Paris Marathon Training – Weeks 7-9

The recap in which training gradually falls apart

I’ve gotten behind on these training recaps. I’ve had more than usual going on personally and professionally – some good, some bad, none expected. I had already written most of the week 7 recap, so it’s more detailed than the others.

Week 7: 1/25 – 1/31

Monday:

  • Plan: 3 miles easy + 4 strides + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:00/mile + rehab exercises + strength

Um, totally forgot the strides, but it was a gorgeous day for a lunchtime run. I decided to go ahead and deal with the nuisance of getting a running photo, which I promptly forgot to Instagram.

atlanta beltline running

So I’ll add my graffiti running photo to the Internet’s collection.

Seriously, this was more of an ordeal than it was worth, and I seriously wonder how people who Instagram running photos multiple times a week do it. #shareyoursecrets

I went to the gym for my strength workout, and it was – unfortunately – a day to get the opportunity to check off new feats of strength to see how strong you’re getting! Unfortunate because I get way too competitive with myself in these kinds of situations and work harder than I should considering I’m also training for a marathon. So shortsighted. Anyway, the feats of strength were related to variations of squats, strict pull-ups, and bar dips. I did a lot better with dips than pull-ups, and right now I’m just not limber enough to do what’s next for squats, which is a full butt-to-heel pistol squat. After attempting the feats of strength, there was a workout to challenge the muscles I had just worked to failure – pull-up negatives, rows, stuff like that – so it was hard. Even lunges with racked kettlebells made my arms feel like chicken wings.

Tuesday:

  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: Rest day

HOLY MOTHER OF DOMS. There was not one direction that I could move my arms without nearly recoiling from the soreness.

Wednesday:

  • Plan: 5 miles w/ 6 x 1:00 @ 5k pace, 2:00 jog recovery + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: Rest

The thought of swinging my arms for just an easy run would have brought me to tears, so after a full day of lecture-style training with a nasty headache, no way was I getting through a faster workout, even if it was a relatively easy cutback-week workout. No unplanned rest day has ever been such a no-brainer.

Thursday:

  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: 5 miles w/ 6 x 1:00 @ 5k pace, 2:00 jog recovery + rehab exercises + mini-strength

Annnnddd we’re back. I didn’t get to this workout until after dark, so I decided to take it to the treadmill in my office gym. The faster portion was fine, but the other miles were so boring.

I didn’t have time to get a proper strength workout in, and my upper body was still pretty angry, but I did a mini-strength workout focused on lower body after my rehab exercises. My office gym has a few kettlebells, so I did 3 sets of 20 kettlebell swings, 3 sets of 10 kettlebell deadlifts, 2 sets of 10 goblet squats, and 2 sets of 10 Bulgarian split squats.

Friday:

  • Plan: 3 miles + 4 strides + Myrtls
  • Actual: Rest day

I thought about skipping the rest day and taking this run really easy, but I ran about one minute and decided my body needed the day off.

Saturday:

  • Plan: 12 miles w/ last 3 @ GMP (9:25) + core
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 9:52/mile + 4 strides

Slacked on the Myrtls. GUILTY.

I’ve had a couple pairs of shoes wear out on me lately, and since I’ve had an injury recently, I decided to head over to see what the pros recommended shoe-wise.

I don’t want to take over this post with the nitty gritty of what went down (although I learned some interesting things that may warrant a future post), but a proper video analysis at West Stride confirmed what I expected – mostly neutral/slightly supinated gait. I tried on a few pairs in the “daily trainer” category, and to my surprise I ended up in the Brooks Ghost. I’ve previously tried out Brooks shoes from the Pure line, which never really felt quite right on my foot. But the Ghosts were the shoes that felt so comfortable on, fit like a glove, and allowed me to go through a comfortable stride without feeling like I had to really “muscle through” any part of my stride (unlike others I tried).

IMG_6905

Sunday:

  • Plan: Yoga
  • Actual: 12 miles w/ last 3 @ GMP (9:21/8:59/9:09) + 26 minutes core + 15 min stretching-oriented yoga

The elusive marathon pace. I’m not of the mind that “I ran faster, yay me” because I don’t feel like I’m ready to run a whole marathon at those paces, so I kind of screwed up the point of the workout by running faster than I should have. But it did feel nice at the time.

During the GMP miles, I felt my shorts chafing my right thigh, but decided to sacrifice my skin for the confidence that would come with executing my GMP miles. I implore you, please never do this to yourselves. One week has passed and my skin is still not 100%. Once I was finished with the run, I looked down and saw blood all over my right thigh. This wasn’t just a slight chafe.

silver comet running

You didn’t think I was going to show a bloody chafe photo, did you? I’m far too queasy to ever see blood on purpose.

Week 7: 23 miles

As for my resolutions to run healthy in 2016:

  • Rehab/core work – C: I did 3/4 of the planned core/rehab/Myrtl routines on my schedule.
  • Sleep – B: I hit my 8 hour goal every night except one, but I didn’t feel rested. Most nights, I was waking up in the middle of the night and I’d have a hard time going back to sleep. By Thursday, I was exhausted and went to bed before 9pm, which may have helped me “reset” – I haven’t had serious sleep interruptions since then.
  • Nutrition – C: I’m going to have to find a reliable way to track my fruits and veggies. I didn’t do it this week. I know I had some good days, but the point was to actually keep track.
  • “Body maintenance” – B: I did the bare minimum of stretching and foam rolling, and I checked the box with Sunday yoga, but after moving my schedule around I wasn’t up for much more.

I didn’t track these resolutions over weeks 8 & 9.

Week 8: 2/1 – 2/7

Monday:

  • Plan: 3 miles easy + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:20/mile + rehab exercises + strength

Felt some discomfort near the bottom-inside portion of my left thigh, close to my left knee. UGH.

Tuesday:

  • Plan: 4 miles easy + 4 strides + core
  • Actual: Rest

I was at work late (unexpectedly), then saw my late night as an opportunity to let whatever was bothering me on Monday’s run rest and heal.

Wednesday:

  • Plan: 7 miles w/ 3 x mile @ tempo, :90 jog recovery + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: Rest day

I had a morning dermatologist appointment, and I told the doctor I’d had my eye on this spot on my chest. He said it didn’t concern him much, but he’d do a biopsy to be safe. This was my first skin biopsy, and it took more skin than I expected. When the nurse gave me care instructions for the wound, one of the explicit instructions was to keep it dry for a day.

Me: So, does that mean I can’t go for a run?

Nurse: Well, do you sweat when you run?

Me: [head drops] yes.

Thursday:

  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: 7 miles w/ 3 x mile @ tempo (8:35/8:32/8:28) + rehab exercises + strength

Left quad pain was still there, maybe at a 3/10 on the pain scale.

Friday:

  • Plan: 3 miles + 4 strides + Myrtls
  • Actual: Chiro + 3 miles @ 10:08/mile + Myrtls

I got in to see my chiro that morning, who worked on the area and diagnosed insufficient quad strength as a contributing factor. He gave me an exercise to do, which I could do at my desk (it’s just using the quads to straighten the knee from a bent position).

My run did not go well. I had to stop around the end of the second mile to stretch/massage that spot in my quad. It started bugging my left knee a little bit as well. I skipped the strides.

Saturday:

  • Plan: 15 miles + core
  • Actual: 1.6 miles @10:42/mile + lots of foam rolling

Since I’d moved my tempo run to Thursday, the plan was just to get in 3 easy miles and some strides. I stopped as soon as there was discomfort – no point in sabotaging the long run.

Sunday:

  • Plan: 15 miles + core
  • Actual: 15 miles @ 11:04/mile + core

This run was horrible on so many levels. 1) I didn’t feel fit at all. 2) that spot in my left quad was bugging me for the majority of the run. 3) I was angry at everyone and everything because of 1&2. (How dare that asshole on the bike pass me so quickly? Brag about your modern technology a little more, jerk.)

