“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” -Theodore Roosevelt
With week 8 over, I realize I am now over the hump for marathon training – I have passed the halfway mark. Eight more weeks and seven more long runs are left (besides that pesky last long run of course). It’s hard to believe where I am at less than two months away. It’s becoming more real, but it’s far enough that the nerves haven’t fully kicked in. Well maybe a little…
With panic not fully setting in yet, I know that I need to start my mental preparation to try to remain calm as the weeks pass faster than expected. Even though I’ve been working a lot harder than I am used to, I have found moments of zen in my training. There have been times when my cross training didn’t feel hard any more – I was able to keep my cycling pace longer than expected or add more weight to a barbell without even thinking. There were times when I was running just before the sun came up where I forgot what I was doing at the moment and was only lost in my current emotion. Towards the end of my long run last week I noticed I was no longer focused on how many miles I had been running, but on how I was able to push faster to the end.
I have been feeling pretty solid in general during this training period. Twinges and pains I experience seem to heal quicker than before. Not only does my body feel a bit firmer than before, it feels a lot stronger. I am beginning to wonder how it will transform in eight more weeks. I almost cannot believe how much I’ve been sticking to my training – no slack off days and no illness to sideline me so far. I am a better version of myself, however temporary this may be.
I’m halfway to my goal and even though things feel amazing at the moment, you never know what is going to happen to you on that day. Let’s hope I can dig back into what I feel today, to pull it together if things should start to unravel in Chicago.
To the people reading who are also in marathon training – how are things going for you? What feels normal at the halfway mark?
“Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war let it begin here.” -Captain John Parker
I have been sticking pretty strictly to my 16-mile training plan, but following anything completely can be a challenge in itself. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had to change up my long run day for a Tuesday night race which gave me a free Saturday. Since I knew I would be running 10 miles on Tuesday, I decided to use the time to do my speed workout that I would have normally done on Wednesday. I would need a rest day on Wednesday after the race, so I spent my Saturday doing a short 5-mile tempo run. I easily hit my target speed and was feeling pretty good that I decided I would run on Sunday with the easy short run I was going to do on Monday. I did my cross-training on Monday and not running helped save my legs a bit for the race on Tuesday…phew! It all seemed to work out for week six – rest on Wednesday, cross-training on Thursday and Friday and end with 14 miles on Saturday.
Since I had more time allowed for my easy 6-mile run and didn’t need to get to work, I decided to go to one of my favorite places to run – the Battle Road Trail in Minuteman National Park. It’s only 2.25 miles from my house, so on long run days it is possible to get there by foot. But I decided to park at Meriam’s Corner and run to Paul Revere’s capture site and back which would make it just over 6 miles.
The park is located in the towns of Concord, Lexington and Lincoln MA, where the start of the Revolutionary war took place. It is amazing that I live so close to where this nation was born and it’s great to be able to run by such historic sights. The trail itself is packed dirt and fairly flat with just a few rolling hills to give a challenge. It is quite scenic in parts, with open fields and historic buildings. You can really imagine yourself back in time, before roads were paved and houses were intricate.
I was running through history, as I jogged on the path where battles between British soldiers and the Concord militia once took place. Eventually I hit 3 miles, but continued on about a tenth of a mile further to reach the monument at the sight where Paul Revere was captured during his famous midnight ride.
I turned around to head back, glad that I had made it out here for one of my training runs. Next week it’s back to the normal schedule, which means going back to some of the same old, same old routes. However, next Saturday I may be trying to incorporate some of this path into a long run. Stay tuned for that!
“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” -Bob Marley
This past week got a bit confusing since I switched up my 10-mile long run day to run this race on a Tuesday night. The Yankee Homecoming race in Newburyport, MA has apparently been going on since 1960 with varying distances, but now it has settled to a 10-mile course and a 5K course that runners can choose from. As you can imagine for an August race, it has the potential to be a very hot and difficult. This year was no exception, however I feel like it could have been worse weather-wise. It was warm and the sun was shining brightly at the 6:10 PM start, but the humidity was not too bad.
