Monday, August 31, 2015

Grand Rapids Marathon - 7 weeks!

The week of August 24-30 was a cutback week and it was absolutely glorious! Instead of following a strict plan, I set out to run 38-44 miles throughout the week. It was really nice to decide each day how far and how hard I wanted to run.

Monday 8/24
rest day

Tuesday 8/25
Distance: 8.67
Pace: 9:34

I ran with my friend Maria for about half of this run. I was only aiming for 8 miles, but had to take a slight detour for a mid-run bathroom break.

Wednesday 8/26
Distance: 7.17
Pace: 2 mile warm up, 5 x 800 at 5k pace, 1.82 mile cool down

This speed workout was listed in the cutback week of my training plan, and since I haven't run anything close to 5k pace since June, I was curious to see how it felt. Impossible. That is how it felt. My basic plan was to start with a 7:15ish pace for the first interval and then work my way down to actual 5k pace (6:50) by the end of the workout. A minute or so into the first interval I looked down and saw my pace was 7:40. It was like I had completely forgotten how to run fast! I fought hard to pick the speed up; the first two intervals were so freaking difficult! Finally in the third interval things came together and I was able to hit the paces I was expecting without feeling like I was going to die (7:09, 7:06, 6:54, 6:54, 6:53).

The workout called for 8 miles total, but I was quite exhausted so when I finished my final 800, I just ran back home and called it good enough.

Thursday 8/27
Distance: 5.0
Pace: 9:45

I paid for Wednesday's speed work with a slow and sluggish run on Thursday. Fortunately I was running with Maria again, because if I was running alone I would have ended up walking half of it.

Friday 8/28
rest day

Saturday 8/29
Distance: 5.0
Pace: watch free run

Best run of the week! And it almost didn't happen. I was in the crankiest of moods on Saturday. I didn't feel like running, so I decided to take an extra rest day. I also was in such a mood that I didn't even feel like having a movie marathon and snuggling little kitty on the couch, which frankly is the best way to waste a Saturday. I just didn't want to do anything.

All day, everyday.
I talked myself into running just 2-3 miles to see if that improved my mood. When I told my husband that I was only running 2-3 miles he laughed and said I'd probably end up running 6.  After insisting that making it 3 full miles would be a miracle I set out for my run. And then I ended up completely zoning out and missed the turn around spot for a 3 mile run. So I decided to just do 4 miles. And by then I was feeling so much better that I decided if I was going to do 4 miles, I might as well do 5.

So yeah. 5 mile run. I guess my husband knows my running habits better than I do.

Sunday 8/30
Distance: 16.23
Pace: 9:14

The weather during this run alternated between disgustingly humid and light rain. Last weekend might have felt like fall, but summer is still holding on for another few weeks.

Pace for this run was in the 9:30s for the first 9 miles with the last 7 at marathon pace (8:28 average). I mixed in one crazy fast mile (8:00) just for fun. Feeling strong at the end of a long run is the best feeling ever.

Total: 42.07 miles

This coming week I will jump back up to a 55 mile week ending with a 20 miler on Sunday. For speed work I am considering adding some HMP miles to one of my midweek runs (weather dependent...forecast is showing highs of 90). My long run will probably not include a fast finish since I don't want to short change myself when it comes to the physiological benefits gained through easy long runs.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Midweek thoughts

I'm still riding the high of my Sunday long run; it was simply glorious. If I was a better blogger I would have some truly amazing pictures to share with you from my run. Instead my phone stayed tucked in my hydration pack for the entire run and you will just have to use your imagination.
My run started before sunrise and it was actually chilly while I stood outside putting on sunscreen. After a couple mile of running I was treated to a beautiful pink and purple sunrise that I glimpsed right as I ran past a tree lined pond. The pond was as smooth as glass and reflected the gorgeous colors of the sunrise. It was so stunning that I almost stopped for a picture, but I was just 2.3 miles into my and did not want to interrupt my momentum.

