After any race, I like to go back and review the race itself, the training cycle, and anything else surrounding the race to determine areas for improvement. New York City has been a tough one to write an assessment about. The race report was easy. I had a great time enjoying the experience, raced well given the circumstances, and fully moved on from the race. However, it has been difficult to sit down and do a fair assessment and review. Why? Most likely because I've been savoring the race. I know there are things I'd do differently, which I'll describe below, but it has more to do with closure on the race. I feel like once I do my review, its over officially. And to be honest, I've been enjoying the post-race glow, freedom to run how I feel, and not be driven by a plan. The month since the race has felt like ages in some respects, while I can practically replay much of the day in my head as if it was yesterday. But the time has come to close this chapter and move onto the next, so without further adieu, my lessons learned from New York City:
- Hills - Do Them Up and Down: No matter how the course of your goal race is designed - flat or hilly. They build strength, secretly work some speed, and help improve your running form. But most importantly, work both the ups and downs. One of the main reasons I believe I experienced early cramping at NYC was due to focusing primarily on the ups. Knowing I had bridges to cross, I wanted to make sure I had my climbing legs. However, what goes up must come down, and in order to run NYC or any hilly course well, you need to have the specific strength on both sides or else the fatigue will get you. Run short hills fast, long hills steady, both at race effort, but most importantly, alternate focusing on ups and downs. It frustrates me that I didn't think of this during training, but that's what these reviews are for, right?
- Adjusting Paces - Gut It Out and Get Over It: It's easy in the thick of training to opt for the less challenging route when you are fatigued both mentally and physically. The same could be said for life. Usually, if you have to work for it, the end result is better. For example, choosing the slower range for a workout, which may not provide as much benefit as would nailing the faster end (as long as it is still within the purpose of the workout). As my paces have progressed faster, I had gotten a little complacent in adjusting them downward. We all have mental barriers, such as easy runs that start with a 9:xx becoming 8:xx, even if it is only a matter of a few seconds. Well for me, my lactate threshold pace dropped below 6:30/mi for the first time to around 6:20/mi and it added a little mental stress/intimidation before those workouts. My marathon pace also dropped below 7:00/mi to around 6:55/mi. And while running a workout close to the goal still gave me a great workout, I'd be lying to myself if I didn't think I could have trained a bit harder. Too frequently, I hung on to my old training paces, which were still challenging, but I was more comfortable with those as my goal. I need to get over the mental barriers and just train at my ideal paces, even if they scare me a bit. I can't expect optimal results if I don't train to optimal paces.
- Strength Work: Add Variety: Throughout this training cycle, I've held on to my commitment to make strength work a part of my usual business, whether it was included in my warm ups, cool downs, or as a separate workout. I am proud to have kept that promise to myself, because I truly do believe in the power of strength work to building a better runner. However, I've been set in my ways through a few pretty standard (to me) routines. I know them like the back of my hand, which means I can do them anywhere and much faster than a routine I'm not familiar with. And while the targeting of different muscles through these routines no doubt made me a better runner, adding some variety will offer alternative ways of hitting those same muscle groups. Variety is good, as long as you know what you're doing. I need to seek out alternatives to add to my rotation so I don't get stale. There are plenty of other resources out there that I trust, but I just need to make the effort to learn those routines rather than defaulting to my usual ones.
This is a relatively short list, but each one is meaningful and can provide direct results in future training cycles (for both myself and for any runner seeking to become better). I was very pleased with my race and felt like I mostly met my expectations (aside from the time on the finish line) given the conditions. I have more work to do and my commitment to do so never wavers.
So you're probably wondering where I go from here? What's next? Well, I'm still trying to figure that one out. There are a handful of Spring marathons I am considering (primarily March-April time frame), but am always open to recommendations if you've got them!