Lessons Learned | The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans LLC


From the look of that bling rack, I’ve run a couple races in my short running “career” term used very loosely since I’ll never make a living by running.  The fact is, I’m a bit of a bling junkie.  Maybe it comes from never being athletic as a kid and missing out on all those soccer trophies, but whatever the reason, I love to run races.  Note – I didn’t say I love to race other people because I really don’t.  Probably because of that whole “never make a living by running” thing.

In any case, I’ve run about 40 races (not including virtual fun runs) since I started running in 2006.  Every one of those races, whether I’ve wanted to admit it or not, was a learning experience.  There have been lessons learned in every race from my first 5k, runDisney half marathons, the 10k where I clocked my first sub-60, every PR, even my one DNS (did not start due to a stress fracture).  My most recent lessons learned came from this latest training cycle – where I literally chased my first sub-5 hour marathon and in the process far exceeded my goal (I finished in 4:52) and took almost 35 minutes off my first marathon time.

Some of those lessons were very personal, but a few of them I’d like to share here.  It’s my hope that some of you benefit and also learn from what worked for me and what didn’t.

  • Flexibility is key – Now, while I don’t mean being able to do a back bend (although stretching and yoga is encouraged), I do mean it’s important to allow for some flexibility in your training plan.  Just because the plan you started with seems sound, if something isn’t working, by all means change it.  For me, it was deciding about 2/3 of the way through that I would run this race using 5 minute run / :30 second walk intervals rather than straight running like I’d originally planned. This time, it worked for me.
  • Vacations don’t mean the end of your training – I managed to clock a 14 mile long run while I was in Savannah for the FitBloggin conference.  Not only did I still get in my long run, I was able to see a ton of the city that I might have otherwise missed and run with some pretty incredible people.  I even posted about the run here.
  • Speedwork WORKS – I’ve always said, if you want to get faster, you have to run faster.  Tempo runs and interval workouts were a big key for me on this training cycle (and this was true for my half marathon PR as well).  You may dread them and think there’s no way you’ll hit the prescribed paces, but do them.  I’d even be willing to bet that about 80-90% of the time, you even hit the paces.
  • Sometimes less is more – I know there are training programs out there that contain 5-6 running workouts per week and top out at 1 or 2 20 mile long runs.  I know from running consistently for the past several years that week after week of back-to-back runs only wears my body down.  My training plan was just 3 runs per week, topping out around 30-35 miles per week during my peak weeks.  If you speak to many marathoners, you’ll learn that they run upwards of 50-60 miles per week.  I know that this does not work for me.
  • Sometimes more is more – Like I just said, I only ran 3 times per week (with a few weeks hitting a 4th run but that was certainly the exception).  From my first marathon training, I learned that the mental game is HUGE with me.  I only had one or two 20 milers during that training and I crashed full tilt into the wall at mile 18.  We’re talking epic meltdown, miles of walking, and thinking there was no way I was going to finish. This time around, I did 5 20 milers and I stayed on top of my nutrition and hydration.  No wall.  No tears.  No meltdowns.  Mentally, all those extra 20 milers were a Godsend come race day.
  • TMI will happen – Whether it happens during a training run or on race day, something of the TMI variety will occur.  Learn from it.  I learned that once you’ve switched to a paleo-ish diet, eating a bag of microwave popcorn the night before your 20 mile run and then having oatmeal for breakfast might NOT be the best choice.  To say that run was a bit rough would be an understatement.  I think you get the drift.
  • Chafing sucks – whether you are running for 10 minutes or 5 hours, there’s a strong likelihood that some area of your body will chafe no matter how much glide or anti-chafing product you use.  What works for your best friend may not work for you, but ask around.  I actually found the WooHa Ride Glide I use for cycling works pretty well on other parts, too, but unless you want to stop and reapply something mid marathon, count on some chafing.  I also learned that I will ALWAYS chafe under my girls and around my rib cage, no matter what bra I wear.  Tags in clothing are also not your friend and cutting the tag off your capris the day before your marathon might result in a really cool new marathon tattoo.
  • The first run post-marathon will hurt – Just accept you are going to be slow and feel like you look like Urkel during that run.  Roll with it. The next one will (hopefully) be better.

There you have it, friends, a few lessons learned from my last marathon training cycle.  I’m already thinking ahead to 2015 and beyond, hoping to finds some more really cool races with awesome bling where I can apply these lessons.

What lessons did your last workout teach you?

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Bari is an avid runner and sometime triathlete, learning the importance of training smart but also having fun. She loves to share a good beer with friends and has been known to host virtual toasts on Twitter. When she isn’t running, biking, swimming, or trying to lift heavy things, she’s playing on her phone or trying to figure out how to pay for college for her twins who graduate in 2015. Bari lives in West Michigan and loves to encourage new runners and triathletes to reach their goals.