Perspective and Preparation: Wintergreen’s NYC Marathon Buildup

Picking up that NYC qualifying time!

1:27:08: The half marathon time that got me into the 2017 New York City marathon. It was a huge PR for me in autumn of 2016, more than 5 minutes faster than I’d run before, and I couldn’t wait to run NYC. Now, here we are, with race day looming on Nov. 5.

People ask, “Are you excited?” The easy answer is to smile, nod, and reply “yes.” But my original excitement has faded. Deep down inside is a version of myself that is terrified to run another 26.2. The version of me that is still haunted by a bad day in Boston earlier this year. I have tried to put it behind me, but I still think about it, and I still beat myself up over it.

In Boston, I ran a 3:40, which was a lot slower than my 3:17 qualifying time. A number of things went wrong for me that day. I could make a bunch of excuses — blame the heat, blame my foot that cramped at mile 3 — but it just wasn’t my day. Shortly after Boston, I would learn about my progesterone imbalance, which also wasn’t helping me.

I know I need to let it go, and I’m running out of time. I’ve made some changes to my training since Boston, and I’m hoping that these changes work in my favor. Cool temperatures and overcast skies on race day would also be greatly appreciated (got that, Mother Nature?!).

Perspective

NYC holds a special place in my heart, and is a city of wonderful memories for me. We have family there. My husband and I got engaged there. We’ve traveled there countless times, and spent a lot of hours walking many of the same streets (and driving over the bridges) that I, along with 50,000 other runners, will run during the race.

It is those special memories, and the presence of family, that will get me to Central Park. If my race starts to go down the drain, I will fight, but I will also accept it and enjoy the beauty of the city. It is such a unique way to see the city I love.

I ran my qualifying time in October 2016 at the Fall Colours Half Marathon, just outside of Ottawa. It was actually my second attempt at running a sub-1:32 half marathon in order to qualify for NYC. I had run a half marathon 3 weeks before that on an unusually hot day, and the heat got the best of me. I knew I a sub-1:32 in me, so I registered for Fall Colours, and I’m certainly glad I did!

Making Changes

I made a lot of changes this training cycle. Before toeing the line in Boston, I was feeling very drained. In fact, I was overtrained. I hadn’t been taking my easy runs easy. After Boston, it was discovered that my progesterone levels were incredibly low, which was also wreaking havoc on my body. In order to train sustainably, I knew I had to make some changes. The big changes I made while training for NYC:

  • Switching from the Pfitzinger’s 70-mile/18-week marathon plan to the Hanson’s 18-week advanced plan. The thought of the longest run being 16 miles sounded glorious and scary at the same time. Some of the speed workouts looked so intimidating on paper. Overall, the weekly mileage was less than I was used to. I used the pace chart in the book to determine my paces for each run. I also raced during this training cycle, which isn’t something I have done much of before. If I needed to run 5/10k race pace for a speed work session, why not run them in a race setting? I’m hoping that switching plans and running a bit less will keep me from overtraining. I maxed out at 112km per week when training for Boston, compared to 95km this time around (69 miles compared to 59, for those of us stateside). So far, so good: I didn’t feel as physically exhausted when peak week was over. This will be my third marathon, and I am still figuring out what approach works best for me.
  • Nutrition was my other big change. I met with a naturopath regarding my progesterone issues and he mentioned that I needed more fat in my diet, as well as more leafy greens (before meeting with the doctor there were roughly zero leafy greens in my diet). I have diligently followed his recommendations and incorporated specific supplements into my routine. I have gone from two salads in my entire life to roughly five salads a week — stay tuned for more details on this! If this has no impact on my marathon performance, at least I can say I made better habits during this training cycle.

Physically, I feel stronger this time around. My legs still have some kick and my body isn’t achy like it was during my Boston training cycle. If the races I ran were any indication of my fitness level right now, I would say I’m in good shape heading to NYC. Both races were on extremely hot days with high humidity. In the 10k that I raced, I managed to place first female and 17th overall, out of about 7,700 people. I wasn’t expecting that! It was also my second sub-40 10k and a very solid confidence boost.

I feel incredibly lucky to by running my second World Major this year. The marathon is still new to me, and I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. Over the next few days, I’ll remind myself that I’m ready for this. That everyone has good days and bad days, and whatever happens on Nov. 5 is what is meant to be. I am trying to put any expectations out of my mind. Running isn’t my job. I have two young kids and work full time. I have plenty of marathons left in me — but after NYC, I will be taking a break from the marathon distance until at least 2019. I am switching gears to focus on the 5k and 10k distances next year.

Final Thought

NYC will be Meb’s last marathon. I read an article in Runner’s World a few years ago in which he was quoted as saying:

“If it can’t be today, maybe tomorrow. If it can’t be tomorrow, maybe next week. If not next week, then maybe next month.”

That same thought will be with me on race day, as Meb runs those streets in his last professional race of his incredible and inspiring career.

A mother runner chasing big dreams.

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10 comments

  1. Good luck in NYC!
    I had a very similar experience in Boston. I ran a 3:49 but the marathon before that I ran a 3:14. I didn’t really beat myself up though. Boston was super tough and I’m not a professional runner so who cares if I ran a crappy time? I was just happy I finished and got my medal. Don’t put pressure on yourself and just have fun.

    1. Thanks Margaret! My Boston experience was fairly similar, and I do tend to be too hard on myself. Very early on in the race my goal was just to finish and get the medal – also so that I could wear my jacket (I don’t think I would have been able to if I didn’t finish the race). I am feeling better leading into NYC, and the weather is looking promising, so I’m hoping for a good day out there!

  2. Good luck on Sunday!! I’ll be sending you good wishes as I toe the line of my goal race that morning (a fast fall 5K, going for a PR but we’ll see ;) Just think, you’ve got the city cheering you on, you’ve got Salty Running fans across the country cheering you on- no matter what, we’ve got your back.

  3. I’ll be cheering for you! If it at all helps I don’t know anyone (save for a few on IG who I’m suspicious about) who had a good time in Boston this year. It was a tough year and I have faith that the weather in NYC will be great for you!