After that quick glimpse of nature, I had about 4 miles of not-so-scenic city running before I would get to the next park. At the park, nature once again surprised me, this time with two deer grazing about 15-20 feet off of the trail. I have seen deer at this park multiple times, but this time it included an 8 point buck, which I hadn't seen in the park before. Again, I was super close to stopping to take a picture, but I didn't want to spook the buck/have him get protective of the doe, so I ran on.

Not my photo, but possibly my deer! This picture was taken where I was running! (Ryan Stanton, The Ann Arbor News, source)

Less than two miles later I came across another three deer who were playing in the road. Fortunately some honking cars got them safely off the road and they crossed the running path right in front of me. This time I decided to go for a picture, but they didn't stick around long enough for me to get my phone out.

The next 7 miles were pretty uneventful. I focused on keeping my pace easy and evaluating if I felt up to pushing the pace for the final five miles. I decided to go for it and I felt like I was flying during those miles. My ballpark goal pace is anywhere between 8:30-9:00. Honestly anything under 9:00 would BLOW MY MIND on race day, so I was super pumped to be averaging 8:31 at the end of my long run.

When I look back at my first attempt at 20 miles I can't believe how far I have come in just 5 weeks! These runs were as different as night and day. I feel confident that reassessing my training plan was the right decision. I just rocked one of my peak weeks of training (a 55 mile week with a long run of 20 miles), but now I am kind of wondering what should I do for the next 8 weeks.

First things first, this week is a cutback week! I am aiming for somewhere between 38-44 miles (70-80% of last week's mileage). My main goal to start the next week of training feeling physically and mentally refreshed. If that means running fewer miles this week, then I'll be cutting some runs short!

After this cutback week I will have just four weeks left until my taper (Hurry up taper! I'm so ready). I already have my three taper weeks mapped out, so I just need to focus on finalizing the middle four weeks. I've been rereading through Advanced Marathoning trying to figure out the best way to incorporate a half marathon into my training. I would like to have a great half marathon, of course, but I also want to be mindful of my primary goal, the marathon. I also want to avoid overreaching. Just because my 55 mile week went well, does not mean that I need to try for a 60 mile week. I've already increased my mileage quite a bit this year, I don't want to over do it and risk injury.

If you have incorporated half marathons into your marathon training, please give me some ideas on what worked and what didn't!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Grand Rapids Marathon - only 8 weeks remain!

My latest week of training almost didn't happen. I took Monday as a rest day (per usual) and ended up taking Tuesday off as well. When I headed out for a run late Wednesday night I didn't know if I would even make it through 2 miles. I contemplated making it a cutback week, but once I started running, I didn't want to stop. Running is my crutch for dealing with difficult emotions.

On Tuesday I said goodbye to Mouse, my sweet old man cat. It's too painful for me to write anything more, so I am going to jump right back to talking about running. Maybe when the grief is not as fresh I can tell you about what a wonderful kitty he was.

Distance: 10.0
Pace:  9:36

My pace was actually all over the place during this run. Sometimes I felt like running hard other times I stopped to walk and text my husband. The magic combination of adrenaline and endorphins seemed to run out at about 9.5 miles so I was kind of a crying mess during the last little bit of this run.

Distance: 13.1
Pace: 10:02

I just could not get into this run. I ended up running 4:00 and walking 1:00 for the first 7-8 miles. Finally things started to come together and I was able to finish the run feeling alright. I was planning on 12 miles, but decided to bump it up to the half marathon distance when things started feeling better.

Distance: 9.0
Pace: 9:23

First run of the week that actually felt normal. I guess Thursday's slow pace payed off because my legs felt great during this run!

Distance: 3.0
Pace: 10:31

I don't usually run 5 days in a row so I wanted to keep this run as easy as possible, especially since the turn around time between a Friday night run and a Saturday morning run is less than a day AND I had 20 miles coming up the next morning.

