On November 3, I ran my tenth marathon and crushed my goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon, again. Today I want to share with you secrets that were revealed through this year’s training plan, and how I prepared, ran and recovered from the race completely healthy.
1- Commit to a vision, not a number.
Without vision, the people perish. Proverbs 29:18
It’s as plain and simple as that. Vision is not defined by specifics and limiting numbers, it is an expanse encompassing all the potential and possibility that COULD be a part of the desired outcome. We cannot predict the future and while we can dream, we cannot attach ourselves to the specifics of the desired outcome. Vision is the mental image, imagining, the dream of what “could be.” This is why we cannot just have numbers goals when it comes to running- the BODY doesn’t understand numbers. The body doesn’t know time, pace, or minutes. The body understands sensation and effort. It is our mind that translates and relays the meaning of that effort and tells stories about the numbers.
Casually setting my sights on a 3:30 finish time and relying only on that hasn’t proven to be enough for the past 4 years. This is why; the vision is bigger than a finish line. My vision is to identify potential, access strategy to support that potential, and then to step forward in faith and curiosity to see how far it will all take me. How far outside of my imagination can God take me? This is not about numbers, we simply use the numbers to create parameters and meaning out of the experience. Numbers are about my ability; vision is about my potential.
2- Get out of your own way.
I knew what I was capable of, I had done it three separate and distinct times. I had ball-parked a 3:33 marathon for the past few years, no matter how focused I’d been on training, how I ate, what shoes I wore or how much I prayed. So, I had a choice to make. I could keep doing what had gotten me THOSE results, or I could choose to go in a new, different direction and create a new outcome.
I knew that I needed to DO something different to GET something different this time. As divine timing would have it, I connected with a co-life-liver this past Spring, and while we are in the same type of business we both have very distinct and different strengths. The timing for beginning marathon training and happening upon David Piggot with PESfit.com was on purpose, as he facilitated not just my access to new information, but a strategy for using it as well! I tested my VO2 capabilities and accepted his expert guidance on how to use these numbers to access new levels of fitness performance.
I had always trained myself. I was a trainer, after all. I had learned and accepted that no matter what I was teaching or coaching in other areas of life, I need to also be engaged in learning and being coached myself! Why hadn’t I applied this to running yet!? It was time. I released control over my training and chose to follow directions. This is not to say there weren’t quite a few behind-the-scenes tantrums along the way. But,
we all need a love-zone to freak out in periodically. It’s part of being human, and part of the growing process. When we can process our honest, raw, sometimes-ugly emotions in a safe place, we allow ourselves to step forward from the place of those emotions controlling us. We get free.
Thanks to my husband, Jacob, for being my safe space.
3- Slow down to speed up.
It’s a full commitment, these 1-2-3 steps. Doing any of them partially or only choosing those that seem comfy will not result in a true-up level. When I committed to my goal of a sub 3:30 marathon, whatever that looked like, I knew I had to go all in. I couldn’t do what felt easy or felt like it looked like what I’d done in the past. I had to continually remind myself that my strategies had gotten me this far and I couldn’t rely on any of those same strategies to see how much further I could go. When you make a decision in the full essence of the word, you are committing to CUTTING away all things, ideas, habits, beliefs that do not align with your chosen direction. I decided to follow David’s coaching and trust the information I sought from him. So, even when doubt crept in, I couldn’t allow that doubt to sway my actions from what he had recommended.
I didn’t expect that by doing this, I would lose my security blanket – speedwork, or that I’d have to accept and embrace every female’s kryptonite- weight gain. But I did. Using the science behind endurance training, we totally deleted my weekly speedwork sessions and replaced them with classic powerlifting. Even at once per week, the heavy weight I was lifting had me gain a solid 7 pounds over the course of 7 weeks. That’s a tough internal process no matter who you are AND especially when much of a runner’s acquired identity and confidence comes from being “light and fast.”
