Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Lessons Learned: Big Sur Marathon

After every marathon I've run, I like to evaluate my performance and my training. What went right? What went wrong? What did I learn?

Do you do this?

This marathon was particularly challenging for me. I knew going into the Big Sur Marathon that I would need to prepare myself for hills. Lots of hills, uphills and downhills. Living in the Chicago area, there just isn't a lot of opportunity for hill training. With my coach Becky, we worked on a solid training plan that would get me ready.

And then a major flare up of plantar fasciitis. So painful, I couldn't walk, much less run. I was forced to alter my training plan significantly. Along with my mileage, my confidence took a nose dive. Was I going to have to DNS this bucket list race? And if I was able to get there, would I have to DNF? I had to dig deep to get myself to the start line. Could I put my fears aside and run? Would my desire, determination, and past experience with the distance be enough?

Lessons Learned: Big Sur Marathon

You all know the outcome of my marathon. If you haven't read my recap, you can read that here. Still feeling so grateful, I've started easing into running again while I continue to recover. I've had plenty of time to reflect on this training cycle and my race. I'm proud that I didn't shy away from the challenge ahead of me. It would have been so much easier to DNS than it was to continue to train through injury. But I don't give up easily. Fortunately this was an injury I could train with. I was determined to run this thing, even if it meant training with time off the road and in the pool. Putting all my doubts and fears aside, I crossed the finish line triumphantly.

What did I learn from this experience? I learned that all those mantras we lean on have a lot of significance.

It's not about finish times, it's about finish lines.


Lessons Learned: Big Sur Marathon


Technically, Big Sur is a tough course. That's why you don't see any world elites here--there won't be any world records set at Big Sur! Believe it or not, this course is a Boston qualifier. For me, this isn't the course I'd want to push for a BQ. Besides the technical difficulty of this very hilly course and the famed headwinds, there is the beauty of running in one of the most amazing places on earth. Who wants to breeze by all that is Big Sur? In addition, I was running this marathon on sub-optimal training. I was just happy to be there and wanted to savor every moment of my bucket list race.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.


Lessons Learned: Big Sur Marathon


I do 99% of my training solo. Races too. This was the first time I ran a race with a friend. When Kristina and I decided to run together, we knew we were going to make lots of stops for pictures and to take it all in. When my PF flared, she told me she'd carry me across the finish line on her back if I needed it. Thankfully I didn't need that, but she gave me the emotional support I did need in those tough middle miles.

If your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough. 


Lessons Learned: Big Sur Marathon
Pre-dawn pre-race
In my recap, I wrote about that pre-race panic attack I had in the middle of the night. I always have a little pre-race anxiety but I've had nothing like that since my first Chicago marathon. I could have skipped the race, right? And let Kristina down? Let my husband down? And me? I talked myself down. I reminded myself of how badly I wanted this dream to come true and how bad I'd feel if I bailed. When it was go time, I put on my big girl panties and got on that bus to the start line.

Step outside of your comfort zone. Nothing good ever happens there.


Lessons Learned: Big Sur Marathon
This is hill training when you have no hills to train on...
Once injury struck, I was determined to get to the start line. My revised training plan was so outside of my comfort zone that I just figured I had nothing to lose. After I was forced to take time off the road, I had to get comfortable training in the pool. I felt really foolish when I first started "jogging" around the diving well, so much so that I had to explain to the lifeguards what I was doing. When I crashed my bike on a training ride, I sucked it up and got right back on the horse, because what else could I do? It's not like I could run, right? After a couple of weeks, my foot felt better and I was able to try running, slowly, and was pleasantly surprised how much fitness I had retained through my cross training. This helped my confidence going into the final weeks of marathon prep. I learned that you can prepare for a marathon without a lot of running, but it isn't something I'd recommend.

Never limit where running can take you.


Lessons Learned: Big Sur Marathon
Or yoga. Warrior 2 on the rocks of Big Sur.
Destination races present a whole new set of challenges for the runner. There's all the travel logistics, getting there, where to stay, and navigating an unfamiliar locale. But to me, the rewards of running in a new place far outweigh the challenges. That's really the beauty of running. You just put on your shoes and run.

I can do hard things.


