Thursday, November 12, 2015

26.2 Lessons Learned From My Marathon

I thought this deserved a post of its own... Lessons I learned (or re-learned) during this past weekend's REVEL Canyon City Marathon. Hopefully some of these translate to you and your running (or even just life in general).

I legit cannot tell you how much the running community means to me - like literally, I cannot actually put it into words - but KNOW that the community is EVERYTHING! From the countless tweets, texts, Instagram comments and Facebook messages, to friends physically running along side of me during this race. The camaraderie, the constant encouragement, the shared craziness, it means the world to me! This is MY tribe and I am forever grateful that I have found each and every one of you!

2. You cannot disappoint the ones you love
When I got back to the car after Saturday's race, I looked at Ryan and told him that I was so amazed that folks stayed to watch me finish, especially after they had already run their race and could have been halfway home at that point. And then it happened. I broke down and blubbered "BUT I DISAPPOINTED THEM". The hubby literally stopped the car, made me take my hands off my tear-soaked face and look at him while he said, "That can NEVER happen". Believe me, when a fellow runner doesn't hit a goal, I am sad for them because I know how much they wanted it and how hard they had worked for it, but I am never, ever, EVER disappointed in them. So why I think me missing a BQ let everyone around me down is beyond me. Maybe it is because I felt like they believed it me and I wanted it for them just as much (okay, maybe not just a much, but I did want it a lot for them and YOU too). Whatever the reason, I had to know that no matter how or IF I finished, I would NOT be letting those that love me down in the slightest!

3. Downhill is HARD
Everyone thinks running downhill is easy, right?! Who wouldn't? Oh, I know... The people that have run downhill before! Common sense makes you think gravity is just pulling you down, so there is less work you are doing and you should fly, but let me tell you, the constant pounding and use of different muscles is HARD WORK!

4. Downhill courses do NOT mean no uphill
HA! As most runners know, just because a course says "downhill", it normally means a net-downhill. I mean, how many times have you ran a race that was touted as "flat and fast" only to come across rolling hills for the majority of the course?! Yes, you are running down a mountain, but we had nearly 2,500 feet of elevation GAIN in the second half of the race. And after going down for so long, any up, even if it is just an anthill, can be a major shock! Be prepared for elevation changes, no matter WHAT the course claims.

5. Just because you use the hashtag #BQorBust and you don't BQ, it doesn't mean it was a BUST
I mentioned this in my instagram post after the race, but it was really a lesson I had to learn. I was using the hashtag #BQorBust during training. What I meant by it was I wanted to give it my all and not hold anything back. The issue was, when I knew I wasn't going to hit my BQ I started thinking, "Well, I guess if there isn't a BQ then this MUST BE a bust". But it WASN'T! Not only did I PR my half marathon time by 8.5 minutes (don't worry, I am not using it as an official PR, just more as a reminder that I do have a faster time in me), but I also PR'ed my full marathon time by over a minute. Yes, I know I didn't hit my goal time and I am stronger than the race I actually ran, but you know what? I am not giving up! I will be back at it again (after I get a little rest and recovery under my belt)! You either win or learn, it's NEVER a loss! 

6. Expect to not sleep great the night before
If you sleep like a baby the night before a race, more power to you, but it seems like that is NOT the majority of us. My body is always nervous about missing the alarm so I am checking the time every 20-30 minutes. Don't fret about the lack of shut eye. Now I am NOT saying just stay up all night and party, party, party (although I do know a few people that works for ;)), but I am saying that you don't need to psych yourself out because you didn't get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. If at all possible, shoot to get a good night sleep two and three nights before the race.

7. The more foam rolling hurts, the more you need it
This lesson was one I learned AFTER the race. It's crazy how my M80 Roller can be my best friend and my worst enemy all at the same time. There were many a times in the last few days where I would get out the roller and let out a yelp when I got on it. But if it hurts, you better believe I stayed on that thing even longer. #RollinWithMyFoamies


8. Train on the terrain
If you are going on a racecation, it may be hard to train on the course. Thankfully for me I was able to run a preview of the first 16 miles of the course a few weeks ago, but I know that driving 2-3 hours EACH WAY isn't a reality every week for training. Even still, I should have done a much better job with training on similar terrain, even if that just meant finding a a smaller hill close to home so I could practice running downhill more frequently. (If I sign up for this race next year you better believe I will be training more on hills.)