In the last 6 miles or so, I made a concerted effort to be positive. One thing I noticed was that my right ITB didn’t hurt at all. That was the best thing I could come up with (and it was indeed a good thing!)

I got home and alas, my right ITB felt like the last two months of rehab hadn’t happened. Mega pissed. Mega discouraged. I don’t have anything positive to say, other than I’m glad I have other things going on right now to distract me from how training is going (or, not going, as the case may be).

IMG_6879

Current mood.

Week 8: 30 miles

Week 9: 2/8 – 2/14

Monday:

  • Plan: 4 miles easy + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: Nada

Right knee at ITB insertion point hurt just walking around. Lot of ice. Lot of foam rolling. Panicked call to the chiropractor’s office.

Tuesday:

  • Plan: 4 miles easy + 4 strides + core
  • Actual: Chiro + rest

My chiro was out of town, so I got squeezed in to see his partner, Dr. Glass (who is so nice – I really love their practice). Dr. Glass wasn’t as concerned about the whole situation as I was, seeming to think it was just a setback. As he was testing my hip range of motion while I was lying on my stomach, it was so obvious that my right hip isn’t moving nearly as well as my left. The difference was pronounced.

I got some homework which is just a simple variation on foam rolling + static stretching, but I really like it. The idea is to sandwich some light static stretching into your foam rolling – so if you’re rolling your quads, take a break in the middle and do 5 5-second static stretches, then resume rolling. As for hip mobility, Dr. Glass’s recommendation was just to do a few leg swings intermittently throughout the day. So simple. That I can do.

He recommended a test run Thursday, and to do my long run on a loop so I could stop if needed.

Wednesday:

  • Plan: 7 miles w/ 3-5 @ tempo + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: Rest

I considered going to the gym and cross-training, but after staying late at work again, I decided to focus on rolling and stretching. Oh, and I found out Jeff had the flu. Influenza B. So there was some care taking involved.

Thursday:

  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: 3 mile test run @ 10:30/mile + rehab exercises + PT

This run didn’t feel too bad. I could sense that my quad pain was worse the more I flexed my knee, and I also felt a dull ache under my left kneecap post-run.

I had a PT appointment, and holy smokes did that spot in my quad freak out when he needled it. I felt cautiously optimistic that it would really help.

Friday:

  • Plan: 3 miles + 4 strides + Myrtls
  • Actual: Rest day

I was pretty sore from the needling. Much needed day off.

Saturday:

  • Plan: 16 miles + core
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:15/mile + strides + Myrtls

I really got after the foam rolling and stretching post-run. I felt ready to take on my 16 miler after this run.

Sunday:

  • Plan: 16 miles + core
  • Actual: 8 miles @ 10:37/mile + core

I normally actively avoid repeating loop routes for a long run, so the loop I chose was one I’m not terribly familiar with, and it really wasn’t ideal (unavoidable road camber + too much opposing traffic to get off the side of the road). I called it quits shortly into the 9th mile. My left quad and right ITB had been feeling angry, then my left ITB started hurting. I felt like collapsing on the ground in dramatic fashion, but I would have probably hurt something else picking myself up. So I just stopped running and walked the rest of the way back.

None of the pain was horribly acute, and if it had been a race, I absolutely could have kept running. My level of discomfort felt about like last week’s run did, which sidelined me for several days. I hope that by cutting it short, I gave myself a fighting chance to get back on track with my training. What I did last week didn’t work, so I’ll just try something different and hope for the best.

Week 9: 14 miles

Right now I don’t have anything positive to say about training. I don’t want to train for a marathon anymore. If I were training for the Publix Marathon or something else close by, I would absolutely throw in the towel and let all this junk heal properly before training for another race. Any hopes of a PR in Paris are wild dreams right now. All I can hope for right now is to be healthy enough to continue training, finish the race, and stuff myself with croissants, cheeses, and Bordeaux when it’s done.

Paris Marathon Training – Week 6

Ahhhhh, the return of the federal holiday and the four-day work week. This week was set up to be great on both ends. It began with a long weekend and ended with a dear friend’s wedding. And all the training in between!

Week 6: 1/18-1/24

Monday: 

  • Plan: 3 miles easy + rehab exercises + optional strength training
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:25/mile + rehab exercises + strength training + chiro
john lewis quote

This quote from Rep. John Lewis is painted on a wall just down the block from my apartment. I love being in an environment where I’m reminded of the work we have before us to reach the true ideals of our country’s founding – for everyone, not just land-owning white males 🙂

I have a real fondness for MLK Day for a couple of reasons: I live in Dr. King’s old neighborhood, and about 90% of my running routes go past the MLK Historic Site. I love seeing all the tourists and catching snippets of the history they’re getting on their tours of the site. I guess you could say that being in the neighborhood keeps the importance of the civil rights movement on my mind. Also, I extra-love MLK Day because I never got MLK Day off during my time working in public accounting, because busy season. Practicing CPAs, all my love to you these days. Stay strong and treat your body as well as you can. If you have to cry, I’ll be with you in spirit in the last bathroom stall.

My street was closed off for the MLK Day March. I couldn’t drive to my normal flat route, so I took a hilly route out my front door instead. It was an okay run, but afterwards I knew my ITB still wasn’t ready for the hills. The discomfort wasn’t intense, but it felt like I’d regressed in my recovery by a couple of weeks.

My chiro did some much-needed work on my right hip and knee, and unfortunately there were some new nasty spots in desperate need of release.

I tried to take it a little easy with strength training that evening since I’ve been struggling with DOMS into Wednesdays each of the last couple of weeks. The workout was heavy on back/arms/core, and it included LONG negative push-ups (20 seconds! It took me until the third set to get the timing right), alternating one-arm kettlebell swings, leg raises against a resistance band (love), and my very favorite new exercise – I’m actually considering writing a post to commemorate my love for this one – half Turkish get-ups with a press.

Tuesday:

  • Plan: 4 miles easy + 4 strides + core
  • Actual: 4 miles easy @ 10:06/mile + strides + core

Cold, windy, dark, unremarkable run. Except that I rocked this awesome navy-on-navy outfit under my reflective vest. With Monday’s gym workout being somewhat core-heavy,  I streamlined the core work to focus on the types of movements that weren’t a part of Monday’s workout.

cold weather running outfit

You’re welcome for the running fashion advice. #notafashionblogger

Wednesday:

  • Plan: 6 miles w/ 2 x mile @ tempo (90 sec jog recovery) + rehab exercises + yoga or strength
  • Actual: 6 miles w/ 2 x mile @ tempo (8:36/8:30) + rehab exercises + strength training

We got some cold, rainy weather in Atlanta so I decided to take this workout to the treadmill. I so appreciate how this training plan is easing me into the longer tempo runs that I know are coming. This was a pretty fun, satisfying workout that didn’t leave me beat.

I felt like I recovered from Monday’s strength workout better than expected. Maybe my body is adapting to regular strength training. This workout was pretty tough: 5×5 deadlifts (I’m adding weight cautiously, so after the warm-up I did 2 sets of 105 and 3 sets of 115), man-makers, jumping split squats, and Tabata kettlebell swings (a surprisingly tough workout for just 4 minutes!)

Thursday:

  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: Rest day + PT

All the needling yet again. He hit all the usual spots (right hip, glutes, quad) and got into my left hamstring and calf (OWWW calf needling). I’ve had a gnarly spot in my right outer quad close to my knee that almost made me jump when it released. I’m hoping that’s a sign of good things to come!

Friday:

  • Plan: 3 miles + 4 strides + Myrtl routine
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:20/mile + travel to Dallas

I squeezed in 3 miles on a really iffy hotel gym treadmill in between landing in Dallas and my friend Laura’s rehearsal dinner. We got stuck in a nasty security line situation in Atlanta and didn’t have time to grab lunch to take on the plane, so I had a JD’s Chippery cookie before my run. No warm-up, no Myrtl routine, no strides.

