Week in Running: 1/27/14-2/2/14

I think I sound like a broken record when I say that this week was another step up in mileage and intensity. I guess most weeks are going to be like that for awhile. And, I couldn’t be happier about that! Coming off of a great race and then some reduced training has me really motivated to work hard and put in the work for Boston! For Rocket City, I had a longer time to build up. It’s a shorter turnaround with Boston and I want to make as much progress as I can in the meantime!

Because I am training hard and very motivated to make progress before Boston, I’m trying to take my easy days and recovery as seriously as possible. I was going to try to lump all the things I do to stay on top of my recovery in this post but it was getting long fast. So another post coming on rest and recovery soon!

This week started off freezing cold, again. I was a little discouraged by last week’s short, hilly tempo in the sub-10 degree weather. This week, I had one more workout in the extreme temps but then things warmed up a bit. I am really not taking 30 degree days for granted right now! These days that almost feels balmy!

Monday: 3 miles very easy in the morning; 6 miles easy with 4x30s pick ups in the afternoon. I took the day off from work since I had worked MLK Day. I am running a 5k this Saturday and was near the course in the morning so I decided to jog the course for my morning run just to get a feel for it. Both runs this day felt good.

Tuesday: 3 miles warm up with strides, 16×1:00 on/off (start around 10k effort and ramp it up), 2 miles cool down. This was a bump from last week’s fartlek of 10×1:00 on/off. Scott told me to run this one by effort and not pay attention to the watch because of the extreme cold this day. I think it was about 12 degrees. I started around 6:20 pace on my fast sections and worked down to sub 6 pretty early on. I didn’t mean to speed up that quickly but alas. I felt smooth at first but about halfway in, I started to experience lactic acid build up in my legs. This was a really odd feeling for me because I hardly ever deal with that to this degree-even in my toughest track workouts! Towards the end of the workout, my legs were locking up by the end of each minute which made it hard to keep running fast. I finished the workout and didn’t positive split, but it made me worry just how much I had lost in my recovery from Rocket City. That day, I was curious about just how big of a role extreme cold plays in running performance and I found this article which specifically mentions lactic acid:¬†http://runneracademy.com/cold-weather-impact-on-running/. I felt a lot better after reading that. When I looked at my data later, my heart rate averaged in the upper 160s for each interval which confirmed that I really wasn’t working that hard and the perceived difficulty was due primarily to the lactic acid.

Wednesday: 3 miles very easy in the morning, 6 miles easy after work. It was 5 degrees for my morning run. That made it easy to keep to the ‘very easy’ part of my plan. I ended up getting a later start than I wanted to for my evening run. That made me a bit antsy to get it out of the way and that almost always results in the run seeming to take even longer. I was really slow for the 2nd run. The effort felt like a normal easy run effort but it was definitely slower than my usual easy run. I think I was feeling the prior day’s fartlek in my legs.

Thursday: 8 miles with 10 hill blasts; It was 9 degrees for this run and I admit to being pretty disheartened when I checked the weather that morning. I run my hill blasts entirely by effort but I could tell they were slightly slower this week, probably (hopefully) due to the cold.

Friday: 2 mile warm up with strides, 8x800m at 3:10 with 400m jog recovery, 1 mile cool down. In case anyone (dadūüôā ) isn’t familiar with track workout lingo, that is 8 repeats of 2 times around the track (800 meters, or half a mile) with 1 time around the track (400 meters, or a quarter of a mile) as a jog recovery between each 800 meter interval. I ended up running 2:57, 3:07, 3:07, 3:06, 3:06, 3:06, 3:06, and 3:06. I clearly way overshot the effort on the first one and was able to dial it back for the last ones. 800 workouts used to be my nemesis but the last two I’ve done have been great. This felt like the first real indicator of how my fitness was doing. Since my fartlek on Tuesday and my tempo the week before were done in such extreme temps, I wasn’t sure where my fitness was. This workout felt really good and strong and I felt a bit of a confidence boost that things are heading in the right direction.

Saturday: 19 miles over a hilly route. I’m fairly certain that 19 mile runs are never going to feel like quick little jaunts but they’ve gotten better for me. I have worked hard on being patient with them which actually works to make them pass by more quickly (imagine that!). I ran through some of Nashville’s hilliest neighborhoods which was good as far as the goal of the run was concerned, but it was tough! I got rolling pretty quickly and didn’t ease into the pace like I sometimes do on long runs. The first half I stayed around the 8-8:15 range but moved into the 7:40-7:55 range for the 2nd half. A bit faster than I normally do long runs but still far enough away from marathon pace to not be overdoing it.

Sunday: 6 very easy. I was pretty proud of this run. I took it extremely easy and made sure to keep my heart rate low. My heart rate stayed in the 130s and lower 140s which is perfect for a recovery run. Because I had done a track workout followed by a hilly long run, I wanted to be smart with this run and use it as recovery and not do any more damage. I really prefer active recovery over rest days because I feel like it helps my muscles recover more quickly and I feel less stiff and sore.

Total Mileage For the Week:  73

Week in Running 1/20/14-1/26/14

I had a great week of training last week. I’m transitioning back into more intensity and harder workouts. The reduced load was necessary after the marathon and once I got used to it, it was nice to have a little break in higher mileage/intensity. But, I’m very motivated to be better and faster so it’s nice to be heading that direction again.

