Big Sur Marathon Training: Week Ten

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 5.51.47 PMI had a huge week in training this past week. It was my peak mileage week of my entire training program and I ran my highest mileage for the whole week, logging 41 miles for a total of 172 miles for the month of March. That’s 42 miles more than my previous monthly mileage total. Best part? My legs aren’t completely dead! I thought they would be after this week but they’re still feeling good. My outdoor allergies kicked in this week though and that set me back on my paces a bit but pace isn’t too important for me right now since I’m just aiming to finish the marathon. Here are my workouts from last week:

Monday: Cross training day- 50 minutes of Vinyasa flow yoga. I went to a vinyasa flow yoga class at the Energy Center at work. It was a bit more intense than usual which was good because it really felt like a workout. We did a lot of hip openers and hamstring stretches which was just what I needed after last week’s training.

Tuesday: 7 miles easy in 1:03:00 at 9:09/mile pace.

I’ve been dealing with some bad allergies lately so the whole breathing part of this run was a bit difficult. But the weather was so absolutely gorgeous so that made the run very enjoyable. I had planned to split up my mileage today but when two co-workers said they wanted to do a full 7 miles during our lunch run, I jumped at the opportunity. My splits:

Mile 1 – 8:58/mile
Mile 2 – 8:54/mile
Mile 3 – 8:53/mile
Mile 4 – 9:01/mile
Mile 5 – 9:26/mile
Mile 6 – 9:22/mile
Mile 7 – 9:05/mile

Wednesday: Double workout day, two runs for a total of 7 miles.

Run 1 of 2- 5.15 miles in 46:00 at 8:55/mile pace. This run went really well, however my allergies are giving me tons of trouble in terms of breathing. I went out for a lunch run with my roommate and showed her the 5-mile loop we usually do during the day. I felt good the whole time but I’m starting to realize my pace is dependent on whether or not I have music- i.e. I run much faster when I’m listening to music than when I go without. I hate having this crutch but I’m also not willing to give it up just yet. My splits:

Mile 1 – 8:55/mile
Mile 2 – 8:54/mile
Mile 3 – 9:07/mile
Mile 4 – 9:04/mile
Mile 5 – 8:53/mile

Run 2 of 2 of the day for a total of 7.15 miles. I ran this one after work at the gym, on the dreadmill but it was good, easy and quick. I felt good the whole time.

Mile 1 – 8:34/mile
Mile 2 – 8:28/mile

30 minutes of strength training: arms, abs and hamstrings.

Thursday: 6 miles easy in 54:00 at 8:58/mile pace.

On this run, I learned running, breathing and allergies aren’t a good combo. Add strong headwinds to the mix and you’re in trouble. This was a kind of slow and generally uncomfortable run. My paces weren’t bad but I just felt like I was going in slow motion because of the wind and my struggle to breathe. My splits:

Mile 1 – 9:10/mile
Mile 2 – 9:03/mile
Mile 3 – 9:03/mile
Mile 4 – 8:57/mile
Mile 5 – 8:47/mile
Mile 6 – 8:47/mile

Friday: Rest and foam roll

Saturday: 17 miles in 2:43:00 at 9:35/mile.

This wasn’t the best run ever. My allergies were really giving me a hard time so breathing was a bit of an issue. I did everything I did last weekend for my 20-miler to prep for this one but it just wasn’t the same. At one point I contemplated cutting it really short because my hear just wasn’t in it. This taught me the meaning of “relentless forward motion.” Not every run is going to be great but if you can get it done that’s all that matters.

(1) 9:34 (2) 8:56 (3) 9:12 (4) 9:23 (5) 9:36 (6) 9:43 (7) 9:32 (8) 9:30 (9) 10:15 (10) 9:52 (11) 9:45 (12) 9:41 (13) 9:45 (14) 9:42 (15) 9:47 (16) 9:37 (17) 9:22

Sunday: 4-mile recovery run in 35:00 at 8:45/mile.

I really wanted to run today but when I was coming back from Philly this morning, I was just so tired and unmotivated to get out the door. I’m so glad I did though because the run was great and just what I needed to clear my mind. It’s really true, you never regret a run. My splits:

Mile 1 – 9:27
Mile 2 – 8:42
Mile 3 – 8:40
Mile 4 – 8:12

Weekly mileage total: 41 miles.