Saturday:

  • Plan: 14 miles + core
  • Actual 14 miles @ 10:14/mile + nap

I had a nice run around White Rock Lake in the cold and sunshine. The only downside was there were more hills on the east side of the lake than I remembered, and I definitely felt that dull ache in my ITB come and go throughout the run.

white rock lake running dallas

I skipped the core work for a nap, ate a lot of Mexican food, then spent the evening celebrating the Bruders!

dallas wedding

the happy couple + adorable flower girls

college pals

college pals

dallas arboretum wedding

pretty bride

It was such a fun wedding – we danced most of the night to a fun band (even though they didn’t play any TSwift…I will forgive them.) Laura had college friends come in from all 4 time zones and more than one continent! She is that kind of person and friend – it’s not at all surprising that many friends would make long journeys to celebrate her. I loved every second of hanging out with this fantastic group of women, and as my friend Carly said, I wish we could do this every weekend!

The groom’s cake was Mexican Chocolate cake – yum! – and in addition to wedding cake there were also donuts. Who doesn’t love donuts? Between the dancing and the 14 mile run, I hit a new high for steps on my Fitbit – 37k steps. *pats self on back*

Sunday:

  • Plan: Optional cross-training + yoga
  • Actual: Travel home

I was really exhausted form the weekend and took not one but two naps. I did make some  food to kick off the week (with lots of veggies!), so I wasn’t entirely worthless (just mostly worthless).

Week 6: 30 miles

Not the best week for my resolutions to run healthy in 2016:

  • Rehab/core work – B minus: I got in all the rehab exercises, but I skipped core work after my long run in Dallas.
  • Sleep – B: I didn’t meet my 8 hour/night goal (I was around 7.5 hours on average), and I woke up in the middle of the night nearly every night.
  • Nutrition – C: I lost track mid-week of how I was doing against my fruit/veggies goal. I know I had some good days, but C seems like a fair grade given that I don’t know for sure how I did.
  • “Body maintenance” – B plus: I skipped yoga for the second week in a row (oops) and didn’t foam roll on my weekend away, but I did well with stretching/foam rolling during the week, and I had my chiro + PT appointments.

When you go out of town over a weekend, do you typically get your long run in beforehand or do you fit it into your trip? 

Do you try to have decently coordinated running outfits, or do you just grab what’s comfortable and weather-appropriate?

Paris Marathon Training – Week 5

Week 5: 1/11-1/17

Monday: 

  • Plan: 30-60 min cross-training + rehab exercises + optional strength training
  • Actual: 30 min easy spinning + rehab exercises + strength training

I planned my time perfectly, then forgot to bring my resistance bands to do all my rehab exercises between spinning and strength training. I did what I could before my strength workout – which included deadlifts, plyometrics, and some arms – then did the rest of my rehab exercises with bands once I got home.

In a quest to eat all my veggies, I made this Asian-inspired brown rice & quinoa bowl – the idea came from this NYT Food recipe but I added several things: most importantly, shiitake mushrooms sautéed with minced garlic and a little salt.

kimchi rice bowl with egg

I turned on the College Football national championship game and had a grand old time foam rolling and going through a few yoga poses. So my national championship game watching experience was…totally normal.

Tuesday:

  • Plan: 4 miles easy + 4 strides + core
  • Actual: 4 miles easy @ 9:36/mile + strides + core

I’m really not sure what happened with this run. I was sore from yesterday’s jumping split squats and squat jumps, and was super relaxed for a nice easy jog. From my effort, I wouldn’t have been surprised to look down and see 11:00 miles, so I was pretty surprised to see 30 seconds off my normal easy pace. My effort at the end got a little more labored, so I think I should have backed off more at the beginning.

adorable cat photo

This rascal loves core work time, if only to interfere.

Wednesday:

  • Plan: 6 miles w/ last 3 progression to tempo + rehab exercises + yoga or strength
  • Actual: Rest day

All the DOMS. Decided to switch Wednesday and Thursday.

Thursday:

  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: 6 miles w/ last 3 progression to tempo (9:23/8:54/8:36)

I ran after work, knowing I’d finish in the dark. I ran the same workout last week with slightly faster paces, although both were in the ranges that my plan called for.

I think I ran this week’s workout better than last week’s, even with the slower paces. I stayed more relaxed/controlled, and I had more gas in the tank when I finished. I saw my current Garmin pace get down to 8:05/mile in the last half mile (oops), backed off, and cruised the last quarter mile to the end. I felt great afterwards.

BUUUUT then I got home AND I was so hungry AND so I made dinner AND so I forgot my beloved rehab exercises. **sad face**

Friday:

  • Plan: 3 miles + 4 strides + Myrtl routine
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:14/mile + 4 strides + rehab exercises

Saturday:

  • Plan: 12 miles + core
  • Actual 12 miles @ 10:36/mile + core

After moving my tempoish workout to Thursday each of the last two weeks, I knew this one would be a little tough. It was. But it was a really beautiful day, and I did a full 25 minutes of core work at home later, which was a big win.

long run silver comet

Sunday:

  • Plan: Optional cross-training + yoga
  • Actual: Not a damn thing.

It was a holiday weekend and I felt like garbage. My Fitbit registered precisely 2000 steps. I did nothing.

Week 5: 25 miles

I saw some improvement in the resolutions I’m tracking for this training cycle:

  • Rehab/core work – A minus: I got in all the rehab exercises and core work, but I was lazy with the rehab exercises one day.
  • Sleep – A: Last week, I wanted to be more consistent with staying near my 8 hours/night goal. This week my sleep was on target according to my Fitbit…with a Sunday nap in there to pad my stats.fitbit sleep tracking
  • Nutrition – A: I hit my fruit/veggies goal like a champion! (I ate over a pound of spinach. It may have been overkill.) I had a smoothie after nearly every run, which made it so much easier to hit that fruit/veggie target. And I had just two meals from restaurants all week! Having friends with kids who invite you over for home-cooked deliciousness helps with this.
  • “Body maintenance” – C: I skipped yoga when I wasn’t feeling great, and I also missed an appointment with my foam roller. On second thought, do I get a “D” here?

How about you: do you have trouble getting enough fruits and veggies? Either way, let me know your secrets to getting your nutrition right. 

Paris Marathon Training – Week 4

If the work week is an endurance event, then the holidays really zapped me of my work-stamina. Wednesday felt like it should have been Friday, and that’s my week in a nutshell.

Week 4: 1/4-1/10

Monday: 

  • Plan: 30-60 min cross-training + rehab exercises + optional strength training
  • Actual: chiro + 40 min strength training

Last week, when I posted about how not planning enough time got in the way of my doing all the “little things” to keep myself injury-free, this was the day I was thinking about. I didn’t plan my day well and didn’t get the work done that I needed to do. The strength workout was a lot of shoulders/chest/triceps/back/core.

For the third chiro visit in a row, I got a resounding vote of confidence from Dr. Eng to keep up the good work and run all the miles. I’m starting to really notice how much better my hips, glutes, and quads feel with the work he’s been doing and my rehab exercises. He introduced the idea of getting on more of a “maintenance” schedule where I come in once a month. I think I could get on board with that idea next month, but right now I see the biweekly appointments as a security blanket – I know he’ll take care of whatever’s bugging me at least every two weeks.

Tuesday:

  • Plan: 4 miles easy + 4 strides + core
  • Actual: 4 miles easy @ 10:06/mile + strides + core

Just a nice easy, sunny, chilly run at lunchtime. I love winter lunchtime runs. I felt the slightest tinge of ITB pain after my run, so I spent some extra time foam rolling and in pigeon pose.

Wednesday:

  • Plan: 6 miles w/ last 3 progression to tempo + rehab exercises + yoga or strength
  • Actual: Rest day

My core was pretty sore from the last two days’ workouts, and when some unexpected appointments took up a part of my day I hadn’t planned for, I decided to switch my Wednesday and Thursday workouts.

I noticed that when I take the train to run errands (like grocery shopping), I get quite a few extra steps in my day. My Fitbit registered over 13k steps – which, with my desk job, is pretty good for a rest day.

