Being a part of a team is an amazing privilege. It is a rare but fulfilling experience to work alongside other women towards a common goal. Whether you are on a high school team where whoever shows up on day one is your teammate, you are a collegiate athlete who has the rare opportunity to “pick” your teammates in the recruiting process, or you are on a post-collegiate racing team — you may find yourself in a situation where your coach asks you to “race with your teammates.”
The marathon seems to have become the pinnacle achievement for the average runner (okay, okay, anyone who runs a marathon is better than average, but you know what I mean). When I got back into running after college, I very quickly jumped into the half marathon distance and within a couple of years targeted my first marathon. Everyone was doing one, it seemed. But after seven 26.2s in four years, I needed a break and decided to train for a 5K. Now, I’m hooked. If you’re looking to transition to a new distance, here are a few tips to consider.
5ks often get a bad rap, and rightfully so. Racing a 5k can be painful, but when approached correctly, it can also be incredibly rewarding! Of course that is assuming that you enjoy challenging yourself and testing your limits, but isn’t that is why a lot of us are hooked on the sport of running to begin with?
Hi, Saltines! Coach Hops here. It’s March, the snow is melting, the days are getting longer, and we’re all gearing up for some Spring and Summer racing. Maybe you’ve been racing for years and have your tried-and-true training routines down to a science. Or maybe you have a coach and do whatever she says. But maybe you’re newer to running and racing: you’ve read all of our training plan posts but you’re still not quite sure what to expect. Today I want to talk about the basic phases of race training, and about what else you should be doing to get ready to race.
“Caffeine is a perfectly legal performance enhancer. If you are serious about improving your race time, you are crazy not to use it.”
That’s pretty close to a direct quote from a conversation I had with my nutritionist. I originally started working with him to help with weight loss, but in the process, I’ve also learned an enormous amount about how to fuel while running. With marathon day approaching, my long runs are taking on more of a dress rehearsal aspect, hence our conversation about caffeine.
In 2017, I achieved two major goals that were actually part of a 5-10 year plan: the Boston and New York City marathons. Running them both in the same year, as my second and third marathons, respectively, was unexpected and not in the plan. So I’ve tinkered with the plan, and I’m excited to share what I want to accomplish in 2018.
With NYC behind me, I have fielded a lot of questions about what’s next. I’ve even been asked how will I ever top 2017 from a running perspective. I don’t feel like I have to race a World Major Marathon in order for a year to be considered big or successful. I’m quite content racing locally and focusing on improving my times. Which brings me to what’s next for me on the running front.
I’ve known what’s next for a while actually. Although I wasn’t super thrilled with either of my marathon times this year, my decision wasn’t based on those results. Rather, it’s about the great experiences I’ve had with shorter distance racing, specifically at the 10k distance.
In the fall of 2016, I raced my first 10k, and REALLY surprised myself by running a 37:54. This time was under the Elite B standard for the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend 10k, which is also the Canadian 10k road championships. My elite application was accepted, but I knew I likely wouldn’t perform the way I wanted to because the race was just a few weeks after Boston. My body took a long time to recover from those Boston hills. I gave my best at the TORW 10k, but I was burnt out. A few days after the race I was diagnosed with low progesterone.
During the summer, I decided that I would train for NYC, but it would be my last marathon for a while. I love the marathon, I loved marathon training. There was something about the structure and the discipline that I thrived on, and I can honestly say that I never had a day where I felt I was forcing myself to run — I consider myself lucky for that. My decision to change my focus for racing was mostly due to my interest in the 10k distance, and of course, wanting redemption for not performing the way I wanted to at the 10k championships in Ottawa.
I ran a 5k and a 10k race during NYC training, and managed to surprise myself again on a hot day racing a 10k. I finished as the 1st place female and 17th overall at the Canada Army Run 10k, and broke 40 minutes for the second time. This race was a breakthrough in my marathon training. I felt like I was heading in the right direction, being able to break 40 minutes on very tired legs, on a hot day at the end of a marathon training week. It was far off my personal best, but I thought, “If I had been focusing on the 10k, and not been training for a marathon, I know I could have done better.” The signs were there during all of 2017, and now I have decided that 2018 will be the year of the 10k.
