Boston Marathon Training: Final Taper

Wow, what a week. Tapering is tough and tapering before Boston is really tough. I spent the whole week being nervous-excited…and thinking about weather. The forcast for Marathon Monday is bad and getting worse every time I refresh the weather app. I went to Goodwill and picked up some sweats to toss at the starting line and have gone back and forth on my wardrobe choices a dozen or so times. But we’re here now and there’s no more prepation or training to do. In 12 hours I RUN!

Monday: An easy 3 mile trail run with the dog.

Tuesday: Track Day! It was more of the same miserable April weather: cold, wet, heavy snow. But, the track is fun even in the yuck. 2 miles slow warm up (drills included), 3×1200 meters (5:00 target each) with 200m walking recoveries, followed by 4x400m (1:25 target each), with another two miles cool down.

Wednesday: Slow, easy recovery miles on the soft trail. 4.6 total for the day.

Thursday: Full rest day. Starting to feel very slow & sluggish. This is the worst part of tapering – so tired!

Friday: Again I stayed to the soft trails for a short tempo run. 1.5 mile warm up, 3 miles at marathon pace, another 1.5 mile cool down. This felt amazing!

Saturday: Another full rest day. I was restless, so I deep cleaned the whole house. May have overdone it because I was in bed and passed out by 9pm.

Sunday: This is the last of it! 3 easy miles in the morning, then traveling to Boston. Picked up my bib at the expo and went to the Athletes’ Pasta Dinner. I am pumped and ready to go!

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Boston Marathon Training Week 15, The Taper Begins

I began the taper phase of my training cycle this week. This means that my overall mileage decreased, while I still maintained the same intensity. Instead of pushing a 50+ mile week, I wrapped it all up with just shy of 40. It felt odd taking a two week taper, but I wanted to closely follow the plan, so I did as it said. I had some ups and downs this week, but I know that a lot of that is just part of the taper. You start to notice all the little aches and pains as you take another rest day and your body heals itself from the months long preparation. We also had a lot of foul weather in New England this past week, which was less than inspiring to get out there and do the work that needed to be done. Nonetheless, I faired through and pulled it off.

Sunday & Monday: Both days were rest days. Sunday was easy to take off, Monday was a bit harder. While I did itch to run on Monday morning, a random snow storm dumped another 4 inches of the horrible white stuff, so I didn’t feel too bad about staying inside.

Tuesday: Track Day! It was cold and rainy, but I had another awesome workout. I did everything, including the warm up and cool down on the track because I felt that the softer surfaces would probably be more beneficial for my legs. I ran 5 x 1000 meters with a target of 4 minutes per. The wind on the back stretch made pacing a bit difficult, but I hit each one spot on. This was followed by 6 x 200 meter strides. The target for this was 45 seconds, but I got a bit ahead of  myself and ran them between 38 and 40 seconds. I felt great! 2 miles warm up & cool down made for a total of 9 miles.

Wednesday: I traded in Thursday’s rest day for today due to severe back pain. I wasn’t sure what I had done to cause the spasming, but could hardly move. I spent the day on the couch munching Aleve – which did nothing.

Thursday: I was sore, but able to move, so I braved it and went out for a super easy 5 mile run in the woods. I felt good and I felt a lot better after the run. I was also lucky enough to be able to book an emergency massage in the afternoon at Green Blessings Center. It was amazing. 90 minutes later my headache and back pain were gone!

Friday: The workout of the day was the ever favorite, Two by Twos. 2 miles at warm up pace (8:30 pace), two by 2 miles at half marathon pace (7:00) with a mile off (8:00), followed by 2 miles cool down (8:30).  It was snowing hard, making the trail slippery and visibility difficult. It was during this workout that doubts began creeping into my head about my marathon goals. But, I squashed them with each mile that I hit on target.

Saturday: More snow & sleet for a 5 mile recovery run. Will we ever have a Spring?!

Sunday: The last double digit run of the training block! 10 miles at a consistent easy pace. Again, I ran on the trail for softer footing. All the niggles have started and this 10 miler at an 8:30 pace felt harder to maintain than my 18 miler at pace! Looking forward to getting this race over & done with.

I have another six days of tapering, a few race day preparations to make, and lots of hydrating to do. I’m nervous-excited and looking forward to testing out my legs in Boston. I don’t think the reality of the race has quite set in yet since I’ve been trying to keep my mind occupied with other things at the moment. I’m mostly trying to appreciate the down time, the resting, before I have to get going.

What to do During Taper Week

Taper Time is a rough time for many runners. We’ve just spent three months or more ramping up the volume to suddenly cut back, rest, recover, and sit & wait for go time.

