Chicago marathon: what I would do differently and what’s next

speedrun_10_18_16__mg_0771Now that I’m a couple weeks out from the Chicago marathon, it’s high time to share a little bit about what did and didn’t go well and what’s next for me. I wrote a post after the NYC marathon last year about what I wanted to differently for this marathon training cycle, so I’m going to kick things off by revisiting those goals to see how I did. With grades. Because #gradschool.

  • More hills and speed: A! Yes! Not so much hills, because Chicago is flat, but incorporating speedwork was probably the biggest key to my success.
  • More strength training and core work: I’m going to give myself a B- here–I did do core on my own but not so much specific strength training beyond yoga.
  • A personal training plan: B on this one as well. I did use a training plan from Coach Dan but it wasn’t personalized to me or my race goals.
  • Not running a big city race: F for fail. Chicago is as big as it gets other than NYC.
  • Not running for charity: A! This was a big load off and truly allowed me to focus on training.
  • Train with a group again: A!21c0bcc9-41da-4907-aad3-97866a44ef51

Overall, I’m incredibly proud of what I was able to do over the course of this training cycle. It’s a very big deal to cut a race time down by 29 minutes in less than a year, and I think a lot of my success was due to training more strategically (more running days per week, slightly higher mileage, speedwork, tempo runs, etc.) That said, I did fall short of my stretch goal to qualify for Boston, and I know it’s absolutely within reach for me. Here’s what I think will get me to a sub-3:35.

  • Run a small race: Big city races, especially those you have to travel for, add a ton of uncertainty to the race prep process. It’s much harder to control pre-race conditions (sleep and nutrition) and the logistics can be costly and complicated. In addition, in most big races you actually end up running farther than 26.2 miles because you have to do so much bobbing and weaving. It’s also much harder to run the tangents. For me, though, the biggest hurdle in Chicago and NYC was handling the feeling of being so packed in with other runners. I find the crowds to be overwhelming and distracting. Yes, big races offer incredible atmosphere and crowd support, but I feel like it makes it hard for me to run my own race, at least while pace is my top priority. Also, my best half marathon experiences (including my PR race) have been at smaller races, so this is definitely where I thrive as a runner.
  • Focus on race strategy and nutrition: I spent very little time thinking about either of these important factors before Chicago. My race strategy was to run 8 minute miles for the whole time. I think I would have done better to start a hair slower–maybe with a 3:35 pace group–and then pick it up after the half. Instead, we started out running 8s or a little bit faster, and I had nothing left in the tank later in the race. Similarly with nutrition, I didn’t do any experimentation during training and stuck with the chews I’ve always used, even if I didn’t always feel fantastic. I think something more natural/easier to digest might have warded off the cramping that hit around mile 16.
  • Consider investing in coaching: I did have access to a team coach for this training cycle, but I think if I really want to go all-in for a BQ it would be worth it to hire someone to craft a tailored plan for me that fits both my goals and what I know about myself as a runner. I’m considering working with Runner’s Connect or RUN4PRs, but if anyone has any suggestions for coaches to look into I am all ears!!
  • Raise the mileage, not just the number of running days: The plan I followed this cycle had me running 6 days a week, so by default I ran more miles that I did last year. That said, 40-ish miles a week is actually pretty low for a 3:30 goal. On a super basic level, the goal of marathon training is to learn to run on tired legs–I think getting closer to 50 mile weeks would get me to the next level.
First non-running adventure: tackling the Harvard stadium!

So… what’s next for me? First off, not marathon training for a while! I am considering taking close to a year off of training for a full marathon. I am wrapping up my MBA and getting married within the next year, and I’d like to get past those two milestones before diving into a training plan again. However, I will absolutely still be doing tons of running in the near future! Here’s what I’ve got on tap:

  • Running the Cambridge Half Marathon on 11/13
  • Exploring new opportunities with Oiselle’s Volée! I love the Oiselle brand and am super pumped I jumped on the chance to join their “global community made up of women with diverse running backgrounds and competitive goals.” I’ve been seeing volée posts and events for years and can’t wait to see what this group has to offer.
  • Even if a marathon isn’t on tap in the immediate future, I have a lot of space to grow in terms of speed. I’d love to run a sub-1:40 half, and also think a sub-20 minute 5k would be pretty killer.
  • I’m also really jazzed about getting some non-running related fitness back into my life! Probably at the top of the list is reinvesting in my yoga practice, but I’m also hoping to get back into some hiking and skiing (let’s cross our fingers for some snow this winter…)

Again, thank you so much for being a part of this crazy adventure! I can’t wait to see what’s next.