Tag: Alberto Salazar
I’m still in Park City—or back in Park City, I should say. I made a quick trip down to sea level last weekend to race the 5000m at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene. It was a late decision. I was asked to go and run at Pre. Alberto decided I should help pace my teammate Jackie Areson to a World Championships A standard time (15:15). I wouldn’t normally want to throw myself into a race field as good as I knew that one was going to be when I wasn’t 100 percent ready, but I was really motivated to help Jackie and get the standard myself, so I gladly made the trip.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t Jackie’s day. She fell off the pace I set for her early. Meanwhile, the lead pack was already way ahead. So I found myself running alone in no-man’s land. I finished ninth in 15:11. I’m really pleased with that time, considering I’m still working my way back into track racing shape and I had no one to work with in the race.
More generally, I’m very pleased with where I am in my running right now. The strength I built in training for the Boston Marathon over the winter and early spring has really carried over into the training I’m doing now. Recently I ran a great set of 400m intervals. I banged out 20 of them! I’ve done 12 before, and even 14, but never 20.
Adam has been doing every run with me—twice a day, every day. Lately I’ve been trying to challenge him in workouts—something I hadn’t done in a long time. Adam says he’s glad to see me going after him again. He knows it’s a good sign. When I trained with him for Boston I was just hanging on most of the time.
Mentally, I’m much more relaxed than I was in my Boston training. Back then I felt tremendous pressure to get my fitness back in a hurry; I felt that my neck was on the line in every workout. I don’t feel that way anymore. I’m no longer in such a rush. My fitness is close to where it needs to be and I have time, so I’m running with serenity and confidence and letting the improvements come to me.
I’ve kept my mileage high—100 to 105 miles per week—and continue to do long runs of up to 18 miles, in case I wind up running the marathon at the World Championships in South Korea at the end of August. But I’m more confident now that I will make the U.S. team in the 10,000. If things continue to go in the direction they’ve been going and I race well at USA’s in two weeks, I’ll probably make a short trip to Europe and chase some PR’s. No guarantee that will happen, but I am getting excited about the idea and giving it serious consideration!
You never know what you’re going to get when you start a marathon. If your training hasn’t gone well or you’re not feeling good, you know you probably won’t set the world on fire, but you may still run better than you expect. When you’re training has good really well and you do feel good, you may know your worst-case scenario can’t be all that bad, but you may still run worse than you expect.
By the time I was three miles into the Boston Marathon on Monday, I was already worried. I just didn’t feel comfortable. Although the pace was fairly quick, it didn’t feel too fast, and my breathing was controlled. But my body felt tight and out of sync in a way that’s hard to describe. My left hamstring was especially tight. Every runner has these days occasionally, so you probably know what I’m talking about. There’s no real explanation for them, just as there’s no explanation for those special days when you feel incredible. All you can do is hope you don’t have one of those unexplainable flat days in your most important races.
I tried to tell myself to stay relaxed and positive. I might loosen up as the race went on and start to feel much better—because that can happen sometimes too. But it didn’t happen for me on Monday. By halfway, I knew it was not going to be my day. I still felt totally out of rhythm. That’s when I really started to struggle mentally. It’s not easy to keep running as hard as you can and hurting more and more with each passing mile when you know that even with all this effort and pain you will still fall short of your goal.
By 16 miles I was completely out of contention. The real race was ahead of me. Then Desiree Davila went by me looking amazing. I knew she had a chance to catch the leaders and maybe win. As she passed me, she encouraged me. “Keep your eyes up,” she said. Now that’s classy.
When I hit the hills between 19 and 21 miles I thought about dropping out. It seemed pointless to subject my body to the thrashing of the last several miles when it wouldn’t even put me on the podium. The one thing that kept me going at that point was the encouragement I was getting from the best marathon spectators anywhere in the world. As bad as I was feeling, the support I felt from all of those people shouting my name and words of encouragement gave me just enough of a lift to keep trying as hard as I could.
