Tag Archives: marathon

Post-Marathon Thoughts

My brain always goes back and forth between two different things once I finish a big goal race:

“OH MY GOSH, MUST DO SOMETHING ELSE NOW! Half-marathon PR? Ultra? Another 26.2 in two weeks? Gimme something BIG!”

and

“I don’t want to anything! I’ve earned it! Let’s take 6 rest days a week and on the other day run slow for 2 miles! Summer vacation! Hooray!”

I’m sure you can guess which of these is more prevalent than the other…but for the most part, these are the two extremes I’m vacillating between.

It always happens, and I’ve finally figured out why.

I am currently both: a) directionless, and b) burnt out.

I’ve been focusing on one singular goal for 4-5 months. It’s been getting me up in the morning when I wanted to sleep, it’s given me intention and purpose in my gut-busting workouts, and it’s kept me excited to put all my hard work to the test. Frankly, I love having a big race/goal on the horizon, which is why more often than not I have a BIG goal on the drawing board.

At the same time, however, our bodies and brains can only handle so much focus. The thought of jumping into any kind of training anytime soon sounds incredibly unappealing. It makes me shudder a little bit to think of abiding by the governing powers of a training schedule at the very least for another month.

So as you can see, there is a bit of a conflict of interest between my two mindsets right now. I want to respect the fact that I’ve given a lot to training during these past few months and give myself a break. The marathon distance, as well, beats you to a pulp, and I know that while I may feel completely recovered—I’m far from it.

So there’s that. But there’s also the case of “post marathon blues” that some of you may have heard of or experienced yourself. I am certainly susceptible to these feelings, and I already can feel them taking form. Essentially, post-marathon blues are what’s leftover once the glitz and glamour of the race are over. I wouldn’t say that I’m completely done reveling in my BQ state—but I definitely feel a little loss now that my training’s over.

I really enjoy the journey of a big goal. I love the prospect of trying to make my far-fetched dreams into a reality, and it makes the process of running day after day so much more enjoyable to know that there’s this sparkly potential for greatness out there.

So while training can get overwhelming and mundane at some points, I am almost always a little sad to have my training come to an end, even when the final race result is satisfactory.

If I’m being honest, I think part of this feeling is that the Eugene end wasn’t 100% satisfactory. I know I have more in me, I know there’s more potential out there. And while I definitely don’t have the energy nor the desire the jump into anything for a while, the fire is definitely there.

So where does that leave me? Well, somewhere in the middle of the previously mentioned extremes, I suppose.

I do love knowing that running offers so many options. Running fast, slow, long, short, trail, road, inside, etc…there’s plenty to choose from. And while I don’t feel ready mentally or physically to make my next choice just yet, I’m excited at the prospect of something new being out there.

In a lot of ways, I still feel very new to this sport, and I love that. I know I’ll figure out someday what my limitations are, but for now…I’m choosing to believe/hope that there are a lot more glass ceilings to break through.

Do you experience the same type of post-marathon blues, or do you kick up your feet and lounge for a while?

Eugene Marathon Race Recap

Something funny happens when you finally experience something that you’ve been thinking about and dreaming about for a long time: it doesn’t feel real.

That’s how I feel today about Sunday’s race. Because although I definitely felt the build-up, the pain, and the joy of it at the time, I’m still having a hard time internalizing that it happened. 

And it did happen…that moment that I’ve been focusing on and training toward for months and months; it’s actually a reality.

Spoiler alert:

CaptureSo while it might not have totally sunk in yet, I’m so happy that today I can announce that I did indeed qualify for Boston!

This race had the quintessential makings of a marathon experience: the adrenaline-filled, blissful first half, the scary and lonely middle miles, a head first slam into the wall, and a finish line that felt like the best place in the world.

Let’s go back to the beginning:

I was really confident in my training going into this race. I felt as if I had done everything I could, and I knew that unless disaster struck, I would have a pretty good shot at my goals.

BF and I did a little shake out 4-miler on Saturday, and we headed to the expo which helped crank up my excitement.

There was a little caveat though in terms of my race prep that had me worried. On Thursday night, I slept really poorly, as I did again on Friday night thanks to a late night of driving down to Oregon. Now, I think we all know that the golden rule of marathoning is that you want to get a lot of sleep the night before race eve, as a restless sleep is pretty much a given on the night before any race. So, on Saturday I was already worn out from the two nights before, and couldn’t stop thinking about how important it was that I sleep well that night.

And guess what? When you think about sleep, particularly on a night before you attempt a huge running goal, there is no possible way you can fall asleep. And that’s exactly what happened to me. Despite my fatigue, I spent hours awake attempting every trick in the book to wind down and shut off my brain. When my 5:30 alarm went off, I knew there was no way I had slept more than 3 hours…all of which was in 20 minute increments. Not exactly comforting.