See all training recaps here.

20-Mile Bliss

ShoesTen weeks ago, I downloaded my first-timers marathon training plan and entered my weekly mileage goals into my calendar- both on my computer and on paper. I like having it down on paper so I can physically cross it out once it’s done and feel like I really accomplished something.

As I entered the workouts and mileage onto my calendar, one number stopped me- 20 miles. That’s like, really far, I thought. But at that time, back in January, I had every right to be intimidated by this number. The most I had ever run was 14 miles so I had no business thinking about 20 miles yet. Also, it seemed so far away at that point, it just felt out of reach.

But then last week as I was staring down my Saturday long run, I knew it was time. I had built up to 18-mile long runs, done them twice, so I was ready for 20, theoretically. After all, it’s only 2 more miles, right? I asked around my office for advice, how do you make it through, are there any tricks, can I split it up? The answers were all helpful but it didn’t do much to calm my nerves.

On Friday, with my midweek runs crossed out, I had two more workouts left- the 20-miler and a shakeout. At that point I still couldn’t really fathom actually running 20 miles. But I did what I always do for long runs. I set out my clothes on the floor, picked out my socks, tights, shirt, windbreaker, and shoes. I laid out my Gu packets- two vanilla bean and one mocha- I placed my handheld water bottle next to my gear, and got my headphones ready to go. My Garmin would charge overnight, my breakfast was planned and alarm set. I was prepared.

I woke up Saturday morning to sunny, blue skies and I actually felt calm, ready and even excited. Before heading out I logged into the Runner’s World Challenge forums to check to see if anyone had any extra advice. One Challenger, Mark, suggested I not think of the run as a 20-mile run but rather four 5-mile runs strung together.

“Five miles is easy,” he wrote. “You’ve done it many times.”

So I set out for my four 5-mile runs, at least that’s how I was thinking about it, and the time flew. I honestly couldn’t tell you what I thought about during the whole run but before I knew it, 3 hours and 6 minutes later, I was back at my apartment doorstep, beaming from an excellent run.  I was in utter bliss.

After showering, stretching and eating, I went to a friend’s house for a BBQ. One friend asked me how my run went and then said running 20 miles would be a form of torture for her.

Valid point, I thought but it got me wondering, as distance runners, why do we do what we do? Why do we voluntarily spend three hours on a Saturday morning, alone or with a group, running miles most people won’t drive in a single day? Why do we put up with the injuries, time spent away from friends and family, hours spent training, for something we’re neither forced nor required to do? Every runner has a different reason for training for a certain race distance. Some runners start training for their first 5-K to lose weight. Others are pushing themselves running tempos and intervals after working full-time day jobs to try to snatch the illustrious and prestigious BQ (Boston qualifying time). Where other runners just run to run, not for any particular goal or race but just because they enjoy it.

For me, running started off as a way to prove something to myself. To prove if I worked hard enough I could achieve the (seemingly) impossible. But now it’s evolved into something so much bigger. It’s runs like my first 20-miler last weekend that remind me why I fell in love with running a year ago. It’s hard to explain but the love for running is a bond all distance runners share, at least I like to think so.

All I know is, I came home from my run and went right to my calendar and with a black ink pen, I crossed off my first 20-miler. Now that, was bliss.

Big Sur Marathon Training: Week Nine

"Everything is possible."

“Everything is possible.”

I had a really, really good week of training for week nine. I’m still beaming actually! I logged my highest weekly mileage ever- 40 miles!- and tackled my very first 20-mile run and I’m happy to report it went flawlessly, much better than last week’s 17-miler. I was nervous going into training at the beginning of the week because my legs were noticeably fatigued from the racing/long run combo the weekend before but as the week went on, I felt myself getting stronger and better yet, more confident with my running. Here are my workouts from week nine:

Monday: Yoga- I did the Lululemon Yoga for Runners (Recovery)

Tuesday: 4 miles in 33:58 at 8:29/mile pace.

