On being type A (or not so much…)

I want to do it all. I want to go on dates and split a bottle of wine. Bake cupcakes and eat pizza with my lady friends. I want to go dancing on the weekend, attend all of the social events that I’m invited to, and enjoy my 20’s.

But I also want to do long runs and track workouts and race half-marathons. Eat wholesome, home-cooked meals and get 8 hours of sleep. I want to be a good employee. I want to pursue freelance opportunities and write clever blog posts.

Lately, it seems, there’s not enough time to do everything. But I’m not willing to give anything up, so I just do the best I can. I don’t always eat the right things or sleep enough. Sometimes I choose happy hour over a tempo run. There was a time in my life when I let my type-A, perfectionist personality control my schedule. Only pasta before a big race, no drinking on weeknights, saying no to social plans in favor of sleep. But over the past year or so I’ve realized perfectionism in running doesn’t always yield the best results. If you don’t wake up in time for your morning run – it’s okay! You can run after work. Or tomorrow. If you eat something unusual the night before a race, it’s not the end of the world. Our bodies are pretty resiliant things and despite putting mine through the ringer, it still cooperates most of the time.

I guess the point of this post is not to get too wrapped up in the details. Sometimes when I talk to fellow runners (or read their blogs) I see them getting so stressed out about running, letting it (literally) run their lives. Being dedicated to something means sacrifice will be necessary and everyone has to determine what that means to them. But through my blog (uh oh, is this a mission statement?!) I want to show people that you can still run competitively while enjoying yourself. Eating well, sleeping enough, and doing tough workouts are important parts of running well, but you don’t have to be perfect. A glass of wine or 2 before a half-marathon doesn’t necessarily spell disaster. So much goes into a good performance – your routine over time, your attitude, the weather, how bad you want it. What you do on one night or one morning (probably) won’t make or break a race.

And on that note, I spent the-night-before-the-night-before my 10-mile race toeing the line. I made sure to fit in a run at the gym after work (5 miles) and get to bed decently early for a weekend (midnight ish). But I also ate Mamoun’s falafel and baklava for dinner and topped it off with a few beers at Amity Hall. Running is important to me, Racing is important to me, but so is enjoying my 20’s. Maybe I’ll have pasta next time….

I’m off to D.C. and will be back with a race recap on Sunday!

Okay, so sharing is caring – what’s the craziest thing that happened to you before/during an important workout or race? Bonus points if things still turned out well!

  • Corey @ the runners cookie

    I don’t think you should have to give up the lifestyle you want OR running! You’re a great example of how to have both and the attitude that lets you have both. There is definitely a type-A part of me, and sometimes I really need to quiet that part down when it comes to running. Could I do more speed training, do more strength training, run more miles, eat better and recover better? Oh yes. But I’m also not willing to give up my social life, my relaxation time, the foods I love….because then I would be miserable! Sometimes it gets tricky when I really want to do well in races and improve, because those goals can conflict with some of my other goals (and surely will conflict even more when I go back to grad school), but I need to remind myself that I’m doing the best I can, and I need to find the place in the middle that fits me the best, and that’s all I can do. There may be points in my life when I have more and less time to devote to my running goals, and that’s fine.
    I’m really glad you posted this Megan, because I’ve been thinking so much lately about Boston and how I want to do well (and how I’m scared that I won’t do well), but the bottom line is, its one race and certainly not my last. And the extra pressure isn’t going to help me do well or enjoy the race, so I definitely need to relax a little.
    I totally agree with what you said about our bodies being resilient! And races are so unpredictable, so theres no point in thinking there is a “perfect” way to do things. [Sorry for the long, rambling comment!!]

  • I swear that ever since “letting” myself go out and drink with friends during training my races have been better/faster. I remember last fall going out for a messy night with margaritas and still nailing my workout the next day. take that 😉

  • Sarah

    After chasing two strong beers last night with a shot of some delicious honey rum (Dogfish!) and then waking up in the middle of the night with a headache (hello, dehydration), reading your post this morning definitely helped me put a fun night out in perspective. I too have perfectionist tendencies about running and it’s so nice to see someone who’s having fun while kicking some serious butt in races!

    Hey, I’m doing Cherry Blossom too — would be fun if I saw you! Good luck tomorrow!

  • This is such a great post!

  • Rach

    i LOVE this. This is definitely a subject I really struggle with myself – I LOVE wine and great food – but also, want to be as strong of a runner as possible. My close girl friend isn’t a runner, but she is very health conscience and is trying to lose weight, so we often discuss this topic (to death). I’m glad to hear that you were able to make some progress over the past year – maybe there is hope for me, too!

