10 Tips for Running the Big Sur International Marathon

Bixby BridgeIf you read my full recap of last weekend’s Big Sur International Marathon, you’ll know I had a lot to say. My recap was mainly a selfish means for me to be able to remember all the amazing things that happened race weekend. But to me, some of the best and most useful race recaps are ones that include tips for actually running the race. Whether these tips are something the runner did during the race that worked for them, or things their friends did that worked, it’s helpful to know a bit more about how to run the course than to just hear about how great it was for one particular runner.

So, that being said, now that a few days have passed, and I’ve been able to reflect on my own experience, I’ve come up with a list of 10 tips and lessons to help you run Big Sur, if you ever are so fortunate to get the chance. Some of these tips are things that I did during the race and others are things my friends did that really worked for them. But I think as a whole, this list is pretty solid and if I ever get to run Big Sur again, I’ll be taking advantage of these tips.

  1. Look behind you- Big Sur is considered one of the top destination marathons in the world and it’s no thanks to the breathtakingly beautiful views you’ll see while running along the “ragged edge of the western world” (a.k.a. Highway 1). While you should take total advantage to the views ahead of you, to your left and even to your right, please don’t forget to look behind you, especially when you summit a hill. Around mile 7 a course marshal rode by us on his bike and yelled, “Look behind you!” and let me tell you, the view was incredible!
  2. Bring a camera- I actually did not take pictures while running Big Sur but I’m almost a little sad I didn’t because it would have been amazing to capture some of the views I saw. Since it was my first marathon, I wanted to really focus on running the course and not have to stop to take photos but again, if I got to run Big Sur next year I would absolutely take pictures.
  3. Go watchless- Another tip I didn’t do personally but two of my friends ran the course without a watch and one of them set a huge PR. Due to the hills, Big Sur is a great course to run a negative split on (at least that’s what Jeff Dengate, the gear editor here at RW said). But I know many other runners who have run great races at Big Sur without a watch. I decided to run with my watch though because it was my first marathon and I wanted ALL that data!
  4. Listen to the sounds of the ocean, wind and footsteps- Big Sur is not a spectator-friendly course but it almost doesn’t matter because the ocean is your spectator for the majority of the course. The sounds of the waves, footsteps and the wind set the mood for a very tranquil, peaceful run. It’s really incredible how quiet it gets at some points during the 26.2 miles but I actually really liked it like that.
  5. Take the strawberries- For the love of all things that are delicious, take the strawberries at mile 23! You will not regret it. These strawberries were so unbelievably refreshing after 23 miles of Vanilla Bean Gu that I didn’t even care if they gave me GI issues for the last 3 miles (they didn’t by the way).
  6. Make friends with the other runners- I don’t know if this just happens at all marathons but there was a true sense of camaraderie among the runners on the course. I even made a running buddy during the last 7 miles and we crossed the finish line together. I think Big Sur lends itself to creating bonds among runners on the course because there aren’t many spectators. So, unless you plan to really take off at any point in the marathon, make friends with those running around you, odds are you’ll be with them for a few hours and they may be able to help you when you really need it.
  7. Talk to the locals- Roughly 4,500 runners ran Big Sur this year and as marathons go, that’s not huge. However, people fly in from all over the world to run this destination race. That’s cool and all but I talked to some of the Monterey County locals and they were some of the most interesting people I’ve met. There’s such a local, community sense to Big Sur with it’s traditions and history that really makes every marathoner feel special.
  8. Don’t worry about time- This is not going to be a PR course for everyone and you might as well throw your BQ aspirations out the door (although runners have and will continue to PR and BQ at Big Sur), so just enjoy it! Time is not a factor and the minute you stop worrying about it, the faster you can enjoy it. Need more convincing? My friend and coworker Megan did the Boston to Big Sur Challenge and ran Big Sur only three minutes slower than she ran Boston, two weeks beforehand. Her trick? No watch and no worry.
  9. For every uphill there’s a downhill- Sounds like common sense right? But this is something to look out for because with each hill you are graced with a downhill. Take those downhills too fast in an effort to bank time and you won’t be able to get up the next hill. The key to Big Sur is running the downhills slowly. The downhills give you a chance to catch your breathe but can do a number on your quads so take it easy and relax.
  10. Cherish that medal- The Big Sur medal is unlike other marathon medals because they are hand-crafted out of ceramic. Honestly, they’re just wicked cool and you earned it so wear it proud. I wore mine to the airport and the entire 6-hour plane ride home because when else are you going to be able to wear it?

