I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Experience is everything.” I’ve been hearing from others as far back as Wildflower Long Course 1998. It was my first year as a professional and it may have even been one of my first races. I was 10th that year, Heather Fuhr had won and I was standing up there next to Wendy Ingraham and a lot of other big names in the sport at that time just smiling and being sort of amazed and overwhelmed thinking, “How am I going to get faster?” I said something to Wendy and she leaned over to me and said, “Gina you’re going to do great in the sport, just wait, experience is everything.” At that time I thought “Wait, I want to be better now… Experience… what is she talking about?” But here I am 25 years later and am amazed at what years of experience can do.

I retired from racing in November 2009. Since that time I have put on my bucket list to finish a marathon that does not have a 112 mile bike ride in front of it. I signed up for Napa in March of 2011, NYC in November of 2011, and gave up in 2012 as I had not made it to one startline due to a variety of reasons. In June I was selected to be part of the Nike Women’s Marathon this past October. With a PR goal in mind, I set myself on a path to have my best marathon. As my training became less of a priority and my body chose to give me experiences that I can now share with my athletes, I made it to the start line with less than optimal training behind me. What was going to be another DNS turned into a what I called a coach’s experiment. Could my body remember the 15 Ironman marathons I had done from 1998 to 2009? What training could I get away with that would allow me to participate?

So with 16 weeks I set out to have my best marathon. About half way in it was clear I was not getting the workouts done to set a PR so it was then that I adjusted my goal and started thinking from an “experience is everything” platform. It was this final adjustment where I learned the following information.

Here is what I learned:

  1. Cross training was a must as that is what my body was used to. It was also a great way to keep intensity up without focusing on one discipline too much. My time was limited and I had a few physical limitations that popped up, so doing traditional long runs became an issue. I would substitute a long run with a hard swim and short tempo run.
  2. I ran frequently. Mileage was down from what I did during my ironman years but the number of days I ran was greater. On average I ran five to six times a week and have since fallen in love with the 20 to 30 minute run.
  3. I ran tempo often. I was trying to do speed work but due to the physical limitations that were springing up I banked on the tempo run. Most of my runs, including the long runs between 12 to 16 miles were at least 20 to 60 seconds per mile faster than what I was hoping to run.
  4. Race execution became more important than ever. Starting out slower than my overall finishing pace was critically important as I knew I did not have the training in me to muscle through a blow up.
  5. Lifting weights must come back into my training regimen.

All in all the race worked out for me the best it could. I am thankful for all the years of training that is in my tank. I went in with an open mind and had to believe that even though it had been four years since I had been on a start line, when it came down to it my mind and body knew what to do. It was a fun day; mentally a day that I can share with my athletes affirming the years of training are always with you. I confirmed negative splitting was the best way to race. I had flashbacks from the Queen K and for a moment I felt like I was in the game again. The race ended with a qualification for Boston 2015 and where I will once again set a goal for a PR and put another gallon in my experience tank.