I’m not an expert, but when I find things that work for me, I hold on tight and never let go [exaggeration]. It took a while for me to finally figure out my running do’s and don’ts. It really is not a process you should rush. I will be very honest about this and if you’re looking for a quick answer, you will not find it here. But I hope you can trust me and continue reading. It took me two years of committed running to figure out my nutrition strategy, two years to find the perfect shoe, and after six years of running, I am still trying to figure a lot of things out: strength training, speed work, recovery runs, and yes…rest days. I would be lying if I said that I have the perfect system- heck, I don’t know if I will ever find perfection. What I do know (and am choosing to accept) is that our bodies are constantly changing and what is working for me right now may not work in five years, but I am okay with that.
I am always more than happy to share my nutrition strategies if individuals are interested. However, I want to focus on something I have been reflecting on more recently and the impact it has had on my running. I am talking about the quality of races over the quantity of races. Maybe if I had more money I would run more races, but I think I enjoy running 2-3 high quality races per year. I am not saying that racing all of the time is bad and they are never “high-quality” runs. If you are racing every weekend then good for you! I will never discourage someone from being physically active and having fun. I will say though, from my own running experience is that I believe I have been able to perform better on race day because I have the “it’s now or never” mentality. By only running one marathon per year, if I don’t run a PR then I have to wait an entire year before I give it a go again. It adds an extra element of competition. The downtime between races allows my body to recover and give me the time needed to deeply reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of my training. Do I miss the excitement of race days? Of course! But I think they are that much more special when my big day comes.
If you feel like your running has plateaued, I challenge you to take the time to sit down and evaluate your running. How often are you racing? More importantly for all you obsessed runners out there like myself, how often are you resting? Easy runs aren’t junk miles and you won’t lose all of your fitness by taking a rest day. In fact, your body will actually become stronger since it will have the opportunity to repair muscle fibers.
I took two weeks off from running after the Boston Marathon. The first week I did absolutely nothing except take my dog on some walks here and there. The second week I hit the elliptical a couple days and incorporated some upper body strength training. I committed myself to having an entire month devoted to recovery runs. So for the bulk of May, I ran no more than 60 minutes with most runs being only 3-5 miles. This worked nicely since I had to adjust to altitude here in Colorado, but just this past week my body has naturally been getting faster and faster- effortlessly. Two weekends ago, I went for an easy 8 mile run and I didn’t struggle at all! My body knew exactly what to do. On a whim I signed up for the BolderBoulder 10k with no race day expectations at all. Okay that’s a fib, but I knew I wanted to run my first 10k in under 48 minutes. Altitude running is hard and hills feel 10x larger, so if I could just finish in 48 minutes that would be a successful day in the books. Let me just start by saying, I crushed that 48 minute goal. I PRed with a 46:17. My 5th mile was sub-7 minutes and the entire race I could not believe the pace my body was pushing. I almost ran a perfect negative split race starting with a 7:42 mile working my way down to 6:51 and unfortunately the hill into the stadium go me, but I am still super excited about my time. The race was incredible and I now know why it is “America’s Greatest 10k.” Add this one to your bucket list, because it is worth every penny. The expo, the crowd, the elites, the mountains, the stadium finish, and the memorial day tribute were all absolutely incredible.
So what’s next? I’m still not quite sure. I haven’t decided whether to commit to another full or not in the fall. It is very tempting, but I am trying to be strategic about the rest of 2017. For now I am going to bask in another PR and perfect race before I start thinking ahead.