Ten Things Michigan That Helped Me Run My Fastest Marathon Yet

I ran the  Bank of America Chicago Marathon this past Sunday and finally broke my personal record (set two years ago). I’ll write more of a “race recap” for my next entry, but sharing this list for now…

Ten Things Michigan That Helped Me Run My Fastest Marathon Yet…

1.THIS MICHIGAN-SHAPED STATUE:

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Michigan statue located outside of The Gateway in Clarkston, MI

 

For most of my runs longer than four miles, I’d pass this statue on the way out and back from my run (it’s about 1.5 miles from my home). I usually appreciate it most when I pass it the second time; it prompts me to reflect on what a wonderful state Michigan is to run in. 🙂

2.GREAT LAKES ATHLETIC CLUB (GLAC) 

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My pre-marathon manicure from Vitality Day Spa at Great Lakes Athletic Club (GLAC)

My home-base gym and, in my opinion, the best one in Southeastern Michigan. I relied on these treadmills for any days this training period that were too hot, too rainy/stormy, and on several days where I simply didn’t feel strong enough to maintain a desired pace without prescribing it to myself via running machine. There is a greater sense of community at GLAC than at any other gym I’ve ever gone to or belonged to. It actually feels like a club, but not in any sort of pretentious way (i.e. country clubs).

In addition to the treadmills, I also love the pool at GLAC, and I took to swimming laps as cross training way more than I ever have before (undoubtedly related to the  massive amount of Katie-Ledecky watching I did during Rio). I think that mixing swimming in with all of the running I was doing allowed me to simultaneously rest and strengthen muscles that I often neglect to rest and strengthen. What’s even better now is that GLAC has drained the pool of chlorine water and replaced it with salt water, which is way better for skin, sinuses, and probably most things in life.

Last but not least, I got regular massages (crucial) and manicures/pedicures (less crucial, but still essential) at  Vitality Day Spa.

 

3.THE UNION

Located in downtown Clarkston (just another half mile past the above Michigan statue)–this is my favorite bar and restaurant, especially when I’m marathon training. Some of my best Sunday’s this training period involved a long run perfectly mapped out to end at the Union where I would recover with a Michigan beer (and water, but the beer is the more important part 😉 ) and THE. BEST. EVER. MAC & CHEESE.

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GF Mac & Cheese: “Vermont sharp cheddar, piconning, ziti rice noodles, gluten-free béchamel, parmesan & crunchy flour-less crust” (From the menu )

A little tangent about this Mac & Cheese…I was a strict vegetarian for a pretty lengthy period of my life (I’d say from age 18-25) and I identified as vegan and ate predominantly gluten-free* (sin beer) for many of those years.  HOWEVER, the Mac & Cheese has always been an exception and an exemption.

And it’s inarguably awesome for post-long run recovery. (Being that I am in post-marathon recovery now, there is a high likelihood that I will eat this dish more than once this week.)

*NOTE: Good news, people who are stricly GF–The Union (and it’s sister restaurants, the Woodshop, and Vinsetta Garage) now offers gluten-free Mac &Cheese (pictured), made with rice noodles instead of the usual Penne Rigate and I honestly think it’s just as good as the original.

4.MICHIGAN BEER 

Living in NYC, I would get so excited whenever a Michigan beer was on tap. Now I’m thrilled to be surrounded by them. Beer and running are very connected for me and there is a strong correlation between my passion for both of them. Running (marathon training specifically) brought me from “not much of a beer drinker” to  a beer enthusiast.

I crave beer after (and sometimes during) long and/or intense runs and I really believe that it is good for me (in moderation, of course). I really don’t think I’m being biased in saying that Michigan beers are my favorite ones. Some specific favorites include: Bell’s Two Hearted, Founders Porter and Centennial IPA, and Shorts Space Rock  (gluten free!) and Huma Lupa Licious.

5.PIPER! 

You really only have to know me for about five minutes to know that I’m obsessed with our family’s yellow lab, Piper.

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Pre-run porch pep talk

We got Piper the summer before my sophomore year of college, and she is my angel puppy in so many ways. Piper has a reputation of being “the laziest lab,” but she prefers laid back to lazy.

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Piper and my Chicago Marathon medal 

She doesn’t understand why you would run for any reason beyond someone holding up a cookie or another piece of food. Don’t try to play fetch with her, but if you want to run around the yard chasing tennis balls or sticks or frisbees, you are welcome to do so while she chills and watches. Piper reminds me that sometimes I need to slow down the pace, and sometimes I need to pause (“paws”…) completely. ]

6.MY “HOME” TRACK 

Adding weekly speed work to my training regime in general was probably the biggest factor in my marathon PR as well as my PRs in the shorter races I ran. screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-3-17-45-pmI started doing speed work regularly with my running group in Astoria, the Hellgate Road Runners and took the weekly workouts with me to my Clarkston, Michigan track. This is where I ran track in middle school, and where I played soccer in high school, and it was responsible for some great nostalgia-fueled workouts this training period. For the most part, I stuck with the workouts I knew my Hellgate group was running on Wednesday mornings, which alternated between: 12 x 400m, 8x800m, 6x1200m, 4x1600m and an awesome workout called “the pyramid.”