Thursday:

  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: 6 miles w/ last 3 progression to tempo (9:12/8:50/8:23) + rehab exercises + PT

Another chilly lunchtime run, gray and a little foggy but really nice weather, and the workout went off without a hitch. I remembered to stay relaxed during the workout – sometimes I get anxious about workouts (I realize that is crazy, but it’s true).

Piedmont Park oval atlanta

As usual, I went to the PT with a lot of tightness through my right hip and outer quad, this week so much that my right leg pulled to the side when I fully relaxed it. He needled my right quad, piriformis, TFL, glute med (where I’d been feeling some soreness), and both my right and left psoas – those little boogers have been knotted up for over a year. I REALLY felt it in my right glute med for the rest of the day.

Friday:

I didn’t want to move my long run to Sunday, so I added in a rest day to help myself recover from Thursday’s workout. And I do love Friday rest days.

The end of the week finally came, and we celebrated by staying in with homemade veggie pizza and a movie.

Saturday:

  • Plan: 12 miles + core
  • Actual: 12 miles @ 10:45/mile + core

WOOF. This run was awful. It started out feeling funny and just never got better. I’m of the superstitious belief that if all your training runs are magical, your race will probably suck…at least that’s what I tell myself after days like this. I’m glad I got it done and I was extremely glad when it was over.

silver comet mableton ga

I bought two Powerball tickets with the spare change in my car, and managed 8 minutes of core work before throwing in the towel. Later, we had a busy night celebrating one of my favorite people’s 30th birthdays (happy birthday Sarah!!) and seeing off one of Jeff’s grad school classmates, who got a job with a construction software company in Silicon Valley. It was a much later night than I am accustomed to.

Sunday:

  • Plan: optional cross-training + yoga
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:09/mile + 15 min yoga

I slept in and was lazy most of the day after the exhausting Saturday. I made further strides toward perfecting the breakfast pizza – one egg on the crust and another broken over the toppings. I barely made it out the door before dark for the run, but I managed to get it done just before the sun went down.

breakfast pizza

Breakfast Pizza v2.0: mozzarella, egg, thinly sliced potato, caramelized onion, mushrooms, fresh tomato slices, sautéed spinach, Italian sausage, and more egg/mozz.

Week 4: 25 miles

I have mixed feelings about this week of workouts – it was just an okay week. I also had mixed results with respect to my 2016 resolutions:

  • Rehab/core work – C: I was 1 for 2 on rehab exercises, and 1.5 for 2 on core work (I cut Saturday’s short). But I’ll be honest, if I hadn’t gone through the exercise of breaking it all down and coming up with these resolutions, there’s no way I would have done any core work on Saturday.
  • Sleep – B: I made my average of 8 hours/night, but that included one 10+ hour night and a couple of nights when I came up more than 30 minutes short. I’d like to be more consistent.
  • Nutrition – C-minus: I only got my servings of veggies 3/7 days, and fruits just one day. I’m really glad I started tracking this, because it’s an area that I can definitely improve. (Is it just me, or is it harder in the winter?) I did eat just 5 meals out during the week, which was better than I hoped to do.
  • “Body maintenance” – A-minus: I could have done more yoga, but overall I was consistent with seeing the chiro/PT, foam rolling, and doing what I can to stay loose and limber.

How was your week of training/workouts? If you set any resolutions or goals, how are they coming along?

Paris Marathon Training – Week 3

Whew! After last week’s Christmas Adventures Across Tennessee, I was happy to spend a laid-back week at home. I watched a lot of football and got to play with my new Christmas toys, especially my pizza stone! As of today (Sunday), I have made 5 pizzas in the past week. Maybe I will get sick of it someday.

Week 3: 12/28-1/3

Monday: 

  • Plan: 30-60 min cross-training + rehab exercises
  • Actual: Travel to ATL + 30 min spinning + rehab exercises

Not the greatest cross-training session ever: I couldn’t get my wireless headphones to connect to my phone, and about 15 minutes of the 30 were spent halfheartedly spinning while fiddling with the headphones.

Tuesday:

  • Plan: 3 miles easy + 4 strides + core
  • Actual: 3 miles easy @ 10:05/mile + strides + core

I went back to the Beltline for a nice run with the weather still in the 60s! As is my game day superstition, I planned my run outfit in Baylor’s school colors. For a while, I had been guiltily eyeing these overpriced fancy black and gold-reflective shorts from Lululemon, so I was happy to snap them up once they were marked down to well over 50% off. The game was a huge success for the Bears, and I’m pretty sure my spirit was a contributing factor.

Wednesday:

  • Plan: 5 miles w/ last 2 @ steady pace + rehab exercises + yoga or strength
  • Actual: 5 miles: warmup @ 10:31/mile, last 2 8:57/8:53 + rehab exercises

Jeff is in grad school at Georgia Tech, so he let me join him as a guest to Tech’s huge and really nice gym. This was my first “workout” in several weeks, so I’m out of practice being uncomfortable. This run wasn’t too terribly hard, but I’m glad my plan is easing me into more challenging workouts.

georgia tech rec center

The gym was closing as I was finishing up my rehab exercises. I did maybe 10 min of yoga  poses focusing on hip flexibility before heading out.

Thursday:

  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: Rest day + New Year’s Eve

I cleaned house all day – no fun but much needed – then we joined our friends Randy and Sarah to ring in the new year with football and pizza. I got to use my new pizza stone, which was a gift from Jeff – it was perfect because I have been contemplating buying one for over a year but never pulled the trigger. (It is also a perfect gift for him because he gets pizza out of it.) I’m not great at working with the dough, so my pizzas are oddly shaped.

 

Friday:

  • Plan: 3 miles + 4 strides +  Myrtl routine
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:18/mile + 4 strides + Myrtl + New Year’s Day

I went back to the soft, flat half-mile loop I’d been running during week 1. One of the downsides of this spot is that it doesn’t drain well when there’s been a lot of rain, so this was the first day I thought it might not be a giant mud puddle. There were a few puddles left, and geese were loving the puddles.

piedmont park geese atlanta

I did not eat any black eyed peas this New Year’s Day, so I suppose there goes my prosperity for the year.

Saturday:

  • Plan: 10 miles + core
  • Actual: 10 miles @ 10:01/mile + core

My IT band pain had been bothering me on and off since Wednesday’s run, so I was pretty nervous for this run. I almost put it off until Sunday. I drove out to an asphalt rail-trail that is long enough to do a full out and back. If you’ve ever taken much time off from running, you probably know the feeling of your stride being awkward and the motion of running feeling labored (or is that just me?). This run was the closest I’ve felt in the last three weeks to running feeling natural, a sensation that felt like my body would run whether or not my brain told it to. I was encouraged by how the day went and hope that runs like this one become more frequent!

running trail cobb county

Sunday:

  • Plan: optional cross-training + yoga
  • Actual: 15 min bodyweight strength work + 75 min gentle yoga

I spent Sunday enjoying the last of my days off for the holidays. I don’t think my Fitbit even registered 5000 steps! I did a quick 15 minute set of bodyweight strength exercises focused on hips, glutes, and hamstrings, then caught a gentle yoga class.

Week 3: 21 miles

This week went as well as I could have hoped. I got in all my workouts – not too much of a challenge given that I didn’t have a full work week – but they went as well as I could have expected.

How did you spend your New Year? Do you eat black eyed peas every year, or pass?

Paris Marathon Training – Weeks 1 & 2

Just like that, marathon training is here. My favorite Christmas gift this year is the ability to run and train for this marathon. I was pretty nervous that it wasn’t going to happen during my time off, when test runs were ending in pain.

