LA Marathon – 7th Time’s A Charm

The LA Marathon. The race that started it all. To explain how I PR’d by 21 minutes, on the 7th time running this course, I need to explain how I got here. In 2010, a friend of mine suggested we run the LA Marathon together, I told her I could NEVER run a marathon. Needless to say, she convinced me, and off we went on our training. I fell in love with running long. I ran a 3:28, my first time out the gate, no GPS watch, no goal time, no idea what I was doing. I literally ran with a timex stopwatch I bought at Target the night before.

It’s never been about the races for me, even without a race on the books I’ll log a 20 miler, just because I love to run. My friend and I continued to run the LA Marathon year after year. I never changed my training, I always came in around the same time.

It wasn’t until Summer of 2016 when I met some friends that introduced me to triathlon, and the heavy training they do for Ironman that I stepped up my game. I was training for my first Ironman 70.3 when I broke my foot. Cycling 75+ miles a week, swimming 3 miles a week, running 70 miles a week… Just 9 days out from the race I was confined to the boot, I couldn’t even walk without excruciating pain, I was heartbroken… I couldn’t race the race I had been working towards for months. As horrible as it was – one thing came out of that hardship – I realized I had a whole lot of potential I hadn’t even touched. After years of running 8 min miles, I was now easily running in the low 7:00s. There was something there, and I wanted to tap into it.

It took months to recover from the stress fracture, and then I had to retrain everything I built. I swam every day while my foot was broken, but as well all know – there is nothing quite like running. I bounced back enough to train for Boston, and brought home a 3:26. I was so eager for more, I RAPIDLY ramped up, jumped into winning a half marathon, back on the bike, back running heavy mileage, feeling on top of the world — and boom, broken heel bone. This one took forever to heal. I didn’t even tell anyone it was broken for months because I was so ashamed to be back there again. I promised myself I would take training seriously this time, all factors, and I would comeback my strongest ever.

Fast forward to training for this year’s LA Marathon. With clearance from my doctor, and frequent checkups, I re-evaluated my diet, my mileage, everything. I added back dairy, I revised my daily vitamins, more protein, more rest. The results were immediate.Running sub 7 quickly became my comfortable pace and slowly I built the mileage. My previous training was to just plow through miles, and if I burned out and had crappy paces at the end, I didn’t care, as long as I got the mileage in. This time I had a whole different approach. I wanted every run to feel comfortably hard, not burn out. I wanted to feel strong at 20 miles all the way through, I wanted even or negative splits, not a hard dive for exhaustion. When I saw my watch clocking 20 miles at sub 7 pace, I knew I was a new runner.

I don’t have a coach, I made my own training plan based on what made sense to me being mindful of my injury, what I potential I believed was there, and my work schedule. When my body was tired, I took rest days. When my foot was hurting, I iced it, and took rest days. If my calves were tight, I reworked my training schedule to not injure them. Logging the EXACT training you are scheduled doesn’t necessarily = success, its about listening to your body every single day. What works for me, doesn’t work for every runner, but what works for me comes from a lot of years of experience knowing my body and what has resulted in injury for me.

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The Race

So how did the race go? To be honest, I wish I could do it again tomorrow, I had THAT much fun. I felt strong the whole way through, which is new for me on this course. The hills that usually kill me from miles 18 – 21, I was running with a smile. I felt like I was flying. I’m always terrible about remembering to fuel, or even drink water, but I got ahead of it perfectly this time. I DO have one big regret… My fellow marathon ambassador Haley and I were walking to the start, and we debated peeing ONE more time before the race. I thought I’d be fine and it was just nerves, so she went, I didn’t. Well – big mistake, I stopped at mile 2 for :30 to pee, and jumped back in the race (feeling a thousand times better) – but that :30 seconds cost me a sub 3 marathon! At the end of the day, 3:00:24 is still a three hour marathon, and something I never thought I would accomplish. Being the 6th open field woman to cross the finish line, and first in my division, and running with the boys, cruising mile after mile…  it was an amazing feeling. I’ve said before that most people in my daily life don’t know what I do in the shadows, or see me running, so a lot of them asked me if I “ate differently the night before” or what I thought got me such a better time. Its funny to me, because I know how hard I worked for that 21 minute PR.

The LA Marathon course is tough, but its remarkable. You see the whole city, the crowd support is wonderful, and the finish line is stunning. I’ve run every PR on this course, probably because its the place I call home, and the excitement is palpable for me, but I highly recommend it!

