Los Angeles, CA has always been a special place for my running career. From being an unknown freshman winning both the 1600 and 3200 at the high school California State Track meet at Cerritos College, to competing in my first race as a professional runner, to debuting in the marathon at the LA Marathon in March 2015, I have many race memories there that I cherish. And I’m looking forward to making a new memory in LA on February 13, 2016, when I run in the US Olympic Marathon trials.
My preparation for the Trials has been different in some major ways, because I have four kids now! Ryan and I adopted four girls from Ethiopia, ages 5, 9, 13, and 15, so inevitably our life changed in many ways when they came home in early October.
1. I’m Running Closer to Home
One of the biggest changes in my training routine: I haven’t been running at elevation. We are rooted in Redding, CA (500 feet elevation) where the girls are enrolled in school, and I’m no longer free to bounce back and forth between altitude and sea level training. For previous buildups, I spent the majority of my time at extreme altitudes in Flagstaff, AZ and Ethiopia. But I have been enjoying the extra oxygen and faster times that come with training “low.”
Though this was mainly dictated by the girls’ needs, it actually feels appropriate for my body’s needs as I go into this race. I spent most of 2015 running mega-miles—up to 125 miles a week—to get as strong as possible in preparation for my previous marathons, but this time around I have been able to build on that strength and sharpen my speed in my tempo runs and intervals. Being at sea level and having more “pop” in my legs from running fewer miles overall has allowed me to run the fastest tempos I’ve ever run, and I have enjoyed them so much more since I’m not gasping for oxygen the way I would be at high altitudes.
To prepare for the Olympic Trials in LA specifically, I’ve been practicing mainly on flat courses. I was able to run half of the Trials course when I visited Southern California a few months ago, and when I looked at my Fitbit Surge stats afterwards it showed a measly 110 feet of elevation gain—much to my delight, because I really enjoy flat courses. When I ran the LA Marathon, I felt the steep downhills of the course were too much for me when coupled with the distance. A flat course is less technical to prepare for, but I have still been working on getting in a good rhythm on long runs and having my form be as efficient as possible.
2. I’m Going to Bed Earlier
With the kids getting up early to get ready for school, my night routine has shifted to an earlier bedtime. And I’ve noticed a real benefit from the extra rest. I make sure to check in with my Fitbit app to see how I’m sleeping, to help me gauge how hard to push my runs. When I get quality sleep, I’m able to recover from tough workouts more quickly.
3. I’m Eating Less Sugar
As a family, we eat just as healthy, if not healthier, with the girls at home. They grew up without eating any sugar, and I’m trying to keep them from developing an American sweet tooth (like I have!)—so I’m buying even fewer sweets than I did in the past. My daughters enjoy stewed lentils, split peas, sautéed kale, and other nutritious Ethiopian dishes. These foods weren’t staples in our kitchen before, but now we are cooking them more often to help the girls feel more at home.
4. I’m Playing More
There are times when I come home exhausted from a 24-mile run and just want to veg out, only to find my daughter waiting for me, ready to play! And in those moments I make the choice to put them first. My girls are more important than my fatigue, and I want to be fully present with them when I am not training. So perhaps my couch time is compromised a bit, but the joy that they have brought into my life makes it all worth it!
5. I’m More Motivated than Ever
With race day less than two months away, I plan to line up on the streets of downtown Los Angeles with peace in my heart, knowing that I gave this training everything I had. And knowing that I now have four times more motivation than I did before. My four incredible girls will be there watching me and cheering me on. And when it’s all said and done, I know we will have a reason to celebrate my race and each other—I’m taking them on their first trip to Disneyland!
Fitbit is the official tracker of the Los Angeles Marathon, taking place on February 14, 2016, the day after the US Olympic Marathon Trials. Stop by the Fitbit booth at the 2016 Los Angeles Marathon expo and at the finish line to receive an exclusive discount on Fitbit devices and a free #MarathonFit water bottle (while supplies last).
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.