With the exception of Week 1, when I was running all easy without a structured training schedule, my training looks basically like this:

  • Monday: cross-training or easy run + rehab exercises + optional strength training
  • Tuesday: easy run + strides + core
  • Wednesday: tempo run / workout + rehab exercises + optional strength training or yoga
  • Thursday: rest
  • Friday: easy run + strides + Myrtl routine
  • Saturday: long run + core
  • Sunday: yoga + optional cross-training

I appreciate that all of the non-running stuff is written into the schedule, so I don’t have to think about when (or if!) I should do it. In my last post, I talked a little bit about discipline. While I think this looks like a lot, I’m running low mileage, so I shouldn’t have any trouble having the discipline to get all the “extras” in to stay strong and healthy.

Week 1: 12/14-12/20

Monday: Rest day + chiro + rehab exercises

I was pretty frazzled when I went to the sports chiropractor. I’d been injured for 3 weeks, I had a setback the week prior, and I started feeling pain on a test run I tried to do Sunday. I had given up on that run and was somewhat convinced that Paris couldn’t happen.

He had a totally different (read: more optimistic) perspective. He examined some of the “problem areas” we’d been working on, which had improved, to my surprise. He helped me see that I was making progress: I wasn’t feeling sharp pain while running anymore, only after running. This was true: the week before, I had a really nice run with a friend, then hopped on a plane to New York. My ITB got so tight while I was sitting on the plane that I had to limp through the airport after landing. It took 2 more days for me to walk without any pain.

The fix was so simple I kicked myself for not thinking of it: just foam roll/stretch immediately after running, and don’t sit in one place for hours. And with that, I could resume normal training. Simple!

That evening, we had our annual runners’ holiday party / gift exchange. We had a great time getting together and catching up. I ended up getting a green Under Armour hat and burgundy ear warmers: the perfect way to gear up for winter marathon training!

atlanta women's running

Tuesday: 3 miles easy @ 10:13/mile + core work + PT

One of the suggestions my chiro gave me was to run on soft, flat surfaces while coming back. The best/closest option is this half-mile loop. I did some stretching before driving home then did some foam rolling & core work when I got home. And just like that, no pain the next day!

atlanta running trail park

My soft, flat trail

I saw the physical therapist that afternoon, who did some dry needling in my glute, hip, and the outside of my right quad.

Wednesday: Indoor cycling class @ Cyc Fitness + rehab exercises

I have been meaning to try out Cyc’s spin classes since it is next door to my office. Everyone was super nice, and they share facilities with the Forum Athletic Club, meaning I could use their locker room & products after class before heading back to the office. Cyc has its own take on the indoor cycling class format, and while it wasn’t my very favorite, I had a good time and a good workout.

Thursday: 5 miles easy @ 10:10/mile + bodyweight strength work

I was happy to successfully complete another run without a hint of pain, even though the 10 loops around got pretty boring. Afterwards, I did a strength workout that focused on glutes, hips, & hammies by combining some movements similar to my rehab exercises (such as hip thrusts) with more fun strength exercises like pistol squats and single-leg deadlifts.

 

atlanta park skyline sunset

Friday: Rest day

Saturday: 7 miles easy @ 10:38/mile + core work

14 laps around the gravel loop, and I didn’t feel great from the start. It was just one of those “off” running days. I never felt ITB pain (yay!) and I listened to a podcast interview with Tom Foreman that was the perfect bad-running-day listening material. His enthusiasm for running is contagious, and he actually talked at some length about embracing the bad running days.

quinoa granola homemade

Then I made granola and all was yummy.

Sunday: 3 miles easy @ 10:22/mile + rehab exercises

About a mile and a half into the run, I started feeling a little bit of discomfort around the IT band. It was very minor – maybe a 1 or 2/10 on the pain scale. I paid extra attention to my form for the rest of the run, and the pain didn’t get any worse.

Week 1: 18 miles

 

Week 2: 12/21-12/27

Monday: 

  • Plan: 30-60 min cross-training + rehab exercises
  • Actual: 45 min spinning + rehab exercises + chiro

I had an encouraging visit with the sports chiro. He was pleased with my progress, both with running the week before and the improvement in the tightness/imbalances that we’ve been working on. I got the green light to run all the miles!

Tuesday:

  • Plan: 3 miles easy + 4 strides + core work
  • Actual: 3 miles easy @ 10:11/mile + core work + PT

I decided to try running my shortest run of the week on the Beltline, which is a little more convenient to me than the loop I’ve been running. It’s a rail-trail that’s mostly flat, but the downside is that it’s paved with concrete. I felt about the same amount of discomfort on this run as I did on Sunday: it was there, but it was never enough to be concerning. I skipped the strides because the idea of any faster running made me nervous.

I had a call with Jason about my training plan, and aside from helping me feel confident that I can be ready for Paris, he mentioned that sometimes with ITBS, picking up the pace can result in changing the angle of the leg in a way that is less stressful on the IT band. This made me feel a lot more comfortable with the idea of faster running.

In my PT visit, I got all the needling. Right quad, hip, glute, left hip flexor, and a little in the back. There was some improvement from the week before, but my right quad in particular is a nasty mess.

I required a little self-bribery motivation to finish up the core work.

creature comforts beer athena

 

Wednesday:

  • Plan: 5 miles w/ last 2 @ steady pace + rehab exercises + yoga or strength
  • Actual: 3 miles @10:40/mile + rehab exercises

I did this run on the treadmill after work and I felt awful during the whole run. When I picked up the pace, I felt a sharp pain on the outside of my right knee. NOT AGAIN. F*$K this $H!T. I did my rehab exercises dutifully and foam rolled/lacrosse balled/stretched A LOT. All while crossing my fingers that this pain wasn’t indicative of something serious.

Thursday:

  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: Travel to Memphis + Christmas Eve

I hesitate to call this day “rest” because it was really not very restful at all. As Jeff and I were about to embark on a multi-day journey from Atlanta and across Tennessee – with the cat – said cat decided to win the hide-and-seek championships of 2015 by posting up inside my box spring. Imagine my consternation as I searched the apartment for a cat that seemed to vanish. I wish my iPhone camera could have captured the moment when I found her staring at me through the hole she clawed in the mesh at the bottom of the box spring.

We drove the six hours and had Christmas Eve at my aunt and uncle’s house out in the country near Memphis. It was warm enough to be outside, cool enough for bourbon by the fire, and altogether a fun time with my family.

tennessee christmas pudding

My uncle, lighting the Christmas pudding.

Friday:

  • Plan: 3 miles + 4 strides +  Myrtl routine
  • Actual: 3 miles + 4 strides + Myrtl + Christmas

Three soggy, flooded miles along the paved trails by my parents’ house. I ran through a few ankle-deep puddles then decided to run the roads back to my parents’ house, which had some hills I decided to walk down. I still had a bit of discomfort in the knee on this run.

germantown tn running trail flood

Trail or creek?

Christmas was full of food, gifts, drinks, political arguments, and laughter.

IMG_6382

brother.

Saturday:

  • Plan: 10 miles + core
  • Actual: Travel to Knoxville

My plan was to wake up early and get the run in while in relatively flat Memphis, but when I woke up, my knee was feeling some discomfort from just walking. I decided to opt for extra sleep and put off the run.

IMG_6394

Road tripping with Lucy

Sunday:

  • Plan: optional cross-training + yoga
  • Actual: 10 miles @ 10:30/mile + core

We spent the day catching up with Jeff’s family. One of the highlights was hanging out with his brother, sister-in-law, and their baby girls. We saw them in the NICU when they were itty bitty, so it is so fun to see them as happy, chubby, expressive babes!

I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to get my long run done, because Knoxville, AKA Rocky Top, is super hilly. What luck that Jeff’s sister-in-law was able to bring me to her gym as a guest for free!

Long running on the treadmill is quite a mental challenge. All the respect for you guys who regularly run long on the treadmill. I also did some core work after the run, but not the full 3 sets planned.

Jeff’s stepmom made an amazing homemade Italian feast, and I nearly ate myself into a coma. She also makes these Italian pastries that I swoon over every time. She sent me home with a freezer bag full of them, which was a delicious mistake. I’m already almost finished eating them…oops.

