Tag Archives: marathon

Dublin Marathon: The Recap

21 Feb

I gave Megan a hug and watched her walk towards the porta-potty line for a minute before moving forward in the corral. The world felt surreal. Hazy, yet with a distinct sharpness around certain shapes; the early morning sun casting shadows that made everything seem both bright and shadowy at the same time. Thoughts swirling in my mind, I felt everything and nothing all at once. I had enough self-awareness to realize what I was about to do and yet all I could focus on was if I had made a mistake by not trying to pee one last time. After all the ups and downs of the past 6 months, I was acutely aware that I should be overcome with emotion or gratitude or nerves but a detached feeling of calm blanketed me instead.

The start was incredibly anticlimactic. I think someone yelled “go!” at the front but I had heard nothing. I looked up, still partially in a fog, and realized a huge mass of runners were already about 200 meters ahead of me. “Ok,” I whispered to myself. “Time to execute.”

The plan was simple. The first 7-8 miles of the course are a gradual uphill – perfect for controlling your pace and ensuring you don’t prance out of the corrals with all the energy of a kid on Christmas morning. 8-minute miles were the goal. “It should feel easy,” my coach promised me. “After that, well … you’ll know. This isn’t your first rodeo. You’ll know what kind of day you’re having and how to run the rest of the race.”

So there it was. 8 easy and then hopefully, giddy the F up. And he was right – 8’s felt so comfortable, even with the mild ascent. The first mile clicked off in 7:57; 7:52 for the second. “Easy…EASY…do not blow this race in the second mile.” Backing off to 8:00, 7:58, then 7:54, 7:53, 7:49. I hit the 10K right around the planned pace and thought of James and Laura tracking me back home. “Alright, you made it this far – they know you’re following the plan and exercising some self-control – now let’s let loose a little.”

Mile 8 brought a short yet somewhat steep downhill – the first noticeable undulation of the race – and I hit it in 7:38. I’ve never been a great downhill runner, though, and sure enough, it was here that I noticed some cramping in my upper quads into my hip flexors.

That was enough to make the mental demons pop in to say hello, and with them, I battled over the next two miles (7:42, 7:38). “Here we go again – your legs HURT! Before mile-freaking-10 of a damn marathon! You’re toast. It’s over. You’re gonna end up dropping around mile 20. This one will end like the others. You’re not strong enough or tough enough for marathons.”

(Have I ever mentioned that I’m pretty hard on myself? Yeah, that.)

A somewhat significant uphill would come somewhere around mile 10.5 and despite a precarious mental state, I mustered enough control over my brain to back off and adjust my effort. 8:05.

A gift came along in the form of two men – a Londoner and a Dubliner – they stuck to me like glue for a few miles, as we chatted and told our backstories. They struggled a bit to keep up, obviously out of breath while talking and in that moment, a glorious realization – I was not breathing hard and my effort was still very much in control. The longer I ran next to them listening to their huffing and puffing, the better I started feeling about my race. (7:44, 7:41)

(Have I ever mentioned that I’m kind of a terrible person? Marathons are hard and sometimes other people’s misery makes me feel better.)

As I hit the half split, I gave the mat a good stomp as I crossed. “Alright, James and Laura know that I’m feeling good. Now it’s really time to get to work.” I put my headphones in, dropped my new friends, and started to see what I had in my legs.

The next few miles were a satisfying grind. My music proved to be too much of a distraction and I ripped out my headphones almost as soon as I had put them in. I wanted to focus. I wanted to feel every minute of the race. No dissociating.

I thought back to the last long run workout in my training – 2 miles up, 8×1 mile @ MP w/1 mile recovery, 2 miles down. I ran this with Laura as my Sherpa on the bike next to me as we looped around Conesus Lake. I ended the day with 20 miles at a 7:40 average and was on cloud 9 – but none of it was easy; I remember that my legs had hurt that day but in a manageable, I-can-push-through-this kind of way. My confidence was building. If I could do it then, I can certainly do it now. 7:43, 7:37, 7:35, 7:34, 7:25, 7:23, 7:25.

Holy shit. I just ran MILE 20 of a marathon in 7:25.

Seconds later, as if it were plucked straight from a Runner’s World article warning new runners about the treachery of the late stages of a marathon, holy shit – I feel like I just ran into a brick wall.

A bit of self-doubt started to reappear. For whatever reason, everything suddenly became VERY. HARD. (Side note: I typically disregard spikes in heart rate data since wrist-based measurement is far from 100% accurate but I do think it’s interesting that right at this point, my Garmin shows my HR jumped about 10bpm and stayed at that elevated level for the rest of the race.) Now I was really working, and now I was feeling bad enough that I started to wonder if I would be able to push myself through this last 10k. 7:30, 7:34. I knew I was slowing and my watch confirmed it, but was it my head that was allowing it to happen or my body that was giving out?

