Seven Things Its Time to Reveal After Seven Marathons
About a month ago, I wrapped up the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon finishing with a negative split on the second half marathon of the race, while dropping a 6:15/mile pace from mile twenty five on in. As usual, the experience was amazing not because of the successful finish time, but because of how I felt and the way I stayed in my head the entire race. I’ve been heavily involved in endurance sports since 2010 so I’m no rookie, but this seventh attempt at the marathon distance marked the race where I finally dialed everything in. I had control. There were no questions. I was prepared for every single step of the race. This feeling in no way happened overnight…
It’s taken four years, a string of injuries which included lower back pain, IT band syndrome, knee tendonitis and a stress fracture to knock some sense into me. My high mileage training was accompanied by a diet heavily concentrated on carbohydrates and processed foods, yet now I find myself completely focused on lean proteins, healthy fats and vegetables, while only putting in no more than twenty miles a week in training. I’ve experienced a drastic change in my run technique, one that will lead to a lifetime of successful injury-free running. I’ve followed this path so far that I’ve switched careers to share what I’ve learned and Coach individuals on this evolving endurance method. Putting in countless hours of testing to this lifestyle-based approach to endurance training has not been easy but it has been fun. It’s exciting to be training different than most, yet it’s revealed plenty…
#1 Human Movement Will Never Lie
Unless you’re hit by a car or shoved off your skateboard (this once happened to me in college) injuries are a result of deviation from proper human movement. If you feel pain during or after running, you’re not running functionally. To date, run technique is rarely taught to endurance athletes. Strap on the shoes, head out the door for your run and you’re good to go. Do you know how many times your foot hits the ground over the course of a mile? 2,000. Add that up with three times your body weight on each strike and it should be obvious why incorrect movement leads to injury. This doesn’t just go for running.
#2 Think Quality Training Over Quantity
Once you’ve run 26.2 Miles once, what’s to say you can’t do it again? My first marathon was Thunder Road in Charlotte, NC. I trained hard and often hitting close to forty plus miles per week. I felt beat up, knew nothing about run technique, hit many road blocks that haulted training and came down with injuries I’d never seen before going after this goal. Don’t get me wrong my first results were great, a Boston BQ in a time of 3:06, but at what cost to my body and lifestyle?
Flash forward to 2014, where one month ago I ran the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in a time of 2:51:49, gas in the tank for more and with only eighteen miles at peak training week I couldn’t have been happier. I averaged close to fifteen miles throughout training, not so much due simply to program design, but the time available within my busy life. What I can tell you is that every single hour had purpose. There were no “recovery” runs to be found, but purposeful interval and strength days designed to cut my training in half. You don’t need as much time as you think you need. It just depends how you’re using your time.
#3 Durability Isn’t Made on the Streets
How you move and the quality of your training determines if you will withstand injury. Part of a quality training program, includes strength and conditioning, at least that’s what I’ve found. There are many runners out there who just want to hit the streets because it gives them their “fix” but what happens when that “fix” is taken away? Do you stick to the same method that sent you to the bench? As a young runner, I was banged up twenty-four seven, tired and severely run down on heavy training weeks. Training for the Monumental wasn’t like that at all. I was able to spend lots of time with Lindsay, the love of my life and still compete at a high level. I’ve found out that the best thing I could have ever done was walk into CrossFit Hilton Head. It changed my perspective on life, training and ultimately my career. I’ve figured out that if I want to run the rest of my life and withstand the pounding of endurance sports, strength training is a must. Up in Indy, I felt tall, strong and fit the entire way. When I think about my muscle soreness the next day, it was next to nothing compared to the marathons I used to do with little to no strength training. I’ve gone from 145pounds to 165pounds in making the transition yet oddly enough my times are still getting faster. Forget racing weight, think durability.
Develop Consistent Mobility Habits
If you had asked me four years ago to perform SMR daily, I would have looked at you with two heads. First off, I would have been confused regarding the three-letter acronym, and secondly I would have told you I don’t have enough “time” to work that into my training. Dr. Kelly Starrett, the Doctor of Physical Therapy who put self-myofascial release on the map, recently published a book called Ready to Run. It details twelve functional standards which all runners can use to assess their state of readiness to run. This book is a must read for anyone who thinks they don’t have enough “time” for mobility.