It can really suck. It leaves many a runner antsy, fidgety, bored and not sure what to do with themselves.  Morning runs that took up the better part of an hour are now over in half the time. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out just what to do with all this rest and recovery.

But don’t worry! Here is a handy list of things to do instead of running during your taper period.

  1. Obsessively check the weather. That extended weather tab is there for a reason, people! Even though we all know that any forecast more than 24 hours out is meaningless, just keep refreshing it and slowly lose your sanity.
  2. Pack your running gear. Because the weather forecast isn’t going to be accurate until 5 minutes before you toe the line, you are going to have to pack for every possible climate. Pack aaaaaallllll of the things!
  3. Unpack your bags. Of course packing up all your stuff isn’t a good idea. You’ll still need a pair of shorts for those irritatingly easy runs this week!
  4. Notice the niggles. Your body is suddenly going through all sorts of aches and pains. You’d better open up a new tab in Google (don’t want to lose that weather page!) and check out your symptoms. Be confident in your self-diagnosis of Something-or-other-itis and cancer.
  5. Check out a different weather app because Weather Channel is clearly lying to you.
  6. Draw up a Pros & Cons list regarding racing in underwear.
  7. Commit the course map to memory just in case you actually do outrun the pace car.
  8. Study the elevation profile, begin doubting your mountains worth of hill repeats.
  9. Print off pace bands for your goal time. Then print off ones for your B, C, & D goals. Wear all of them proudly. #runnerfashion
  10. Eat carbs guilt free for the first time since high school. Suck down that pasta like it’s going out of style. Cover your bed in bread slices and roll in it. Bask in the carbohydrate-y goodness.

This should keep you busy until Race Day and maybe distract you from any nerves. Don’t stress; this period seems to crawl by, but you’ll be on your way to 26.2 in no time. YOU GOT THIS!

Boston Marathon Training Week 14: The Last of the Work

Monday: Full Rest I was surprisingly not tired or sore from the hefty 20 miles earlier, but still felt it was probably best to let my body fully recover and take the rest day and actually rest. I don’t love running more than when I’m on a full rest day.

Tuesday: Track Day! I was so excited to get to the track for this workout. I was also a little intimidated by the workout and felt tempted to modify it – but I’m glad I didn’t. I started a lot earlier than I would have since I had a job interview in the early afternoon and needed to be done & showered with plenty of time. It was rather cold, about 25 degrees, so I decided to do a longer (4 miles), slightly hilly warm up through the backroads around the school before heading down to the track. The workout was 3X3k (2 at half marathon pace, 1k at 10k pace) with two minute rests. Last time I did this I broke up the 2k from the 1ks by resting between them. Today I ran them back to back making a full 3k. I ran the first 2k a bit fast, so I decided to just go with it. 2k at 6:25-30 pace, 1k at 5:35-50 pace. I banged out these sets with ease. I was tempted to then hash out a few quick 400s, but decided against it since it wasn’t part of the training schedule and I didn’t really have much time to waste. Finished off the morning with a 2 mile cool down.

Wednesday: Easy Run I had intended to do the full 6 miles from the training schedule, but had a rather upset stomach and had to do laps through the neighborhood to stay close in case of an “emergency”. I made it a full 5 miles before I finally gave in & called it quits. Managed to get in a Bowflex workout a bit later.

Thursday: Tempo What should have been a rolling hills aerobic run (8:00 per mile pace) quickly became a very quick tempo run – so I just went with it.  I got faster & faster, especially with the downhills, so I decided to roll with it as I wasn’t getting tired and it felt so easy. I was controlled & strong, despite the pace. First 2 & 1.5 miles “easy”, 5 in the middle “hard”. 8.5 really great miles.

Friday: Easy & Weights It was Good Friday, so the kids didn’t have school, but my husband still had to go into the office. This meant that I had to get up & out early to be able to get any running in. I assumed that because it was early and a holiday that I’d have the road to myself, but I was wrong. There was a ton of traffic! I had really intended to make up for the miles from earlier in the week by doing 6-8 miles, but because I started so early and without breakfast first, I was just starving! I absolutely had to give up at 5 miles so I could get in a quick bite to eat before heading to the weight room for squats and lunges.