I thought back to the 30K mat I had crossed, which felt like it was years ago and seconds ago all at the same time. “They KNOW you’re going for it. You CAN’T back off. This right here, this is the time to be tough.” 7:25. “See, you’ve still got some fight in your legs, keep pushing. Do not be a baby. Keep going.” 7:30.

As I started to gasp for air, I feared that I gave a little too much too soon. My hips, burning. My quads and calves, empty – as though the muscles had been replaced with jelly. I looked up. Everyone around me looked like death. I started to laugh – why on earth does anyone do this to themselves?

As I assessed the situation, I knew I had to put away the watch. My mental state felt precarious again, as if any pacing feedback – good or bad – could potentially tip me over the edge. I knew I was slowing a bit, but by how much? I couldn’t focus on the finish time, I needed to focus all my energy on making sure that I kept putting one foot in front of the other so that my legs didn’t somehow convince my brain that it was ok to stop.

7:37, 7:40

And then I woke up. That 26 mile split beeping on my watch was a slap across the face, and suddenly I realized that I was going to do this – it was a certainty now – and there was no way I could let myself jog it in to the finish.

Sucking wind, I pushed it to a 7:17 pace for the last little bit, feeling grateful for the beep that pulled me out of my self-induced death march. I remember looking up, seeing the clock, and realizing I was solidly under 3:25. This was it, it was happening. My secret, scary A goal that I never even expressed to my coach, for fear he’d tell me I couldn’t. We had only been talking about 3:26-3:27 on a good day. But there I was, about to break 3:23. Goosebumps broke out all over my body; a minor wave of nausea came and went. And once again, just as the day had started, the world felt surreal.

 

Dublin Marathon – 3:22:56

The Breakthrough Year

30 Nov

Without fail, at the end of every year I always seem to reflect and think “wow, what a crazy year.”  So hang with me for a moment here when I tell you – 2016 has easily been the most tumultuous year of my life.

I am a software/test engineer and my job has always involved some amount of travel, but up until this year, that typically meant maybe a one week trip every 8-10 weeks.  This year, that all changed.  In the first third of the year alone, I was gone for half of January, the entirety of February and March, and half of April.  

While I was on the road, I was also dealing with a pretty big breakup.  I was in the process of ending a 9 year long relationship (I say in the process because as you might imagine, breaking up with someone is incredibly difficult when you technically live with them and yet are never home) and while it was something that had been in the works for a while, you don’t flip your life upside down like that without incurring some mental stress along the way.

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I lost my dog in the “divorce” and honestly, I’m still not over it yet.

I thought I was handling things ok, but as I look back – I was flailing.  I was making the best of a difficult situation, sure, but I was staying out way too late, drinking way too much, making way too many “temporary friends,” all while claiming to be seriously training for the Utah Valley Marathon.

In March, I flew from Salt Lake City to Virginia Beach for the weekend to run the Shamrock Half Marathon with Hollie.  The weather conditions that day were tough, but I had been essentially living and training at altitude (SLC is approximately 4400’ above sea level) for months.  I had secret hopes of a PR and ended up incredibly disappointed to run 1:38:10.  “I’m a 1:38-1:39 half marathoner,” I remember grumbling to Laura.  “That’s just what I am and what I’ll always be.”

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Not. Pleased.

Of course, Laura never lets me throw too much of a pity party and I’m eternally grateful for that. Chatting with her got my brain back into a more positive gear. Out of all the stories of weather related misery, I noticed that one person happened to PR at Shamrock. I also knew that Laura was seeing success and enjoying working with her new coach, and I knew that oh, coincidentally, Mary and Laura had the same coach. I finally realized that if I wanted something to change, I needed to do something different. That it was stupid to think I wasn’t fast enough for a coach.  I gathered up all my courage and made a phone call. And then a day later, James became my running coach.

What happened over the next few months is something I’m still processing, and writing this post (and reviving this silly blog) is a way for me to do that. As I mentioned, I did end up running the Utah Valley Marathon but it became less of a goal race (I only gave James 11 weeks, I didn’t expect miracles yet) and more about getting another 26.2 under my belt and enjoying the time in Utah with my best friend.  I might go back and recap it at some point, but that is for another day.

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I guess I’m gonna run a marathon tomorrow or some crap like that.

After taking some time to recover from UVM, the focus became Dublin Marathon at the end of October.  I was still traveling quite a bit for work over the summer (and to Texas, no less – I have SO much respect for all you runners down south) but my attitude had changed.  Workouts became a priority, if I had a quality session on the schedule I was doing everything I could the day before to make sure it went well.  Nutrition was still a challenge due to some circumstances out of my control but I started making better choices when I could. (Long story short: I was working 16 hour days, unable to leave to go get food, and surrounded by donuts constantly. Damn delicious donuts ….)

