A Few New Goals for Recovery Week

For the first time in years (years!), I had a week without a training plan. Aside from my traditional ten-mile Tuesday run, I had nothing on my calendar. I indulged in a few treats early this week: pizza, cookies, ice cream. But after a few indulgences, I decided I really wanted to go easy. After eating fairly well for a while, I have kind of lost any cravings for really fattening food. My coach said to just have fun this week and to take it easy. In the absence of a plan, I had time to think about my goals for the summer through to my next big marathon attempt. Here they are, in no order.

  1. Return to physical therapy: I came off Big Sur with a touch of knee soreness. That’s new. My quads and calves were pretty tight after two marathons in a week, so I’m guessing my knees are taking on extra work. Multiple flights and lots of sitting didn’t help. My running mechanics need a tune up if I’m going to put in high mileage through the summer. I’m sure I need to stretch more, and I certainly need more hip and core strength. My physical therapist an help with that.
  2. Try group runs: Shakeout runs before marathons are some of the most personally enriching experiences I have all year. The time seems to pass quickly, and I get to talk to new, interesting people while I run. D.C. has tons of running groups. One of them will probably be a good fit, right? I tried a Pacer’s group run on Saturday, which had the benefit of being slow enough to keep me from overdoing it this week. I don’t think I’ll return to run with this group because the pace was a little slower than I’d prefer, but I’ll find one that sticks.
  3. More trail running: I’ve resolved to put in more trail miles in the past, and I know more miles on softer surfaces will help reduce my risk of injury. I need to hold myself accountable this time. Maybe a trail run every other week to start. To get this started, I went for my first trail run in many months today.
  4. Learn to carry water: We have a 50K fire road/trail ultra coming up in July. It’s going to be hot. I need to figure out fueling and try out water bottles. Maybe backpacks too. I hate carrying things, so this is going to be tricky.

I know 80 miles is a lot for an easy week, but I had a lot of fun. I ran slower than normal. I went out for short, relaxing runs when I felt like it. I started chipping away at my goals. Got in some nice hill work, too. In a few weeks, I’ll be ready to start working toward the big October goal.

Boston 2 Big Sur: Big Sur Marathon Recap

The Big Sur Marathon is undoubtedly the most beautiful race I’ve ever run. The scenery is everything they talk about but more vibrant and the smells — the redwoods and the sea air — are perfect — and sounds — waves and drums and footfalls — are what running should sound like. Sure, the roads slant away from you, and you kind of lose your place when you’re trying to run. The wind this year was particularly awful, not just at Hurricane Point. It blew straight on and from the side for miles 6 through 21. But this was my second marathon in a week, and maybe making a time goal was not the most important thing for this race. Even so, I ran a 3:15:36, which was right on track for my optimistic A Goal.

I spent this week as I would any vacation week, stupidly running more miles than I really should have because California running is glorious and always beautiful. Every day except one, I deviated from my plan. I was dumb. But I was happy. And looking back on it, I wouldn’t have changed any runs this week.

A recap:

  • Tuesday: We landed in San Francisco, and I got in a few miles in Golden Gate Park for 12 for the day. It should have been 10, but I felt good.
  • Wednesday: I thought I’d have an easy run across the Golden Gate bridge for maybe six miles, but I felt great, so I ran some hills. And I ran 10 miles. Oops. Then we walked about five miles around the streets of San Francisco. My feet weren’t happy.
  • Thursday: Actually, I think I did well to only run five easy miles on trails on Thursday. Michael and I went to Marin to hang out for the morning, and we walked about a mile and a half around Muir Woods.
  • Friday: I finally had my legs back, so I celebrated by running seven miles at 7:37 pace. Way too fast for a recovery/taper week. But I got to see the ocean on my run!
  • Saturday: Stuck to the plan for once and ran a short shakeout run with Bart Yasso.

On to the race! Big Sur starts at 6:45 a.m., and the buses need to be off the road for the runners to funnel on to the road, so that means everyone needs to be in the tiny runners village no later than 5:30. My 4:15 bus was one of the last to leave Pacific Grove, and we arrived at the start line around 5:30. If you back out that timeline, that means I had to wake up around 3:30 to hurriedly gather myself and my stuff to get to the bus on time. And because we’d been in California since Tuesday, I couldn’t use my East Coast/West Coast powers to wake up early.

