Today’s goal: Get Uncomfortable. I saw those two words together for the first time after a friend commented on my Instagram photo from last night of all my running gear laid out for today’s Back the Track 5k. I didn’t understand it at first, but seconds later, it clicked. Anything worth striving for isn’t supposed to be easy.
Yesterday I read a gem of a blog post by Deniz (PLEASE read it), one of the November Project tribe leaders here in Boston. Quick recap of Deniz for anyone not familiar: he’s an Ironman and ran a 3:30 something marathon AFTER the swim and bike “warmup.” He’s BQ’d, and is insanely fast.
That alone would be good enough. Not only is Deniz a talented athlete, he’s also one of the most humble and caring people I’ve ever met. Deniz’ post yesterday was all about “setting the bar high” and being ok with failure. Failure means you had the nerve to challenge yourself by stepping outside your comfort zone and pushing the limit of your own ability.
We had a special guest yesterday at November Project. Shalane Flanagan, a US Olympian and one of the fastest women in the world joined us. I’ve been learning a lot from Shalane’s successes and even more from when she isn’t successful. The second I saw the quote to the right, I started sharing my goals with other runner friends. Instantly something clicked. I had this burning fire inside me to get faster, push harder and crush my goal, which at the time was a sub 18 5k. (Point of reference: 9/2013 my PR was 20:53. Going into summer 2014 it was mid 19’s.)
Coach knows best. I’ve been working with Steven for over a year now and he knows my ability better than I do apparently. But that’s why he’s the coach. It’s certainly a reality check when your coach shakes off a 16 second PR with a “congrats, now let’s get 10 seconds faster.” I know he’s excited for me, but he knows I can do better. I wouldn’t be anywhere close to the speed I’m at without him.
Many of my November Project friends helped me get there, whether that was joining in on a track workout or racing up Summit Ave, it was certainly not a solo effort.
This brings me to today. After reading Deniz’ post a dozen times in the last 24 hours, I decided to write “Get Uncomfortable” on my wrist. Shalane said recently, “if it’s not hard, you’re not dreaming big enough.” After PRing and hitting my sub 18 goal early two weeks ago (17:56) my coach’s goal for today’s race was not just sub 18, as I had been training for, but 10 seconds faster, a 17:46. This terrified me. I barely snuck in under 18 minutes, and now I had to cut another 10 seconds off of that? Scary.
“If you think you can run a sub-4 hour marathon, and on a really good day you think you may be able to run the marathon in 3h 40m, that should be your goal. Tell the whole world that you want the run the marathon in 3 hours and 40 minutes. Who cares if you fail? Who cares if you ran it in 3 hour 55 minutes? It may sound more successful to say: “I ran a sub-4 hour marathon with 5 minutes to spare.” But, believe me it is much more badass and inspiring to say: “I wanted to run a 3h 40m marathon, I was 15 minutes off, but I will get better, work harder and try again”. At the end of the day, your marathon time is just a number, but your attitude about setting the bar high and striving for it makes the difference. And apply this to everything you do. I want to run 50 sections at the stadium. I want to be more loving to my friends and family. I want to be a better husband/wife, mom/dad, sibling. I want to solve this problem today. I want to ask that girl/guy out.
– Deniz of November Project Boston
That post couldn’t have been more timely. I was proud of my sub 18 (and 46 seconds worth of PR in the last 3 weeks), and would’ve been happy hitting the same time again today, as it was my original goal race, and original goal.
Nope. Not with this crowd.
The second I shared the 17:46 goal and heard myself say it out loud, I knew I had to crush it. This gets back to sharing your goals. Be proud of your dreams and the work it takes to get there.
Race morning today was a little different. November Project friends were EVERYWHERE. Racing or not, we showed up in numbers. Mentally I was in a much different place prior to this race. I was ready to crush it.
At 9:15 I set out for my 15 minute warmup and then dynamic stretches. I had another serving of Bits, and then found my way over to the starting line. Out of the blue, Evan Dana, another NP Boston leader comes up to me and tells me that he’s going to make sure I PR today.
We set out at a 4:50 pace until the first turn, and I knew I needed to slow down. I ran alongside Evan and a few minutes later, Deniz catches up to us and said hello (or something like that, my music was too loud). Mile 1 passes, and I look at my watch and it said 5:32. I shouted “Fuck Yeah” (typical November Project) and Evan gave me a fist bump. We made a turn, and then saw the .4 mile long hill. Here’s where it really helped having Evan pacing me. I turned my watch over, and followed him for pacing instead. We probably slowed a couple seconds per mile, but glided up and over the hill. Thanks Summit Ave.
