Man, what a year. I surprised myself a few times along the way — both in terms of race times but even more so in the amount of work I was willing to put in. I ran 16 miles on the treadmill, I never missed a speed session — hell, I never missed a run, period. Other than an off day when I strained my calf in the spring, the only days I took off were planned recovery days. With just a couple of exceptions, I didn’t shuffle runs around or otherwise procrastinate. Nasty women get shit done.
In terms of racing, I set NINE new personal bests in seven different distances including the half-marathon twice and full marathon twice. And I not only broke 3 hours, I was 3 seconds shy of breaking it by 3 minutes. Honestly, coming into this year, I thought it might take another year before I got under 3. Instead, I took 13 minutes of my time from Indy 2015 to Indy 2016. Look, those big jumps don’t come often, so as fun as it would be to lob another 13 off next year, I know that’s not going to happen. And that’s okay.
Quick stats before I start rambling:
- Miles run: 2,808.75 (either the year was going to be uneven or the week was; 754 more than last year, a 37 percent increase)
- Time spent running: 371 hours, 13 minutes (105 hours more than 2015)
- Longest run: 26.42 (Carmel bonus weaving mileage; also does not take into account my FR35 lost its mind at Indy and actually reported 30 miles)
- Average run distance: 7.26 miles (last year 6.71)
- Average run time: 57:33 (last year 52:14)
- Average pace: 7:54 (7:47 last year — 754 more miles necessitates adequate recovery pace)
- Races run: 13
- Races won: 3 (ran more competitive races this year, so also very pleased with 4th and 9th overall female at my marathons and 5th female at both half marathons)
- PRs set: 9
So, what did I do differently that made it such a great year of racing? I hired a coach. I’ll give myself plenty of credit for doing the work — but I can’t understate the impact working with Matt Ebersole had. First, I actually did speed work. Twice a week, pretty much every week this year (except post-marathon, I get a couple weeks off!). We built my mileage up to levels I haven’t seen since 2009, and did it in smarter and more effective ways than I did back then. I did a gajillion long runs — 7 runs of 20-22 leading up to Indy — but usually every-other weekend with 12-14 miles with speed in-between. That alone made marathon training so much more bearable. When you grind out an 18 miler and then have to run 20 the next weekend, that’s mentally taxing.
But the nuts and bolts of the training plan are replicable, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s the same type of principles you’ll see in most plans.
Instead, Matt helped me rethink my approach to training, to racing, to running in general.
Training isn’t something you do in free-standing chunks. Each training cycle builds on the next — and just as important is what you’re doing between those cycles. I don’t even see those cycles as the 12 or 16 week blocks like I used to — it’s just a continual process. I don’t “start” training, I’m just always training.
And before you think that sounds like a surefire way to burn out, it’s not like that, either. I think it’s actually better. There’s a different type of pressure when you’ve been bumming around a bit and then you go, “Okay, on Monday I start training and I’ll do all these runs listed for the next 12 weeks.”
Coach updates my plan every three weeks, and that’s more how I view it. Just a three week block to tackle at a time, not 12 or 16 — like how you eat an elephant.
I’ve also reached a point where I run pretty much every day. I don’t think of it as a streak, and I have no qualms about taking off days when needed. But if you keep your recovery days as true recovery, you don’t need as many days off.
When he mentioned shifting to running every day, I was like, “You’ll pry my off days from my cold, dead hands.”
But he is right: “If you run every day, you never question if you’re running.” I wake up, and I know I’m running that day.
Things that worked:
- Making friends with the treadmill. It eliminates excuses and can be a helpful training tool.
- Hammer Nutrition, especially Recoverite, Endurolytes, Hammer Gels, Endurolytes Fizz, and my three new favorites — Tissue Rejuvenator, Race Day Boost and Fully Charged.
- Regular massage every 3 weeks
- Dry needling (two sessions each on my calf in the spring and hamstring in the fall)
- More stretching and strength training, and not being able to skip on it because I’m the instructor
- Meal prepping and eating more vegetables by eating vegetarian until dinner during the week (the weekends I kind of wing it; some days are completely vegetarian and sometimes I want chili at lunch)
- Dry shampoo
Things that didn’t:
- My Garmin at Indy, and optical HR in general while I’m on the topic
- Working a high-stress, weird hours job not really close to home, gym or running friends (so I changed jobs in April)
Goal setting and reviewing
Last year’s goals were (verbatim, copy-and-pasted):
- √ Do what my coach tells me — every bit of it, even the hard stuff. Note: Typically he tells me to back off before I would tell myself.
- √ Set a new PR in the marathon/break 3:10 (basically the same goal). Note: Under 3:10 both times, new PRs both times … and man, that 2:57 still feels awfully good.
- √ Run at least 2,260 miles (10% increase over 2015) Note: 2,808 final tally. 124% of goal
- √ Earn my Pilates instructor certification Note: I’ve been teaching since mid-February! As many as 5 classes a week but holding steady at 2 for now.
- Do what Coach says — every bit of it, especially the hard stuff. This stays a goal because it worked pretty darn well this year.
- Race not just for time but for place. Race for position and fast times will follow (via coach).
- Run 3,000 miles (7% increase)
- Find practical strategies to improve form and make them happen.
A big thank you to the people and products who made this year such a success:
- My husband
- Coach Matt Ebersole and all of Team PBT (Jen, Karrie, Kelby, Lucie, Kim, Jackie, Jasmine, Trena, Lori, Blake, Jesse, and many more!)
- My running crew: Rebekah, Diane, Amanda, Laine; and my virtual running crew at Salty Running
- New Balance Louisville for making sure I had the shoes and clothes I needed
- Hammer Nutrition for the great advice, products and continuous support
- Sarah Marie Design Studio’s Sarah and all the love from the other ambassadors
- My massage therapist Anne, sports chiro/soft tissue magician Dr. Kyle Bowling, and physical therapist/anatomical guru Gwen
- The staff at Baptist/Milestone Wellness Center (especially Sue) for giving me a chance to spread the Pilates love and being my home-away-from-home a lot of days. Sure, they tease me for being on the treadmill for 90 minutes or for having a backpack as big as I am, but I know they love me.