I was happy the weather cleared in time for my lunch run. It actually ended up being really sunny and nice for the whole run. I wanted to take it easy after my crazy weekend of running last weekend but I went a little faster than anticipated. My right ankle has been a little sore though so I’m going to need to do some serious foam rolling and icing later on tonight. My splits:

Mile 1 – 8:55/mile
Mile 2 – 8:37/mile
Mile 3 – 8:35/mile
Mile 4 – 7:50/mile

Wednesday: First run of the day was a hill workout- 6 miles (two ginormous hills) in 58:34 at 9:45/mile.

I forced myself to do a hill workout because I hadn’t done one in a few weeks (although most of my runs involve significant hills). We usually run this huge hill in the back of our office building but this time we did that, went down the backside of the mountain and then ran back up- two hills for the price of… well, two huge hills. It was hard and I had to walk some of the first hill but I’m really proud to report I didn’t walk ANY of the second hill!

Mile 1 – 9:07/mile (warmup)
Mile 2 – 11:27/mile (first hill and lots of walking)
Mile 3 – 10:29/mile (still on the first hill, less walking)
Mile 4 – 9:59/mile (second hill, no walking)
Mile 5 – 9:01/mile
Mile 6 – 8:32/mile

Second run: Easy 1 mile on the treadmill in 8:40 followed by strengthening exercises.

Day total: 7 miles in 1:07

Thursday: 5.05 miles in 44:22 at 8:47/mile pace.

This run was neither here nor there. It was a good pace and I felt good but my right ankle was still a little funky. I’ll keep foam rolling and icing. My splits:

Mile 1 – 8:56/mile
Mile 2 – 8:45/mile
Mile 3 – 8:47/mile
Mile 4 – 8:51/mile
Mile 5 – 8:36/mile

Friday: Rest and ice my ankle.

Saturday: 20 miles in 3:06:18 at 9:18/mile pace.

This was my first 20-miler of my marathon training and my longest distance ever. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous for this but I felt oddly calm before heading out. My legs felt amazing the whole time, no hip or ankle pain! In a lot of my long runs the last two miles are the worst because my legs are just done but that wasn’t the case for the 20-miler. I also couldn’t believe the pace I was able to maintain despite all of the hills on my run. Here are my splits:

(1) 9:29 (2) 8:54 (3) 9:11 (4) 9:08 (5) 9:17 (6) 9:16 (7) 9:13 (8) 9:03 (9) 9:44 (10) 9:43 (11) 9:38 (12) 9:30 (13) 9:21 (14) 9:10 (15) 9:30 (16) 9:15 (17) 9:28 (18) 9:07 (19) 9:04 (20) 9:16

Elevation gain: ~400 feet

Sunday: 4 mile shakeout run in 36:00 at 8:57/mile pace.

When I woke up my legs were DOMS city post long run but I had a 4-mile easy shakeout on my schedule. I thought it was going to be super slow but once I got going my legs actually started to feel better. I am now a big believer in the post long run shakeout. My splits:

Mile 1 – 9:32/mile
Mile 2 – 8:56/mile
Mile 3 – 8:54/mile
Mile 4 – 8:29/mile

Weekly mileage total: 40 miles.

See all weekly training recaps here.

Pros and Cons of Running Doubles

Fit your run inMy marathon training plan has me running pretty high mileage during the week. I usually have at least one 7-mile run midweek and in the coming weeks I’ll be logging upwards of 20 miles between my runs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. While my training plan is a little more aggressive than a typical first-time marathoner training schedule, many marathon training plans, no matter the experience level of the runner, have at least one high mileage day during the week. If you’re like me and have a pretty busy work schedule, it’s hard to log the mileage in one run so I opt to split it up during the day and run what’s referred to as a double, or running twice in one day, a.k.a. two-a-days.

At first, I was weary about doing this because I thought I might not be getting the full benefit of a 7 or 8-mile run on a Wednesday, but after asking around and a little research, I learned running doubles actually has more pros than cons. If done correctly, running a double can boost fitness and build mileage (without feeling like you’ve been running forever).

When I have a double day on my schedule, like I did on Wednesday, I like to make one run a “workout” and the other an easy, recovery run. Since I’m training for Big Sur, my workout focus was on hills. I had to run a total of 7 miles for the day but instead went out for a 6 mile run at lunch that included two intense hills with an elevation grade that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 2.47.30 PM

Since I already got 6-miles of my daily mileage total done, after work I only had to run a mile so I opted for a slow, recovery run at the gym followed by tons of stretching and some strength exercises.