One struggle right now is that I lost some fitness during my recovery from the marathon. It’s tough mentally because I want so much to be improving but right now I’m still trying to catch back up to where I was pre-marathon. I’m hoping in a couple of weeks I’ll be back there and then I can set my sights on a new half PR at Tom King in early March.

Anyway, here was last week’s training:

Monday: Easy 8 with 6x30s pick ups; Felt pretty good on this but my last pick-up on a gradual uphill section didn’t feel very smooth.

Tuesday: 2 mile warm-up, 10×1:00 on/off, 2 mile cool down. Start off at 6:15ish and work down. This was my first fartlek of this training cycle. If you are unfamiliar with fartleks, here is a good resource:¬†http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/lost-art-fartlek.¬†Fartleks are a great way to transition from base building to heavier training. I did a ton of them early on in my last training cycle. We started to taper off of them later in training as I transitioned to more marathon specific workouts. Basically, the workout was one minute at a fast pace followed by one minute at a recovery pace (those ranged between 8-10 minute pace). I did that sequence 10 times. I do my fartleks on a road with a few rolling hills which is a nice added stimulus (although during the workout I don’t typically think it’s so nice). I started off on these a little fast and got under 6 minute pace fairly easily. The weather was moderate (32ish I think). I was surprised how easily I got rolling. However, about 6 in I started to get tired and had some oxygen debt on the last two. This shows me I’m a little rusty but it was a good reintroduction to fartleks. I had 2 repeats slightly over 6 minute pace and the rest were in the 5:30-5:50 range.

Wednesday: 3 miles very easy; 6 miles easy. It’s really nice to sometimes wake up and only have 3 miles on the agenda. Even though that almost always means I have to run again later in the day, it’s nice to get some extra sleep and 3 miles always flies by. I had to pick Millard up at the airport that evening so I did my second run around noon. It took me awhile to warm up and get settled but then I got rolling. I really liked doing it in the middle of the day and may do that more often before the weather gets warm.

Thursday: 8 miles with 8-10 hill blasts; I ended up doing a little over 3 miles of warm up before starting the hill blasts. I switched to a slightly steeper hill for this one. The hill I’d run the last couple of weeks is a legitimate hill but it’s not super steep. It barely registers on Garmin’s elevation chart which was making me feel like a wimp. I definitely felt the added steepness as these hill blasts were harder than the last couple of weeks. I ended up doing 10. Ran the last 2.6 miles back home.

Friday: 2 miles warm up, 4 miles at tempo effort (think around 6:45 effort, not pace) on a hilly route, 2 miles cool down; it was 8 degrees for this run. I wore way too much clothing. I ended up doing 3 miles of warm-up because after 2 miles, my feet still felt numb. I felt like another mile would help. In retrospect, I should’ve shed some clothing for my tempo miles and circled back to them and put them back on for my cool down (which is what I ended up doing for today’s fartlek workout). I had on two pairs of tights, two pairs of socks, a short sleeve and long sleeve, a jacket, two pairs of gloves, and two headbands. I felt really restricted. This was much harder than I wanted it to be and it was humbling. I do think the weather and too much clothing played a role, but I’m also rusty at tempo pace. This was my first tempo workout of the cycle. I picked a pretty hilly route and while I felt pretty smooth on the flats and downhills, the uphills were definitely hard. I felt a little discouraged after this because it’s clear I have work to do but I was happy to get some hard running in. In order to not get too focused on pace, I put my watch screen on heart rate so I could gauge my effort level. I only observed my pace when the watch beeped for my mile splits, but I tried to genuinely run this one for effort and not gun for a particular pace. Splits for the tempo were 6:45, 6:50, 6:45, 6:50.

Saturday: 18 miles over a hilly route. This was a really good long run. I ran a hilly route through East Nashville, downtown, up to Belmont area, and back down to downtown. I felt strong on the hills. The miles went by pretty quickly which is nice when you’re running for over 2 hours. The most encouraging thing about this long run was my recovery. Last training cycle, I struggled a little to adapt to the long runs during high mileage/high intensity weeks. I would feel exhausted by dinner time and my legs would feel pretty beat up. I felt great on Saturday. My energy stayed high and I was even able to stay up and watch a movie with my boyfriend! This seems simple, but there have been many nights when I can barely keep my eyes open after 8 on a Saturday. The next day I felt pretty good and my legs didn’t seem to take a beating. This is really encouraging as I think it shows my body is adapting well to the mileage.

Sunday: 6 grandma speed miles. I decided to run the XC course at Vaughn’s Gap (By Edwin Warner park) and then run one of the trails for the last 3 miles. I figured running the cross country course would ensure that I took it easy. The ground is really uneven and pitted and I knew I would not encounter many, if any, other runners on it on a Sunday morning. I ran my first mile slower than I’ve run a mile in a long time. It took quite awhile to get used to the uneven ground. I didn’t have to worry about feeling competitive or too slow because I only saw one or two runners the whole time going the opposite direction. This did show me that I am a road runner through and through. I do not enjoy running the cross country course. I then ran the last 3 miles along an Edwin Warner trail. It’s funny, my fastest mile was on the only paved section I ran that day. My legs felt kind of tired for this, but didn’t have any pain or soreness from the long run.