Race Recap: Big Sur International Marathon 2013

I thought after two days passed I would know how to begin this race recap because I would have time to let the race ruminate but I’m still having trouble finding the words to describe just how incredible my first marathon was.

I know what I don’t want to do with this race recap and that is to give you a mile-by-mile breakdown of every moment on the course, because who really cares? Plus, I don’t think I can really remember what happened during each mile the moment it happened because honestly, I can’t remember some of the miles. Seriously, mile 19, I don’t know what happened to it.

What I do want to do is to try to express just how fantastic the Big Sur International Marathon was for me. It was an experience of a lifetime and I made every effort to soak in each moment of the weekend and the race. So instead of a typical race recap I’m going to give you highlights from the weekend.

  • The shakeout- On Saturday morning I went for a shakeout run led by the one and only Bart Yasso. The shakeout was with the Runner’s World Challenge, our marathon training program, and I was finally able to meet the runners I had been interacting with for the past few months. Bart led the shakeout run and took us to the beach. With the size of the group we had, it looked like a scene out of Chariots of Fire. A bunch of kayakers even cheered for us as we ran by.


  • Strategy- Runner’s World hosted a race strategy session on Saturday afternoon where I learned some helpful tips about how to run the course the next morning. One of the best tips I got out of the session was to take the downhills easy. “Gentle, gentle, gentle should be your mantra on the downhills,” Jen, our special projects editor, said during the session and let me tell you, I repeated that mantra to myself on every single downhill the next day.
  • Ravioli (carbs, yum!)- Myself and the Runner’s World ladies (Megan, Caitlin, Laura and Lindsey) went to an Italian restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey called Café Fina to carb up before the big day. Our waiter was hysterical and I’m pretty sure he thought we were all crazy for running a marathon.
  • Driving the course- After dinner, Megan, Laura, Jeff and I hopped into Jeff’s white Mini and took a drive down Highway 1 to review the course (and take a ton of pictures). I was a bit hesitant about driving the course before racing it. I thought either I’d get really intimidated and become even more nervous than I already was, or I would feel more prepared and ready to go into the race knowing what lay ahead. Luckily for me, I came out of it the latter, feeling prepared and less intimidated than I felt by simply looking at the elevation chart. I took mental notes about where the hills were, when I needed to save my legs and when I should look around and take in all the views. (The answer for that last point is- look at the views all the time. The entire course is so unbelievably picturesque that it’s impossible not to appreciate every moment of it. )
Big Sur - 26 miles

Big Sur – 26 miles

  • Race day nerves- I must have had quite the nervous look on my face when I got to the hotel lobby for our 4:30 a.m. bus ride to the start, because people either steered clear of me or tried to console me somehow. Except when I told them it was my first marathon, many of them gave me a look of concern and said something along the lines of, “Well, I’m sure you’ll be fine.” That didn’t help.
Can you see the fear in my eyes?

Can you see the fear in my eyes?

  • Race game plan- I decided to hang back in Wave 2 and start with the 4:30 pacer. The rest of the RW ladies hung back with me so I had some support while we waited for the race to start. As I stood there, listening to the race announcer over the loud speaker, I was in my own head going over my race plan, deciding how I was going to run this, what my mantras were and what I was going to do if it got too hard.
  • Big Sur, Boston and doves- Big Sur has a unique partnership with the Boston Marathon in their Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge where runners run both marathons, less than two weeks apart. Because of the bombings at this year’s Boston Marathon, the B2B Challenge seemed even more special. A man from the B.A.A. served as the official race starter and they released white doves (something they always do) right before the bullhorn started the race.
We wore blue and yellow ribbons for Boston.