One of the most important things I prepare for a longer distance race is the playlist. I had wanted to use my last 10-mile playlist – the one I made for the Newport race – with just a few tweaks to add some newly acquired songs. Things had been pretty busy lately with work and other obligations I didn’t have time to edit the playlist so I decided to just use it as is. I scrolled through on my phone a few times…oh crap. It was nowhere to be found. I must have not synced that particular list the last time I updated my phone. I was so sick of my other half-marathon lists, I wasn’t sure what to do. I saw one named “15K” and checked the time on it – 1 hour and 45 minutes. Well that should do time wise at least. I cued it up. Shuffle all.
The 10-mile course takes you on a tour of the town of Newburyport, mostly through residential neighborhoods. The residents are all very supportive and many of them make their own additional water stops and spray willing runners with garden hoses and sprinklers. I ran through many of these as I could feel my face heating up right at mile 1. Mile 2 starts to give you some nice views of the water, which always calms me down. By mile 3 I realized my face felt like it was on fire with the heat. At this point, the course has stayed pretty flat. I remembered hearing about the hills and then at mile 4, I saw the first major incline ahead of me. My playlist responded as I chugged up…
“Oooga-chaka, Ooga-chaka. Ooga-chaka, Ooga-chaka. I can’t fight this feeling, deep inside of me…”
Steadily to the beat, I climbed. Luckily it wasn’t a long hill and I made my way through more friendly neighborhoods and through a state park. I was worried about getting tired after the halfway mark, but surprisingly I felt really good. The course was becoming more hilly and my pace slowed down a little bit, but my lungs felt incredibly strong. At around mile 6.75 I started pushing my speed a little more…
“I feel the love, I feel the love, I feel the love that’s really real. I’m on sunshine baby, yeah!”
It sure felt like it, even though the sun was starting to make it’s way down. Somewhere between mile 6 & 7 I got to take a tiny break from my playlist as a family was playing the song “The Power” by Snap loudly on their lawn as I trudged up another small hill. I tried to entertain this family with my runner dance which is actually just me flailing my arms around wildly while running.
There was some nicely shaded parts towards the second half of the course which made things cool down a bit. I was feeling progressively better, even though the course seemed to be getting harder.
“Make me a liar. One big disaster. ‘Cause you make my heart beat faster.”
I felt like I could go faster. My breathing was strong and I felt no pain. Somewhere around 7.75 miles, I grew wings. There was a hill in front of me that I had to get up, and I didn’t even feel it. Suddenly I had one mile left.
“I can climb the highest mountain, cross the widest sea. I can feel St. Elmo’s fire burning in me, burning in me. Just once in his life a man has his time. And my time is now I’m comin’ alive.”
I turned up the heat in my legs. There were still a lot of residents out watching the race and cheering everyone on. I couldn’t believe how strong I felt after running 9 miles. The last tenth of a mile finishes on an incline into the high school driveway and then a decline toward the finish line. It was a tough finish as I picked up my speed to get my PR (by about one minute). That hill nearly killed me. When I finally crossed the finish line, I felt really good, but my rapid breathing and heart rate proved how hard I had worked to get there. I felt really thirsty. A woman at the finish informed me water was one way and showers were the other way. I knew what I needed…
“Son of a bitch. Give me a drink.”
Some people began to talk to me so I had to shut my playlist off. I was pleasantly surprised how well it got me through that run, by sheer accident. I was also very impressed with this mid-week race. It’s tough to get up to northern MA on a weeknight, but if I was able to do it again next year, I would try. The resident support and beautiful course really made the race for me. Not to mention it was a great option for a training run.
“Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede
“Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina & the Waves
“The Power” by Snap
“Faster” by Matt Nathanson
“St. Elmo’s Fire” by John Parr
“S.O.B.” by Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
As I settle into my new routine, the training schedule gets a little easier. I feel like I can push things a little more and I feel myself actually recovering and not just the pain all the time. I took a rest day on Thursday and it felt strange. My body seemed confused and my mind felt guilty that I was not doing anything. I find myself constantly reminding myself that not only are rest days okay, but they are extremely important as well. My body needs to heal.
I definitely needed that rest day. The day before, my training plan called for a 6 mile run. My training partner asked if I wanted to meet her around 6PM at the lake, where our running club has it’s weekly 5K. The plan was to start around 45 min before the actual race and do 2 loops around the course. We were not going to join the race, but figured we would see people we race with on our final loop around. We got a slighter later start because I hit some traffic and my training partner was helping out with registration for the race. We made it around one easy loop and stopped to grab some water at the snack table set up at the finish line. As we went around to make our second loop we saw all the runners lined up for the race. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
We were told this week there would be more runners at our race since our club was dedicating the 5K to a young woman from that area who had recently passed away. Many people came out in support and to honor this runner, some from the local high school track team. We usually average about 70 runners during this time of year. There were 200. Keep in mind this is not a closed course, so everyone is running on publicly used paths and sidewalks. It’s also not chip timed so we rely on volunteers to manually write down the times and numbers of runners coming in. I can imagine the difficulty they had this week.
We couldn’t believe the crowd of people that were standing in the parking lot, ready to start. We debated waiting for them all the go by, since most would be passing us anyway. But it was taking awhile for them to start, so we decided to jog past and get a little bit of a head start. We knew at some point they would all come from behind, like a tidal wave of moving legs. We hoped we could get to a more open area before that happened.
We were jogging on the path where the race starts and saw many people casually taking an early evening stroll. Some people were walking their dogs. They had no idea what was going to hit them in about 5 minutes. We pushed to get through that section, on to the sidewalk. After about a mile, I could feel it – like in the movie Jurassic Park when the dinosaurs were close by. Fast feet tapping behind me. I barely had time to move to the side when a couple high school boys flew past.
“Oh boy, here they all come!”
We kept trying to move to the side, as runners dodged around us on both sides. I watch two kids speed by some older lady who was walking. She screamed. It was like watching a cartoon.
Eventually the sidewalks became a little less crowded as we finished up our 6 mile run. Seeing all the runners at the finish line was overwhelming, but also an inspiring sight to see. One thing I’ve learned is that runners are amazingly supportive of each other. Yes we are competitive and there are always people we are trying to push ahead of in competition. But we are also there for each other as well. Just watch any race and you will see it.
“The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.” -Oscar Wilde
I don’t love 5K’s.
When I started running more distance races, 5ks became less appealing in general. It feels like pain, pain, pain…then as soon as you start to get into a rhythm, it’s over.
Sometimes they feel just plan pointless.
A few months back, I got an email at work saying our company was organizing a group to run a 5K – the Jim Kane Sugar Bowl 5K. Before my marathon training, I was running a 5K almost every week with my running club. This is no longer the case, as my shorter runs require more mileage. However when I got the email, I thought it couldn’t hurt to throw a fast extra run into the week. I knew I would be deep in marathon training, but I thought it might be a good change to spend some time with co-workers outside of work, at the same time doing something I liked. At past companies I’ve run the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge and it was always a good time, with the run usually followed by a night out at a bar in downtown Boston.
This race was actually very well run. It took place in South Boston near Carson beach. There was even a pint glass for finishers, which I always like. I was nervous at first since I’m used to having a car at races and I also don’t know Southie too well. I took the subway (the T) from work and packed light so I could take advantage of the free bag check. There wasn’t a lot of communication or information from work on if we would find a place to meet or how we would pick up our bib. Then there was the shirt. They handed me a thick, 100% cotton Hanes beefy tee shirt to wear to promote the company and show we were part of a team. I have no problem wearing a shirt with a company logo, but running in a rough cotton shirt on an evening where it was close to 80 degrees and humid made me a little cranky. I sucked it up and went with it, as many co-workers did.
