Mobility Monday

I can’t help but start this post with an ECard that is quite possibly the most inaccurate description of myself…

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If you know me or coach at any of the gyms that I train at, you KNOW and either hate or admire (thankfully my current wonderful coaches are the latter)  that I spend an obnoxious amount of time stretching, twisting my body in all sorts of disturbing shapes and jamming lacrosse balls in every crevice of my body.  I like to think that I look like some graceful yogi on the cover of Yoga Journal..

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But then I take picture of myself…

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…and laugh at how far off my vision is from reality.

Over the summer, I contemplated starting weekly ‘Mobility Monday’ blog posts that touched on mobility and recovery.  Each week would focus on a specific recovery tool or mobility movements that target specific body parts.  I am not a professional with this stuff but my list of daily stretches (from yoga moves to PT stretches) is a mile long and I have enough recovery tools to start my own physical therapy business out of our guest bedroom.

I didn’t end up going through with the Mobility Monday idea because I feared I would get too busy and wouldn’t be able to keep up with the Monday blog posts and because I am not a professional haha.  But here I am on a Monday wanting to get a blog post up so I might as well tap into my drafts and post a little Mobility Monday.

“Started from the bottom now we here” 

I doubt Drake was talking about foot care, but he has got a point!  It all starts in OUR feet.  Tight calves? Tight Hamstrings?…the tightness could be contributed to tight feet!

For being intelligent and hard working individuals – runners have a tendency to put blinders on and fixate on the exact spot they feel an ache or pain when in reality, it all may stem from other areas.

We explode off our feet over hundreds of times in a run yet the second we hit the foam roller we gravitate toward the hammies, IT band and quads.  Don’t get me wrong, those are all super important areas to take care of but DON’T NEGLECT THE FEET.

Now some of you may be saying, “Well I don’t have plantar fasciitis so why do I need to put myself through the agony of a stiff lacrosse ball rolling over my tender feet?” …well, releasing your feet is far more than preventing/rehabing plantar fasciitis.  Stimulating your feet releases and stimulates other areas of the body.   

If you are not familiar with reflexology, it is the idea that one part of the body relates to another part of the body.  Reflex points on your hands, feet, face and ears are points on the body that correspond to different body organs and systems.  Applying pressure to various reflex points can have many beneficial impacts on overall health and tightness. (all learned from being an annoying acunpunture patient that doesn’t relax and just asks a ton of questions)

I will not dig too far into the research but if you have ever been to or talked to an experienced acupuncturist, you will notice that they don’t take all their needles and simply stick them into you hamstring just because you tell them you have a tight hamstring.  You will often find needles in and around your feet, hand and wrist as well as other meridians that are associated with your specific complaint.

I will admit, when I first went to my acupuncturist for some high hamstring pain a year ago, I was a bit annoyed that he didn’t poke my high hamstring with a ton of needles. There is that intense runner personality and stubbornness.  However, I vividly remember him placing a needle in a area between my ankle and foot and all of a sudden, there was this pressure in my glute area. It was eye opening to see the relationship.  I had to pick his brain after the appointment because this idea of channels and meridians was so intriguing and would shed some light on recovery and other steps for taking care of my body aside from being glued to a foam roller.

So now that you have a general sense of how important the feet are, lets talk about how we can stretch and release them.  Before I start, let me throw a quick pro and con at you.  The PRO – it is fairly easy and can be done while your brushing your teeth, watching TV or simply having a conversation in the kitchen.  The CON – it is not the most comfortable feeling in the world…hehe (blog version of a devilish laugh).

Toe Squat – Tuck your toes and just sit back onto your heals.  Try to hold this for 2-3 minutes.  It will definitely take time to train your feet to make it through 2-3 minutes and some days are more challenging then others.  Take breaks in those 2-3 minutes by rolling onto the tops of your feet.

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Lacrosse/Tennis/Acumobility Ball – I just roll a lacrosse ball or Acumobility ball (in photos) all over my feet and focus on tender areas and the arches.  I used a racquetball to do this in a Yin Yoga class and the instructor told the class to pretend the ball was a crayon and you were drawing all over the bottom of your feet.  It seemed like a strange analogy but it actually does make perfect sense.

