Building Miles from the Base Up

We hear about base training all the time, but what exactly is it?  If I’ve been running for over 20 years, doesn’t that count as enough base?  Does my last training cycle count as base?  I have the endurance, can’t I just get on with my training?

The Base Phase is building the running foundation of your training program.  During this time you are teaching your body how to use oxygen efficiently & prepping your muscles for the grueling work that will come in the weeks ahead.  This means that Base Training is a lot of steady miles, slowly and gradually laying the ground work. If you’ve recently come off a training cycle, focusing on Base before the next cycle is a great way to recover and keep fit.  I’ve rolled off of one marathon right into a new training cycle, and while I had all the previous miles under my belt, I still made sure to get several weeks of long, easy miles in before hitting it hard again.

Personally, I find Base Training to be a lot like Tapering; slow, tedious, and kind of frustrating.  I’m the type of runner that likes the speed work, the repeats, the testing of physical fitness.  Taking it easy, going slow, plodding along to add up miles is just not my thing, which is why I’m taking a slightly different approach this time around.

Four out of five of my last marathons were run off the Garmin marathon plans (levels 1, 2, and 3).  They were fantastic for me and I’ve had nothing but success with them.  However, I have decided to use the Boston Athletic Association’s marathon plan for this Spring’s race.  I have decided to switch because this is a Boston specific plan and it includes a Base Phase.  This plan includes a three week Base Phase, making it a 20 week plan, opposed to a standard 16 week plan.

Now, I don’t need a plan to tell me what to do during the build up to marathon training, but it sure is nice.  At first I found a 20 week plan rather daunting.  20 weeks sounded like such a long time to be preparing for a race.  But, I realized that I’d be waiting out those 20 weeks whether I was following a plan or not, so, why not go for it.  It is reassuring to be able to look at my workout laid out before me and not have to second guess what I’m doing, my pacing, or my mileage.  I trust this plan, and while I’m not into the nitty gritty of actual marathon training just yet, I feel like I am more focused with my running.

If you are prepping for a Spring race, I highly recommend finding a training plan that includes Base training.  Don’t be intimidated by the length of the plan and know that during the Base Phase it is okay to tweak and adjust (and rest) as needed.  This is the easy part, so it should feel easy & fun!  If you need help with a Base Training plan, shoot me a message and I can help you out and tell us your Spring goals in the comments below.


Not According to Plan

I’ve learned something over the last couple of weeks: marathon training and moving don’t go well together.  We finally closed on the house on the first, which was a major feat in and of itself.  We’ve had one set back after another regarding this move, but we weren’t about to give up.  I was barely getting over an illness when it was time to get going.  I had done little packing in the week before the papers were signed, in fact, I did little of anything other than lay in bed with a fever begging for Death to take me quickly.

We started moving boxes and some of the furniture right away.  Hubs even took the following Monday off to make trips back and forth, to spend endless hours in Home Depot, and scrambling to get the water in the kitchen to stop pouring all over the floor.  This wasn’t our moving plan at all.  We figured we’d have several days to get the new house deep cleaned, repaired, and possibly some paint on the walls before we started hauling our belongings in.  We also had planned on using the four day weekend during Thanksgiving to do most of the heavy lifting and multiple trips.  We had planned on doing this all in a nice orderly fashion on a fairly reasonable timeline.

But things don’t always go according to plan.  The bank had their issues, our lawyer was hard to get ahold of (and even out of the country when it was time to close!), and our closing didn’t line up at the beginning of the week but at the end of one.  We had to roll with the punches and just make it work.

Between illness and moving, my running has been all over the place.  I’ve missed some long runs, I’ve taken extra days off, I’ve done hodgepodge workouts on what should have been rest days.  I have decided to follow the BAA’s marathon training plan, and am currently in the Base Phase, but my plan has all but derailed.  However, I have no other choice but to roll with it and just make it work.  With illness behind me (nothing more than a few sniffles now), I know that things will settle down soon and I’ll be right on track once it’s time to put some serious work in on the roads.  I’m following the plan as best I can, but also listening to my body and taking a rest or an easy day if I feel I need it.  It’s more important to stay healthy & get the mileage in than it is to be strict about plans & pacing.  So, I suppose I am more on track than I’ve given myself credit for.  If the plan is to run, be happy, and stay healthy, I would say that I’m doing just that.

26 Days of Easy

I am now in my final week of Marathon Recovery and I am so glad for it.  I’ve been bored, despondent, and really itching to get going again, but I know that rest & recovery are just as important to my running success as mile repeats.  I decided that a full month of (fairly) easy running, lower mileage, and no racing would be the most beneficial.  I came off of a very hard training cycle with the intent to tackle the next one with just as much vigor.  I need the down time to keep myself from getting hurt.

I’ve read a lot of different “expert” opinions on how to deal with recovery periods and have opted to go on my own this time around.  Some advice offered claimed that a day for every mile of a race was needed for recovery, but I don’t think I could stand 26 days off! 26 days of going easy was hard enough!  Some advised all cross training and no running, but for me, one bout on the bike and I was sore for days!  I also ended up with a bruised behind. It’s also recommended that the body be given a full 6-10 weeks to heal before beginning another training cycle.