More importantly, I started turning down happy hour invitations and I focused on getting more sleep. This all makes me kind of sound like a drag, I know, but I was really doing it because it made me happy.  I won’t try and tell you it was all glitter and rainbows, but most days, I hopped out of bed completely PUMPED for my run that day – even if it was just an easy hour of jogging.

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Not turning down ALL the happy hours though, gotta get your tan on sometimes

As Dublin crept closer, I had my doubts.  There were some amazing workouts that had me feeling on top of the world and then there were some reality-smacking-me-in-the-face moments that had me wondering if a BQ would even be possible.  I ran the Hartford half marathon in early October and while I did set a PR, I was minutes off of where I secretly thought I would be. That race would lurk in the back of my mind for the next 3 weeks until Dublin.  

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My goodness … I’m moving so slowly, yet feeling so terribly.

Even as James and I discussed the race plan for Dublin, Hartford was there whispering – “you’re a fraud, none of this is real, your watch is broken, you don’t deserve 3:2x.”  And then suddenly, I was in Dublin. In the starting corral. And suddenly I realized if I wanted this, all I had to do was execute.  The fitness was there. One bad race didn’t erase everything I had done, all that I had worked for. I could let my mind ruin it for me or I could just tell myself to just. shut. up. and execute.

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Executing. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT, TONY

I ran 3:22:56.  A 4 minute negative split.  And while I do intend to recap the race itself, I will say here – the second half of my FULL marathon was 1:39:22.  Around the same time as I was racing HALF marathons earlier in the year.

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It’s weird because in a way, it doesn’t feel like I did anything drastically different yet at the same time, I feel like a completely different person than when the year started.

As far as running goes, I loved the workouts I was doing, but none of them were totally foreign to me – it wasn’t like I was being presented with concepts that I had never heard of or hadn’t tried before. (That’s not to belittle the impact hiring a coach had — more on that later).  I didn’t make any dramatic dietary changes, I still drank beer and ate desserts and all that jazz. There isn’t one major thing I can point to and say “that’s it – that’s how I ran 3:22.”  It was really a lot of small changes that added up to something big. Which is not to say that it was easy, just that it wasn’t some huge overhaul.

And as my running and approach to running changed, I found my attitude changing about other things.  I found myself opening up, accepting other points of view and opinions, allowing myself to feel and think and care about things again.  I don’t claim to have it all figured out now, but I think I was frozen in a cycle of unhappy relationship – unhappy at work – unhappy with running – drink to numb the pain – repeat.  Tackling the most superficial of those problems just happened to lead me down a path where I started solving the harder ones too.  2016 wasn’t just a breakthrough for running, it was a breakthrough for my life.

To wrap this all up in the cheesiest of ways, allow me to hop on my soapbox for a moment. If you’re unhappy with your life, it truly only takes a few small steps to start changing it. If you aren’t reaching your goals, reevaluate and try something new.  At the end of the day, the beautiful thing about life is that YOU are the one in charge – you are the one who gets to set your own priorities and make your own decisions. I sat around waiting for my life to happen, to change, to get better, to refresh itself, etc, for far too long.  2016 was the year I realized — you have to change your own life.

Toronto Goodlife Marathon Training: Week 4

9 Mar

Somehow the magic of week 3 managed to stick around for another week – I had another solid week of training with only a slight upset to the schedule.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Unplanned rest – had a ridiculous incident which prevented me from completely my scheduled 10 miles.

Wednesday: 8 miles am / 5 miles pm (both around 9:30 pace)

Schedule said 5 but I knew I needed to make up for some of the missed miles. I decided the best way to get that done was by doing a double.  Kept the pace very easy for both runs.

Thursday: 8 miles on the treadmill, 9:15 pace

I had considered doing 10 to make up the last 2 missing miles but I ran out of time before work.  Decided that being 2 short for the week wasn’t a huge deal.

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 5 miles – 9:45ish pace

Ran with someone for the local St. Patrick’s Day themed race and had SO much fun!  It was very crowded at the start (we started too far back) and it’s a hilly little race, but I had a blast.  I also had a lot of fun bar hopping afterwards. Hashtag balance.

Sunday: 17 miles – 8:45 pace

Ended up having an excellent long run despite some very heavy legs at the beginning.  Moderately hilly route and still only saw two miles over 9 minute pace.  It was around 30 degrees for this one and it is really sad how warm it felt.