The runners village is a setup of rows and rows of portapotties (I only had to wait in line for about two minutes both times I went) and tightly packed, nervous runners huddled together in the darkness. There is coffee, water, Gatorade and maybe snacks. I didn’t look for snacks. I tried to find a place to put my towel so I could stretch. That was kind of a success. After about 45 minutes, the race announcer started to call the later wave starters to line up. Because the road is so narrow, there isn’t really room for runners to make their way to the corrals, so they have to line up back to front. The wave 1 runners shuffled around and did weird warmup drills until about 6:40 when the announcer finally called for the final group to line up.

After a few introductions for the elite athletes, everyone edged forward a bit, and we were off. The first six miles are rolling downhill. They aren’t all downhill. But they’re blocked from the wind. In hindsight, I probably should have gone faster here because this was the only point in the race that running felt normal.

A strong headwind — stronger and more unrelenting than anything at Boston — knocked us in the face right at the seven-mile mark. You could hear the group let out an audible groan, and everyone shifted to try to get behind someone else. We were out of the cover of trees, and the people I’d been running with and the ocean came in to a kind of technicolor. But the wind. Ugh.

For the next four miles, I stuck with a group of guys and one woman who were trying their best to fairly take the running burden and shield each other from the wind. I would tuck in behind a guy and run beside another for a while, and they’d reposition themselves after about a mile. I wish I could have stuck with them longer, but the group seemed to disband at a water stop.

Mile 10 has a nice downhill that I tried to not take too fast. I had to tie my shoe during that mile because the WIND UNTIED MY SHOE, which took about 20 seconds.

Wind on Bixby Bridge
Wind on Bixby Bridge. Also: heel striking and awful form!

On Friday, Michael and I drove the course, so I kind of understood how awful Hurricane Point might be. It is deceptively long. I’m used to running hills with steeper grades in D.C., but I don’t train on any hill that is two miles long. So miles 11 and 12 were 9:05 and 8:18, respectively, but Strava tells me the grade-adjusted pace for those miles is 7:08 and 7:09. That’s what it felt like. And wind. So much wind.

The Bixby Bridge piano player was adorable, but I wasn’t going to stop to listen. I plowed through and tried to get my mind right for the rest of the race. Looking at my watch, I could tell I’d need to run a negative split to get to my goal. The rest of my miles were all under 8:00 pace, and I ended up averaging 7:26 for the race. I even stopped for strawberries at mile 23 and ran a 7:33 mile. So hooray for negative split!

Done! Cumulative time: 6:17:02

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My overall placing for the B2B for women was fifth out of 219. I came in ninth of 2,133 women overall, which is pretty good, considering I didn’t have fresh legs. The B2B tent was stocked with all kinds of food — sandwiches, fruit, cookies — and beer that I promptly chugged. I got a sweet medal and jacket, and I got lots of cheers for running Boston along the route. The race was incredibly well executed for a medium-sized event. The race communications, water stops, bag check, swag, pasta dinner, expo. Everything. Everything was organized like the best marathons you’ve run. Hell, the guy who gave me my race shirt bag even put my number tag on my bag for me.

I know I can run Big Sur faster than 3:15 now that I understand the course. I would adjust my training to work in more long hills and more back-to-back weekend runs. I had plenty of those on my schedule, but I could have flipped the order to run Sunday longer instead of Saturday.

One of my goals for next year is to break three hours at Boston. I would love to run Big Sur again some day when the lottery gods are smiling, but I can wait another five years before I return to such a punishing course.

This week I will run easy, fun runs. I started this morning with an easy recovery run in Palo Alto. And later this week, I’ll put together my race and non-race goals for the next few months. I know I’ve got a three-hour marathon in me, and I have more PRs to set.

Boston 2 Big Sur: Boston Marathon Race Recap

The first part of the B2B Challenge is complete, and I’m beyond happy with the result. My A Goal (a 3:00 marathon) coming in to the taper was quite aggressive. My PR was a 3:02:21 in St. George last fall, but that course is notable for its crazy downhill profile. That day was perfect. I ran the tangents. There was a tailwind. Boston is a tougher course. Running better there seemed like a long shot. But goals should be aggressive.

