Boston Marathon Training Week 8: Mental Blocks

This week was tough, maybe one of my toughest yet. I had a mental let-down and that’s been a little tough for me to get over. You see, I started the week off with a wicked head cold. I spent a lot of time on the couch, drinking tea and doing nothing. My body needed rest. I modified all of my workouts just to get through them. I’m sure I could have run the prescribed workouts, I’m positive my body could get through it, but my brain just wasn’t there this week. Instead of doing mile repeats I ran 800 meter repeats, and I still cut the workout short by two reps. Instead of running three-mile repeats I opted for a tempo run. And when it came time to do a fast finish long run, I cut the whole thing short at 12 miles and went home. I spent the rest of Sunday licking my mental wounds and feeling sorry for myself.

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Laying on the couch with my cat, not even doing laundry.

Marathon training can be just as mentally fatiguing as it is physically. It takes a lot to keep telling yourself to get out there and push out another set, especially when you already don’t feel well. Some days the workout is just too daunting to even start. And then you question where your mental fortitude will be on race day…

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Repeats on an unmarked gravel track are HARD.

It was frustrating to fail. I have had some fairly decent training this cycle, so to have a whole week that was just “off” was very tough for my ego to handle. But, looking back over my training log, I can easily see why it wasn’t clicking.

  1. I wasn’t running the prescribed workouts. The training plan builds on itself and picking and choosing workouts doesn’t give you the strength & stamina that you’ll need for the next hard workout. By amending workouts, cutting them short, doing them on different days, and running them out of order, I’m not really getting the full benefits of the prescribed workouts.
  2. I run too fast. I run too fast too often. I know I’ve mentioned this before, and apparently I’m not learning. Easy days should be EASY and running two tempo runs back to back is going to make for a difficult long run the next day. I know this, but I’m having a hard time sticking to pace for some reason.

I cut Sunday’s long run/workout short because I wasn’t hitting my target paces. I was struggling and I was hurting and I knew there was no point in pushing something that just wasn’t going to happen. I was risking injury by attempting to push through and where would that get me? I don’t feel bad for pulling the plug on a bad workout, but I do feel bad for having set myself up for failure all week.

Monday: Legs were a bit sore after the long run, so instead of a rest day I went for a light shakeout on the trail with the dog. 4.5 easy, slow miles.
Tuesday: Cold became much more severe than the day before so I took it as a rest day with intentions of pushing the prescribed workout to later in the week.
Wednesday: Probably should have taken another rest day, but felt sluggish & lazy, so I decided to hit the track. Down-graded the mile repeats & 4X4 workout to 8X800m & 4X400m. While I was able to hit my target pacing, it was a real struggle and I cut it short at 6 reps on the 800s. Then I felt bad, so I ran two extra 4s, giving myself a workout of 6X800m (3:05 target), 6X400m (1:30 target). Wobbly legs for the rest of the day.
Thursday: Surprise warm weather! I felt a little too good and what was supposed to be a easy recovery pace quickly slipped into marathon race pace. I was constantly checking myself, but then gave into it because I felt good and the pace felt easy. Finished up 8 miles a bit too fast.
Friday: I had a 3-mile repeat workout on the books, but the kids’ half day of school threw a kink in my plan and I didn’t have time. I threw down another 7 mile tempo run in the time I had before the bus dropped them off.
Saturday: I went into the woods because I knew I would be forced to run slower on the trails. 4.5 miles at a very easy pace, but I rolled my ankle coming back in the driveway and twisted everything from the ankle to the hip.
Sunday: My shins and hamstrings hurt right from the first step. I never loosened up in the first hour of running, and when it came time to pull out the work (6X 3mins at 10k pace, 2mins at marathon pace) I just wasn’t able to do it. I called the workout on the 4th set and limped my way home. A whopping 12 miles.

Week total: 49.58 miles

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Into the woods to slow down & recharge.

Maybe I shouldn’t beat myself up too badly – the training is hard, I’ve been doing fine so far, I was ill, there still several more weeks of training to go – but I feel like there were a lot of excuses and dumb mistakes were made. Hopefully I will learn from this and move on with grace & wisdom.