I can assure you that the feeling is as glamorous as my post marathon feet.

Well that is all I got for Mobility Monday! I have no real education on this topic.  I am just a girl that attempts to be graceful in yoga but my runner hips don’t lie so I watch YouTube/Instagram mobility videos and pick the brains of different professionals that do work on me 🙂

Get your mobility game on!  In an attempt to get my tired Chicago legs ready for NYC, I need all the mobility I can get!

 

2017 Chicago Marathon Recap – Failure is Not Always the Opposite of Success

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Can you feel like you succeeded but also failed at the same time? 

..because I am pretty sure that is exactly how I feel about Chicago.

My mindset was the strongest part of the entire race. I never let negative thoughts take over and constantly reminded myself of the infamous Kara Goucher line, “Once you make the decision to not fail, your heart and body will follow.”  When my energy levels hit the wall, my mind stayed determined and focused.  I knew my PR pace was fading at mile 17 but I repetitively reminded myself that I wasn’t failing, I was learning. I was learning how to keep the pace strong when the goal was no longer part of the plan. I put my head down and chipped away at each mile and fed my mind all the confidence it needed.

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I didn’t fail at Chicago.  But I didn’t succeed.  I had my eyes set on a PR and this vision was new to me.  In all my past marathons, I just ran because I love the distance.  In my first 3 marathons, I was still so new to 26.2 miles and I was still exploring the territory.  I gradually let down my guards with each marathon resulting in consistently faster times and constant PRs.  I threw 2016 San Francisco Marathon spontaneously into the mix as my fourth marathon.  Although I wanted to attempt sub 3:15, I didn’t have much expectations because it was such a spur of the moment race.  I ended up taking a risk and started with the 3:15 pacers only to find myself diving head first into the wall at mile 18.  The problem wasn’t necessarily my legs inability to tackle the hills but my mind’s inability to stay composed when this scary feeling of complete fatigue took over.  I was experiencing the exact feeling I feared when I first started tackling this distance.  I lost complete control of my emotions and just cried my way to the finish.

SF Marathon was an utter failure but once again, I had no expectations so it didn’t sting much.  I easily shook off the experience and began to prepare for Chicago 2016 in the fall.  Ultimately, Chicago was the big picture and San Francisco was like a practice run that served as a crash course on how to NOT react when you hit the wall.  I still made silly mistakes in Chicago 2016, but raced my way to a 3:13 PR.  I was ecstatic and SURPRISED.  Going into the race, I just wanted another attempt at sub 3:15 now that hills were no longer in the picture.

Then there was Boston and Big Sur.  I don’t need to elaborate on those two much because I have done enough of that.  Let’s just say that snagging a medal at the end was the only pressure I placed on myself so despite running two of my slowest marathons (other than my first), it was still a success.

Chicago 2017 was the first marathon that I truly went into with a vision and a hunger for success.  My mind was stronger than ever and I believed and still believe that my body was just as ready to PR.  I was just ready.  When the gun went off, I felt great.  Bethany and I were hitting consistent 7:25s for the first 3 miles and we slowly crept to 7:20s with a couple 7:13/15.  I was weary of the pace but I knew we were being smart and I genuinely felt solid.  At the halfway point, I felt my mind wander to negative places but I reeled it back in quickly because when I scanned my body, there were no signals of crashing.

I had a little incident with my fueling which is why I think my mind started going negative.  I stupidly only brought one gel with me to take at the first 10k mark and intended on using the gel on the course for the remaining 10k splits…however I failed to look at where the fuel would be located on the course and what it was. I would say that it was a “rookie move” but rookies don’t even do that!!!  I had the course and the water stations memorized going into my first marathon.

When mile 12 was approaching, I was not seeing any fuel stations.  I started to worry, consequently switching my focus from consistent pacing to scanning the crowd/road for a gel.  When I race, I need to be in the zone to be successful and when I get taken out of the zone mentally, it impacts my mindset and my performance a bit.