Training went well this winter, even through the coldest temperatures D.C. had seen in decades. I knocked out my training runs and nailed my 3:00 marathon goal pace during tempo runs. I’d had a sub-par race marathon in Austin, another hilly course, in February, that I was trying to get over mentally. A lot would have to go right for a new PR, and a lot would have to go right to break three hours here.

My taper went remarkably well, though holding back during those final runs wasn’t easy. Last week’s key workout was a 10-miler with two miles at marathon pace. I also practiced running in the rain and running in to a significant headwind at marathon pace. I didn’t know how handy the thoughts of those runs would be on Monday.

Ready for Athletes Village looking like a homeless Teletubby.

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This year I went all out with my warmup getup for Athletes Village. I might have looked like a total idiot, but I had to be the warmest person in the tent. Michael and I hopped on the first round of buses to Hopkinton. We left around 6:25 and were off the bus by 7:15. I spent at least an hour relaxing, nearly asleep, under the tent. My nerves only started to kick in around 8:30. Somehow I remember the road to the start line being longer. This year, the distance between the tents and the corral seemed shorter. It isn’t. I’m crazy. Got in the corral around 9:40. We’d had a passing rain shower around 8 a.m., but there wasn’t much wind or rain at the start. I decided to try for my goal pace and assess that pace and the weather after the screams at Wellesley, when maybe I’d be feeling optimistic.

The one mistake I haven’t made at Boston in the last three years is going out too fast. I have to be OK with a slower first mile. This year was no different. My 6:58 pace felt incredibly easy, given the downhills and crowds, and I knew I would be going faster soon. The next few miles ticked off perfectly: 6:42, 6:43, 6:42, 6:49, 6:36, 6:40. I kept on like this through Wellesley — past Wellesley. I took my GUs on time. I sipped Gatorade when I needed it. I even held my goal pace through a downpour during miles 14 through 17. Everything went well. I could have done without the headwind and the downpour, but I dealt with it.

The one thing I could have done better this year, and the thing I could probably stand to work on in every race, is running the tangents. Boston is a point-to-point course with only four turns, so I’m not losing time on the corners. I did tend to weave a bit more than I needed to. I would get frustrated and dart around a slower runner or a walker, especially at the end. That adds up. My final Garmin reading came in at 26.3.

The Newton hills were tough, but I knew I’d lose some time there. Once I crested Heartbreak, I did a quick calculation, in kind of a half-math, weird, what is 8+7 what I don’t even ugh math, thing and realized I would certainly be setting a Boston personal record. I would need to walk to miss it. I then tried to reason my way through whether breaking 3:00 was possible. Well, if Heartbreak is mile 21 and I have five-ish miles to go, how fast do I have to run? How far off is my Garmin? Can my legs hold this pace? Would I need to go faster? Probably would need to go faster than seven-minute pace. But there’s a lot of downhill and cheering. I’ll try?

Miles 22 through 26 felt windier than the rest, but I tried to will my legs to run through a final kick. I couldn’t quite hold my goal pace for the final miles, which would have brought me under 3:00. I ran 7:00, 6:58, 6:53, 7:09, 6:53 (for the final .3). At the 25.6-mile marker, I figured I would need to run a 6:00-mile to end up under 3. I would have to settle with a 3:01-something, but I’d definitely push it all the way down Boylston. Coming down Boylston is always my favorite part of the running year. Coming down Boylston with a shiny, new PR (3:01:26) is even better. I came in somewhere between my A and B Goals, and I’m pleased with how well I ran, given the wind and rain. I’m sure I can break 3:00 in the fall on the right course.

After the race, aside from a few stomach issues and minor knee aches, I felt pretty good. This week is about recovery and relaxation and getting my mind and legs in a good place for Big Sur.

I ran half of Ten-Mile Tuesday long the Charles this morning before we left for San Francisco. I’ll finish up my miles on the West Coast, and I’ll look forward to a week of recovery running.