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Fixing Saggy Leggings

I have a problem with keeping my pants up. It’s really annoying. So many of my runs are spent dragging my running tights back up. Only my Nike Pro leggings are okay and stay most of the way up most of the time. But they are fleece lined and I only can wear them on the coldest of days (plus they are an absolutely hideous pattern). And sometimes they are just in the wash. And they are expensive, so I haven’t been able to bring myself to buy another pair (the ones I have were a gift). Instead I’ve spent way too much money on cheaper stuff trying to find something that works.

I’ve been wanting leggings with pockets for ages so I could carry gels on long runs in the winter. I found a beautiful blue pair in T.J. Maxx and bought them against my better judgement. I’ve never been happy with athletic wear from discount stores like T.J. Maxx and just try to avoid it altogether – but I was in retail therapy mode & just really liked them. I jogged in place in the fitting room. I did squats & jumps & all sorts of contortions and felt they’d be fine. But, of course on my first run they began to sag less than a half mile in. I love the pants, they are pretty, functional, and so comfortable, but I’d never be able to do a long run in them without showing off my hiney.20180217_161910147586714.jpg

Why can’t I find leggings that stay up?! I’ve tried different material, different sizes, different styles & brands. It’s always the same story; the material starts sliding down, bunching  up at the knees and ankles with a saggy crotch. It’s uncomfortable and distracting – no way to get through a 2+ hour long run!

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I was getting ready to toss these in the “not for running” pile when I started thinking of ways to fix them. Putting more elastic in the waist band seemed like a lot of effort. I wasn’t convinced that taking in the sides would do much good. But a draw string might do the trick.

I took a shoelace out of an old pair of running shoes to use as the draw string (a ribbon or string from an old hoodie or pair of sweat pants would work great too) and snipped some holes on the inside of the waist band. My shoelace had plastic ends so it was easy to thread through. If you are using a different type of string or ribbon I suggest using a safety pin on the end to be able to feel it & push it through.

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Voila! Easy peasy and completely solved my saggy legging problem. I think this may just have saved my whole winter running wardrobe.

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Boston Marathon Training Week 7: Going Up!

This week I took a little step back on the mileage, but it was a good, quality week nonetheless. And I swear it was the week of hills. I had rest days on both Monday and Thursday as well as easy recovery miles on Wednesday and Saturday. Marathon pacing began this week, which was rather exciting.

Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday: Hill Repeats! 8X400 meter hills up at 10k effort with 30 second rest, down at half marathon effort, 60 second rest with two miles warm up and cool down.
Wednesday: 6 recovery miles.
Thursday: Rest Day
Friday: Speed Session! 3 miles at half marathon pace, 3 minutes recovery. 2 miles at half marathon pace, 2 minutes recovery. 1 mile at 10K pace, 1 minute recovery. 2 miles warm up and cool down.
Saturday: 6 recovery miles.
Sunday: Long Run! 8 miles easy, 6 miles at marathon pace, 4 miles easy – 18 total.

I was puppy sitting this week and was a little afraid to leave the little girl alone for too long, so I was fairly happy my plan called for two rest days this week. And I was able to keep most of my workouts fairly close to home so I could check in on her. And I managed to get her out on a couple of warm up & cool down runs with me, though she needs a lot more leash training before she goes on anything longer!

I also gathered a lot of hills this week. Everywhere is a hill! I even went off to another town in search of a flatter road and still managed to be going up hill.  According to my Garmin data I accumulated 3,515 feet of elevation gain over the last week. Hill repeats aside, that’s a lot of UP!

I am getting confident on the hills, which is all I can really ask for at this point.  I’ve gotten better at holding a solid pace on the ups and being less afraid & letting myself go on the downs. I am thinking that the hills of Boston will not be a problem.

