Usually, in my annual recap, I write a month-by-month review of stuff that happened (mostly running-related) in the past year. So I started to do that for this year’s recap…

January – Cold. Training for Boston started up. PRed in the 10k and 15k.

James told me the goal for Boston would be sub-3. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I see that coming. Giddy up.

February – Cold. Training for Boston was going well. PRed in the 20k and 25k (these weird distances…it’s a local series hosted in CT called the Boston Buildup series. They are HILLY and I consider them an integral part of Boston training).

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 2.46.46 PM

The elevation profile of the 20k. So yeah. A hill here and there.

…And then I realized that if I really was to go on and make a 2016 training/running recap, it’d get pretty boring because, well…I worked my ass off and PRed a lot. And it was awesome.

In fact-I can sum up the entire boring month-by-month recap in this snapshot:

Screen Shot 2016-12-09 at 10.30.08 AM.png

SO I’ve decided to recap my year by reflecting on the top 6 things I’ve learned from 2016. (I actually learned, like, 20 things…but I’m pretty sure if I wrote everything down, that would bore you too.)

1. Marathons are hard. Respect the distance and enjoy the journey.
I ran 3 marathons this year. Before 2016, the most I had ever run in a year was 1. ONE.

mjboston.png

Boston: apparently the only course I can PR at

In hindsight…3 was a lot. Too much. But I had trained for the race of my life at Boston…and when the weather thwarted my plans of a magical sub-3 day, I thought racing a revenge run at Buffalo would be a good idea. It wasn’t—my heart, head, and legs were NOT aligned…neither was the weather. To be honest, I have no idea how 3:09 happened that day. None.

Then, of course, I’m still really sad about Philly.

But…anyway. The reality is that marathons are just really hard. You train and train and you put so much hope and faith into one single day where ANYTHING can happen. I won’t say I’m not satisfied with the 3:06 PR that came out of this year. But my difficulty with the marathon distance over the past 12 months has taught me to appreciate and value the training and the experiences along the way.

Training with James has completely renewed my love for the sport of running, and this year I was able to come back from last year’s femoral stress reaction (and the year prior’s tibia stress reaction) and have some of the most unbelievable workouts and runs of my life. Sure, a sub-3 marathon would’ve been awesome. But accomplishing the shit that was demanded of me along the road to Boston? —that’s something I’m going to look back on with a lot of pride and happiness.

2. Weather can make or break you 
I had the pleasure of chatting with Denny on his podcast  a few months ago, and joked about how I’m digressing when it comes to smartly-run marathons. Until last year, all of my marathons were negatively split. And, as of Boston 2015…they haven’t been…and I’ve been very very humbled by the distance.

BUT ALSO, I have to give myself a break and accept the fact that the weather I faced in every. single. fucking. marathon this year…sucked. Boston was the deceptively hot day, where everyone was dying by mile 10, and by mile 18, it was a literal battleground on the course. Buffalo, over Memorial Day Weekend, was a heatwave, with 85% humidity at the start and 80° by the time we were finished (the weekend before, it had been snowing in Buffalo. SNOWING.) And then Philly, while I do think I could’ve done really well had my stomach not exploded, we dealt with 40 mph wind gusts the entire time.

So yeah. Weather can be so tricky, and I never really had to worry about it until this year.

3. Sometimes you have to trust your coach
This could be a blog post in and of itself. James has been such an incredible influence and has pushed me in the best ways possible in so many areas of my life. Exclusively from a running standpoint, James has been perpetually optimistic, and constantly believes in me so much more than I ever believe in myself.

When I first started training for Boston last December, James texted me saying that we were hunting down sub-3, which hadn’t crossed my mind. I was excited…and scared…but I told him that if he really thought I could do it, I’d flip that little switch in my head and get ready. I trusted him. Kinda. 🙂

He was very serious about the sub-3 thing, and over the next 3 months, I ran some of the most exciting and excruciating training runs of my life. And my trust in James grew.

One of the most exciting workouts was 7 x 1 mile around a park in New Britain, CT. The park is approximately 1 mile around, and it includes a little uphill as well as a little downhill…it’s the PERFECT place for workouts. On March 7th, James asked me to run all 7 repeats at a 5:50.

“Um…excuse me? 7????? I can’t do that. Running 7 mile repeats is not a thing. No.”

Well. He made me do it. And I didn’t hit 5:50 for 7 repeats…but I was pretty damn close, and ended up averaging 5:59 for the repeats.

5:59
5:56
5:56
5:58
6:01
6:05
6:01

Never, in a million years, did I think I’d be able to do that. Hell, I felt like I was dying on my fourth repeat. But sometimes, with a little bit of faith (and caffeine) the impossible is possible.

FullSizeRender.jpg

The aftermath. Somehow, still standing

 

4. Sweat the small stuff (because the small stuff is actually important)
After Philly, I took off 6 weeks of running because of a lingering hamstring/butt issue. I started running again last week with 20-minute runs…and the pain isn’t completely gone still. I’ve succumbed to the fact that I will no longer be running Boston this year…and I currently have zero races on my calendar because I am dedicating myself to getting better.

