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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Marathon Madness

People ask me all the time why I run or what I think about while I am running, but very rarely do they ask what I was thinking when I decided to run. When I say 'decided to run' I am referring to a certain race..well, ok, maybe a certain FEW races..that happen to be located very near each other on the calendar.  Open virtually any instructional book on running and you will see the often repeated recommendation to run one marathon a year-- or maybe one very six months if you are crazy.  So why on earth would I decide to do 3, in 3 weeks? Well, why NOT??

I have run a marathon and a 50k (31.1 miles for those of you not too quick at converting) in the same week and that didn't turn out too bad.  I will admit that my last attempt at 2 marathons in 7 days did NOT go well.  I know it is not all to blame on this, but the weather for those races was ridiculous..the first was 30 degrees and 14+ mph winds and the second-SEVEN DAYS LATER (in the same state) was 70 degrees and 85% humidity with 20mph winds.  Talk about having your first humid Florida run happen in February during a marathon.  What are the odds??

So what DID make me want to do this.  You'd think I was crazy if I told you.  Nothing.  Really, it just worked out that way.  I know what you are thinking, most sane people would just say "I have a race planned already so I can't do the other one." Hmmmm, yeah, doesn't really work that way with us.  You see, we are Team Hot Legs and we are also Marathon Maniacs.  For real. I'm sure you all have seen Facebook postings about Team Hot Legs and our travels across the country for races. If there is a race and we're free..pretty much count us in.  At least one..or two of us.  That is just how it goes. And yes, Marathon Maniacs ..look it up. It is a REAL group.  We (Team Hot Legs) are not the only ones who do this sort of thing.  There are a whole bunch of people who find this sort of thing fun.  A challenge. A goal. Something to inspire us to take the next step, to (literally) go the extra mile. We just don't normally talk about it in public to people think we are nuts.

So back to how this all worked out..I reached one of my goals while running the New York Marathon back in 2010.  I qualified for BOSTON! Having grown up in Massachusetts, I was thrilled to have qualified to take part in such a icon of Boston history. Being a runner, qualifying for Boston is akin to finding the Holy Grail.  I was elated! Unfortunately I had qualified for the 2011 race after the race quota had been met. Meaning I would have to sit out the 2011 event.  Thankfully that race qualified me for 2012 as well.  In the meantime Team Hot Legs had been scheming to get as many of us as possible to head out to California to run Big Sur.  This race has views that are grander than its hills, or should I say cliffs.  How could I pass that up?  Especially if all of my BFFs would be there.  Couldn't let that happen.  Sign me up for Boston to Big Sur.  Yep, that is actually a real event.  Google it.  Those of us determined enough to run 2 marathons on 2 coasts inside 13 days. Thirteen days? Heck that's almost 2 weeks.  That is an eternity! (insert sarcasm)

Ok, so that's 2 marathons, where does the third one come in? Sometimes things just seem to fall into your lap almost as if the Universe is saying "here you go.." My travel schedule for GNC had me working the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 6th, seven days after Big Sur. Huh, why NOT just run it??  I'm going to be there anyway. Sign me up!

As I sit here writing this we are just over five weeks away from the Boston Marathon.  I am still working on getting myself back up to speed, literally and figuratively, after the miserable marathon showings I had in February.  Hindsight is always 20/20 and looking back I was definitely experiencing some signs of overtraining. Inability to sleep, not feeling like myself, impaired performance, elevated sub- max heart rate and decreased appetite.  I was looking at these things as if they were separate entities, not looking at what they were all pointing to.  THAT is what lead to the miserable showings.  No, the weather didn't help, but I wasn't paying attention.  As an athlete preparing for an event it is hard to slow down, to back off, to take a rest day.  Especially if we are the only ones gauging our progress or lack thereof.  We are so attuned to pushing through those rough days, calling on our inner drive to complete every last step that we miss the signs our bodies are sending.  Slow down for a minute and take are you feeling? Have you been sleeping well? Too much? Too little? Do you have a hard time falling asleep? Is your resting heart rate elevated? Does the same amount of work you had been doing now feel as if it takes an extraordinary effort? Is your heart rate abnormally elevated during your training? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions it may be time to back off a bit.  If you feel one of these things every now and then you may just be having an off day.  That is not the same as overtraining. The key is knowing the difference and adjusting accordingly.

If you are over training, what do you do?  What did I do?

  • First and foremost, back off on your intensity and get some rest.  I scaled my training volume back- on both my running and my weight training- took plenty of naps and went to bed as early as possible. 
  • Be sure your nutrition is on point. Taking in adequate calories as well as high quality protein sources to help your muscles recover.  My diet tends to be pretty good. Throwing in a few extra servings of Glutamine and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) really helped.
  • Reduce stress in other areas of your life.  All too often we look at overtraining as the inability to recover from the stress of our training when in fact we forget about the REST of the stress we have to recover from: the stress that we encounter each and every day.  Scaling back on training and failure to address other stressors may lead to a short respite and then an eventual return to overtraining-land.

After a few weeks of scaling things back I am feeling much better.  My body is back to responding in its normal way to the stimuli it encounters.  Beautiful signs as far as I am concerned.  Now is the time for caution. Jumping back to full scale too soon will leave me pahkin tha ca in Havahad yahd instead of cruising the streets of Hopkinton, Ashland and Framingham.  I would end up shopping in Copley Plaza instead of running through Copley Square. Not me, I'm smarter than that.  Besides I have 3 marathons to run!

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