Total Mileage for the Week: 66.9 (yes…that .1 kills me).

Week in Running: 1/13/14-1/19/14

Last week is the first week I really felt like I was starting to get into the groove of training. Even though I was only sick a few days, it was a tiny little bump in the road on my way to getting back to training. This past week, I had slightly more intensity and did some faster running than I’ve done since the marathon. It felt so nice to run fast again, especially because it didn’t feel terrible and I didn’t feel totally out of shape! I’ve got a long way to go and it’s an effort to stay patient, but last week was encouraging.

Monday: 8 miles easy with 6x30s pick ups. My dad brought to my attention that I should probably explain my workout terminology a little bit better. 6x30s means I did six strides during my run of 30 seconds each. If you’re unfamiliar with strides, this is a fairly good article to read:¬†http://www.runnersworld.com/workouts/add-strides-your-next-run. I usually do mine sprinkled into my run, but a lot of people do them after and sometimes I do that, too. It just depends. This run felt great. I just felt really smooth and it felt effortless and fun.

Tuesday: 10 miles easy; One thing I’ve learned over and over is how different you can feel from day to day (or even from morning to night on double days!). I felt great the day before but this run I felt flat and 10 miles felt so long.

Wednesday: 3 miles easy with strides (I did 4), 10 hill blasts, 2 miles easy; Hill blasts are short sprints at an all out, 100% effort up a short, steep hill. I shoot for about 10 seconds as hard as I can go. I focus on good form and turning my legs over. After each hill blast, I jog slowly for 2 minutes and do it again. These are new to my training this cycle, but are great for speed and fitness and will be an asset for training for Boston. I will probably switch to a steeper hill down the road but I’m enjoying getting into the groove with this workout. One thing to note is that 10 hill blasts were a lot harder than last week’s 6. Ended up with 7.75 miles for this day.

Thursday: 9 mile natural progression run; starting nice and easy and working down towards 7 effort. I LOVE progression runs. They’re my favorite. I guess it’s kind of the lazy man’s favorite workout because you get time to naturally warm up, usually they’re fairly unstructured (not always) and you can gradually speed up. I love that I start slow and feel like I’m flying by the end, but I don’t feel like I’m dying. I went a little fast on this one unintentionally, but loved getting the wheels moving again. These runs are a nice transition to harder training and more intensity. Splits were: 8:54, 8:14, 7:56, 7:37, 7:22, 7:12, 7:05, 6:56, 6:49 and last .14 was 6:16 pace (down a hill).

Friday: 6 miles very easy

Saturday: 16 miles; if feeling good I could drop it down to a steadier, 7:30 effort the last 3-4;¬†I felt really great and strong for most of this. I’ve been running a bit faster on my long runs and I am guessing it’s just because I don’t have much, if any, cumulative fatigue built up yet at this point in training. I am not intentionally picking it up but it’s hard to slow down once I’ve gotten rolling.¬†The last couple of miles were tough. My legs were tired and I wanted to be done. I really truly meant to keep the last four miles slower but had trouble putting on the brakes. Gotta get more disciplined with that. My last four miles were: 7:25, 7:28, 7:26, 7:22. This training cycle I want to be more disciplined and not run much faster than the effort or paces I’m given. An important lesson I’ve had to learn is to not race my workouts because then I have nothing to give on race day.

Sunday: 0-6 very easy. I ended up going with six. Felt really good besides some left calf/behind the knee soreness. My boyfriend always pokes fun at me because I almost always do the max if I’m given a range. One day he asked me how many miles I was going to do and he said, almost angrily, “Are you EVER just going to do zero?” My philosophy so far with this has been, I’m going to listen to my body as much as I can. I don’t cut myself a lot of slack so I’m generally not going to take a day just because I feel lazy. But, if I feel like my body really genuinely needs me to do less miles or even zero, then I will. I’ve found that active recovery really works for me. Getting out and doing some very easy miles seems to help me recover better than not running at all.

Total Miles for the Week: 63.5

Slowly climbing in the mileage and intensity. I maxed out last training cycle at 79 miles for a Monday-Sunday week (though I went over 80 on a 7 day stretch a couple of times). It’s important that I not rush right back up to the 80 range or I could risk injury. I really enjoyed some variety in my workouts last week and am starting to feel like I’m getting back into training again.

Week in Running: 1/6/14-1/12/14

Whoops. I just (re)started this blog and I’m already behind.

I am easing back into training for Boston. At first, I panicked at the reduced mileage but I’ve come to appreciate the time. It’s given my body a chance to recuperate, I feel much fresher, and it’s a chance for a mental reset. My first week after the marathon I only ran every other day (that was tough!) and ran not quite 16 miles. The next week back, I had one rest day and ran 40.8 miles. Then, the next week I ran every day and logged 51.8 miles.

Last week, I had a minor setback as I came down with some kind of cold. I ended up only missing one day of running but it meant a few extra easy days.

Here was last week’s training:

Monday: Coach said to run 0-4 and if I had a fever at all to not run. This was the only day I took off. I felt like I was on the mend but I felt so drained. Decided my body probably needed the rest.

Tuesday: 8 easy miles; felt surprisingly good after being sick.