But, I couldn’t do anything about it. And despite feeling exhausted, the race day hype kicked in like clockwork, and I was excited to get going.

I got to the start line in plenty of time for a porta-potty stop and good corral placement. I even managed to see Lora at the start! I was really impressed with the set-up and general energy of the starting area, especially that it was right outside of Hayward field where we would eventually end up.

After the National Anthem was sung and a moment of silence was held for Boston (so beautiful and powerful), it was only a matter of minutes before they let our corral cross the start line. And off we went!

Despite a gradual uphill start, I was filled with energy from the crowds and the general atmosphere. I really internalized that I was in track town, running a marathon, and striving for a goal that felt unattainable just a year ago. Needless to say, I clocked in a wee bit too fast:

Mile 1: 7:36

I knew I needed to buckle in, get it together, and run the race I planned out. I didn’t want to regret going too fast, so I spent a good amount of time in the first few miles getting to an 8 minute pace. I don’t like looking at my watch so often, but in races, I’ve found that a lot of my pacing instincts are thrown off.

Mile 2: 7:55

Mile 3: 8:01

I ran into Sarah just before mile 4, who stood out immediately in her bridal running outfit. She was running the half and gave me some good words of encouragement. Thanks Sarah!

Mile 4: 8:03

Mile 5: 7:49

The “hill” that was promised at mile 4 was barely anything to worry about, and there was a very nice downhill for a while afterward. I try to use downhills to my advantage as much as possible, so I forgave the quicker paces that were showing up.

Mile 6: 7:53

Mile 7: 7:58

Still, I needed to focus on the “slower start” I had promised myself I’d stick to. I knew another hill was coming up in mile 8, which would obviously help.

I saw my cheer squad for the first time also around 7.5, which is where I took my first few Honey Stingers as well. I loved seeing them, and I knew seeing them later on during the race was going to be really helpful. It certainly added that they were wearing these shirts:

My family surprised me with Run Birdie Run shirts!

Surprise! Run Birdie Run shirts!

Mile 8: 7:56

Mile 9: 8:04

Side note: The “hills” in this race aren’t anything to worry about. If you train with hills even a little bit, you wouldn’t bat an eye at this course.

By this point, we were leaving the cute Eugene neighborhoods and heading toward the river. We passed by Hayward and I caught a glimpse of the enormous sign that read: “Believe in the Power of the Run.”

Track town, you cut me right to the core.

I knew we would be splitting from the half-ers around mile 10, and I mentally prepared myself to get into the marathon zone. It’s those middle miles that can feel scary and daunting, so I tried to psych myself up for them.

Mile 10: 7:57

Mile 11: 8:02

Mile 12: 7:55

I was leap-frogging back and forth with a few runners, but it felt like we were pulling each other along instead of competing. Around this point, a shirtless dude with the shortest shorts I’ve ever seen starting matching me stride-for-stride, and it was obvious he wanted to share a pace. Alrighty sir, let’s do it.

Mile 13: 8:00

I LOVE reaching the halfway point in marathons. Mentally, I start to count down instead of up, and I was feeling pretty good at this point as well, which was encouraging. I had clocked just under a 1:44 half, which made me think that a sub 3:30 might be possible.

Miles 13-17 were probably the least memorable for me. They were in a lonely, residential area that was a little boring. I remembered getting to mile 17 and thinking, “Less than 10 to go!” which helped. I was definitely starting to feel tired at this point, and by tired I mean literally…I could have curled up on the side of the road and fallen asleep.

Mile 14: 7:53

Mile 15: 7:55

Mile 16: 7:49

Mile 17: 7:55

My legs were feeling pretty good, although my right leg was doing a strange thing that it had done on a few training runs where my glute, hamstring, calf, and even foot all got tight. Not painful, just tight. It wasn’t anything I couldn’t run through, but it definitely reminded me that I was running a marathon. We were on a beautiful path along the river at this point, which helped mix up the race and kept things interesting.

Mile 18: 8:00

Mile 19: 8:00

I saw my family again during mile 18, which provided another boost. More Honey Stingers, and my mom ran with me a few paces to check in. I admitted to her that I felt tired, and she reminded me to slow down if I needed to. No worries Ma, I had been thinking that same thing.

It was comforting to know that I’d gained a lot of time in terms of running under 3:35. While I always love the idea of negative splitting, sometimes in the marathon you need to go with the flow and let your body do the talking, so I gave in and let myself slow down a little bit. And much to my dismay, at mile 20, that horrible iPod Shuffle voice came on and said, “Battery low,” which elicited more than a few four-letter words. Probably the worst timing. So I shut it off, saving the final dregs of battery for the end.

