!

    Good luck with all this! Share your motivation! I can never find mine :)

  15. NOLA is indeed one of the flattest courses you will ever see. So much so that the wee tiny pedestrian bridge before you enter the park will feel giant. As a disclaimer, I only ran the half, but I'm pretty sure the full wasn't much different, topographically speaking. McKenna could tell you for sure, though.

    Also, ditto on the planks & variations and everything Kate said. I'm dying to run another marathon, but I just don't have the focus for it while I'm in school, so I'm trying to make peace with a season of cycling and 5 & 10ks with the official reasons of "working on getting my speed back" and "taking it easy on my knees."

    And also losing the extra 20 lbs I picked up after my knee surgery. Grrr.