Wednesday: 10 miles easy with 6x30s strides; it felt really nice to get out there and run a little bit longer.

Thursday:¬†3 miles with 4x30s strides, 6xhill blasts and 3 miles cool down; it has taken me awhile to get into the groove with hill blasts. I struggled to find the right hill initially, one that was short enough and steep enough. Hill blasts are 10 seconds at 100% up a short steep hill. As someone who is more long distance minded, I’m not accustomed to running at 100% ever. It’s deeply ingrained for me to conserve! So, it’s actually been kind of fun to do these. However, I had 10 instead of 6 this week and that was significantly harder!

Friday: 8 miles easy

Saturday: 15 miles with 11.2 on the Percy Warner 11.2 (infamous for its crazy hard hills); I did the 11.2 the week before and had a bad experience. I felt okay during the run but at the end felt truly awful. Now I realize I was getting sicker that day and the sickness really took hold of me that evening. This week was much better. I ran the first 4 miles up and down Belle Meade Blvd before doing the 11.2. The hills are brutal and sometimes relentless, but I finished feeling really strong which was a nice contrast to the week before.

Sunday: 4 miles very easy

Total Mileage for the Week: 53.1

Next week maybe I’ll try to get my training up before it’s almost time to document the next week’s training!

Rocket City Marathon

I started training with my coach in June. I knew I wanted to do another marathon because I felt like New Orleans went really poorly. It wasn’t really about my time. I didn’t love my time, definitely thought I should’ve done better, but it was about more than that. It was about the fact that I started to feel bad at mile 16 and it was all downhill from there. My pace started to slip. I started to feel MISERABLE. I do feel I underperformed with a 3:26 but it was a respectable time for my first marathon.

So my coach and I discussed a fall marathon. He threw out some options and Rocket City on December 14th seemed like a good time and the course sounded great, so that became my goal race. It seems like I trained for it forever but at the same time, it went by so fast. I won’t recap all of that because it’s too much to try to catch up. But, overall, training went great. I trained so much smarter thanks to my coach and began to improve pretty quickly. When he started having me do marathon pace workouts at 7:10 pace and then started throwing around the idea of a 3:10 marathon, I almost couldn’t believe it. After running a 7:52 marathon and feeling like death, a 7:10 pace marathon less than a year later seemed almost impossible! Except that all my workouts were going great. My longer work at marathon pace, my fast finish long runs. I was hitting the paces pretty comfortably and feeling like I had something left in the tank at the end. 3:10 was the basic goal but I was hoping to squeak in under 3:10 if I was having a good day.

This was towards the end of the last mile of my first marathon. We had to come over a small bridge and the meager hill felt terrible at the time. Much to my dismay at the bottom of the bridge was a photographer who managed to capture this reaction.

This was towards the end of the last mile of my first marathon. We had to come over a small bridge and the meager hill felt terrible at the time. Much to my dismay at the bottom of the bridge was a photographer who managed to capture this reaction.

Leading up to the race, I was pretty nervous. My races had been going great, my workouts had been going great, but it was still difficult to fathom how I could really hold that pace for 26.2 miles. My first marathon was my only experience to compare to and I remembered how good I felt until suddenly I didn’t. I was terrified of running along comfortably and then the wall showing up out of nowhere.

My coach gave me a lot of great advice and strategy leading up to the race. The main things I drilled into my head were to be patient, not go out too fast, and not to get greedy too early. I had run a lot of my workouts just slightly fast but I knew for the marathon I needed to be disciplined. Even just slightly too fast early on could really come back to haunt me (and hurt me) later.

The basic strategy was to get with the 3:10 pace group and hang with them at least through the half. Rocket City has three sections. The beginning goes through downtown and then residential streets. Then it goes down a long highway for several miles which is boring and this year had a nasty headwind. Then, it turns back around mile 15ish (I think?) and it’s back up through residential streets to the finish. My coach advised me to stay with the group and shut my brain off through the highway stretch and then if I felt good, I could SLOWLY pull away.

I was nervous about the pace group and letting someone else set my pace. But, I knew how much mental energy and focus it takes to keep yourself on pace and as much of that as I could conserve for later in the race, the better.

My boyfriend was out of town for the race which was a big disappointment. He was a saint for my first marathon and he is very low anxiety which really helps balance me. I tend to get pretty anxious about the little details leading up to the race so having someone who is patient and not getting anxious too helps. However, my mom agreed to come down to cheer me on. We looked at the race map and decided to best place for her to be stationed was at the elementary school because we’d pass by there around mile 7 and then again shortly after mile 21. I armed her with gu and a water bottle with an electrolyte tablet.

Coming back by at mile 22ish

Coming back by at mile 21.5ish

When I woke up race morning, it was raining. Pretty hard. I was bummed about the rain but thankful they weren’t predicting strong winds. Rain isn’t fun but I don’t think it slows you down like wind can. Leading up to the race it was showing the rain stopping around the race start time (8 am) but the morning of the race the forecast changed and it started showing it raining through the race. I don’t think I’ve ever put more vaseline on my body before that morning and I still chafed in weird areas, like my wrist where my watch was.

