It's ok to be a slacker after a big goal / marathon...

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Before the Berlin Marathon, I worked like a Swiss precision clock. Every day of the week served a purpose: train early, coach others, refuel, remember hydration, entertain others, support others, wash, recover, rinse, repeat. For 16 weeks, I endured the humidity in NYC without giving it a second thought, I planned and dialed-in my nutrition for during the race and taught my gut to function like a well-oiled machine. The result was that I was able to execute my race plan very well. I was rested despite jetlag, fueled up well on carbs in the days leading up to the race and kept the legs relaxed. I was in a good place mentally to be patient, smooth, relaxed and attack the last six miles as a race. All that lead to even splits and I even managed to ingest almost 700 calories during the race, an all time high for someone with my sensitive stomach but I got the energy from it that I needed with a height of 5'11" and not exactly a frail frame.

The moment I crossed the finish line, I felt ambivalent. The time wasn't what I had hoped for (read more about that, here) but I ran well and I was content with that. I had raced my second marathon ever, my 2015 goal race and my husband was in Germany with me to witness it.

So in the next hours and days I turned into a pile of lazy mush :-)

Sleeping in, having beers, eating myself stupid on all the things I miss in the US that are typically German to me (potato dumplings, bread rolls, stews, roasts, Schnitzel, good butter, garden grown fruit and veggies, Nutella, home made jams, Italian food made by 4th generation Italians with pride, and gelato). I saw friends, lingered at brunch for hours, became notoriously late (sorry!), cuddled my friends' babies and just didn't feel like there was stress or pressure at all.

It was a gear shift that I desperately needed.

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I read too often how people race marathons or other big goal races and immediately jump back into training within days. Signing up for races within weeks and just never shifting their mindset. I know this works well for some but it doesn't work for me and I think it's good to allow for a time out, physically and particularly mentally. From an exercise physiology standpoint, off-season is a phase that allows the body to restup for the next season. Unless you are running your races for fun, you should begin each new season with a hunger to surpass your previous year, get that shiny new PR and build on the fitness from before. People don't peak - especially in distance running - within one or two seasons. It takes stringing together several good years and consistent training to get there. This phenomenon is also called periodization, knowing what to focus on (pro athletes usually plan around World Championships and the Olympic games), accepting a dip in performance at the beginning of the new athletic year to be able to dial in the perfect performance when it is needed. Off-season is also a time to give back to the community around you, the spouses who don't run and are often a bit neglected, the friends who would like to catch-up later than 8:30pm, family, children, and many more.

So here I am 3 weeks onward, I have written thank you emails and posts, I've resumed running and enjoy not being as winded as I run longer. I am starting to show more interest in planning my 2016 season, I am enjoying the feeling of fresh legs on most runs that are not fatigued by 70 mile marathon weeks and I'm startig to dial my nutrition in more to begin training again.

I still don't remember how I would do a speed, interval and long run workout week in and week out but I'm sure it will be like riding a bike... one doesn't forget.

Here are my five reasons why I think you should try giving yourself an "off-season" as a non professional athlete:

  • For the people around you who don't want to hear about racing;
  • to allow niggling pains and aches to subside - now is the time to take 2 weeks off and let that calf relax, plantar fascia take a break, that hamstring rest;
  • to discover other forms of exercise and not loathe them as "cross-training";
  • to have more physical energy for activities that took a backseat but would make your family and friends happy;
  • to let your brain rest and stop overanalyzing every split, every mile and every workout.

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Happy Running, friends! As always, let me know if you agree or disagree, in the comments below.

Roma

 

Berlin Marathon - Review

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It's Wednesday in Germany and after 3 days I am getting to a point when I can put into words why Berlin Marathon left a bitter after taste. At the start

The facts are that I trained a very hard segment of 18 weeks, hitting my highest mileage at 70 miles/ week and staying healthy. I traveled to Germany and thought I had the jetlag under control, I was moderately anxious, more excited because I knew my fitness was good.

I ran a 3:17 which was an improvement by almost 15 minutes, but wasn't close to the potential I thought I had and had shown in training, ahead of time.

First of all I have to thank, several people who helped me get to the start line healthy and with only minor niggling pains and aches.