Lessons Learned: Big Sur Marathon


This was the most technically challenging race I've ever run. Let's just say it. It was really hard. But thanks to Becky's ingenious training, I was much better prepared for the hills than I realized. For me, dealing with that nausea in the middle of the race was tougher than any of the physical challenges this race presented. Mentally, I had to dig deep to push through those miles while feeling sick. Even though I entertained the idea of quitting, I would never have done that. What would be the point? So I kept moving forward. I can draw on this experience in the future, both on and off the road.

I like to think that running the Big Sur Marathon has made me a little more fearless. Every race I run makes me stronger. I never want to go through life afraid of a challenge. I don't want my life to be limited by my fears. I want to be strong. I want to be brave. I want to be confident.

I can do hard things.

It's a work in progress. I still need to figure out that middle of the marathon nausea thing..

What lessons have you learned from a race? Do you think running makes you more fearless?

I'm linking up with DebRuns for Wednesday Word. Today's word is fearless. Check out what makes all the other bloggers fearless!











Also linking up with Coaches' Corner! When the Suz asks, you don't say no! Check out posts hosted by Suzlyfe, Coach Debbie Runs, Running on Happy, and Crazy Running Girl!

96 comments :

  1. I am so excited to walk my full marathon and even more excited after reading this. You are such an inspiration!!!

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    1. I can't wait to see you do your first marathon! Did you ever read MILF runner's blog? She walked a full marathon in 6 hours after hip replacement stopped her from running. You got this!

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    2. How long do you expect it to take to walk the marathon?

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  2. YES! To all of these! It's amazing how this experience embodied every one of these for you. Such inspiration for the rest of us!

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    1. Isn't it funny how much we learn from tough races?

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  3. I love looking back at goal races to reflect on what worked and what didn't. We can all walk away from experiences with lessons learned that will help make us stronger in the long run. I admire your courage to not give up Wendy. With all that you dealt with, it would have been so easy for you to have a DNS but you rose to the challenge and now you've earned all of your bragging rights. Way to go!

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    1. If I DNS'd this race, I don't think I'd get the opportunity to run it again. Can you imagine? This race meant so much to me. I am so grateful I got to do it.

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  4. I agree with everything that you wrote, but I love "If your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough". I think setting goals (or dreams) are what help us to continue to evole as a person. Life is short and we should all aspire to dream big.

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  5. I totally get all of this! I am so proud of you and what you accomplished at Big Sur ;-) My race on Sunday was tough...probably Iowa's equivalent of Big Sure regarding hills. But I ran the entire course with no fear of the unknown....that never would have happened a few years ago.

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    1. I kept thinking about my first half marathon in Door County Wisconsin where the hills were crazy! That's the only race I've run that I could compare to Big Sur.

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  6. I'm new to your blog.
    Somehow I came to it and read this article. It is awesome and I love the quote: "It's not about finish times, it's about finish lines."
    That encourages me as a slow runner to keep going!
    Thank you!
    Gabrielle from Austria

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    1. Thank you for reading! Slow or fast, we all get to the finish line, right? Keep running!

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  7. I totally agree!
    I usually analyze all my big races (marathons an halves) and regardless of the turn out, I pat myself on the back for even finishing cus let's face it, races are tough. Big Sur is a tough one as well. What an experience that was for you.
    Oh, and when I was planning on running Big Sur, I checked the "supposed" cut off time an I was surprised to see that it was less time than Boston, and with all those hills. Geeze!

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    1. I won't lie, that 6 hour cut off time made me a little nervous. I mean, I knew I could run faster than 6 hours, but yes, the pressure was there!

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  8. As always, you inspire.
    There is no doubt that Kristina would have carried you on her back if it came to that. Both of you are amazing. Runners. Women. There's nothing you cannot accomplish.
    If I needed a strong friend, I'd want both of you in my corner.

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    1. Thank you Connie! And your support has kept me going--I feel lucky to have you in my corner!

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  9. Wendy you never cease to amaze me. When you put your mind to it, you GET. SHIT. DONE. :) What I have learned from following your Big Sur journey is that Wendy gets shit done.

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  10. Wonderful lessons learned and they will make you a stronger and better runner for it! I always seem to learn something new about myself when I run a race. Running is discovering yourself as well as creating yourself.