The Great Taper: How I Won’t Screw Up Before Boston and Big Sur

Somewhere around Potomac Park in the Cherry Blossom 10-miler-ish
Somewhere around Potomac Park in the Cherry Blossom 10-miler-ish

My mileage took a decent step down last week from 95 to 80 miles, and it will go down again for the next week. For the past week, I’ve had a nice feeling the past three months of training are starting to snap in to place. My legs are cooperating, and I’m hitting my pace for every workout. I’ve banked a bunch of hard miles and long runs. Now is the time to concentrate on not screwing up the seven days between now and Boston.

To build a little more confidence ahead of two big races, I set a few PRs in the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler yesterday. The course was shortened by a half mile because of an incident before the race, but I still set a few new PRs of my own for the 5K (19:33), 10K (39:30) and 15K (59:57). And I blew away my 6:36 pace goal with a 6:26 average per mile.

I’ve felt more energized over the past week than at any other time during the training cycle. Even after a rainy 15-miler through the cherry blossoms last Wednesday, my legs still felt like they could have kept going for at least 10 more miles. I also have concentrated on eating a little healthier this month. I’ve cut out most sweets and have tried to limit myself to one glass of wine a day or nothing at all. So it looks like I’ll start Boston at my goal weight and with many more miles and hard workouts than I’d ever thought I could run.

Here’s the plan for the next week that I’m going to try to not screw up.

  • Monday: 8 miles easy
  • Tuesday: 10 miles moderate pace
  • Wednesday: 10 miles: 6 miles easy, 2 miles at marathon pace, finish out easy
  • Thursday: 7 miles easy
  • Friday: maximum of 45 minutes
  • Saturday: 10K shakeout
  • Sunday: shakeout with Bart Yasso
  • Monday: Boston Marathon

Once I get through Boston, I’ll start to focus on recovery and time goals for Big Sur. Right now, given my training and the forecast, my best guess for time goals is:

Boston

  • A Goal: 3:00
  • B Goal: 3:05
  • Having Fun Goal: 3:15

Big Sur

  • A Goal: 3:15
  • B Goal: 3:25
  • Having Fun Goal: uhhh 3:40?

B2B Training Ramp Up: Three 90+-mile Weeks

The last three weeks of training have really kicked my ass. I can’t remember a time when I was ever so excited about running and exhausted at the same time. These three weeks aren’t the highest-mileage weeks I’ve ever put in (they’re close), but each one has included at least one hard workout. Those hard workouts make a huge difference. They’re the reason I can’t wait to head out the door most mornings, and they’re the reason I’ve started sleeping eight hours a night.

Now that most of the hard training is done, for the first time in my running life, I’m looking forward to a taper. Maybe I wasn’t running to my full potential before, so I wasn’t ever really tired enough to want a long taper. But after yesterday’s final long run and after a nice brunch, I came home, sat down on the couch, and felt that warm, completely drained, buzzy feeling. That’s what the training is supposed to do. My legs need some time to recover before three hard races. And I’m excited to let that happen.

Here are my top five runs from the last three weeks. This stretch has coincided with an intense time at work (multiple product releases, boss was gone for a week), and I’m even more psyched I’ve been able to train at this level with so much else going on.

5. 17 miles with Michael through Richmond

Michael and I were both tempted to stay home and work all weekend, but we decided to get away for a nice overnight trip to Richmond. I got great advice for a potential long run route, and Michael drew a makeshift map. Off we went down Monument Ave. and along some trails. This was my second long run for the weekend, and I was happy with the time on my feet.

Silly running map. We didn’t get lost!

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4. 16 miles with five miles at half marathon pace

The day before the Richmond run, I went out for 16 miles with five at half marathon pace. That ended up being 6:53, 6:56, 6:51, 6:37, 6:37. This run was a huge confidence builder because I’d just run a half marathon the week before and wasn’t sure if my legs were back yet.

3. Cardozo speedwork: three different sessions

  • Session 1: 6:37 and 6:28 miles as a second run
  • Session 2: 6:35 and 6:28 miles as a second run, though I felt like I was dragging
  • Session 3: 5K time trial with 6:29, 6:24, 6:26 miles. And on this particular Tuesday, I ended up running 22.5 miles total. That day was ridiculous.

2. 24 miles with last four pushing the pace

I ran my favorite loop around D.C., Virginia and Maryland, through some nasty wind. The last four miles were around 7:00 pace, despite some nasty gusts. This run lets me know I can push the pace after mile 20 in a few weeks.