There is one person who has tolerated my mood whether it's been up or down, day in and day out and that's Chris, my husband. Best supporter I could ask for in circumstances that I have chosen purely for "selfish" reasons. He understands and gives advice and always thinks of my happiness first.

But there have also been a slew of people that I have come across without whom, I would not have toed the line healthy last Sunday:

  • First and foremost: Melissa, my amazing coach of the Hansons Coaching Services. She has led me through the most intense year since I was a professional athlete, with expertise, experience, calm, patience and fun! I am so grateful already.
  • Jason from Finishline Physical Therapy. Even though I wasn't there long, his knowledge and assessment of my plantar fasciitis has helped me tremendously.
  • Brittany from Biota Acupuncture. "Roma, it seems you are anxious about the fact that you aren't anxious." Pretty much sums it up. Intuitive, kind and fun!
  • Yves: massaging healer! She takes one look at my body and knows what I've done. I wish I could see her more!
  • Chiropractor extraordinaire, Dr. Scott Keller! The person who healed my sciatica in the first place and told me that surgery on my lower back was not just unnecessary but total nonsense. Setting me straight since 2009!

All these people devoted a lot of time and showed me so much empathy when I had moments of doubt and have helped me to the best of their abilities as well as celebrating my milestones along the way.

Now for the pros and cons of the race itself.

Pros:

  • Everything you have heard about Berlin and its conditions, is true. The weather is perfect, the course is straight and on asphalt and there is hardly any change in elevation. 
  • The Berlin organizers send out a lot of emails with detailed information throughout the 3 months ahead of race day.
  • Race fees are a lot cheaper than for any of the US Major Marathons ($90).
  • There's no better place on earth to carbo load than Germany :)
  • Free massages post race and (alcohol) free beer.
  • Security measures compared to the US are low so it's a big friendly gathering and its easy to meet friends and family post race.
  • Berlin has 40 bands along the way which pose a great distraction.

Cons:

  • Porta pottys. I will make a wild guess that there are maybe 300. I stood in line for 25 minutes and then asked a Berliner if there were any at the start. He told me to "shit find a spot in the woods". Everywhere I looked on my way to the corrals I saw naked butts and the seasoned runners all brought toilet paper. What's a girl to do? Ask a stranger for paper, make sure not to step on anything and join the unisex party. Very German...
  • With 41,000 runners, the waves all got sent underway in approximately 30-45 minutes total. In comparison: NYC sends people on the course between 9:30am and 11am. In Berlin this causes, MAJOR congestion. What appears to be fun at the start line is runners being packed into corrals that will not hold everyone. At the start people start climbing the fences into the corrals, people push the fences out of the way and it's a general feeling of panic. There is literally no space to kneel down and make sure one's laces are tied. That is if you are anyone starting further back than with an official time of 3:29 hrs. The first three waves may have been better. 
  • The streets in Berlin are a lot narrower so the congestion lasts until km 10. WTF?! I have never said "excuse me" or "sorry" as many times in one race. It's frustrating and ultimately tiring.
  • EVERYONE is trying to run the blue tangent. It's like the world's biggest conga line. People get so occupied with the tangent that they will veer sharp to the left and right to stay on it. Clipping heels and tripping others.
  • At km 38 the congestion starts again as one rounds the corners towards Gendarmenmarkt and ultimately Brandenburg Gate. Also, the water stand at km 40 seems unnecessary and creates a major commotion on a street that doesn't allow for it.

KM 6 - no space in sight

So the bottomline is, that I've learned many lessons. I personally made one mistake (maybe because the toilet situation distracted me) which was not to apply any body glide. Until yesterday I was peeling every pair of pants from my inner thighs each time I had to take them off. I will NEVER forget again. Diaper rash cream helps.

Until I run so fast that I can run in the front corrals, I will steer clear of major marathons. I don't jojo well. It's hard for me to break and surge and constantly pay attention to where I'm stepping in a race. I run my best races when I'm in a position to race and do that in a straight line.

So for now, I'm taking time off from running. I'm recuperating both body and mind and plotting my next steps carefully. I'm indulging, spending time with family and enjoying the fact that I don't have to do anything.