Since the race, I’ve taken a two on, one off approach.  This has kept me sane, kept me moving so I won’t lose fitness, while still offering a lot of rest days.  Most of my runs have been an easy to moderate pace (between 8:00 and 8:45 mile pace) and 5-8 miles.  My “long runs” have been 11 milers at conversation pace.  But, I do confess that I’ve been riding the marathon high all month and have struggled to keep the pace slow and easy.  Every time I look down at my watch I see the pace creeping toward marathon race pace and have to force myself to take it down a few notches.  I even went so far as to bust out 3Xmile repeats in the hopes of getting it out of my system.  Ah well, as long as the effort feels easy, I’m not getting tired, and I’m not feeling sore after, I think I’m okay with a slightly ramped up pace.


I will have three more runs this week (still haven’t planed out how we’ll deal with Thanksgiving…) before my recovery is officially over and I begin my Base Training for the next cycle.  Since my base will be some more of the same in terms of easy miles and slowly building up the long run, it will give me 4 additional weeks for my body to get ready before the real work begins for the next marathon.  So that’s 4 weeks of Recovery (low mileage, slow pace, lots of rest days) and 4 weeks of Base (increasing mileage, slow pace, two rest days a week), or 8 weeks of easy miles.  December, I am getting excited for you!  I’m also hoping & praying that all the moving, holidays, and illness go easy on me this year.  I have some pretty big things I am looking to accomplish in 2018 and hard work & dedication is the only way  to get them.

House Limbo

We are still in the limbo phase of trying to move & “frustrating” isn’t even the half of it.  The lender is coming up with one silly (and seemingly unethical) issue after another.  Last week they were demanding an explanation of deposits in Hubs’ mother’s bank account.  Nope, she’s not a co-signer.  Nope, they don’t even have the same last name.  Nope, there is no reason for them to even care about what’s in her account.  This week they are claiming that the hard water in the house is inadequate (despite the water tests coming back & specifically stating that the water is perfectly fine for human consumption) and the sellers need to install a specific water softener before they will clear the loan.  Our broker keeps telling us ‘one more week!’, and that was five weeks ago!

I’ve got the kids’ new school hounding the old school for records and the old school hounding me for a release date.  Someone from somewhere called their school today trying to find out where they were…which led to a series of phone calls to verify that they really should be in the classrooms that they are currently in.

Half of our belongings (including all of the books and winter coats!) are in storage and I’m surrounded by stacks of boxes.  We had agreed to take a friend’s dog because his work had him traveling constantly & wouldn’t be able to care for him any longer.  We all assumed we’d be moved in time for his Vegas trip, but sadly, are still stuck in our apartment with a no-dogs-allowed lease.  Thankfully he’s a quiet dog, however the landlord is on his way over to pick up the rent check! Yikes, here’s hoping we don’t get busted.

I’m feeling a bit lost & overwhelmed myself.  We are scraping together as much money as possible for the down payment, the rental truck, and whatever repairs & cleaning fees we may encounter when the move finally does happen.  This means we’ve been eating super cheap (read: not very healthy), avoiding spending of all kinds (nope, not getting those new running shoes just yet), and trying to stay close to home (not registering or committing to any races for the time being).  And, I just don’t really know what to do with myself.  I’d love to go get a part time job since everyone is looking to hire holiday help, but I don’t know if I may close in the next week & move to the other side of the state.  Or I could end up staying here another 2 or 3 months twiddling my thumbs.  I’m recovered from my marathon, but don’t have anything to train for & I’m bored with base mileage already.  I’ve pretty much run out of “non-essentials” to pack, and can’t risk shopping for gifts just yet.  Home ownership is tough & we still don’t even own anything!

I’m hoping to throw in a few 5Ks & 10Ks next month, and of course, hopefully that means we’ll be settled into our new digs, but, like always, I need to be prepared to change the plan.  Things don’t always go the way you want them to, and sometimes there’s no forcing a situation.  You have to just ride it out (or run it out), recover, and get ready for the next one.  While the situation is stressful, we are trying to make the best of it and are super grateful for the people around us that are making it easier, like our landlord that is letting us go month to month & week to week, my parents who have counselled us through the process, & the fire department that pushed my husband’s paperwork ahead & voted on his acceptance early.  We know we will get to our dream home, the journey just might take a little longer than planned.  I know we’ll be moved & settled at some point, I know I won’t be living out of boxes forever, but it’s hard to stay optimistic when there is such little progress.

I Rode a Bike

With the anticipation of moving and coming off a hard training cycle, I have opted not to commit to any races for the rest of the calendar year.  I was really looking forward to some easy miles while enjoying the fall weather, and maybe even going on a few social runs.  But of course, then came falling down the stairs, which put me out a few days, followed by a treacherous storm that has left our town a mess & school has been out for two and a half days, forcing me to take more time off.  Yesterday I finally got to run again, and in my excitement I went a bit fast.  I felt great and I have no regrets, though I was mildly stiff this morning (though trick-or-treating may have played a role there!)  Since I’ve spent so much time off already, an every other day schedule didn’t sound fun at all, so I decided to pull out my bike & try out some cross training.