Once I got past the point of wanting to quit, I started to feel a little better—mentally, not physically. I was able to accept that it just wasn’t my day and realize I needed to let this one go and start looking ahead to my next goal and trust that I would be really “on” in my next big race. The one thing that continued to bother me was knowing what Adam was going through. I know how much my happiness means to Adam, and I could imagine how tormented he probably was, seeing me off the back and assuming I was crushed by it. I found myself wishing I could flash some kind of signal that a TV camera would pick up and that would tell him I was okay. I was disappointed, but I was accepting what was happening.
I was able to pick off a few runners over the last few miles, not because I got a second wind but because they were dying. It didn’t matter to me much one way or the other at that point. I was actually thinking about Desi, wondering if she was going to pull it off. As soon as I finished, race officials started asking me if I was okay, and other questions, but I ignored them and kept asking them, “How did Desi do? How did Desi do?”
I was almost surprised by how disappointed I was to learn that she had come up just short. I’m not going to lie: I want to be the woman who ends the American drought at the Boston Marathon. But I was so impressed by Desi’s self-belief, her guts, and her class, that I really forgot about what I wanted for myself and threw my support behind her as a fellow American. One thing is certain: Desiree showed that it’s only a matter of time before one of us pulls it off.
People who remember how heartbroken I was after finishing third in Boston in 2009 might assume I’m heartbroken after finishing fifth this time. But I’m not. I feel pretty good, actually. Yes, I’m disappointed that I didn’t run quite as well as I think I was ready to run. But I came away with some positives. First of all, I set a PR! That’s always something to celebrate. Also, my stomach didn’t bother me at all during the race. That’s huge, because I’ve had GI issues in all of my previous marathons, and it was a major factor holding me back as a marathon runner generally. I have my nutrition sponsor, Nutrilite, and their awesome sports drink, ROC2O, to thank for finally solving that problem.
I had a great time in Boston overall. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all of the people who came to see me at Niketown and who came up to me around town to say “Hi” and wish me good luck. A lot of you said things like, “I’m sorry to bother you” and “I hope this is okay,” and let me assure you, you did not bother me and it is more than okay! I feel like the most fortunate runner alive to have that much positive energy flowing my way from my peers.
My final thought about the 2011 Boston Marathon is that it was worth it. When I set my goal to run the race I knew it was unlikely to be my best-ever Boston Marathon, because of my recent pregnancy, but I didn’t want to assume it wouldn’t be. Above all, I didn’t want to skip it and then always wonder if it wasn’t the year I was meant to win. Turns out it wasn’t, but I’m glad I know it instead of having to wonder about it, and I’m proud of my effort.
People often ask me what I did to keep busy while I was pregnant. Well, one of the things I did was work on making another baby: my first book! It’s called Kara Goucher’s Running for Women, and it will be published officially next Tuesday (April 5) by Touchstone. It’s a pretty comprehensive collection of tips and advice for women runners, especially beginners. Every topic from getting started to diet, motivation to injury prevention, is covered.
What makes this book a little different from other books for women runners is that all of the information is based on my experience. I don’t really consider myself a coach, so I’m not comfortable just telling runners what to do. What I am comfortable doing is saying, “Here’s what has worked for me, and I think it can probably work for you, too.” When I talk to other runners, they seem curious to know what I do anyway, so I’m hopeful that more than a few people will be interested in what I have to say!
Mine is not the only perspective in the book, though. I’ve also included bits of wisdom from some of the many people who have played critical roles in my success, including my current coach, Alberto Salazar, and my active release therapist, Justin Whittaker.
I have to admit, putting the book together was harder than I thought it would be. I have a whole new respect for people like Adam Bean (who helped me with my book) who do it for a living. It was a worthwhile experience, and I’m proud of how it came out, but I’m happy that both of my new babies have been delivered so I can fill my days with running again!
Yesterday I experienced something that I’ve been waiting to experience since my very first post-pregnancy run. I ran one of my key “measuring stick” workouts as fast as I used to run it before I got pregnant. I’m back!