Mile 20: 8:02

Mile 21: 8:10

I could feel the pain creeping in, and while it didn’t feel all-consuming yet, I knew it was going to be a long final 5 miles.

“But it’s only 5 more miles! You almost always run further than that on average days.”

Those were the kind of thoughts I kept trying to get in my head, but unfortunately there were other voices shouting a bit louder.

Just before mile 22, the familiar dark feeling from Tacoma last year started the veer its ugly head. I had a hard time telling if it was actually the same type of pain as last year or just the bad memories that got me so unnerved, but either way, I did everything I could to remind myself to be smart. I allowed myself a 5 second walk break to get my bearings, and then pressed on.

Mile 22: 8:24

At this point, my legs were toasted. My feet felt hot, and it didn’t help that the temperature was rising. I stuck to the shady parts of the path as much as I could and dumped water under my hat at the water stations. Most of the fatigue was in my head, which I instinctively knew was from having not slept the night before. I saw my family again at 22, which certainly helped, but I didn’t like the idea of them seeing me in such a bad space.

Apparently though, I hid it well. BF started running with me for a bit and said I looked great, which was nearly impossible for me to believe- but I took it as a sign that my body was doing better than my head.

Mile 23: 8:28

Admittedly, it was comforting to know that I could run up to 10 minute miles and still come in under 3:35. I had already resolved that I would have a huge positive split, and that was okay. As much pain as I was in, it kind of humored me to think, “Oh, this is why the marathon is so hard. This is what the wall feels like, huh? I get it now.”

But, I knew that with such a big goal, a goal that was far below my current PR, this race was going to take a fight. So I fought. The miles felt so incredibly slow. The 8:30 pace I was holding felt like a 7 minute pace, and I could feel every single incline and decline in the road.

Around this point, I spotted Lauren up ahead, who I’d already seen twice earlier cheering like a champ. She started running alongside me and asked how I felt, which I fully admitted to feeling horrible. She gave a lot of words of encouragement,  including offering to continue running with me. While I was incapable of expressing it or realizing it at the time, this was a huge save for me. She distracted me and kept me going when all I wanted to do was stop. I took another short walk break, and as slow as they were…the miles kept going.

Mile 24: 8:39

Mile 25: 8:49

It was excruciating at this point. I felt like my head was crushed into tunnel vision, and it took everything I had to keep the BQ goal in sight. Seeing Hayward come into view was helpful, and while I was still battling the ghost of Tacoma Marathon past, I knew I was stronger this time around. Lauren was a game-changer, and I cannot begin to thank her enough for pulling me through those final miles.

She dropped me right before the entrance to Hayward, where I was greeted with a huge Oiselle cheer group of familiar faces which helped get me excited.

Mile 26: 9:03

Coming into Hayward was surreal. It was something that I’d been envisioning for so long it didn’t even feel real. I was in so much pain, but so happy to be done. It’s actually a little hard for me to remember since I was so foggy and tired at the time, but when I heard my name on the loud speaker and saw the 3:32 on my watch, all those dreadful and slow miles melted away.

Photo courtesy of BF.

Photo courtesy of BF.

I’d done it. I held my hand over my heart and raised my hand in the air. Boston, that was for you.

It was so relieving to be done. I was a little off kilter once I crossed the finish line, so a volunteer helped support me a little bit. I got my medal, got my bearings, and headed toward the finisher’s chute. I immediately felt nauseated and steered clear of the food they were offering. I wanted so badly to sit down, actually to lay down, but I knew I needed to keep walking. I have never felt so sick after a race, which was annoying considering all I wanted to do was celebrate, and I knew I needed to find my people.

BF was on the hunt for me, and we spotted each other pretty quickly. Not too long after, I joined up with the rest of my crew, and after a few minutes of my hands on my knees and some deep breathing, I started to feel a bit better and the accomplishment started to register.

image

The whole crew!

The whole crew!

It’s funny how pain can mask other emotions so much. Of course all I wanted to do at the finish line was cry tears of joy and relish the feeling that I’d accomplished my goal, so it’s a little disheartening that hitting the wall so hard took away a bit from that.

However, my wonderful support crew helped draw me back into the light. We visited the foam rollers they had available in a tent (quite convenient), hung out on the turf, and eventually made our way out.

image

Granddad and me...perhaps my new favorite picture.

Granddad and me…perhaps my new favorite picture.

After a heavenly shower and a change into flip lops and stretch pants, I started to feel like myself again. My appetite was no where to be found, my legs were completely shot, and my arm was chafed to the point of a scar, but I knew that it was all worth it. There’s something incredible that happens at the end of a marathon. You are stripped of every last defense and ounce of strength inside of you, and yet you still manage to do what your body and brain are both fighting against. It’s supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to hurt. It’s the fight against the pain that makes the marathon so mighty.

