Chicago Marathon 2017 season reflection

I am still taking time to process this race.  And of course what I want to learn is how do I make it all come together again like I did in Chicago.  One of my biggest learnings is that you don’t MAKE it happen you LET it happen.  Big difference.

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I was lucky to get a day where everything clicked.  But this does not always happen and I have had my fair share of things not coming together on the day.  And in regards to everything ‘clicking’ I was also more ready than I have ever been to take on the distance.

As is typical for my blogs this is mostly a reflection for myself but I thought it may be helpful to others so decided to post it.

Here is a look at my marathon progression over the past 3.5 years.

Marathon Progression:

  1. Ottawa Marathon May 2014 2:56:58
  2. Boston Marathon April 2015 2:49:59
  3. Philly Marathon November 2015 2:47:23
  4. Ottawa marathon May 2016 2:48:35
  5. Chicago marathon October 2017 2:41:58

I ran a 5min and 25s PB at the Chicago marathon.  As I worked on this reflection I also realized I had a similar experience in Boston. I typically describe it as having ‘tunnel vision’ to the finish line.

I placed myself in the rankings of Canadian female marathoners.  I never thought there would actually come a point when I was one of the ranked women in anything.  I have always been decent and relatively consistent but never great with surprising results.  It is so nice to finally have a break through and now I can continue to roll with this.

I have often read the blog of elite athletes and they always say it is possible, if you just keep believing blah blah blah…. And I always thought to myself I HAVE BEEN TRYING AND I AM CONSISTENT and it still has not happened!! (*this was a small voice it my head but it was always present). My entire running career which is well over a decade and a half now I have always felt I could be better. Now here I am writing that exact message consistent work, a bit of belief and completely putting yourself out there by setting yourself up right it turns out you can have those break through moments.     Hence why I wrote another blog and likely still have more on the way.

When I talked to people after the race; with my goal being to break 2:45 if had I run 2:44… maybe that would have been it and I could rest satisfied that I did what I had been trying to do for the past 3 years.  But having now run 2:41…. I obviously have to try for sub 2:40.  I am so grateful I was able to have this big break through to keep me pushing.  No one knows if I can break 2:40 but I am going to give it my all and believe with everything I am that I can.  No harm in trying!  😉

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So what did I do differently this time around?

Well I was injured over the winter last year. I actually ran the Chicago marathon ‘for fun’ injured.  It is often said that injuries, as much as they suck, can be a blessing.  And I think for me this is definitely true.  I had a lot of time to reflect and really understand why I got injured.  And for me I think a lot of it stemmed from overall high stress.  An accumulation of life, emotional and physical stress that eventually my body had to shut something down.  Easiest way to do that is to get injured and have to cut out running.  During this time I cross trained like a maniac (after taking sufficient time off) and I think that also helped me stay focused through the spring because I knew I had put in a huge effort of spinning and pool running (*not my favourite activities) so I had better make it worth it.

The spring season was better than expected off not much mileage or quality work and that definitely gave me confidence going in to the marathon build.

In the marathon build I really started to take recovery and down time seriously.  I think it is important to look at the other things in my life that can have a positive impact on my running.  I started to schedule in down time as this is the only realistic way for me to incorporate it in to my life.  I also mediated (using the headspace app) for the 10 days leading up to the race.  This will definitely be something I incorporate in to my life.  And I highly recommend trying it.  I also made time to reset after a big workout.  Instead of going right in to work or the rest of life post workout I made time to let my nervous system come down and recover.  Best way to do this is find a tree and put your feet up it and just chill.  It is hard to stop our busy lives and minds and I totally get that, but once you start to, it is pretty amazing!!  I found it a lot easier to go to bed earlier as I was seeing the positive effect it had on my performance. All of this of course is by suggestion of my wonderful coach Megan Brown.

I also had reiki done by Megan Brown which was honestly like a light switch.  After having one session I was able to finish my workouts with more ease and faster times.  It really helped me to recognize the stress I was putting on myself, be aware of it and start to let go of it.  It also allowed me to let go of the fear I had been associating with running.  The fear of not doing what I thought I was capable of (*when you think of this it makes no sense to have fear).  I also let go of trying to always force it and just allowed myself to run and listen to my own breath.  It was astounding how much easier it made things.  And I cannot believe it has taken this long to let go.

I ate clean avoiding gluten, dairy and alcohol as much as possible, especially in the 2-3months leading up to the race.  But I was also sure to make sure I was eating enough to fuel my training.  I think taking a probiotic daily (suggested by Dr. Liz Mingay) and generally decreased overall stress really helped my GI to not be an issue.  If you have read any of my other race reviews you will know that typically my GI system has been an issue in marathons and it was totally fine in all of my workouts, long runs and the race itself.
***be advised I truly enjoy food and love the time post marathon where I pretty much eat whatever I want.

I spent a lot more focused time not just on strength work but also on my mobility.  I have common areas that get aggravated for me and so I tried to be as proactive as I could.  I will continue to incorporate more of this.  The better you can move the better you can run.  I also continued to get regular treatment to help me to run better and not miss a stride.

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I had some great training partners as well!!

Of course there were some progressions to my training.  I ran the most I have ever run leading up to the race.  Although I also had the shortest training cycle I have ever done (12 weeks).  Which I think worked great for me as I was able to stay very focused and did not feel the training cycle dragging on.  I did not race before the marathon which I really like as it kept all of the focus on the marathon.  I ran the longest long runs I have ever done.  I ran most of long runs with quality mileage having my average pace of at least 3  long runs be within 15s of race pace.  I also had a lot of hard/long workouts.  This is important to make sure that your training is always progressing.  If we keep doing the same thing over we cannot very well expect different results.

So when your race is done my biggest advice to you is to sit back and take some time to come down from the training cycle. Be proud of your efforts and all that you have accomplished not just in the race itself but in your commitment to your training.  During that time reflect on the race itself.  How did it go?  Did you have a race plan and stick to it?  Or were you able to let go and really allow yourself to race intuitively?  But also on the training cycle as a whole.  What do you think you could realistically change to have a positive impact on your performance?

Going forward I am going to continue to work on the down time and mental game of my training along with continue to progress the amount of running and workouts I am doing.

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**side note as mentioned in my last blog I read ‘How Bad Do You Want It’ by Matt Fitzgerald as well during this training cycle and I found it very helpful as well.

Happy reflecting!!!

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