Thankfully my mom put up with me that morning because I was hyper focused and not talking. I did my usual race morning stuff. Woke up and ate first thing. Normally I eat pretty light before a race, just a banana and peanut butter, but I added half of a gluten free bagel to it because I didn’t want to screw up my race by not having enough carbs. I tried to finish drinking everything an hour and a half before start. This worked well because I was able to find a bathroom before the race and didn’t think even for a second during the race about needing to use the restroom. After eating and drinking, I put on my clothes, vaselined up, and did my foam rolling. I started the tradition of foam rolling before I run when I had an IT band injury in the spring. It’s worked great for me. Also, the night before a race or a long run, I always foam roll and stretch.

This is my torture device of choice. Except on the IT band. It kills and I always end up with many bruises.

This is my torture device of choice. Except on the IT band. It kills and I always end up with many bruises.

I got to the Holiday Inn about 50 minutes before the race start. I am not sure why I arrived so early because once I went to the restroom, I just stood around. About 20 minutes before the start, I went outside and did my very very easy (seriously, like 9:40 pace) warm up jog for 5 minutes and 2 easy gentle pick ups.

I lined up in the 3:00-3:15 area. I started to get nervous because people were filling in and the announcer was telling everyone it was almost time, but the 3:10 pacer was nowhere in sight. I started to realize I might have to pace myself for this whole thing. Then suddenly, an older man in the shortest shorts I have ever seen, appeared! He was wearing a headband and he had gels stuffed into them. That was a new one for me! Several people seemed relieved to see him so I was glad there would be other people running with us. I soon found out our pacer was named George and he knew EVERYONE. Every area where people were standing someone shouted out to him by name. A local running celebrity apparently. He had run 2:38 on that course before so I guess the 3:10 pace would be pretty easy for him (thankfully-you don’t want a pacer who can barely squeak by at the pace!).

I got nervous because George didn’t seem to know how to show his splits on his watch and was asking some of the guys if their watches did that. Uhhh…have you used your watch before? I started to get nervous about the pacing but figured I’d just go with it and see where we ended up.

Before I knew it, we were off. I kept my watch screen on the lap pace but I turned auto-lap off so that I could manually hit the lap button at the mile markers and have a better idea of what our splits were. I just ran with the group and didn’t pay much attention to my watch but I could tell we were starting fast. We were sub 7 pace for a significant portion of the first mile before we settled in. My first mile measured long, 1.04, so the pace showed 7:05 but the split was 7:21, so a little slow for 3:10 which is 7:15 pace.

Early on in the race. Yes, I am stealing these pictures. Sorry...

Early on in the race. Yes, I am stealing these pictures. Sorry…

The first several miles were a blur. There was a big group running and it didn’t take long for everyone to start talking. This was wonderful and helped keep nerves and everything in check. It was really easy to just run with the group and not stress about pace or constantly check my watch. They call out the time at each mile marker which was great and kept George in check on how we were doing relative to the pace. Almost all of the miles we ran measured long and I ended up with 26.47 on my watch at the end. The course has something like 70 turns I think and running the tangents perfectly is all but impossible. The next few miles were: 7:08 (1.01), 7:07 (1.02), 7:09 (1.01), 7:06 (1.01), 7:24 (1.03-slowest mile the whole race). I took a gu at mile 5 and planned to take them at 5, 10, 15, and 20 which worked out great.

I saw my mom at mile 7 which was nice and something to look forward to. Then I saw Jackson who handed me a Huma gel. Scott was nice enough to talk to Jackson the night before and set it up and I really appreciated that! We saw a guy already walking at mile 8 so that’s pretty rough. Not sure what could’ve gone wrong so early in a race but I felt for him. There was another girl running with me named Laura. She had only run one marathon 8 years before and totally crashed so she was nervous about the race like I was. We started talking about goals. She was hoping to hold on for a 3:10. I told George I hoped to squeak in under 3:10 but it was too early to tell. He said I seemed strong and was talking like normal. Next miles were 14:32 (2.02 miles-didn’t see the mile 7 marker), 7:11 (1.01), ¬†7:11 (1.01).

I really did feel great. I was kind of marveling at it. It took very little focus early on and I was able to talk comfortably. But I knew it was too early to get cocky so I remained conservative. Not too long after that, we hit the highway stretch. This is definitely the worst part. I got lucky and got to draft off people most of this stretch. I’m too short to really break the wind for anyone so no one wanted me up front! For awhile, George and a few of the guys were just too far ahead of pace for my comfort so I let them slightly ahead of me. They never started to break away so I felt good about that. There was a pretty nasty headwind and eventually I felt like it was in my best interest to catch up to the group and let them break the wind. It didn’t take too much to speed up just a little and tuck in behind them. The next several miles were: ¬†7:00 (1.00), 7:11 (1.01), 7:13 (1.00), 7:07 (1.00), 7:09 (1.02). The highway stretch definitely caused us to work more and I found myself really sweaty after it. We dropped a 7:00 early and the girl I was running with was like, “wow that was 7? What is that, like a 3:05?” I decided to slow it down a little at that point because I felt like it was way too early to get greedy.