This was a more intense double day than I usually do. Usually I’ll split up a 7-mile run into a 4-mile tempo run at lunch followed by a 3-mile recovery run after work. I prefer to do my second run at the gym because then I’m able to get some strength training in after but you can do it outside too.

One tip I have for running doubles is to make sure you do some dynamic stretching before your second run. You’re muscles are going to be a little tight from your first run, especially if it was a workout, so you want to make sure you warm up before going right into the run. Then, as always, be sure to stretch out after your second run and hydrate- running twice in one day takes more out of you than you think!

Still not convinced about the benefits of two-a-days? Don’t you fret, of course I asked Twitter for its opinion on the pros and cons of running doubles. Here’s what people had to say:

There are also some cons though, although the majority seem to revolve around having to shower twice in one day.

So if you can get past showering twice in one day, endless hunger and not to mention some extra laundry, two-a-days really aren’t that bad. At the end of the day you have to ask yourself: how bad do you want it and how much are you willing to work for your goal?

Big Sur Marathon Training: Week Eight

A prerace photo with my friends before the Holyoke St. Patrick's Day 10-K!

A prerace photo with my friends before the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day 10-K!

This past week was a great one for training. I was able to get in all my training runs, including my first ever attempt at Yasso 800s and my first 10-K (race). I also was able to go back to Massachusetts for the weekend to spend time with my close friends and family and honestly, it was the most perfect weekend. I couldn’t have asked for a better week of running and I hope this week will be the same! Here are my workouts:

Monday: Cross-training day. I went to metabolic boot camp at the gym after work. It was no-repeats Monday and we did four circuits with five different exercises for 40 seconds on and 20 seconds off.

Tuesday: Easy 5-miler in 44:00 at 8:52/mile pace.

I thought this run was going to be awful because for one, it was on the treadmill, and secondly, I forgot my headphones and there’s nothing worse than running 5 miles on the treadmill with only Sports Center on repeat to keep you entertained. So, I decided to entertain myself by running intervals. During ever commercial break I cranked the speed up to 7.1 mph and during the show I ran at 6.6 mph. This kept be entertained enough to make it through the run feeling great.

Wednesday: Easy 3-mile in 25:12 at 8:24/mile pace.

This was a really great, short lunchtime run. My shorter distance runs are starting to get much faster and what’s even better is the faster average pace is feeling easier. I think after Big Sur, during the summer, I’m going to focus on shorter distance races and trying to get faster overall. My splits:

Mile 1 – 8:32/mile
Mile 2 – 8:23/mile
Mile 3 – 8:16/mile

Thursday: Yasso 800s- 7 miles with 6×800 at goal marathon time, in 1:01:00 at 8:42/mile pace.

My first ever attempt at Yasso 800s was a success! (And that’s a good thing because Bart himself came over to my cubicle on Thursday to make fun of me for never having done them) My training plan called for 7 miles with 6×800 at pace. I ran this on the treadmill because I don’t have access to a track and I thought it would be the best way to make sure I hit my pace.

1-mile warmup at 9:22/mile pace.
6×800 at 4:00 with 200m in between at an easy pace.
1.5-mile cool down.

Friday: Rest day!

Saturday: Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Road Race (10-K) – Official finish time 53:55 at 8:34/mile pace. Came in 1787 out of 5777 (top 30 percent!) overall and 332 out of 1657 for my age group (women 2-39 years old) which was top 20 percent!

I ran my first 10-K ever Saturday and while I wasn’t trying to race it I ended up doing pretty well! The course was extremely hilly which I thought would be hard but didn’t turn out to be too bad except for the final hill right before the finish. My splits:

Mile 1 – 9:14/mile
Mile 2 – 9:22/mile
Mile 3 – 8:55/mile
Mile 4 – 8:42/mile
Mile 5 – 7:41/mile
Mile 6 – 7:56/mile
Mile 7 – 2:03/mile (for 0.28)

Sunday: 17-mile long, slow distance in 2:49:00 at 9:56/mile pace.

Probably wasn’t the best idea to run my long run the day after racing but lesson-learned. It was really great though to get to run with my cousin Paige and my friend Lindsey. We took it really easy because we were all tired from yesterday’s 10-K that we promised we wouldn’t race but ended up racing anyway. It was also a tough route we ended up choosing because there were a ton of hills but it was a really nice run. The wind set us back a bit too but overall, a great run with great friends.