    -Rach @ GirlontheRun – http://nyc-runner.blogspot.com/

  • Dani

    Megs- I love this post! As a competitive runner I definitely struggle with going out and enjoying myself and not ruining my run the next morning. I find that often means that I choose water or club soda instead of alcohol when I’m out. But you are right, it’s important to let loose and have fun. I guess a few hung over runs are ok, right? Haha. Good luck tomorrow!!!

  • Claire

    The night before the night before my marathon PR I stayed out until 3 a.m. drinking beer.

  • AR

    This is why we’re friends! <B

    And I've found I've had a lot of good races the night after I had just a drink or too. And I've had decent races after having several drinks. As have you. Team beer and wine!

  • AR

    I don’t know why half of that comment was in bold. Ooops.

  • love your blog-nesty. for reals. and i hear you. my greatest, most ridiculous/ victorious boozin’ + runnin’ experience was a night out on a date followed by a 13 mile training run the following morning. i may have already told you this story, but there are insider details that make this wayyy more hilarious/ awesome than it sounds in a blog comment box. yeah.

    PS we went back for more falafel. you missed round two! 😉

  • Great post. I often struggle with fitting it all in. On that note, I’m sitting on my couch RIGHT now getting a much-needed rest 🙂 I’m not one who can drink the night before races but I admire that you can.

    Good luck in the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. Just got back from the National Marathon in DC and it was absolutely beautiful.

  • jessie

    oh megan, i had to come out of the woodwork for this one 🙂

    every year my town has a fire-cracker 4 miler on independence day. this past year i drove down to LBI the day before, scored myself a rockin’ sunburn, and then drank my pain away with two batches of jessie’s white sangria. race-day morning i woke up and felt like i needed a power breakfast, so after poo-ing my brains out, i walked across the street to marvel’s bakery (bomb to the bombdiest of hole-in-the-wall deli/bakery places), and downed two powdered jelly doughnuts.

    a dear friend of mine willingly drove me to the race-start nearly an hour away, and i was most certainly still hammer-drunk. i wound up racing without socks in an old pair of trainers that were at my mother’s house, a sort of tight enough bathing suit top, and a pair of umbro soccer-shorts sans undies.

    after peeing myself (just a lil’..) and nearly vomiting (heat stroke? too many pastries?) i somehow was the second female to cross the line in a not too shabby time (all things considered). the local paper snapped a photo of me, but my interview was conveniently left out. i’m sure answering the “how did you prepare for this race?” question with a hiccup and “booze and baked goods” didn’t pan out for them in praxis….

    i am currently raising my glass of red vino to you all in the name of a healthy. balanced. lifestyle.

    love.

  • Anonymous

    @Sofia does this story involve LBM?? 😉

  • Anonymous

    You win! Best boozin’ + racing story to date 🙂

  • Man I haven’t seen those blogs. People let running take over their life? what!?

    Running is probably my number one favorite thing in life, right next to my sweetie and eating, but I can’t imagine making something so lovely STRESSFUL. It’s pretty simple…run when you want to and can, don’t run when you don’t want to or can’t.

  • Meggie

    I’m probably a little too type A, but I think it comes with the territory of being a med student. Or at least thats how I justify my tendencies. I tend to be a little too type A in terms of my running schedule (ie: “If I miss this run, it will be detrimental!”), but I think its because I haven’t been running for too long (~2 yrs). I try and remind myself that its the “big picture” and, sometimes, your attitude at how you look at your situation on race day is what determines a lot of how you do. I’ve actually gotten a little bit better in the past few months about switching around runs, sleeping too little, eating too much easter candy, etc, which on one hand worries me and the other keeps me sane. I want to run a good marathon in May (1st, 1 month, but whos counting), but also realize that the Monday after, I have to go back to being a med student. And being a med student that at least finishes a marathon is still a pretty good thing.

  • It sounds like you have a great attitude about approaching races and training. I honestly believe races are ninety percent mental and if you can tell yourself you’re going to kick ass, you will;)

    Craziest race story: I was doing a swim race in the Hudson River in May, when the water temp was 48 degrees, and intelligently decided not to wear a wetsuit. I ended up making it to the finish line, but collapsed upon exiting the water and had to be rushed by ambulance to the ER, where they said I would have died if I had spent five more minutes in the water since my body temp had gone below 85. Definitely learned my lesson about wearing wet suits. . .

  • Katherine

    I’ve been trolling your blog for a while, and I’m fairly certain I saw you at today’s race around the Rock Creek Park area. I may or may not have fought back the urge to go Runner’s Kitchen! Hope you had a good race. I loved the course.

  • Katherine

    I meant “urge to yell.”

  • Tricia

    Hi Megan! I am pretty sure I saw you today running Cherry Blossom! I did a double take coming up beside you around mile 4ish! Hope you had a great race!

