Week in Review - T-minus 1 week until taper! (8/17/15 - 8/23/15)

Early morning run on the Gettysburg battlefield So. Close.  I'm allllllmost to the taper.  This past week was the peak for the season - 96 miles for week.  Why not make it an even 100, you ask?  I was tempted, but on Sunday by the time I ran 8 miles, then ran 2 more at the gym, then taught BodyPump, then came home and did yard work for 2.5 hours, I was beat.  I decided that the 100-mile-week milestone would have to wait one more season.

This past week can be described in two words:  tired and slow.  I think all of the miles caught up to me this week as my body was feeling pretty beat up for most of these runs.   While I complain about it, I secretly love peak weeks like this.  There's something about knocking out each of the long runs (and double runs!) on the schedule that makes you feel invincible.  I also really enjoy being able to eat tons of food to fuel all of the miles.   I try to make most of it quality food, but I'll admit I allow myself a few more treats than usual to celebrate a high-mileage week.

Pumped to knock out 12 miles at pace!

Let's recap it up!  I started the week coming off of a really great run.  I was up in Gettysburg with my family visiting my in-laws over the weekend and had to do my last pace-mile long run up there.  Let's get something straight:  I did NOT want to do this run.  I was nervous about having to do an 18-mile run w/12 miles at pace solo and on unfamiliar (and hilly) terrain.  In the days leading up to it I even emailed a few of my running friends to get their opinion:  push the run to the following week so that I'd have company on the pace miles?  Move the run to two weeks from now to be able to do it on a flatter course in more of a true Erie marathon course simulation?  It took a good friend of mine about two seconds to figure out what I needed:  A good kick in the pants.  He saw through my excuses and knew that I needed to get over my anxiety, gather my courage and just go do it.   Once he refused to give me an out, I knew he was right.  I just needed to go and get it done.   So I ran 18 miles, on my own, on a hot day up in hilly Gettysburg - and had my best pace-mile run to date:  18 miles with 12 of them at an average 6:40 pace.  I was stoked.   So with that awesome run to kick off this week, I got to work.

Monday:  10 miles, 8:06 avg. pace.   The high from the awesome Saturday run had worn off by this point and I felt like this one was more tiring than it should have been.   A tendon around my ankle was killing me and I started panicking that the hills and severely cambered roads in Gettysburg had wrecked my foot.  Made a quick appointment to get it looked at.  Taught BodyPump later this afternoon and felt like I was digging deep to find the energy.

Tuesday: 11 miles, 8:27 avg. pace  2nd run: 7 miles, 8:57 avg.   Ran a few miles on my own and then ran a friend's 5x1000m workout with him at the track.  Then met my mom at the Y for an easy 7 on the treadmill.  Had Graston & ultrasound on peroneal tendon in ankle later in the day and was extremely relieved that it seemed to help.  The tendon felt much better, but still a bit strained. Pushed my track workout to Thursday in hopes it would give it a bit more time to heal.

Wednesday: 12 miles, 8:12 avg. pace  2nd run:  4 miles, 8:57 avg.   So thankful for a friend's company on the first run of the day.  The humidity was killing me and I had to remind myself multiple times that this was still preferable to the icy cold 20-degree runs of last winter.   The ankle tendon was still bugging me but it thankfully felt much better.  Whew.  Ran the second run of the day at the YMCA before my core class.

Thursday:  12 miles, 8:16 avg. pace.  5x600 today on the schedule and Pfitzinger's book must have read my mind because that's all these tired legs could handle. Didn't even have a pace in mind - just set out to do them at an uncomfortably fast level. Thankfully I had my rabbit (my speedy friend Kevin) again to make sure I didn't wimp out. My legs were TIRED for this one (taught BodyPump at 6:30pm the night before) and if it's possible, the humidity was worse than yesterday!!! This was one of those runs where you think to yourself on the warmup "how on earth am I going to run faster than this?".   Managed to get out a few solid intervals (paces for the 600s were: 5:57, 6:08, 5:54, 5:40, 5:40) but it wasn't pretty.

Gotta save room for some peak week treats!  Sugar Shack donuts - the sea salt caramel (bottom left) was my favorite.

Friday:  22.2 miles, 8:38 avg. pace.  Starting at 4:18am made for an early alarm but I got in 7 miles on my own, then met Kevin for 2.5, then ran with my Dad for 10 miles at his pace, then finally ran a few on my own to finish up. Whew. Had a giant waffle at my house afterwards (carbs!!!!!) and it was SO GOOD.  Needed to get this run done today since I had to leave early on Saturday to get to my nephew's birthday party in DC!

