Setting Goals, Assessing Weaknesses, and Moving Forward

Last week I posted about the importance of the off season. Today I want to personally share how I handled my off season, and what lessons I learned about myself as an athlete in my latest marathon cycle, and how I’ll plan to make changes in the future. It’s important to understand that our bodies will adapt and change to anything we toss at it – with time, consistency, and a solid combination of work and recovery. It’s always easier to be the coach than the athlete, and I’ve worn both hats for myself for the last few years. While I know my body and my strengths and weaknesses, it’s not without its challenges.

Frankfurt Marathon Training: In Spring I dealt with my first injury in 5 years. I have a heel spur in my left foot that became irritated, and plantar fasciitis stemmed from that heel. They were essentially one big issue. While I ordered special orthotics, put my foot through electrotherapy (not pleasant nor cheap!), and did everything I could, I was also asked to stop running at full body weight. So with Frankfurt, my goal marathon, waiting in the wings on October 29th, I knew the clock was ticking. I ran the entire month of June at 50-80% of my body weight on the Alter-G at Finish Line PT. The monthly membership there was beyond worth it. I was able to run – which I needed physically and mentally. In July, 15 weeks from marathon day, I was given the green light to run outside. I had 15 weeks to go from base mileage on an Alter-G, to chasing down a PR. There were times my foot still hurt leading up to Frankfurt, but at least I knew how to manage it. With a pretty short window of time, I decided to be conservative with mileage. My highest mileage week was maybe 45 miles. My longest run, 20-milers. I supplemented my training with 5-7 hours of weight training per week.

Frankfurt Marathon Reflections: Moving forward, I’d ideally have had a few more weeks of official training, and some time to build solid base mileage outside. That’s my hope for my fall 2018 goal. Also, if I’m honest about my weaknesses, I fell apart late on the course. The weather was tough, and that made me lose my head game. However, my body was capable of more than I accomplished out there – even in those conditions. Therefore, some longer long runs (21-23-milers), and some more negative-split/progressive long runs are what I’ll need to develop a stronger mental space for those late miles. I’ll also plan to increase weekly mileage a bit for next fall. I know I’m not a high mileage athlete, but I think I can add a bit more and still feel healthy and strong.

The Off Season: I’m incredibly disciplined as an athlete. Despite the fun foods I post on IG (and don’t get me wrong – I love all foods!), I also track everything I consume – the good, the bad – I track it all. I’m also disciplined with my training. I can eat a lot because most of the time I burn a lot. I’m training 2 hours per day, on average. That buys me a lot of extra calories. But during the last 4 weeks, I’ve allowed myself to relax. In fact, while in Mexico for a week’s vacation, I didn’t track a single calorie or activity. For the first time in a VERY long time, I gave myself a guilt-free, no rules, do what you want, vacation. I ordered guacamole with everything. I inhaled corn chips like it was my job. I ordered margaritas and buckets of beer without hesitation. It. Was. Fabulous. The month of November had minimal training (some lifting in the gym and minimal mileage), and I tried to really relax, reflect on my training, my accomplishments and my weaknesses, and how to better train and race in 2018.

Moving Forward: So after a training cycle that, despite the bumps along the way, still lead to a marathon PR, I have reflected, rested, and am ready to get back to work. I have no idea how much weight I’ve gained in the last 4 weeks. I refuse to weigh myself right now. I should be focused purely on the training and adapting. Race weight isn’t the focus at this time. But my mind is ready, and my body feels recovered from the marathon – and that’s what’s most important.

My goal race for early 2018 is the Saint and Sinners Half, in Nevada. I ran it last year, set a 6+ minute PR, and won. This year I am going back and hoping to break 1:20. That’s a blazing 6:05 minute mile average. I could NEVER do that on the average half marathon course. But this one is 1200 ft. net downhill, and I run downhill really well. You better believe I’ll be getting my quads and calves ready. I’ll then run Boston Marathon. No goals in time for that right now. I will simply see where my fitness is after the half. I may offer to pace a friend or team mate. I’m not putting any pressure on Boston. Last year I neglected the recovery necessary after the half, and I think that’s what began to cause my foot issues. I won’t make that mistake again. After Boston, I’ll plan for a little off season, and then gear up for a fall 2018 marathon. Right now I’m seriously considering Saint George Marathon. It’s known for its 2000+ net downhill, and being a beautiful course. Again, downhill races aren’t without their challenges. But I know how to train for that and I think that would be a great course for breaking 3 hours. But for now, my eye is on the Half in February. I have 12 weeks.

Advice for You: Above you can see how I’ve handled and structured my goals. As you look towards 2018, space out your goal races in a realistic manner. We cannot do everything. Give your body TIME. Rushing into something, especially a marathon, can be quite risky. Assess your strengths and weaknesses. What should you focus on this year? Put together an organized plan, hire a coach, or find a running club. A clear plan will reduce injury risk and help with motivation and consistency. Lastly, take and embrace the off season. You will come back better.