9. It will hurt
You don't train so that it doesn't hurt, you train so that you can bear it. Yes, running is and should be fun and enjoyable, but it is anything but easy. Expect the pain, embrace the pain, then run through the pain!

10. Setbacks are part of the journey
I've seen spectator signs along a couple of race courses that say something along the lines of "If running was easy it'd be called your mom". Not hitting goals is part of the journey. I mean, if you hit your goals every time you set out, maybe your goals weren't that crazy or hard to begin with (or maybe you are really just that amazing ;)). And like some of my friends have been telling me, the harder it is to accomplish the sweeter the taste of success will be when you accomplish it.

11. Fellow runners ROCK
We are all cut from the same crazy cloth. You are a runner, I am a runner, so let's be best friends! Sure, we might not all run the same pace or the same distance, but there is something that bonds us together as runners. Embrace one another, lean on one another, cheer on one another, encourage one another, celebrate with one another, befriend one another!

12. Words matter
I love that people I am running with often ask me "Do you know that person?" because I am chatting them up and giving words of encouragement. "Nope, sure don't", but you know what? That doesn't matter. Whether you are passing me and I give you a "Looking strong, keep up that pace because you are killin' it!" or I am passing you and I give you a "Way to go! You are rockin' it." I am the first one to admit that running can be tough and sometimes an encouraging word or thumbs up is just what you need to keep going. Be that person to someone else.  

13. Beauty is all around
Oh my goodness. The REVEL Canyon City Marathon course is honestly one of the most beautiful courses I have run on thus far. The views are absolutely stunning. When I did the preview run a few weeks ago I made sure to stop and take pictures along the way because I knew I wouldn't be stopping to appreciate the scenery on race day. Even still, take the time to look up and enjoy the views. I know not all courses are "beautiful", but that doesn't mean there isn't something amazing to admire. Whether you are running through a new city, along the coast, or in a residential neighborhood, there is always something of beauty to see - enjoy it!


14. Stick to your plan
Like I mentioned in my recap, I had a game plan and I totally did the opposite. As you can see, that did NOT work out well for me. I can't say for certain that if I would have held back the first half that I would have had more juice the second half (because maybe I would have exerted the same or more energy trying to slow myself down), but I do know that what I did do didn't work, so sticking to the plan couldn't have gone much worse.

15. Always have "Finish with a Smile" be one of your goals
I try to remind myself (and others) of this as much as possible - but running is supposed to be fun. Gosh darn it, WE PAY TO DO IT! I don't care if you are the winner of the race or the last person to cross that finish line - we are doing something that less than 1% of the world's population can do, so BE PROUD! 

16. Make sure to get enough fluids/ hydration
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Now don't drink so much that it is sloshing around in your tummy, but do start drinking before you feel thirsty. I think, looking back at it, I would have liked to have my handheld on this race. Towards the end I felt like I couldn't get enough water. And, if you need to, walk through the aid stations so that you can get your liquids in your mouth (and not all over the front of you). Walking for a few seconds not only gives your legs a quick rest, but it can also prevent choking. 

17. Nothing new on race day
Since I left my phone with the hubby (who needs the extra weight especially when you have ZERO cell service in a canyon), I decided I didn't really want to wear a belt for the run. The issue was, how was I going to carry my fuel?! I remember that StuftMama will sometimes throw her gels in her Handful Bra, so I figured I'd do the same. Well, my PROBAR BOLT chews come in a package a bit bigger than gels. The packages ended up rubbing my shoulder raw when I had them under my straps and then my chest raw when I put them in my IBG. I am still dealing with the lost skin and remaining scabs... Lesson learned.

18. Sometimes listening to your body doesn't work out
Especially when your legs are well rested, the first half of the course is downhill and you just wanna FLY! At that point, listen to the little voice in your head that says "SLOW DOWN AND STICK WITH THE PLAN!"

19. Never underestimate yourself
You can do hard things, as can your body! Give yourself the chance to succeed and watch what you are able to accomplish! Whether you hit your goals or not, YOU TOED THE STARTING LINE! You had the courage to begin... THAT IS HUGE!