Saturday: Long Run I’ve finally done the last long run of training! I hemmed & hawed about where and how much I was going to do. I’ve been following the Level 3 plan for most of my workouts, but the Level 4 plan for my long run distance. L3 asked for 1.5 miles easy, 10-11 marathon race pace, 1.5 easy while the L4 asked for 1.5 easy, 12-15 marathon pace, 1.5 easy again. I felt confident in doing the full 18 miles, but this seemed like a lot so close to race day. In my past two marathons I’ve done 18 miles 3 weeks out. & this has worked very well. I’ve also never jumped into marathon pace so quickly unless it was an actual marathon. I decided to meet both plans in the middle by doing 16 miles: first 4 easy, 10 at race pace, 2 more easy. My “race pace” was closer to that of a half marathon, averaging out at 7:00 per mile. But, again, I felt great! I had to work a bit on the last mile at pace due to some hills, but that was about it. Easy-peasy & felt amazing to be done with all the hard stuff!

That’s 47.31 miles this past week and feelin’ pretty darn groovy about it all. I feel ready to go. I’m as trained as I’m ever going to be – as fast as I’m going to get this time around. I’ve done all the work and I’ve done most of it well. Now, all that’s left to do is let my body heal, hydrate, and fuel up for the main event. I’ve got two weeks of taper ahead of me and plan on making every moment of it count. I’m planning my meals carefully – drinking copious amounts of fluids – and committing the Boston public transit maps to memory.

I am ready to go crush my 6th marathon.

Boston Marathon Training Week 13

This was a rough week. I was feeling tired and out of it for much of it and if it wasn’t for lower mileage (if you can consider a 50 mile week lower mileage!) & easier runs I may not have made it! But, despite whatever was chewing at me during the week seemed to have resolved itself by the weekend and I pushed out a great long run. I still have one more week of actual work – and one more long run- but I’m beginning to feel less nervous and more optimistic about race day.

Monday: A truly needed REST DAY. I was surprisingly not sore, but I was nearly burnt out from the weekend’s 22 miler and wanted nothing more than to stay on the couch watching TV. I pushed myself to clean up around the house, tend the animals, and be somewhat productive – but man! I was really tired & thankful to take a day off.

Tuesday: The dreaded hill repeats. This workout had me scared & I wanted to put it off, but I knew this was needed more for mental toughness than physical. Like I’ve done in previous weeks, this workout was modified to be gentler on my poor Achille’s. My reps were shorter than the 800m prescribed workout (I don’t think I have a half mile continuous hill around here) to a mere 400m, though it was a steeper hill (10%+ grade). I ran up the hill has hard as I could, then back down the other side fairly quickly, making it roughly 800m in all. This was done 4 times with a 2 minute rest between. It was capped at both ends with a slow, hilly 3 mile warm up & cool down giving me a 8 miles. I focused on arms, shoulders, and back in the weight room once I got back.

Wednesday: Easy 5 miles through the neighborhood before the kids were let out of school early for yet another snow storm.

Thursday: March’s 4th storm, thankfully, didn’t dump quite as much snow as predicted, however the kids still had a 2 hour delay, which meant running later than I’d planned. I did another easy, light run (but a bit hillier), though it was an optional day off. I was feeling guilty about not having a lot of time to run the day before & wanted to make up some of the miles, so I did another 5.7, followed by a kettlebell & squat workout in the weight room.

Friday: I did not want to run today. My heart, mind, and body were just not in it. I kept looking for excuses to skip it. I was tired & feeling a bit off, but I knew I’d feel guilty, so I waited until it warmed up a bit & headed out for a tempo run. I started developing a headache in my warm up that just kept getting worse & worse. I attempted the workout, but the headache became a screaming, pounding pain. By the third mile I began to feel dizzy and nauseated, so I stopped. I decided it wasn’t worth pushing a 6 mile tempo run if I could barely do half of it, so I just jogged the rest of the way home very slowly. Still, I ended up with 7+ miles. I then made myself a cup of tea & felt sorry for myself on the couch watching British sitcoms.

Saturday: I finally got to run some flats! My sister ran a 5k race by the shore and I went to cheer her on & watch her children while she was out on the course. Then we swapped and she watched mine while I fit in a quick run before the award ceremony. 4 easy miles with no hills in the way – it felt amazing! I’m thinking of driving down to the shore later in the week for more workouts.

Sunday: This was a great Long Run with a fast finish. 10 miles easy (8:30-40 per mile except no down hills); 8 miles at marathon pace (7:15-20 per mile) and attempting to increase the pace as I neared the 18 mile mark; 2 miles of easy cool down (8:30 pace) all on rolling hills. While this was indeed some serious work, it really wasn’t as hard as I had anticipated. And, the best part, I did not feel wiped out for the rest of the day after this run. I actually felt pretty good! While I did have some fleeting doubts about being able to hold the pace for a full 26 miles (miles 15-18 are hard!), I did feel pretty great about this workout over all.