1. 20 miles on the W&OD

This run legitimizes the idea that the I’ve improved my fitness in the past three months. With a head wind through the first half and a great tail wind pushing me in the last miles, I ended up running 20 miles at 7:21 pace. The week before Boston last year, I ran 14 miles at 7:35 pace and felt like I was really peaking out.

Last long run before Boston /Big Sur taper
Last long run before Boston /Big Sur taper: Strava

Gradual Progress Toward the Elusive Three-hour Mark

I’m dropping in an update on how training has been going. I’ve dealt with ups and downs, but my overall fitness is noticeably better. For most of January and February, I ran around 90 (usually 93) miles every week. I layered in two speed work sessions most weeks and a second run on Tuesdays. I also added a second longer run most weekends. My legs seemed to be able to handle the increased stress, especially if I took an easy day on Monday. In D.C. we had the coldest February in years, so my training went inside for about a quarter of the time. The roads were simply too icy to go outside some days.

The Bad

A viral infection sidelined me for longer than I’d like. I felt in a total funk for about a week. I shook the initial fever, vomiting and chills in about 36 hours, but I wasn’t able to get past the worn-down feeling for about a week.  I kept up 10-mile Tuesday with a fever and extreme nausea. It wasn’t pretty. I went to Dallas to visit my family and escape the snow-covered trails, but I was too sick to finish my second long run. In hindsight, a light week probably wasn’t the worst thing for my body. I convinced myself that I was actually dealing with overtraining symptoms. Overtraining and this nasty viral bug have the same symptoms. The doctor reassured me it would pass. It did.

I ran a sub-par marathon in Austin and had extreme stomach issues around mile 25. They persisted on my cool down run. I did make a handy map to keep track of these kinds of incidents, however. (You’re welcome.) I know I shouldn’t complain about a 3:16 marathon on a hilly course in warm weather. But I know I’m capable of running faster, and I wish my body could have cooperated that day. I also ran 84 miles that week, which amounted to a tiny taper. In reality, just a few years ago, I would have been ecstatic to put up a time like that. It just wasn’t my day.

Not my best time, but maybe my hilliest marathon.

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The Good

In the middle of a speed work session, my treadmill broke on what was the coldest day of the year to that point. That seems bad. I put on four layers and finished my run outside and felt entirely bad ass for doing it. Bonus: I was on day 364 of my yearlong warranty. The treadmill is fixed now.

I set a 27-second PR in the half marathon this week. The PR came on a nasty rainy day and on a hilly course, so I felt pretty good about it. My previous PR was in perfect conditions on a flat course, so this was a noticeable improvement for me. And it was a few weeks after that awful viral stomach bug, so I might have still been a little weak. Still, progress.

Finally, I settled on two goal races for 2015: the Hartford Marathon in October where I’ll try to break 3:00 and a low-key 50K in North Carolina in July. The goal of the 50K is just to finish upright.

Bumping the mileage, getting faster

Sometimes you start to feel like you’re closing in on those big, crazy goals you set for yourself. Like maybe that ultramarathon is doable. Maybe running (racing?) two marathons in a week is possible. You might break three hours this year after all. It hits you in the middle of your long run, when you’re knocking out marathon-pace miles on tired legs. It hits you when you look at your training log and see week after week of totals you never thought you’d get to.

The last time I felt myself getting faster was about two years ago when I inched toward 70 miles per week. I can certainly look back through my training logs and see good weeks scattered over the last two years, but I can’t remember this exact feeling. In April 2013 when I wrote about getting faster, I said what worked for me was basically running more and incorporating speed work in to my already high-mileage weeks. But back then I didn’t realize how much room I had for improvement. I took another five minutes off my marathon PR and took seven minutes (!) off my half marathon time. Hell, maybe I don’t realize how much farther I can go even now.

