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Chasing unicorns — guest post on the NoMeatAthlete community blog

Chasing unicorns — guest post on the NoMeatAthlete community blog

Marathon Monday in the Commonwealth today!

I had the pleasure of writing a guest post for the NoMeatAthlete community blog about, what else, chasing unicorns. I struggled more with writing this post than I have with any writing I’ve done in a really long time, and I’m grateful to have enlisted an editor, who’s chasing down her own unicorn this morning (hey girl, heeeeeeeeeeeey) to help me work through some trash.

Check it out on NMA here.

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Alright, let’s be honest: I’m still floored (and floating) about Eugene. Words can’t adequately describe how special (aww) you all made me feel during my training and particularly on race day (and since!) with all the shout-outs, words of encouragement along the way, and general awesomeness. So thank you. Thank you very much. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve been thinking a lot about my running since Eugene, for all the obvious reasons, but also because I think it’s imperative to reflect on experiences of any kind in an effort to figure out how to replicate outcomes, avoid ill consequences, or in general, just to improve.

(I’m hearing my professorial side coming out here… these are the same lines I feed tell my students to think about when they think about their writing and why they write how they do. Weird…)

I think a lot of things came together in my favor on race day, some of which I had absolutely no control over (helllllllo, perfect running weather!), but some that I did and that would behoove me to consider doing again. On the flip side, there are some things that I should consider doing differently, so I’ll break everything down accordingly… call this “Erin talking to herself” (isn’t this what this platform is for in the first place?), but definitely chime in with your vast runnerly wisdom and experiences.

Oh, and here’s some Eugene Marathon on-the-run race pics action.

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What’s worth replicating:

  • training. This might be obvious to most, but to be a better runner, you have to run more (notwithstanding pre-existing conditions that might preclude you from doing a ton of mileage, that is). This cycle was the first that I had used a Pfitzinger Advanced Marathoning plan, and it was a good fit for me. I don’t think I’d want to jump up to 70 miles/week, but having mid-week “moderate distance” runs of 10-14 miles, in addition to the weekend long long runs, helped my endurance tremendously… and the speed work was a whole different animal for me this time around (and coming from someone who loves speed work, this is saying something). I’m glad I found this plan.
  • ancillary work. I quit CrossFit in February in part because of how ridiculously expensive it was but also so I could devote more of my “exercise hours” on activities that would directly, unquestionably, improve my running. I tried to maintain some degree of strength and core work by doing at-home and bodyweight-based work about 4-5 times total/week, often 2-3 times/week for strength and another 2-3 for core. Though I certainly can’t power clean or throw up (and down) some thrusters like I could a few months ago, I think I still have power and strength where it matters, and this at-home business is definitely a keeper for future training cycles.
  • fueling. At the recommendation of my new friend Dan, from the Houston Marathon, I trained with AccelGel and used it during Eugene. As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t want to drink/consume the stuff as I do water, but it’s palatable, and it agrees with my body. In time, I will probably move toward a vegan product, but since I haven’t fully committed to veganism yet, I’ll keep using it. It jibes with my “strict vegetarian/almost vegan” get-up. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • accountability. I haven’t suffered from not doing the running that I should be doing because of a lack of motivation, but it really has been kinda cool to see other runners’ running- and training-related commentary on twitter, dailymile, and RYBQ over the past few months. An added bonus is that I get to meet other people who are the same type of crazy as me ๐Ÿ™‚

Let’s improve:

  • pacing. I did very few of my long runs (or even shorter runs, for the matter) at my strict, projected MP. Thus, while I knew what a 7:40, 7:49, or 7:55 felt like, and knew that it was comfortable, I never really knew what a true, flat 8 felt like. I was aware of this and knew that I “kinda” knew what an 8 felt like, so I just broke the race up into parts, as most runners do, and focused on running as close to a 1:45 half as possible. I was a bit nervous to be -2 at the halfway mark, fearing that that would surely promise a crash-and-burn later in the race, and how I pulled a 6+-minute negative split is still beyond me. For my future marathon training cycles, I want to run many more runs, of varying distances, at my legit MP, for both the physiological and psychological benefits. Moreover, that I could pull a 6+ minute negative split in a marathon makes me wonder about if I did the first half too slowly… I’ll revisit this later.
  • stretching. I stretch when I think about it, which isn’t very often, except for the maybe 2 minutes immediately before I leave (hop on a foam roller) and when I return (stretch my calves on the stairs leading up to my condo… and then hop on a foam roller, maybe, once I’m in the door). Likewise, I never did any dynamic stretching before any of my long runs (except once, on a 21 with Mort, at his suggestion), even though I know it’s a wise use of my time. I plan to be more mindful of that going into this next cycle. I can spare 3 minutes.
  • sleeping. Even though I’m a SAHM these days and not needing to bust out at 6am to get to the office, I know I’m not sleeping as much as I should be, because A awakens me in the middle of the night or early morning hours, I’m staying up late finishing stuff I didn’t do during the daytime, or because I’m just wasting time online doing nothing important. I usually prioritized sleep on the days where I had a big run coming up, like a mid-week moderate distance run or some speedwork, but I could be better about it. I should consider a “no technology after ___” type of rule. How do you prioritize your sleep, particularly for my readers with kiddos?
  • strength work. I want to get stronger. Though I don’t necessarily miss CF, I do miss being as strong as I was, because I think that helped keep me healthy/injury-free and helped me as a runner. I don’t need super huge biceps or anything like that, but I do want to be more diligent about my strength work and aim for 3 times/weekly for this next cycle instead of 2.

What comes next:

  • marathon goals. I’m at a loss here, and I’m telling myself that I’m not going to really think about it until early July, when I start marathon training again officially. As you might recall, the plan was to do 3:30, maybe a 3:27, in Eugene, if the stars aligned, and then train for a 3:25 in Chicago, and just “play” in NYC. I don’t know what to do now. All three times I’ve run Chicago, I’ve run poorly–likely due to hot weather or pregnancy (or both, as was the case in ’10!)–so part of me feels like I’d be happy to just go sub-4 here for the first time. A bigger part of me thinks that’s totally unacceptable and that I should see what I can do with this 3:20 fitness I have right now… and as for NYC, if I have no idea about Chicago, I have even less of an idea about NYC. (I am leaning toward just making the big apple a “play” race though).
  • races. I have a healthy mix of racing coming up: a 5k in Ohio on Memorial Day, the Madison-Chicago Ragnar Relay in early June, and the Espirit de She 10k inaugural event in Chicago in July (this one for which I’m an ambassador… once I have more info, I’ll let you know. It looks kinda cool). I want to clock a sub-20 5k this year and whittle down more time on my 10k that I posted in January, but we’ll see. I’m cautiously optimistic I can do both, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
  • reading. I have so many running, racing, vegetarianism, and veganism books I want to read to glean what else I should be considering in my training. I think I need to tell my toddler boss I need to take a sabbatical…
  • coaching? Should I be hiring a coach or just continue to rely on my training partners for their collective and very good advice? Would it be worth the investment?

Lots going on in this post for sure, but reach out. I’d love to hear your commentary on this stuff.

What do you think about after each race you run? How do you figure out where to go “from here,” and what do you do to keep the momentum and excitement going? Do I need to stop being all reflective and professorial and just enjoy things a while longer?