“The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.” – Bull Durham (1988)

Perhaps sadly, I consider myself cursed with self-awareness.  And so after training for 6+ months to run 26.2 miles, I think it’s only appropriate to reflect on what went right, what went wrong, and what I’ve learned from all of this.

The good:  

I honestly think I was well-prepared for this race, especially physically.  My training went well with minimal injuries and minimal disruptions.  I think this is encouraging because Jeff Galloway warns trainees who want to undertake a time-goal training plan, that with additional speed work and distance there comes an increased risk of injury.  Even though my foot injury has nagged me at time, it never prevented me from training.  The only long run I missed was a 14 mile run back in May when I was at Disney with the kids.  I cut a few of the longest runs short: I did 27.3 instead of 29 miles, 25 instead of 27 miles, and 21 instead of 25 miles.  I still finished 3 long runs above 20 miles.  Of my longest 4 runs, 2 went very well and 2 didn’t go so well.  The 2 that were more problematic were related to heat and therefore weren’t terribly predictive of what would happen in November on race day.  I did miss several Magic MIles due to travel and race schedules.  This didn’t seem to be terribly important in the outcome of the race. I proud of how well I stuck to my training plan!

I also realized during the tough points in the race that I have an inner determination (my husband would call it stubbornness) that prevents me from quitting.  There were times in the race when I had serious doubts about my ability to finish but never I time where I really thought I would quit.  I think this time of determination is not merely important for running endurance events but is more a commentary on how I would like to live my life.

The Bad:

I truly wasn’t mentally prepared for the challenges of running NYC.  I didn’t have a great plan to deal with the long gap between the time I woke up and the time I actually started the race (7+ hours!).  I honestly wouldn’t have been able to train for that long time gap anyway because of my family commitments.  Perhaps I could have spent more time discussing with Jeff Galloway what my pre-race nutritional plan should have been.  Although I live in a fairly hilly area, the one part of my training where I skimped was hilly training.  I really didn’t understand how difficult the bridges would be (damn you, 59th Bridge!) and if I had understood, I would have spent more time in training on hill repeats.  I’m not sure how I could have handled my stomach issues on race day any differently but I plan to train and race with straight water in the future, in case the Gatorade Endurance formula was the cause of the problem.

The Ugly:

I know I should feel elated that I finished the NYC Marathon with a 25 minute PR but, instead, I feel vaguely dissatisfied. Although I’m a relatively new runner (almost 4 year runniversary coming up in January!), I have a long history as a competitive athlete.  And it kills me that I’m so darn slow.  I know so many people who are just impressed that I started – and finished – a full marathon.  But people who know anything about marathon running also know that 5:26:58 just isn’t a great finish time.  I’m not looking for a sub-4 hour or Boston Qualifying time.  But shouldn’t I be able to run a 4:30 marathon? I know so many people who have run a “one and done” marathon who finished in the 4:30 range.  Why is my baseline so much slower? Why after months of 1 mile repeats was I unable to finish closer to 5 hours?

I want to qualify the above whining by saying this:  I know that even getting to the starting line of ANY race is a major accomplishment.  Finishing the NYC Marathon is a HUGE accomplishment and I am truly proud.  In the last 2 weeks I have received several lovely comments from people about how my running has inspired them to run and push themselves further.  Please know that I hold myself to a much different standard than I hold the rest of the world and if I were reading the above written by a friend, I would remind that person of what an amazing achievement a marathon is.  I know this.  Really I do. But I also believe in trying to understand how I can do better next time.

The Future:

My next races are the Disney World 10k and full marathon.  I’m running the 10k with my husband at whatever pace he wants to run.  So I’m not even thinking about a time on that race.  I haven’t decided what I want to do with the full marathon.  Having recovered from NYC, should I start pushing myself with speed work to try to beat my NYC time (Disney is a much easier course but the weather can be very warm on race day)? Do I want to just do the minimum training required to finish the race safely and plan to run the race for fun? I feel like I poured my heart and soul into training for NYC and came up a little short of my goal.  Do I want to keep striving for improvement now or cut back a little?

Beyond Disney I have nothing definite on my race calendar.  I want to do the April, 2014 MORE Magazine Women’s 1/2 Marathon in Central Park (it’ll be my 4th consecutive year running it).  I got my 1/2 marathon PR on that difficult course last year.  I hope to run the fall Wine & Dine Half Marathon at Disney instead of trying for NYC again (they are one week apart so I can’t run both races).  I’ll likely run the Westchester Running Festival Half in October and the Mini 10k in June.  And I’m starting to think about running the anniversary Goofy in Disney in January, 2015.

I’ve started working with a sports nutritionist to try to lose the 10 lbs that I gained when I trained for that 1st Disney Marathon two years ago.  I’m currently at zero gain from the NYC Marathon (I had gained a couple of pounds but I’m back to my baseline of 10 lbs over my “ideal” weight).  I’ve started incorporating more strength training into my weekly regimen and have plans to add cross-training after Disney (mostly because I just quit my old gym to join a new one that won’t open until February).  I’m working on fat-burning and overall health for now.

Some people might say that my quest to get faster is going to take the fun out of running for me.  That may be true and I’ll need to constantly re-assess that.  For me I enjoy trying to improve and I don’t mind the extra work to try to get faster.  It’s a challenge and in some ways I think it keeps me interested in running to set goals.  In the long run (no pun intended) I’d love to run a sub-2 hour half and at least a sub-5 hour full (if not a 4:30 full!).  I’m not sure I am capable of either of those goals but I won’t know if I don’t try.  Taking off 10 lbs, losing body fat, adding strength training and cross-training will only help.

I think overall I had a successful journey to the Start Line of the NYC Marathon and another successful journey to the Finish Line.  I didn’t have a perfect race day but I had the best day I was capable of having on November 3rd.  I think I need to focus on speed training (either starting now for Disney or after Disney for the MORE) and also focus on nutrition and strength training.  I truly believe I am doing a good job with my training but I also believe I may be capable of even more.