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.


Boston Training Week 1

After completely messing up my Base Training segment (December was a terrible month!!), I decided to switch direction back to my tried & trusted Garmin training plan (Level III).  While I have every confidence in the BAA marathon program, I already know my Garmin plan.  And, honestly, I was a bit intimidated by what the BAA prescribed! It was more miles and faster paces than what I’ve been used to.  Coupled with the fact that I’m still trying to get over a head-turned-chest-cold & the insane weather we’ve been having, I figured that I’d play it safe.  So, I’ll be sticking with what I’m used to, but kicking it up a notch by incorporating some elements from the BAA plan.

So, Marathon Training started the day after Christmas.  The week was fairly laid back with some easy miles, one interval workout of five by five minutes at threshold pace, a frightening tempo run in the dark, and an attempt at a fartlek.  Because the Boston Marathon takes place on a Monday, all of my long runs are scheduled for Mondays.  I eased through the first week of marathon training with 24 miles.  But don’t worry – I’ll be working up the mileage in the next two weeks.

New England is in a deep freeze with single digit temperatures and “real feel” in the negatives. Needless to say, it’s not been a lot of fun.  I’m sure saner people are utilizing treadmills, but as long as I’m not in the dark, I will suck it up and run in the cold.  This does mean that sometimes my neck gaiter freezes to me. Or my gloves frost over.  Or the snot freezes to my face.  But I’ve found that layering keeps me toasty: layering socks, leggings, shirts.  I even layer my moisturizer.  A couple of years ago I got a little bit of frostbite (frostnip?) on my cheeks from running in sub 0 temperatures.  Since then I’ve been a bit smarter about taking care of my skin.  Whatever skin is exposed (around the eyes, nose, cheek bones) I slather in a heavy moisturizer (I used Clarins Overnight Mask) and then layer Vaseline over the top.  I also spread Vaseline on my chin, lips, and hands before I put on my face mask & gloves.

Since the move I am without a Long Run Buddy, so I’m on the lookout for local groups & runners to meet up with.  I may have to get through the training cycle alone, but I’m hoping there’s someone out there to run with.  I’m also researching which shoes will be next in my rotation & playing with the idea of racing flats.  I’m also hoping to get over to the bookstore & find some inspiration since Santa didn’t bring any books this year.  It’s time to get serious and focused & I’m excited to run my first Boston Marathon!

One week down, 15 to go!

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.

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!

Atlantic City Marathon Recap

AC7Sunday, October 22nd was the 59th running of America’s 3rd oldest marathon; the Atlantic City Marathon. This race is considered “pancake flat”, which makes it a great first marathon for a lot of people. It starts off on the iconic boardwalk alongside the water & grand hotels casinos before splitting off for a quick loop around the eastern portion of the city. Then it’s back to the boards for several miles before hitting the streets for a couple of loops through the western part of the city, and back to the boardwalk for the finish line. Straight forward, simple course – a PR in the making!

I chose to run this race after lots of research and consideration. I liked that it was fairly close to home & on a Sunday. This meant that we wouldn’t need as much in hotel & food accommodations & my husband wouldn’t need to take off time from work. I liked that it was flat. I had yet to run a truly flat course, and felt that this would really show what I was made of. I also liked my prospects. After going over the results from the previous years and taking note that it was two weeks out from the New York City Marathon, I figured that if I PRed and fought hard enough for it, I could make the podium. I was looking at 3rd place & the potential for prize money. But I would have to get under 3:20 to do it. So, when I started my training back in July, I set all of my paces to a 3:18 marathon & I focused on running hard, especially when tired. I knew I would need it.

I was staying at a hotel that was about a mile from the starting line. So at 7:20 I slowly jogged my way down to the start area, used the facilities, drank my water-downed Gatorade, stretched, attempted some drills (but the crowds of people ended up being too dense to get much in), and nervously paced back and forth until 8am. The race staff kept the starting corral closed off to runners, which was nerve wracking as the start time drew close. Throngs of marathoners and half marathoners pressed up against the metal barricades, watching the Pace Leaders wander back & forth, alone with their signs inside the corral. We kept asking each other what was going on, but no one knew. The pacers couldn’t give out any information, the police wouldn’t give out information, and we couldn’t find anyone that looked like they were officially with the race. Eventually we all just pressed through, many jumping the fences to get lined up.

I hemmed and hawed between Pace Groups. There was a very welcoming looking guy holding a 3:25 sign and an extremely chatty guy holding a 3:15 sign. I had met them both the day before at the expo & felt that the 3:15 guy had pretty much brushed me off. When I had stated that I planned on breaking 3:20, his response was “Aww girl, you just gotta get a 3:30!” I explained that I was already in Boston, but I got the feeling he didn’t think I could run faster. I didn’t feel like running with a guy who didn’t believe in me. I also don’t like chatty pacers, so I ended up deciding to try it out solo.