Week 2: 19 miles

I’m happy to be able to run and train, but I’m still not sure what to think about this knee just yet. I am seeing more and more value in the low-mileage training plan, because I don’t think my ITBS could handle what I would consider “normal” marathon training.

A very happy new year to you all, and here’s to a healthy and happy 2016! If you’re running a spring marathon, let me know in the comments!

The ITBizness

It’s been a while since I updated the blog, but if you follow me on social media, you probably saw that I decided to can the St. Jude Half Marathon after dealing with an IT band injury.

I didn’t feel the sense of loss that I expected to feel after missing out on a race that I trained hard for. In retrospect, I think I was on the verge of – or at – a state of burnout. I don’t think I had enough respect for what the Savannah half took out of me, even though I didn’t really “race” it. I’m not entirely sure I had an all-out, goal-race effort in me for St. Jude anyway.

The week after Savannah, I ran 43 miles. All those miles while feeling really drained and uninspired. I thought I was being disciplined by running all the miles, but I failed to heed some warning signs. While I had the “discipline” to run all the miles and even skip a rest day (whyyyy? I don’t know anymore), I was so beat that I skipped all my “prehab” core/glute/hip strengthening work that I struggled to be consistent with this whole training cycle, even before Savannah.

I dug up this old tweet in the injury post-mortem. Clues of possible burnout did exist!

The following week, I couldn’t deny my fatigue or the chronic nature of the soreness in my left glute and hip flexor. I skipped an easy run, didn’t do any strength training, and made it through the work week, which included an accounting conference in hot, rainy, muggy Orlando. Florida runners, my heart goes out to you in the biggest way.

I considered cutting back on my long run that week, then I decided to head out and play it by ear. When I was 14 miles in, I was running down a hill, and without warning I felt that awful stabbing sensation on the outside of my right knee. I’d never had ITBS before, but I’ve heard enough about it to know exactly what it was. My right leg didn’t feel like it could bear weight. It was a clear “oh, shit” moment. I took an Uber home.

Since then, I’ve been seeing a sports chiropractor regularly, doing all the prehab rehab exercises diligently, indoor cycling, and yoga. I’ve gone through a couple rounds of dry needling, which I strangely love even though it feels weird. I spent 3 weeks not running consistently, with a few unsuccessful test runs sprinkled in. Last week, I ran 18 miles without any noteworthy pain, all on a half-mile gravel loop. It’s the most boring route I’ve ever run.

foam roller

I’ve been doing a lot of this. (This = foam rolling, not gratuitous leg-showing. Sorry.)

As for the cause of the injury, I had some imbalances and some really gnarly tight muscles that just weren’t going to put up with hard training anymore. Hard training is a risk, and this time I came out on the wrong side. It’s easy to spout platitudes about “being in touch with your body,” but it’s not a magical injury prevention strategy, although I do think it’s something we should all strive to do.

What I’m trying to say is that by “listening to my body,” whatever the hell that means, I was aware enough to know I needed to back off. But I didn’t know enough to do anything beyond doing “less.” I finally see the importance of seeing a trained professional from time to time during normal training, to see (and treat!) the warning signs that I’m not trained to see or treat (as a person who lives my professional life in spreadsheets and memos).

I got my training plan for Paris today. The mileage is lower than what I was running for my last marathon. I wish I were healthy enough to take more advantage of the base that was built into my St. Jude training. But it’s not just any marathon near home that I can skip and not feel too bad about, it’s the Paris Marathon. The PARIS #*$&ing MARATHON. I’d rather finish this marathon – even if it’s slow – than get injured again from taking big training risks. So I’m (reluctantly) on board with the less-mileage plan.

I don’t know how it will go. (I guess we never really do.) My goal is only to PR (my PR is 4:20). Maybe if training goes flawlessly, I will think about going for sub-4:10 (the GMP in my training plan is a 9:25/mile pace). At this point, that kind of goal-setting is premature – everyone I’ve talked to mentions that ITBS can be a stubborn injury. I’m really excited to get started with training. I’ll start back up with weekly training posts next week for this abbreviated 15 week cycle.

Have any of you had ITBS? How did recovery go for you?

Have you ever had dry needling? Like it, or not so much?

Reflections on My First Marathon

Almost two weeks post-marathon, I’ve ruminated on the marathon enough that my thoughts on the race have solidified.

I’ve also been doing a lot of this:

cookies

Attempting to bake

And this:

cuddly cat

Being lazy

Back to the marathon:

I’m about 88% happy with my performance. My marathon pace, which was 9:56/mile, is just 13 seconds faster than my training pace for my 20 miler. I’ve been racking my brain for possible causes, and I think I just ran a more conservative race than I needed to. I don’t think that’s a bad thing to do as a first-timer, which is why I’m only 12% unhappy. I’m not blaming the road camber/ITB for slowing me down much if at all, because I ran nearly even splits (first half was less than 30 seconds faster than second).

About those splits. I put them in Excel. I analyzed them to death. I will spare you the details, other than to say a) I’m reasonably pleased with their consistency (over half of the miles were +/- 5 seconds of average), and b) the portapotty stop negatively impacted consistency – my splits were all over the place in the miles surrounding the stop.

I’d like to begin with a bigger base. I started training with my weekly mileage in the high 20s and a long run of 10 miles. Next time I run a marathon, I’d like to begin with a larger base of mileage so I’m better prepared for the demands of training. At the pace I run easy miles, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect 50 mile weeks except in peak marathon training. Aiming for 30-40 miles a week before beginning full-on training feels about right, but life could prove me wrong.

My conclusion about nearly every aspect of this marathon was that it was pretty good, but there was room for improvement. I can run a more aggressive race. I can strive for more consistent pacing. I can improve my nutrition/hydration plan, particularly race-day hydration. I can begin training at a higher level of preparedness. I’m astonished that I didn’t manage to screw up some aspect of the marathon, and I’m kind of excited that there is room for improvement.

Other miscellaneous post-marathon observations:

  • The major chafing culprits are sports bras and inner thighs, but I have identified a new master-chafer, and that is the arm warmer. Only half of my right armpit got deodorant for the week after the marathon. A scar is forming.
  • Additionally, if you care about this kind of thing, arm warmers aren’t that flattering. I prefer not having to worry about shedding layers or shivering while running, so it’s a matter of personal preference I guess.
  • Another thing that’s not flattering that I will never do without: spandex shorts. SIDEBAR: Runners/athletes, female or male, aren’t ornaments for your viewing pleasure, so if anyone out there is criticizing others’ apparel choices on the basis of personal preferences, just stop.
  • It’s not possible to run a marathon and have your Garmin read 26.20 at the end, so don’t even bother expecting it. (EDIT: Jesica has done the impossible, and I applaud her tangent-running-badassery.)
    • If I get to a point where I want to aim for a big time goal (sub-4?), I’m subtracting at least 5 seconds from the per-mile pace to arrive at my goal Garmin pace.
  • It’s not that hard to become self-involved at times while training for a marathon. Training is a big time commitment, and you have to take good care of yourself. Next time, I think I’m going to devise some system to remind me to reach out to a friend, or do some unprovoked act of kindness, at regular intervals throughout training. More on that once I devise it.
  • Core and hip strengthening work are magical. Do this frequently. I haven’t had lingering ITB pain from the race, and I attribute much of this to having invested time in core and hip strength. I think my body was better prepared to recover from that kind of abuse than it would have been had I neglected core and hips.
  • Running miles 25 and 26 hard will do more for your time than running mile 0.2 very hard. I did not do this in my first marathon, but I will strive to do it next time.
  • Drinking 2 large Tervis tumblers of water and 2 cups of coffee in the period of 1-2 hours before the race is too much, especially when you drink another 8 ounces just before the start. Drink less than this next time.
  • A two-week taper felt like the right amount of time. And don’t weigh yourself during the taper.
  • New non-time-related goal for marathon #2: no tears. Also, do more research on road camber and finish line logistics.
  • It’s hard to motivate myself to bathe regularly when not training/exercising regularly. Recovery is hard.
  • Consider bringing music for the last 5-10k. I could have really used the Rocky soundtrack at that point (not kidding).
  • I’M JUST GOING TO SAY IT: I’m extra pissed off that Ohio State got in the College Football Playoff over Baylor after I wore about 50 shades of non-coordinating green and gold for the marathon. It was the wrong decision either way, but adding insult to injury by rejecting my ridiculous outfit? Thanks for nothing, Playoff Committee.