The course was an out and back on a flat road. It was a fast course where you could definitely PR. I did not do my best. I was deep in week five of my training and sore muscles made it hard for me to push. The July air felt oppressive and that damn shirt was just bunching uncomfortably around my waist like an ill-fitting uniform. At mile two I thought, this is really hard, and I felt an immense hatred for all 5Ks. I stopped at both water stops just to dump water on myself. Then during mile three…well, we’re all runners here right? I had to poop. My company also happened to have one it’s summer socials right before I left to go to the race and I didn’t want to deny myself any of the passed hors d’oeuvres. Or the rum punch (I only had one). My pace slowed down quite a bit and now I just annoyed. I quickly told myself I didn’t have to kill myself at this 5K and that I had been working hard all week – this was just another training run. As I crossed the finish line, I was touched as one of my co-workers was waiting to hand me a bottle of water and do a cool-down walk with me. He is a much faster runner than me and I always get the impression he thinks I don’t take my running seriously enough. It was nice to get his support after feeling so crappy at the end. As I was grabbing my pint glass, a complete stranger came up to me and said, “I saw you on the course and you were flying! I was trying to catch up.” Well that was really nice of her and the first time that someone has said that to me out of the blue like that. I wouldn’t call a 28 minute 5K flying, but I’ll take the compliment. I always forget that there is usually always someone trying to catch you, even on days you don’t feel that fast.
Co-workers were kind of scattered at the end and there wasn’t a definitive plan for a post-race meet up. I ended up getting a drink and some food with one woman from the office, but I was disappointed at how it didn’t feel like we were part of a team. All in all, it was nice to get an extra run in during the week and running in Southie was pretty cool and a nice change for me.
“It’s views like these that make me forget about the pain.” -Marianne Chmielewski
I’m a little behind on my blog, which upsets me. I’m already winding down week 6 and I haven’t written my week 5 post. I still want to write about it, because I had one of the most gorgeous runs I’ve had in awhile with two great running friends. Last weekend we were invited up to Maine for a fun girl’s weekend. Realization soon hit that all of us are training for Chicago and weekends are for long runs. What to do? Plan a run on vacation of course!
Lori (my training partner in crime) and I had to do 12 miles on Saturday. We figured a change in scenery would do us some good and luckily Marianne (quoted at the top) was very familiar with the area. We were up in Wells, Maine near Ogunquit, so we incorporated the famous and extremely scenic Marginal Way path into our long run. Marianne runs a bit faster than Lori and I, but she kindly held back a bit to help us along. We were both working pretty hard to keep up, although I think I struggled the most. The run ended with us averaging about 20 seconds/mile faster than our training plan called for. However, I didn’t die! Maybe I need to start pushing myself a little more. Of course there is a balance and the last thing I want to do is injure myself. The run felt good as a whole, but there were definitely moments where I was afraid I couldn’t sustain my pace.
This was definitely my favorite long run so far – great views and great company. The weather was warm, but the cloudy skies made it feel bearable. We planned to go out to brunch right after, so the thought of poached eggs were swirling in my mind the whole time. Our friend Maria, who had generously invited us up, was taking a break from training due to a slight injury so she provided us with much needed water aid at mile 5 and 10. This was the longest training run so far, so I brought along some gu to get used to fueling. All in all, it was a successful long run and I was glad we decided to change it up, location-wise.
To those out there that are reading – are there vacation spots where you like to run to take a break from your normal routes?
“I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” -Sarah Williams
My marathon training doesn’t leave too much room for races, but I managed to get a 4-miler in last Friday. This was the Miles over the Moon race in Salem, MA, an 8 PM race around a very historic city. When I first signed up, I was worried about how hot it might be since the race took place in mid-July. However, we have been having a bit of a cold spell this week, so it was comfortably in the 60’s during the race.