Coming off the highway stretch was such a relief. The wind stopped and the pace felt easier. Coming off the highway was kind of a milestone for me because that’s when I thought it was time to start doing some work. I had a few milestones in my head for this race. One was the halfway point. I wanted to get there without having done much mental work yet and still feeling relatively good. Another milestone for me was 16 miles. That’s where I began to feel bad in my first marathon and I thought it would feel meaningful for me if I still felt good. Then of course, 20 miles. That’s a milestone I think of any marathon and feeling strong there would mean I could start to push the pace a bit.

The next several miles I continued to run with our (much smaller) group. We had lost almost everyone. At that point it was just me, Laura, George, and one other man whose name I forgot but was from Brentwood. I kept waiting for the wall to show up. I was mentally focused and prepared to put in the work mentally if the wall did come. But it didn’t arrive. I started to feel more confident and excited as the later miles passed, but I stayed conservative for awhile. The next several miles we ran as a group and our splits were 7:05 (.99), 7:07 (1.00), 6:57 (1.01), 7:03 (1.01), 7:06 (1.01), 7:03 (1.01). After the highway stretch, we wound through residential streets. There were lots of turns but I loved that because it kept the race interesting and the sections mentally manageable. In any workout I struggle with long straight stretches. We hit a gradual uphill on mile 16 and so for mile 17 we had a bit of a downhill and we were rolling. We realized we were running well ahead of pace but we all felt good. I was still nervous to go too fast early on but my confidence was building.

I continued to run with Laura and George through mile 20. Around mile 21 I started to break away. It wasn’t a conscious decision but I was feeling strong and it was feeling like it was now or never. I was afraid to get cocky but it didn’t feel like the wall was coming. I took my last gel at mile 20. When I came back by the school, Jackson handed me another one and I held onto it just in case but never used it. I saw my mom around mile 21.5 and she handed me my water bottle. I was all smiles as I told her, “I’m doing it!”

I wanted to make sure I got plenty of fluids and it’s hard to drink out of the cups. I put an electrolyte tablet in the water bottle and drank most of it. I saw a guy standing by his car on the side of the road and I shouted to ask him if he’d throw it away for me. He agreed so I flung the bottle at him. Man, spectators can be so nice! I just couldn’t litter but I also didn’t want to hold a bottle the rest of the race.

Somewhere around mile 23 I saw that I was coming up on a girl. I didn’t realize at the time but passing her would mean coming into 5th place. She seemed to be slowing down and I was able to pass her fairly easily. Knowing she was behind me though really pushed me the rest of the race. I couldn’t let myself slow down because I didn’t want to get passed by any women.

My boyfriend loves this picture because of how happy I look with the girl I just passed in the background.

My boyfriend loves this picture because of how happy I look with the girl I just passed in the background.

I passed a ton of people in the last 5-6 miles. Lots of people were walking or jogging slowly. Unfortunately there was only 1 woman to be passed. The rest of the women were way faster than me and the top 4 were all under 3 hours.

Around mile 24 I started to feel tired but it was manageable. As I came up on a water stop at mile 24, I grabbed a cup and then quickly had to turn the corner. I ended up rolling my ankle. I panicked but after a few steps I felt fine. I had an extremely sore calf for the next 5ish days though and I think that little moment was the culprit.

Late into the race and super focused

Late into the race and super focused

I was so elated that I was actually going to run this marathon and hit my goal that I think my enthusiasm kept me going at the end. It was really emotional for me. My coach believed in me and that was a huge boost but man I really almost couldn’t believe that I was capable of running a marathon as fast as I was running it. The last mile I repeated some mantras to myself (I don’t remember specifics but just reminding myself I’m almost there and to not slow down now, etc) but I kept up the pace. As I was rounding the final turn, I heard a spectator shout to someone behind me, “Go Leslie! Yay Leslie, you can do this!” I didn’t think there was any way a woman had caught up to me but I was not chancing it. I put on the gas and ran as fast as I could towards the finish. As I was making the final steps, I was running faster than a guy in front of me. His ego couldn’t handle being outkicked by a girl, I guess, so he started to sprint towards the finish. I am not ashamed to say that I was not going to have that and so I started to sprint too. However, my legs and butt started to lock up and I couldn’t overtake him. We crossed the mat at the same time but I am happy to report in looking at the times, I beat him by 1 second based on chip timeūüôā

My mom caught this one of me coming into the final stretch. I was going to overtake this guy but I guess his ego couldn't handle getting outkicked by a girl.

My mom caught this one of me coming into the final stretch. I was going to overtake this guy but I guess his ego couldn’t handle getting outkicked by a girl.

I crossed the mat in 3:06:44 gun time and 3:06:41 chip time. I was ecstatic. I never hit the wall and felt strong through the finish. My final miles were 7:06 (1.01), 7:02 (1.01), 6:58 (1.02), 7:02 (1.00), 7:01 (1.01), 7:05 (1.01), 8:14 (1.22, 6:46 pace-never saw the 26 mile marker).

I kind of couldn't believe it was already over at this point.

I kind of couldn’t believe it was already over at this point.

I felt so great about this race and I think it will continue to be one of my favorite memories. The day was really magical and everything went right. I’m not naive enough to think every race will be this wonderful and perfect. I’ll have hard races and I’ll have races where I don’t meet my expectations and I’ll have races where the last miles are a death march, etc. But I treasure how well this race went. My coach won’t take much credit and it’s true that I had to put in the work. But without his guidance and training plan, I would not have run a 3:06 marathon less than a year after a 3:26. It’s just fact. I had no idea what I was doing and going by the Blair method of training was leading to injury and burn-out. I have fallen back in love with running and it’s so satisfying that all the hard work I put in really does translate into progress.