I lined up just behind the 3:15 group & realized that I was only three rows deep from the starting line. I had never started a marathon so close to the front before, and it made me feel a little nervous. I tried to take note of other women around me, but with backs to me, I couldn’t tell who was lined up for the half and who was there for the full. I decided that it didn’t matter; I had a long ways to go before it would matter & I would deal with it then. A few deep breaths. The National Anthem played. Bouncing. High knees in place. An air horn sounded followed by a barrage of hundreds of watches beeping and we were off!

That’s me in the white crop top. Martin didn’t even know he was taking a picture of me!

I tried to stay in control. My head kept screaming at my body to wait, to hold back a bit. But my legs were fueled with nervous energy and they did not listen. I pounded away with the crowd off the boardwalk, through the streets, down the tunnel & toward the expressway. I flew through the first few miles too fast. I was running low 7s, but it felt like I was going for an easy stroll. Still, I knew this would bite me in the end. Marathon Rule #1: whatever time you take off at the front gets added on at the back with interest! I needed to be running even 7:35s, but I wasn’t able to slow myself down until the half way point, and I knew it was probably too late. This was now going to be a “hang on & hope for the best” run.

The boardwalk was slow, and tedious, and long. While it was a beautiful day for spectators, the incredibly sunny 70 degrees felt like torture to the runners. The boardwalk offered no shade and the pace felt harder and harder to maintain. The boards were soft and some were even loose and wobbly. The runners were all strung out, so it was a bit lonely. But then I saw the leaders finishing the half marathon. Two women who were running stride for stride passed & darted for the finish chute. They were halfers, which meant I was further up than I thought! As I reached the end of the boardwalk & was about to turn off, a spectator jumped up & down enthusiastically. “Go girl!” she screamed, “You’re the second one!” Second?! This was intimidating information since I still had 12 miles to go & no idea where 3rd place was.


Pushing through the aid station at Mile 8.

The rest of the race was done in a panic. I was still running ahead of schedule, but I was starting to feel it. The water in the 2nd half of the race had a strange taste, almost like sulfur, so I couldn’t get it down. I was dehydrated. My stomach was cramping, my chest was hurting, my legs felt like shredded meat. The finish line felt like forever away, I still didn’t know where 3rd (or even 4th) were, my sports’ bra was chaffing.

And then came the positive splits.

Miles 20 & 21 were painful, but doable. Mile 22 brought on a massive wall. The only thing I could think about was stopping. I constantly argued with myself in my head. I was hurting bad, but I knew that if I walked I’d never get started again. Runners were dropping off the course around me and it took a lot of willpower to not join them. I counted ten steps at a time, pleading with my body to make it through the last five miles. My pace had dropped from sub 7:20s to 8:00, 8:09, 8:30. I wanted to cry. The last mile was incredibly difficult. Not only was it hot and painful, but now the boardwalk was crowded with people who didn’t seem to realize there was a race going on & I had to weave my way through them.

I’m so tired, but trying to tough it out.

The inflatable arch marking the finish line was ahead, but didn’t seem to get any bigger. I was running and running, pushing the pace with what little umpf I had left, but it seemed as if I was running in place, not getting any closer. Suddenly I saw my family on the left side. My kids were screaming. My husband was screaming. People along the barriers were whooping and clanking bells. Did I blank out? This is the end. GO MAZY! I “sprinted” with every little thing I had left in my body across the timing mat.

Giving it all I’ve got with only a few meters left to go. It will end eventually.

A finisher’s medal was draped over my neck and a Gatorade shoved into my hand. I limped toward the barriers. I wanted to beg for help, but couldn’t speak, and didn’t really know what I wanted anyway. Someone gave me a bag of ice, a chair. I sat down & iced my hamstring that felt like it was on fire. My children clamored at the barrier excitedly, my husband snapped pictures. He was teary eyed. I was the 2nd Female Finisher and 20th overall. 3:18.17. I finally admitted to him that there was prize money for me. Six minutes later they announced the finish of the 3rd Female.

It was over, finally. I made the podium after all, in fact, I placed even better than I had planned. And I had set a PR. But I was still dissatisfied. While I did do well by the numbers & ran my fastest race, I couldn’t claim it as my best race. I made a lot of mistakes. I wasn’t prepared adequately (not enough sleep, hydration, or food), and I ran with my gut, not with my head. I am thankful I had the strength to pull off the last five miles when it got tough, and I’m lucky I was far enough ahead that my wall didn’t affect my placing. The 3rd place finisher ran beautifully even splits and her last five miles were faster than mine! While I am proud in my achievement, I am more proud of the fact that I have this experience under my belt & the knowledge (and confidence) that my training worked. While I didn’t pace myself evenly, I still walked away with the time I had spent three and a half months preparing for. I will humbly accept this event as a lesson & learn from it. Oh, and I am really looking forward to some down time & a beer!

1st, 2nd, & 3rd Place Female Finishers.

4th Quarter Update & Marathon Taper Review

It’s Wednesday – Hump Day of Taper Week.  This is always the worst day for me.  I’m so close to race day, in fact, I’m so close there is no turning back now.  Yet, at the same time it feels like an eternity is looming between me and the starting line.  T-minus 3 days!!