Roma Brandenburg Gate

Berlin has shown me that the marathon is a cruel master. A lot depends on what race day brings and being adaptable helps but is no guarantee.

xx Roma

The Berlin Diaries: Week 14

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Fourteenth week of my Berlin Diaries. I spared you a few weeks of just going through the motions. Now it gets interesting... Enjoy! August 17th (W14/D1): August in NYC... man it's humid and hot! 10 easy miles with Zola and a ton of Osmo hydration afterwards.  #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

August 18th (W14/D2): Last track workout before running the famous Hansons marathon simulator on Saturday. Mighty nervous. Eeeee! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

August 19th (W14/D3): Lovely 6am easy miles with the equally lovely Rachel of Ampersand Yoga. If you have kids, they need to take yoga sessions with Rachel. Nuff said! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

August 20th (W14/D4): Rest Day! Amen. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

August 21st (W14/D5): Easy shakeout 6 miles with Zola before we piled into a smart car to drive upstate. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

August 22nd (W14/D6): 16 mile simulator!! 1. 5 miles warm-up and cool down and a VERY hilly half marathon. CAme in 2nd place and with a solid effort, ran a 1:35! 5 weeks til race day! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

August 23rd (W14/D7): Easy recovery run on country roads to end a beautiful weekend. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

The Berlin Diaries: Week 8

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Eight week of my Berlin Diaries. Enjoy! July 13th (W8/D1): Treated Zola and myself to 8 easy miles in Central Park. It is gorgeous!  #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 14th (W8/D2): Six easy miles feel so short these days. Finished up with strides to get the legs moving #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 15th (W8/D3): Marathon goal pace workout. 3 miles, 2 miles, 1 mile. Amazing 3 miler, ok 2 miler and a strong finish! Yeah! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 16th (W8/D4): Rest Day! Amen. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 17th (W8/D5): Easy recovery 8 miles with Zola. Her happiness is contagious. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 18th (W8/D6): 16 miles long run, 7:55 pace on the bridges of NYC. Solid effort! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 19th (W8/D7): Easy recovery run at almost 9 min pace. Feels good to go slow sometimes. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

The Berlin Diaries: Week 7

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Seventh week of my Berlin Diaries. Enjoy! July 6th (W7/D1): 8 easy miles by myself with a speedy 6:50 last mile :)  #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 7th (W7/D2): Track workout: 6 x 800m. I was really happy to cut back the pace from 3:10 to 3:04 despite heat and humidity at 6:30am and some shin pain during the last 2 repeats. Fitness is coming along. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 8th (W7/D3): Rest day after doing 47 miles in 5 days and two good quality workouts! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 9th (W7/D4): 6 miles tempo plus 4 x 400 at 5k pace. Ooof, still hot and humid and the tempo run didn't work out as planned. I'm glad I can still hit 90 second and below 400s afterwards. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 10th (W7/D5): Easy recovery 8 miles with Zola and we recorded a little InstaVideo. Check it out at www.instagram.com/chittawellness #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 11th (W7/D6): When an easy run is in the double digit category, you know the mileage is going up, up, up. 10 hot miles for Saturday. And sprinkler fun afterwards! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 12th (W7/D7): 12 mile long run with a dose of patience built in... 8 miles moderate pace and then two miles at 6:52. For some reason those miles are so much harder than at the beginning of a workout. Proud that I mangaed to hit that pace. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

The Berlin Diaries: Week 6

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Sixth week of my Berlin Diaries. Enjoy! June 29th (W6/D1): The perfect crisp summer morning to run 8 easy miles with Zola :)  #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 30th (W6/D2): Easy 8 but realized that the recent increase in mileage is making my feet hurt. Bad. Need to find a solution before the mileage increases even more. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 1st (W6/D3): Tempo run at goal marathon pace. Crazy humid so I couldn't hold the pace for the last 2 miles. Those days are disappointing but you gotta shake it off and get back at it! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 2nd (W6/D4): Rest day. Lots of stretching and rolling to losen the calf and achilles. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 3rd (W6/D5): Easy recovery in the country. 8 miles on country roads. So beautiful and serene! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 4th (W6/D6): First 16 miler of the segment. Felt like I was flying. Amazing feeling. Nutrition was perfect and mentally stronger than in any long run this year. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 5th (W6/D7): 8 easy miles to end the week and shake out the tired legs. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