We wore blue and yellow ribbons for Boston.

  • And we’re off!- Before I knew it the bullhorn sounded again and it was time to go! The first four miles of Big Sur are a complete downhill and in the strategy session I learned I should take these first few miles extremely slow to save my quads for the hills that were to come. The only problem is a lot of people don’t know this and they take the first few miles hard and try to bank time. Not a good idea. So as I was taking it slow, other runners were passing me in waves. I didn’t get discouraged though because I knew I was on my way to running a smart race and it definitely paid off in the end.
  • Confidence boost- I got a bit of a rush around mile 5 or 6 (I can’t remember) and the Runner’s World truck went by with Bart, Amby Burfoot and Warren (Runner’s World brand manager) in it. They actually spotted me too and started beeping and yelling “GO HANNAH! LOOKING STRONG!” When Amby, the 1968 Boston Marathon winner, and Bart, the mayor of running, tell you you’re looking strong as you’re running a marathon, you can’t help but get a little confidence boost.
  • Along the course I saw– a whale (!), taiko drummers, the piano man, some pretty good bands, cows (moo!), and lots of happy volunteers!
  • Hurricane Point (dun, dun, dun…)– I had settled into a really slow and steady pace in preparation for Hurricane Point, the 2-mile stretch from mile 10 to 12 where the course ascends more than 500 feet. Everyone talks about Hurricane Point like it is Mt. Everest so of course I prepared as much as I possibly could by doing hill workouts and making my long runs pretty hilly. The taiko drummers were set up at the base of the incline at the mile 10 marker and that got me pumped to run up this infamous hill. The verdict? I’m glad I did all those hill workouts because honestly, I didn’t think Hurricane Point was that bad and I HATE hills. The incline is a gradual 6 percent ascent and it twists and turns so you never get a glimpse of the whole thing. Climbing for 2-miles is no easy task, don’t take this as me diminishing it, but for me it helped to not be able to see the entirety of the hill. I knew it ended around mile 12 so I just waited until I saw the mile marker and once I did I knew it was over.
  • For every uphill, there’s a downhill– Once I got up to Hurricane Point I was greeted with a long downhill, about a 9 percent elevation drop. This descent allowed me to catch my breathe but Jen’s mantra came back into my head, “Gentle, gentle, gentle.”
  • Bixby Bridge and we’re halfway there!– This downhill spits runners out onto the iconic Bixby Bridge at mile 13. I couldn’t believe I was already at mile 13 when I saw the bridge- I was halfway there! I saw the pianist and it was amazing how his melodies echoed throughout the entire area. I could hear him playing from across the bridge!
Running across the Bixby Bridge.

Running across the Bixby Bridge.

  • The weather and the wind– The weather was near perfect for the entire race. It was clear in the beginning but became slightly overcast. It also wasn’t too warm at any point during the race and I felt pretty comfortable. The one factor was the wind which was so strong at points, I felt like I was moving in slow motion.
  • Camaraderie and a new running friend– I met Sabrina around mile 20. We had been going back and forth, chasing each other for the last couple of miles and decided to support each other the rest of the way. I knew she would be a good running partner when I told her I couldn’t talk and she said, “I can’t either.” This was her second marathon and she was aiming for a PR. I told her it was my first and I was aiming to finish.
A shot of Sabrina and me nearing the finish.

A shot of Sabrina and me nearing the finish.