This post has almost no photos, so here are some of the outtakes from my recap post:

Race photo outtakes

I’m really improving in the race-photo department, although the bar was pretty low before. I’d guess I took at least 5 mouth-open photos off of my previous race-photo PR. I wore waterproof mascara (which is justified simply because marathoning-badass and sister-in-blonde-eyelashes Shalane Flanagan rocks the race-day mascara). I also tried to smile whenever I saw a camera. Next race, I need to try looking fast – throw in a surge of speed for the camera.

Experienced marathoners – what marathoning-lessons have you learned that you’d like to share?
Aspiring marathoners – do you have any other questions/curiosities that I can answer?

Leave a comment or shoot me a tweet @racingoprah.

St. Jude Memphis Marathon Race Recap Part 2: The Race

The Race

St. Jude Memphis Marathon

Miles 1-3: 10:04, 9:47, 9:49 (Garmin)
31:11 through 5k, 10:03/mile (Official)

The St. Jude Marathon allows runners to self-corral based on estimated finish times. With my goal time of 4:15, I was very much in between corrals, so I elected to start at the back of corral 6, which was for 4:05 – 4:15 estimated finish times.

The beginning of the race was crowded, and I didn’t want to make any aggressive passing moves so early in the race, so I just settled in and kept seeing 10:20 and even 10:30 as my current Garmin pace.

I don’t think the slow early miles hurt my time much if at all, but it was frustrating to not get in an early rhythm. I probably won’t put myself in the back of a corral again after having this experience.

The beginning miles of this race are pretty fun. Mile 2 is run along Riverside Drive next to the Mississippi River, which was very pretty and windy. Mile 3 goes through the heart of downtown along Beale Street and Third Street.

Beale Street

Beale Street

There is a small hill coming up Beale from Riverside where I encountered a group of runners discussing maintaining a 9:45/mile pace. I struck up a conversation with Guy, John, John, and Susan, and we started running together. In addition to being super nice, these guys had run the race before and had a pretty good idea of what to expect.

marathon chatter

The many expressions of mid-race conversation.

Nutrition: I took a cup of Powerade at mile 2. I started feeling like I needed to pee at mile 2 as well. Not hitting the wall > needing to pee, so I drank it anyway.

Miles 4-9: 9:42, 9:40, 9:54, 9:46, 9:48 (Garmin)
Through 15k: 1:32:27, 9:52/mile from 5k (Official)

Mile 4 goes through the St. Jude campus, which was really heartwarming. From there until mile 8, there is a long stretch of North Parkway. Mile 8 turns through Overton Park, and there’s a bit of a hill at mile 9 by the art museum.

I felt pretty good during the North Parkway miles, but I started feeling a little tired when we got in the park. This segment of the course wasn’t super notable, but I enjoyed chatting with my new race-friends.

Marathon overton park

Mile 9 – Overton Park

Nutrition/hydration: I stuck to the plan despite feeling like I needed to pee. I had a Gu and water at Mile 4, a cup of Powerade at mile 6, and a Huma gel at mile 8 with water. I didn’t take any fluids at the odd numbered miles.

By mile 8 or 10, my race-group began discussing portapotty-timing-strategy.

Miles 10-13: 9:55, 9:46, 9:56, 9:40 (Garmin)
Through half: 2:09:53, 9:55/mile from 15k (Official)

This segment of the course includes two miles of Poplar Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Memphis. The hills aren’t bad by Atlanta standards, but it rolls a bit. There are two lanes of traffic open to the runners, and it’s hard to avoid the road camber. I was able to settle into tire grooves where it was pretty even.

The course turned by Sun Studio about halfway through mile 12 and the halfers, including two from our group, veered to the right while we stayed on the course. This was my first race ever not to take the half split!

IMG_3349.JPG

Nutrition/hydration/portapotty plan: I took a cup of Powerade at mile 10 and a Gu and water at mile 12. I still needed to use the portapotty and took no additional fluids. John, Guy and I, now dubbed the unofficial 4:20 pace group, decided we’d hit the first portapotties without a line after the half split.

Miles 14-20: 9:33, 9:52, 10:36, 9:35, 9:25, 9:54, 9:55 (Garmin)
Through 19.6: 3:57:23, 9:50/mile pace from half (Official)

This part of the course went through Midtown Memphis, which I really enjoyed. It’s a beautiful neighborhood with big trees and old buildings. I thought the crowd support was great. Whether we passed restaurants or houses, it seemed like people were sitting outside cheering on the runners. I don’t recall it ever feeling totally dead, although naturally there weren’t the large crowds that we saw downtown.

According to my race tour guides, mile 14 was where the course starts to get hilly. I didn’t perceive the hills to be that bad, but my body started feeling pretty tired. I felt like my feet gained two 5 lb lead weights at some point in mile 14. The irregular splits in this segment of the race were partially the result of hills, and partially trying to push through fatigue. I remember some of both.

We found an ideally placed group of three portapotties during mile 16. Guy timed our break at just over a minute. Miles 17 and 18 were paced by John, who looked like he was out for an afternoon jog and was ready to go. Guy and I were laboring a bit more than John, and after seeing a 9:25 mile for mile 18, we decided to slow to about a 9:50 pace. We slowed a little more, but I was still expecting to make a last 10k surge, so it felt like a way to conserve energy for the surge.

During the Midtown miles, we met some fellow unofficial 4:20 pace groupers, Keshia and Beth. We’d been running together since the half split, and finally made the introductions official somewhere around mile 19.

For me, the biggest challenge of the course was the uneven camber of the roads. In the portion of the course where there were half marathoners, it wasn’t bad because the larger crowds meant that more lanes were blocked off for runners. Beginning at the end of mile 18 through the end of mile 24, this course runs on East Parkway and North Parkway, and only one lane of traffic is reserved for runners. I’ve never run in a race where road camber is a huge issue, because normally the middle of the road is even. Because only one super-slanty-lane was available to runners, we had to run with our left legs landing several inches below our right for quite a few miles.

memphis marathon road camber

Check out how slanted the road is from the angle of the truck pictured! Credit: Google Street View

Once I realized there was no escaping the road camber, I just hoped that my now-strong hips could protect me from any ill effects of running on this road.

Nutrition/hydration: Powerade at mile 14, Gu with water at mile 16, Powerade at mile 19 (I missed it at mile 18), Gu with water at mile 20.

Miles 21-24: 9:51, 9:48, 9:54, 10:02 (Garmin)
Through mile 24: 3:57:23, 9:56/mile from 19.6 (Official)

John looked like he could run at least another 10 miles when we got to mile 20, and he took off. He crushed the last 10k and ran a 4:12:xx. I am 99% sure he could have run the race in 4 hours without our slow asses holding him back.

Guy, Beth, Keshia and I, on the other hand, decided to try to continue at a 9:50/mile clip and we’d consider making a move during the last 5k. By mile 21 or 22, my left IT band was feeling some ill effects of the road camber, and I had no choice but to continue pounding on it. For the first time in my life, uphills were a respite and downhills were the enemy.

At mile 21, I calculated that I could run the last 5.2 miles in an hour and still beat Oprah. This was helpful for my battered psyche and IT band.

By mile 24, I thought I was speeding up (I was actually slowing down). I felt horrible, and maintaining forward momentum was the best motivation I could muster to keep myself from slowing down and taking it easy. Mile 24 goes through the St. Jude campus, and in comparison to the lonely North Parkway miles, it was really energizing and inspiring to see the St. Jude crowd out in force cheering us on. I gave a LOT of high fives.