Distance: 20.0
Pace: 9:18

The first 15 miles I actually averaged 9:35, which is much more in line with my current abilities than 9:18. I ran the last 5 miles at goal MP, which is still just a vague goal. For this run I figured if I could get the pace under 9:00 for the last 5, that would be good enough. I was actually faster than I thought, averaging 8:31 for those final miles. Feeling that strong at the end of a long week of running? Yeah, major confidence booster right there!

Total: 55.1 miles

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Grand Rapids Marathon - 9 weeks left!

Single digit weeks remaining! I can't believe how quickly race day is approaching. Especially since I now have two races on my calendar instead of just one.


Distance: 6.0 with 6 strides
Pace: 9:44

Distance: 14.0
Pace:  9:16

Distance: 6.0
Pace: 9:58


Distance: 7.51
Pace: 9:30

Distance: 18.6
Pace: 9:34

For my long run I decided to split the distance between last week's 17 miler and next week's 20 miler, which put me at 18.5 this week. I was hoping that this run would be as good as last week's, but this week had higher temperatures and higher humidity. I got through the distance without any issues, but I definitely wasn't feel strong at the end like I was last week. 

Total: 52.11 miles

This was my highest week of mileage ever, which is pretty exciting! Although this coming week will be the real test with 55 miles on the schedule. My top priority is getting through my weekly mileage, so I am not sure if I will be adding any speed work this week. I'd like to get in a few miles at half marathon pace early in the week, but I also want to make sure my legs are some what fresh for my 20 miler. I might have to hold off this week.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Last minute changes...

Ever since my less-than-satisfactory finish at the Charlevoix Half Marathon, I have been toying with the idea of adding another half marathon to my 2015 race line up. At first I was really against the idea of adding another race since I was planning on racing a 10 miler in August, which already meant one week without a long run. I didn't like the idea of adding another week without a long run to my training plan. After all, my number one top goal of the year is the Grand Rapids Marathon. I didn't want to do anything to jeopardize that race.

And then summer happened and the hotter it got, the less interested I became in racing in the heat. The 10 miler is this coming Saturday. I decided a few weeks ago not to register. I am pretty relieved not to have a race this weekend. So instead this happened...

I guess I have a half marathon coming up in 5 weeks! This will be my third year running this race; you can read last year's recap here. Every year that I have run this race I have set a new PR, so it would be nice to continue that tradition. In general, I think, I just want to finish the race feeling strong and confident so that I can carry those feelings over to the marathon starting line 4 weeks later. 

I should have my training check in up tomorrow morning. Spoiler alert: It was a pretty huge week! 52 miles total!!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Medium Long Run

It is safe to say that marathon training is starting to take over my life. I've already had one 50+ mile week, and, if the rest of the week goes as planned, this week will be even bigger. Yesterday I set out for my longest midweek run ever: 14 miles.

Two weeks ago, during my cutback week, my long run was 14 miles. Now that same run is classified as a "medium long run" and my husband is left wondering what sort of crazy marathon pills I have been taking. Before I left for my run I told my husband that I couldn't tell if I was dreading this run or looking forward to crushing 14 miles on a Wednesday. His response was that if I wasn't sure if I was looking forward to the run, I was probably dreading it. He was probably right.

So happy for gorgeous views and company on at least part of my run!
I'm happy this run fell on a Wednesday so I could join the Downhill from Here for about 6 miles of my run. Downhill from Here is a social run that starts at a park approximately 6 miles from my house. That gave me a solid 12 miles and I figured I could just add an extra two miles in the park. Also I am super grateful to have a husband who was willing to come pick me up when I finished my run (and then take me to Chipotle #besthusbandever)

The downside to the Downhill from Here group run is that you have to run up a massive hill to reach the whole "downhill from here" part. Usually this is about 3 miles into the run. Yesterday it was 10 miles into my run. It was a killer climb, but honestly wasn't as bad as I was expecting. When I got tired I tried to just focus on pumping my arms or picking up my knees.

Silly Garmin. The elevation gain is definitely not 0.

When my watch finally clicked over to 11 miles I let myself start counting down the miles. I was ready to be done. I kept myself running by dreaming about the huge chocolate chip cookie my husband would have waiting in the car for me. And a bottle of water that was actually cold. And a huge burrito bowl.

