Last Sunday, I ran the 2018 Marine Corps Marathon with Grassroots Soccer and fellow soccer teammates from my childhood team, Albertson Fury. I ran the marathon in 3:58 and 58 seconds. I beat my goal time of 4 hours by 1 minute and 2 seconds. STILL NOT OVER IT!
I am proud to say that I shaved 22 minutes off of the first marathon that I completed in 2016. I am even prouder to say that I actually LOVED my holistic training approach this time around. It was a nice balance between pushing my limits and listening to my body...
That being said, there is always room for improvement, so I wanted to share what worked, what didn't and what I wish I did! Perhaps these tips will help you, perhaps they won't...just remember that everyone is different and the only way that you'll know is if you trial and error with your training. Here we go!
WHAT WORKED FOR ME
PRE RUN & POST RUN NUTRITION
Night before big run= Water, Brown rice pasta, spinach, roasted pepper sauce, ground turkey OR big massaged kale salad with roasted sweet potatoes, grilled chicken, broccoli, extra virgin olive oil, pumpkin seeds
Pre run breakfast= Water, 1 cup of coffee with MCT oil, 1 piece of Ezekiel toast with almond butter and chopped apple or banana.
Intra run= Whole food energy from Wedderspoon Manuka Honey to-go packets or 2 pitless dates [for whenever I truly needed that energy]
Post run meal= Water and Coconut water, big green salad of kale or spinach and top with roasted squash or sweet potatoes, boiled eggs, fermented beets, extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar OR coconut water, blueberry, spinach protein smoothies
LISTEN TO INJURIES
3 MONTHS OUT -- I got badly injured in July while playing intramural soccer in NYC's Bowery League. At first I thought I broke my ankle, but thank goodness I didn't [I believe it was torn ligaments].
Instead of sulking and filling my head with negative thoughts "I won't be able to train, I won't beat my goal time, I won't be ready" -- I decided to flip the script and stay positive.
I really enjoyed the rest time and completed strictly low impact workouts [like walking or pilates] until my ankle fully healed. I truly listened to when it was ready to start running again [1 whole month and 2 weeks later]. Trust in your body's recovery process and don't start too soon. THIS WAS KEY.
1 MONTH OUT -- From what I believe was overcompensation because of my ankle injury, my left knee started to feel severe pain after mile 8. This scared the sh*t out of me.
During my taper 20 miler, 18 miler and 10 miler, my knee was in agony. It felt like my knee cap was scraping up against the side of my leg and as soon as I would stop running, it would blow up like a balloon. I wouldn't be able to bend my leg or walk without feeling like I was going to cry.
Staying positive, I REDUCED RUNNING DOWN TO 2X A WEEK with 2 weeks left. I listened to my body and did not complete a run UNLESS the pain was gone beforehand. This was extremely hard, mentally..but I knew that my multiple month's of hard work would not just disappear. I had to stay strong.
WHAT WORKED FOR ME AND MY HORMONES
Running long distances can truly throw your hormones out of whack [especially for us ladies]. This way of training and working our bodies can raise our cortisol levels and cause extreme highs and lows causing a domino affect on the rest of our hormones like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, androgens, etc. SYMPTOMS OF IMBALANCES: hormonal acne, the inability to keep muscle tone, mood swings, lost period or extremely painful period, anxiety, inability to cope with stress, sleep problems AND THE LIST GOES ON!
I have suffered from amenorrhea [missing period] for almost 10 years due to birth control and it was my personal mission to get my cycles back on track for my future health. Therefore, I asked my coach, Sam Tooley, to bring my running down to 3x a week MAX.
Long story, short - I didn't burn out. I got my period back. And I loved my training. *More on this in a future post*
CRYOTHERAPY FOR RECOVERY
Cryotherapy is a pain treatment that uses a method of localized freezing temperatures to deaden an irritated nerve. It is incredible for muscle recovery!