The weather all week was fairly decent. Mother Nature cooperated and only rained/snowed on my off days, which was truly appreciated. However, my long run was a bit damp. If I had had a treadmill I would have been temped to stay indoors. It was miserable – raw, cold, drenching rain. Connecticut saw record rain fall on Sunday and I had to run through it. The fog was dense, the wind was gusty, and the water was freezing. But, I am honestly glad that I pushed through it. I was tempted several times to cut the run short, but I decided to hold on. What if it rains on race day? I need to be prepared for all conditions. Sometimes that means sucking it up and running through the rain. No it wasn’t fun, but I got it done and I like to think I’m better for it.20180212_092418416481432.jpg

All in all I had a fairly good week. My hill repeat workout wasn’t the best, but I nailed my pace work in both the speed session and on my long run. I ended the training week with 48.5 miles and am feeling pretty good about it. Wow – only 9 weeks left!

Boston Marathon Training Week 6: More Miles

This past week was all about adding more miles — as many of them as I could squeeze in. This ended up being a little difficult since I had doctor’s appointments, eye appointments, and school delays all week. Besides, I also had to clean, grocery shop, care for the animals, and get some work in. Instead of running as soon as the school bus rolled away, I had to wait, run in the afternoon, or opt for a rest day.

I wasn’t too hung up on pace, for the most part, as I just wanted to cover ground. However, I did have one of my most difficult workouts yet that ended up being a real confidence booster. 3 by 3 mile repeats at half marathon pace. The day I was supposed to do them my calves were painful little rocks, screaming at me to take a rest day. Just thinking about the workout caused cramps. But I knew it was important I get out there and try. I found a flat(ish) section of road (still involved a 767 feet of elevation gain) and took off.  I used half mile recoveries at walk/jog pace because four and a half to five minutes seemed adequate, but going by time vs distance would through off my watch…

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Strava Data

The first set came easy. I sailed through the first 3 miles at 20:57, right on pace. But no wonder; looking at the Strava data later I realized most of it was on a gradual down hill. I recovered and psyched myself up for the second. The next one was not so easy. This involved a significant uphill climb. I blame something that blew into my eye, but there were tears on this one. However, I was able to muscle through and hit the watch at 20:58! I knew the last one would be tough. I would have to get back up the hill I had come down on the first one (out and back course) and I was already quite tired. The final set began on the flat portion and I quickly clicked into my 7 minute pace. Then the up hill gradually started. I kept pushing. ‘Round a bend and a steeper hill looked me square in the face. I faltered a bit. I watched my pace slip to 7:22, 7:35, 7:50. There was still considerable hill in front of me, but I was mad at myself. My glutes burned. My hip flexors cried. My quads were very not happy with me. But I had less than a mile left. I roared, shifted into high gear, and blasted up the rest of the hill. I went as hard as I could go. Once I hit flat road again, my watch flipped from 6:05 to 5:55. I wrapped up the last set in an exuberant 20:23. 15K averaging under 7 minute per mile pace. BOOM! I did a little happy dance in the middle of the road, let out a whoop, and patted myself on the back, then rolled right into my cool down. And the best part about it was that my calves were no longer tight!

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Hills got me half way through the 2nd set & end of 3rd set, but I beat them in the end!

Besides some fantastic speed work I also got in a nice social run with Sharon. It was her first run back in 3 months since she had a shoulder injury, and I finished my longest long run so far. I got Steve, my dog, to come out and run a little bit more consistently, and I’ve thoroughly broken in my new training shoes.

Monday: Long live the rest day!
Tuesday: (Late start due to school delay and picking up my son’s new glasses.) 7 mile Progression Run around the Village. Surprisingly hilly!
Wednesday: (Late start due to my eye appointment.) 7.5 mile recovery. Easy, super sore.
Thursday: (Late start due to my other son’s doctor appt.) 3 x 3mile repeats, half mile recovery. Lots of warm up & cool down before & after. Pretty impressed with myself.
Friday: Rest day. Would have liked a short recovery run but I ran out of time. 3:30 always comes too early!
Saturday: Easy 4 miles with Sharon, plus another 3.5 solo at a slightly faster pace.
Sunday: *The All Mighty Long Run* A steady 18 miles with 8 min miles as my target. A fairly intense hill slowed me down for a minute, otherwise nailed it!