And in the end, I don’t care that I had a 4 minute positive split. I don’t care that I can’t walk down stairs today, and I certainly don’t care that I lost so much sleep over this race. I did exactly what I came to Eugene to do, and the reality that I nabbed my BQ is settling in more and more every minute.

And truth be told, something as great and as honorable as running the Boston marathon, especially next year, shouldn’t be easy. It supposed to be earned, to be fought for, and it took a good kick in the butt Sunday for me to truly realize what that honor is all about.

Another new favorite.

Another new favorite.

I cannot begin to thank everyone enough for your words of support and encouragement. This community is filled with an unbelievable kinship, and on Sunday I was reminded once again of how proud I am to call myself a runner. A big congratulations to everyone who raced this weekend! I hope you all celebrated well and are resting properly.

If you need me, I’ll be with my chocolate and my pillow. Probably wearing my medal.

Thanks Eugene! You proved your legacy ten-fold. And here’s hoping that next year’s spring race takes place in another legendary place, on a different coast 🙂

Eugene Marathon Plan and Goals

Remember how I bragged about said that I was super calm and collected on Tuesday? Yea, that tank of relaxation is slowly draining by the minute—consequentially re-filling with nerves and worst-case-scenario daydreams.

But, BUT! I’m actually not the fall-apart wreck of a human that I normally turn into. I know everyone talks about the taper-crazies, but I seriously think that I must get an exaggerated dose of them, because ordinarily I turn into a pitiful, blubbering mess of “what if?!”s and phantom broken legs.

Not so much this time. But, as my previously mentioned distractions start to move out of the way, the marathon reality is coming closer into view.

And just in time. I’m allowing myself these next two days to be as irrational as I want…within reason. Because the fact of the matter is that we leave for Eugene in just a few short hours, and once we hit the road—there’s no turning back.

I’ve found that I’ve been stressing out about the little things more so than the big picture. I’m hyper-conscious about my hydration and food, as my current intestinal misconduct (super-scientific term right there) has me more worried about my nutrition. I’m going to go with the basics, no weird food, plenty of carbs, salt, etc., but I also think I’m going to go with the “space the carbs out” approach more than I have in the past. Gimme the bananas and bread NOW!

I’m also still having clothing dilemmas. For whatever reason, I seem to be focusing my nervous energy more on chafing than, you know, running 26.2 miles. What gives, brain?

I’m sure it’s a bit of a coping mechanism. But more than anything, I really really don’t want an issue like the wrong shorts or an upset colon to take away from the work I’ve put into this marathon. I realize there are some things that cannot be controlled (although I’d argue that BodyGlide has the power to rule the world) but that doesn’t mean I can’t do everything in my control to set myself up for success.

And speaking of, I am planning on following a fairly strict-yet-flexible pacing plan for Eugene. Before I go into those details though, here’s a look at my goals:

“A” goal: BQ, also known as <3:35

This is the prize my eye has been on for months, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want it in a bad, keeps-me-up-at-night kind of way.

“B” goal: PR, also known as <3:42

As we all know, marathons are unpredictable. It may very well not be my day to BQ, and while I won’t be thrilled with it, I will be happy with a new PR—which I have a good feeling is probable. My current PR was set in Chicago, with an injury, on under-trained legs. This is going to sound so obnoxiously cocky, and I’m sorry it’s not intentional, but Chicago actually felt kind of easy. I know, it’s probably damning to say that about the all-mighty 26.2. But, if that race was any indication, I like to think I have a faster time in me somewhere.

“C” goal: Finish the race

This has been a goal in every marathon I’ve ever done…because when it comes down to it, hey, it’s 26.2 miles of running: you SHOULD be happy just to finish. And I will be. Obviously there’s more I’m after, but if it’s not my day, I’ll still cheers to being a 4-time marathoner.

There were lots of people last Monday who didn’t get to finish their marathon, and I’ve decided to try and bury my pride and consider myself lucky if/when I do get to cross that finish line (at Hayward field, no less).

So, as for my pace plan, I am trying to proverbially hammer “negative split” into the front of my brain. If it was possible to give your frontal lobe a tattoo by just thinking something hard enough, I’m pretty sure, “DO NOT GO INTO THE 7s RIGHT AWAY” would be etched front and center on mine.

Essentially, my not-plan/plan is to hover around the low 8 minute miles in the beginning; absorb the energy of race day, conserve as much as possible, and if around 8-10 I’m feeling good, crank it up a little bit.