I wasn’t sure how I wanted to treat this race, since I knew I had a 10-mile training run the following morning. It was my first time doing a 4-mile race so any time I got would be a PR. When they announced the start, I tried hard to hold back my speed. I kept telling myself this was just a warm up run and not a real race. But it was hard with so many people in my running club competing in the same race. Eventually about 2 miles in, I was able to keep calm and not think about it. I just let the run take me along and I stopped worrying about what anyone else was doing. I was able to push myself just enough to feel satisfied with my first race in many weeks. Crossing the finish line, I ended up with a time of 35:34, which is pretty close to my usual 5K pace. Running a 4 mile race was tough at first because once you reach 3 miles, you come to the realization that you have to keep it going for one more mile. I was able to keep a consistent speed after mile 3, which gave me hope that my endurance was getting better after my running break this spring.
The course was pretty flat, with just a few slight uphills and downhills. It went through a few neighborhoods and streets in downtown Salem. We also ran around a very scenic area by the water known as Collins Cove. We passed it on the way out and on the way back and both times I wished I could take a photo, but obviously that was out of the question. The race ended at Salem Common and when I saw the park, I knew the end was near. It felt longer than expected running through the common, but finally I saw the red numbers of the time clock. I sprinted over the finish line, gasping for air. It felt good to race again, even though I knew I would pay for it the next day on my long run. The thought “Lori is going to kill me tomorrow if I can’t move my legs properly” came into my head more than once.
I saw quite a few of my running club teammates cross the finish line. I even got a nice comment from one saying she was very happy following my pace. That felt really good – almost as good as my runner’s high. After the race, there was a small party at the Knights of Columbus which was perfect for getting away from the mosquitoes. This was definitely a fun race and it was a nice change racing on a Friday night. It was also a nice precursor to a night out, since it took place so close to the bars in downtown Salem. I would definitely consider doing this one again, even in normal sticky July temps.
“It is true that speed kills. In distance running, it kills anyone who does not have it.” -Brooks Johnson
What I like about my current marathon training plan is that it switches things up with mid-week speed workouts. I’ve done some track workouts in the past with my running club, but I have never been too consistent with speed work. Every week there is an exercise that is outlined and it’s helped me learn a little more about this type of training. This week called for something called “yasso” which was a term I had never heard before. The Marathon Training Academy described this workout as a fast 800m run (or 2 laps around a traditional track) followed by a 400m recovery. This is done 6 times and was preceded by a warm up mile and followed by a 1/2 mile cool down. The plan said to keep the 800’s at 4:30, which I felt was very doable since I can usually run these around 4 minutes.
I convinced my friend Lori, who I have been doing my long runs with, to join me on Tuesday evening, when our running club usually does their track workout. I figured it would motivate me more if I went to the track while others were doing their routines. I didn’t realize that she had already done a vigorous rowing workout that morning and was feeling a little sore, but she decided to join me anyway. It was great because we got to do our own thing while the club did their normal workout – I definitely felt less stupid having someone run laps with me. She didn’t intend on doing the full workout, this being her second workout of the day, but she ended up sticking with me until the end and doing all the yasso drills.
The first one we went out a little fast. We ended up finishing around 4:13. The remaining 800’s averaged around 4:20 and I was pleased we were able to be on the faster side of the training plan. I felt pretty strong while I was running these, especially after the first one was completed. However, when I slowed for my recovery lap, it felt like I was receiving a blast of heat in the face. The weather has been off and on this July, but this evening it was incredibly hot & humid. My legs definitely started to feel it around the 5th 800 and I ended up backing off a little. To make up for it, I ran the last one the fastest I could, and really pushed my speed.
Track workouts have never been overly interesting or exciting to me. It may seem tedious to constantly be running around in a circle, but incorporating these exercises along with the mile repeats and hill training can really break up the monotony of training for a distance run. I think they are also supposed to make you faster – time will tell on this one. There are a few more yasso drills in my plan and I’m happy to report they definitely didn’t suck and I’m looking forward to see how well I do the next time.