Mileage since coaching started
Mileage since coaching started

The last week of January was probably the hardest training week I’ve ever run. It included ice and freezing temperatures most days, too. I know there are more of these in my future. After seeing the results, I’m sickly excited about them. On Sunday afternoon, I felt legitimately exhausted. I didn’t run 100 miles (only 93), but I ran faster, harder miles than I ever would have scheduled on my own. It looked like this:

  • Monday: Easy 8-miler and a gym workout for about an hour and a half. It was just starting to snow, but the pavement was clear. Easy meant 8:30 pace.
  • Tuesday: 10.7 miles in the snow with YakTrax in the morning. Another 6.3 miles on the treadmill in the evening.
  • Wednesday: 12 miles with speed work at Hains Point. Temperature was in the low 20s. Miles at 6:54, 6:36, 6:38, 6:34, 6:41, 6:41.
  • Thursday: 10 miles at 7:45 pace.
  • Friday: Easy 10K at 8:30 pace.
  • Saturday: Half marathon race on an awful, icy trail. Finishing time (1:29:09) is less than a minute off my half marathon PR. Warm up and cool down for 18 total miles.
  • Sunday: 22-mile long run. I could only manage an 8:28 pace after the race.

I never would have planned a long run the day after a race in my old training plan, but I now have confidence that I can at least finish a long run the day after a shorter race. It just might not be pretty. I think slower runs like these, combined with speed work (see Wednesday) are why I’m seeing real gains. I’ve also started taking easy runs seriously. By not running at a sustained 7:40 pace, which I used to feel like I needed to hold just to feel kind of fast — by just taking that pace up another 30 or 45 seconds, I’m able to save my energy for the harder speed workouts.

My next race won’t be a PR. It’s the Austin Marathon a week from today. I have no hopes of running a PR on a hilly course in the heat after four consecutive 90+-mile weeks. But I will probably set more aggressive goals for Boston and Big Sur.

Training with a coach

Starting this week, I took a big, scary step toward becoming a better runner. Hiring a coach and, more importantly, putting my training plan in someone else’s hands is probably the most significant change I’ve made to my running since I decided to train for my first marathon.

I didn’t make the decision lightly. I hate not being in control of my life running plan, so giving over my training plan to someone is not something I would do on a whim. I wouldn’t ask someone I didn’t trust or respect. In early 2014,  I’d been approached by one coach via Twitter, and I hated the experience. He looked at my mileage and goals and told me he could help me break 3:05 but only if I cut my mileage in half and agreed to take full rest days. His attitude about what was right for me and his cavalier statements about the Right Way to Train instantly turned me off. I ran a 3:02 in October by following my own training plan.

Last month, I altered my training plan to stretch for a 100-mile week. The week before the 100, I’d run 90 miles. I’m not foolish enough to think I could keep up this kind of mileage without getting hurt or that regularly stretching for 100 is a good idea. But I do know I can push harder and run faster and that my goal for Boston 2 Big Sur should be more than just “to finish.” I need a little guidance.

Speed work. Ouch.
Part of my speed work. Ouch.

So after much deliberation and some budget calculations, I decided to ask Michael Wardian if he had any coaching openings. Mike has run all my goal races (Boston, Big Sur, Comrades), and he understands my goal to run every day. He *gets* my Ten-Mile Tuesday streak absurdity, and he’s worked that in to my schedule. He agreed to take me on, and we’ve had a great first week. Hearing from Mike on a daily basis has been a dream. This week, I’ve run faster speed work than I would ever put on my own schedule and pushed my middle long run miles more than I would have on my own. This week’s weather in D.C. has been horrendous, and I still managed to head to Potomac Park for some mile repeats when it felt like  0 degrees on Thursday morning. I might have wimped out and given myself another treadmill day if I wasn’t accountable to anyone else. On Saturday I tried two new things: an organized group run in Alexandria and I ran a part of the Mt. Vernon Trail I otherwise wouldn’t have known about. See? New things! Out of my comfort zone.

I’ve thrown out my self-guided training schedule for Boston 2 Big Sur, but I’m sticking with my build-up races. We’ll see how this change pans out. With a week of hard training behind me, I think putting my training in a competent professional’s hands was a great decision.

2014 Running Year in Review

This year was my highest-mileage year so far. I set 10K, half marathon and marathon personal records, I made it through a celiac disease scare, and I started treating food as fuel. I even was stung by a bee and kept up a quick pace to finish my 20-miler in all kinds of pain. I’ll count 2014 as my best running year yet, but I know I have a ton of work and bigger plans in store for 2015.

