Coming off my PR time in New Orleans, I need to decide how ambitious I want to be with my training plan leading up to the next marathon. Breaking 3:10 was my goal after a 3:13 finish in Chicago in the fall. At the end of that race, I was excited because I’d taken six minutes off my previous time. The weather was perfect that day, and I’d had a great training season. I thought maybe with a lot of training sometime this year I could take three more minutes off that time. But as race day drew closer and the forecast (mostly the humidity) looked more and more grim, I convinced myself it would be fine to use the New Orleans race as more of a long training run ahead of my big chance in D.C. Then I decided to go for sub-3:10 anyway somewhere in the middle of the race. On top of the 20-day turnaround, I also have the Boston Marathon coming up 30 days after the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA race, and I would like to run Boston faster than 3:25, which was my best Boston time from 2011.
In 2011, I ran the Cowtown Marathon in February as a long training run when the weather turned ugly and then PR’ed in D.C. 28 days later and ran well in Boston 23 days after that. What I remember most from that time was that I was incredibly hungry and I cut back on about four of my midweek runs. So we will see how this goes. I am wondering whether I have enough oomph to break 3:10 again or if I should take the next race a little easier. But the D.C. race has a lot going for it:
It’s in my hometown. I can sleep in my own bed and eat my own food. I know where the start and finish lines are, and I don’t have to worry about navigating a weird city.
Crowd support. I know tons of spectators and other runners in this race. When I ran this race last year, Michael came to watch and saw me five times.
Course familiarity. The course is slightly different this year since it starts downtown instead of at the Armory. Even so, I have run this race three times (and the half once), and I train on these roads in this city every day.
Manageable hills. The hills aren’t awful. I have run the two big hills many times, and they’re closer to the beginning of the race.
I won’t know what my goal time for the race will be until race morning, but I would certainly love to break 3:10 again if the day is right. I don’t know how much more training I can put in between now and March 16 to significantly improve my fitness. I think the main goals between now and then are to listen to my body and not get hurt. This means if my legs aren’t up for a 20-miler this weekend, I’ll give myself a break and cut it down to 18 or 16. And if I can’t do all my speed work as fast as I’d prefer, I can settle for finishing the miles I would have run anyway.
My 13-miler this morning was only two seconds off the pace I ran on the same route four weeks ago, which tells me I probably am recovering just fine 48 hours after the race. I plan to finish up training with the final three weeks of the 18-week training plan I did for Chicago. After this race, I’ll reassess what I need to do to get through Boston.
4 x mile
15x300m with 100m recovery
6×800 with 400m recovery
3x200m with 200m recovery; 3x800m with 400m recovery
I accidentally went out for a way-too-fast taper run this morning. I stuck to my guns and ran the right mileage according to my training plan, but I didn’t back off on the pace. I stopped my watch a little past the 8-mile mark and slowed to a cooldown (read: 8-minute, yikes) pace for about another mile until I got to Pacers to pick up extra GU.
Perhaps running most of a course downhill with a tailwind was just asking for it, though. I swear I’ll slow down for the rest of the week.
The marathon training plan I use calls for speed work near the end of my training plan. I am supposed to build a base through the early stages of the program and then add a few fast workouts near the middle to end. I don’t really like running indoors. There scenery never changes, and the guy next to me is always trying to look at my speed.
This year since the end of my training plan meshes nicely with dark winter days when I need to be in the office early, I’m always looking for ways to make necessary treadmill running more bearable.
Warm up on another machine. I am a morning exerciser, so I invariably come to the gym a little stiff. If I’m not feeling fast just yet, I give myself five or 10 minutes on the elliptical or bike. One thing I don’t do, though: start off really slow on the treadmill. If my training plan says I’m supposed to go fast for my workout with a brief warmup, I’m not going to start off my run by going slow. I know me, and I know I’ll finish my run at that same slow pace. Start on another machine.
Use a slight incline. I’m guilty of not following this rule every time, but I really try to remember to do it. An incline of .5 or 1 will best simulate normal outdoor running. I only do hill workouts on the treadmill when I’m in a real pickle since we have so many great hills around D.C. Don’t increase the incline in the middle of the speed work.