I finally spotted a fuel station and was immediately relieved….until i saw that it was…CHEWS! yuck! Oh well..this is what I get for being stupid.  I took down the chews more easily than I anticipated and my stomach didn’t react negatively so I was able to get right back into the zone by mile 14.

Around 14-15, Bethany started to creep up and although we try to stay together, I felt that my pace was perfect for me at that point.  I was clocking 7:20-7:25 and it was a pace completely driven by my body.  If I have learned anything in training over the last couple of years, it is listen to your body and be in tune with what it is telling you.  I could feel that it was telling me, “This pace is just right at this point in the race and pushing for someone else was not how to run a smart race.”  It is hard to watch someone go on without you but I reminded myself that 1.) I need to trust MY process.  Being smart will pay off in the end and maybe we can meet back up later in the race.  2.)  BETHANY IS A STRONG RUNNER AND DESERVES A PR SO GO GET IT GIRL!

Around mile 17 is when the heat started to get to me and I could tell my pace was slowing but just tried to stay consistent around 7:30-45.  I was taking in lots of Gatorade and pouring water over my head.  At this point, I knew I lost my PR opportunity but I wasn’t about to lose my mental control like at San Francisco.  I reminded myself of how I went into the race and my readiness to fight hard. Although my original intentions were to fight for a PR, I asked for this fight and now I got it. PR or not, I better get fighting.

I kept doing mental body scans, something I learned in Chi Running, and despite feeling pretty zapped from the heat, my body wasn’t in pain.  I was certainly capable of finishing it out as strong as possible.

Mile 22 -26 was an all out 7:50 grind.  I was grabbing oranges and popscicles melted sugar-water from spectators just to keep my blood sugar up.  I am very sure that Jordan Hassay and Galen Rupp weren’t just grabbing random goodies off the side of the street in Chinatown..aka…this strategy is not something you will find in ANY marathon fueling plan.  But when the heat hits, I just have to do whatever I feel is necessary during the race.  Passing out is something I really worry about so I throw my fueling strategy out the window and just become a savage for electrolytes and carbs.  My stomach starts to really hate me at this point but I just ignore it.  I wish the camera man would also ignore it because it becomes a bloated and not-so-photogenic mess by the end.  But I’ll take a stomach ache over an unconscious self in the medical tent.

I eventually hit the 1 mile left sign and just put my head down and did what I could.  Getting from the 800m marker to the 400m marker felt like the longest part of the race!  Then the finish was in sight and I just took off as much as I could.

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When I finished, my Garmin congratulated me by saying, FASTEST MARATHON – 3:12…for a split second my exhausted brain believed that silly thing but the math teacher in me kicked in shortly after and was like nope, that can’t be right.  Sure enough, my mom texted me my time and a wave of disappointment passed through.  I met up with Bethany who ended up being within 45 seconds of me for the majority of the race and we hashed it all out.

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After spending the afternoon with her, I felt like the day was a success.  I posted about it being a success because my mental game was so strong despite all the unplanned/unfortunate factors that could have pulled it down. I felt more in tune with my racing body than ever before.  The consistent and fast splits in the first half felt good and although the heat caused me to slip, I still felt strong and solid.  I walked back to my hotel room feeling proud and happy.

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I don’t know what caused this all to change as the day progressed.  Maybe finding out that there were a lot of people who did snag a PR made me feel like the heat wasn’t an excuse.  Maybe I really did execute the race poorly despite feeling so strong.  The post race nausea made my body feel so bad and I think that drove my mind into a negative spiral.  I replayed the day over in my head and tried to dig to the bottom of this weird change in feeling.  How could I feel so successful earlier in the day and now the exact opposite?

Ultimately, I realized that this was the first marathon that I truly went into with an expectation.  I showed up confident and ready to push the boundary.  It may sound crazy that I have never set a goal for myself in all my previous 7 marathons but it is true.  I woke up Sunday morning feeling more than just READY…I was excited, scared, motivated, determined and hungry for success.

