What did I do different to get my personal best?

So, what was different this time? Why was this the big day that everything fell into place?

So, this is not a point A to point B kind of post and it shouldn’t be for you either. I’m going to post the trajectory of my times in order just so you can see that as I feel it’s helpful ESPECIALLY if you are someone who went for a goal, and might not have done as well as you wanted.

  • First marathon (Philly 2014) - 3:28

  • Grandfather Mountain Marathon (I mean it was up a mountain so there’s that lo) - 3:51

  • Charlotte Marathon - 3:15

  • Boston 2015 - 3:45

  • Ultra 50K - 4:17

  • Ironman NC Marathon Time - 3:42

  • Boston 2016 - 4:05

  • Myrtle Beach Marathon - 3:05

  • Chicago Marathon October 2017- 3:15

  • Savannah Marathon November 2018 - 2:58

First, I would like to note the time from the 3:05 to the 2:58. It was a year and a half of consistent training. From August 2014 to November of 2018, I have been pretty much consistently training building up my nervous system to be able to handle the loads that I put on it as well as the mental stamina, and just all the lessons learned.

I’m not saying that you can’t do it in a shorter time frame or that you won’t need longer, but that I definitely had my fair amount of things to work through for sure.

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TIP #1 - CHILL

Going into this marathon, I made a post on facebook the night before about my A - D goals. I know that everyone is different, but I personally believe that my disattachment to the importance of a goal really helps me. I TRULY TRULY didn’t care all that much if I got the sub 3 that day. I mean I knew I was going to be running for the rest of my life and surely it would happen one day, so I just like to not get all worked up. Nerves at the start line and the days leading into a race honestly feels awful, makes me wanna quit, never sign up for other races, etc etc. I don’t WANT to feel that way, so I just made the decision a long time ago that if this was going to be my hobby and for fun then I wasn’t going to get all worked up.

Tanner and I have this thing with my races. We know it all can go to crap, so he always says “Times gonna pass anyway. You might as well go right?” It’s like a joke almost like “this is no big deal, but guess you outta go?” I also tell him that he can look at my first 5K and know how it’s going to go. I almost immediately know if it’s going to be a good or bad day. If it’s going to be a bad day, I typically just go ahead and pull back, and let the sub 3 go in the first 6 miles. ha.

So, tip #1 - CHILL. lol!

TIP #2 - TIME ON FEET

Time on feet can be in reference to years or it can be in reference to the training block that you are personally doing. The more miles that you can do obviously the better, but this will bleed into the third point which is the balancing act of this with what is too much.

You want to start building a base before you officially start your training block. The typical recommendation, by the book, is 500 miles, but that’s a lot. That’s 25 weeks of 20 miles per week. That’s why I say that years of running can help you to continue towards your time goals because you can typically carry one base mileage build up into another race prep.

I consistently go to the gym every single morning at 445, and I run typically every other day, and then I might increase that to 1-2 extra days along with my lifting for half the time I’m there. For example, on the days that I run, I’ll do 8 miles, but on the days that I start building, I’ll keep those 8 milers, plus 2 more 4 milers (typically done faster or in between lifting sets). Sometimes I’ll do a circuit and do it 4 times through with a fast mile after each rotation for a total of 4 miles, but I don’t feel like I’ve “ran”. This is all building you up to train.

I have found that for me, I do best with a 12-14 week official build. Most people do 16 and I do recommend 16, and if it’s your first marathon, you absolutely want to have 20, but I just know that I tax myself out and just “get over it” so I try to keep it short. I know I’m going to run anyway so it’s probably just a mental technicality.

This past race I actually got up to doing 8 milers every day of the week before I started my build for about 3 weeks. To be honest, I was having a bit of anxiety during this time and the running made me feel the best, so I just did 8 miles every morning, but this obviously added to 48 miles/week before I even began training.

I knew I wasn’t going to increase all that much because I’ve done the double days before, and my body hates me. It won’t do it. I’ll get injured, and I know that. I see so many doing it, and that’s great, but not this girl. You gotta learn you, and do that. I think it’s worthwhile to try it out a few times and see how your body handles the load, but if you are someone who is busy with a full time job, kids, other responsibilities, and can’t sleep like 8-10 hours per night then all of that has to be taken into consideration as time on feet.