The reason why I think all this stuff came on? (Besides the fact that I ran 3 marathons in a year.) -is because I started skimping on “the small stuff.” The stretching. The warmups. The lifting. The core. The stuff I preach to my athletes as being SO IMPORTANT…I’m guilty of not doing as much of it as I should have…and now, my consequence, will be nursing two hamstrings that won’t stop bugging me.

Did I lift/do core/stretch/do warmups this year? Of course. When my mileage was lower and my workouts were less intense, I definitely included all that stuff, ESPECIALLY the lifting. But when workouts got longer and running started taking up more time…I found myself rushing from waking up…to a workout…to the shower…to work…to a second run…to working more at home. I didn’t stop and do what I needed to do to warm my body up and cool it down. I didn’t give it the TLC it needed. And now I’m paying.

5. Diet matters
I had an eating disorder for 7 years throughout high school and college. One of my rituals was not eating lunch…ever. Or, my lunch would consist of a Slim Fast and apple. Or a granola bar and banana. And then my ED treatment was half-assed, mostly because I had a terrible support system. I did a little outpatient recovery at a local Renfrew…but I never really learned how to feed myself a legitimate lunch that would fuel me.

So, until 2016, I still continued to eat really shitty lunches–little salads with tuna fish…a PBJ…a cup of soup…some pretzels and a small sandwich. (Not on purpose…I just never really knew what I “should” be eating for a lunch…or how I “should” feel midday, post meal.) I actually think my shitty lunch habit contributed to an unintentional rapid weight loss that led to my femur injury in 2015.

But this year, starting in January, I started buying meals from a local nutritionist who cooks the food in his kitchen, freezes it, and delivers it straight to the gym where I work. I order the food online the week before, and poof! It’s there when I need it.

10268471_490369947769610_3879409818848076131_n

Credit: The Strong Kitchen

For the first time EVER, this year I started eating legitimate lunches with steak, potatoes, and veggies. I began to learn what a “normal” lunch is, and how I should feel after eating it. The food was also portioned for, what he calls, “Performance” -so, in my mind, it was “okay” to eat this much food all at once for lunch (yep…ED habits die hard).

Eating pre-made meals by a nutritionist not only showed me portion control and fueled me with the things my body NEEDED…but I also started seeing the benefits athletically and physically. My workouts were obviously lights-out this year…and I was the leanest I’ve ever been in my life.

FullSizeRender 2.jpg

Lean and mean, just how I like it.

I also tracked my blood levels through Inside Tracker this year, and saw huge improvements with my nutrient levels from what I attribute mostly to the diet change.

So. Moral of the story? Food is fuel. Eat like a champion if you want to be one.

6. Trust your gut.
I was laid off from my job in fashion marketing in 2015. I vowed to never go back to corporate…so I started working in a gym as a strength coach shortly thereafter. And then this March, James called me to ask if I wanted to coach running with his new business, McKirdy Trained.

I was excited…but hesitant. I had ALWAYS wanted to be a running coach (and I had already done a little coaching here and there) but I wasn’t sure how to start. I liked James’s idea, but I was nervous about how it would fit in with my other job and training. Training for Boston this year was the most intense thing I’ve ever done; I didn’t know how I could add coaching into the fold too.

But I trusted my gut. I knew I really wanted to coach and share my knowledge and passion of running with others…and James was holding the door wide open for me.

So I jumped in, head first. And it was the best decision of my life.

I grew and developed so much this summer as a coach, and I saw my athletes reach incredible successes this fall:

From breaking 4:00…to a BQ…to healthy (and strong!) injury comebacks…to a marathoner who negative split her race by over 6 MINUTES…to an athlete breaking a 4-year goal of sub 3:10…to someone who never thought she could run 7:xx/mile in a race-to actually achieving it in a 12-miler…to a 6-month postpartum mommy of 3, running a lifetime half PR by over 7 minutes.

I could go on and on. Coaching has been the most rewarding experience of my life, and I am even more excited for what’s to come. If I didn’t listen to my gut, I would be in a totally different place right now. Most importantly, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet the amazing, incredible, and strong athletes that I coach-who inspire ME way more than they will ever know.

I’m pretty sure I’ll look back on this year and think it was awesome. Obviously, from a training perspective, I’m less than thrilled to kick off 2017 with this hamstring issue. But the new beginnings that came in 2016 with coaching and my career gets me the most excited and eager for the future I’ve ever been. For the first time since moving to CT in 2012, I’m finally starting to consider it home…and that alone makes me warm and fuzzy inside. 

In the new year, I’ve decided to work on my bravery. Be brave. It’s something that James encouraged me to do with my running all throughout 2016…and it wasn’t until Hartford that I started to find it. So I want to keep working on it. It’s not a New Year’s Resolution…but rather a theme. There’s a lot on my plate as I look at 2017, and some of it is intimidating. But bravery always goes a long way…and if I’m brave throughout the next year, I think I’ll end up okay.

So cheers to a new year and to being brave. And to not running 3 marathons in 2017. 🙂