  • Carmel Highlands– We were about to enter the Carmel Highlands, arguably the hardest portion of Big Sur. The Highlands are the last few miles of the course and they include some steep hills and the canter of the road is hard on your legs. My running buddy, Sabrina, and I took these hills easy and willed each other up and over them. We stayed on pace, checked with each other at the water stops to see if we needed anything and kept trudging along. We stopped around mile 23 to get the fresh strawberries we had heard so much about (if you ever run Big Sur, do this! They are amazing) and continued along the route.
  • Mile 25 hill– At mile 25 an insult of a hill hits you like a slap in the face. Thank God Sabrina was with me here because at this point in the race, I just wanted to see the finish line and if I never saw a hill again it would be too soon.
  • 200 meters– When we hit mile 26 she said she was on pace for that PR and before we knew it, the yellow finish line was in sight. I started to get emotional and we both took all the energy we had left to finish the last 200 meters of the marathon. As we came barreling down to the finish line we grabbed hands and threw our arms into the sky and she said, “You’re going to be a marathoner!” We crossed the finish line in step with one another and she gave me a huge hug. She got her PR and I became a marathoner.

Finish line

Sabrina and I parted ways soon after crossing the finish but Megan was right there to capture my post-marathon reaction face and give me a huge hug. I got my medal, a hand-crafter ceramic medal with a leather necklace, and we headed over to the RW Challenge tent. The first person I wanted to find was Jen since she was the one who convinced me to train for the marathon in the first place. I went up to her and said, “Jen, I did it!” and she just gave me a hug and said, “Look at you, marathoner!”

I finished the marathon in 4:33:41 and came in 28th in my age group, not shabby for my first 26.2! I was so proud of the other RW ladies who cleaned up the rest of our age group category. The entire experience was more than I ever could have imagined it would be. I’m planning on writing another post in the coming days about what it really meant to me but I had to get all the memories down on paper before they left my mind. But honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever forget Big Sur.

The race director talked to me before the race and had told me, “You’re life will change when you cross that finish line.” After I finished he found me in the Challenge tent and asked, “So, was I right?” I smiled and said, “Absolutely.”

Why You Shouldn’t Be Nervous for Your First Marathon

922874_4931838093758_1915257636_nI won’t be the first to tell you that running a marathon takes a lot of hard work. Most training programs last anywhere from 14 to 18 weeks and over the course of that time period you’ll log literally hundreds of miles. And what for? A few hours of running on a single day culminating the entire experience in a celebration of all of your hard work and dedication. Now, for a first-timer like myself, that is a lot of pressure on a single day, a single run. That pressure cannot amount to a lot of anxiety the week leading up to race day. But remember when I said this is a “celebration?” Well, it’s true.

My marathoner friends tell me I’m ready. I’ve logged every workout, tackled my 20-milers and (knock on wood) have made it to race weekend relatively injury-free. As I write this on the plan ride out to California, I found a note one of my coworkers and friend, left on my desk in the middle of this past week. She outlined 10 reasons why she is confident I’m going to “rock Big Sur.” The note was genuine and helped put me at ease. It was also too good not to share, so I’m sorry Megan but I’m putting you on blast and letting everyone know why they shouldn’t be afraid to run their first marathon either.