If I don’t feel great, I’ll be fine sticking to that pace or even slowing down. Based on my long runs and some races earlier this year, hypothetically—this pacing should work out fine. But once again, it’s a marathon. Anything can happen.

So until Sunday at 7 am, when the horn goes off and the timing chip gets activated, I’ll be obsessing over details: playlists, water, bagels, nuun, BodyGlide, shakeouts, legs up, compression, etc. etc.

But here’s the best part, and it’s the part that I always tuck safely away in my head until I’m desperate for a sense of comfort:

Despite all the details, it’s just running. One foot in front of the other. Relentless forward movement. Running a marathon is one of the hardest endeavors, but it’s also one of the simplest. Isn’t that awesome? It’s so beautifully primal and authentically human—and despite all the goals, the worry, and the uncertainty of it all, I really just can’t wait to experience the magic of the marathon once again.

….

If you want to track me, you can go to this site, plug in some basic info, and you should be set. My bib number is 2411, but I’m pretty sure you can search by name too.

Track town, see you soon!

Good luck to everyone running in Eugene and all over the country this weekend! Hopefully I’ll see some of you in action 🙂

Eugene Marathon Training Week #11 and #11.5

Stuff is winding down around here. I haven’t really done a “workout” so-to-speak in nearly two weeks, and my legs are more than ready for a little freedom.

I thought I’d report on both this past week and this current week, seeing as after Eugene, the likelihood of “recapping” my final taper week is close to zero. I’ll more than likely have too many chocolate chips to focus on at that point. Actually, I’m already distracted by chocolate chips. I don’t even buy bags with the intention of baking cookies anymore.

But I digress.

I am rather methodical about my final week taper schedule though, so I figured I’d do a little detailing.

But first, last week…

Week #11

M: 7 miles w/ 6 x 100 meter sprints

T: Rest

W: 5 miles easy + Maximum Sculpt

T: ~2 mile swim

F: 8 mile run, easy + easy lifting

S: 12 mile run, no watch- tried to finish strong

S: Rest

= 32 miles

Nothing exceptionally noteworthy last week. Saturday’s last long run felt good, and it was probably a good thing my Garmin died before I even started the run. I tend to be a bit time-obsessed with that thing on…even if the prescribed run is supposed to be “easy.”

I had the best intentions to go to yoga on Sunday. Like I actually got myself to the gym early and everything. Alas…class was cancelled. Oh well, can’t say I didn’t try. My foam roller and I got cozy instead.

And now for this week…both what’s happened and what’s planned:

Week #12

M: 6 miles easy

T: 1 hour swim

W: 7 miles “dress rehearsal” with 2 miles @ mgp

T (planned): 1 hour swim

F (planned): Rest

S (planned): 3-4 mile shake out

S: Well…you know 🙂

The swimming seemed to be a game-changer for me during my tapering for Chicago, so I’m plugging it in twice this week. Generally, it seems to really flush my legs and wiggle out all that lingering tightness…all good things for marathon prep.

This morning’s “dress rehearsal” went about as well as dress rehearsal runs are supposed to go…not awesome. If we’re being honest, marathon pace felt kinda fast, but I’m choosing to trust the training instead of let one less-than-perfect run freak me out. It’s par for the course during race week, right?

I’m also having race-day attire qualms, and today’s run didn’t help much. Tank top? Short sleeves? Arm warmers? I’m all over the place. In the end, I’m certain I’ll go with whatever feels most comfortable…and it will undoubtedly be less clothing than what most people are wearing. Cold weather runner FOREVER!

And speaking of, not that I’m hawking or anything, but race day temps are *for now* looking pretty stellar. High of 61 for the day, meaning a chilly start, just the way I like it. Low chance of rain and partial cloud cover…I couldn’t really ask for much better than that. Honestly, when it comes to weather for races, I try to ignore the predictions…because no matter what the skies decide, I’m going to be running either way. However, it does add a little comfort that (hopefully) wet clothing won’t be an issue.

I’m having a hard time believing there’s only three days between now and race day. Tomorrow night I’ll be packing everything up, and just 48 hours from now BF and I will begin our drive south.

Ah, it’s all happening soon. And since all this typing about the race is starting to send my tummy butterflies a-flutter, I’m signing off for now.

Happy Wednesday folks!

Boston

There was never a doubt in anyone’s mind that yesterday would be joyous. No matter if you were an elite runner gunning for the win, an age-grouper who’d worked so hard to qualify, a cheering spectator, or an onlooker from afar dreaming of the day when you could run those sacred roads—Marathon Monday promised, as always, to be filled with inspiration and celebration.

Yesterday started out no differently. I spent all morning at my desk with a browser dedicated to streaming the race. I had followed the stories of several elites, and I couldn’t wait to watch them perform on the most famous stage the sport has to offer. I also couldn’t wait to track friends of mine who were running for the first time. I myself would be attempting to qualify for this special race in just two weeks, which made yesterday’s show all the more inspiring.