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    1. I don't think any activity in my life, even motherhood, has taught me more about myself than running.

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  11. I love this <3 There are definitely races that are more about finish lines than finish times and I think they can be more special than a PR especially when you accomplish something so tough with a friend!

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    1. I seem to learn the most about myself from marathons than any other distance! Guess all those hours on the road gives me lots of time to think!

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  12. I ran with a friend for part of my marathon this weekend too and loved it. I'm usually a solo runner but it's a whole different experience when you have someone with you.

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    1. It really was fun and perfect for this race.

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  13. I couldn't agree more. And if you aren't learning something from your marathon and marathon training, you are doing it wrong!
    Please link this up with coaches corner! This is fantastic!

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  14. I loved reading all your quotes throughout this post. It's so important to learn from whatever you're passionate about :)

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  15. You are amazing! You faced some pretty big challenges this cycle, but you switched up your perspective and made them work for you instead of against. That takes some guts! Congratulations, again!

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    1. Determination is definitely one of my personality traits! LOL!

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  16. Thanks for this post. I recently signed up for a summer race that presents some of the same challenges to me - one that I just hope to get through rather than beat some type of time. I've ran the race before and absolutely loved it in spite of the challenges but I feel less than enthusiastic about training for it at the moment. So your quote about dreams scaring you hit a good place today. Great job on your race!

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    1. Sometimes we have to really dig deep to get to that start line! Isn't it crazy?

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  17. This is such a great post! Coming back from a long illness related lay off, I find so much inspiration in posts like this that embrace the experience of races.

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    1. Thanks! I hope your comeback is going well!

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  18. I think evaluating the good and the bad is a great way to learn, and it really helps me to improve going forward.

    Oh goodness, I couldn't imagine attempting to BQ at Big Sur.

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    1. Me either! I know people do it, but why not pick a flat course for a BQ?

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  19. Such an inspired post! There are so many lessons in all of this crazy running that we do. You certainly persevered here and yes, time does not always matter!

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  20. Love this! I missed your recap so will need to go back and check that out. Sorry your PF gave you so many issues this cycle but kudos for fighting through it all the way to A and the finish line! :)

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    1. I learned a lot while training with PF! I'm grateful that I was able to keep moving, even if it wasn't running. So much to be thankful for!

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  21. Congrats again on Big Sur!!! You are amazing!!! I am so glad you got past your fears and anxieties and ROCKED it!!!

    How wonderful to have a friend with you...I would totally need that if I ran a Marathon.

    Love the holding hands and hug picture....get me all teary eyed!

    -Tamieka@fitballingrunningmom

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    1. Me too! What an incredible experience!

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  22. I'm so glad you feel good about this race. :)

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  23. Such a great post Wendy!! All of the mantras tie in so well to your experience... I love that you and Kristina decided that this was just a race about doing it together and the experience, and not about time. The mid-marathon nausea thing...the whole GI thing...I think that is the one obstacle that I still don't have a good hold on, and not sure if at any point I will.

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    1. The GI thing is definitely a limiting factor! I was glad to have that zofran with me. It saved the day!

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  24. I've learned so much each time I've raced. Every race is different, even if the distance is the same - so many factors can change your day. So happy for your outcome at Big Sur! I know it was a tough training cycle for you.

    I've gotten nauseated a few times in a race, but for me it's usually heat related. I have to slow my pace and get my heart rate down when that happens.

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    1. Every marathon training cycle presents challenges, and this one was no different! Just different challenges. I'm so glad I was able to keep training and was able to finish this marathon intact.

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  25. "It's not about finish times, it's about finish lines." I love this so much. I need it on a wall!

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  26. Boy, I definitely learn something from every race! Someday I'm going to write a post about all that. I've been working on it mentally for a long time, but I'm not quite ready for it yet.

    I really admire you & Holly for doing everything you could for your races. Would I turn to biking & pool running if I had to? I hope I never have to find out!

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    1. I always do a lesson learned recap after a marathon. Such a big distance requires a lot of reflection!

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  27. OMG I freakin love this so much and is exactly what I need to read one week out from the triathlon!!! I could not agree more with everything you said and, you went though hell with training, injury, anxiety but came out smiling and happy and grateful on the other side. That is the POWER of running :-)...and you!!