Boston Marathon Training Week 12: For the Joy of Running

This week I didn’t cover quite as much ground as I had hoped due to a snow storm and then some general laziness, but I still got in a very productive week. I came through just shy of 60 miles – 57.19 to be exact – while logging in the cycle’s longest run. I got back to the weight room this week. I had been slacking on that & need to make lifting a habit again, so I plan on sticking to a Tuesday/Thursday schedule for now. I have also seem to have fully recovered from whatever my Achilles/calf issue was, probably thanks to my husband’s nightly massages.

Monday – Active Rest: Though it was a scheduled rest day, I felt the need to move to get the blood flowing & work out some of the kinks from the previous day’s hilly race. I did my warm up loop through the neighborhood at a very slow pace, then did a handful of strides plus drills & stretching. I followed this up with another slow lap for a cool down. Quads were a bit tight, but that was to be expected. All the other aches & pains from the week before seem to have worked themselves out. 4.5 light miles for the day.

Tuesday – Forced Rest: Due to yet another snow storm & the kids’ school being cancelled I was forced into taking a day off. I did lock myself into the workout room to dedicate an hour to the Bowflex & weights.

Wednesday – Speed Session: I really wanted to do this workout on the track, in fact I had really been looking forward to getting on the track since it’s been awhile. However, the track was buried under at least 6 inches of snow, so I had to improvise. I ran the loop through my neighborhood because it’s sort of flatish and the loop is three quarters of a mile. 2 miles warm up, 2K at half marathon pace, 1K at 10K pace (2 mins rest between each) twice over, followed by 6x 1 minute speed surges (because I did not feel like attempting to measure out 400m) with 45 second rests, capped off with a 2 mile cool down. This was a surprisingly easy workout and I think I will make some tweaks to it in the future. 10 miles for the day.

Thursday – Easy Run: An easy jog around to more or less work out any kinks from the day before. Threw in a few light hills, then hit the weights again. I am determined to fix my upper body strength issues! 6.5 miles for the day.

Friday – Free Run: My plan asked for marathon paced miles, but I was just not feeling it. It was a gloriously sunny day and not too frigid and I had been dying to get into the woods. So, I ditched my training plan and drove out to the state forest to do some loops around the reservoir. I tucked my watch under my sleeve and just went out for the joy of running. The trails were not in the best conditions since we’ve had a rather rough winter. I probably should have brought my spikes for the ice, or maybe my boots for the mud, or perhaps galoshes for the deep puddles. I also got to practice my hurdling for the all the downed trees. It was a mess. I ran slow through the tricky parts and ran fast when it was clear & had a blissful hour of running however I wanted. Covered 6.66 miles.

Saturday – Progression Run: I felt a bit guilty for blowing off the workout, so I made up for it by doing a mini-workout. I didn’t want to go too fast or crazy because I knew I’d have a very long run to do the next day, so I did what I call a “progression light”. I started off at a conservative 8:35 pace and ramped up each mile by about 15 seconds, finishing at my 7:15 marathon pace. This was a great little run to get the legs churning and the lungs working without over doing it. It was also a great exercise in self control & pacing. 7.5 miles with light hills.

Sunday – The Long Run: This was my cycle’s longest run, a whopping 22 miler. I toyed with the idea of doing my typical 24, but due to the low temps and fierce wind, I decided that 2 extra miles wouldn’t make or break my race, but would take up more time. The BAA site’s plan wanted this run to be 18-20 miles at “aerobic pace”, so for me that is 7:50-8:00 miles. I decided to take this run to the Farmington Canal Trail (a 30 min drive for me) since it is fairly flat and I’d have a better chance at actually holding the paces. It was about 20 degrees with the wind gusts giving it a “real feel” of 8! I was adequately layered, fueled up with a pouch of Hammer Endurolite electrolyte capsules and bee pollen tablets along with my hydration pack, and ready to go. The plan was to sip water every mile and take fuel every 5 miles. I started off with 2 miles to get going – and man was it tough! The wind kept knocking me around and I feared that my heavy legs would never wake up. The first two miles of the actual run were a bit rocky and not on pace. In fact, I didn’t even “click” until after mile 4, that’s how long it took to warm up. This was to be an 11 mile out and back (no getting lost, no real hills, no needing to think – just run). Once I was warmed up, I did do an awesome job with holding the pace; 4 of the first 11 were at 7:46/mile, while 7 of those 11 were under 8:00. At 11 miles I turned around and was smacked in the face with the wind. I thought the going out was bad – the going back was rougher. I was in a head wind almost the entire run back to the car, which made things a little difficult because I was getting tired. Then I discovered at mile 15 that my mouth piece on my hydration pack had frozen! I choked down my fuel without it, but opted to skip it at mile 20 since it was too difficult to take without water. I kept all of my return miles under 8:00 and finished my last two under 7:40, averaging a 7:53/mile pace for the whole run.