My taper week has been shaping up rather nicely & thankfully we’ve finally had some cooler weather so I can actually enjoy my morning runs!  I’ve gotten through the first few days of light running without too much of a freak out & I look forward to taking a relaxed approach to running for the next couple of days.
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 10 min warm up, 4 by 5 mins at threshold (7:00 min/mile pace) with 60 second recoveries, followed by 10 min cool down.
Wednesday: Easy (8:45/mile) 30 mins, drills, strides, stretches.
Thursday: Easy 5 miles, drills, strides, stretches.
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Easy 20-30 mins (3ish miles) with strides & stretching.
Sunday: RACE

wp-image--163949751One step closer to being awesome.

To be honest, I am handling my taper much better than I have in the past.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve finally gotten my anxiety under control; if I don’t care anymore since I’ve already achieved my BQ; or if I’ve simply matured as a marathoner.  Of course, it is probably a bit of everything.  After my wonderful run in Toronto, I’ve let go a bit & accepted that I really do know how to do this.  I don’t have to be afraid – I GOT THIS!  I’ve also learned how to make better use of my pre-race jitters.  Instead of compulsively checking the weather, I’m focusing on things I can control, like my race strategy.wp-image-1165946964                                                     My color coordinated race notes.

I’ve committed the course map to memory & have decided which aid stations I’ll utilize, when I’ll take my gels, and just how conservative of a start I’ll aim for.  I’ve broken my race down into 5Ks, but of course we all know that will go out the window once the gun goes off.  My main goal will be to keep the mile splits between 7:25 (too fast) and 7:38 (conservative) with a half time under 1:39.  Because the elevation profile is pancake flat, I don’t have any hills to work off of.  Hills are my forte, so we’ll find out if this course will help or hinder me.

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I use FindMyMarathon to find races, but also because they have an awesome tool that calculates course specific split times based on a goal finish.  This has worked very well for me in the past in terms of getting to know a foreign course to prepare for hills, splits, aid stations, etc.

In the final quarter of training I sat back a little.  I still had some pretty aggressive workouts, but the mileage began to taper off as I approached the final week of training.  I’ve had several quality speed sessions, including some great hill work, as well as a five mile race thrown in.  I’m primed & tuned & ready to run!
So, here’s a look at the weekly breakdown:
Week 13: 46.4 miles – longest run was an 18 miler with 8 of those at marathon pace.
Week 14: 40.09 miles – including 5 mile road race, and an 11 miler with 6 at m-pace.
Week 15: 37.37 miles – 2 threshold workouts & an easy 10 miler.
Week 16: an anticipated 20ish miles, plus the marathon on Sunday.

So, all in all, I’d have to say that I’m feeling conservatively optimistic about this one.  I’ve put in a lot of hard work & there is just nothing left to be done.  In the past 15 weeks I’ve improved my fitness, increased my weekly mileage, and gotten faster.  In a few more days we’ll put it all to the test.

wp-image-640377122I got this.

Atlantic City Marathon Training: 3rd Quarter Update

The 3rd quarter of my training cycle wrapped up this morning with an incredibly sweaty 16 miler.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever worked as hard as I have these past four weeks! Whew – I am really looking forward to getting this marathon thing over and done with.

With school in session, I’ve been able to ramp up the miles by adding doubles.  I take off on my workout as soon as the bus pulls away in the morning, and then do whatever strength training, physical therapy exercises, plyometric drills, stretching, and an easy 3 mile jog about 45 minutes before the bus drops them back at home.  Having two workouts planned has also kept me organized and focused during the day to get all of my other work done – work before play!  I’ve had a lot more energy, stamina, and strength in the last few weeks which has helped in my non-running life as well as on the road.

While the miles weren’t too crazy, the weekly totals did look more impressive. This was my weekly break down:
Week 9 –   54.61 miles
Week 10 – 48.63 miles
Week 11 – 57.44 miles
Week 12 – 54.64 miles

During this segment of the training cycle I began working on Marathon Pace by running sections of my Long Runs at predicted race pace near the end of my runs.  I also got in a half marathon time trial during a 16 mile long run (Week 10, 1:34.37 – a PR by 10 seconds!) and my longest long run of 22 miles (Week 11, 3:05.08) which included 6 miles at marathon pace.

I’ve been a lot more diligent about actually doing my P.T. exercises & drills and have noticed a considerable difference in my hip. Duh! My laziness was a literal pain in the butt!  I also spent a good chunk of time each week to focus on strength training; something I’ve been telling myself to get started on, but just using one excuse after another to avoid it.  This too has caused an overall improvement.  I am excited to forge on as a strong, agile, kick-ass marathoner!!

I have a few more weeks of hard work before my taper begins.  While I’m looking forward to seeing this through & racing this marathon, I’m also really looking forward to the finish line. Work, house, family, etc is starting to spread me a little thin and I’m excited to celebrate the holidays and just slow down a little.  We have a lot of good things brewing though and the rewards are going to be great!

I hope your training is going well!