The Berlin Diaries: Week 5

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Fifth week of my Berlin Diaries. Enjoy! June 22nd (W5/D1): New week and a double digit run as an easy run... Definitely takes some getting used to. But got it done! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 23rd (W4/D2): Easy 8 rounds out 52 miles in 6 days... not too shabby #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 24th (W4/D3): Rest Day :) #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 25th (W4/D4): Mile repeats at goal marathon pace of sub-3... didn't quite hit them as hoped but the effort was honest. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 26th (W4/D5): Easy recovery run with Zola but I have to say fitting in 8 miles before work is hard. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 27th (W4/D6): And another easy 8. Had someone told me a few months ago that I would be running 8 milers for my easy days I would have laughed... finished up with strides. Do your strides! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 28th (W4/D7): 12 mile long run with a fast 9th and 10th mile at 7:09 and 6:53. Whoop! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

The Berlin Diaries: Week 4

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Fourth week of my Berlin Diaries. Enjoy! June 15th (W4/D1): New week and a steamy first easy run. First track workout tomorrow!! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 16th (W4/D2): 8x 800m with 2 mins rest. The only time I could find for the workout was 3pm. What was I thinking??!! The session went ok. Not great, but ok. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 17th (W4/D3): Rest Day :) #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 18th (W4/D4): The mileage creeps up. The next few days will have recovery days at 8 miles (unusual for me) and then a 14 mile long run (that I'm kinda looking forward to). #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 19th (W4/D5): Easy recovery run with Zola but I have to say fitting in 8 miles before work is hard. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 20th (W4/D6): Today's workout had to be fit in before 8am and a big work event. Phew... good think it was an easy run. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 21st (W4/D7): First 14 mile run of the segment, woohoo. Pre run nutrition as well as GU strategy went amazingly and resulted in sub 8 min pace in 90% humidity. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

The Berlin Diaries: Week 3

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Third week of my Berlin Diaries. Enjoy! June 8th (W3/D1): New week and a harder progression run awaits on Thursday. I still get nervous before harder workouts when I'm not sure that I will be able to hit the goal paces. Wish me luck! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 9th (W3/D2): Oof, I thought waiting until almost 6pm would give me cooler temperatures. But it was still 84 F and my stomach didn't cooperate. Shoutout to the nice ladies at Soulcycle Willliamsburg for letting me use their bathroom!! Nicest staff ever :) #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 10th (W3/D3): Rest Day :) #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 11th (W3/D4): First progression run of the segment. And it didn't go as planned whatsoever. First 3 miles of 6 I stayed close to the pace I was looking for and then sloooowly died... I was so disappointed but managed to shake it off after a few hours. It's all a progress. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 12th (W3/D5): Easy recovery run with Zola despite the bloody humidity. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 13th (W3/D6): Another six mile run with Zola. I've come to really enjoy our time early in the morning. She gets me excited with her happiness for running. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 14th (W3/D7): First 12 miler run of the segment, woohoo. Took some adjusting to the heat, still but had a few miles in the low 7 paces in there. Whoop, so good to run with a friend. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

The Berlin Diaries: Week 2

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Second week of my Berlin Diaries. Enjoy! June 1st (W2/D1): New week, LOTS of rain! And that made me super happy! Had a lot of pain in my groin from my shifted SI joint but got that fixed with my chiropractor. Got scolded for not coming in sooner. Made a note in my mind that apart from stretching before and after runs, foam rolling, wearing my insoles and my trusted Birkenstocks I should ALSO go to the chiropractor more often. SIGH, I want my 22 year old body back... That body recovered in minutes. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 2nd (W2/D2): 8 miles solo and angry. Thus: faster. I had a great talk with my coach about goals and preparation and we will tackle our first hard workout next week. The splits scare me quite honestly but today was good to see that I've recovered well and am ready for them. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 3rd (W2/D3): Everybody's National Running Day and my rest day. Instead of going running, I was extra good about stretching, foam rolling, prehab and even meditation. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 4th (W2/D4): This running thing is getting easier. 6 easy miles with an exuberant puppy. Her joy for running is so intoxicating and reminds me that the first reason why I run is for joy and not for marathons. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 5th (W2/D5): Another easy 6 miles. I've been playing with my heart rate monitor and while I really enjoy seeing my data I wish sometimes I wasn't such a heavy breather even at easy paces. Oh well. Looking forward to running double digits tomorrow with a friend! It's always better with a friend! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 6th (W2/D6): Met a friend for a lovely 10 miles in Central Park. Running there is soooo motivating, always some really speedy runners around and never nobody running. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 7th (W2/D7): It's weird that this is the end of the second week and so far I haven't done a fast workout yet. My legs feel like they will get a shock once that happens. How is it that just a few weeks ago I felt so fit? #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