You mean there’s more than just static stretching? Way more. I’ve uncovered that when I’m not consistent with rolling out my feet, shins, and hips, I’m way more susceptible to injury and I notice decreases in my performance. I’m at a point now where I know my “hot spots” and attempt to tend to them religiously, especially prior to racing. You can bet that prior to the Monumental, habits were still in place.
Go Out Too Fast and It’s Over
When you were younger, didn’t you hate when people told you that you were just “too young” to understand? After four years of endurance sports, this phrase finally makes complete sense to me. There’s no question to why most solid endurance athletes are in their early thirties. Do you think it’s because they’ve quite possibly received some experience? Maybe already made the mistakes? Pacing is a big one.
At the Monumental Marathon, I remember running in this pack for a solid sixteen miles of the race. All of us were holding 6:30-6:35/pace and there were literally twenty of us all grouped up. One of the runners at the front turns to me an asks, “How many marathons have you run?” I had to think about it for a second, but quickly responded “Seven, how about you?” Taken back by the number I’ve completed, the young man explained, “This is my first one.” And right then and there, I knew he was in trouble. I could tell that the pace he was holding was just too fast for his breath. Couple that with excited chit chatter, dictating the pack, and no nutrition protocol in sight, I knew he was going to fade. After this moment, I let a few of the pack go and stuck to my game plan simply wanting to run sub 2:55 with the opportunity to feel good and push at the end. It wasn’t long after maintaining my predetermined race pace that I caught this young man around mile eighteen. Sure enough his pace had slowed. Man, I felt back, but patted myself on the back for sticking to my guns.
Stick to Your “TESTED” Nutrition Plan
GU energy gels, Cliff Shots, Honey Bee Stingers, where do I begin? Nutrition throws people such a curve ball in endurance events that it’s not even funny. The market is loaded with so many options it will leave you overwhelmed. What I’ve learned after all these events is that you have to test everything and anything in training. Thinking back to my most successful races out of the seven marathons and two full Ironman events I’ve completed, it’s all come down to the nutrition. If you’re going to use the less healthy option of sugar, replace often and be exact. At the Monumental (or any race for that matter) I like to use the course because it eliminates a lot of variables. This time around I carried one bottle of concentrated EFS and hit Gatorade towards the end of the race. I felt phenomenal the entire way sipping every twenty minutes and experienced very little issues. It was because I tested this in training, had experience from past races and stuck to the plan. This aspect in racing is too easy to screw up.
If Your Heads Wrong You’re in Trouble
Confidence is king when it comes to endurance events. It’s just like when you start your first job and three months on the job you feel like “Man, I just may not be cut out for this” and then two years later you’re like “how didn’t I know this before?” It takes time, repetitions and experiences to get your head right. At the marathon distance, understanding how it’s going to feel at mile twenty and what your breathing should be like for a race of this distance takes going thru it. No one hits a home run their first time up to bat.
Even if you dial in your training, pacing, and nutrition on race day, you have to believe you’re going to hit your goal time. At the Monumental, I was truly relaxed and confident stepping to the frigid starting line. As the race went on, I knew it was going to be a good day. I thought about it as being a great day. At this kind of distance, it’s important your thoughts are completely positive. No matter how you’re feeling or the amount of training you’ve put in this just isn’t the time for you to get negative. I stepped up to the line in Indy fully knowing I’d only run thirteen miles in training. What did my head know though? Hopefully you’ve been paying attention.
By revealing these seven things, I’ve learned from seven marathons, my hopes are that they will shed some light on your training program for your next event. It’s never to late to make a change and just because everyone’s doing it doesn’t mean you should too. My opinion should be clear that Training doesn’t have to take up your life as long as you get yourself durable, respect human movement, and focus on quality over quantity. Figure out how to develop a precise mobility routine, calculate pacing and test your nutrition. Cross all those t’s and dot all those i’s and I’m confident it’ll get your head right.