7.HELLGATE ROAD RUNNERS 

This is a NYC (Astoria-based) running group, so arguably doesn’t belong on my list of “things Michigan,” but I am including it because I accredit the short time I was with this group in NYC with much of the strength and speed I developed over this past training period.

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My amazing coaches and Hellgate founders, Jared and Luann Mestre, and me after my last NYC race (literally moved back to Michigan the next day) 

I can’t say enough positive things about my experience training and racing with Hellgate and I am thankful to have virtually maintained my relationship with my coach, Jared Mestre, and several teammates since moving back to Michigan.

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Three Hellgaters and me after the Chicago Marathon

Since joining the group in April, I’ve achieved personal bests in the 5k, 10k, 5mile, 10mile, and marathon distances and I’m hopeful that I will PR half marathon time (currently 1:36) this fall. I highly recommend that anyone who lives near or within commuting distance to Astoria, New York join this group.

 

8.RACES 

I ran several races this training period and I think this played a huge part in my success with Sunday’s marathon.

My races included: Long Beach 10-Miler, New York Mini 10K, Queens 5k, Front Runner NYC LGBT Pride Run, Crim 10-Miler,  Run Wild for the Detroit Zoo 10K.

The last two races before Chicago (the Crim and the Detroit Zoo 10K) were, aside from Chicago this past weekend, two of my strongest races to date. My “I’m strong enough to surprise myself” mantra surfaced in both of these races as I surprised myself with sub-7-minute miles in both and a first-overall-female win in Detroit Zoo 10K.  I used this mantra and the concept of strength in general a lot throughout the 26.2 miles of Chicago and I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that I discovered it while racing in Michigan.  img_6326

Mantras aside, having run 10 miles and 10k at sub-7-min paces made me feel confident at moments/mile-markers I’ve started to doubt myself in the past (i.e. mile 16 and mile 20). Knowing that I had the potential to run these remaining distances at paces far faster than I intended to run them that day helped me to relax rather than panic and trust my legs to take me, at me desired pace (or faster!), to the finish line.

9.GIRLS ON THE RUN (GOTR) 

In September, I became a Girls on the Run coach for the GOTR Detroit Chapter; coaching girls ages 8-11 toward running a 5k in November. My girls and my co-coaches are amazing and inspiring and their energy and enthusiasm is contagious.  We talk a lot about “Star Power” in GOTR and encourage each other to let go of notions of comparison and competition–things that can make you feel inadequate–in favor of concepts of gratitude, diversity, and universal beauty.

Speaking to young girls about running and helping them cultivate a healthy relationship with the sport has made me more aware of how I talk to myself about running. The goal of GOTR is to help girls discover a love for running that isn’t based in how “good” they are, but in how strong and capable they are (not matter how fast or slow!). We want them to feel grateful for the fact that their bodies can move, regardless of pace and we want them to work toward actualize their own potential without judging themselves against ideas of what they “should” be. The desire and commitment to helping our GOTR girls  relate positively to running keeps me in check with myself and my own relationship with the sport. I am competitive, yes, but I am not an elite runner and I am not competing for elite runner times. I’m running and racing to better myself and  it seems that the more I remember this the more potential (i.e. Star Power 🙂 ) I discover for myself.

The Wednesday before my race, I felt like I was fighting a head cold so didn’t go to practice that day. After practice I received a video of my co-coaches and all of the girls wishing me good luck for Sunday. Needless to say my heart melted and I took their energy t o the start and through the finish line of my race Sunday.

10.NUTRITION & FUELING

Not referring to just beer and Mac & Cheese, and not even referring to just food and drink, although I did put a lot more emphasis on both of these things over the course of this training period. I knew that the increasing the mileage and intensity of my workouts was going to require increasing my nutrition. I learned very quickly and very early that this didn’t just mean eating well (supplementing workouts with protein drinks, being conscious and timely about when and what I was eating, taking extra vitamins and making sure I was hydrating properly). It also meant noticing and eliminating other toxic  things.  By toxic, I’m referring to anything that doesn’t allow me to enter a run feeling like a strong runner and/or person. This, for me, does not mean eliminating beer and french fries (although I do not recommend trying a 20-miler the day after subsiding predominately on those things the days before…#beentheredonethat). It does mean eliminating thought processes that cause you to feel weak or inadequate and eliminating contact with the people or things that trigger those thought processes.

Prior to the start of the Chicago Marathon, I made a promise to myself that I would only think of those people that made me feel strong and who I knew believed in my strength.  I am lucky that the people who believe in me the most live in Michigan, that I had the opportunity to interact with them on a daily basis this training period, and that they never failed to remind me of my strength even when I didn’t feel so strong. 🙂

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