Don’t jump off the treadmill to change speeds. I watch a lot of people run at the gym. The people who jack up the speed to a crazy number and then hop back on the treadmill for a tenth of a mile are cheating their bodies out of the warmup and cool down that comes with the speed change. When we start real speed work on the real track, our legs have to speed up and slow down as we speed up and slow down with each rep. The treadmill buttons can’t hit your preferred speed that fast, but most treadmills are pretty quick.
Really rest between reps. Take the full rest distance or time allotted in the plan. It feels like you’re ambling along for too long, but your body is actually recovering. There’s a reason for slow rest periods between hard efforts. Take your time.
Find the right treadmill. I adore Woodway treadmills, and I’ll always run on one if I see it. But if you can’t find an amazing treadmill, just make sure yours does not have a cracked deck or worn belt. If I’m at a new gym, I try to grab one of the types of treadmills most people are using since they’re probably on to something. Get off if something doesn’t feel right.
Consider using music. I don’t always run with music outside, but I always run with music on the treadmill. I change to fast-paced songs for my speed work. My current speed work jams are Gimme Shelter by the Stones, That’s What’s Up by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes and my old standby of Mahna Mahna.
Sample Speed Work Drills
I do these drills on Wednesdays. I start with the recovery part and then speed up for the first one. Some Wednesdays are more successful than others:
12 x 400m @ 90-95% with 200m jog recovery
15 x 200m @ 85-95% with 200m jog recovery (I do this one a lot.)
6 x 800m @ 90-95% with 400m jog recovery
4 x 1200m @ 90-95% with 400m jog recovery (This one is tough.)
15 x 300m @ 90-95% with 100m jog recovery
3 x 200m @ 85-90% with 200m jog recovery (This one falls at the end of the plan.)
Last September, I saw an ad on RunnersWorld.com asking for female marathon runners to help with a study. Every year since 2008 I have run at least two marathons, so I fit the bill. So I did a good deed for science and participated in a nutrition study where I took incredibly detailed notes about everything I ate and how much I ran for a week. My study results came back in January.
When I was made to write down every. stinking. thing. I ate for an entire week, I realized a few things:
I eat three breakfasts most days: a Clif bar, yogurt (Stonyfield Organic BaNilla is my favorite because of its insanely silly name and delicious taste), a banana and sometimes something from the kitchen at work. And I drink quite a bit of coffee.
I don’t exercise for as long as I think I do. My time spent getting ready to exercise doesn’t actually count as exercising. And because I have steadily worked up to running faster miles, my staple 10-mile Tuesday run that used to take 1:35 a few years ago now can take only 1:20. I should probably add in some more cross training to keep my activity level higher when I’m in peak marathon training.
I don’t drink much water.
After longer runs, I can’t even think about eating until at least two hours after I stop running. My stomach is usually in a not-good place, and the last thing I want to do is eat. I know that’s bad.
Here’s what the researcher said:
I am great at fruits – probably because I eat every banana I see – but I need to eat more vegetables.
I’m not at risk for an eating disorder. That’s great because I feel like I eat all the time. In fact, I spend most days counting down the hours until I should eat again and thinking about the next thing I can eat.
I need to eat more carbs. That’s funny. All I eat is carbs.
I was spot-on about the post-workout eating thing. The researcher says:
There is a 30-minute window of time after hard exercise when the body is very efficient at replenishing muscle glycogen stores from consumed carbohydrates. It is recommended that you consume a carbohydrate-rich meal within this window of time, or a snack followed by a healthy meal. This is especially important after long runs when muscle glycogen stores have been depleted. This increases the glycogen storage capacity of the muscles. When combined with adequate carbohydrate intake, an increased muscle glycogen storage capacity provides you with more fuel during your subsequent long runs and allows you to maintain a faster running pace over a longer period of time.
Training and Diet Changes
I got these results about a month ago. Since then I’ve tried to eat more vegetables, but I’ve had trouble adding them to breakfast and lunch. I eat the same sandwiches or wraps for lunch most days, and they don’t have veggies in them. Maybe I should try salads instead?
Part of my training for my upcoming marathon has me increasing my normal 10-mile Tuesday run to 13 miles. Those three extra miles put me on my feet for about the same amount of time I was running before I started getting a little faster. So that part of training is taking care of itself.