The route was a rectangle, and the last turn put us headed toward the finish. Conveniently, my warmup run brought me almost right to that turn, so I knew how much further we had. My 3rd mile pace was 5:52, but once I saw the finish line and could hear all my November Project friends, I dropped into a sprint with everything I had left at 2.9 miles in, with .2 to go. It felt faster, but the last .1 was at a 5:30 pace. As soon as I could see the clock, I could see it said 17:4 but couldn’t read the second number. My heart sank as I gave every last ounce of effort I had. In what seemed like slow motion, I crossed the finish line to see only two seconds had ticked off. I crossed at 17:42, 4 seconds UNDER my goal.
I went found Evan and gave him a giant hug (again, typical November Project) and tried to thank him, but I couldn’t get any words out I was so gassed.
As soon as I could speak again, I went and found Shalane. I shared with her that whether she knew it or not, she pushed me to not just hitting my goal, but a 14 second PR in the process, good for exactly a full minute 5k PR (30 seconds, 16 seconds, 14 seconds) in the last month. Coincidence that was about the time I joined the InsideTracker team? (hint: no). We took a giant group photo and I can’t wait to see it. Every single person in it helped me crush my goal today in one way or another.
Am I proud? Yes. Am I content? No. Tomorrow begins the journey to Boston 2016.
“There is nothing cool about coasting in your successes, because that clearly means you are not pushing yourself hard enough. Be proud of your failure, be proud of your nerve to challenge yourself so hard, be proud of how close you got to your goal, and keep pushing to reach that goal. Don’t be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid of failing. Don’t be embarrassed about failing. Always set the bar high!” – Deniz
Today I raced for the 3rd week in a row. My coach has been evaluating my weekly progress and for the last 3 weeks, on Wednesday or Thursday he’s asked me to race that weekend, which has been awesome. I absolutely love the rush of lining up to race, especially at these small 5k’s where I know a bunch of other people racing.
Three weeks ago I hit 18:58 in a race that had snow, hills and stairs (yes this actually happened) and came in 2nd overall. Last week I hit 18:12 (30 second PR) in a flat course along the Charles, good for 4th place out of 800. Today’s race was on the same course, and I finally hit my goal of sub 18 with a 17:56… less than 4 seconds to spare.
I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and hearing advice from pro runners about motivation. It’s not supposed to be easy. Otherwise, everyone would do it. At about mile 1.5 I had the urge to back off my 5:45 pace. I reminded myself of the quote to the right from Shalane Flanagan. This race wasn’t supposed to be my goal race, but I knew that a sub 5:47 average pace would give me a sub 18 5k. If I kept pushing at/around the same effort, I’d PR for sure, and potentially even hit my goal two weeks early.
I worked to catch up to the runner ahead of me, and then promised myself I’d stay in front of him for the rest of the race. I did, and my last .1 mile came in at a 5:07 pace… A full sprint with everything I had left. I crossed the finish line in 17:56 (5:47/mile) and since then I’ve been on cloud 9.
When I started working with my coach (Steven) about a year ago, I was hovering around a 25 minute 5k and a 2 hour half marathon. I’ve cut over 7 minutes off the 5k, and 32 minutes off the half. I could not have made anywhere close to this progress without him, while also avoiding injury. Steven’s training plans adapt based on my training, and if I’m in a good place, he’ll send me out to race, which is always a confidence boost.
I’ve PR’d by 30 seconds and then 16 additional seconds in the last two weeks, in a race that only lasts about 18 minutes. That’s huge. It’s not just training alone though. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I just started working at InsideTracker, a company that provides nutrition and lifestyle recommendations to optimize performance based on blood analysis of up to 30 nutrient and hormone levels.
One of the markers that needed improvement was creatine kinase, a key indicator of muscle health and recovery. I’ve added a CoQ10 supplement every day for the last 3 weeks after breakfast, and have been going to bed about 45 minutes earlier. In addition, I’ve increased both my fat and protein consumption, which has not only helped with muscle recovery, but has seemed to fix my ravenous hunger that has been a result of the increased weekly mileage. (Had been at 35-40 range, last 3 weeks have been 43-47) I also stopped doing my post-run core work outside and now do it inside, as seen in the recommendation to the left.