After the top men and women came through, it was time for the rest of them—”them” being a collective term for ordinary runner folk—to take their turn on the legendary course.

Many finished. Many fulfilled the dream that they had been training for and focusing on for so long. Those who finished intended to spend the rest of their time celebrating what should have been one of the happiest days of their life.

That’s the thought I can’t get out of my head.

What should have been.

Because at 4:09 hours into the race, everything stopped. All those people invested in the race—those who’d finished, those who hadn’t yet, and those watching their loved ones fulfill a dream—suddenly it wasn’t a scene of triumph. It became a scene of chaos and panic, all set on the stage of a marathon. A scene so shockingly different from what had existed moments ago, it couldn’t possibly be happening.

But it was happening. And despite all the pleas of asking why and the anger and the frustration and the sadness and the desperate attempts to discern some meaning from it all—all we’re left with on this morning after is a hole in our hearts for the violation of our running community.

I can’t add anything to the story of what happened that you haven’t already heard. I went from a state of pure elation for all the runners yesterday to complete shock and disbelief. I watched the news for hours and read as many stories as I could, but they all revolved around one truth: the sanctity of running a marathon had been brutally intruded upon.

We all ache most for the innocent victims and families of this tragic event. Our resources must be used primarily to help them and to help the city of Boston. There is nothing anyone can say or even do  in the wake of these disasters to help the pain of losing a loved one. Perhaps, if anything, all we can do is demonstrate that despite the violation, despite the blatant hatred, we are a people of fortitude.

Runners are built to endure. We are bred we an understanding that in order to succeed, we must find a way to push through the pain. The marathon itself is a metaphor for the human spirit—and while someone may have attempted to crush that spirit yesterday—as always, we can and will keep going.

A running race is in no way an analogy for the pain felt by the people directly affected by this event. But perhaps all we can do, in a situation that otherwise feels helpless, is lend some of the camaraderie and resilience within the running community outward. Ours is a group of individuals full of love, hope, determination, and perhaps most importantly, will. These qualities do not exist solely within the confines of the track or a race course—they transcend into our every day lives and to the people around us.

It took all of a few minutes yesterday for incredible runners to turn into incredible samaritans. If there is any hope to take from all this, it’s that from the destruction of one individual arose a people of perseverance and strength. A people who’s determination to defend our sport, to defend the marathon, cannot and will not be broken.

Here are some of the best symbols of resilience I read regarding yesterday’s events:

“Eyewitness to Bravery, Horror.”

-Peter Sagel, NPR & Runner’s World

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”

– Ezra Klein, Washington Post

“Bombing in Boston”

– Lauren Fleshman, Ask Lauren Fleshman

“The Meaning of the Boston Marathon”

-Nicolas Thompson, The New Yorker

“The Marathon”

-Charles Pierce, ESPN

Our most loving thoughts are with you Boston. Stay strong, keep running.

What’s Worked: Reflections on Marathon Training

As I approach these last few weeks of marathon prep— namely, the taper stage— I’ve been reflecting a bit on how this bout of training has fared compared to others.

There were a lot of different strategies I incorporated this time around which made for a lot of new experiences. And while it’s still 17 days ‘til race day (*shudder*), I think it’s pretty safe to say that these strategies have worked.

As of right now, I feel healthy, strong, and mentally prepared to make Eugene an “A” race. Since I’ve had more than a few marathon-training mishaps in the past, I thought I’d write a bit about the things I’ve implemented this time that seemed to have made the biggest difference.

Following an actual training schedule.

I know, right? NUTS.

But honestly, other than roughly sketching my first marathon training around a Hal Higdon program, I’ve never really followed a “schedule.” Before, I would just try to gradually increase my mileage and my long-run distances. And somehow I kept winding up with injuries that forced me to take weeks off at a time. I didn’t go into my last two marathons 100% healthy. In fact, I was more concerned with my injuries flaring in those races than the actual running. Luckily, I was able to complete both races—but they didn’t have that climactic, “I gave it everything I have” feel that 26.2 is supposed to have.

So I changed my method. I bought the Advanced Marathoning book by Pete Pfitzinger and decided to let him take the reins. I made a few tweaks to the prescribed programs (long runs on Saturday instead of Sunday), but otherwise—it was all up to Pete. The schedule wasn’t too much more demanding in terms of mileage, but if definitely offered components that I’d never used before.

Suddenly, all of my runs had intention behind them.  There were paces I never, ever trained at—both fast and slow—and workouts I’d never done before. I liked it though. This new approach was refreshing and interesting—and it added some color to the “10 miles at an average pace” runs that had become too frequent in my schedule.