Saturday:  8 miles, 7:57 avg. pace.   This was all I had time for before hopping in the car to DC.  I felt sluggish on this one but the cooler morning (60 degrees!!) made my legs feel better than expected.

Sunday: 8 miles, 7:58 avg. pace.  2nd run: 2 miles, 8:57 avg. pace.  Don't let the average pace fool you:  I felt like I was barely moving on this one.  So very tired.  Ran laps around the track just for some flat ground. After a long day yesterday I was wiped out this morning. Had a coffee after the run and prayed it would kick in before my 2 extra miles at the Y before teaching Pump!   As I mentioned above, I was sorely tempted to make this an even 100 miles for the week, but was beat.  It'll have to wait :)

Total:  96 miles

Overall, I'm feeling...optimistic.  And anxious.  I'm a bit paranoid that something random is going to take me out at the last minute (twisting an ankle steeping off a curb, pulling my back taking groceries into the house, etc.)  and all of the hard work over that last 6 months will have been for naught.  I am sure that all marathoners feel the same way as they get to the end of the season - there's nothing worse than having something crop up at the last minute that derails all of your training!   My poor family is going to be in for a rough ride the next few weeks as I try to temper my anxiety and pent-up energy as we creep closer and closer to race day.

I've got one more week of moderately high mileage and then I hit the taper.  I'm so close, you guys.  I'll take all of the good vibes, thoughts, and prayers you care to send.  I just want a shot at it.  18 days to go!!



How to Choose Your Marathon Goal

Go big or go home? Greetings from Taperville!  I can't tell you how excited I am to have made it thus far without (knock on wood again) major incident.  Now that the bulk of the hard work is done, I thought I'd take today to talk about what's been on my mind for the past week or so:  how to chose my marathon goal.

For those of you who are running their very first marathon, your first goal should be just to finish!!  It's an amazing accomplishment to train and run 26.2 and when you do it for the first time, that's enough of a goal in itself.  It's an automatic PR!   No need to worry about time goals just yet.

But for those of us who've run one or two (or eight) of these things before, how do you go about choosing a time goal for your race?   When I'm making up my race day plan, I like to choose three goals:

An "A" Goal - This is your big (but still achievable) goal - it's the time you shoot for if the stars align and you wake up to great race day weather and a body that feels ready to roll and get the job done.

A "B" Goal -  This is a goal you'd still be happy with even if you deal with crummy weather or other adverse race conditions.  Perhaps it's to snag a PR, or just run the race at a solid effort - but it's a goal that should feel achievable in most scenarios.

A "C" Goal - A goal that you feel you can reach almost no matter what.  This might be just to finish the race. Or to continue pushing hard in those last 6 miles.   This a great goal to have in mind if you find yourself in a race day scenario where things are going from bad to worse quickly.  (i.e. it's terrible weather, you drop all of your race nutrition on the ground (yes it's happened to me), you have to make pit stops during the race, etc.)

So now that you know about these three types of goals, how do you set them?  I've honestly struggled with setting mine for weeks now.  I've settled on two of them:

My "C" goal was the easiest - finish the race and don't give up.

And my "B" goal will be to PR - to run under a 3:09.  

But my "A" goal....that's tougher.   I went into this season just coming off a significant injury (my stress fracture) and honestly I wasn't sure I'd even make it to the taper in one piece.  Thankfully this season has gone better than expected and I'm here.   Normally I'd have gone into my 12-week training block with an end goal in mind for the full marathon - a time that I'd use to help me decide which paces to run over the course of the season so that I could prepare.  In some ways, I sort of did that.   When I started the training, I thought about how cool it would be to run under 3 hours.  But....that's over 9 minutes faster than my current PR (3:09 set at Shamrock last year).  So I can't say I expected to really go for that goal in the actual marathon, but I decided to try and run my pace miles at or around the pace I'd need for a sub-3 time.  (6:52/mile)  And for the most part, I managed it.  I did three runs that included marathon-paced miles as part of my long run, with those marathon-paced miles totaling 8 miles at pace for the first run, 9.4 for the second (the Frostbite 15K race), and 12 miles for the last run.   I averaged 6:48 for the pace miles.   Okay so far, right?   BUT.  Those pace miles felt very challenging.  I managed it, but it wasn't comfortable at all.  And on my tempo runs and speed work I found that I wasn't able to hit the corresponding paces that McMillan's calculator suggested I should be hitting if I was hoping to run sub-3.   Yikes.  On the positive side, this season I've upped my mileage and was thrilled that it has seemed to help my recovery time tremendously.  I've also added in BodyPump this season (both teaching and taking the class) and that has also added to the total stress on my legs.  So...here I am.  I've got a season where I've hit the pace mile runs, but not quite the tempo/speedwork runs.  And I've upped my mileage and added strength training with success.  Where does that leave me?  Go for sub-3 or not?