Wilhelmina Fitness Model Finalist

Models: Pipko and Jasmina, Assisted by Jesse Rosenthal and Andrea HeapSome of you may know that when this coach is not training herself or others, she is also an actor and model. This blog entry is going to give you a glimps into a recent experience I had in a fitness model competition.

Back in November, Wilhelmina Model Agency launched a national search for fitness models. With 15 minutes left before submissions closed, I decided to toss my hat into the ring. Like most opportunities in the acting in modeling world, you have to let it go the minute you walk out of an audition or you will go crazy. Unless you live under a rock, you probably have an idea of how competitive the entertainment industry is, and how much of the outcome is about luck, timing and who you know. So I more or less forgot about submitting for the Wilhelmina contest as soon as I hit “submit” on my computer.

A few days later, I received the news that I was one of 20 semi-finalists, and needed to submit additional photos, a video demonstrating what I do to stay fit, and an essay explaining why I should be the next Wilhelmina fitness model. I scrambled to make a video, which wasn’t easy as it was a FREEZING weekend in NYC and I wanted to share how much I train outside. I also briefly filmed a few moves I do at the gym, and then recorded a few exercises I can do in my apartment. I had lots of fitness photos in my portfolio, and writing comes naturally to me – so the video was the most challenging – especially because it had to all be submitted within a few days, and Chris and I had a VERY busy weekend.

Once again, after I sent in all the material, I tried to forget about the competition. The only catch – the four finalists would be selected by judges and one finalist would be a “fan favorite,” so voting was important. I told myself that if I wasn’t a judges pick, I didn’t want to be in the top five. Personally, I hate asking and begging people to do anything for me – especially voting for something online. I am asked CONSTANTLY to vote for friends, donate to fund films, art projects, charity races – I didn’t want to be another person using social media to ask for folks in my network to vote for me. However, I bit the bullet and posted to link to the contest a few times, and to my surprise, a few friends shared the page, reached out to their friends, and were extremely supportive.

Again to my surprise, I made it to the finals. To my relief, I was a judges’ pick – though I REALLY appreciated the votes. If the judges hadn’t picked me, my votes might have gotten me the fifth and final spot. I don’t know for sure, but either way I was grateful for the support.

The finals took place this week in NYC. The other four finalists were warm, friendly, fit and fun people. It quickly became clear to me that I was in good company – but that also meant that it was anyone’s game. We were also each extremely different, with extremely different athletic niches, looks, strengths, weaknesses, experience, etc.

Here’s an abridged version of what the two days looked like:

Tuesday: I woke up at 4am to go coach one of my marathon-bound runners out in the 13 degree, dark, windy morning on the 6th street track. At 12pm, the other finalists and I had lunch and toured the Wilhelmina office, and met a few of the folks there. We got to know each other a bit over lunch, and learned a bit more about the role of a Wilhelmina fitness model. From there we were dropped at NY Sport and Racquet Club for a grueling hour-long boot camp class. I don’t know if it was the early-morning pacing, or the miles I’d clocked the last week (and the Goofy Challenge 10 days ago!), but my legs were shaking, weak jello within the first 10 minutes. I lost count of the amount of pushups, planks and burpees we did, but let me tell you – I have never felt so weak. I would have rather gone out into the snow storm and clocked 20 miles, or speedy repeats on a track. The bootcamp did not show my strengths, and played on my weaknesses. Having the judges watch me struggle certainly didn’t help. After bootcamp, we went back to our hotel to clean up and then we were off to Catch for dinner together and with the folks at Wilhelmina. it was nice to chat in a lovely restaurant, and a relaxed atmosphere.

Wednesday: At 8:30am the finalists and I were off to our fitness shoot, which would be followed by meeting with the judges and then the announcement of the winner. The production team was awesome – everyone was fun, professional and supportive. As the five of us took our turns shooting, we all played on our strengths. It set in during the shoot that the odds I’d win were very slim. Here’s why: the other two ladies are dancers and extremely flexible. They could get their bodies into poses I could never even dream of getting my body into, the the poses photographed beautifully. The guys were both incredibly strong, and though they didn’t hit moves like the dancers, they we both great and holding workout poses that amplified their muscle definition. Then there was me. How many times can a running run through the shot in a white studio and make it impressive? I tried to relax, but when asked about posing and stretches, I felt like an ass hole. As a fitness model, I would certainly benefit from some time in yoga or dance classes. The interview with the judges made me nervous, and in hind sight, I wish I had opened up a bit more.Models: Pipko and Jasmina, Assisted by Jesse Rosenthal and Andrea Heap

I wasn’t surprised when the winner was announced and it wasn’t me. Sure, I was disappointed, but like I said – the competition was fierce and it was anyone’s game. We are all so different, it was like comparing five different kinds of fruit.

I am extremely thankful for the experience. Everyone at Wilhelmina was so incredibly nice, and I can’t think of anything negative to say about the experience! It was quite the adventure, and out of the 2500 people who submitted themselves, I was in the top 5. I suppose I’m pretty okay with that.