Total mileage: 38 miles

See all training recaps here.

On Marathon Training and Getting (Much) Faster

(source: Pinterest)

(source: Pinterest)

I tend to get a little bit ahead of myself when it comes to goals. For example, when I first started running last March I registered for a goal 5-K race, but when I had to miss it to cover a story for work, I registered for a new race- a 4-miler. What’s one more mile I thought?

After a successful race, in the pouring rain, I decided, on a bit of a whim and a lot of peer-pressure from my cousin, to register for a half-marathon. Couch-to-5K-to-4-mile-to-Half-Maraton, sounds good right? No problem.

Before we even finished training for the half, my cousin begged me to register for a full marathon with her and our friend Lindsey, less than 14 weeks away. While I was heavily considering it, and even wrote a blog post about it, I knew it would be a bad idea- too much too soon. Then, my body decided to pull in the reins by giving me a lovely, painful bout of IT Band Syndrome to remind me I wasn’t Shalane Flanagan and I needed to calm down.

I ran the half and was really happy with my finish. It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t the best race, but I finished 13.1 miles. Woah. Then I landed a position as an editor at Runner’s World. If I thought the peer pressure to race from my cousin was bad, the peer pressure at Runner’s World is on a whole other level. But it’s healthy right?

It took my fellow staffers about five minutes to convince me to run my second half-marathon in January with less than a month to train, but I set a PR, by 17 minutes! Coming off of that I was confident and ready to make the distance leap up to a full marathon- the Big Sur International Marathon to be exact.

I’ve been training for the Big Sur for about eight weeks now and I’ve been feeling really good. I’ve been running my highest mileage weeks ever and my longest distances ever- longest run so far ahs been 18 miles. I knew what I was getting myself into with the mileage, and it didn’t surprise me that I’d be able to handle it because the build-up is so gradual. What I didn’t expect to see was an difference in my average paces.

Since I started running my average paces have always hovered around the mid-9-minute mile range. This was fine by me because I wasn’t experienced at racing and since I kept increasing my distances, the goal was always just to finish, not to hit any specific time goal. But now, my mid-week short runs of 3, 4 and 5 miles have been averaging 8-minute per mile paces and sometimes, on the 3 and 4-mile runs, the mid-7-minute per mile paces. This is new. Who do I think I am, being all fast and whatnot?  The more alarming (exciting?) part is this- it doesn’t feel hard.

Basically, I’m starting to get faster and I don’t know what to do about it since I’m currently training for a marathon. I don’t want to take these faster paces out on a long run because that sounds like a recipe for disaster and/or (probably) injury. But, I also don’t want to lose this newfound sense of speed. See my dilemma?

Circling back to how I opened this post, I’m getting ahead of myself, both literally and figuratively. I need to focus on the goal at hand and that is to complete Big Sur, my first marathon. The course is not an easy one but I want to finish feeling good and having enjoyed the experience. I can’t and won’t be able to maintain these faster average paces for a whole 26.2 miles but that doesn’t mean I won’t be able to use them after the marathon.

So, I’ve decided this summer, post marathon recovery of course, I’m going to focus on shorter distances. Focusing on shorter distances will help me to get faster and more importantly, teach me how to race. Since I will have hit my goal distance PR with Big Sur (I never plan on doing more than 26.2 miles in one race) I need to get back to basics and learn how to race. This is going to help me not only with shorter distances but with the next marathon I run. While I believe in dreaming big and making goals, I also know getting ahead of myself too much can lead to injury or burnout. I’m going to take the rest of this training day-by-day and if I’m feeling good enough on a short run to run faster, then I will. If not, I’ll see you this summer 7-minute miles!

Do you sometimes get ahead of yourself with running goals? How do you deal with it?

Big Sur Marathon Training: Week Seven

Photo from Sunday's recovery run through Trexler Park.

Photo from Sunday’s recovery run through Trexler Park.