  • “You’ve conquered 10th Street how many times? Like a million. Look at your log and count the number. It’ll surprise you.”- 10th Street is a very hilly road near work that we use for hill workouts and hill runs are vital to Big Sur preparation. But this is good advice for any first-timer- look over your log, look at your workouts, your miles. You’ve come SO far.
  • “You dominated your 20-milers. I remember how nervous you were before it and how ecstatic you were when you finished it successfully.” –This is true, I was scared out of my mind for both 20-milers but I finished both of them feeling strong and happy. Even if your 20-milers weren’t perfect, you still managed to get them done and that’s what counts. You can cover the miles, what’s 6.2 more?
  • “You did all the little things- you’ve done enough core/strength/yoga for the both of us. You’re strong girl!” – This is true and every first-timer should try to incorporate as much core, strength and yoga exercises to supplement their running as possible. I credit all of that to getting to the starting line injury-free.
  • “You followed your plan to a T. I’ve never seen someone so committed to a plan- that means you’re prepared.” – Again, yes I may have been a little neurotic in sticking to my plan but as a first-timer, I didn’t know how to train for a marathon so I figured following a training plan as close as possible would be the best way to learn.
  • “You’ve actually seen your progress- figure out how much your average pace has dropped since you started. Instant confidence booster.” – I’m not the only one who has seen a change in pace throughout marathon training. Many of my other runner friends said training for a marathon made them faster overall and it was definitely a confidence booster.
  • “Unless a landslide falls on you, you will finish. This is your only goal for your first 26.2 and there’s absolutely no reason you won’t make it.” – True, my only goal is to finish and I would advice other first-time marathoners to have the same goal. Time doesn’t matter because you really don’t know what to expect. If your goal is to just finish it’s a lot easier to handle.
  • “You’ve said it yourself that you’re committed to sticking to your game plan. That’s like 95.6 percent of the battle. You’ve got this thing in the bag before it’s even started.” – It’s good to go into any race with a set game plan but also to be willing to make changes along the way and be flexible depending on how you are feeling.
  • “If Joey Fatone can do it, you can. Period.” – Enough said.
  • “You can bank on those freaking stunning views to get you through the last 6.2 miles. Seriously, your first marathon is Big Sur…. Umm… Awesome!” – True. Big Sur is rated one of the top marathons in the country and it is on many people’s bucket lists of races. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to run my first marathon at Big Sur.
  • “You’ve made it to the starting line healthy and ready to go. Remember, the race is just a celebration of all the hard work, dedication, freezing cold miles, and sacrifices you’ve made to get there. There’s no pressure. You’ve got this!”

It’s true, there really isn’t any pressure on me and like everyone has told me, you only run your first marathon once. So now that I know I’m ready, I am going to enjoy every mile.

Big Sur Will Be My Victory Lap, But Not My Finish Line

Big Sur“This is your victory lap.”

A coworker said this to me last week as I began my minor-freak out that yes, this Sunday my Brooks will toe the starting line of my first full marathon on the opposite coast at the Big Sur International Marathon.

This past year has been an incredible journey and training for Big Sur has been no different. I’ve had flawless training, nailed my paces, conquered some pretty significant hills and followed my training plan to a T. So, why am I still so anxious for Sunday?

I think race anxiety is 100 percent normal. To me, what makes it such a confusing emotion is, although I’m nervous to run 26.2 miles, I’m also really excited for the entire experience. Other friends and coworkers have reminded me, “you only have a first marathon once, so enjoy it.”

That’s what I plan to do. I plan to take it all in. I’m going to have the most beautiful views to keep me company along Highway 1 and I don’t want to miss any of them. Also, the pressure of a target time is completely off because the good news about racing a new, longer distance is no matter what, it’s a PR!

But for some reason, as excited and nervous as I am for Big Sur, another emotion has recently surfaced that I wasn’t prepared for- sadness. For the past year, I’ve considered myself a beginner. I started running in March 2012 and have built up from there. Running (and finishing) Big Sur this weekend feels almost like I’m closing my beginner’s chapter of my running story. Some people might not like to admit this but I like to call myself a beginner. I like that I can relate to new runners and help them just as some of my other runner friends have helped me. And sometimes, calling myself a beginner gives me a sense of security so when I tell people I have a new PR, I can follow up with, it’s good for me because I’m a beginner.

Finishing Big Sur will officially mean I’m no longer a beginner runner. But it won’t change my status as a new runner and it won’t mean I’m done learning new things about running- believe me, I have a lot more to learn. I’ve learned a lot through this training cycle and I will continue to learn more as I recover in the following weeks and start up a new training cycle, whenever and for whatever that may be.

As I make my way up the coast of California, on the breathtakingly beautiful Highway 1, I vow to take it all in, listen to the runners around me, see every view, laugh at every unique mile marker, listen to the piano man and the taiko drummers and just enjoy it because it will be my first full marathon, but most certainly not my last. Big Sur will be my victory lap but not my finish line.

When I began training for Big Sur back in January I bought myself an Erica Sara “Say It Do It” bracelet with the words, “She believed she could,” engraved on one side of the medallion. The words are from a quote, “She believed she could, so she did.” As I cross the finish line at Big Sur on Sunday, probably with tears in my eyes, I’ll be able to complete the quote- “so she did.”

