Happy New Year, guys! I just got back from my first run of the year — a short 3-miler on the treadmill.
Today’s run was the first in a while. I spent most of December giving my knees a rest (trying to heal the right knee). I think the break worked (along with a lot of foam rolling) — the knee isn’t as sore anymore. Hopefully it stays that way. The injury made me reflect on what I did wrong and things I’ve learned over the year.
I put in a lot of mileage in 2015 — I started keeping track, but got lazy around October and stopped. So I don’t know exactly how many miles I ran. What I do know: I ran eight half marathons and one full marathon, plus four months of marathon training with 30-40 weekly-mile averages. There are things I definitely could have done better to make the races go smoother and to avoid the minor injuries I experienced. So, following are some lessons learned from the year.
1. A little training goes a long way — My first half marathon of 2015 was in mid-January in Charleston, S.C. The race went fine, but my legs were sore afterward. I didn’t train for this race. In fact, I barely ran in November and December — I kind of gave myself a break after the Marine Corps Marathon in October. I think I would have been in better shape had I trained a little in the weeks leading up to the race.
2. Get fitted for good running shoes — Before I started the 50 states challenge, I would wear whatever running shoes to run. Annnd I would wear them until they fell apart. Seriously… holes in shoes over here! The shoes I wore for my second half marathon in 2015 — Rock n Roll New Orleans Half Marathon — had already been through A LOT (basically all of my races and training in 2014). After the New Orleans Half, my right foot starting hurting. I later learned it was plantar fasciitis. I went to a running store, got my stride accessed, and learned I over-pronate and need more stable shoes. I had been wearing neutral running shoes before. The more stable shoes helped, and my right foot eventually got better.
3. Plan your races wisely — My third half marathon was the Savin Rock Half Marathon in New Haven, Conn. in mid-March. It was freezing cold and snowing during the race. I was literally running next to snow plows. I don’t think I’ve ever been so miserable during a race. But honestly, I should have known… it was March in Connecticut. Yes, March is the start of spring. But we’re talking about the northeast here. I will never head north for a race before May ever again.
4. Try, try, try to go to the bathroom before the race — What added to my miserableness in New Haven was that I had to go to the bathroom around mile 8. There were no porta-potties around, and because I had to go so badly, I couldn’t run and had to walk. As a result, I got cold… running was what kept me warm during that snow storm! Luckily, I saw a gas station around mile 10. I veered off course, did my thing, and felt so much better the last few miles (even though it was still snowing!). During my fourth race of the year — the Love Run Philly Half — I made sure to go to the bathroom before running. I think between the time I woke up and the start of the race (about three hours), I went to the bathroom at least six times. Can’t be too careful.
5. Train for different terrain — My fifth half of 2015 was in late April in Tennessee — the Country Music Half Marathon. It was hillier than I expected, and probably the hilliest race I had during the year. I wasn’t really prepared for it and probably could have done a lot better had I done some hill training before the race. #ihatehills
6. Cross-train — Cross-training is supposed to help prevent injuries, enable quicker recovery, and improve overall fitness. When I ran my sixth half marathon of the year — Rock n Roll Chicago Half Marathon — I was a third of the way through marathon training for MCM. Cross-training was part of my marathon training schedule, but I was really bad at keeping up with it. Looking bad, had I done more of it, I may have been able to prevent the IT band syndrome I developed.
7. Stretch — Stretching… should be an obvious one. But like cross-training I was (still am) very bad about doing it. I was so sore after I ran my seventh half marathon in November — Rock n Roll Las Vegas. I stretched after the race only because I was so sore! I felt better afterward, but really, I should be doing it after every run. Stretching is supposed to help with flexibly and range of motion, which can help prevent injuries. Also, it feels good. So why don’t I do it more? Because I am lazy. After I finish running, I just want to be finished. I want to shower and move on with the day. Terrible, I know. I’m trying to be better at this.
8. Foam roll, foam roll, foam roll — My IT band syndrome developed after the race in Las Vegas. It stayed through my next and last half marathon of the year in December — the Rehoboth Beach Half Marathon in Rehoboth Beach, Dela. What has really helped is foam rolling. This is another thing I’ve been bad about doing, but once I developed the knee pain, I became obsessed with it. Massaging my leg out with the foam roller made it a lot better. Foam rolling shouldn’t be used just to recoup injures though. It should be part of all runners’ routines. Foam rolling helps improve circulation and preps the body for stretching and working out.
9. Don’t overdo it — In October, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon for the second time. I chose a more challenging training program this time around, one that I later realized was slightly above my level. Training was tough. One of the things I learned was how to listen to my body. There were many weeks during training when I just couldn’t meet the weekly mileage requirements. In the beginning, I would beat myself up about it. But then later learned to just give in, listen to body, and not push it. Giving in isn’t giving up, but rather a willingness to recognize your true physical limits.
What were some of the lessons you learned in 2015?
I’m looking forward to 2016 and an exciting new year of running. Hope you are, too! Cheers to good health, family, friends, love, life, and you.