Ultimately, for anyone out there reading, I suggest that to set your "A" goal, you take a look at your training over the season and see what it tells you.   Look at your pace miles (if you did them) or your splits for your long runs to get an idea of what you might be capable of on race day.  Keep in mind your body's current state (healthy?  No lingering injuries?) and the amount of training you may have missed along the way.  Once you look over your key workouts and season as a whole, then decide on what you think you can run on race day.

That being said, my "A" goal probably should be somewhere around sub 3:05.   It's a challenging time to hit and while my season suggests I'm capable of that, it won't be easy to get there.  But there's one more piece of this puzzle:  heart.    I look back on the training I've done this season and at times I simply can't believe that I've made it through unscathed. (Of course, now that I've put this out there I'm sure I've thoroughly jinxed myself)  I only run two marathons a year - if I'm lucky. I feel like in many ways I've been given a gift this season - a rare opportunity to try and do something big.  To try for that sub-3.  It's a gamble for sure.  I may get to mile 13, realize that the pace is WAY too fast and crash and burn to struggle home for a 3:20 finish.  Or I could have the race of my life and nab the time.   But at this point I feel like.....how can I not TRY?  Just try.  It may go horribly, I know.  But you won't know until you give it a chance.  And while I would be very bummed if I blew up and struggled in, I think I might be more disappointed to not even attempt it.  So that's what I'm going to do.

My "A" goal is to run a 2:59 marathon.

From now until the race I'm going to be putting my energy into convincing myself that I can do it.  That it's possible, that I'm ready and that all of the work I've done over the last few months will carry me to the finish.  I may never get a season like this again, so I'm going to make the most of it.

I'm hoping I fly

Any words of wisdom for me?  Good thoughts and prayers are also greatly appreciated. :)

Racing in the Rain - Frostbite 15K report

Yup.  Rain or shine it was time to race! I signed up for the local Frostbite 15K in order to use it as a training run/workout where I could do some marathon-paced miles.  It's always more fun to do race-paced miles in a race environment where you have the company of others and a great opportunity to practice fueling/hydrating at pace.   I didn't taper for the race, but was hopeful that I'd get to race day and feel pretty good maintaining marathon pace for the duration.  Since the race was on Sunday, I shifted my recovery miles to Saturday and ran 12 miles with my Dad and a friend at a good recovery pace (9:15/mi).    After a good dinner of spaghetti and a (fairly) decent night of sleep, it was time to roll.


Race morning dawned and was RAINY.  I ate my breakfast (english muffin - half with peanut butter, half with cream cheese), had a serving of UCAN, and tried not to stress about the fact that I could hear the rain pounding on the roof.   With wipers going full blast and cars going 45mph on the interstate, I slowly made my way over to the starting location for the race.  It was shaping up to be a very, very wet morning.

A friend of mine had (very kindly) offered to meet me an hour or so before start time for some extra mileage.  I'd wanted around 16-17 for the day, so we were going to get in 6 miles beforehand.  I was so loathe to get out of my nice warm car, but knowing that I'd have company for those miles was a huge help.   Two minutes into our warmup we were SOAKED.  Soaked to the point that we didn't even try to avoid the puddles - there was no point!  We were as wet as we could possibly be.  A cold and damp 6 miles later, I hopped back into my car and used my two towels to dry off and change into my next set of clothes for the race.  I was feeling pretty decent after the warmup, and hopeful that it wouldn't be so bad.  After changing and taking one of my Honey Stinger gels, I threw a trash bag on to shield my second set of clothes until the start and hopped back out into the rain.  I was doing ok until...all of the sudden I could not stop shivering.  My teeth were chattering so hard that I had a hard time talking.  With only 3-4 minutes until the start I just wanted to GET THIS OVER WITH!!

My (now totally soaked) multiple changes of clothes!

Thankfully, we were soon off and underway.  My friend was hoping to run around the same pace as I was for the first 5 miles and it was wonderful to have him there to help pace me.  We started a tiny bit fast (but not terrible) and I was so cold and wet that it was actually feeling pretty decent to be generating some heat from the faster pace.