Stats

  • Total distance: 3,968 miles
  • Marathons: four
    • Rock ‘n’ Roll USA (3:07:09)
    • Boston (3:11:28)
    • St. George (3:02:21)
    • Marine Corps (3:16:26)
  • Age group awards: 2nd Female 30-34 in Rock ‘n’ Roll USA, 2nd Female in Roosevelt Run 5K, 1st Female 30-34 in Erie Half Marathon, 1st Female 30-34 in Battlefield Half Marathon

awards

Top five runs

  1. Paris in the Bois de Vincennes: Imagine losing yourself in a prototypical Parisian park on a beautiful late summer day. Michael and I ran along the Seine to get to the park and realized my planned 14-miler would have to end unless we could navigate our way back using the Metro. We took a (good) gamble and put in another eight miles in the Bois de Vincennes park. The park had enough trails, roads and even wood-chip paths for many more miles.
  2. Boston Marathon: This year’s Boston was particularly emotional after the 2013 bombings. The spectators came out in full force, and running it helped put an emotional bookend on the events of that day.

    Wild Rivers Recreation Area
    Wild Rivers Recreation Area
  3. St. George Marathon: Any time you can shave five minutes off a marathon PR is a good running day. St. George is a beautiful race that I highly recommend to anyone looking to set a PR and enjoy beautiful scenery.
  4. Catoctin Mountain Park: A simple 10-mile loop we read about in Run Washington turned out to be one of the most challenging, punishing runs of the year. I loved it, even though giant bugs kept swarming Michael and me as we ran.
  5. Wild Rivers Recreation Area: In May I found myself running on the roads right before a massive wind and rainstorm in a random recreation area in the middle of New Mexico. I was able to stop to look down in to the Red River gorge. I saw no other runners — no other people except one elderly couple in their RV.

Best running discoveries

  1. Caramel macchiato GU: This flavor of GU makes me look forward to fueling mid-run. It tastes like coffee and caramel and sex, unless it’s frozen. Then it tastes like caramel.Caramel macchiato GU
  2. Beet juice: I read a book by Matt Fitzgerald that recommended beet juice before races to help improve performance. It seems to work pretty well, though the placebo effect might be in effect a little bit. Either way, I’ve incorporated beet juice and smoothies into my diet this year, and I’ve noticed myself feeling fuller longer.
  3. Oiselle Scantron bra: I’ve slowly swapped out my old sports bras for this model. It provides just the right amount of support for a smaller-chested lady like me, and it doesn’t chafe on my chest. That’s what I want from a bra.
  4. Strava: If you’re not on Strava — either the free or paid version — you should be. Strava’s most impressive feature is its segment tracking. I can tell how I’m trending on segments and courses I run often. It also lets you compete against other runners for course records.


Full video: on Strava

2015 health resolutions

  1. Hire a coach: Having a coach in the new year will be huge for me. I’ll say more on this in the next few weeks. I have big goals with Boston 2 Big Sur, breaking 3 in the marathon and running my first ultra, and I think a coach can help me get there.
  2. Listen to my body more and play the long game: In my 90- and 100-mile weeks, I typically push pain aside. I need to remember that I’m going to be a runner for the rest of my life. My body needs to last a while. I should remember to work in recovery weeks with high-mileage weeks. For every three up weeks, I need a legitimate down week.
  3. Eat fewer sweets: Ugh. Sweets and liquor are the reason I’m not five pounds lighter. I’m resolving to cut out sweets and stick to wine during the week for the month of January. That should be easy, right?
  4. Arrive at the Boston starting line healthy: This will be tough with high-mileage weeks in February and March, but if I listen to my body, I can get to Boston and Big Sur in good shape. That means I’ll have rested legs, a good base of mileage, speed work, and I’ll be ~126 pounds. That’s when I feel my best.
  5. Choose races strategically: For the past few years, I’ve fallen in to a pattern of  throwing in races because someone has a spare bib or because they sound interesting. I love to race, but if I’m going to throw in fun races, I don’t have to race them. I should use them as building blocks, which is what I intend to do with my first race of 2015 in 10 days.

Ten Thoughts From a 100-Mile Week

I kind of wildly deviated from my training plan this week. It happened last week, too. Last week’s scheduled 68 turned in to 90, and this week’s scheduled 89 became 100. At some point in the middle of the day Thursday, I started crunching mileage numbers. I was feeling pretty good, even though I was nursing a holiday-party-induced hangover. My legs felt fresh, even after an unscheduled 90-mile week last week, and I wasn’t too cranky or sore.