Another week down, another week closer to the starting line. Training went really well this week. It included an early morning run, speedy mile splits, yoga, a glorious long run and shorts! The weather over the weekend was absolutely gorgeous and has put me in the best mood (despite losing an hour of sleep). While this warm weather is not here to stay for very long it gave us all a taste of what’s to come: SPRING! Here is a recap of my workouts last week:

Monday: XT – Did a 50-minute yoga class at the gym at work. This class was a bit more challenging than one’s I’ve done in the past- which was a good thing. She had us doing a bunch of hip openers and twists which felt so good. Nice way to start off the week!

Tuesday: Easy 7 miles in 1:03:00 at 9:00/mile pace.

This was my longest pre-work run ever and honestly it felt great! I’m sitting in my cubicle now and I feel like I’ve already accomplished so much today! The run itself was really great too. I went out sans music because it was still kind of dark and I didn’t want to risk getting hit by a car. My splits were pretty good too which was really great. Overall, awesome run!

Mile 1 – 9:39/mile
Mile 2 – 8:59/mile
Mile 3 – 9:05/mile
Mile 4 – 9:24/mile
Mile 5 – 9:01/mile
Mile 6 – 8:52/mile
Mile 7 – 8:44/mile

Wednesday: 4-mile lunch run in 32:30 at 8:07/mile pace.

My lunch run went much better than anticipated. I thought it was going to be terrible, especially since there was supposedly a huge snowstorm coming and it decided to be super windy/rainy/snowy during my whole run. Alas, it was a great run and I don’t know where this speed is coming from on my shorter runs but I’m not complaining! My splits were:

Mile 1 – 8:35/mile
Mile 2 – 8:07/mile
Mile 3 – 8:15/mile
Mile 4 – 7:38/mile

Thursday: 7 miles total for the day, broken up into two runs.

Run 1 of 2: 5 miles in 45:16 at 8:52/mile pace. This was the first run of the day at lunchtime. I felt really good during this run and my paces were really great. I took it easy but I’m starting to notice what now feels like an easy pace is actually a lot faster than I’m used to. I had to do a total of 7 miles for the day but unfortunately for me, that’s too much for a lunch run. My splits were:

Mile 1 – 9:01/mile
Mile 2 – 8:51/mile
Mile 3 – 9:02/mile
Mile 4 – 8:51/mile
Mile 5 – 8:44/mile

Run 2 0f 2: 2 miles in 18:00 at 9:00/mile pace. This was the second run of the day, after work and on the treadmill. I took it really easy with the pace because I’ll admit, I’m afraid to run fast on the treadmill. My legs felt good though and it was a nice, easy run to wrap up the day.

30 minutes of strength training- Arms and core exercises.

Friday: Rest day- foam rolling and stretching

Saturday: 16 miles in 2:28:24 at 9:16/mile pace. (My last 16-miler was completed in 2:34:00- HUGE improvement!)

This run was absolutely AMAZING! It was a whole 6 minutes faster than my last 16-miler AND I set a half-marathon PR of 2:01 during the first 13-miles, who does that?! Seriously though, I needed this after last week’s terrible 12-mile run. I felt great the whole time, the weather was an unbelievable 55 degrees and sunny, and I think I finally got my fueling down (although I wouldn’t have minded more water). I went out a little fast to start but scaled back my pace in the middle to remain pretty consistent. Splits:

(1) 9:16

(2) 8:49

(3) 8:58

(4) 9:09

(5) 9:18

(6) 9:18

(7) 9:06

(8) 9:26

(9) 9:22

(10) 9:25

(11) 9:21

(12) 9:47 (humongous hill)

(13) 9:26

(14) 9:25

(15) 9:24

(16) 8:54

Sunday: 3.35 mile recovery run in 31:00 at 9:15/mile pace. I went for a nice recovery run through a local park with my roommate. It was just too beautiful out and instead of going on my normal running route, my roommate suggested we check out a park nearby instead. The park was PACKED with runners, cyclists, families and puppies. So fun!

Total mileage: 37 miles

See all training recaps here.

Respect the Long Run – No Matter the Distance

(source: Pinterest)

(source: Pinterest)

A few months ago, before I began training for Big Sur, I was talking with my Dad about running. My Dad is a 16-time marathon veteran, a nine-time Boston Marathoner, repping a 3:09 PR. He started running during the first running boom, which he describes as the “hippie days” of running, and while he doesn’t run very often anymore, he is still a vault of knowledge when it comes to anything having to do with running.