Having two successful long runs in the past two weeks has really helped my confidence level.  I was definitely on the struggle bus for the first few miles yesterday but before I knew it, I had 11 under my belt and the thought of 6 more seemed completely manageable.  I was surprised at how quickly the run went.  These are not typical thoughts or feelings for me during a long run so I’m considering this to be a good sign.

8 weeks to go!

Total: 43 miles

Toronto Goodlife Marathon Training: Week 1

17 Feb

Week 1 in the books!  Here’s how it shook out.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 8 miles on the treadmill.

Wednesday: Rest (intended to cross train, but work got the best of me)

Thursday: 9 miles on the treadmill.

Friday: 3 miles on the treadmill / 30 mins elliptical.  This was supposed to be purely cross-training but I just wanted to run.

Saturday: 13 miles of misery // 9:07 pace.

I went outside for this bad boy and man, that was a mistake.  The roads were plowed but the shoulders were still snow-covered.  It was pretty windy, so there was a lot of drifting snow in the road.  Super slippery – felt like running on sand.  Between the wind and the road conditions, it felt almost impossible to power myself forward at times.  My knee felt awful; my calves, quads and hip flexors felt overworked and very sore.  Even though the pace was modest, the effort was high.  Would’ve been better to stick to the treadmill or indoor track for this one.

Sunday: 5 miles super easy on the treadmill.

Total: 38 miles

I hit the hot tub after 5 recovery miles on Sunday and I think the combination of the two really helped my legs.  That and I was in full on compression gear for about 24 hours straight (doing Valentine’s Day right, oh yeah).

This was a slight bump in overall mileage (I’ve been hanging at around 30-33 for the past few months) and I kept the paces modest to make sure I’d be able to handle it.  Thankfully I’m feeling good and excited to be back in real training mode again.

Winter is definitely rearing it’s ugly head and I think I finally realized I have to be smarter about the long runs.  I don’t mind bundling up and facing the cold, but if the road conditions continue to be this bad, I need to take it inside.  I won’t be able to hit paces and I’m putting myself at risk for injury.  It sucks, but it’s also what I asked for by signing up for a spring marathon.

How many more weeks until spring?!

When Faster Isn’t Better

16 Feb

As I mentioned last time, there are a few things I am focusing on during this 12-week training cycle for the Goodlife Toronto Marathon. Today, let’s talk about #2 – less speed, more marathon pace.

I’ve decided to follow the Pfitzinger 12/55 plan from Advanced Marathoning – 12 weeks long, peaking at 55 miles, for those not well versed in PfitzSpeak. One of the main things that drew me to this plan was the focus on marathon pace (MP) miles during the long runs. The 12/55 also has very little true speed work in it; I’d say 75% of the quality miles are in the marathon pace – tempo pace range. The VO2 max work is all specified to be run at 5K pace and no faster, and the intervals are on the longish side – generally 1000m-1600m.

This is a vast difference from the training I have followed in the past, and something that I hope in turn makes a vast difference come race day.

Previously, I was doing nothing but slow, time on your feet style long runs with one speed workout per week. The workouts would alternate between a tempo, long interval, and short interval workout. We would do a tempo run maybe once a month; all the other workouts were legit, gut-busting speed workouts. This started at the very beginning of the training cycle, so anywhere from 18-22 weeks out depending on when your goal race was (so, no periodization principles being applied). We were also encouraged to run them as fast as possible – and maybe that was the real problem. On any given week, I was running workouts at speeds much faster than 5K pace, and then the rest of the time, I was slogging along at a 10-10:30 minute pace.

The short intervals also gave me a ton of problems with my hamstrings. I blame this on poor form and not enough of a warm-up to properly execute the fast stuff. My body just seems to break down once I push down into the 6:1x territory, but I also think that a 10 minute warm-up prior to running intervals isn’t sufficient for me. My muscles frequently felt stiff and tight and I would always end up with a minor tear in one, if not both, of my hamstrings.

I would then continue to run through the hamstring issues because again, we were encouraged to do so. Taking rest days meant you weren’t fully committed, that you were weak. If you felt like you were injured, you still run – just go slower. 6 days a week or GTFO.  Every training cycle turned into 12-16 weeks of injury mitigation.  I never felt 100%.

If I thought the speed work was doing anything for me, I would put some time and energy into figuring out how to do it without getting injured. And when I decide to focus on the 5K (spoiler alert: I kind of want to do that this summer), I will. Longer warm-ups, targeting specific paces for the intervals rather than essentially racing them all out, etc. I’ll play around with all of that. But after doing a lot of reading, I just don’t think those are the right workouts to be doing for marathon prep.