100 miles
100 miles logged on Strava

To prepare for my first ultramarathon (Comrades 2016?) and to have a shot at running well in both Boston and Big Sur in April, I’ll need to increase the amount of time I’m on my feet. Last time I was close to a 100-mile week was in July when I was training to try to break 3:05. Then, going past 90 felt like a massive undertaking. This time I decided that if I felt overly sore or sick or awful, I would give myself permission to back away from the goal.

One-hundred is certainly a nice, round number. I think my training has come to a point where I can handle running this much, as long as I’m careful. With that said, running many miles may or may not lead to my ultimate goal of breaking three hours in the marathon. But if the elites and the coaches say it works, and I’m able to do it, I have to give it a shot, right?

The 100 idea sounded like a good, albeit fuzzy, plan on Thursday. It still seems like going for a higher-mileage week was a fine choice after 15 miles Friday, 23.5 miles Saturday and another 8.5 miles on Sunday. I won’t be doing it again for another month because for the first time in years, I’m legitimately exhausted during a training week.

Over the past few days, I’ve had a lot of time to think about how this kind of training feels. It’s a different feeling from the 80s I now regularly run. Here are 10 things I learned during my high-mileage week in no order at all. I’m sure these ideas apply to weeks when I’m not in running overdrive, but they’ve been more noticeable this week.

  1. Multitasking makes fitting in miles easier. I already was decent at answering work emails on the treadmill. This week, I perfected the timing of the treadmill run/farro dinner. Hell, I wrote the draft of this post on the treadmill.
  2. Don’t underestimate your need for water. The one thing I tend to skimp on after a run, and even during a run, is water. Drinking water during cold-weather runs is also hard to remember because I’m not immediately thirsty. But the thing that makes me feel better later in the day is drinking a lot of water. I swapped my normal glass of white wine for water most nights this week. That helped.
  3. Really don’t underestimate your need for sleep. Because my runs were longer than normal, I needed to be up earlier than normal. My muscles also needed time to repair themselves. Usually I’m lucky to get seven hours of sleep. This week I got eight most nights except Saturday night when I had a lot of trouble falling asleep.
  4. Be prepared to blow off social events. I manage to fit in most outings during a normal week. This week I blew off: work holiday after-party, drinks with coworkers three times (!) and staying for more than one drink at a birthday party.
  5. Your body will hurt, but in a different way. You might be familiar with that post-marathon soreness where you hobble around like a feeble old person and can’t take stairs for days after a tough race. That slight aching in your quads and calves during a high-mileage week is like a toned-down, dull, throbbing version of that. But it kind of creeps up on you when you’re in the middle of some important meeting. I’ve never had that kind of constant mild background pain before.
  6. When you run, you zone out much faster. Usually, I spend the first five miles of a run concentrating on my form and really feeling the road. It seems like every beginning step is moving me closer to loosening up. Normally that doesn’t happen until at least 30 minutes in. This week, I slipped in to the loose, clear zone within the first five minutes of most runs. I wish the first part of the run could always give way to that feeling.
  7. My relationship with hunger changed. This week, it seems like my body took about 30 extra minutes to let me know it was hungry, and when it did let me know, it was kind of a “Meh, you can probably eat now.” I feel like I should be hungrier, and even if I do eat, I can’t seem to get full.
  8. I keep losing track of which shoes I wore last. I tend to meticulously cycle through shoes over the course of a week so I have a nice balance of mid-weight trainers, bulky shoes and lighter ones. But I kind of gave up this week and started just choosing a pair that wasn’t still sweaty.
  9. Two-a-days are helpful if you can swing them. Honestly I can’t imagine running all these miles at once. I also don’t like running in the dark, so most of my miles in the winter have to be in the morning. And I’m lucky enough to have a treadmill at my house for evening easy runs.
  10. OMG you’ll never stop doing laundry. See the two-a-days item. Most days, I would pull clothes from the dryer, put them on and start my run.

Next week I’m planning to scale back down to the mid-70s, which should feel nice. Between now and then, I’ll be taking a long nap.

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