Well hello there. It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Four months, in fact, since my last post. If it wasn’t completely obvious, my desire to blog has dwindled. There are a few reasons for this:
- Last spring I started doing some of my easy runs with a group. Running (and hanging out) with other runners means I now have a live audience for discussions of race splits, sports bra chafing, etc.
- A lot of weird and scary things are happening in the world and it has felt uncomfortable at times to write blog posts about something as relatively unimportant as running. (I’m not passing judgement on more active bloggers; it’s just that–even though this is a running blog– I feel strange writing training recaps while I’m simultaneously having nightmares about geopolitics).
- Though it’s still Very Much Not A Big Deal, marathon training has been intimidating at times and I’ve come across a lot of conflicting advice. “Don’t worry about your pace the first time– just train to finish.” “If you don’t have a goal time, you’re lazy and selling yourself short.” “You should never run more than 5o miles in a week.” “RUN ALL THE MILES.” I’m exaggerating a bit but my point is that I realized I felt better if I hunkered down, following my training plan, and ignored most of the noise (i.e. blogs and social media) because I’ve been doing this running thing for awhile and I generally know what works for me. (With that said, I’ve already come up with a few things I would like to do differently if I decide to train for one of these again. As I said back in August, this training cycle would inevitably involve some trial and error.)
Since I’m less than 24 hours away from running the Houston Marathon (!!!!!), I finally felt like writing about my training again. This training cycle has been so long (20 weeks!) that it seems fitting to briefly recap my training in a separate post before I write a race report. I’m still logging all of my runs on Daily Mile if anyone is inclined to read a lot of mindless drivel.
I spent most of the summer running ~40 miles per week with minimal speed work on the treadmill (which basically means if I couldn’t run early in the morning and it was 100+ degrees in the afternoon, I would hit the treadmill after work and do a half-assed workout to liven up my treadmill time). At the beginning of September I briefly dropped down to 30-35 miles per week but started doing real workouts on the track, though they were generally run by effort because a) half-assed treadmill workouts do not make me fast and b) it is still quite hot in September in Central Texas.
I ran doubles once per week as preparation for the Capital to Coast relay in October.
Longest run was 11 miles.
Ran 150 miles for the month.
On October 14th-15th I ran the Capital to Coast relay with 11 other runners. We ran the 223 miles from Austin to Corpus Christi! This really deserves its own post. I think anyone else who has run a relay (especially one as long as this one) can understand that there is a lot to recap afterwards but I’m going to keep this as short as possible:
- Woke up at 3 AM on Friday morning for a 4 AM race start
- I was the 6th runner on our team, so I didn’t start running until around 11 in the morning. By that point we were outside of Lockhart, I’d been cheering for the other 5 runners in my van all morning, and was raring to go. My leg was 5.6 miles; I started too quickly and got progressively slower. It didn’t help that the temperature rose significantly and I ran the last 0.5 miles up a freaking dirt and loose gravel hill! It definitely brought back memories of high school cross country.
- My second leg was 8.2 miles around 10 PM on a tiny highway somewhere very, very rural. I felt good for the first few miles but then the exhaustion started to catch up to me. It was very peaceful running in the middle of nowhere with minimal cars…until I heard some weird rustling in the grass next to me and got freaked out that it was a rattlesnake! It’s also mentally tough to try to run hard when you’re so isolated– no crowds cheering, only a couple of other runners. All in all I guess it was good practice for my mental game during stretches of marathons and half marathons when there’s minimal support.
- After my second leg my van showered and slept for a few hours at a high school that very kindly opened its doors to relay racers overnight as part of a charity fundraiser. Amazing.
- My third leg was only 6.5 miles but I swear it was the hardest run I’ve ever done. On Saturday morning everyone was extremely tired and sleep deprived. It was also 95 degrees and sunny with zero shade by late morning when I was set to run. I had also brilliantly forgotten that I am easily prone to motion sickness, so I spent the bulk of the morning sitting in the back of the van until I started to feel ill. Fortunately, one of our runners was a nurse who was smart enough to pack a first aid kit that included Zofran. I was so thankful for his foresight and for everyone else in my van who followed me during this run and gave me cold water and ice to stuff in my sports bra. I was also thankful that I wasn’t running on a competitive team with a time goal. I racked up a nice number of kills (i.e. people I passed) during the race (10 total, including 3 on my last leg) but this was my slowest race pace ever by a LOT. I barely managed to finish the 6.5 miles in under an hour!
