Since my most recent marathon, I’ve had lots of questions thrown at me. Some funny and all thought-provoking.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Susie, what happened!?
- How many miles do you run each week?
- Have you ever thought of hiring a coach?
- Olympic Trials, does that mean you’re going to the Olympics?
- So you qualified for the Olympic Trials… but have you ever run Boston?
- What do you think about when running a marathon like that?
- What sorts of things can you do to get faster?
If you’ve wondered something along these same lines, I hope to give answers. I’ll keep it rated-G and not give entirely Too Much Information along the way but probably just a little TMI. Let’s start with this…
Susie, what happened!?
This question came at me from our running club manager who was probably the most surprised of anyone on the face of the earth to learn of my finish at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. He’s the same someone who at a team meeting about a year prior, where we were planning a major overhaul of our team structure, asked me, “Susie, what are your thoughts? I mean, you’ll never be on the ‘A’ team, but what do you think about x, y, and z?” Even though we don’t really even have an A/B team structure, his insinuation was that I would just never be among the top of the group. Isn’t that awesome! Ha. Trust me, I expressed my thoughts on x, y and z, AND I gave a pretty big hint that the team hadn’t seen the best of me yet. I wasn’t kidding. Trust me also, no hard feelings whatsoever. In fact, it’s snide comments like that which make me want to train harder. And it made his, “I’m really impressed!” at the end of the same email mean all that much more.
So, really, Susie, what happened?
What happened is that I worked my butt off.
Plain and simple. No mystery. No gimmicks. Just good old-fashioned hard work.
These two were with me so, SO much of the way.
Okay, you can’t see Baby Boy’s head here, but he was there.
I can hardly count the miles we have done with this rig… bike, baby, Burley – check
But the last year and a half of training was a long road because…
During pregnancy, I had done a decent job of taking care of my baby but not myself.
I entered motherhood with the sweetest baby ever. Before him, I never thought a baby could be cuter than a puppy.
But this one was for sure cuter!
And so I had a cute baby boy and good 30+ lbs to lose.
Thankfully, I did. Then (left)…. compared to…… today (right).
The running was not the ticket, though. As soon as I was able (after a c-section that was a looong while) I was back to running but it was very, very easy. It was just enough to get me moving, get some fresh air, and get Baby Boy used to being in the jog stroller, which, to this day, he still loves. Thankfully. Along side of the running, I started to do some pretty serious strength workouts. This is where the metamorphosis began. Mostly it was body-weight oriented at first and that was fine since I was quite the heavyweight at the time.
One of my favorite workouts (man, it’s hard!) that I still do about once a week is: 100 push-ups, 100 squats (just air squats), 100 shoulder bridges (lying on the floor, lift butt) and 100 inverted rows (take a sturdy pole of some sort and put it over two kitchen counters or between one counter and an island – lay underneath and pull up; I promise that it will suck the life out of your arms). At first, I would take as long as I needed to do the workout and I would go for time. It would take me forever, like most of an hour. Gradually, I got stronger and my time reduced. I was feeling better and better and better, too. Now I can do the same workout in about 15 minutes (or less on a good day). I still do weekly workouts like this that are actually quite a bit harder, and I know I’m a stronger runner because of it.
Oh, and I suffered from pretty noticeable diastasis recti. You know, where the two halves of the rectus abdominus sort of bow. The diastasis leaves the Pillsbury Doughboy effect in and around the navel. You could practically reach all the way into my guts. Nice. So at first, I was very easy on myself and tried to do all of the “diastasis recti” exercises you can find on the internet. The ones that feel like you’re doing nothing. Because you really aren’t. Okay, no, don’t listen to me. Do the exercises! But I just wasn’t progressing in the way I felt I needed to. So I took matters into my own hands. I purchased a relatively cheap abdominal belt for problems such as this, and I wore that sucker all the time during my strength workouts. It was a pain, but I could tell that it helped to sort of “hold things together” – literally I needed help to keep my “six-pack” in a pack. And now my diastasis is very much improved, if not totally gone.
Some things I think about with planning strength training:
- I typically do one kick-butt workout a week that lasts from 45 min. to an hour. I lift heavy weights/kettlebells (there’s no “toning” in my house) and I do explosive body weight exercises like box jumps, jump lunges and so forth. I do this workout in circuits, typically four circuits that each last about 10-15 minutes. Here’s the kicker, between the circuits I don’t just stand around and sip Skratch, a favorite hydration mix of mine. No, I guzzle some water (well, sometimes Skratch, if I’ve planned well and had the foresight to bring it with me to the workout) as quickly as I can because I’m dying of thirst, and then I sprint uphill on my treadmill for two minutes or for a certain distance – somewhere around .25 to .35 of a mile (this is the suckiest part; it hurts so bad!). Really, trust me, it hurts! And by the end of the 2 minutes, I’m SO ready to throw some more kettlebell iron around. It makes the weight-lifting hurt so good.