The final thing that drove the principle of specificity through my thick skull was this post that kept popping up in my Twitter feed about a month ago. An interesting read for many reasons, but the one thing that really stuck with me was the idea that workouts with paces closest to your goal race pace are the most important. It seems completely obvious that a 5K specialist would be wasting their time running a lot of marathon pace workouts, so why has it been so hard for me to understand that running a lot of 5K (or faster) pace workouts isn’t going to help me run a good marathon?

I realize that it may take a few cycles before I see the results that I want. I am still hopeful that even after a short cycle, the combination of MP miles and long runs with reduced stopping will prevent the epic crash and burn that has been the trademark of my marathoning as of late.

A New Race and Some Training Goals

9 Feb

After every sub-par marathon I’ve run, my response has been largely the same. It took me a while to realize this, as I have a tendency to get stuck in the subtleties, the emotion, the here and now. My immediate feelings about each marathon I’ve run over the past 3 years have been very different but my behavior? My behavior has been 100% the same.

It usually starts with the swearing off marathons forever – or at least for a while – until I can achieve some arbitrary standard in another race distance, some sort of marker that will tell me I’m not crazy for thinking I can BQ. This is followed by a week or two of grandiose self-pity where I tend to abuse my Amazon Prime account and get back on a first-name basis with the clerk at the liquor store. Then comes the crazy finger pointing (you know, if only my dog hadn’t been up whining the night before that last 20 miler, I might’ve slept better and had a better run and therefore would’ve nabbed that BQ time, it’s all my dog’s fault!), followed by the more realistic finger pointing (more stretching, foam rolling, core work, hydration – did you really commit 100%?), then the realization that I really miss training for a marathon. Finally, the recommitment to wanting to run a BQ marathon time, soon to be followed by signing up for a goal race after a ton of time spent on marathonguide.com, findmymarathon.com, and random googling for blogs and race reports/reviews. Then it’s MORE. More more more. More miles, more speedwork. Better, faster, stronger.

But always the same training program. Always the same training philosophy – that more is better. That miles in = time out. That if 25 miles a week gets me a 3:45, then 45 miles a week should get me a straight up walk in the park <3:35.

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on this over the fall and winter and I realize I am the absolute definition of insanity. Why do I continue to do the same thing and expect different results?

So here’s the part where I admit that I have signed up for a spring marathon and I have every intention of training hard and hoping that puts me in the realm of a BQ time. I’ll be running the Goodlife Toronto Marathon on May 3rd, but the process of getting there WILL be different than it has been in the past.

After a lot of analysis of past training, and knowing that a complete overhaul of anything isn’t likely to bring success, I’ve chosen to focus on 3 key things to improve upon during this short training cycle. Because I am nothing if not verbose, I’m going to write about them separately; however, I intend to do the following:

  1. Be smarter about long runs
  2. Less “speed” and more marathon pace work
  3. Focus on nutrition

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So, let’s get into #1.

I’ve been running for a little over 5 years now, but it took me at least 4 of those years to learn to love the long run. For years, I would do every single run as scheduled except for the long run. Skipping long runs was the hallmark of every marathon training cycle for me. After meeting a great bunch of people through my running group and becoming intrinsically more committed to training, showing up for long runs became much less of an issue. Given my history, I counted that as a huge win. And it was.

But, to get to where I want to be, I’m not sure it’s enough. A lot of the long runs, while extremely fun, were at odd paces and included a lot of stops. Now, let me be clear that I am a firm believer in a “time on your feet” type of run, and that especially for a long run, sometimes relaxing and getting the time in is 100% beneficial. That isn’t the part that concerns me. What does concern me, however, is the stopping.

I have a read a lot of posts where the blogger in question brags about a 20 miler at <insert fast-ish pace here> via a Garmin shot, but then goes on to mention that she stopped at 72 water fountains, stopped at the car to eat something, stopped at 891 red lights, etc. I’ve always rolled my eyes and honestly said some pretty shitty things about that type of training. But then … I realized I am 100% guilty of it myself.

A lot of our group long runs involve meeting at a certain time, then looping back to pick up others, then heading out on a 60 minute route, stopping to then figure out where to go next, bathroom breaks, water bottle refills, etc. Now a lot of this is necessary break-age on a long run – if I have to poop, I’m going to poop. Not trying to deny anyone from responding to nature’s call. But when you have a group of 10ish people and they all have various needs, the breaks can really add up.

I went back and looked at some of my long runs in Garmin Connect, and active time vs total time occasionally varied as much as 20-30 minutes. That is a hell of a lot of down time.

Again, I don’t think this is a totally bad thing. And not all of my long runs have been like this. Many of them have been solid, at reasonable for me paces, with limited to no stops. But there was never any rhyme or reason to it. And 30 minutes of stopping during a 2.5-3 hour run is excessive, any way you slice it. I think that running long runs like that is not going to get me to a BQ time and it’s something I want to work on.