I don’t even know what I peaked at. I never calculate miles and data, but I guess I should. This is why I train myself because I honestly get so overwhelmed by that crap. It makes me stress. I can’t stress. I just have to enjoy, or I’ll quit. I’m just being honest. Yall have seen me bail on races, and I’ll do it over and over again, so the method that works for me is just to intuitively flow through what I know as the weeks go through. If I feel a tweak, I might pull back. If I’m feeling good, I’ll do a tempo. And I try to balance all of this within what is traditional training for a race.

TIP #3 - MAKE SURE THAT YOU EVALUATE ALL OF YOUR STRESSORS

I TRULY think this is so imperative. My stressors before this race included:

  • Workaholic tendencies

  • Frequent travel

  • A good bit of fast food (ha)

  • Involved in tons of social activities and volunteer work

Honestly, I’m not really proud that my life semi fell apart, but ya know, it helped my stressors. HAHAHA! When I went through that period (which was like during base building), I basically withdrew from all social things and volunteer work because I just wanted to be alone. At the same time, I started eating more whole foods (not even necessarily all plant based the entire time), but just quality VS macro counting McDonalds fries and Wendy’s nuggets. I went from the Katiesfitscript life (around the clock) to a 9-5. I was honestly bored AS HELL. But whatever, I guess it allowed my body to rest. I read alot. I educated myself on the way that the brain works for racing. I learned a lot about myself and the psyche. I knew there were other areas I could work on than just physical health for my end goals.

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TIP #4 - I lost weight. blah. THE TIP IS JUST TO EAT WELL

I didn’t need to lose weight. I’m not proud of my weight loss. But I feel it’s negligent not to mention it. I lost like 10lbs total, and I’m still working to put it back on, but I saw a direct reflection in my times and when I lost weight. I don’t necessarily think it’s always like that. There is a fine line here. This is not some note that you should get on your diet while you’re running. no. abso-freakin-lutely not. Some do horrible when they lose. They are weak. Also, dieting during marathon training is really really difficult for most everyone and you should fuel your body. ugh, so many thoughts. I’m not going to go down this rabbit hole. I did just want to mention it.

If you eat well for HEALTH, then you will do better. Eat quality ingredients. Fuel your body with whole foods. I promise you that while you might feel empowered to run that 8 mile interval workout and then eat doughnuts and french fries, you’ll feel better if you eat black beans and sweet potatoes. OBVIOUSLYYYYY, keep the balance. Please don’t twist my words here. I’m just saying I noticed a big difference in how I felt recovery wise.

TIP # 5 - Know your genetic potential

Look, I’m never going to be a pro. Some people might never make it to Boston. I might not ever make it to the Olympic Trials. I’m not telling you not to dream and shoot for the stars and try your damnest for your goals, but you have to kind of take the times that you’ve been running at your entire life, reach the the nth of that potential and go after that. When you are realistic about it, I actually think it allows you to do MORE. You know that you are capable. It’s not a crap shoot. Your training supports it, therefore it IS possible. You don’t give up on it because you know what you CAN do. And from there, you just continue working towards it.

I also have this friend that always tries to date people who are way more attractive, and this is so mean but I am thinking in my head “come on bro-know your level” HAHAHA!!!

TIP #6 - INJURY PREVENTION!!!

You can’t get anywhere on your goals if you are getting hurt, and this is a tricky balance. The pros might be running 130 miles per week. Susie Q in Salt Lake City, Utah might be a stay at home wife with midday naps that runs 80 miles per week. That MAY NOT BE YOUR LIFE. Do not set yourself up for failure to just get hurt. You have to be able to rest, recover, and fuel for your training. You want as many miles as possible to reach that line. It takes time to find that line. That line is right around 60-70 miles/week at my PEAK for me. I’m never going to run 100 miles per week. I don’t think I honestly need to. I don’t care to. I used to, but that’s just not smart training for me. That’s reckless and over training.

TIP # 7 - DON’T HATE THE TREADMILL

I honestly think a lot of my success was due to the treadmill this time. I feel like the consistency of the movement really helped me to not do something stupid. When I’m running a tempo workout on the road in Shelby, there are all kinds of variables. I’m always having to dodge stuff, and one time I literally horribly sprained my ankle due to the curb dropping off sooner than I thought. Another time I sprained another ankle due to an acorn and a broken sidewalk while running in Chapel Hill to see my cousin. Like wtf ankles! But regardless, when I’m running on the treadmill there are no acorns and sidewalks and curbs, so I like that.