At the time of our conversation, I was getting ready to run my first half-marathon and in the midst of dealing with a pretty bad IT Band flare-up. He told me, “Hannah, running is like riding a rollercoaster- it can get you so high to the point of feeling invincible and send you crashing down in a second.” But, he reminded me, at some point the ride levels out.

I remembered this conversation while I was running my 12-mile long run last Saturday. It was a cutback week for me and I thought to myself, “12 miles, that’s a piece of cake!” Maybe I was overzealous coming off of successful back-to-back 16, 18, and 15-mile long runs. I was climbing the roller coaster and didn’t realize I was in for a long downwind decent. All I know is that 12-miler was one of my worst long runs in a long time.

But, you know what? It wasn’t just me who had a bad long run last weekend. In fact, many of my friends training for spring races had bad weekend runs. One person, who was also on a cutback week, said it perfectly – “I didn’t respect the long run.”

I know I didn’t respect the long run last weekend and the long run knew it too. Did I have to stay up until 12:30 the night before? Was it a great idea to try to squeeze in my run before a hair appointment in the late morning? I allotted myself 45 minutes of prep time before heading out the door, was that enough to digest my cereal and coffee? The answer to all of these is probably not.

I think it’s common in marathon training, at least in my experience, to assume the shorter long runs are going to be easy. But it’s that kind of thinking that leads to being less prepared for these shorter long runs. I tend to put the 16, 18, and 20 (which I have yet to do) milers on a pedestal. But in earnest, all long runs should be put on that same pedestal.

So why was the 12-miler such a bad run? It wasn’t that I was hurting and it wasn’t that I wanted to stop, I just felt like my heart wasn’t in it. My stomach felt terrible for some reason and all I could focus on was getting back to my apartment, showering and making it to my appointment on time. But looking back on this run, maybe I was not as prepared for it as I am for longer long runs, but I will take that as a lesson learned.

A blogger friend of mine, Michele Gonzales, had a less-than-fantastic long run last weekend as well. In her blog post about it, she said, as much as she enjoys a successful long run, there’s a lot to learn from the bad ones too. Whether a run is good or bad, short or long, goal pace or easy, there’s something to learn from every run. While these ups and downs can be strenuous, they are what levels us out in the end, so we can make it to the starting line, knowing what works.

Big Sur Marathon Training: Week Six

My fast 3-miler!

My fast 3-miler!

I can’t believe I’m already halfway through my training for Big Sur! I know it says I’m only at week six, but I picked up the training program two weeks in so I’m really at week eight. Since it’s the halfway point, this week was a cut back week in terms of mileage and long run distance. I thought this would be a much needed break, which it really was, but my long run ended up being a lot harder than I had expected it to be- and it was “only” 12 miles! I ran my runs in my new Brooks Ravenna 4s and I really like them. I was desperately in need of new shoes, and was having the ankle pain to prove it, so it was good to get in some new kicks.

Monday: XT – Today was a cross training day so I went to metabolic boot camp. It was no repeats Monday which means we did 4 circuits of 5 different exercises. I felt really good though!

Tuesday: Easy 5 miles in 46:38 minutes at 9:08/mile.

Today was my first run wearing my new Brooks Ravenna 4s and I really liked them! I maintained an easy pace- legs were a little sore after last night’s bootcamp- but overall the run was really good. It was actually kind of warm out which was a nice change!

I finally figured out how to view mile splits on my Garmin thanks to Laura, so now I’ll be posting them :)
Mile 1- 9:28/mile
Mile 2- 9:03/mile
Mile 3- 9:06/mile
Mile 4- 9:18/mile
Mile 5- 9:05/mile

Wednesday: 8 miles total for the day, split up in two different runs.

Run 1 of 2: This is the really tough hill workout I’ve been doing to prep for Big Sur. It has the same elevation gain as Big Sur’s Hurricane Point, but it’s over a mile instead of two miles- so steeper but shorter. I’m noticing some huge improvements though, not just with this workout but with my other runs as well. I hadn’t done this workout however in over 2 weeks so I wasn’t sure how it would go but it was definitely my best attempt yet! I ran more of the hill than I’ve been able to before and wasn’t as tired. Here were my splits:

Mile 1 (warmup) – 9:19
Mile 2 – 9:39
Mile 3 (hill with some walking) – 12:01
Mile 4 – 9:13
Mile 5 – 8:54
Mile 6 (.4) – 3:44

Run 2 of 2: 2.6 miles in 24:00 at 9:13/mile. This run was super easy and on the treadmill at the gym. Felt good the whole time.