So my plan is to, well, plan. Plan a bit better for the long runs. I don’t want to not run with friends anymore, so I just need to have logistics figured out going in rather than flying by the seat of my pants. I don’t intend to completely eliminate the time of your feet style long runs either; I fully believe there is a place for those in any training plan. I just want to make sure that they are not the bread and butter of my training plan.

Part of addressing the long run issue will also include some marathon pace miles. But as I promised earlier … more on that next time.

Lehigh Valley Marathon Race Recap

20 Oct

When my friend Megan and I decided to sign up for the Lehigh Valley VIA Marathon earlier this year, I was 100% committed.  That never wavered throughout the entire training cycle.  I never skipped a long run and I never cut a workout short (yes, that is the first time both of those things have been true statements for me).  Not only did I never skip a long run, but I also never once even dreaded a long run – that was a true mental breakthrough.  I trained more consistently and much harder than I ever have before.  I averaged 46mpw through the cycle (small potatoes for most marathoners, but consider I averaged 25mpw prior to Shamrock and 38mpw prior to Wineglass) and hit new paces in workouts that I never would’ve dreamed of last year (long tempos at 7:10-7:15 pace, what the what?!).

On race day?  I ran 4:00:38.

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Bib pickup at the Steel Stacks! Looking happy because we haven’t run a miserable ass race yet.

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Laura (the most amazing friend and race supporter you could ever hope to have) dropped me off at the start line that morning and I as I hung around stretching and hydrating, I realized I was freezing.  I also made a mental note of how little I would appreciate that irony later on when I was sweating to death and about to keel over.

At the start, Megan and I agreed we were going for it – that was the whole reason, the entire purpose of choosing Lehigh.  It was BQ or bust and we wouldn’t be deterred.  I have no regrets about that.

Unfortunately, even from the start it never felt easy.  First 6 miles: 8:16, 8:12, 8:13, 8:19, 8:07, 8:07.  We saw Laura on the course around this point, and I already knew I was in trouble.  The 8:07s were a little aggressive, but make no mistake – I do not believe this was poor pacing.  Considering the past two marathons where I set out at 8:00 pace, I was really striving to keep it contained in the first few miles.  I was hoping that eventually my legs would just wake up.

They never did.

Temperature at the start was hovering around 64 degrees, the humidity was a brutal 90%.  This became readily apparent once we started running.  Oh to be freezing at the start line once again!

Somewhere around mile 11 or 12, I let Megan go ahead.  I could tell she was feeling a bit better than I was and I needed to start really pulling it back.  Around mile 14, I was struggling to get a pack of SportBeans open so I stopped to walk.  I pulled myself back together and ran all of mile 15 (8:44).  I never saw another 8:xx mile for the rest of the race.

The next 5 miles are just a blur of misery in my brain.  Lots of canal path.  Lots of other people trying to be encouraging as they ran by.  Lots of hating myself and hating marathons.

When I finally saw Laura at mile 20, I just flipped a double bird.  My attitude was shit, my quads were absolutely shot, and my hip felt like it was broken.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I said “my hip is broken” about 729 times between mile 20 and the finish.  I was an absolute delight to be around, I’m sure.  If you’ve ever bonked in a major way at a marathon, you know exactly how this feels.  If you haven’t … well, I’m not nearly a good enough writer to do it justice.  I just hope you never do experience it because your brain can pull some pretty nasty tricks on you.  Some of my lowest lows have come in the last 10 miles of a marathon. (That’s entirely a white privilege/first world problems statement right there, but I hope you get what I’m saying.)

I started pushing a bit once I could see the finish, but pushing at that point was roughly equivalent to hobbling with a desperate expression on my face.  I crossed at just a smidge over 4 hours and was mildly happy to at least have come in under my CIM time.  No personal worst today, I RULE! </sarcasm>

Pretty sure I am legitimately crying here, and they were NOT tears of joy.

Pretty sure I am actually crying here, and they were NOT tears of joy.

I’ll note that Megan, while not having the race she wanted, still managed to PR and come in around 3:48.  She is pretty damn awesome.

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So where does that all leave me?  Blame it on the weather?  Well, as I mentioned earlier, that’s tricky and feels a bit like a scapegoat at this point.

If it’s not weather, it’s misjudging my fitness.  That’s where I get frustrated.  Could I run more miles? Yes – and that’s the goal I’m working towards.  I find it hard to believe, though, that I can run a 3:45 on 25mpw but shooting for 3:35 on 45mpw is so aggressive that I bonk as hard I have.

At this point, the only conclusion I can come to is that the training I have been doing is not working for me.  If you want to change the results, you have to change the training, right?  So in the past few weeks, I have been talking to a few people, researching some things, and trying to figure out a path forward.  I know I will run another marathon again and I know that a BQ will happen eventually.  I just need to figure out how to get myself there.