This race has helped me get over my intense fear of the marathon. I still respect the distance, of course. You have to. It’s unpredictable and requires serious strategy. But now I know it is possible to be prepared for a marathon and it is possible to not hit the wall.

For now, I am easing back into hard training. Immediately after the marathon, I had a lot of soreness in my left calf and my right foot. I only ran every other day for the week after the marathon which was torture but necessary. I’ve been slowly building mileage. Last week was around 40 and this week is around 50. I’m doing a lot of easy running and am trying to enjoy this phase. However I’m excited to get back into harder workouts and start to get faster again.

Next goal race is ultimately Boston in April but I am looking forward to running some other races in the meantime, including the Tom King Half Marathon in March which is one of my favorite Nashville races.

Thanks to my mom for this photo

Thanks to my mom for this photo

My Marathon Playlist

One of the most motivating things I’ve found for races is a playlist with new, upbeat, fun music. I used the same playlist of 57 tracks since a half marathon in September. I’ve trained to those same tracks for every run since then. I don’t even hear the music anymore, honestly. There are only a few songs that catch my attention (Baby Come Home by Scissor Sisters being one of my faves). Most of the time it’s just background noise. When I ran said half marathon in September, I couldn’t be more surprised by how much the new playlist I put together motivated me and made the race fun. So I decided to build a marathon playlist for this race and then not use it until race day. My running music preferences are much different than my regular music listening preferences. I love oldies, super upbeat guilty pleasure mainstream pop stuff…kind of tired of rap these days (at least the popping bottles/I’m so rich variety), but some of my fave running songs make an appearance.

Because sharing is caring, I am giving y’all a glimpse at my playlist. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!!

playlist1

Don't judge me, Dad

Don’t judge me, Dad

 

Marathon Training (and oh yeah… I suck at blogging)

I’ve been wanting to post and wanting to post and totally intending to post…and then…nothing. It’s daunting. I want this to be a legit blog and I want a place to talk about running. But then I think about the less fun parts of that, like feeling pressure to add a bunch of pictures to posts, because god forbid people just read a big long section of text. Gotta add pictures to keep things interesting.

This one time I saw a hawk on my run.

This one time I saw a hawk on my run.

Anyway, but here we are. Less than a week from my first marathon. And there’s a lot I want to say about it! So here we go!

It was a really cool hawk.

It was a really cool hawk.

The last time I posted was a race recap in…November. Yikes. At my own defense, my man friend came home shortly after that and since he’s frequently out on the road for long stretches at a time, I’ve been spending as much time with him as I can before he jets off again next month (for 6 weeks!! Ahhhh!).

Marathon training has been… a lot of things. Exhausting. Renewing. Discouraging. Encouraging. Overwhelming. Affirming. It’s had its ups and downs. But here we are, less than a week away and I just feel so ready. I feel prepared and confident. I remember months ago being legitimately scared about the race. I had read too many running blogs and too many horror stories. It’s amazing how few marathon recaps you can find where it actually sounds like an enjoyable and fulfilling experience (I mean, yes, you’re running 26.2 miles, but there has to be some enjoyment or what’s the point?). I read about someone’s kidneys shutting down once because they didn’t properly fuel/hydrate and that about scarred me for life.

I think I'd like to keep my kidneys functioning properly, thanks

I think I’d like to keep my kidneys functioning properly, thanks

At first, the long runs were getting to me. I faced almost every Saturday with fear at the beginning because the long runs were mentally AND, of course, physically challenging. It seemed like the first few miles of every long run were just misery. I think it was the knowledge that I still had so far to go in those beginning miles. It was just getting to me. I managed to find my way out of that, though, and by the end of marathon training, my long runs are my best and absolutely most motivating/rejuvenating/affirming runs. What helped? Well, a couple of things stick out in my head:

Time/Patience

  • I remember reading once about how much harder marathons are than half marathons and feeling a bit indignant internally because, hello, running 13.1 miles is no joke. But here’s the thing: marathons ARE a lot harder than half marathons in some obvious ways. Like, you know, distance and endurance and mental toughness. Half marathons are a great balance, in my opinion, because you can really focus on both endurance and speed. The speed thing is harder for the marathon because it’s a whole new pacing strategy and the increased mileage wears the body down much more.
  • I honestly just had to keep trucking through. That’s the hard part-it would be easy to quit (except I’m an extreme type A perfectionist so quitting is not something I generally let myself do) during those first few weeks where the long runs are building. It’s an adjustment. You’re building your base. You’re getting your body used to it. Sometimes it kind of sucks. Stick it out. If you keep plugging away and getting your weekly mileage in too, it will pay off.