I'm looking forward to the fact that tonight's run is a paltry 6 miles. And then shaking my head at myself for considering an hour long run paltry.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Grand Rapids Marathon - 10 weeks!

Just 10 weeks of training remain before my first marathon! Eeek!
Rest Day! After a crazy weekend with family Monday was a much needed rest day. I had the day off work and, after a tearful goodbye to my sister, I took the most wonderful nap.

Distance: 10.25
Pace: 9:05 average

I believe this workout called for 5 miles at half marathon pace. I wasn't really feeling it with the heat (low 80s) so I decided to break it up a bit. I started with a two mile warm up and then ran three miles with each mile getting progressively faster (7:59, 7:43, 7:33). Then it was another easy mile followed by 2 fast miles (7:57, 7:42). I wasn't sure if I would be able to manage a 6th fast mile, but after a recovery mile I managed to finish out the run with an acceptable 8:04 mile.

I drank plenty of water during my run, but I still felt pretty dehydrated after the run. I had an upset stomach and the chills for the rest of the evening. It was pretty awful. I might try Gatorade or something for my next hard run.

Distance: 4.0
Pace: 10:14

This recovery run was hands down the hardest run of the week. My legs were destroyed from Tuesday's workout. I thought about cutting it short/walking home/quitting-running-forever for the entire 4 miles. Somehow I made it through and I was happy to discover that on Thursday my legs felt much better! I could not have handled another run like this one.

Distance: 11.2
Pace: 9:36

I was worried that I would want to bail on this run so I made plans to meet up with my friend Maria part way through my run. We live quite close to each other and whenever I see her out running, I switch up my route so that we can run together. I know from experience that her company will make the miles just fly by.

I ran 5 miles on my own and then ran another 4 miles with her. We finished our run about 2 miles from my house it worked out perfectly to get to 11 miles for the day.

Rest day! After logging 25 miles over the previous 3 days this rest day felt well deserved!

Distance: 7.25
Pace: 9:29

Hands down the best run of the week! My only issue was trying to keep it easy so I would be able to make it through Sunday's long run. I felt amazing!

Distance: 17.0
Pace: 9:25

I had originally planned on running 16 miles, but I decided to bump it up to 17 at the last minute. I kept thinking about how I've already had two great 16 mile runs this summer, but anything longer than 16 has been a struggle. I thought doing 17 this week might make it mentally easier to take on 18 next week (or 19 if I'm feeling crazy).

The first 3 miles of my run had some pretty big rolling hills. I was definitely glad to get that part of the run out of the way first! The next 3 miles had an overall elevation loss with a few small climbs to keep it interesting. This was also a nice twisty road through the woods. The remainder of my run was pretty much straight and flat and repetitive (to get the needed distance I ran the same portion 3 times).

I was feeling pretty good as I approached the 12 mile mark. I noticed that my pace had moved from the 9:30s to 9:10! I knew that if I didn't try to reel in the pace I was going to be struggling to finish my run. I also noticed that after 2 hours of running my legs were getting tired. I read somewhere that running short bursts at a faster pace can help wake your legs up when they are tired/sore. So I gave that a try and it definitely helped! I just had to be careful not to get too carried away and end up picking up the pace. I feel like miles 12-15 were the hardest part of the run, but it was more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge.

I was able to get the pace back down to the 9:20s until I hit mile 15. At that point I decided I didn't need to hold back any longer. I let myself speed up a bit, and found myself running at my sort of goal marathon pace for the final two miles (8:38).

Total: 49.7 miles 

This week has me feeling so much more confident than I was a few weeks ago! I feel like my training is back on track and that taking it easy for a couple weeks was just what I needed. I'm trying not to get ahead of myself, since anything can happen in the next 10 weeks (including a possible half in 6 weeks, I haven't decided!), but yeah, I am feeling pretty damn good right now!