The workout was a 10-mile tempo run at marathon pace. I averaged 5:22 per mile. That’s the same pace I averaged when I did the same workout before the 2009 Boston Marathon. I felt so relieved after I finished it. I celebrated by running another seven miles. (There’s no rest for the weary marathoner on a 120-miles-per-week schedule!)
The rational part of me always knew I would get here if I put in the work. Unfortunately, the rational part of me is not as strong as the emotional part of me. So, in the back of my mind I constantly worried that I never would run as well as I used to, until yesterday, when I actually did it.
I’m not exactly the same runner as I used to be, though, because I’m not training like before. When I prepared for my first three marathons, I trained more or less the same way I trained for the track, except I padded my volume by 20 miles per week. I tried to hold onto all of my track speed and layer a little extra endurance on top of it. But Alberto says that’s not real marathon training. So this time we’re letting my speed go a bit and building a lot more strength with much heavier mileage.
And, sure enough, I am slower but stronger than I was in 2009. I can’t hit the times I used to hit when I run mile repeats. In tempo runs, as I mentioned, I’m now right where I used to be. And in long runs I feel better than in the past. I used to dread my faster long runs. Now I feel at home in them. I have no problem starting a 20-miler at 6:30 pace and picking it up from there.
It would be nice if I could be as fast as I am when I focus on speed and stronger, but that’s not realistic. And when I hit the 20-mile mark in Boston, I know I’ll be glad that Alberto had me focus on strength.
Now that I’ve hit my tempo run milestone, I’m really looking forward to my next race: the New York City Half Marathon on March 20. I’m nervous about it, because this is the first race since I started my comeback where I expect to run up to my usual standards, no excuses. My main goal is not to win (although I’ll try my best) or hit a certain time but to be mentally strong the whole way through. At some point, I know the race is going to get really tough, and when that happens I want to avoid giving in and feeling sorry for myself. If I stay mentally strong the whole way through, the numbers will take care of themselves and I will walk away feeling good about Boston.
I was sick all last week. It started with a sore throat, then my nose started running, and then I developed a cough. It wasn’t the worst cold I’d ever had, but I knew it could become worse if I didn’t back off my training, so I did. I ran 110 miles instead of my planned 120 miles, and I reduced the intensity of my workouts. I know that doesn’t sound like backing off, but it made a difference, believe me! Running even two or three miles less than usual feels way easier.
Getting sick was certainly a setback, but not a major one. I always seem to get sick once when training for a major race, and I’ve learned to accept that. The thing I dread is getting sick too close to the race. If I’m going to get sick, I want to get it out of the way early. My cold hit me eight weeks before Boston, which is not so bad.
It’s frustrating to get sick when you’re in the thick of training for a big race. Just when you have some real momentum going, you have to take it easy and watch your fitness go backward a step or two. It’s tempting to just push through it. Somehow we convince ourselves that we’ll be better off doing a planned track workout with a sore throat and a runny nose than running easy or taking a day off instead and postponing the workout until we’re really ready. It never works out that way.
I’ve learned the hard way to be more cautious and patient. I really learned my lesson one time when I’d just gotten over an illness and I convinced Alberto to let me hammer a workout. I hammered the workout alright, and two days later I was back in bed!
I’m not going to do that this time. I feel pretty close to 100 percent again, but I’m going to wait until Thursday to do my next full-on workout. A good rule of thumb to follow when coming back to full training from sickness is to wait until you feel ready—and then wait another day or two, just to be safe.
We’ve been busy. The Gouchers haven’t had a weekend at home in three weeks, and we’ve got two more road trips lined up for this weekend and next. In fact, I’m writing this on the road, in Seattle, where I’m running an indoor track race tonight.
Last weekend we were in sunny San Diego for Endurance Live. It was a lot of fun. On Friday we went to Point Loma Nazarene University for a track workout. I don’t think I’ve ever run on a more beautiful track. It’s on a bluff with an incredible view of the ocean. Adam told me he wished he could go back to college and enroll at PLNU. He paced me through 12 x 800m in 2:32. Competitor’s Matt Fitzgerald joined us for part of the workout. He couldn’t handle the whole thing, and I have to admit it felt good to beat up on a Competitor employee after losing to Mario in Phoenix!