I now have a pretty good idea of how my 5k pace, half-marathon pace, and goal marathon pace all feel according to effort as opposed to solely by my watch. I feel more in tune with my exertion levels and when to push and when to hold back. I also have a much better gauge of my strengths and my weaknesses—which feels good both going into race day and future training. For instance, to work on: hills, tempos, and workouts in the middle of long runs. To capitalize on: race day brain/competitive nature, speed work, and finishing strong.

I love that this new schedule has given me new favorite workouts, too. Somehow I’ve developed an infatuation for 800 repeats as well as half-marathon pace shorter runs—both of which require hard, fast rap…which I also kind of love right now.

Rest Days

I think there has been one week this entire training cycle that I didn’t take a rest day. Otherwise, they have been as integral to each week as the long run. I’ve gone from avoiding and hating any rest days at all to welcoming them with open arms whenever they come.

I am certain that this change has made a critical difference in my body’s health, but perhaps more so—I’m convinced that they’ve done wonders for my brain. While I definitely still get a little restless on rest days—it’s the temporary holding back that gets me excited to get back out there the next day. My workouts or runs the day after rest days always feel so fresh and strong, and I’m having a hard time remembering back to the time when I disliked rest days.

Through this, I bluntly have to state that, IMO, any runner who doesn’t take at least one day OFF a week is fooling themselves. There is everything to be lost, and nothing to be gained, by not letting our bodies recover. I’ve learned this the hard way too many times, and it took me too long to realize that this habit was actually the thing holding me back.

In our sport, sometimes the greatest strength of all can come from when we go against our instincts to keep pushing. It’s a strange concept in a country riddled with laziness and lack of motivation— but something I’ve come to realize is that there can always be too much of a good thing.

Running-specific strength training

On a similar self-preservation topic, I think a key component of this training cycle has been the strengthening I’ve incorporated.

I’ve always been a regular “lifter”—but mostly in an arms-and-core-only kind of way. Part of it was that I didn’t like straying from routine, and the other part was that I never wanted my legs to be too sore to run.

Overuse injuries that were all stemming from muscular weaknesses kind of forced me to change my habits. I started going to the total-body strength class that I always talk about, and all of a sudden—the aches that always plagued me weren’t there anymore.

The class toasts every single muscle group—including my glutes, hammies, and quads, and it also incorporates a lot of plyometric work that improves balance and ankle strength. All of it is so very good for runners, and while I don’t love the weekly DOMs screaming in the back of my legs, I have also seen my recovery time and speed increase.

And fine, maybe—MAYBE—PSJJ has helped too. I still hate it. Day 101 today, woof.

What’s interesting to me about this whole strength-training concept is that I’ve actually decreased the amount of other cardio-cross training during this cycle. I spin or swim maybe once a week, and otherwise it’s just running and strength classes. I used to be a big believer in a more-is-better approach to cross-training, but I’m starting to think that for me—my body can handle running better than I previously thought, so long as I’m diligent about strength. Which is encouraging, because if there’s a choice of activities…I think you can guess that run > everything else.

Food

I love food. I’m very non-discriminatory when it comes to the food I love. As in, I love a big bowl of vegetables and quinoa as much as I love a piece of chocolate pie.

Really though, I’m all about diversification and all-encompassing love when it comes to my food choices. It’s part of what helps me feel balanced, and I like to think that it helps me become not too obsessed with what I put in my body.

However, the fact of the matter is, I have a digestive system that really does not appreciate being deprived of the things it really needs, therefore ample portions of fruits, vegetables, fats, and protein are essential to ensuring I’m not keeled over in abdominal pain every night.

And not to mention running. I’ve done a bit of experimenting this training cycle to see exactly what types of fuel (food) are best on my stomach for both comfort and performance. Instead of focusing on, “Okay, I know I need a lot of water and a lot of pasta before my long run…then I can have whatever the f I want afterwards,” I’ve started focusing more on the before-and-after fueling of every run. Through this, I’ve discovered that food is really magical. Good, whole, nutrient-dense food can make such a monumental difference in how we perform and how we recover, and it’s this special attention I’ve given to figuring out what works for me that’s yielded a greater understanding of what’s best.

A list of my current staples: sweet potatoes, kale, peanut butter, avocados, eggs, oatmeal, almond milk, apples, bananas, spinach, berries, quinoa, almonds, rice cakes, pasta, zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, chicken sausage, squash, Picky Bars, and black beans.

Of course, I stray from these staples often—there’s lots of chocolate and cookies to be found too—but around my long runs and around key workouts, these are what I’ll go for. A lot of it has to do with my bad digestion, admittedly, but I suppose it’s a blessing in disguise because it’s forced me to think about fueling as opposed to rewarding.