Let go of the numbers

  • Then, I got a Garmin watch. This was a blessing for many reasons-it’ll give me an easy way to pace myself during the marathon (instead of craning my neck trying to see the numbers on the Nike+ app on my phone, not so conveniently strapped to my arm). It also gave me a chance to do heart rate training and really take those recovery runs seriously.
  • However, the Garmin watch led to a bit of numbers obsessing. Particularly¬†because every single run on the Garmin was shorter than Nike+. I felt deceived! I felt ashamed! I wasn’t as fast as I thought I was! Shit!
  • A few weeks ago, I turned off the voice feedback on my Nike+ app. I had thought I’d do it just for one particular workout that I was struggling with mentally (12 miles on a Wednesday morning before work is intense and tough to prepare for mentally). I haven’t turned it back on since. When I feel like knowing my pace, I can look at my watch. But it’s given me such freedom and I think it’s made a big difference in the last few weeks of marathon training.
  • Moral of the story is: if this is your first marathon or even if it’s not but you find yourself discouraged: let go of the numbers. Give yourself a break. You’re training for a f**ing marathon, okay? You kick ass. Whether you run a 12 minute mile or a 5 minute mile (asshole…just kidding…), you still kick ass. 26.2 miles is NO freaking joke.

So, following along that same path, I was discouraged for awhile during marathon training. I thought I was losing speed. I actually felt sometimes like I was somehow losing fitness despite running 50+ miles a week, every week. That was complete and utter bullshit and if I had really let myself off the hook and thought about it more, I would’ve come to this conclusion: I was running 5 days a week, over 50 miles a week. I was also continuing my strength training routine of 2 days a week, an hour each time. I was putting enormous amounts of stress on my body and not always (ever) getting 8 hours of sleep at night (hard to do that when you’re waking at 5 to go running!). My body needed to ease off the speed and just adjust to the increased load. Of course I slowed down! Of course.

This photo is in no way relevant but I took this picture in December at the park where I do my speed work and couldn't stop laughing at this bald spot on this tree. I went and inspected it closely and it seriously had no lights there. They weren't out. They just weren't there.

This photo is in no way relevant but I took this picture in December at the park where I do my speed work and couldn’t stop laughing at this bald spot on this tree. I went and inspected it closely and it seriously had no lights there. They weren’t out. They just weren’t there.

Since turning off the voice feedback AND starting taper, my speed has come back. All of a sudden, all at once. A month ago, a 7:30 pace was feeling HARD. It was tough to sustain. I’m back to feeling like that’s a more comfortable zone for me. Hallelujah!

Took this pic on a run pre-Christmas. Really beautiful Christmas decorating. A+++

Took this pic on a run pre-Christmas. Really beautiful Christmas decorating. A+++

My long runs have vastly improved. After struggling with the long runs, I finally got a place where I was enjoying them and feeling mentally strong. Then, the weekly mileage started to get me down. A typical week might look something like this during the peak of training:

Monday: Run 8 miles before work
1 mile on treadmill before Sculpt
Sculpt (1 hour total body strength training class…intense)

Tuesday: Recovery run, usually 5-7 miles

Wednesday: Medium long run of the week, usually 11-12 miles

Thursday: Speed work, usually 6-8 miles, before work
1 mile on treadmill before Sculpt
Sculpt

Saturday: Long run (shortest was 12 on a recovery week, longest was 22)

I was running so many miles during the week and so many days in a row that I was just totally exhausted. I like to run first thing in the morning but waking up early enough to fit the longer runs in meant I wasn’t getting enough sleep. And I was stubbornly sticking to Friday as a rest day although it probably would’ve been smarter to switch the rest day around to break some of that up.

Pre-22 miler. Seriously nervous. Thinking, 'wait why do people do this again?'

Really f-ing nervous about running 22 miles. Thinking, ‘wait why do people do this again?’ (yes I wear the same thing pretty much on every long run)

Anyway-eventually it all started to fall into place. If you read much about marathon training, you’ve probably seen people say that when you finally feel like you’re hitting your stride and you can handle it all, it’s time to taper. That definitely happened to me. It was all clicking and then it was time to cut back.

This was kind of my Everest but I did it!!

This was kind of my Everest but I did it!! Don’t stalk me, please.

It’s been a seemingly long journey. I’ve worked my ass off. It’s been incredibly difficult but so so affirming. The last several long runs I did were so great for my confidence. I coached myself through them. Gave myself pep talks. “This is a journey. You’re gonna be running for 3 hours. There’s no way around that. Might as well chill.” Every long run is almost like a little journey itself, as corny as that sounds. It has its own ups and downs. I started to recognize that. Before, I’d panic when I hit a bad spot. I’d freak out and worry the rest of the run was going to suck and “oh god, I have 10 miles to go, can I handle the suck for 10 more miles?” I started to tell myself, “this is a bad patch. You’ll get through it. You always do.” And you know what? It worked!

So here we are. Less than a week until the race. I thought I’d be terrified. But I feel so ready! I’m excited! I want to call myself a marathoner! Of course, I’m trying to remind myself it’s still 26.2 miles. The furthest I’ve gone is 22. Those last 4 miles will be uncharted territory. I have to be smart. I need to pace well. Not go out too fast. Hydrate enough. Fuel properly. There are a lot of variables to consider. But after months of trials and setbacks and triumphs, it’s almost time. I kind of can’t believe it’s almost really here. I’ll let y’all know how it goes…

Got this Oiselle Rogas shorts for the marathon that all you peeps are talking up...don't let me down!

Got these Oiselle Roga shorts for the marathon that all you peeps are talking up…don’t let me down!