- Outside of my one super-set of strength training, I do tons and tons of Pilates. It’s relaxing, yet it gets deep in the core. I love it. Plus teaching Pilates is one of my favorite things in the world. I love to challenge myself and my clients. It’s just a beautiful thing to see someone do a great Teaser for the first or fiftieth time.
- Lastly, I incorporate bits of strength training throughout the week. A few push-ups here. A few squats there. I try to keep my muscles guessing. I know that doing any sort of strength work when I’m a little sore is actually going to help me recover faster. It’s a blood flow thing.
So, strength training, to me, is a necessity and a huge part of ‘what happened‘ to me, but besides that mileage does play a pretty big role. So, next question…
How many miles do you run each week?
Presently, my max mileage is 100 miles per week. I base the other weeks off of that number. For instance, I may do two 100-mile weeks and then do a recovery week of 10% less, so 90. Then I may go back to 100 for a week or two. As I approach a race, I may back off by 30-40% so 70 or 60 miles. The week before a big race like a key marathon, I’ll back off by 60% so only 40 miles. I believe that high mileage played a big part in what happened to me to run a 14-minute marathon PR. BUT the strength training also played a large role. Not only are quantity of miles a huge factor, but quality. I would estimate that around 25% of my miles were of an average of 90% of my marathon race pace. Just an average. For recovery or after something really hard, I’m much closer to 60% of marathon race pace (in the 8:20-8:30 range) and on a medium-easy days more like 70% (7:30-7:45ish). It’s a lot of numbers and I’m learning that the numbers are very important. I don’t have it all figured out but percentages of race pace is how I determine training paces. Maybe sometime I’ll get around to sharing how I figure those numbers, but that is not going to happen right now.
Have you ever thought of getting a coach?
No. Well, yes, I have trained under a coach in the past, but my progression has been more fluid and faster since stepping into the role myself. So, I’m self-coached. Sometimes I bounce ideas off of my husband. He’ll say stuff I don’t want to hear like, “You should run more hills.” Knowing he’s right, I hang my head for a second and then I go run hills. But no, I plan all of my own workouts, mostly taking ideas from various world-renowned run coaches. My favorite is Renato Canova. You have to dig a little (on the internet) but there is a lot of info out there detailing his ideas. He’s a hard-charger. His workouts seemed pretty crazy to me at first, but the ideas I’ve adopted from him have helped me work to extend a faster pace over the marathon distance. Were he (Canova) to look at my training log, I’m sure he’d say, “Oh, that’s cute…” and then chuckle. But, for me it’s doing the trick. I look forward to planning my training, and I still like myself once I’ve finished the workouts I’ve prescribed to myself. At least, I’m not ready to fire myself just yet. So that’s all good.
Olympic Trials, does that mean you’re going to the Olympics?
Not so fast. Running a 2:42:35 marathon means that I qualified to run in a race with the fastest women in the country. That race is February 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, CA. The top three finishers of that race will run in the summer Olympic’s Marathon in Rio. There will likely be somewhere around 150 women running in that Trials race, so there will be a ton of competition. The winner will run somewhere around the low 2:20s. So fast. Very fast. Right now, I ran a ‘B’ standard which means I earned the right to go. There is also an ‘A’ standard, 2:37; wherein running that standard, the USA Track & Field pays the way to go to LA and for lodging, etc. So the next 12+ months would be a good time to try and shoot for an ‘A’ standard race, which I aim to do.
So you qualified for the Olympic Trials, but… have you ever run Boston?
Boston, blessed Boston. Boston, yes, is an AMAZING race. Amazing place, an amazingly classic marathon, and I will forever be amazed at anyone who earns the right to run it. I’ve run Boston, but qualifying to compete in the Olympic Trials Marathon was, well, much more difficult. I had to run almost an hour faster to qualify to run in the Trials, compared to my age-group’s Boston qualifying standard. It’s like the Trials runner would finish over nine miles in front of the Boston qualifier. The Trials standard is a whole new ballgame.
What do you think about when running a marathon like that (my most recent 2:42)?
This is a great question. I’d say it depends. But this marathon was the most introspective marathon I’ve run. My focus was at an extremely higher level than almost any other race. So, truly, I was thinking about each mile (practically each step) and about my pace almost the entire time. Otherwise, when I’m running around home, I’m most often doing a somewhat easier run, and I use the time to clear my head. I don’t feel like I think about all that much at all, but actually, I probably do. It’s running where I’ve encountered some of my most creative thoughts. So I use the time to just be me.
What sorts of things can you do to get faster?
What a million dollar question. I love, too, that this came from a person who wouldn’t run a marathon if someone paid him a million dollars. But truly, how many people stop to think through this question? Well, between now and the California International Marathon in one month, I plan to focus on recovery. I’ll build up to do one more 100 mi week and include three key workouts in the next two weeks which will all be very marathon pace specific. Then it will be time to take it a bit easier again for the two weeks prior to the race. As for 2015, besides a lot more of the same, I have some ideas of additional stuff I can do, but I’ll have to leave this one…
to be continued…