ETA: I've decided to link up with Tuesday's on the Run, since, you know, it's Tuesday and per usual, I'm talking about running. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Sister fun & an accidental PR

I usually limit my posts to just running content, but I thought a recap from my weekend with my sister was in order. I also went on two runs with my sister, so it kind of is running related! Also if you are ever in the Michigan area and want someone to eat/drink/run with, you know who to ask!

I kicked off my four day weekend with a quick-ish 5 mile run after work. It was a bit hot out, but I managed to find a few sprinklers to run through which felt amazing! I was hoping to have time for 6 miles, but even with cutting it down to 5 I was in the shower when my family showed up. 

Once I was showered and ready to go, my sister, Colleen, and I took the little miss to the park so she could run around a little bit. After that we were STARVING so we headed to a brewery for some much needed food and beer. Colleen and I also made plans to run 4 miles together the next morning. My niece gave me the following bit of running advice: If you see any zombies during your run, don't be scared. They are just people in costumes. I wanted to make sure to share that with you just in case you run into any zombies during your next run.

I wanted to run 10 miles Friday morning, so I started an hour early while everyone was still sleeping. After 6 miles I looped back to my house to grab my sister. Colleen had repeatedly warned me that she was going to be super slow and we would be running 12 minute miles. I repeatedly told her that I didn't care as long as we were running together.

Apparently the heat/humidity of Florida has been holding her down because we ended up running at a 10:30 pace AND we were talking the entire time. Also I can't believe she hasn't broke 30:00 in the 5k yet, because she is definitely ready! She also tried to tell me that 5ks are boring now that she has run a couple of half marathons. Haha! Not if you are racing them! This also might have been the reason that I pushed the pace a bit for the last mile which meant she accidentally set a new 5k PR on her Garmin! Nice work, sister! Sorry I made you work so hard!

The rest of the day was a blur of parks and food and beer. Actually that was pretty much the theme of our entire weekend together: take my niece to the park (or better, get the husbands to take her to the park while we went shopping!), eat lots of food, drink lots of beer.

On Sunday I had 14 miles on my schedule and I had convinced Colleen to join me for the last six. After running 8 miles on my own, the plan was to run to a park about 6 miles away and have the rest of the group meet us there with donuts! Unfortunately everyone else slept in too late to make that plan a reality so we had to call my husband to come pick us up. At least we still stopped for donuts on the way home!

Colleen and I used to be really close when we were younger, but during college we ended up drifting apart pretty badly. Fortunately in the past few years we have been doing an excellent job at rebuilding our friendship. I had the best time running the Disney Princess Half Marathon with her and loved the endless phone calls about training and costumes leading up to the trip. Running with her again last weekend really made me realize how close we have become this year. I can't wait to see her again soon and hopefully we'll be training for another race together as well!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Grand Rapids Marathon - 11 weeks to go!

My weekend with my sister was AMAZING! I did end up a bit short on my weekly mileage, but I think it balances out if you consider the time spent chasing an almost-four-year-old around the park every day.

Rest Day

Distance: 8.75 miles
Pace: 9:15

Rest Day (unscheduled)

Distance: 5.04 miles
Pace: 8:49

This should have been a slightly slower run, but I had to run a bit faster to squeeze in my miles before my sister arrived. Even though I cut this run from 6 miles to just 5 I was still in the shower when they got here. Oops!

Distance: 10.43 miles
Pace: 9:56

Rest Day

Distance: 14.17
Pace: 1 mile easy, 7 miles at MP (8:38 average), 6 miles easy

Total: 38.39 miles

I originally had 43 miles planned for this week, but when I decided to take a rest day on Wednesday, I knew I wouldn't have time later in the week to make up the run. I decided I would rather spend time with my sister's family then obsess over a few extra miles. I also wanted to get the most out of my cut back week so I would be ready to start building my mileage back up this week.

I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I am feeling pretty good about my training right now. Cutting back was the right decision and now I feel both mentally and physically ready to start tackling some higher mileage weeks again (with a sensible build up, of course!).