If it was easy to run a well-executed marathon, well, it just wouldn’t be that fun, would it?

That’s A Wrap

28 Aug

aka marathon training, week of 08/18

Thank the running gods, thank your mom, thank baby Jesus, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise – this week was SO much better than the last.  This was the last legit week of training before taper and for my own sanity’s sake, I really needed it to go well.

Here’s how it shook out:

Monday: rest
Tuesday: Speed work at the track.  3x (4min/6min hard w/2min rest).  I was hoping to just be under 7min pace for each interval; ended up averaging 6:40 for the 4 minute intervals and 6:48 for the 6 minute intervals.  Felt great and no hamstring pain.  Win.
Wednesday: 50 minute easy run; 5.4 miles
Thursday: 50 minute easy run; 5.4 miles
Friday: 50 minute easy run; 5.4 miles
Saturday: long run, 20 miles
Sunday: 60 minute easy run; 6.4 miles

Total: 50.6 miles

I felt a bit sluggish during the week and got myself pretty worked up about the long run.  I knew I needed to finish it feeling strong so I tried to set myself up for success with feeling good being the only goal.  The Green Lakes Endurance Runs (50km and 100km) were taking place on Saturday, and luckily, some of my running friends were up for a long run on the trails while cheering on some of our mutual friends and the other racers.  Due to run-cheering, the pace was slow and steady and man, did my legs really appreciate that.  Before I knew it, we were 2h:45m into the run and I was still feeling really fresh.  I was dead set on getting to 20 miles given the not-so-great long run the previous week, so I decided set off for the last 30 minutes on my own and was able to comfortably drop the pace to around 8:30.  Finished up the long run by enjoying a beer in the pouring rain with my friends while continuing to cheer for the ultrarunners.  All you could hope for.

So there it is.  Bring on the taper!

The Stupid Week from Stupid Town

19 Aug

aka marathon training, week of 08/11

Overall, this week was plagued by a combination of too much work stress, not enough sleep, and – for the first time in over 8 months – the feeling of just plain not wanting to go run.  Just about every run this week was a struggle to get out the door.

I didn’t skip any runs so I can’t beat myself up too much – in reality, the only “damage” done was that I ended up cutting off about 10 minutes from what I had wanted to do on a few days.

Here’s how it shook out:

Monday: 50 minute easy run; 5.44 miles
Tuesday: Hamstring is about 95% better, but the speed workout was short intervals. Figured I should try to not be stupid and decided to skip. Intended to run easy instead and succumbed to a beer after work instead.
Wednesday: 50 minute easy run; 5.35 miles
Thursday: 55 minute easy run; 6.64 miles
Friday: 60 minute easy run; 7.3 miles
Saturday: 55 minute easy run; 6.44 miles
Sunday: 2h15m (stupid)long run; 16 (stupid)miles

Total:   47.2 miles

So, the long run. I had it in my brain that maybe I wanted to race a half marathon after all and decided to run the idea by Laura to see what she thought.  After much debating over the pros and cons, she offered up a great option: run the long run she had on her schedule with her.  It was supposed to be a progression from 8:45 down to 8:15 for the first 12 miles, and then if we felt good, pick it up to 7:30-7:45 for the last 4.  This sounded totally doable (tough, but doable) and like a great confidence-boosting workout to throw down one month before my race.

We ended up making it even more of an adventure by turning it into a little weekend getaway, but more on that later.

It went really well at first … until all of a sudden it wasn’t so great.  My heart rate was through the roof and an 8:30 (stupid) pace felt like 7:30, effort-wise.  Things got really negative in my (stupid) mind.  I eventually felt dizzy and disoriented.  It was delightful (alliteration, mother fuckers).

Even a day later, I’m still not sure what to make of this.  It was humid and I was definitely dehydrated.  It felt like Wineglass all over again.  I didn’t take any water with me and that was probably my big (stupid) mistake.  What is hard for me to wrap my head around is that just simple dehydration could have made the run that bad, or made 8:30 pace feel that bad.

I have to say that Laura is not only one of the best friends you could ever hope to have, but that she is most likely an actual goddamn saint.  I was the epitome of whiny bitch at many points during this run, and she had nothing but words of encouragement for me.  I am truly lucky.

So, another (stupid) week in the books.  Here’s hoping this week is better.

 

Fall (Summer?) 2014 Marathon Training Recap

12 Aug

In a way, I feel like I’ve been training for this marathon since the beginning of the year.  When I was trying to build back from the litany of injuries that derailed my fall 2013 plans, I always had an eventual fall marathon in mind.  And in a lot of ways, once I decided on a race and declared I was “officially” training for a marathon, there wasn’t a lot of change in what I was doing week to week.