The biggest change is that I’ve started putting a banana and a Clif bar next to my computer where I know I’ll come back to plug in my Garmin after a run. If I can change the end of my workout routine to include a snack – especially if it is one of the three breakfasts I was going to eat anyway – the week of tracking my workouts and food will have been worth it.
Sometimes – and it doesn’t happen often – I am on one of my standard training runs, and I discover a new way that two trails or paths I previously had only run separately magically hook up. This opens up a new world of running possibilities. I can get to that water fountain faster or finish my run sooner. Here’s how the trails hook up, with images and handy links to Garmin routes.
Rock Creek Park to C&O Towpath
Rock Creek Park is huge and goes many more miles north than this route shows. I run for a long way on Beach Drive and then cut up across East-West Highway. That road hooks up with the C&O Towpath at the top and around mile 1.5 of the towpath in Bethesda. If you run the whole thing, you’ll get about 21 miles out of a round trip. Once you make it past the tunnel before the Bethesda shopping area, you’re off the chat trail unless you choose to hop back on next to Fletcher’s Cove. On the south side, you can find the other side of the trail back to Rock Creek under the Whitehurst Freeway bridge. Head back north along Rock Creek Parkway for a flat, asphalt path. Garmin route
Mount Vernon Trail via Airport to Roosevelt Island to Rock Creek
Here’s how the Mount Vernon Trail along George Washington Parkway hooks up to Teddy Roosevelt Island and how you can get back across to D.C. There’s a path that takes you to TR Island. That same patch kind of doubles back on itself where you can hang a sharp turn to go uphill to cross the Memorial Bridge back across to D.C. Garmin route
Metropolitan Branch Trail to Mall
To get on the Metropolitan Branch Trail, you have to kind of run right up to the south end of the NoMa Metro stop and then instead of going through the gates on the left, go up the ramp on the right. But the MBT is kind of boring and doesn’t have a lot of shade. To get to it from the Mall, just head down First Street NE next to Union Station. Garmin: Route A and Route B
Rock Creek Park, Hains Point, the Mall and TR Island
If you’re feeling ambitious and think you won’t get lost, there are a few ways to make your way to Hains Point. My favorite way is to come across the pedestrian bridge on 395 so I get a nice view of the Jefferson Memorial. You also can run down Ohio Drive on the Potomac side since Ohio Drive joins up with Rock Creek Parkway and Rock Creek Park. Garmin: Route A and Route B
Some days like today when the wind was blowing up to 40 mph, and the skies were gray, I didn’t feel like going out for eight miles. Here are 10 things to keep in mind when you’re faced with less-than-perfect conditions.
If the streets or sidewalks are icy, slow down. Running slower one day might actually give your body a well-deserved rest.
If it’s dark and icy, slow down even more. Running in the dark will likely make you run slower to begin with. When it’s dark, you can’t see black ice. Slow down by a minute or 90 seconds from your normal pace. Consider wearing a headlight, too, to make ice more reflective.
Factor in the wind. Forty-five degrees with no wind makes for a great run, but 45 degrees with a 30-mph wind is miserable. Before you step outside, take a look at the wind chill or “feels like” temperatures.
Lube up. Wear lip balm. Consider smearing Vaseline on your face. And definitely overdo it with Body Glide on any areas that are prone to chafing.
Better to overdress than underdress. You can always remove layers or unzip your jacket. But you probably can’t find a pair of warm gloves five miles in to a run.
Start moving before you step outside. I walk around in circles for a few minutes and jump up and down a little bit before I leave the house. I take the advice most running coaches are offering now to not do a lot of intense stretching before the run, but I do loosen up my Achilles and hip flexors a little bit because they give me problems.
Turn on your watch to try for satellites before you set foot outside. If you wear a GPS watch, nothing is worse than wandering around in the cold waiting for reception. If finding satellites inside is not possible, try putting your watch outside in a safe, secure area a few minutes before the run.
Hydrate. Remember to plan routes with water stops or bring water. Cold temperatures don’t prevent us from sweating.
Cut it short, if necessary. Choose a route that allows you a shortcut back home if you can. You probably won’t need to take the shortcut because you’ll have warmed up really well and you’ll want to keep going, but give yourself options.
Get out there. The biggest hurdle to running in the cold weather is bundling up, putting on your running shoes and heading out the door. Decide to just run a mile. You’ll probably go farther once you’re out there.