It’s not the ‘easy way out’
To me, my decision makes a lot of sense. To others, they keep asking me which marathon is next, and when I reply that I’m taking a break from that distance, they wonder why. In my opinion, the 10k is just as much work as a marathon. I know that I have to get a lot stronger and focus on some of the things I let slide a bit when marathon training. My ultimate goal is to run 36:XX in the 10k. This goal scares me, but it also motivates me. The drive and motivation are there. I know what I have to do to achieve my goal. I’m ready to start chasing it.
Have you made a decision to focus on racing a shorter distance after a string of longer distance races? How do you decide what’s next after a big race?
We’ve all been there. Two weeks before your goal race, some body part, usually in the lower half of your body, will start to grumble at you. Panic! Confusion! Denial! You limp out of bed in the mornings, wear compression everything, take ice baths, foam roll 24/7, and discuss extensively with your running friends what to do.
Is it just the taper crazies? Or are you really injured? Should you race? Should you take half a pack of ibuprofen and then race? Should you start the race, but stop if it hurts too much? Or should you stay off it, forget about the race, and become the world champion of moping instead?
Among the Saltines, there’s a wide range of attitudes toward racing with pain. I’m conservative about it, an attitude I’ve learned from experience (FYI: racing a half marathon with achilles tendonitis is a good way to make sure the achilles tendonitis gets even worse and lasts even longer. Shocking, I know.) Last year, when I hurt my foot a few weeks before the Berlin Marathon, I decided not to run the race despite the months of training and the squandered €99 entry fee. I was sad about missing the race, but not as sad as I would have been if running the race had made my foot hurt even worse.
Admittedly, I’m on the paranoid side when it comes to running through pain. Sometimes it turns out fine, but sometimes you end up with a long-term problem. To me, the risk isn’t worth it – not to mention that it’s never a pleasant experience to race with pain – but everyone’s calculation is different.
This discussion should also come with the caveat that being 100% pain-free as a serious runner is not always possible. Often we have niggles that are fine to run through as we sort them out with physiotherapy or other treatments. Today, we’re not talking about niggles, but rather about pain that is present while you run and may be made worse by racing (or not! Nobody knows!)
Tell us: what’s your approach to racing with pain? Do you or don’t you? What are your experiences?
Dear Race Directors,
You want to bring in fast runners to get some exposure for your race. You decide to offer prize money. Great. Believe me, I love prize money. For sub-elite runners, those smaller prize purses can really help offset race entries and travel costs. And by being able to afford to race reputable races, runners can build their resumes, which helps with sponsorships and getting into even bigger races.
But if you’re going to offer prize money, you gotta do it right.
First, write the checks the day of the event. You don’t have to do this, but it is preferred. If you want to gain a good reputation, this is the best practice, especially for a smaller race.
Not all races do this, for various reasons. I get that. But like with any business transaction — because in reality, that’s what this is — you should pay your invoices on time. I think two weeks is an acceptable amount of time for a local road race.
Notification in advance (like the Mill Race Marathon does) or at the awards ceremony is appreciated if the check is, as they say, in the mail.
For a larger race, 90 days is perfectly acceptable. There are drug testing protocols, and those things take time. For example, I ran the BAA 5k in early April and received a gift card in the mail for winning my age group. The gift card arrived in early July. Usually larger races mail out medals and other prizes to age group winners, and I’ve always received those awards within 90 days.
And, even smaller races (see Mill Race, above) are stepping up their anti-doping game. That’s great news!
But, it is never okay to take 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, or more to mail out a check to your winners. If a runner has to write multiple emails or take to social media to get their money, you’re doing it wrong. And if you really mess up, you could go viral for the wrong reasons.
One race director asked runners to give their prize money back when he made a mistake, and the LetsRun trolls got ahold of the story. Eventually, he changed his mind and made up the difference with $9,500 of his own money. This is an extreme case, of course.
The road goes both ways, of course. There’s an etiquette for the runners, too. If you receive a complimentary entry to a race, it’s a good idea to formally write a thank you note or email. The same goes for if you win prize money, or if you just enjoyed the event. You don’t have to, but it’s a nice thing to do, and can’t you hear your grandmother now? You can also write a note or review on the event’s Facebook page or other social media outlets — they’ll definitely appreciate that!
If you’ve had a bad experience or good experience at a race, whether with prize money or otherwise, let’s hear it.
I’ll start. Freihofer’s Run for Women, you are a prestigious event, but as of September 20, 2017, you owe me $400.