  • Great post. I can definitely relate! I’ve done the almost-a-bottle-of-wine and only 5 hours of sleep before a particularly challenging 7 mile run, and while I did survive (yay) I definitely felt the effects of the previous night. But I don’t regret it because it was a special night spend with friends. I believe in balance and adapting to enjoy life, and I’m constantly reminding myself of that!

  • Anonymous

    Yay that was probably me 🙂 next time say hi!!

  • Great post! I’m not competitive, clearly, I’m a slow poke and learning to be happy about that fact! But I find that it’s hard to get to sleep for races that you have to be up insanely early for. Before a marathon relay that I needed to be up at 5:30 for, I went to bed at around 1 and before bed was drinking coffee and eating cupcakes, that is about as crazy as I get though:)

  • I ran a race at 7 am with absolutely zero sleep the night before! I finished, ate a bagel, drank some Gatorade, and slept the rest of the day. To my surprise, an award arrived a few weeks later – I had placed in my age group! It was a small run, but still, I was shocked. And I don’t advise this method of racing on a regular basis…

  • Anonymous

    cupcakes are solid pre-race fuel (or so i like to think, hehe)!

  • Anonymous

    omg Ada!!! that’s a crazy story. i’m glad you’re alright!

  • megan, i effing love this post! if this counts as your mission statement, then you have my full support. as a fellow reformed perfectionist, i think it’s so important to show people how much better life is when you loosen up, and how you can still be healthy and meet your goals while doing it. personally, i actually feel much stronger, healthier, and happier now that I’ve loosened up than i ever did when i was supposedly living a much stricter healthy lifestyle.

    i think what we have going on *is* a healthy balance – you could be eating fast food every day for lunch, eating half a batch of cookies for dinner, not stopping yourself after x numbers of drinks each night, and yeah, maybe then your running/energy would suffer. the point is that you know how to have fun and still be healthy while doing it, and that is what i love.

    hope yo had a good weekend away!

  • I went out and had 2 cosmos PLUS some not so healthy food before I got up and ran 20 miles the next morning…it was one of my best runs ever!!

    sometimes alcohol = awesomeness.

    🙂

  • I, too, always have to remind myself not to let any one activity take over my life. Although I’m not a competitive runner, running is important to me and I used to get really stressed out over missing my “core” runs. I also would stress out if I missed any of my other activities (yoga, painting, socializing!), and of course I work way too hard (10+ hours a day plus usually a little on the weekends – goes with the job type…blah). Usually my social life is the first thing to go, but I recently realized how miserable I was and suddenly felt like I was wasting away my 20s. We can never get those years back! Sadly, the first thing to go now is my blog…. I enjoy updated it, and I really want to do so much more with it…but I also wanted to live a little more and the few hours I wasn’t blogging allowed me that. I recently went away on a 2 week vacation and barely did any exercising except for walking all day and the occasional run to see the city, rather than to keep up with a training plan. I was convinced I’d come back completely out of shape and my entire training cycle would be ruined. Instead, I actually came back feeling stronger than ever in yoga (okay, not exactly running…) and although my first few runs were pretty difficult coming back, it’s not like I lost the ability to run entirely.

    I do still admire you for balancing everything you do as best as you can. I’m still not able to run without sleep, nor do I really drink too much the night before I run… (baby steps, right?) but we do what we can. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    @FuelingforFitness – It sounds to me like you’ve got your priorities in
    order 🙂 I agree that I would love to spend more time on the blog, but
    sometimes real life has to take precedence!

  • great post with a good reminder in there for all of us type A’s! i’ve come a long way from how structured and overly type A I used to be, but I still catch myself trying to do too much all the time and getting super stressed!

  • I am exactly the same way. I want to be healthy and fit, but there are still some unhealthy behaviors I want to indulge in. No one is perfect all the time, and I agree that it’s so important to just do everything in moderation!

  • holly

    oh my gosh, i could have written those first two paragraphs myself. i get it. i SO get it. honestly, i think i’ve just come to the realization that i do the best i can, and that IS good enough. love you lady!!!

  • You’re so wise. I WISH I had figured that out in my 20s … although I definitely enjoyed them! But I probably stressed out a wee bit too much. As for things that happened the day before a race — well, many times I’ve not really ‘rested’ but run around doing errands or seeing friends or or or. I ran a marathon last October that took place the day after my birthday — the night before I went for dinner (no pasta! But also no wine; I was being good.) and then stayed up too late watching the baseball game. In hindsight I wish I’d taken it easy more and done a carbo-load and gone to bed early … but it was my birthday, my team was in the playoffs (and they won), and really I have no regrets.

  • Thank you so much for posting this. From one type-A runner to another. 🙂