Miles 1-4 (6:42, 6:43, 6:45, 6:42)  Miles 1-4 were wet, but pretty close to my goal pace.  Since we'd gotten so much rain overnight there was so much standing water in places that the race marshals had us hop off the road and onto the muddy ground to try and avoid the huge patches of water.  It was definitely a first for me in a race!

Mile 5-7 (6:46, 6:43, 6:56) I was feeling pretty decent at around mile 5 when my friend decided he was going to go on ahead.  I was content to just continue to try and run my pace.  But then...the hills started.  There were some hills on the first half of the course as well, but I think the hills on the back half are worse - most likely they just feel harder because of the fact that you've already run 5 miles (or a total of 11 in my case) and are a bit fatigued.   I tried to take my gel, but only managed to get about half of it in my mouth since my hands were so cold and I was uncoordinated.  By mile 6 I was finding it harder to maintain my pace without putting in quite a bit more effort.  I was bummed we had over 3 miles to go but tried to stay positive and run the tangents.  I leap-frogged a bit with a girl in front of me.  She was in 5th place and I thought it would be cool to come in 5th so I passed her.  But a mile or two later she caught me and by that point my legs were pretty toast.  Mile 7 was a welcome sight but I had a moment of panic when a volunteer shouted out "Only a 5K left!!" and I thought "I think I'll die if we actually have a 5K left" - thank goodness his math was wrong!


Miles 8-9.3 (6:51, 7:07, 6:48 (0.47mi on my watch) Mile 8 was my worst thanks to two big hills it made my pace tank by quite a bit.  I was getting discouraged by seeing a 7:xx on my Garmin and was upset at myself that I couldn't quite find the energy to care about catching the #5 girl in front of me (who I could still see).  I know that's something I need to work on for future races.  I don't have much of a "finishing kick" and I just mentally couldn't turn that switch on today that would encourage me to hunt her down.  It was more like "Meh.  It's nasty out here and I'm struggling to hold my pace - I don't have the extra energy to chase her down.".  And I know that's probably not the best way to be towards the end of the race!   I did manage to pick up the pace when I knew we only had less than a mile to go.  The thought of getting into warm, dry clothes was spurring me on but the legs were definitely feeling the fatigue.  By the time we hit the hill to the finish (cruel, isn't it? We finish on an uphill!), I was toast.  Happy to be done, I ended up at 1:04:31, 6th female overall.    My Garmin pace was 6:49/mi (I had a total of 9.47 mi for total race distance though - perhaps due to the off-roading we had to do in order to avoid all the standing water), but the official average pace per the 9.3 course was 6:55/mi.

$25 to our local running store and my ribbon!

A cool down mile and a half in the rain (thanks again to my friend for being there to make me do this - I was sorely tempted to just go to my car and get warm and dry!) and I was done for the day.  My warm clothes felt so awesome and I was so happy to get inside for the post-race awards and attempt to warm up.   I was 1st in my age group and won a ribbon and a gift card to a local running store!

Now that it's done, I have acknowledged that there were some good and bad things about this run.   The good:  I pretty much held my goal pace for this race if you use my Garmin time. (Yay?) I got to practice running that pace in the rain, and fueling and drinking at that pace as well (which was more challenging than I thought!).   The bad:  It was a nasty day.  My clothes and hat and shoes and socks and EVERYTHING was completely soaked by mile 2 and felt very heavy as the race went on.  I was mad at myself for not chasing down the #5 girl, and bummed that I was as fatigued as I was at the end of the race.  And it was tough to swallow that my time was close a minute slower than last year's.   It's hard not to get discouraged when you realize that this pace that feels challenging for 9.3 miles is supposed to be the pace I'll run for 26.2 miles in two months!

I am not yet revising my goal pace, but recognize that I may need to.  I've got one more marathon-paced workout (12 miles at MP) coming up in two weeks and we'll see how that one goes.  I'm hopeful that it goes well and will give me a little more confidence about the pace.  In the meantime, I'm going to try and work on some positive visualizations/affirmations to help try and get my head out of the way.  I feel that mentally (consciously or not) I had already determined that this wouldn't be a great day and therefore I didn't push as hard as I probably could.   I need to get more of that fire in me that helps drive me to chase down those people in front of me when I'm at the end of the race - rather than sit there complacently and run it in.  But!  I am still so very thankful that I'm healthy at this point in the season and am able to run and push the pace at all.  Rain or not, it's so awesome to be out there.

Total mileage: 83 miles for the week.

Any tips for how to cultivate that fire in you that helps you to go "chase 'em down"?  

Any positive visualizations/affirmations that help you wrap your head around a goal pace that feels challenging?