Hating the treadmill is another mental thing that I feel hinders some runners. If there is bad weather, you need to be okay to switch it up, and if you hate it, then you aren’t able to reach your full potential in those workouts. The treadmill IS harder to hit paces, so just give yourself grace in that, and move on. Turn on netflix, and TELL YOURSELF IT’S FINE because I promise you from a former hater to a lover, it’s really not that bad. If you consistently miss your workouts due to weather or hating the treadmills, then I think it impacts you over the years.

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TIP # 8 - NEVER GIVE UP!!!

If you have a goal to graduate college, and you are failing a class, do you just give up? I mean I guess you could, but most EVERYONE doesn’t. Does that mean it’s easier for some than others? Of course. Does that mean that some don’t have tons of obstacles to overcome? YEP. Maybe you have every obstacle in your personal journey, but that’s freakin okay. That just makes your finish line that much sweeter. Who cares if you don’t hit it on the day you planned? Honestly, no offense, but tough love - get over it. If this is your hobby and you’re in it for the long haul, then you know you’re going to continue running anyway- just try again. Don’t convince yourself you aren’t a runner and that you’re not good at this. Nopidity nope nope. Maybe you don’t want to be a runner anymore. THAT IS FINE. But don’t lie to yourself if you want it.

TIP # 9 - TEMPOS / SPEED

This is obvious, and I’m not going to go into it much.

If you aren’t alternating between fast days and easy days and you are just running all days at a pace that you enjoy, then you aren’t training right. If you have questions on this specifically, I’m happy to talk about it, but I feel this is the cliche advice. I ran a marathon at 6:48. My paces were as follows:

Speed workouts : 5:40-6:30

Tempos : 6:30 - 6:59

Long Runs : 7:05- 7:30

EZ runs: 9-10min/mile

Wanna know what pace I enjoy? 7:45-8. See above. I never do that pace. Basically literally never. hahaha! When I first started actually training, I kinda hated this. I was like “well this is dumb. What’s the point if I never do the pace I like?” But, I mean, I got used to it so whatever. haha! Also, after you genuinely know what it feels like to give your all on your hard days then you LIVE for those easy days. If you are struggling to go slow on the easy days, it might be new to you, but it also might mean you aren’t trying hard enough on the harder days! :)

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TIP # 10 - MENTAL STRENGTH

This is getting too long, but this could be an entire blog in and of itself. I’m going to try to keep it to a few points.

  • Envision yourself going the marathon race pace

I did this a lot. I would kinda like, in my head, feel myself going the pace of that I wanted to in the marathon. I would go to bed like picturing myself running on a road. I did this more and more as the weeks got closer, but there’s a certain feel for when you are going the pace that you want to go for all workouts, and I wanted to instill a neural pathway of that pace. I’ve found myself in the shower doing that for a 6:30min/mile pace this week and I’m like “okay katie chill.” haha! I just really found this to be helpful.

  • Learn how to meditate through pain

You’ve heard me say it once and I’ll say it a hundred more times. Ever run a marathon? Ever felt 20-26 miles? They suck? Ever bonked? It sucks. Almost always it sucks pretty horribly. Sometimes it doesn’t, but more often than not, it hurts. I didn’t purposefully stub my toe, but in instances like that, you can practice this. Go into your brain. Bite your tongue. Get quiet. Pull to your center. You can separate. While you are running your interval workouts, do it. Escape from the moment. Breathe deep. Separate. You can do it. Practice it.

  • Learn how to disassociate from nerves (training and race days)

LOOK IT’S A BIRD. IT’S A PLANE. You can’t be nervous on your workouts. You are A HERO. YOU ARE A CHAMPION. SHOW UP LIKE IT. You are Desi. You are Shalene. YOU ROCK. Strut to that track with confidence. Don’t back down until you believe it. Whether you nail the workout or not, don’t let yourself to get nervous. If you feel the butterflies before a long run, which are inevitable, busy yourself. What can you think about? If you were going through a heartbreak and also getting your doctorate at the same time (oh hey—that happened to me haha), what do you do? You put on your big boy britches and you study. You focus on your study. You busy your mind with your studies and not your heart ache. It’s the same. Dissociate. You can do it!

  • Practice mental strength exercises

I don’t know. Go stub your toe. HA! But no really, do hard workouts. Run 20 milers on the treadmill. Practice some runs with minimal fuel and hunger (obviously not ideal but sometimes it can help mental strength here and there). Make some stuff suck so that when stuff sucks on race day, you’re okay.

THAT’S ALL I GOT TODAY FOLKS. AKA - THIS IS WAY TOO LONG. BYE NOW.

(third place was in the med tent I think :()









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