- The team reached the finish line on the beach in Corpus Christi late Saturday afternoon and I headed back to Austin on Sunday morning. I took Monday off from work, which was a fantastic decision– it basically took me a week to recover. I ran all of the mileage in my training plan but changed one workout to an easy run and watered down another workout. Cap to Coast was SO MUCH FUN but it is brutal. So I am not sure if I will do it again in 2017.
Longest run in October was 15 miles
Total mileage for the month was 186 miles
We spent the first week of November in Seattle and Vancouver– first time in the Pacific Northwest for both of us. We had two days of really lovely sunshine in Seattle and the typical rain and clouds the rest of the week. Conveniently, this was a cutback week for me.
I ran the 5 mile Thundercloud Turkey Trot as a “marathon pace” workout. I ran very controlled at the start thanks to crowds and hills but then got down closer to half marathon pace on the downhill portions in the second half. Official finish time was 40:37. Also, this was my race day outfit:
Longest run was 19 miles. I also ran 17.5 miles earlier in the month. Before November my longest run ever had been 16 miles way back in 2013 when I got lost during a half marathon training run.
Ran 195 miles total
On December 11th I ran the Dallas Half Marathon.
- I wasn’t sure until the week before the race whether I would race it or run it as part of a long run. I ended up deciding to run it as a marathon pace tempo with 4 miles pre-race and 4 miles post-race, which would bring me to the 21 miles on my training schedule. I think this ended up being a good decision because I am a marathon newbie and don’t feel confident rehauling a training schedule on my own like I have done with my half marathon training. Also, I used this as a Houston dress rehearsal– ate my planned pre-marathon breakfast, took gels when I plan to take gels during the marathon, etc.– which was beneficial since I don’t have much experience with out of town races.
- On the other hand, I do wish I’d gotten a solid 10 mile or half marathon race effort during this cycle to better gauge my fitness. Speaking of which, I should note that I really liked the Dallas Half Marathon, and it is definitely a PR friendly race. The crowd support was fantastic and it was neat to see areas outside of downtown. The course has a few inclines at the beginning but there were some nice downhills towards the end, including right at the finish. I finished in 1:49:04 (8:19 average) and felt really good the whole time. The only hiccup was that I (of course…) got turned around getting back to the hotel and ended up running closer to 22 miles.
The other highlight (lowlight?) of the month was running my last long run– 23 miles– on Christmas Eve in Philadelphia. My boyfriend and I flew out to DC on December 21st and spent two days being tourists. Then we took Megabus up to Philly on the night of the 23rd. I was in a rear facing seat because I yet again forgot about my tendency to get car sick. Then it rained for most of my run and my stomach was still messed up from the awful bus ride the previous evening. But I soldiered through it because hey, the race day weather might be epically shitty! I finished my run right by the Rocky statue at the foot of the Art Museum.
I hit 60 miles that week, which is a weekly mileage PR. Prior to training for a marathon I think I’d maxed out just shy of 50. I hit 50+ a few times during this cycle as well.
I ran 204 miles total in December– first month ever hitting 200+!
January has been mostly tapering and nothing of note.
I guess I should mention my race plan. After how I felt during the Dallas Half Marathon, I thought 3:45 might be a reasonable goal. However, the forecast tomorrow is pretty dreadful– very high humidity with temperatures in the high 60s. My plan for now is to stay with the 4:00 hour pace group for at least 5K and then see how I feel. I’m also giving myself permission to drop out if I feel dreadful. There are always other marathons to run in Central Texas over the next few months. I’m not a stranger to running in awful conditions (see Cap to Coast, leg 3 above) but a marathon is really long. At least my finish time (if I finish…) will be an automatic PR.
Even if the end result isn’t what I’d hoped for, I really enjoyed training for this thing and I’m sure I will sign up for another marathon some day. Yes, it was very time consuming (8+ hours of running some weeks) and exhausting but I’m honestly quite proud of myself for making it this far. I suppose I’ll have more thoughts on this after tomorrow but right now I feel like my training was pretty solid. I ran over 800 miles in Texas, Washington, British Columbia, DC, and Pennsylvania! I generally hate pithy quotes like the below but I also think it’s a good reminder that everything that happened in the 5 months before the race is also worth celebrating.