Tuesday, November 16, 2010

11/14 Big Sur Half Marathon - Failure is a Platform for Future Success

Last Sunday, I ran one of the most beautiful half marathon courses in the country. The race started in downtown Monterey, and ran out and back alongside the ocean, ending at the Marina. For the sight itself, the race was worth the experience! Personally, this race was discouraging at best at first, for the very reason that I didn't meet my timing goal. My goal was to beat my last half marathon time by 7 minutes - the actual result was a mere 1 minute improvement. It was still my PR and I'm glad that i didn't get any slower, but I was very bummed that I didn't get a chance to show a notable improvement in my running. But here is the deal - we reap what we sow. I don't mean this in a negative way at all - the beautiful thing about our body is that it functions the way it is trained! Here's how I see this race and how I can improve going forward - I may have failed to meet my goals but I am taking this experience to prepare even better next time for the result I want.

  • The body can handle what it was trained for: the longest mile i ran in one day during training was 10 miles. I was supposed to run 13 miles one weekend, but I couldn't finish because it was a terribly rainy day and I almost froze to death trying to finish the distance. I ran 8 miles twice, and maybe 9 miles once as well. Amazingly, my piriformis muscles (the muscles that are under our butt cheeks that surround our hip joints, so to speak) broke down about half a mile after I passed the 10 mile mark. More amazingly, up to mile 8, my average running speed was the fastest i have ever ran in a race! How funny is that - my body handled the 8 miles very well because I trained for it multiple times. However, since I skimped on my longer runs towards the end of training (working 20/7 did not help but let me keep my excuses short), my body basically only handled what it was trained for. Cause and effect. That is the truth.
  • My hip flexors worked great! But my glutes/piriformis broke down: this is yet another amazing result of what I put in. As you may have read before, my hip flexors (these are the muscles that help us pull our legs up when we run or walk, on both sides of our lower abdomen) have always been a huge source of my pain. During training, on the days i wasn't running, I diligently worked on my hip flexors to strengthen them. My glutes bothered me from time to time, so I worked on them, but not as regularly as I did on my hip flexors. Especially during the last three weeks of my training when I was actually working too much and therefore sitting in still position most of the time, I knew I had to work on my glutes (back of my hips) as well as my hip flexors (front of my hips), but due to the limited amount of free time I had, I allocated whatever time i had to keeping my hip flexors from breaking down. During the race, I really did NOT have any problem with my hip flexors, but from the beginning of my race my left glutes were just bugging me, which made me overcompensate with my right legs, which basically later caused my right glutes to break down as well. I had to walk straight for 5 minutes around mile 11, and walking was still causing my eyes to tear up! (But I still finished, which I'm proud of)
  • If you don't train properly, you won't meet your goals: Up to the first five 6 weeks of my 10-week training program, which was programmed to specifically meet my timing goal, I was on track with my plan. It was going great. Starting week 7, things started falling apart (work, work, work), then in the last 3 weeks of my training, I was only able to do half of the frequency and distance of the suggested training, including missing a crucial peak week before I was to taper. As a result, I simply did not meet my timing goal at the race - I mean, amazing, isn't it??? Ok, I know i'm being sarcastic with the whole amazing thing, but really, as I was driving back from work tonight I was no longer bummed about the race. I basically reaped what I sowed.
So what's my next race? What are my plans?

3/20, I will be running my first full marathon in the city of Los Angeles. Towards the end of January, I will do a half marathon race to check the progress of my training. For those two races, I know EXACTLY what I need to do - GO BY THE TRAINING PROGRAM, DO ALL MY DISTANCES, and WORK ON THOSE GLUTES AS WELL AS THE HIP FLEXORS!!!!! There is no other simple formula. Do the training, and do the strength work that are crucial to sustaining my structural integrity.

I'm actually really excited that i don't even have to think hard to come up with a game plan, as my failure pretty much revealed to me what was supposed to be done to succeed!

It's never a mystery why things work or don't work - well, of course there are exceptions. But when it comes to the matter of our body, it really works in accordance with what we put in. So eat well, sleep well, think well and move well. And never wonder, "how did i get this better?"