This season has been 99% ups and only 1% down. I’ve been training and racing at a new level which we runners like to call a “breakthrough” season.
Spring Season Recap- The Numbers:
Refrigeeeighter 8miler – Raced in 4-5inches of snow and slush and held 4min/k and felt great
Chilly Half-Marathon – 1:20:16 (25sec pb), 3rd Female
Achilles 5k – 17:30 (17sec pb), 2nd Female (1 week post Chilly)
ATB 30k- 1:59:00 (12minute pb) 8th Female
Race Roster 8k- 29:40 (46sec pb) 5th Female (2 weeks post ATB)
Montreal Half-Marathon – the 1%, still 6th Female
Brantford Classic 5k- 17:54 1st Female, (1week after MTL)
Mississauga 10k- 36:19 (46sec pb), 1st Female
If you’ve been following my facebook/instagram/twitter you’ll know that I’ve pb’d in every distance I’ve attempted this season. So what gives? Must be something in the water… as the saying goes. While it’d be nice to break it down that simply, I can trace every gain back to what I’ve changed this build. If you’re interested in knowing read on, if not scroll on for some cool pics at the end!
1. Consistency and Timing
There is no one huge factor that changed my running overnight. Rather, it is a simple formula of another year on top of years of training relatively injury free – no major setbacks requiring reduced training load. Running is an accumulation of fitness and this year I was long overdue to reap the rewards of such. 10 years of running. So be patient, improvements in running are rarely linear, but they will come if you put the work in.
2. Increase in Training Load
It’s no secret that I really put my nose to the grindstone and ran the most mileage I’ve ever done. Check back on my other blogs to see more, but a simple summary is: last year I averaged about 100km/wk in a build and this season 115-120 km/wk topping out at 140. More is not always better, but at 100k/wk I knew I could safely build towards 120 without injury. More importantly, I added and continuously evaluated how I felt to make sure I wasn’t trying to “just hit” a number. In fact, as I started to lower my mileage I discovered I actually feel much worse if I go too low, so going forward I will maintain a slightly higher mileage in season. I also have included much longer long runs than in my usual build because I found my body adapted very well to them during my marathon prep in the fall.
3. Supplemental Work
My increase in training load also included non running activities as well. As a personal trainer, I live in the gym. This season, starting in November, I took my “extra stuff” seriously. I wrote a weight and core program for myself and stuck to it religiously 2x/week. I alternated training cycles to match my running cycle including 6weeks of heavy lifting which I really enjoyed. This meant sacrificing comfort as I was often sore on my easy and even longruns. I remember one run with the GRE boys on the ATB course where my glutes hurts so bad I felt crippled. They laughed, told me to not lift weights but I knew long term it would be worth it. In that process, I looked at fixing my weak areas including an anterior pelvic tilt (long-term gift from my gymnastics days), hip drop or glute activation (these often go together), and retraining activation patterns of my run gait (which I’ll get to later) to get rid of lazy habits. I remember cranking out hard sessions in the gym or my basement which it was -20 and dark out picturing my success come race day, all worth it.
The end result, a much stronger stride with each step that I could actually feel!
4. Deliberate Practice
This was perhaps one of the biggest ways that I improved my form and thus efficiency and overall finish time in races. In my Kinesiology program the topic of deliberate practice came up often especially when referring to how someone becomes an expert at something. I always operate with the optimistic outlook that if you work hard enough at something you can be right up there competing with the “talented” few. So what is it?
“Deliberate practice refers to a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic. While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance.”
In my training runs I’ve made it a point to really focus on my form and even mental strategy. For form, lifting from the knees instead of pulling from my feet, opening my stride vs the marathon shuffle, incorporating more of a swing via back kick instead of the usual choppy stride and the biggest change, PUSHING FROM THE GROUND upon landing instead of merely HITTING the ground. This allowed me to correct a major form inefficiency that lead to all of my injuries especially my nagging plantar fasciitis. And very soon after changing my landing patterns my foot pain disappeared which allowed me to increase my training load pain-free. Deliberate practice means thinking about how I was running each step and increasing the mind-body connection to really feel HOW I am running instead of mindlessly just cramming mileage in. Each run having a purpose and a different aspecr to focus on. I applied the same approach to workouts focusing on form and seeing how fast I could run with proper form without losing control. If you train as if you have nothing left you will never be able to replicate that effort in a race situation – smooth, controlled, and relaxed. #thinkfastbefast
To do this yourself, do a realistic assessment of your own strengths and weaknesses, shoot some videos of your drills and while running. Objectively look at realistic areas you can change. Now, I don’t believe in trying to fully overhaul your form and try to run “perfectly” because your body runs a certain way for a reason, could be muscular or structural. But look at small changes you can make over time (years) to help decrease injury risk and improve efficiency.
5. Support and Team
No athlete could do what they do without the help of others. From Rob and Josh grinding out windstorm Wednesdays with me to the whole GRE gang grinding weekend Atb course longruns in the middle of winter; the team was a huge part of my success and will continue to be. They say all it takes is one person who truly believes in you, I have an entire team.
Of course never enough words for my husband extraordinaire Josh who coaches me and even takes time from his own workouts to help myself and his other athletes with their workouts. His mental toughness and race strategy brillance continues to amaze me and push me each day. He also is my go to therapist for all my aches and pains. He is always there when I need him and pushing me to get the most out of myself!
Another shout out to my dad who is always there at races and taught me as a kid that I could have anything I wanted if I worked hard enough. This philosophy I take with me each day in everything I do.
And of course, I’m always thankful for the support of Skechers Performance Canada who give me the best damn shoes for training and racing. Their support keeps me pushing to reach the next level knowing that I have their belief in me. Let me know if you’re interested in trying them out and I can help you find the best shoe for you!
Here’s a few pics from a great spring season and winter build!
Next up, Ottawa 10k Championships and then onto off-season!
Thanks for reading! GRIND ON!