Yes, it can be expensive. You're right. But I only went to cryotherapy when my ankle or knee was in a bad state. I swear that Cryotherapy reduced my joint pain and soreness by almost 50% every time I went. I would fall asleep like a baby and wake up feeling like a brand new baby...you know what I mean? [TIP: Check on Groupon, they always have deals for cryo near you]
CRYOVIGOR - My favorite place to go to in NYC! They are extremely nice and the facility is beautiful. My favorite part was that they tell you the scientific benefits of how cryotherapy works while you're in the chamber.
I MADE time to roll out before/after my workouts with my Nike foam roller
I highly suggest spending time to find those knots. Hold them for 30 seconds, no matter how hard you want to cry.
EPSOM SALT BATHS
Post marathon when I felt like I aged 38 years, this was my SAVING GRACE.
I got my epsom salt bag from CVS. I drew a warm bath, poured 2-3 cups of salt in, added Young Living Essential Oils like Panaway or Stress away and just soaked for 20 minutes. I tried to do this everyday this week!
This not only helped me sleep like a baby and speed up recovery but it also gave me my dose of magnesium!
WORKING WITH A RUNNING COACH
Coach Sam Tooley [and friend] from Alpha Performance provided me with a personalized running plan for this marathon. He sent me daily inspiration and motivational videos that pushed me through my runs. Coach was always checking in on me and holding me accountable through the STRAVA APP [see screen shot below]. I highly suggest hiring a running coach for your next race!
Pssst. Sam is an online coach so hit him up and virtually work with him from anywhere!
Receiving endless amount of support from my family, my boyfriend, my coach and my friends. I can't thank them enough for pushing me past my limits and being there with me through thick and thin - through the good running highs and the bad lows of giving up hope when I was injured.
Find people who are your cheerleaders and who are happy for you. Surround yourself around those who are excited for you and your goals. Those people are worth keeping around.
Top= Nike muscle tanks knotted at mid-waist
Leggings= Lululemon Fast & Free Full Length Tight Nulux 28 inches *OK these were the best running leggings I have ever worn. They have side pockets perfect for your keys, headphones [when they die mid run] or phone!
Shoes= Nike Pegasus 35 *I bought 3-pairs and kept rotating them throughout training
Headphones= Wireless Bluetooth Beats by Dre headphones
Running hat= My lucky Fairfield University hat to keep my hair out of my face
Running belt= To pack my energy [honey or dates] and credit card
I have never done this before as an athlete and I am kicking myself for not doing it sooner! Visualizing me successfully finishing this race and crossing the finish line under my goal time was picture-perfect and motivational. If you SEE your dream happening, it will.
You can get REALLY SICK of your music REALLY QUICK. I highly suggest downloading and following multiple playlists before you leave your wifi-filled home. You'll need them downloaded before you hit the road just incase you don't have service!
DOING MY LONG RUNS IN DIFFERENT STATES
Running on the same route can get really frickin' boring. I loved that I did my long runs in different areas throughout the summer while I was traveling. Central Park and East River in NYC, Long Beach board walk on Long Island, Castle Island in Boston, New Jersey..oh and the hardest one.. 16 miler in Colorado. The elevation was a huge challenge but it was amazing to see the city!
WORRYING ABOUT ME, MYSELF AND I
This was huge. I didn't care what other runner's times were in the past, or in their current training. I did not compare myself to my other friends who were running.
I worried about myself and my personal goals. There is a difference between being competitive with others and being competitive with myself...and I worried about being competitive with myself. I pushed MYSELF to beat previous times of my own. This is personal growth.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK FOR ME
EATING REFINED CARBS
Refined carbs/sugars include white pasta, white rice, pre made energy gels, gatorade, etc. Contrary to popular belief that you have to eat all of this stuff during training, I was better off without it! Although my body was craving energy constantly, I tried to steer clear from these foods.
I knew that these foods leave me feeling EXHAUSTED, heavy and sad. I wanted to eat foods that made me feel STRONG, MOTIVATED, LIGHT AS THE WIND. Therefore I focused on whole-food sources and complex carbs/sugars like sweet potatoes, butternut squash, brown rice, rolled oats, raw honey. Anything filled with fiber and healthy nutrients!