I’ve also added a Vitamin D supplement, since my test showed that my Vitamin D levels were very low. The system also recommends the top 5 foods that will make the biggest impact (based on the markers that need improvement) and as a result I’ve been eating a lot more avocado (1/2-2/3 per day), chia (1-2 servings/daily) and raspberries, which conveniently have been on sale at Whole Foods recently.
I had stopped drinking cherry juice a few weeks ago simply because I had run out of it, but I restocked last week and that’s definitely also been helping with my sleep quality, which improves the CK level.
All of this is to say that I think I’ve found the sweet spot from a training perspective. As Chris said this afternoon, Training = Workout + Recovery.
Your training is only as good as your recovery, and the food your eating throughout the day has such an impact. Couple that with a professionally created training program, and anything is possible.
I have recently accepted an opportunity with another Boston based nutrition related company called InsideTracker. I was not actively searching for a job, and was presented with this opportunity a couple of weeks ago. I’m excited for a new challenge while allowing me to continue with my passion of helping improve athletes’ performance and overall health.
I have loved every minute of my two and a half years working at ENERGYbits, seeing it grow from a product to an entire community of inspiring and motivated people, which includes several hundred brand ambassadors as well as 60+ pro and Olympic athletes. I’ve enjoyed working with our brand ambassadors, learning all about their training, families, racing, and much more. If you’re one of our brand ambassadors reading this, thank you for all of your support. It’s been a true pleasure working with all of you. I’m proud to call quite a few of you my friends and look forward to staying in touch!
I will be forever grateful to Catharine for all of her guidance and for believing in me and providing me with the opportunity and chance to grow as much as I have. I’ve learned so much about social media and nutrition, and I’ve had the opportunity to go to the Olympics. I started running because most of our customers are runners/marathoners, so I decided to sign up for a marathon to learn more about how the product helps. Along the way, I’ve met some pretty incredible people which has led me to November Project, which has totally changed my life.
InsideTracker is a game changer, already working with several professional teams. I’m excited to introduce my network of coaches, nutrition professionals and athletes to the benefits as well.
InsideTracker analyzes biomarkers in blood and then makes specific recommendations regarding how to change your lifestyle (food/alcohol/exercise) to optimize these levels. Doing so allows for increased recovery time, better sports performance and improved overall health and energy levels. I was recently tested and am excited to incorporate many of the recommend changes in regards to my nutrition and seeing the results over time.
I was tested a few weeks ago and have already begun to make a few of the recommended changes and I’ve already seen performance benefits. I ran the most miles in a week last week that I’ve ever run before, and felt significantly better than I did during any of my peak marathon training weeks. My day to day energy levels seem to be better recently as well, which was something I was struggling with when I made the jump from 25-30 mile weeks back up to 30-40. I’m now running between 40 and 47 miles and feel better than ever before.
My role with InsideTracker will be similar to my mission with ENERGYbits, which was to help show people (mainly athletes) the substantial impact that food can have on performance. InsideTracker takes it to the next level, by using blood analysis to improve athletic performance and longevity.
InsideTracker does several things. It analyzes up to 30 nutrient levels (called biomarkers) and then gives you recommendations on how to improve them, while also explaining why you should consider doing so. The system gives you five foods that have the largest potential to help improve what they call “InnerAge” (based on nutrient levels, stress and training inputs), which is shown above.
In addition to giving recommendations on foods and supplements (you can choose if you are open to all supplements, some, or none at all. I picked “some”) to improve these biomarkers, InsideTracker also gives you the science behind the recommendations.
As seen in the image that says “Eat Less… Eat More…,” you can also input your specific dietary choices, including vegan, vegetarian, paleo, Mediterranean, gluten free and much more. InsideTracker shows you which specific biomarkers each food impacts, and there are 7,500 foods in the database to choose from.
If you have any questions regarding InsideTracker or would like to learn more about getting your own results, let me know! It’s a very quick turnaround. I was in and out of the blood draw in about 5 minutes, and received my results two days later.
I will continue to use both ENERGYbits and RECOVERYbits as part of my training, as it truly does have a performance and recovery benefit. Algae contains many of the nutrients that InsideTracker tests for, and as a result, those specific biomarkers (about a half dozen of them) were almost exactly in the middle (optimized) of where they should be.
It may be a new job, but it’s still the same passion.