It’s not easy to make a comeback.
Sometimes you don’t even realize what you’re coming back from. Injury. Laziness. Time off because you let one thing get in the way of another thing, and before you know it there’s no way you’re going to PR in any race you sign up for.
Just plain burnout.
It can be anything. For Lizzie Kasparek, 27, a dietitian with Sanford Health Sports Science Institute and board member of the Sioux Falls Women Run group, it was everything and nothing.
In 2015, she had her best racing year – running a 3:22 marathon in Boston. She was on a running streak, trying not to miss a day. She ran a 50K and a trail marathon, pushed and pushed herself. But it was all running and no cross-training.
And you know how that goes.
She wound up with a persistent and mysterious hamstring and glute issue. She kept pushing through and ran the Marine Corps Marathon last year, starting out too fast and walking a bunch. Her time wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t where she was, or where she could be. She knew that.
Something had to change.
She adjusted her training. Her mental game. Her nutrition. Gave herself time to remember why she loves to run. And it paid off. She finished the Twin Cities Marathon this past weekend in 3:27, her third fastest marathon time, and only seconds away from her second fastest time.
“I was more excited about this than my actual PR,” Kasparek said. “I feel like I finally made a comeback from good training, rather than just survive training.”
We caught up with her this week to find out what she’s learned in the past year.
On training: This year I focused on triathlon training with Kathy Grady at the Sanford Wellness Center, and I only ran four days a week. When I was training for Boston, I was running like six days a week. And I went a lot slower than usual this year. I used to do all my runs at race pace.
On predicting her time and pacing: I kept using those calculators online, and I hadn’t been good about my pace runs. I started the race and thought, if I kept it at 7:45, that would be good. Some of them were faster than that, and I thought, ‘you’re going to blow up in like 5 seconds.’ I was following the 3:20 pacer for a while, and thought if I keep him in front of me and the 3:35 behind me, I’ll be pretty good.
On all the cross-training: I feel like I’m really fit. I swim all the time, and I took a lot of time off and did strength training. I took maybe from last October to the end of January or February off. I did the elliptical and swimming three days a week.
On lingering injuries: I could run faster, if I didn’t feel like somebody was stabbing me in the leg. But minor details.
On Twin Cities Marathon: There are people all over the course. I never thought, I could really use a tuba or a DJ in the front yard, or a bouncy castle. They make a party out of it. There is this smaller town feel with all the neighborhoods – you aren’t in the city the whole time. It feels like a smaller race, but with tons of people along the course.
On head games: There was one point where the wheels were coming off, and I was like, ‘you have to recover.’ I felt lightheaded and ate a gu and some chomps and put water on my head, and I felt like a new person. That can definitely get away from you, and if you let it get too far, you’re just like a corpse.
Training: I’m pretty conservative. There are some plans that go up to like 60 or 70 miles. Even when I did Boston, my highest was like 55. This time I did even less, there were some weeks when I did 10, 5, 10, 20 and maybe swim once or twice, but I definitely took at least one full day off. One day of nothing – don’t wear your watch that tells your steps.
On burnout: Last year training for Marine Corps, I felt super burned out. I just felt dead and didn’t want to run. I couldn’t recover. My tendons hurt, and everything would feel sore, and it was hard for every single run. If you hate every step, killing yourself to run 50 miles a week and you aren’t enjoying every single mile, that doesn’t make sense to me.
On moderation: Being a dietitian, people want to know how many calories do you need exactly for that day. What if I have an off day … when people start getting into that, if you’re counting every bit that goes into your body when you start marathon training, you can start underfueling and doing too many miles and suck the fun out of running.
On what’s next: I still do the POWER workouts, and maybe some easy runs. The next race I have is the Black Hills 50K next year.
On inspiration: I always tell people the last six miles freak me out. I wish it were my first, then you wouldn’t remember how bad those miles suck. Those miles are the pain train. It’s all mental though. Your legs know what to do. The only reason you’re walking is you told your brain you were allowed.
Jacqueline Palfy is a longtime runner, reader and writer, marathoner, mom and board member of the nonprofit Sioux Falls Area Running Club. Her contributions to the 605 Running Co. blog will appear each Tuesday. You can follow her on Twitter @runnerJPK or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Story ideas are encouraged.