For brevity’s sake, however, I’ll start this recap with the week of May 12th, which I think was the date we decided was the real start of training.

 

Week Of: Total Mileage: Key Workouts: Long Run: Comments:
05/12 43 None 15.03 Easy, base-building miles.
05/19 35.8 Buffalo Half Marathon in 1:39:30 14.6 (half, plus warm-up) Tapered just slightly for the race so overall mileage was lower.
05/26 43.8 None 15.12 More easy miles post-race.
06/02 49.1 6 mile tempo: 7:27, 7:17, 7:21, 7:16, 7:23, 7:07 (7:19 avg) 16.42 Solid tempo and long run along with overall increase in miles.
06/09 51.9 – 25 (30?) minutes of hill repeats

– 4×1 mile repeats w/400m rest: 6:51, 6:49, 6:57, 6:54

16.3 Quads were hurting from the start of the mile repeat workout but was able to push through. Thought I’d be dead for the long run but still held a 9:15ish pace.
06/16 48.9 – Ladder: 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1; 5:43-5:59-6:33-6:41-6:52-6:49-6:57-6:47-6:07- 6 mile MP Tempo: avg 7:55 pace 17 Wanted to run 8-8:10 for MP tempo (ran it watchless) so I was happy to see my pace was close. Started to experience some groin/front-of-hip pain that progressed throughout the week.
06/23 41.2 7 mile MP Tempo: avg 8:16 pace 17.51 Groin/hip pain persisted and so I modded Tuesday’s speedwork to attempt another MP tempo. It didn’t go very well. Took an extra rest day and ran very easy miles the rest of the week. Got through the long run without pain intensifying.
06/30 43.3 5K Race – 21:12 16.18 More easy miles leading up to the race. Groin/hip pain still present, but not worsening.
07/07 44.8 None 12.47 Ran the Boilermaker with my bf and wasn’t sure what to do in terms of mileage or workouts. Didn’t want to trash my legs just in case. Ended up being a fun week of easy miles.
07/14 53.6 45 minute tempo – covered 6.3 miles/7:10 average pace. 17.49 Groin/hip feeling better this week. Tempo felt very good, even with poor weather conditions, and managed a big negative split. Then came the crash – this was supposed to be the first 20-miler of the cycle. Both my friend and I felt like SHIT the whole way, to the point where even a run/walk approach wasn’t cutting it. Had to call it at 17.5 miles. This was probably the lowest point of training, thus far.
07/21 45.4 Short intervals – 6x(60/90/30 seconds w/short recoveries) 20 Like the big dummy I am, I managed to tweak my hamstring running the short interval workout. I need to be fucking smarter about this. My body just doesn’t handle short and fast speed work. Took an extra rest day. Did, however, manage to get to 20 miles for the long run, which had felt entirely impossible the prior week. Win some, lose some.
07/28 50.6 Long strength intervals – 2x(5/7/3 minutes w/short recoveries) 21.52 Hamstring improving, but the last 3 minute interval aggravated it a little bit. All the intervals were sub-7:00 pace, so all-in-all, a workout with 30 minutes of ~5K pace running. Felt good. Followed up with a really fun and productive long run. A++ week.
08/04 52.5 60 minute tempo – covered 8.35 miles/7:15 average pace 22.5 Still contending with various “niggles” but had a really strong week. Very happy with the long tempo and had a fantastic long run with my friend. Hilly run and still managed a 9:08 pace.  This was probably the strongest week of training I’ve ever thrown down.

 

What has worked well for me:

  • More tempos
  • Higher mileage (for me) – a 40 mile week used to be a peak week for me; it’s nice to know that even when I’m feeling like I’m on the brink of a potential injury, I can “step back” to a 40-45 mile week and that does the trick
  • Starting with a good long run base – prior to “officially” starting training, I was routinely doing 2h-2h:15m long runs. The long runs used to be the hardest part of marathon training for me, and while I am not ready to say they are easy quite yet, they don’t take it out of me quite as much as they used to.

What hasn’t worked so well:

  • Adding a second workout while increasing mileage – I loved doing the second workout, but next time I want to keep my weekly mileage stable when I add it in.
  • Short speed workouts – yeah, my body just can’t handle anything faster than about 6:35 pace without combusting. I should probably figure out why that is.

And so here we are: 2 more weeks of real training, and then it’s taper time. I’ll try to recap those weeks in real-time (aka, stop being such a slouch).  As of right now, I am on the up-swing of the training roller coaster and I hope that it stays that way.

 

Are you training for a goal race this fall?  Which one, and how is it going?

Please tell me someone else out there shares the rollercoaster training feeling.