Heart rate, pace, mileage, cadence — we runners are data junkies! But with our (over?) reliance on gadgets to measure all these things, are we losing our internal navigation systems? When we’re staring at our watch with all its bells and whistles and thinking about what it’s going to post on Strava, can we ever run mindfully? Are we capable of feeling easy pace, tempo effort, strides, or even race pace?
We’ve talked a lot about easy pace. And by now we probably all know to use that age-old mindfulness trick called the talk test: can I carry on a conversation without major huffing and puffing? If so, then the pace is easy. But what about running hard? How are you supposed to know when we’re pushing ourselves hard enough, but not too hard? What does it even mean to run hard? Read more >>
There are perks to being an elite runner: complimentary race entries, travel assistance, free hotel stay, performance bonuses, even VIP porta-potties. The list of luxuries goes on and on. But many of these perks are available to sub-elite runners, if you know where to look or if you know the secret handshake. The key is finding the best races that cater to runners who aren’t quite national class, but are still very good runners.
So, how do you know where to find these races? Well, I’ve asked some of my friends to share their favorites and tell us about their experience as a sub-elite. And I’ve included some of my own favorites as well!
Two years ago, I ran the best race of my life, but since winning the Oil Creek 100K in 2014, a lot has changed. Over the last two years I’ve longed for the same race experience, but I also met my now-husband, moved in with him, adopted a cat, started graduate school, got promoted at work, got married and bought a house.
Before all of that, running was something I was getting to be pretty good at, and when I went to a race, I went there to win. But at the end of 2014, I was injured, and then couldn’t manage a good race through 2015 or most of this year. I was burnt out, tired, still slightly injured, and unable to deal with the fact that my life did not and could not revolve around running anymore. After another DNF at the Indiana Trail 100 in April, I ran my next two races with one of my best friends in May, then decided to drop from Mohican 100 and take some time off.
Early this summer, I decided to do something really crazy: train for my first road marathon since 2013! Read more >>
Decades ago, women-only road races made sense. Societal notions on the athletic abilities of women left them banned from participating in most road races up until the 1960s and 1970s. Women-only races emerged as a beacon of the women’s running revolution: if we couldn’t participate in road races, then we would make our own.
That victory has long since been won. Women are no longer tackled when they run the Boston Marathon. Our gender comprises almost 50% of participants in road races, especially the half marathon.
So why do women-only road races, like last weekend’s Tufts 10k for Women, still exist? Are they a celebration of women’s running, an opportunity to introduce women to run, or a sexist remnant of an older era of road racing that promotes stereotypes about women in sports?
Late August summer mornings are made for cross-country, with their damp warm air, piercing sun from the east shining down on lush, freshly mown grass. Though this particular late August morning wasn’t as hot as some, it was still hot. The course for the day’s race meandered through the mostly unshaded grounds of South High, either North High’s sister or rival school depending on who you talk to.
After the starting shots rang out, echoing against the school’s brick walls, the race swarmed off into the distance behind a speeding Gator. I pictured the North girls spread out behind it: Sydnie in front charting the course for Natalie, Lydia, Hannah, Vidhi, Mollee, and Caitlin, all scattered further back throughout the pack.
As I surveyed the school grounds before me, my focus broke when I spotted Coach James out of the corner of my eye. He hustled past with his clipboard in hand, jogging toward his chosen vantage point.
“Hey! Salty!” he said with a hug and then blurted, “Syd’s out. She’s at the doctor, sick!”
Sydnie, the number one runner on the team, the one aiming for a berth at the State meet this year, but most importantly, Sydnie, the leader of the North girls’ cross-country team, was not there at the first big meet of the season.
“It’s ok, though! This is an opportunity for the other girls to step-up,” he said as he ran toward the sound of the Gator. Read more >>
Luck. Juju. Magic. We runners tend to be a ritualistic bunch. Chances are that your race day essentials include not only safety pins and Bodyglide, but some kind of lucky charm, whether it’s a part of your outfit, a particular pre-race tradition or just a talisman you have on hand. A little pre-race superstition never hurt anyone, right?
Sassafras and I have teamed up this week to discuss the use of pre-race superstitions. We thought it might be fitting seeing that we are the last of the Saltys to be racing a marathon or half marathon this season. More than likely, we will be sure to complete our pre-race rituals or bring our little lucky charms. But what if something happens race morning that throws a routine or ritual off? What happens if you leave your little charm at home? Read more >>
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