20. Realize that no matter how tough it is, it will be over soon(ish)
At some points during the race I thought it would never end, that I would never make it to the finish line at the pace I was going... But you know what?! FORWARD IS A PACE! And it gets you to the finish line! Putting one foot in front of the other (whether it is running, walking, skipping or crawling) will get you there... eventually.

21. You are inspiring others
This actually was made apparent by one of the half marathoners that I came up to within the last mile or so of the race. She was chugging along and had a whole cheer squad of family and friends. There were a couple younger girls screaming their heads off for her (not sure if it was their mom, aunt or maybe just a friend). When I caught up to her, I told her "You are doing AMAZING. And you are inspiring those little girls to chase their dreams more than you may ever realize." Your hard work and dedication can inspire others around you to move mountains - don't forget that!


22. Err on the side of being over-prepared than under-prepared
I am not talking about training (over-training vs under-training). Specifically here I am talking about over-dressing. I know I totally over packed when it came to my gear-check bag, but I was STOKED I did. I had a pair of gloves, a pair of mittens, a fleece blanket, a Mylar blanket, a scarf and a pair of pants. Although I only used the fleece blanket, pair of gloves and pants, I was thankful to have all the stuff with me JUST IN CASE (I can always take off layers if I got too hot, but couldn't add more if I didn't any with me). 

23. Your Race, Your Pace
This sort of goes along with sticking to your plan, but I wanted to add a bit to this one. I ran with a friend for this past race. We were both shooting for the same goal time and thought it would be great to have the other one to hold us accountable. Although having someone to keep you going and spur you on is amazing, you still need to make sure you run your race (and your pace). We discussed before the race that if one of us was having a bad day that the other one would continue charging ahead with no hard feelings. 

24. Trust your training
I know, I know, this one is sort of a cliche, but it's true. Especially during the taper time, when you are running less miles and have more time to think. Trust that the work you put in will pay off (and even if it doesn't, the enjoyment is in the journey... the race is just the victory lap anyway!). And anything you do during the last two-ish weeks before your race will not drastically help, it will only make your legs tired, so prop up those tootsies, grab your computer, tablet or smartphone and read old posts on CarleeMcDot.Com (or whatever else you do in your spare time ;)). 

25. You never know what YOU will show up on race day
No matter how amazing your training may be, you never know what will happen on race day. Maybe you wake up with a cold, maybe you twist your ankle in a pothole, maybe there is a torrential downpour or maybe you crush your times beyond what you ever did on training runs. Give yourself the best chance at success by sticking to your training, but remember that you are not defined by a single race or one particular workout. You are a runner, you will persevere. Do the best you can with what you are given!

26. Mantras matter
Sometimes your mind can be a dangerous place to be. When the going gets tough, sometimes the positivity gets going... like right out of your mind and you are left with a dark, dark place. Having a positive mantra to hold on to and repeat can make all the difference. Find a phrase that reminds you that you CAN and WILL do hard things! Write it on your hand, get it imprinted on a piece of Momentum Jewelry or have a friend hold it on their spectating sign, whatever you need to do to bring the positivity back into your mind - do that!


.2 Marathons are HARD
This was my fifth marathon (and for the girl who always said I would NEVER do one, that is HUGE). They don't get easier. 26.2 miles is a BEAST no matter if it is your first or your hundredth! Respect the distance.

Hopefully there weren't too many cliches in there (but if there were, I guess it just means that they are TRUE!). Every run, every day is an opportunity. A chance to learn more about yourself and to fight to become the person you were born to be. Never stop fighting, never stop learning, never stop growing and NEVER GIVE UP!

What is the biggest lesson you have learned from running?


ahotsouthernmess said...

I am just starting to train for my first full, but I have already learned so many of those lessons. You are a great inspiration. Keep that in your smile file if you're ever having a bad day :)

Anonymous said...

I loved your list! Such great reminders and I loved the one about the smile at the finish! One thing I always remember to do is to pack my smile with me for a race so that I remember to have fun and enjoy the "race" and always smile!

Juliana said...

I love this list! I just ran my 5th marathon (4th of the year-holy crap! WDW marathon, LA Marathon, Long Beach marathon and NYC Marathon) and this list is so true. After dealing with some crazy weather for all of them, I would add to the list to also just relax and know you can't control race day. It sucks to train your butt off and then have bad weather pop up on race day, but you can't control it, and in the end, it is just a race.

but yes-respecting the distance is so crucial!