This week accumulated 58.88 miles. Not too shabby. And, despite being near 60 miles, I am not feeling fatigue or soreness thanks to proper warm ups & cool downs. It certainly was a great week and now I’m hyper focused. There’s only 10 weeks left until race day! I’ll have another week of working on strength, then I’ll start focusing in on marathon race pace. I am excited!

Boston Training Week 5: Building back up

With Week 4 being completely off, I ditched the training plan for Week 5 of my Boston Marathon Training to simply focus on getting back into running comfortably. I took a 3 days on, 1 day off schedule, ran slowly, and gradually added miles back. I made sure that I did a proper warm up and all of my drills before every workout, I did the necessary stretching, physical therapy exercises, and a lot of work in the weight room.

I was afraid I’d get too antsy and lose fitness by stepping back so drastically, but, I honestly welcomed the mini break. It felt good to not worry about splits and pacing for a bit & I’m heading back into my training refreshed, happy, and strong.

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To get myself pumped to run again, I got some new running stuff. I ordered some new shoes this week. I’m still training in the New Balance Vazee Pace, but we’ve switched up the color (I’m so excited!) and I’ve decided that this marathon deserves some racers. I bought a pair of New Balance 1400s and am super excited to try them out! I got Shalane Flanagan’s cookbook, Run Fast Eat Slow, to read through some new recipe ideas. I also bought a pair of Skins compression tights and that has really seemed to help out my hamstring.

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I put in a 40 mile week of easy runs and even felt well enough to tackle a 15 mile long run on the weekend. And, I’m happy to say that I am still pain free!

Monday: A mere 2.5 miles at a warm up pace, drills, PT, stretching, etc. Moving felt good!
Tuesday: Easy miles on the soft bridal trail. Minimal hills, minimal impact.
Wednesday: Hit the road to throw in a couple of hills, but took extra care to keep the pace  S L O W.
Thursday: Off – spent the day at my daughter’s school.
Friday: Bit the bullet and increased pace for a slight up-tempo run.
Saturday: Easy 6, slightly faster than warm up pace, to check out trail conditions.
Sunday: Went ahead and did the scheduled 15 mile long run in the rain & mud. Felt awesome.

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Reformed Runner

We are having another (near) 50 degree day here in New England and I’m not running. I feel like I’m wasting it, like I’m passing up this random gift from Mother Nature by not hitting the road and getting in a few miles with less layers on. But, as much as it pains me to sit this weekend out, I must resist the urge.

My hamstring and Achilles tendon started bothering me a few weeks ago.  I tried to ignore it, but we all know how that ends up. A wee niggle morphed into a full on pain, and in no time I was barely able to hobble out a 3 mile recovery run. With the distractions of moving, holidays, sick kids, etc, etc, I had neglected to take care of myself properly & it has affected my training. Because I slacked with proper warm ups, drills, and the like, my hamstring issues from last summer have returned full force and I was forced to take the week – the WHOLE WEEK – off. As someone who is in the throws of training for Boston with a serious goal in mind, this was a hard pill to swallow. What about fitness, what about strength, what about my pacing?! I’ve worked so hard, I can’t bear to lose any of it!

But a step back from running is what I needed.

So, this week has been spent on strength training (hello weight room, I’ve missed you!), gentle walking with the dog, and back to physical therapy. While I’m itching to run, I do know that this short amount of time off really won’t hurt my over all training. After all, what’s the point in limping through a few junky miles & causing real damage instead of sitting still for a few weeks and healing properly. I’d rather go into the race a little under trained than wind up injured and not race at all. And these past few days off have given me the time to reassess my running goals and restructure my training plan. I’ve taken a long hard look at my progress so far & I’ve made a few determinations:

  1. I’m running too fast. It feels good to fly, and it feels like progress to grab those little Strava crowns on every training run, but it’s been hurting me. I looked over my data & found that on most runs I’ve been at or near race pace when I should be going easy. This is extra strain that is tearing down my body. I need to run slower, a lot slower, and a lot more often. Easy does not mean a new course record on a segment.Screenshot (4)_LI
  2. I go up, but don’t train for hills. I really like hills. I am solidly in the #TeamHillYes camp. It’s not that I like the hills, it’s that I like that others don’t like them. Other people’s weaknesses are my strength, so I’ve convinced myself that hills are my friend. And, because of that, I tackle every one full on. We’ve moved to a significantly hillier area than what I’m used to; every run is a hill workout – even my driveway! I’ve slacked on doing hill specific workouts, thinking my regular ups & downs would suffice (they don’t). But after reviewing the GAP (grade adjusted pace) data on Strava, I’ve found that I hit the hills hard, much harder than I should, and much more often than I should. This has been shredding my Achilles. I need to go back to training for hills the proper way & cooling my jets every time I see an incline in front of me on an easy run.Screenshot (11)Screenshot (21)_LI
  3. I need to warm up properly. I know I’m supposed to do a warm up and a cool down. I know I need to do the dynamic drills, the strides, the stretches. I know, I know, I know. Those are the boring details about running that I’ve been neglecting, and those are the details that are coming back to bite me in the butt. After my Fall race I went into recovery mode, which meant slow, easy runs, if I ran at all. I didn’t bother with all the little extras and fell into the bad habit of just running. And then I didn’t change my habits when my training picked up again. And now my butt hurts. With colder weather, proper warm ups are even more of a must, so it’s no wonder my body is revolting. Yes it’s time consuming. Yes it’s boring. But it is oh-so necessary and I will be doing them from now on.

I’ve caught my injury before it was a “real” injury, before any true damage was done, so I will be able to return to training very quickly. Heck, the rest may have even done me some good. But it did wake me up. I need to do things the right way, the smart way, or I could be out. A week off was punishment enough and I have certainly learned my lesson & have changed my ways. I am a reformed runner!

Take it easy my friends, and stay safe out there!

Boston Marathon Training Week 3

With the kids in the school this week – all week – I had was able to slip back into the routine of running. I also added some weight training this week in the form of a Bowflex and body weight exercises. The cold weather gave us all a break, warming up to a sultry 55 degrees and melting all the snow. While the lack of snow was exciting, it meant lots of dense fog, a day of rather intense rain, and all that water freezing again over night.

I got a lot of running in this week, just over 55 miles, which I haven’t done since September. But with the time and the weather I felt compelled to log those miles!

Monday: My first Long Run with Marathon Pace running, was difficult due to the hills, the continued frigid weather, and a nagging Achilles tendon. Still, I pulled off 6 easy miles followed by 4 at goal marathon pace, with 2.5 more easy miles as a cool down, 12.5 in all.

Tuesday: An easy recovery run through the neighborhood to follow the previous day’s effort and some quality time with the Bowflex machine.

Wednesday: The weather was considerably warmer – delightfully warmer – and I went in search of some flatter ground to do my repeats on. I parked at the library and ran some back roads near the center of town. There were some inclines that required effort, but they felt like speed bumps compared to the roads around my house. My 3×10 minute at threshold pace workout felt like cake. I was close to hitting a mile and a half on each set and hit my paces perfectly!

Thursday: 7.5 miles of easy running to recover from the day before with another session with the Bowflex. Felt good & strong, however the dense fog that settled between the hills made running on the road very dangerous. I was happy for my florescent green jacket.

Friday: Rest day. The rain fell so heavy that at times you couldn’t see more than 50 feet ahead. It would not have been safe to run outdoors anyway.

Saturday: A very short & sweet tempo run to get the blood flowing. I called this “Tempo Lite” because the idea was hardish – really, I didn’t even want to go marathon pace. 2 miles easy, 3 miles up tempo, another mile easy to cool down.

Sunday: I moved Monday’s long run to today because the kids have tomorrow off for MLK day and I am NOT getting up early enough to run before Hubs goes to work. I’m just not. So, today I put in 16 miles, the first of my truly long runs. Because I was running a rather hilly course, I opted not to bother with pacing & focus on just staying relaxed & comfortable. I stayed mostly in the 8:00 mile range, but there were a few larger hills that took me by surprise & sobered me up a bit. I’m not ashamed to say it, either. I walked between driveways on one incredibly tough hill. Whatever keeps you moving forward!

And that’s my week! I hope your training is going well, you are staying safe & staying warm.