My trusty, rusty Huffy.


My husband picked up this (semi) rusty bike from a yard sale several months ago so we could all ride the trail together as a family, but I hadn’t gotten around to taking it out yet.  It’s a decent bike in perfectly fine shape and it was a very affordable $25!  Now, I haven’t been on a bike since I was in high school, but I figured this would be an excellent tool for some nice, relaxed cross training.  An hour or so on the bike should be similar to 35-40 minutes running, right?

I don’t know what I’m doing!

Oh boy was I wrong!  I was only able to pull off 40 minutes of (what felt like) incredibly intense pedaling.  I averaged 10 mph, which I think is decent, but because I kept my phone in my pocket, I’m not sure how consistent my pace was throughout (it wasn’t).  My quads were burning from the initial push-off, so really, I don’t see how folks do this as their sport on a regular basis.!

Things I learned on my bike ride:
-It is just like riding a bike – you really don’t forget how to do it!
-My quads are not nearly as strong as I thought they were.
-Running is a lot easier.
-Cycling is a lot colder than running and your toes never warm up on chilly days.
-Sticks are your enemies.
-People who ride are hardcore.

I am excited to get back on it in a day or so & try again, mess around with some gears, and learn a bit more about the sport.  I’m looking forward to going farther, faster, doing better.  And I like that it’s hard, because that means it will make me stronger.

Do you cross train?  What’s your favorite non-running activity? Leave your answer in the comments below!

Riding the Space Unicorns!

I must be addicted…

I haven’t run in 4 days & I’m starting to get cranky about it. I had intended to run every other day for a week or two as I recovered from the marathon, but that plan hasn’t worked out so well. The last time I ran was Thursday morning.

On Friday afternoon I managed to fall down the cement stairs from my house to the driveway. I dunno, I lost my balance somehow on my way back to the car to unload groceries. I went flying down the bottom four steps, hit the side on my head on the stone wall, landed squarely on my right knee cap, and slid on my outstretched hands across the gravel. The pain was unreal and is still holding me back. (Oh hello hip pain!) The day following the fall was significantly worse, so I opted for a second rest day & Ibuprofen.

Sunday showed up with intense wind & rain. Roads flooded, trees fell, and power outages covered the state. I opted to stay inside. Rest day number 3.

I looked forward to today being Monday. The kids would go to school, I’d have time to run, peace & quiet to do some work on the house, & do the finishing touches on Halloween costumes. But an early morning call from the school said otherwise. Due to all the storm damage there would be no school! Agk! Four days off! The wind & rain was so bad this morning that Wal-Mart last power twice while we were getting costume supplies. And, it turns out my trail is a bit flooded.

Fingers crossed that tomorrow works out. The kids have their Harvest Day Celebration & Parade and are looking forward to wearing their costumes to school. I’m also looking forward to getting in a little run time, even if it means muddy shoes! Unfortunately, not enough of the town’s power has been restored, so it’s still uncertain what’s going to happen.

This is where I’d even be tolerant of a treadmill…

Crunching the Numbers

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Strava data

I’ve been pouring over the data since I got back from New Jersey, and honestly, I don’t like what I see.  I always do this; over analyze every step of the race, the training miles, the pacing.  The mistakes seem so glaringly obvious once you throw it all into a graph.  But I know there is no sense in beating myself up over a race that’s finished.  There is nothing left to be done for the past, so I need to simply learn from it and move on.

See where I smacked face first into a wall at 2.5 hours in? The last 5 miles were a serious consequence of starting too fast.

I know where I messed up in the race & I know where I failed in training.  The numbers don’t lie.  But I can take all this data and use it as a positive tool to train better for the next race.  When I run Boston I will be on top of my marathon game!

I’ve also realized that by compiling these numbers I’ve made a lot of excuses.  Of course, they are all legit; I really was running that race five months post-partum, I really had no choice but to train two days a week for a month, & no, I couldn’t get in any more miles in that cycle.  It was just life while being a runner.  But they are still excuses – reasons for holding myself back – and as I grow as a marathoner (and my desire to get faster grows), I am realizing that I can work around some of these reasons.  I can find a way to do it, I just have to get clever.  And, more importantly, I have to decide just how badly I want to achieve those goals.  I know I can get to a 3 hour marathon, but I also know just how many miles (and hours on my feet) that’s going to take.  Do I really want this?  Am I willing to suck it up & run?


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Proof that miles & consistency matters.

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After looking over all the numbers I can see myself getting better.  I was smarter with each training cycle, which led to faster times.  It’s nothing but improvement and that is truly something to celebrate.  However, to be realistic, numbers show that I clearly need to run more…a lot more.  I need to focus on The Long Run and Easy Miles throughout the week to increase my weekly mileage.  If this data isn’t proof enough that more miles make you faster, I don’t know what is!  And so that will be my main focus has I build my training plan for Boston – lots of miles, lots of focus.

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From Burlington to AC, I’ve only made improvements. But I still have a ways to go!