My mind is swirling with what’s next, and I can’t wait to chase it!

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CHASING NEW PACES

I am often asked how I keep a sub-7 so often on my runs. Truth is, I never thought I’d run this pace, and for a lonnnng time I didn’t. Sub-7 is where I live comfortably now, and this was my goal last year. For those of you that have been following me a while, you’ll know that Spring of last year, I said I wanted to make sub 7 comfy, and well, now I have (sort of). Anything below 15 miles, I can comfortably run my normal 6:50 pace, but for me the challenge is:

(1) Making that comfy pace EVEN lower
(2) Making sub 7 comfy for 26.2, which is HARD (for me at least.)

So, a little background… I’ve always loved to run, truly. I was a sprinter in high school, and just generally an athlete in some form my whole life. Transitioning to distance running for me was truly for personal pleasure, never for racing or PRs or anything of the sort. I comfortable lived at an 8-8:30 min/mile and never tried to run faster. FOR YEARS. So what changed?

Basically – my mindset. After starting my instagram @myrunbum I really became connected with a community of runners that was so motivating, exciting, and uplifting. I made a conscious decision to get my head in the game, and a lot changed. Up until 2014 I didn’t even run with a watch most of the time, and if I did it definitely didn’t have GPS. Getting my Garmin Forerunner 220 changed my pace dramatically. Suddenly I could chase myself, and that was fun.

In 2016 I met some friends that challenged me to get sub 7, because they believed I could, and somehow that motivated me to try. I never thought I would run a marathon, so why not try a new goal, and get faster.

So the big question – How did I go from 8 min/mile to sub 7 in less than 2 years?

  1. ) Cross Training – I added Swimming and Cycling to my training in a big way. Building strength in my quads through biking hills, and power in my core and shoulders through swimming. This knocked me down to the 7:15 range right away. Why? Because I was stronger. I’m definitely not saying taking up extra sports will make you faster, but what I AM saying is think about your overall strength, where are you weakest? What can you improve – then tackle it.
  2. ) Diet – I’ve always been thin, and in college I was SKINNY. Skinny can sometimes mean being fast, but only if there is power behind it. I’ve probably gained 20 pounds since then (seriously) but its muscle.

    I’ve always stayed away from overly unhealthy foods, but I’ve been a lot more in tune with what helps my body perform. Adding protein, proper carbs like sweet potatoes and whole grains, and adding back dairy. Dairy was the hardest to bring back in my life, I have to time it appropriately for stomach issues, but its a life saver on the bones. (PS check out my post on diet for more about what I eat)

  3. Drills – These suck, and they are hard. A lot of people like doing them on the track, which is fab, and feels old school. If you don’t have a track, the treadmill is great for controlling your speed. Getting faster short distances at a time will impact your speed over all. Another big one for me was running after cycling, it is brutal, but builds insane power in the lungs and legs.
  4. Gear – Invest in a garmin or gps tracking device, it’s worth it. Technology is remarkable, and should be used to your advantage. Make yourself your biggest competition and go for it. Make sure you’re running in the RIGHT shoes for your body, not just the most popular or best looking ones, and change them out when they are worn.
  5. CONFIDENCE – This one is huge. I hear so many people tell me they could never run, or run faster, or place in a race. Well I use to think that to, and 13 Marathons, 2 Bostons, several race placings, and PRs later, here I am. YOU CAN. Getting your head in the game is a big player in this. Remember you are in control of you, and your mind will try to convince you a thousand times “you can’t” before you’ve even finished a race. Block it out – come up with mantras to repeat in your mind, visualize the win, the PR, the place you want to be, and apply constant pressure until the negative thoughts break and you’re crushing new paces.

    I honestly do not compete with other runners. My run friends on Insta motivate me SO MUCH, and I love sharing what I love with that community. I hold myself accountable to what I am capable of, what I want to achieve, and concentrate on my own goals. Comparing yourself to others can be a dark hole, and a fast track to letting the negative thoughts creep back in!

To be clear, there are no secret sauces to suddenly getting faster, it takes work and it takes commitment. Surround yourself with positive people that support you, and motivate you to be your best self. Don’t beat yourself up if you fail, learn from it, keep going, and never give up.

Have specific questions? What else do you want to read about? Send me an email or leave a comment below!