Big Sur Marathon Training- Week 12 and 13

Running this bridge in less than one week! (Source: Big Sur Facebook Page)

Running this bridge in less than one week! (Source: Big Sur Facebook Page)

I’ve been in full taper mode and with last week being so busy for work with the Boston Marathon, and then the bombings, and then the follow-up, I haven’t had time to write up my workouts from the past two weeks. Also, because we were very busy traveling, I missed one of my runs which really bummed me out. But, I was assured by my coworkers that it wasn’t a big deal and I am more than ready for Big Sur this weekend. It may be the taper crazies talking, but I really hope they’re right!

Week 11- April 8 – April 14

Monday: Stretch and foam roll

Tuesday: 5.32 miles in 44:19 at 8:19/mile pace

It was a very, very hot lunch run today. Full sun and 80 degrees the whole time. Apparently, that makes me run faster? My Garmin died before my run so I used the Runmeter app on my phone. According to my splits, I ran pretty fast but I felt like it was such a slow slog the entire time. I’m not sure if these splits are accurate but here they are:

Mile 1 – 6:28/mile (I’m not kidding, that’s what it says)
Mile 2 – 8:40/mile
Mile 3 – 8:53/mile
Mile 4 – 8:50/mile
Mile 5 – 8:38/mile
Mile 6 – 8:25/mile (for 0.32 miles)

I also did Oiselle’s dirty dozen core workout.

Wednesday: 5.32 miles in 44:36 at 8:23/mile pace.

This run was just not working for me. It was so hot when I went out for my lunch run I just didn’t feel good the entire time. I was supposed to run 6 miles but I didn’t have it in me to complete the run, I needed water asap. I think I’m just not used to the heat yet and thankfully it’s not going to stay this hot for too much longer.

Thursday: 8 miles in 1:13:00 at 9:06/mile pace.

I ran this morning before heading home to Massachusetts for the Boston Marathon. It was SUPER humid out due to the storm last night but it was a bit cooler than the past few days so that was a nice break. However, because it was so humid out I felt like it was a little bit harder to breather. I felt pretty good the whole time and just wanted to take it easy. My splits:

Mile 1 – 9:32/mile
Mile 2 – 8:58/mile
Mile 3 – 8:55/mile
Mile 4 – 9:09/mile
Mile 5 – 9:13/mile
Mile 6 – 9:04/mile
Mile 7 – 9:00/mile
Mile 8 – 9:06/mile

Friday: REST

Saturday: I was too busy with work to get my long run in so that didn’t happen. Womp womp.

Sunday: B.A.A. 5K

2-mile warm-up: Meghan and I did a quick warmup run before today’s B.A.A. Boston Marathon 5K. Ran around and did some strides.

3.1 miles in 25:23 at 8:11/mile pace. This morning I ran the B.A.A. Boston Marathon 5K and set a 2-minute PR! I had kind of high hopes for this race because I knew it was going to be a fast, flat course. It was super crowded which made it kind of hard to maneuver around people but overall it was a great race!

Week 12- April 15 – April 21

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 5.5 miles in 51:00 at 9:16/mile pace. #runforboston

Wednesday: 6.5 miles in 59:00 at 9:06/mile pace.

Thursday: Detox flow yoga and Oiselle dirty dozen

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 10 miles, long, slow distance in 1:30:43 at 9:04/mile pace. It’s bittersweet but this was my last long run of Big Sur training. I can’t believe I’m running a marathon in a week!!

Sunday: 3.32-mile recovery run in 28:55 at 8:45/mile pace. Easy shakeout run today around the neighborhood. I wanted to do 4 miles but I had some blisters in the making that were killing me.

See all training recaps here.

Tips and Tricks for Surviving the Taper Madness

With my peak mileage weeks behind me, my final really long, long run done, I am heading into my taper and although I’m (honestly) welcoming it with open arms, I’m hearing the taper is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I’ve been logging my highest mileage weeks ever throughout this training cycle, which makes sense since it’s my first full marathon, so the prospect of lesser mileage totals seems appealing to me right now. But, hey now, stop right there, my coworkers say, the taper is the hardest part of marathon training.