After the workout we had lunch outdoors by the pool at our hotel. We haven’t seen much of the sun in a while in Portland, so we wanted to soak up as much as we could while we could.
Saturday morning we ran with a big group along the waterfront as part of Endurance Live. After breakfast we made our way to the Endurance Live consumer show at the Convention Center. One of the highlights for me was participating in a panel discussion with three-time Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington, mountain biker Rebecca Rusch, and reigning Ironman champion Mirinda Carfrae. I have a ton of respect for what those women are able to do (Mirinda ran a 2:53 marathon in 100-degree heat after riding her bike 112 miles at Ironman last October!), and I really enjoyed hearing about their perspectives and experiences.
But the biggest highlight was meeting Trista and Ryan Sutter from The Bachelor/The Bachelorette. I am a huge fan of both shows and I watched every episode of Trista’s seasons on them. She came to Endurance Live with her husband Ryan because he was receiving the Celebrity of the Year Award (he’s a triathlete). I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity to meet them and have my photo taken with Trista.
Saturday night was the Endurance Awards Show at the Hard Rock Hotel. It was very well done. People call it the Oscars of endurance sports, and I understand why. If you’ve never experienced it, be sure to make the trip next year. I was thrilled to see my teammate Chris Solinsky win “Runner of the Year”. The funniest moment was when Shalane Flanagan’s husband thanked Paula Radcliffe, Deena Kastor, and me for all getting pregnant last year and making it easier for his wife to have a successful marathon debut. I think Shalane would have done just fine, anyway, but I had to laugh.
Before we left on Sunday Adam and I ran 20 miles together. Adam pushed Colt in his baby jogger the whole way. What a man! The weather was gorgeous again and Colt slept the whole way. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning.
Tonight I’m running an indoor 5000m at the University of Washington. It’s a low-key meet and I’ll be up against college girls mostly. My goal is to run around 16 minutes flat. I don’t know how competitive I will be at that pace, but I’m more concerned about what I get out of the effort than what place I get (although I always want to win.) In fact, I’m approaching it as a workout more than a race. As soon as I finish I’m going to run some 1200m repeats to round out the day.
It will be pretty late by the time that’s done. Then Adam, Colt, and I will get in the car and drive back to Portland, arriving home at around 1:00 AM if all goes well. Then we’re off to San Diego again the following weekend for the USA Cross Country Championships—and more sun!
UPDATE: I won my race with a time of 16:11. I’m happy with that because the race started off really slow and I had to make up time in the second half.
My streak of 511 days without racing came to an end Sunday at P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon in Phoenix. It was a mixed bag. On the positive side, I love racing and missed it, and it felt great to get out there and suffer again after so long. Also on the positive side, it was something I really needed as I prepare for the Boston Marathon in April. On the negative side, I did not run especially well or feel particularly good, and I lost!
The week leading up to the race was less than ideal. Colt had to be hospitalized and operated on, I spent a couple of sleepless nights on a cot in his room, my training was messed up, our travel plans were delayed and then hurried, and I had to spend much of Saturday on my feet instead of off them as I normally do the day before a race. I think I was functioning on pure adrenaline throughout that week and I could feel that adrenaline run dry about halfway through the race!
All in all, I’d say the events of last week added a minute to my finish time of 1:14:02. This means that, even in ideal circumstances, I would have run about five minutes slower than my normal half marathon time. That’s about where I should be at this stage of my post-pregnancy comeback; unfortunately, it wasn’t where I needed to be to beat Madai Perez to win the women’s race or Mario Fraioli to win the “Battle of the Sexes”.
I can’t help it—I’m very competitive and I hate losing. Sunday I felt like I lost twice in one race. In the middle of it Adam shouted to me, “You’re only 80 seconds behind!” And I thought, 80 seconds behind who: Madai or Mario? It didn’t matter—I wound up about two and a half minutes behind both of them. My legs just didn’t have their old snap, so I had to forget about racing and just run hard and get what I could out of the effort.
Now, if you’re concerned that my performance in Phoenix doesn’t bode well for Boston, relax. I’ll be fine. I’ve got almost 90 days left to build on the foundation I’ve laid, which is really an eternity. I’ve made more progress than I’ll need to make to contend in Boston in less time in the past. And my foundation is very solid. I’ve already got three 100-mile weeks in my legs; compare that to my ramp-up for the 2009 Boston Marathon, when I didn’t do my first 100-mile week until February.
True, my speed and racing sharpness are behind where they were two years ago, but I’m not worried about that at all. For starters, Sunday’s race itself will give me a big boost in that regard. Nothing gets me ready to race like racing. Alberto told me I’d probably be able to run the same half marathon three minutes faster two weeks from now, and I believe it. Next up is cross country nationals in San Diego on February 5, and I know I’ll get another boost from that.
I’m really excited about these next 12 weeks of training. Up to this point I’ve just been trying to survive; it’s been all I can do to absorb all the foundation-building mileage I’ve been doing. Now I’m reaching the point where the volume itself is not such a challenge and I can turn my attention to going faster and faster in my key workouts. Plus, I just weaned Colt, which will only give me more energy to put into those workouts!
Speaking of Colt, the other important benefit I took away from P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon was my first experience traveling with Colt to a race. I’m happy to say this was probably the most successful part of the trip. He was really good on the plane and he had two of the best nights of sleep of his young life in the hotel. It’s funny, I remembered to take everything Colt needed for the trip but I forgot my own warm-ups and drink mix—something I never would have done before I became a mother! That’s why this practice was so important, though. Now I see the kinds of mistakes I’m liable to make when I travel to a race with Colt and I can prepare to avoid them next time.
I can’t wait till next time!
On Wednesday I ran 200 meters in 34.9 seconds! It was the second-to-last interval in a set of 20 x 200m. I ran some of them on a track and some on a hill. My 34.9 was on the track, of course.
Now, you might be wondering why a runner who has run 24 consecutive 37-second 200’s in a race would brag about running just one 200 in a little under 35 seconds. Two reasons:
1. It’s been a while since I’ve done it.
2. Alberto dared me to brag about it on my blog
It’s funny how you can have different feelings about the same numbers at different times as a runner. If I had run a 200 in 34.9 seconds before competing in the 5000m and 10,000m at the 2008 Olympics I would have been concerned. But when I did it two and a half months after giving birth to my son, Colt, I was excited. So excited that Alberto dared me to brag about it.
What I’ve learned is that it’s not the numbers themselves that matter in training, it’s whether the numbers get better. If I’m still running 200’s in 34.9 seconds this summer, I won’t be so excited!
Speed continues to be the part of my fitness that is coming around most slowly. Everything else is ahead of my expectations. My endurance has improved a lot. Last weekend I ran 15 miles at 6:22 per mile and felt good. My tempo runs are also getting better. I ran six miles at 5:35 per mile recently.
My recovery has also been better than expected. Normally I nap every day when I’m logging a lot of miles. I haven’t been able to nap at all since Colt was born, and I’m up to 90 miles this week, but I continue to bounce back from each run pretty well. Sooner or later I’m going to need to start napping again, though!
I haven’t had this much fun running in a while. It feels like such a gift to be able to throw myself into it again after having put it on the back burner for my pregnancy. I can’t wait to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon on January 16. That’s barely more than a month away! I missed racing while I was pregnant but now I’m excited to race, because it’s close enough to be real.
Of course, I don’t expect to set a world record in my first big test, but I’m not going to lie to you and say that I’m approaching it as a workout and will be satisfied with my performance no matter what. I’m going to run hard and I want to run a decent time. Realistically, I’m probably looking at a 1:12 or 1:11. If I manage to run a 1:10 I will be so excited that Alberto will probably dare me to brag about it (even though I’ve run 1:06)!
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since I ran the Boston Marathon. As this year’s event draws near I look back at my experience there with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I loved it. No other event can match its history, the excitement that surrounds it, and the spectacular crowds that come out to watch it. (continue reading…)