In the middle of the race I was thinking about confidence and what it means.  As a competitor, confidence is needed to push outside of your comfort zone and fight for a risky goal….but sometimes confidence is the reason you have to fight.  When you don’t have a challenging goal then the race isn’t as hard, the struggle isn’t as painful and the end result doesn’t weigh too heavy on your heart.

Maybe I went into the race over-confident and now I am dealing with the post-race sting of not meeting my expectations.  Falling short of something you want flat out stinks…but I am realizing now that my mindset and execution of the race, as risky as it was, is a sign that I am growing confident in my ability to take risks in this distance.  I am developing more concrete goals.  I am proud of how eager I was to get to the start and lay it all on the line.

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Reflecting on Chicago Training

 

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My Chicago Marathon mantra

My motto for Boston was “I can and I will” because simply finishing was something I doubted and I needed that constant reminder that I could and I would. 2 weeks later in Big Sur, my mottosniftd to “limitations only exist if you let them”… I spent so much time worrying for Boston but when I arrived and the gun went off, my worries faded and I was able to just run because I made it to the start line and ultimately that was all I wanted. Sometimes our greatest limitations are absent fears that our brain has created.

Chicago training was probably one of the most solid and consistent training cycles that I have ever done. In July, I focused a lot on speed, track work and 5ks.

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I wasn’t ready to tackle the heavy mileage and did not want to rush into marathon training. I may have tackled speed a bit too aggressively because my high hamstring got annoyed. That was my cue to lay off the track and hit the roads to start some mileage training. I started slowly and really focused on being smart this cycle. My only possible regret this cycle is maybe taking a little TOO smart and cautious.

I established a solid base and my first 20 miler was late August, giving me plenty of time to throw in a couple weekends of different long runs before my final 21-miler that I usually do 3 weeks out. In th past, I would have just filled the awkward middle 2 weekends with more 18-20 but I decided to switch it up and try different workouts this time around. I jumped in the Charles River Marathon with Nicole (@girlrunseverywhere) for a fun workout that was a 3 mile warmup, 10k @ 7:09 and 8 mile cool down. I have never done that type of workout and it was actually very hard but fun to maintain a decent pae while recovering.

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Both of my 20 milers had a 5k embedded in the middle of the run and despite everything I would say about “not racing”, when that gun went off, I picked up pace and my competitive side revealed itself. I often times shocked myself with how my body was able to respond when the 5k started and all of sudden the 14 miles that were already logged didn’t seem to phase me.

This training cycle was also the first cycle where I didn’t do CrossFit and supplemented my running with a mix of large group circuit work and small group personal training. I joined a gym that offers both styles and bought a package that allows me to do small group 2 days and unlimited large group strength and metabolic condition classes. The small groups are designed based on my request and needs. I have incorporated a lot of glute and hip movements, core and stability work and one legged movements into these small group sessions. Some of the workouts are not as intense as some of those brutal 10 minute CrossFit WODs but I think it is exactly what I need if I want to try and balance strength and marathoning training.

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Not only is my body correcting itself from muscle imbalances but I am also not putting my body through the CrossFit lifts that used to really break me down and sideline me for a couple days because of overtraining.

This cycle has not only been the most consistent cycle, it was the first cycle where I did not have to take any unnecessary rest days becuase of accidentally pushing myself too hard. Everything pretty much went as planned no matter how many time I feared it wouldn’t.

I am going into tomorrow’s race excited but very curious to see how these changes will play out. I don’t know if I am more fit than I was last year when I ran my current PR because many variables are different.  My average paces have been 10-20 sec slower but my long runs had speed incorporated in them.

So what’s better?
Consistently faster paces but little variety in terms of speed workouts and long run tempo miles? CrossFit workouts that push me to my limit but then leave me feeling overtrained at times? (Past cycles)
Or
Overall slower average paces but more runs that incorporate tempo and race pace? Strength workouts that are a mix of large group strength/ metabolic conditioning classes and less intense small group stability work? (This cycle)

I really don’t know and I wish I could say that I will find out tomorrow but we all know that there are many more variables that play into Marathon performance.

What I do know is that I am excited, confident and ready to run with every ounce of heart and determination!

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