Chicago Marathon 2014 Final Reflections & Looking Ahead

It’s been over a month since I ran the 2014 Chicago Marathon, my second marathon and the marathon where I set a brand new PR.

Chicago Marathon 2014

(sorry marathonfoto…I keep stealing your unflattering race photos)

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the race, my training, what what I would do differently next time. My second marathon was a big learning moment for me and for my running. Your first marathon is always kind of a crap shoot. If you train correctly, you’ll get to the finish line happy and excited about completing such an incredible feat. That’s the end goal: finish without wanting to kill yourself. I met that goal—I had a fantastic first marathon experience in D.C. and wouldn’t change a thing about it.

Marine Corps Marathon 2013

But, my second marathon was different. My goal was to PR and I knew I could do it if I worked hard for it. Spoiler alert: I did PR. An over 10-minute PR. That’s huge. Especially considering I trained the exact same way for Chicago as I did for Marine Corps. I used Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 plan. I ran 4 days a week. I cross trained 2 days a week and did yoga once a week. I rested 1 day a week (sometimes skipping yoga in favor of an extra second day off.) I ate the same. I foam rolled/stretched the same. It was like clockwork. And what did you know, I PR’ed. BUT, I honestly think I PR’ed only because I held myself back in my first marathon. Yes, I came into Marine Corps recovering from an injury. Yes, I came into Chicago better trained with a bigger mileage base. But I honestly think I could have run a very similar time at Marine Corps if I pushed myself a little harder. I know I’ve reached my peak with how much work I’ve put in to date. Where does that leave me in regards to improving next year? What do I need to change?

For marathon #3 I will…

  • Find a new plan that challenges me. Unless I change my training, I will plateau. I’m thinking of trying Hal’s Intermediate 1 plan next time around. It bumps me up to running 5 days a week instead of 4, but I think I can do it. As long as I keep up with my yoga and strength training routine to keep my body strong and flexible.
  • Focus on specific workouts and stick to the suggested paces. No more running the same paces in all my training runs!!!! This is an awful habit that I’m trying to break. Running more volume will force me to stick to my suggested paces. No one feels good speeding through a long run after a week of 30 miles is already under their belt. “Slow the fuck down!” is my new long-run mantra.
  • Focus on speed/shorter-distance races leading up to marathon training. I did some of this before I started training for Chicago when I was training for the Heartbreak Hill Half. I ended up setting PRs in the 5k and half marathon that spring. This will help keep me speedy and help me set my paces for marathon training. Plus, shorter races are fun. Speed work is fun. I already am thinking an early Spring half or two, plus some 5k’s for good measure.
  • Give myself permission to focus on marathon training again. This past summer was a challenging time to train for a marathon. Work was absolutely insane. I was constantly under stress from deadline pressures and work challenges. I ended up sort of giving up on marathon training to a certain extent. I never let myself focus on it too much, get too anxious or pumped about it. I had a lot more important things to focus on, like that thing I do that pays my bills. This time around I vow to let myself get excited. Let myself enjoy the process a little more instead of treating it like another chore. I LOVE running. I need to get that love back.

I was originally going to take 2015 off from any marathons. I was feeling burned out after 7 months of constant training cycles. But with Bernie and I planning our wedding for Summer 2016, I realized that 2015 may be my last chance to run a marathon for a while. Plus, there’s nothing like the post-marathon-finish-high to remind you why you love this damn sport and to silence your rationale about taking a year off.

But, which marathon?! I’m still thinking a fall 2015 marathon. That gives me plenty of time to enjoy the winter, focus on shorter, faster races in the spring, and then gear up for summer training. My short list right now includes:

  • NYC
  • Chicago…again
  • Philly
  • Portland
  • Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco

We’ll see what 2015 really has in store for me. For now, I’m just enjoying running for the sake of running (no training over here!) and staying fit and healthy.

 

Readers: Do you have any fall 2015 marathons on your short list? Any good ones I should know about? How far out do you set your running or fitness goals? Anyone planning on running a marathon next year?