 

The Berlin Diaries: Week 1

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As mentioned in my newsletter (you should subscribe if you haven't yet) I will be chronicling my 18 week preparation for the Berlin Marathon here on the blog in a new section called 'The Berlin Diaries'. I hope you enjoy it. May 25th: W1/D1 (Week 1/ Day 1): Memorial Day, perfect weather. After not running for a week I get winded quicker than before. Maybe it's allergies. Focusing a lot on using the left leg and doing the pelvis exercises I was given by my great physical therapist Jason at Finish Line PT. When the breathing gets tougher I sometimes ask myself how I ran so much faster only a week ago. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

May 26th (W1/D2): The end of my period (sorry guys), things should be looking up. Spent the day running from client to client from 7:45 am through 4:45 pm. How I hate leaving runs until the evening. So the only logical thing to do is grab Zola who acts like she is chronically under-exercised and head out the door at 5:30 pm. Unfortunately she is not having the humidity, trails behind me, tugs on the leash so we make our way home as quickly as possible. My plantar fasciitis is rearing its ugly head again. Who said that rest will improve this fickle sh*t of an injury? Never happens for me. I contemplate getting insoles... #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

May 27th (W1/D3): Woke up with a sore foot and even stepping straight into my trusted Birkenstocks didn't make it much better. I've been good about stretching the calf and foam rolling. Today is a rest day and I could squeeze in a yoga class. I could also just opt for YogaGlo. But first I will pay Jack Rabbit Sports a visit to discuss my gait and check out insole options. The eternal optimist in me is convinced that this will be the solution to all my foot related problems. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

May 28th (W1/D4): 86% humidity. What?! Feeling extra tired when my alarm went off and breathing like a freight train at 8 min pace... NYC weather is sure as hell humbling. I got a good little routine down this morning: get out of bed, eat a banana and PB, go through my pre run exercises by which time I have to use the bathroom (it's all important on race morning, trust me) and then head out the door fueled up without worrying about pit stops. New Superfeet insoles felt tip top! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

May 29th (W1/D5): Didn't sleep well after booking 4 appointments between 8am and 3pm. May not sound like much but including travel time, that's almost non-stop. So opted for an early run at 6:30 am. Ugh... BUT, once I got to Prospect Park it was calm and quiet and not too humid. Ran 2 of the miles in under 8 min pace and felt strong coming back. Did 2 strides and laughed because there is NO pep in my step, ZERO, ZILCH. But it will come. Looking forward to some company on my longer runs tomorrow and Sunday. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

May 30th (W1/D6): There are runners who like humidity and then there is me... I acclimatize eventually but these first few runs are tough. Today was a first longer run. 8.5 miles and we finally snuck in some sub 7:30 pace miles. Ok, I can work with that. Overall, I can feel that my body is adjusting to the added workload of training others and running all over town and running again. When I tell my new mom clients, they have a good chuckle :) I finished reading Paula Radcliffe's autobiography and it's so motivating because it is candid and open and honest. We all deal with setbacks and physical ailments. Even the women at the top. Good reminder. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

May 31st (W1/D7): Finally some faster turnover but also really thick air. Ran with a friend and let her push me a bit harder. I like to run by myself so sometimes I shy away from staying with people when they pick up the pace. Especially on designated easy days. Got home and realized that I had a stuck SI joint. Good reminder to head to my chiropractor, Dr. Keller because as much as I asked Chris to move my legs around to loosen the pelvis and hips, nothing gave. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon