Life Lessons Learned From My First Ironman

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Three years ago, today, I became an Ironman. This morning while I drank my coffee in the pre-dawn hours before my run, I spent some time on Facebook and Timehop. All the emotions of that day came roaring back as I looked at friends’ posts on my wall, the comments from friends and family and the amazing photos that my awesome sister uploaded in order to keep everyone updated.

July 28, 2013 was one of the best days of my life – for so many reasons. Obviously being able to call myself an “Ironman” (and have it in my bio ) is a pretty sweet reward. But that day was so much more to me. I know I’m three years removed, but I wanted to share some of the lessons I learned from that experience.

Wait for the fire. There was a marked moment when an Ironman went from being something fun to watch on TV to a fire in my stomach and something I wanted to do. For years, I would watch Kona on TV with my husband and talk about how cool it would be to do one one day. But that was it. A couple of days after the Ironman would air, doing one would be out of sight, out of mind. It was one of those “lifetime goals” that didn’t have any weight to it.

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    7 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Running (Women’s Running)

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    This was one of the most enjoyable and fun posts to write – seven things I WISH (!!!) I knew when I started running.

    I’ve been running consistently for almost twelve years – and longer distances for about eight. I am certainly not an expert, but I have made – and learned from – my share of mistakes over the years. Looking back, there are so many things I wish I had known or been told when I first started. And so I wanted to share some of these things with you, in case they might help you avoid the same mistakes!

    • You should never go “all-out” in a workout. For a long time, I felt that unless I was soaked in sweat, dry heaving on the side of the road or treadmill, it wasn’t a good workout. I felt like I was in race mode every single day. Save the racing and all-out exertion for the race. That’s when it matters. You’ll get burnt out or get injured in no time if you are constantly racing yourself in training.
    • Running slow won’t make you slow. It sounds silly now, but I truly believed that if I took it easy during a run, I would become more comfortable running slow. Therefore when it was time to race, I would run slower. I didn’t understand that the easy, slower days were so important. It’s necessary to let your body recover from the hard workouts. Now I look forward to the easy days – it’s a time to enjoy the run, the company and the scenery all around me without worrying about pace.
    • Embrace Patience. It’s not always easy to maintain but having patience will pay off in the long run. Take it day by day. Do not expect to see results overnight, especially when you are just starting out. Patience with getting faster, patience with increasing mileage, patience with racing, patience with coming back after an injury. Patience will prevent injury, and will keep you running as the days and years go by.
    • There’s so much more to running than running. For years, I would run early in the mornings and that would be it. No other activities, no other things to prevent or decrease the chance of injury, nothing to get me stronger. These days the running aspect of training is about half of what goes on during the week. I include things like cross training, strength and core work, Epsom salt baths, stretching and ice baths. All of these things will only add to your performance and longevity as a runner.
    • Don’t run through pain. It seems obvious, but I’m sure many of us have been there. We feel a dull ache or pain, and reason with ourselves that somehow running on it or through it will make it magically disappear. Been there, done that and the pain just gets worse. Now I am not afraid to make it a rest day, or to cross-train, if something seems to be off. I’d much rather take one or two preventative days off then be forced to take weeks off due to a major injury.
    • The right shoe isn’t about which looks best. My first pair of running shoes was not selected because of fit. It was the one I liked the best on the sporting goods store shelf. I’d recommend that you head to an actual running store where the workers are actual runners. They are knowledgeable and will be able to fit you with the proper shoe.
    • Finish time predictors are just an estimate. A few years ago, I had my sights set on a lofty marathon goal. I used one of the online pace calculators to determine what pace I should be running my tempos, intervals, long and easy runs. By the end of the training cycle, I was hitting all the paces and went after that time on race day. However, I didn’t take into account a few important things – most notably that my long run endurance just wasn’t there yet. It was my first training cycle since having my second baby. While I ran a handful of 18-22 milers, my body was still getting comfortable with those longer distances. As as result, I started way too fast on race day and ended with my first DNF (did not finish). Lesson learned.

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      It’s More Than Just Running

      fitness mag
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      Two quick things. First, check back on Monday – I am super excited to be hosting a VITAMIX giveaway!! One person will win a Vitamix S30 (retails for $500).

      Second, the boys and I are in the May 2014 issue of Fitness Magazine!! It was a special Mother’s Day edition of #motivationmoment!!

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      Each marathon teaches me a ton about myself and my approach to the distance. A PR or great finish time is exciting and kind of the point of a dedicated training cycle, but I’d argue that it’s not the the most important thing. If you are like me, there will mostly likely be another marathon in the next season. And so the real key is figuring out what worked and didn’t work so that the next training cycle can be stronger and more successful.

      In the week following any race, I try to replay it in my mind so that I can pinpoint things to improve upon. I made some changes after the 2013 NJ Marathon and then made more tweaks after Philly and again after LA (including some things I did differently during the taper which I already discussed in Wednesday’s post).

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