We are a week+ post-Olympic Marathon Trials. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m FIRED UP about the next 4 years! The next 4 years is going to be a process, a journey…. a metamorphosis. As I said on my Facebook page last Sunday, “Leaving Houston highly inspired! I know what I need to do the next 4 years.” I want to explain what I mean– where I’ve been, where I am now, and where I see myself going.
4 years ago, I ran the Olympic Trials with a badly torn calf, finishing in 2:47:14. That summer after my calf healed, I took a sabbatical from my job to go train at high altitude in Alamosa, CO. I had already spent a few years getting my mileage up to over 100 mpw, consistently. In summer ’08, we started doing consistent quality workouts, strides, drills, and strength training (upper body only). I also began supplementing with liquid iron and heat training. You can go through my articles on “The Little Things”.
For the first time ever, I was completely focused on my training, plus being at high altitude. By mid-July, the magic started to happen, as I ran a 45 second 10K PR in Colorado Springs (6000 ft.!!!). The magic continued into the fall, as I walloped my PRs in everything from the 10K-Marathon. The PRing craze continued into 2009 (despite a few setbacks, including food poisoning that sent me to the ER and hurting my knee/back from slipping backwards on the ice in Jan. ’09). 2010 was a down year, as I had bilateral hernia surgery and went through months of PT. In Dec. 2010, I began the comeback, running 7 marathons (4 wins), ran PRs from 5K-HM, and made my first US Team.
Here I am 4 years later, and my marathon PR is exactly 10 minutes faster than what I ran 4 years ago at the ’08 Olympic Trials (2:37:14). Even cooler…. this time around I did it with 100% training at sea level in Oklahoma! I believe the strong wind here provides similar “resistance” to high altitude. While 10 minutes sounds like a lot, I don’t feel like there was much to it besides hard work, REST, consistent speedwork, drills, consistency overall, iron, being healthy, and HAPPINESS– all the little things.
I’d be kidding myself to think the next 10 minutes will be just as easy…. but that doesn’t stop me from believing it’s possible! We saw it with Desiree Davila…. Patti Dillon…. Stephanie Rothstein…. Mara Yamauchi…. my friend Janet (who just dropped 8 minutes off her PR at the Trials)…. and probably an endless list of women who have made that leap.
So what do I (and my hubby/coach) feel I need to do the next 4 years to make “the leap”? Well, the first step…. as stated by Lauren Fleshman’s latest post and my friend Brooke Wells (her post being from back in Nov.), is to write down my short term and long term goals and put them on the refrigerator, so I’m reminded every day of what I’m working towards. I learned this freshman year in high school, and it still proves to be highly effective! Short term, I want to break 2:35 this year, and long term I want to run under 2:27. I believe 2:35 is realistic and attainable with a continued progression in fitness this year (and good health!). 2:27 will take some time and work. I had my VO2 max tested in grad school 6 years ago (was 67.5 ml/kg/min.), so I know my heart is strong enough to run this fast. Now it’s a matter of training my legs to match my heart.
Then, I need to write down what I need to do to get there. Very important! Ok…. anyone who has seen me run, knows my gait is, um…. a bit odd [insert expletives in your head]. I poke fun at it all the time– some have said I run like a race walker (no offense to my race walking friends…. maybe I should try race walking?!). I “sit” when I run, like sitting in a chair… a bit excessively. I have no power in my step…. no hip extension…. very upright…. little forward momentum and “pawback”. It’s amazing I can even run as fast as I do!
I believe a lot of the way I run is due to my complex hip condition and quirky right leg (which is twisted- has always been this way). I can’t do anything to change how I’m built. Additionally, it would likely be a bad idea to “consciously” try to change my biomechanics. The way I run is so engrained in me from years and years of miles. The way I run is a hugeee, hugeee crutch for me though…. in terms of leg speed. Whereas some might see me as hopeless for further development in the marathon (trust me, I’ve been doubted my entire running career, which motivates me to prove people wrong)…. I see my glaring “lack of speed” AND the way I run as huge spots for improvement.
Starting this year, and because I know it’s going to take time and be a process– I’m going to start working on my imbalances and weaknesses. In particular, I want to take a page from Steve Spence (and Patti Dillon as well) and get into heavy lower body strength training to try and open up my gait (read about Steve Spence here ). I don’t know if this will completely transform my gait, but it doesn’t hurt to try. I haven’t done lower body strength training in about 8 years. I didn’t want to get into this last year, as I was trying to re-learn how to run following hip surgery (~went through 4 months of PT). There’s also a risk of injury when you began something completely new.
I’ve conversed with Patti D. many times over the years on what she did, and I just contacted Steve to see what he recommends. He suggested finding a PT who’s also CSCS certified in strength and conditioning. I have a few contacts locally and elsewhere who have offered to help me. I will try to get with the right people, figure out what I need to work on, and get going with a structured plan!
At the Olympic Trials, we also picked the brain of Bob Larsen (Meb’s coach). [Jokingly] He said he wouldn’t work with me until I could run under 16 minutes for a 5K! However, he offered some great suggestions…. probably about time to get on the track and start doing 200s, ladders, and also more and longer aerobic threshold runs. The fast twitch fibers need to come alive…. I need to learn how to run and move like a sprinter. Between the heavy weight training and more and faster short speed (and sustained speed), I believe my gait will naturally open up. I’ll develop the neuromuscular efficiency to comfortably handle a faster pace for everything.
Lastly– HILLS! I’ve had great success the past several years when I do a steady semi-long rolling hill run every ~2 weeks. This was something I did regularly between NYC and the Olympic Trials. It’s something I’ve done when I’ve trained at high altitude as well (~rolling hills in Ft. Garland, 8000ft.). I prefer this, over hill repeats, because it simulates what I’ll experience in races. It’s a moderate workout, so it’s not extremely taxing, but it seems to help improve my gait/efficiency/speed. I also started experimenting with my sponsor’s, Hyperwear, weighted vest (for both my hill runs and drills).
These are my initial and personal thoughts. Body willing and able, I believe I will achieve my goals. We’ll continue with the upward momentum (must be doing something right, right?!). Behind the scenes I’ll be working on all of the above. It will take time. Don’t be surprised though if I start dropping large chunks of times (like I did in ’08-09). I definitely won’t be surprised!
(ps.– I’m always open to ideas and suggestions– shoot me a message or comment!)