Friday, December 4, 2015

Yuri Ran a Marathon: The Interview

Just before I dig in to eat a pile of greasy fries and a giant bacon cheeseburger, I'm likely to turn to whoever I'm with and say guiltily, "Don't tell Yuri." The truth is, Yuri isn't one to judge—she lets me be me—but I've accidentally attributed to her that voice in my head that nags me to exercise and eat better. In real life, she is more encouraging, and always willing to share her boiled chicken. She is also a great resource for guessing the amount of calories in something, or discussing exercise strategies. I am grateful to have her as my friend and healthy role model, and so happy she agreed to let me interview her about her experience running the Chicago Marathon in October.

R: What made you decide to train for and run a marathon?

Y: I think it was late spring/early summer of 2014 (May/June), after I completed a half, my trainer Alex said to a few of us casually that he'd run a marathon with us if we choose to do one. I took that as a challenge and decided shortly after that conversation that I wanted to train and complete one. Nobody else took him up on that. I injured myself for the 2014 season and Alex ended up taking my place and ran the Capital City River Run. I signed up for the Chicago Marathon next season.

R: I remember you saying once that you didn't see yourself as a runner. Do you now?

Y: I still don't consider myself a "runner", only because my definition of a "runner" is very narrow. People who live and breathe running, and all the strength training and other forms of fitness-related endeavors to make them a better runner—that's not me. I use running as a tool to become healthier and stronger.
Yuri in blue at center. Photo courtesy of Nick.
R: What motivated you to keep going after your injury, and through the long months of training?

Y: Once I decided that I was going to run it, it wasn't an option for me to not go through with it. I had a training plan, and I was convinced that I would only succeed by following the training plan.

R: What was the strategy behind your training regime? How much did you run per week? Did you pretty much stick to it?

Y: Since I got injured the first time around for running too much too soon (I decided to do a marathon too late to properly train for my fitness level at the time), the strategy this time was to start early and build mileage slowly, with enough rest. Alex created the training plan for me, so all I had to do was execute it. At my peak, I ran about 45 miles in a week. I stuck to the plan for the most part, except a few times when I wanted to attend CTL demo classes when I was supposed to run. Also toward the end of my training when my legs were not cooperating, I had to take a break a week or two leading up to the race instead of tapering to prevent injury.

R: What were the practical things you had to think about during your training, like time management or caloric intake or the like?

Y: I had to plan ahead about when I was going to run at least a day in advance. I had to coordinate with my husband Nick to make sure the pups were taken care of. (There is NO way I could have done it without his support.) I had to check the weather to see if it was going to rain, or how hot it was going to be, and when it was going to get dark. I also had to plan when I was going to eat before, during, and after for the long runs. For the long runs beyond 10 miles, I always created a fueling plan so I knew when I was going to consume what during the run. In terms of deciding how many calories were appropriate for me to consume, again I was fortunate enough to have a trainer who figured all of that out for me. He did the hard part of planning everything for me. All I had to do was follow.
Photo courtesy of Nick.
R: What was the best part about this whole experience?

Y: The crazy amount of support I got from so many people. Starting with Nick and Alex, and friends like you (Rachel!), many people who donated money to my ACS TeamDetermination fund raising efforts, to spectators who were cheering me on.

R: What advice would you give to anyone thinking about training for a long race?

Y: Make sure you are able to make time for training. If you have kids/pets, do you have a family/friends who can watch them when you train? If your work is crazy busy, can you make time to get your training in? Everyone is busy. But training takes time, and you have to be able to make time, and not feel guilty for spending the time training. For me, I made sure I was committed, but also double and triple checked with Nick that he was ok with this since this impacted his daily life as well.

R: Would you do it again?

Y: I think so. If I get another opportunity to spend a few months training.

R: What's your next big goal?

Y: I want to do the Urbanathlon! I have some strength-based goals that are pretty big, but I tend to get more excited about "events". My guess is I do better when there are deadlines associated with my goals.

R: An Urbanathlon sounds cool and scary! Is this like the Men's Healthy sponsored one I found when I Googled?

Y: It is! They used to have one in Chicago, but they didn't do it this year. I'm hoping they'll bring it back next year. I have to get some other people to do it with me. This is one of those things you don't do alone. But I really want to do it, so I WILL convince someone to do it with me.

R: What did you learn about yourself through this process?

Y: Apparently I do not put my all out there. Even though I was exhausted after the marathon, I knew I still had reserves left in the tank. I'm trying to figure out how to give 100% for better performance.

Yuri at Mile 26. Official race photo.
R: That's really interesting. Matt has said before that he never likes to use up all his energy because he likes to know he has a little left over in case he really needs it. I guess that would be like if he finished a workout but then unexpectedly a bear started chasing him? I also tend to keep some energy in reserve, but only until the end when I sprint most of it off.

Y: I did "sprint" at the end, but at that point my body didn't listen. But I didn't feel like death. I guess for something like a marathon it's ok to reserve your energy since you'd have to practice more to know how you can race so you have just enough to be able to finish an endurance event like that. But I'd like to be able to give it my all on my other stuff where it's less critical if I can't "finish". I think it all stems from my fear of failure. I'm working on it.

R: What did it feel like to cross the finish line at the end of the marathon?

Y: I didn't really have an epic "I did it!" moment. I remember just trying to get out of other finishers' way, and trying to figure out where I needed to go to meet up with Nick and Alex. Unfortunately the first "feeling" I clearly remember is that of being annoyed that I had to walk really far to get to the designated meeting area. And then there were a few steps we had to go down and that was unpleasant. Sense of accomplishment and all that didn't really come until I saw Nick and Alex.

Nick, Yuri, and Alex after the race. Photo courtesy of Alex McBrairty.
R: How did you celebrate your accomplishments that day and even in the next few weeks?

Y: I ate a cheeseburger and some ice cream "pie" for dinner. Then I took a week off from exercising. I guess that wasn't a celebration as much as my body didn't really do much. But the celebration part was to not feel guilty about not exercising! The moment I actually felt like I accomplished something didn't come until weeks later. I was driving all over Ann Arbor/Saline to run errands, and it seemed like I was driving forever, but it was only 18 miles. It was a "holy shit, I ran a lot" moment.

R: What place did you come in and would you mind if I include that? I thought it was neat how high (relatively) you placed for your first marathon.

Y: I don't mind at all but it's not very good.
Gender 12209/17253
Division 2088/2915
Overall 28845/37438
Finish Time 05:15:38

R: I think they're lovely. And thanks!

Y: Now that I've rested for a while, it's the "I can do so much better" side that's coming out of me!