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    1. Perfect! Now it's your turn to shine and I can't wait to see how it goes!

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  28. I totally agree! So would have been easier to just bail on the whole thing but that's not you and it would have just eaten you up inside. Your perseverance is really just so inspiring!

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    1. Oh, I'd be in therapy right now if I had to DNS this race. Glad it all turned out so well!

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  29. At the end of the day a marathon teaches you to manage yourself. Through thick and thin, whatever challenges the training and race day bring. You certainly did that!

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    1. I still can't quite believe I did this!

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  30. "It's not about finish times, it's about finish lines." My favorite quote and yet I always forget it. You ran a great race. No one deserves a medal more than you.

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    1. I don't know about that, but I learned to let go of my need for speed with this one!

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  31. I loved your recap, and love reading more on your afterthoughts.

    yes, I have learned that running has made me more fearless. I remember thinking during the marathon, that after this race, things were not as scary.

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  32. Love this! I think there is always something to be learned from a marathon. You definitely stepped out of your comfort zone and shown that you are fearless!

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    1. I really do feel changed after this one. More than after any of my other races!

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  33. You totally owned this race from your unorthodox training plan to the massive celebration at the finish line - it was completely 100% yours! Congrats again!!

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    1. I don't know if I'd recommend this training but it worked out all right!

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  34. you are such an inspiration! love this! i am also dealing with plantar fasciitis - OUCH!

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    1. Isn't it the worst? I hope yours goes away quickly!

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  35. All your yoga pics were amazing! So happy for you and all that you gleaned from the race. There are so many things to carry forward that are inspiring in your post.

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    1. I don't think I stopped smiling for days after that!

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  36. I love love love love love x100000000 this! Every lesson you learned is spot on to things I have learned throughout my training as well. Cheers to dreaming big and doing hard things! :)

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    1. I have used these mantras in the past but they never had so much meaning before!

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  37. I'm so happy for you. And I totally love this post. All the mantras -- so much meaning, so little time! Huge congrats to you on an amazing race. :)

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  38. Yes, you can do hard things and you DID!! Big Sur is such a tough course and it always has headwinds. Despite the obstacles, you did it and you have so much to be proud of!! You are inspiring!!! YES!!! xoxo

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    1. Thank you, my friend! This has been a fun training cycle--so many of us did some amazing things this spring!

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  39. Great job getting through that tough race despite your injuries!

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  40. i havent been running as much lately...but it is always about the feeling it leaves you with, which is AWESOME!!!! seems like you had a wonderful time there.

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    1. It was one of the best vacations and races of my life!

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  41. Way to go!! Personally I find I lean so much about myself and my abilities through running. It's wonderful.

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    1. I agree. Running gives us so much more than fitness.

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  42. Yes! Running makes me more fearless [and more confident]. And yoga even more so.

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    1. It's a work in progress but through both I'm becoming more fearless.

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  43. What a wonderful post. Running absolutely gives me that feeling that I can do anything. It's a powerful hobby.

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    1. If I didn't know it before, I do know now. I can do hard things!

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  44. Congrats! love the "it's not about the finish time, but the finish line" . .. sometimes it's just about getting to the start line!

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  45. Such an inspirational post! There is something about the marathon...each one I have come out of I have learned a little more about myself and gotten stronger. I love that you posted all these take aways!

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    1. More than any other distance, I think we runners learn the most from the marathon. This one was so different from the others I've run and I'm so thrilled with it!

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  46. You can do hard things! And because of that, the possibilities are wonderfully endless... What is next?

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    1. You had to ask! I don't really know--but you'll be the first to find out on Sunday's blog post!

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  47. I love looking back on a big race that had a long training cycle leading up to it, and thinking about the lessons learned. With my recent 50K and our Ragnar relay last weekend, my biggest lesson is that I can do hard things and I can do what I set my mind to.

    You had some great lessons from Big Sur - ones I think we can all relate to on some level!

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    1. I think my favorite lesson is that "I can do hard things". What an amazing boost for my self confidence, and it carries over into the real world!

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  48. I think that running teaches us about as much about ourselves as anything else. I love all the lessons you learned at Big Sur. Thanks for sharing them with us, and thanks for linking up!

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