….

Along with all these things, I think that being keenly focused on a tangible, quantitative goal has really helped me through this training. Whenever I get the urge to fall back into an over-training or haphazard habit, I remind myself of the truth that nothing changes if nothing changes.

Do I want to get in an extra couple of miles, or do I want to qualify for Boston?

Whenever I put things in this perspective…the answer’s always the same.

I’m ready to see if the changes I’vee made, and the habits I’ve broken, will yield something great—something I’ve wanted for a long time.

More than anything, I’m happy to have had a solid training cycle that has helped me improve as a runner and has helped me rediscover so many new and wonderful things about the sport I love so much.

 

What works for you in marathon training? What doesn’t work? What changes have you made that make the biggest difference in your training?

Eugene Marathon Training Week #9

Good morning!

I am certain I won’t be saying this for more than week…but currently (please quote me on this later) I’m definitely ready to taper.

I feel like I’ve packed in all the training I could up until now, and it just feels like time to slow down, smooth out the cracks, and mentally prepare for race day.

Too bad that will be a three week process. But for now, I’m feeling more relived than anxious to be entering taper-phase. Part of that reason could be last week…it was a big one (for me).

M: REST

T: 10 miles fast-ish

W: 8 miles easy + Maximum Sculpt

T: 11.3 miles

F: 3500 yd swim ~80 min

S: 22.4 miles

S: 6.5 easy miles + 75 min yoga

Total= 58.2 miles

That right there would be the most miles I’ve run in this training bout. Most of it felt good…with the exception of some not-so-favorable conditions on Saturday’s long run.

*Edited to add: After some archive snooping, I discovered this is actually the most miles I have ever run in one week!

The truth is that I should be really grateful for Saturday. All the weather apps (yes I have more than one) promised “steady rain” and 10+ mph winds all day on Saturday. I whimpered a little bit on Friday night, but resolved that rain or no rain…the run was going to happen, and I needed to suck it up.

Imagine my euphoria, then, when the 7:00 am alarm went off and not only was there no rain on my window, but there were BLUE SKIES. Nothing will get me out of bed to run quicker than a welcomed fault in weather reporting. This optimism didn’t necessarily carry on through the run, unfortunately.

I’m not really sure if it was the distance, the headwind (they were right about that part), or just the day itself, but I never really fell into a groove during my long run this week. I really dislike when this happens, particularly as it ruins any hope for consistent pacing (my only goal for the run), and I hate having such variance in speed. The second half was infinitely better than the first half (a reprieve from a head wind will do that for you), and my fastest miles turned out to be my final 5 or so. I would upload and post my splits, but I’m a little afraid to look at their lack of symmetry quite yet.

I kind of felt like I hit the wall during this run, which is definitely not awesome during a training run. But. I suppose if I have to take it now or in Eugene, I’d much rather take Saturday.

At one point, I stopped my watch to refill my water bottle (holla for the fountains being back on!), and I forgot to turn it back on for ~.4 miles. Not really a big deal…except that I plum forgot about it until after the run was done, and after I’d completed the Garmin-verified 22.0 mile distance. During a regular run, this wouldn’t have made a difference. But on a 22 mile run, that extra .4 might have been the death of me.

But no matter. I would have liked to finish my longest long run on a more confident note, but you can’t always count on that. I’ve had more than my share of encouraging long runs this training cycle, so those are what I’ll try to focus on.

I spent the rest of Saturday cuddled in a blanket on the couch in the dark. It sounds pathetic, but it was actually rather perfect. And that rain they predicted? It started probably 20 minutes after I walked in the door from my run. I’ll call that a win for the day.

I also slept about 11 hours Saturday night, all of which felt super necessary. Nothing wipes me out quite like a long run, and there is no more delicious sleep than those fueled by miles (and an entire pizza in my stomach 🙂 )

Not too much else from last week is especially note-worthy. Going to yoga yesterday afternoon was one of the best decisions I made all week…and by “going,” I really mean summoning up every morsel of willpower in my being. There is no excuse for why I don’t prioritize going to yoga more, as it never fails to leave me feeling 100% better afterward. It’s just so much easier to choose an hour of sitting on my butt than an hour of downward dog. I can also easily fool myself too into thinking that I’ll just “stretch at home” and it will be just as effective as an expert telling me what to do. Lies.

However, I’m going to try and go at least twice before Eugene. It really is so good for us runners, and when I’m there I can almost hear my pissy muscles thanking me for finally giving them a little TOC.

Other than yoga, there are a few other “running accessories” that I wholeheartedly believe to be effective and helpful, but that’s a post for another day.

I hope everyone had a nice weekend!