SWITCH IN DIET: UNUSAL BIG INCREASE IN CARBOHYDRATES
I don't like to LABEL the way that I eat. However, I usually eat more plant-based and minimal refined carbs. I tend to get majority of my starchy and non-starchy carbohydrates from veggies, legumes and tubers.
However, when training, I noticed my body telling me "I NEED ENERGY, EAT MORE CARBS AND SUGAR!". Although I focused on healthier options, carbs are carbs and sugar is sugar.
With this big surplus of carbs coming in, the food still threw my blood sugar out of whack.
I noticed that I was becoming addicted to caffeine, sugar and carbs throughout my training. This is OKAY and it is a consequence of training this way!
It's important to note that now that the race is over, I want to get off of this blood sugar rollercoaster [I hate rides]. I am going to take my time post-marathon to eat a blood sugar balanced diet full of clean grass-fed proteins, healthy fats, fiber, veggies and non-starchy carbs! Time to get my hormones back on track! [pun intended]
NOT STAYING ON PACE/RUNNING TOO FAST OUT OF THE GATE
During the race, I remember looking down at my mile times thinking "Holy shiz, this is the fastest I have ever ran these miles". I remember thinking, "I feel so good why do I have to slow down?" I even passed by the 4 hour pace group. Must have been the adrenaline!
BIG. MISTAKE. I blame my overzealousness for bonking towards the end of my race. At one point, I was so exhausted and slow that I thought I was running backwards... In my head I thought I was not going to finish the race. Thankfully, energy was heaven sent to me the last mile!
If I can go back, I would have stayed with the pace group. That would have saved my energy stores and made my race a much better experience!
WHAT I WISH I COULD TELL MYSELF 4-MONTHS AGO
STICK WITH STRENGTH TRAINING
When I ran my first marathon in 2016. I did not strength train at all [hence why my time was not what I wanted]. This race I told myself that I would strength train more to make sure I maintained lean muscle and stayed injury-free. However, I went against my word and did not stay consistent with a strength training schedule.
If I could do this over again, I would have strength trained 2x a week to ensure that I did not have any muscle imbalances.
GO TO DOCTOR AND DO PHYSICAL THERAPY
With my ankle and knee injury, I wish I went to physical therapy 1-2x a week to make sure that I was taking care of my problems right away. I also feel like it would have helped fix some of my muscle imbalances.
USE A RUNNING WATCH: YOUR DAMN IPHONE IS TOO BIG TO HOLD
I wish I used my Nike apple running watch. It would have been easier to look at my times instead of holding my phone in my hand!
TRAIN WITH A RUNNING GROUP
My friend Imani trained with her NIKE RUNNING group in NYC. She said that it held her accountable and helped her learn her race pace. She even made besties with her pace group! That sense of togetherness is what I think I needed for my training. Training alone is great but training as a pack is better. At least for me!
MOVING FORWARD: NOW WHAT?
I feel EMPOWERED and I am SO frickin' proud of myself. I feel that this training taught me about mental strength and resilience. It taught me about self-discipline and getting out of my comfort zone to achieve my goal.
But....[and a big but],
Training hard for months and running for 26.2 miles is just not for ME and MY body and MY goals and MY lifestyle. The damage that long distance running puts on MY hormones and joint health is not suitable for my longevity [which is something that I value, living a lifestyle for longevity].
Don't get me wrong, marathoners are incredibly strong people and deserve all of the credit in the world especially if it is something that they are passionate about... but you know what, it's not my passion. Running a marathon does not bring ME joy and happiness.
I am truly looking forward to running 10-13 mile races in the future because I know that my body can handle the training in a healthy way. I am also stoked to get back into strength training and HIIT workouts, which I look and feel my best with!
At the end of the day, do what is best for you and WHO CARES WHAT OTHERS THINK? This is your body, it's your home. Take care of it and challenge it as you wish.
I hope that my experience can help you with your next race! GO GET EM'...OR NOT. That's your prerogative.
IIN Holistic Health Coach
Hormone Health Specialist