Thursday: “easy” 3-mile run in 24:30 at 8:09/mile.

Ask me where these paces came from and I honestly could not tell you- I guess I just felt like running really fast? I know it was just a 3-mile run (that’s all my training plan called for on Thursday) but my paces were my fastest ever. Here are my splits:

Mile 1 – 8:27/mile
Mile 2 – 8:16/mile
Mile 3 – 7:48/mile (yeah, that happened)

Also, I went to a 45 minute gentle flow yoga class after work. I’ve been trying to incorporate much more yoga into my training and so far it’s definitely helping.

Friday: REST DAY!

Saturday: 12 miles, long, slow distance. 12.35 miles in 1:58 at 9:33/mile. I felt kind of sick to my stomach during this whole run. I think I might not have given myself enough time between breakfast and when I left for my run but I just felt gross. Also, I went to bed way too late last night and was really tired. My splits were less than impressive and I had to walk a few times. Why does it seem like the shorter long runs are harder than the long, long runs?
(1) 9:44
(2) 9:08
(3) 9:18
(4) 9:32
(5) 9:25
(6) 9:35
(7) 9:31
(8) 9:52
(9) 9:48
(10) 10:18 – eek!
(11) 10:09 – eek #2!
(12) 9:16
(13) 3:09

Also, I did a 10 minute post-run yoga workout by lululemon.

Sunday: easy 3-mile shakeout in 29:00 at 9:39/mile. I ran with my friend Cassie and although it was pretty cold at first, we warmed up quickly and had a great run.

I finished the day with a short post-run yoga sequence.

Total mileage: 31 miles

See all training recaps here.

Knowing When to Alter Your Training Plan

Pre quote

(Source: Pinterest)

I’m almost halfway through training for the Big Sur International Marathon and I am thankful to say (knock on wood) I haven’t had any issues with my training, my long runs, my paces or anything else for that matter. However, I’ve been following the RW Challenge First-Timers marathon training plan and while my long runs have been really great, there was one thing about the plan that scared me to death- three 20-mile long runs.

I know a lot of marathoners and have followed their training on their blogs, on twitter and on Daily Mile, and I never knew one who did three 20-milers for their first marathon. Many of them did two 20-milers and some did only one, but I never saw three. When I looked down at my training plan last week and talked about the impending first 20-miler on group lunch runs, I kept hearing the same advice- don’t do it.

I’ve only been running for a year (not even- my runniversary is March 8!) and while I’ve done two half-marathons, with a PR of 2:02, and countless shorter distance races, I’m not the most experienced runner. I’ve also had some overtraining-related injuries in the past while training for half-marathons and this is the first training cycle I haven’t experienced an IT band flare-up or Runner’s Knee resurgence (again, knock on wood).

While on the whole I think I’m getting a lot stronger, I’ve been handling the mileage well, and I’ve been eating healthy, I didn’t think doing three 20-milers would be the right idea for me. I honestly think I could have handled three 20-milers but the stress of seeing those three long, slow distance runs on my schedule, was more than enough to push me over the edge. Also, I want to make it to the starting line in Carmel healthy and energized, not burnt out and weak.

So, after consulting with some of my co-workers here at Runner’s World, Meghan offered me the best plan. The plan really only change two of my weekend long runs- last weekend went from 20 miles to 15, and a weekend in April changes from 18 to 14. Our Chief Running Officer, Bart Yasso, made the plan for her when she was training for a marathon (she’s done 10!) and I thought it looked like it would work for me.

Looking at my training schedule now, it still resembles the First-Timers plan but with two minor modifications, so now it’s the Hannah McGoldrick plan. Whether your training for a marathon, a half-marathon or your first 5-K, it’s easy to become highly dependent on a plan- I’m 100 percent guilty of this. While I fully support following training plans, it’s more important to listen to what your body is telling you. It doesn’t mean you’re doubting yourself, it means you’re training smart. Plans are never a one-size-fits all so make the changes you need to make to get to the starting line healthy and ready to race.