“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” -Ernest Hemingway
Song mood: “Move” – Saint Motel
The alarm went off at 4 AM on the dot. I rolled over in bed and cursed. Having my alarm go off this early was not really new, but I usually snoozed it for a half hour in order to ease into my day. This morning was different because in order for me to get to work in time and squeeze my 5 mile run in, I had to actually get out of my bed AT THAT MOMENT.
Groggy and disoriented I went to grab my running clothes. I had one pair of running pants left to wear. The recent increase in my workouts have resulted in me never having clean clothes, even after doing laundry constantly. The shirt was questionable but it was fine, I was just going to sweat in it in a few minutes anyway.
I’m out the door sometime between 4:30 and 5 AM, confident I can do this since it’s only 5 miles. When I start, my feet are dragging. They actually do not want to move at all. Although my breathing felt easy and light, all my muscles stiffened and it took all my effort to move in slow motion. Running through molasses. I pushed through my body exhaustion and things started to improve. At around 2 miles I could feel my ankles loosening a bit and my hamstrings calm down. I felt myself speeding up in the last 2 miles and some quick pace checks confirmed that I was at a respectable 10-ish minute mile. I was satisfied that I was doing alright until I checked the average pace at the end of the run. 11-minute mile. Well shit. I guess I had been dragging more than I realized in the beginning. How is this possible when just this past Saturday I had no trouble doing 9 miles at a 10:41 pace?
Getting used to any new schedule can be tough. This one has made me just plain tired. It seems like any free moment I have, I am working out. I feel sore all the time. Sleeping in on Saturday is a thing of the past, since everything needs to be planned around the long run. I’m not saying I’m not enjoying the training, because I really am loving it, extra workouts and all. But this Monday morning, the weight of it came down on me hard. Exhaustion. Fatigue. I may be tired, but I continue to move forward. I’m coming for you Chicago – in less than 3 months!
“The road to freedom must be uphill, even if it is arduous and frustrating.” -Andrew Goodman
What did you do for the the 4th of July?
As much as I wanted to sleep in on my day off from work, I decided to take advantage of the extra time and do my hill workout instead of trying to squeeze it in on Wednesday. The training plan called for 6 miles of hills. Yippee.
I asked my training buddy where we could do hills and she mentioned Breakheart Reservation, which is a public recreation area in the towns of Saugus & Wakefield MA. It has a few trails and of course quite a few hills. There are some wooded trails, but there are also some paved ones as well. The “outer loop” was about 2.9 miles, so it was easy to get the 6 miles in doing two loops (with some extra backtracking of course). That morning, me and a few training friends headed up nice and early to get after those hills. The first loop felt pretty good – the hills start off right away and there was a lot of uphill to make me work. We got a little confused at one of the intersections, unsure where the trail would take us back to the beginning. We were about to head in the wrong direction, when our other friend came up and pointed us to the right place. After the first loop, I felt confident I wouldn’t get lost, despite being directionally–challenged in general. The second loop, felt better since I knew what to expect but I also felt stronger going up the hills. When I reached the end, I was at 5.7 miles so I kept going a little ways up and back to make sure my watch hit 6.0.
The scenery in the reservation was quite nice – lots of trees and some water views as well. It was fun trying out a new place to run, plus the tree cover was much appreciated on such a warm day. As much as I complain, I actually like running hills. They are a great way to challenge yourself and I know they make me a stronger runner. As I was powering through on that last loop I kept thinking “I am a warrior!” Of course it could have been because I had the song “The Warrior” by Scandal playing on my phone while I was running (I swear it was on shuffle).
Even though Chicago is considered a fairly flat marathon, I think adding in these hill workouts will be beneficial to my marathon training. Plus I don’t think there is a greater high than after you finish a big hill workout.