I had to admit that doing speedwork weekly is a strategy that works well for some distances (up to half marathons, definitely) and had indeed gotten me to the pace I was at. In fact, speedwork is a key, celebrated component of the Awarding Life Marathon Plan. However, because we now had the data and evidence that I had tapped out my VO2 capacity… I was as fast as I was going to get using the strategies that had gotten me that far. I had to accept that powerlifting was a no-impact way to address muscle power and strength, so that I could re-condition my running efficiency to fully support the distance of the marathon. I had to lose the fear that I would lose my speed if I stopped interval training weekly. Instead, I had to train at aerobic threshold to recondition my body and reset my pace efficiency.
This is a metaphor for LIFE living. It’s often the thing we’re running FROM that will be our ticket to higher levels. Where in life are you working against a slow down? How are you avoiding things that don’t feel productive or make you feel like an achiever? Those things will be what take you over the edge toward your next level of potential. Trust the process is not just a trainer’s cliché, although I’m sure my clients are tired of hearing me say it!
“Trust the process” is about getting out of your own way and allowing something outside of yourself to influence you.
What can I learn from this? How can I allow this to pull me from my comfort zone? How can I grow from this experience? How can I “slow down” with the faith that it will allow me to “speed up?”
How it all turned out…
These lessons are real, and they are applicable to every area of life. In relation to my marathon history and goals, they did exactly as I have outlined here; I got faster, more consistent, stronger, and healthier. Every year, I come down with some horrid sickness as I approach the start line. In years past, these illnesses have been enough to keep me from finishing races and even been detrimental to my body in races. This year, I coupled a less-stressful approach to training with increased immune proactivity and did not get sick! I did not have injuries to address or overcome. My greatest obstacle was my mindset, my emotional stability, and the challenge of sustaining balance in a busy schedule.
I’m sure you can see where these 3 lessons lend themselves well to navigating those obstacles, as well. When I set out at the starting line on November 3, 2018, I wasn’t worried about the finish line, or second-guessing any of my training. I was just running. Step by step, mile by mile, soaking in the abundant blessings that were mine to experience. My confidence was higher, but not in the essence of “I can do this,” it was a simple and solid feeling of “I am doing this.” I was grateful for the people who had supported and encouraged me to be in this place. I was excited to find out what this day would look like.
Here’s a little breakdown of the race day logistics …that most runners will be interested in:
* I soaked in Epsom salts at the hotel the night before after a meal of a bison burger and sweet potato fries.
* I barely slept at all. Eyes closed, and rest from 9 p.m. until 4:30 a.m. but deep sleep was not had.
* I showered and stretched in the morning, allowing the sounds from Lauren Daigle’s new album to keep me grounded and in peace.
* I read some scripture and prayed; mostly thankfulness, and asking for peace, and protection over myself, the other runners, my family.
* I don’t eat before I run. Race morning I drank a caffeinated electrolyte water … and coffee!
* Racing- I started taking in fuel, CLIF Shot Bloks in salted watermelon and ginger ale flavor, at 40 minutes, and then every 2 miles after that. I grabbed a sip of Gatorade at every aid station until the halfway mark, where Jacob met me with my electrolyte beverage of choice- Nuun. I grabbed the bottle and a kiss and kept going.
* I’d played with pacing of 7:25, 7:35, and 7:40’s up until that point and although it was fast, I felt solid and capable.
* Mile 17 was the first incline I remember that got to me, clocking my first 8-minute mile.
* With every challenging incline, I just asked God for an easy mile sometime soon.
* The final 5k was the most difficult for me, and the part of the race when I started wanting to be done.
* Nearing that last, painful, point 2 of the race, I wasn’t really sure what the number would be. Math is not my strong suit and I was predicting a vast range of finishing between 3:24 and 3:28 based on my calculations. I told myself that if I saw a 3:24 when the clock came into view I would empty the tank in a sprint.
* The clock was small. When I finally saw it, I may have been 100 yards out. It read 3:25:52 or something like that. No way I was going to cross before the 26th minute, but I went anyways, upright and swift.
* Finish time 3:26:04 with that final pace at 7:34; averaging pace of 7:50 seconds for 26.2 miles.
* I’ll register for Boston Marathon 2020 in September of 2019 and cannot wait to ENJOY every step I run between now and that time.
I am grateful. I am inspired. And, it is truly WELL with my soul.