Thanks to Steph Blozy - Fleet Feet Sports Hartford for some of this content!
It catches me by surprise every year around this time. Those seemingly endless summer days and the slower-paced life that go along with them, abruptly come to an end. Almost overnight my Facebook news feed is filled with photos of friends' kids going back to school, reflective vests and headlamps are outselling hats and sunglasses and pumpkin beer/latte is back on tap. Fall is upon us!
Fall in Maryland is host to some of the best races of the year including the Baltimore Running Festival that includes everything from a 5K/half marathon/marathon and relays ... which means weekly runs become a bit more purposeful and focused...as well as frustrating! To limit those frustrations and restore any confidence you may have lost, here are a few of my favorite race season tips:
Don't Skip Class. It is important that you stick to your training plan (assuming it's a reasonable plan that was designed by a professional). The next few weeks will teach you to run on tired legs and train your brain to handle discomfort - which is especially key if you are racing a half or full marathon where the monkey is sure to jump on your back at some point.
Don't Do Extra Credit. Just as important as following your training plan, so is not doing more than what the plan says or making up for the runs that you will inevitably miss. Resist the urge to go further when you feel great.
Embrace the Bad Run. Everyone has a bad run (or three). I like to think that a really crappy long run means that odds are high that race day will be good. Plus, tough runs make you tougher and allow you to learn from them.
Listen to Your Body. A string of bad runs means that your body isn't recovering. Over-training can lead to injury and burnout. It's a fine line between working through the discomfort to get stronger versus doing damage, but pay attention to the clues your body and mind give you. A day or two of rest may be just what you need to finish training strong.
Practice Speed. If you want to get faster, you need to teach your brain how to fire your muscles more quickly and powerfully. Just be careful that you don't do too much too soon. We like to put in a few strides toward the end of our shorter runs to feel what "race pace" will feel like!
Refuel. This is not the time to severely diet or tough it out by not hydrating or replenishing your energy stores during and after your run. You might be able to make it through a 10 mile training run without water, but you are cheating your muscles and impeding recovery so they can perform during tomorrow'sworkout. You should drink at least 4oz of water or electrolyte-enhanced beverage every 20 minutes and take in about ~150-300 calories an hour during training. No need to practice bonking.
Replace Your Shoes. I don't just recommend this because I own a running store. You need to treat your feet well if you want them to go the distance. Most running shoes only last 300-500 miles (less if you choose a lightweight mode) which means if you run 25 miles/week, your shoes will start to noticeably deteriorate in three months.
Worn shoes may be the reason your legs feel so heavy since they can't attenuate shock produced with each footfall (at a rate of 2,000 footfalls per mile, that pounding can wear out a body). Don't wait until race week to replace your shoes - three weeks out from race day is the perfect amount of time (if you are going with the exact same model, you can shorten this to 7-10days).
Have Fun. As the legendary runner Amby Burfoot reminded us, each mile we run is a gift. You can choose to be miserable or try to appreciate the marvel of what your body and mind are capable of. And always remember, you are lapping everyone who choose to stay on the couch or in bed which means YOU WIN!