Why is this, you ask? Well, while you’re training for a marathon you get used to always having a very long run on the weekends. You get used to logging double workouts to hit your midweek mileage goals. And, you get used to spending most of your time running. Then the taper comes and all of a sudden you have some free time and you don’t know what to do with it. Some people start to doubt their training and others just enter into the taper crazies.

Upon hearing all of this, I thought I’d seek out some advice to avoid taper madness and hopefully make it out alive- and more importantly, make it to the starting line at Big Sur confident in all of the training I’ve put in during the last few months. Here’s what I found:

So moral of the story? Find a way to distract yourself from the fact that you’re not running as much as you’re used to. Whether that means catching up with friends, reading a good book or straight up sleeping through the taper, try to get your mind off the fact that everything you’ve been doing for the last few months is about to culminate in one goal race. I’ve told many people before to trust in their training once the training cycle starts to wind down and race day slowly approaches but now, it’s my turn to trust in my training. And the extra naps don’t sound too bad either!

Do you have any tips for surviving the taper? If so, mention them in the comments section below!

Big Sur Marathon Training: Week Eleven

Three weeks until I run here! (Source: BSIM Facebook page)

Three weeks until I run here! (Source: BSIM Facebook page)

It’s officially taper time, people! I ran my last 20-miler this week and logged a total of 41 miles to finish off my peak mileage weeks. The marathon is three weeks from today and I can say with confidence (after a GREAT long run) that I am ready to take on Big Sur. Seriously, I can’t wait. Here were my workouts this week:

Monday- Cross-training day with 50 minutes of Vinyasa Yoga at work.

Tuesday- 3-miles easy in 26:30, 8:50/mile.

I ran after work today on the treadmill. I took it really easy because I had a really long day and just wanted to get it done and go home. My splits:

Mile 1 – 8:57
Mile 2 – 8:57
Mile 3 – 8:40

Wednesday- Run 1- 10th Street Hill workout, 5.11 miles in 48:04, 9:24/mile.

Run 1 of 2- I was not excited to do this hard hill workout because I was running it by myself for the first time but honestly, it went SO well! I only had to walk twice, which was a huge improvement for me. I took it easy going up and kept my stride short and head down. Although breathing was hard with the wind and allergies, my legs felt good. Splits:

Mile 1 – 8:35/mile
Mile 2 – 11:11/mile (this begins the ascent so there was some walking)
Mile 3 – 10:19/mile (more hill)
Mile 4 – 8:34/mile
Mile 5 – 8:33/mile
Mile 6 – 7:54/mile (for 0.11)

Total ascent: 554 feet

Run 2 of 2- 2 miles in 17:20, 8:37/mile.

I did my second run on the treadmill after work. It was quick, easy and painless, just the way I like it!

Mile 1 – 8:40/mile
Mile 2 – 8:32/mile

Strength training with the Oiselle Dirty Dozen workout.

Thursday- 6 miles in 55:42, 9:16/mile.

I took it really easy on this run and went with my roommate. It was really nice though because we went running after work and took a different route down on a rail trail near the river. Overall I felt good but my ankles were a little sore, probably from yesterday’s intense workout. My splits:

Mile 1 – 9:37
Mile 2 – 9:08
Mile 3 – 8:50
Mile 4 – 9:00
Mile 5 – 9:39
Mile 6 – 9:29

Friday- Rest and foam roll like cray cray.

Saturday- 20-mile long, slow distance in 3:07:00, 9:20/mile.