More than anything, this week was an amazing confidence booster. With only a month to go until the marathon, I am feeling amazing, strong, confident, and ready to crush it. But I also really had fun this week. I actually enjoyed running – something that I haven’t really felt in a while. I’ve been so hyper focused on the watch and the pacing and the miles that it’s lost some of the joy & become work. In the last few days though, I was able to find some of that joy again (an argument for more free runs!) I only have two more weeks of work (a few tempos, one hill session, one speed session, one more long long run) before I begin the taper. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and maybe Spring will show up during those two weeks.

Boston Marathon Training Week 11: Tired

This week was a lighter week with more easy days & I was thankful for it since my legs have been screaming at me. I’m not quite sure if it’s the upped mileage (I’ve never run this much volume in my life!), if it’s the excessive pounding on pavement, or if the colder temps are just messing with me. Either way, I’ve got something nagging at my right calf/Achilles, and the past few weeks have been less than amusing. Because of the constant leg pain, I modified the few workouts that I did have and I think it ended up being more beneficial because by the end of the week I was faster, stronger, and (relatively) pain free.

Monday: This was a rest day, but I felt the need to get a bit of a shake out since my legs, especially quads, felt like thick, heavy logs. Ran an incredibly slow & easy 3.2 (10:42 pace) miles on the trail (squishy!) with the dog.
Tuesday: I could not face the day’s workout of 6x800m & 5x400m HILLS – I just could not. I had overslept until 9am, was still feeling exhausted, and my right lower leg had a burning sensation. Again I took to the trail for some slow, easy, and soft running then opted for shorter hill charges in the grassy field across the street. My legs actually felt better after this workout. 6.2 miles in all, 8:46 pace.
Wednesday: Another snow storm was on it’s way in and again I overslept! Leg still a bit sore, but because the snow hadn’t accumulated yet, I felt obligated to get in a slow 6 miles, 9:05 pace.
Thursday: Snow storm left the roads a mess, trees & wires down, and the kids off from school, so this ended up being a forced rest day. I did not complain.
Friday: What should have been a 7 mile aerobic run (11 total) was cut short due to severe right Achilles/calf pain. I barely got through a warm up & attempted the faster pace, but called it quits less than 4 miles in. Unfortunately, I still had to run back. 6 miles total for the day (7:53 pace)  & I began an Aleve regimen & living in compression socks.
Saturday: More switching of workouts! I did my “long run” today. Plan asked for 9-11 miles easy, but since I was “easy” all week I went ahead and did an even 12 (7:30 pace). I tucked my watch under my sleeve with the idea of not worrying about pace & just going easy by feel. Well, I ran just shy of marathon race pace and even pulled a 7:06 on the final mile split! There was some nagging discomfort in my leg during the last 2 miles, but otherwise I was pain free. This was such an easy, blissful run, I swore I could have gone on forever! I added on 2 more miles (10:07 pace) with the dog as a cool down, giving me 14 for the day.
Sunday: I went out to #comerunthehill at the Bolton Road Race 5 Miler. Honestly, I was petrified of this race as it is advertised as an incredibly tough course (a BIIIIG hill at the end) and it is a USATF Gran Prix series race, which means there is a lot of competitive runners out there. But, I won entry to this race during a 5 Miler that I won back in October, so I felt obligated to go. I’m glad I did. Not only did I beat my goal of 32:30 (by a whole heck of a lot!!), but I also bested my 5K by nearly a minute. I came in 4th female (33rd overall) with a time of 31:53 (6:18 pace). I didn’t die on the hill and my leg didn’t bother me. With a 2 mile warm up (8:14 pace) and a 3 mile cool down (8:00 pace) I ended the day with a solid 10 miles

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My first race in my NB 1400v3 racing shoes!

So, yes, I didn’t run as much this week and what I did run was fairly slow. But I’m happy with my 45 mile week & I’m very happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish. Looking ahead on my schedule, and I see that the next few weeks will be asking a bit more from me before the taper begins, and as long as my legs and the weather cooperate we’ll be able to get it all done.

The Boston Marathon coordinators have announced bib and wave/corral assignments, which is exciting. I’ll be starting in Wave 2, Corral 3 which is good since I have a really bad habit of jack rabbiting out. Hopefully having a crowd in front of me will help me hold my pace a little better. I’m bib# 10724, which means there will be a LOT of folks ahead of me! Man, I am ready to get this done & over with – I’m tired!

We are closing in on a month to go!