This was my last really long run of Big Sur Marathon training and it went flawlessly. I think with this run I finally nailed my fueling strategy and mental strategy. Make it to each 5-mile mark, fuel and then make it to the next 5-mile mark. I made my route a bit extra hilly this time too to make sure I was fully prepped for Big Sur. My pace was steady for the most part, besides getting a little slower around some of the really big hills in the middle. I finished really strong though so I was really proud of myself for that! Here are my splits:

(1) 9:39 (2) 9:01 (3) 9:02 (4) 9:14 (5) 9:22 (6) 9:35 (7) 9:23 (8) 9:14 (9) 9:45 (10) 9:28 (11) 9:44 (12) 9:41 (13) 9:19 (14) 9:25 (15) 9:35 (16) 9:57 (17) 9:19 (18) 9:17 (19) 9:08 (20) 8:49

Sunday- 4-mile recovery run in 36:00, 9:00/mile.

My legs felt pretty dead when I woke up after my 20-miler on Saturday but I had an easy shakeout run on the schedule. I went for a run on the trail with my roommate and once we got running my legs felt a little better. We maintained a conservative pace and then went for brunch so overall it was a really great day!

Mile 1 – 9:07/mile
Mile 2 – 8:53/mile
Mile 3 – 8:58/mile
Mile 4 – 9:04/mile

20 minutes of Yoga for Recovery sesh.

Total mileage: 40 miles.

See all training recaps here.

Marathon Training Musings

(source: Pinterest)

(source: Pinterest)

I can’t believe it but I’m actually nearing the end of my marathon training. Last week was my peak mileage week and after Saturday’s 20-miler I’ll officially be in taper mode. With the Big Sur Marathon roughly three weeks out, it’s given me pause to reflect on what I’ve learned so far. Everyone says the most important part of training is learning what works for you so you’re prepared come race day. But, in my opinion, I think training teaches you a lot about yourself, your determination to reach a goal, discipline and some very important details about your body that, for non-runners, would be too much information. So here is a rambling list of things I have learned while training for the marathon. I hope you enjoy and can partake in some of my wisdom (I’m kidding).

  • Marathon training and general high-mileage distance training will leave you tired… all of the time.
  • You’re also going to be slightly sore but not completely sore all the time.
  • Another thing that’s going to happen all the time is hunger. I’ve been hungry this entire 12 week period and no meal has satisfied me enough. (But you learn to keep a well-stocked snack draw in your cubicle.)
  • You must get enough calories. If you don’t Aunt Flow will stop visiting like she did to me, which leads to other problems like calcium deficiency and stress fractures (and possibly no babies in the future), all of which is no bueno.
  • I’ve developed an abusive but dependent relationship with my foam roller.
  • Yoga is my friend, although I’m not the best yogi out there (I’m trying!)
  • This song can get me through basically any run: Skrillex “Rock ‘n Roll”
  • You’ll get faster overall. While long runs might be slow, you’re general fitness will increase and you’ll be running shorter distances faster than you could have imagined.
  • Body Glide.
  • I take the time to untie my running shoes and remove them slowly incase a toenail decides to jump ship.
  • Best post-long run meal: grilled cheese on whole wheat bread with jarlsberg cheese and tomatoes. Yummm…
  • Sacrifice. You’ll have to miss out on fun times with friends but you’ll never cease to be amazed by their unconditional support.
  • You’re training for your own marathon. Not another runner’s. Don’t get bogged down by other people’s progress, paces and distances. Train for your own race and be confident in that training.
  • You’ll be in crazy-amazing shape. Seriously, my legs muscles are cut and nothing jiggles. Boomtown.
  • You’ll be humbled and touched by your family’s willingness to listen as you regale them with a breakdown of your long run (even though they may be doing a looping eye roll on the other end of the line).
  • The running community, both in real life and virtually, is made up of the most supportive people I’ve ever met. Whether you had an amazing long run, or you’re sitting on your couch searching for motivation to go out and get your recovery run done, in the rain, slightly hung over, they are there to give you the extra push.
  • You’ll get addicted. There’s something about distance running, the discipline it takes to train and the pain you’ll feel along the way that’s just addicting. Although I haven’t crossed the finish line and officially become a marathoner, I’m already planning my next 26.2. Stay tuned!
  • Above all else, marathon training has taught me to be fearless because if I can conquer 26.2 miles, what else am I capable of?

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.