St. Jude Campus Marathon

St. Jude Campus

Nutrition/hydration: a cup of Powerade at mile 22, another cup of Powerade at mile 24. My stomach was starting to feel really queasy.

Miles 25-26.2: 9:56, 10:13, 0.46 in 4:12; 9:08/mile pace (Garmin)
Through 26.2: 4:20:14 (10:18/mile from mile 24)

Coming out of the St. Jude campus onto bleak Danny Thomas toward downtown was the saddest part of the course. The street is not spectator-friendly, and I could feel every inch of my left IT band – it felt like it was in flames. I wish they could have routed the race on a downtown north-south street – perhaps Front? That would be cool.

The 10:13 mile was a low point for me mentally – I’m sure I could have run faster, but I really felt like giving up. Not giving up as in not finishing, but giving up as in not trying my hardest. This is the only part of the race where I have regrets – I know I could have run it faster than I did.

Memphis marathon

At some point along the way, I lost Guy, Keshia, and Beth in the course of keeping my forward momentum. Beth and Keshia caught up to me during my mile 26 despair and pulled me out of it. They were really encouraging. I did my best to keep pace with them. I couldn’t always stay up with them, but I managed a surge every so often to keep them in my sight.

Sjmm

Approaching the baseball stadium/finish

The endof the St. Jude course is in a baseball stadium, and I was pleasantly surprised to see Jeff and my parents cheering on the turn into the stadium. I had a bit of an extra pep in my step at this point.

Entering the stadium, one of the girls told me we were on track for 4:20, and I churned out the fastest finish I could muster. Running hard like that was so painful to my already wrecked IT band, but I guess I just didn’t care anymore.

St. Jude marathon finish

Finish on the field

As I approached the finish line, I felt a rush of accomplishment like I’ve never felt in any race before.

All the miles run, all the hours trained.

The rough start to training, and switching training plans.

Getting stung by a stingray in the middle of training.

The worst long run ever.

Feeling all the physical fatigue of training and somehow having an overall great experience.

Memphis marathon finish

I crossed the finish line in a state of physical and emotional overload. Keshia, Beth and I crossed the finish line seconds from our goal: we were pacing superstars. I had a giant smile on my face. I raised my arms above my head in victory – not victory in the race, of course, but victory in running MY race, in my hometown, for the first time, as I hoped it would go. Victory was seeing the payoff of my preparation. We got together for a photographer and smiled our widest.

St. Jude Marathon Finish

Post-race: happy edition.

I turned around from our photograph and faced the reality ahead of me. I had to walk across this baseball field and up the stadium steps, a challenge that felt more daunting than the last 10k of the marathon. I hobbled up the steps, using both handrails to keep my legs from collapsing beneath me. I saw the food area at the top of the steps. In that moment I realized that my stomach, which I’d just bombarded with 6 Gus and 7 cups of Powerade while running, was feeling ragey. Get food later. Find your people now.

Somehow I had the mental and physical toughness to run 26.2 miles, but it took just 5 minutes of walking and not finding my people to break me down. I started crying. There were quite a few perplexed spectators unsure what to think of a sweaty, sobbing 29 year old woman wandering hobbling around aimlessly like a lost kid in a grocery store.

I found my people and gave disgustingly sweaty, sobby hugs. Jeff told me I never had to run again, which was the most perfect thing he could have said to me in that moment. A moment later, I ran into more race-friends, Guy and Susan, and their two cute girls. I was all smiles again as we bantered about the race, looked up our times, and chatted about the girls’ upcoming 1.2 mile race – the last 1.2 of a series of kids’ races that total 26.2. What fun!

Perhaps the strangest and most unexpected part of my first marathon: I was more emotional after the race than a 16 year old girl with PMS.

After wearing the damn wristband for 24 hours, I didn’t make it to the beer garden to get my not one but TWO real beers. 😦

It felt like hours to walk back to the car. We had the lunch of St. Jude Marathon champions. I had a pulled pork sandwich from Germantown Commissary and it was phenomenal.

Germantown Commissary

The race, in a nutshell:

There are so many great things about this race. It’s not too big, not too hilly, not too flat. You can register for a reasonable fee and support a great cause without padding a corporate profit margin. The aid stations and portapotties are plentiful and frequent. The crowd support is great for a smaller marathon. They serve real beer after the race and a lot of real food – pizza, chili, and the full complement of bananas and protein bars.

The shirt and medal were simple. The shirt is a long sleeve technical tee.

Memphis marathon swag

There are so many good things about this race that make me want to recommend it or even run it again. But running the late miles while stuck in one lane of uneven-camber road was devastating to my IT band. A lot of people seem to do great in this race, and I’d recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who doesn’t have IT band issues. I hope that in the future, there will be additional lanes open to runners in the mile 18-24 stretch. If that happened, this could be the perfect race.

Have you run this race? How did it go? Would you run it again?
What features do you look for/try to avoid in a race?

St. Jude Memphis Marathon Race Recap Part 1: Pre-Race, Goals, and Plans

I have so many things to say about running my first marathon, so it’s not going to be quick. Part 1 of this recap goes up to the starting line – more to come soon!

Pre-Race

We left Atlanta super-early on Friday morning and drove straight to the Expo in Memphis, where we arrived promptly six hours later. IT WAS POURING RAIN. I got in and out of the expo as quickly as possible. It was well-organized, no lines even during the lunch hour, and they had a timing mat at the expo to test your chip. I thought that was cool.

St. Jude Marathon Expo

The longest line at the expo, which still moved pretty quick, was the line to show ID for the post-race beer garden. I wasn’t enthralled with the idea of wearing a wristband overnight and in the shower, but it didn’t end up being that bad.

Beer garden

An awesome feature of the St. Jude Marathon: participants get not one, but TWO post-race beer tickets. In addition to beer-flavored water Michelob Ultra, they serve real Memphis craft beer, Wiseacre.

Beyond the expo, we had a perfectly boring day sitting around doing a lot of nothing. We had dinner with my friends Andy and Rebecca, and went to bed later than I planned, but early enough.

Pre-race nutrition & hydration

Yes, I know it’s weird to blog about everything you ate in a day, but I think tracking these things can be helpful, so skip this section if you don’t like it! (Note that I’d already been going heavy on carbs the day before, but blogging about all the food I ate in ONE day seems weird enough.)

1/2 gallon Chick-fil-A lemonade (throughout the day)
4 Chicken Minis
1 single-size bag of dill pickle potato chips
1 100 calorie pack of pretzels
3 or 4 servings of pasta salad with carrots, spinach, shrimp, and Italian dressing
1 chicken fajita in a flour tortilla
1 serving Mexican corn
2 or 3 servings thinly cut homemade french fries
1 Ghost River Golden Ale

I’m not going to pretend that this is the most ideal carb-loading, but it’s what I did and it worked fine for me. I went heavier on eating during the earlier part of the day (the entire list through pasta salad was before 1:00 in the afternoon), then had dinner, a beer, and called it a night. During training, I’d have up to two drinks the night before a long run, so cutting that in half for the marathon seemed like a reasonable idea.

For hydration, I drank to thirst while eating saltier foods than normal. I monitored my hydration by making sure I was using the restroom frequently enough (about every 2 hours or so). I diluted the lemonade with water because it’s so tart, and I’d estimate I drank about a gallon of fluids the day before the race, or a little less. I consciously cut back on hydration a couple of hours before bed so I wouldn’t have to get up in the middle of the night.

Marathon Game Plan & Goals

I didn’t get to write this post before the race like I wanted to do. Based on calculators using previous half marathon times and my most recent race (a 10K, the Peachtree Road Race, in July), I’d honed in on a goal time of 4:15-4:20. I’m a competitive person, so honestly I was focused on the faster end of the spectrum.

After running the Savannah RnR Half Marathon and getting a 6+ minute half marathon PR, I sort of considered adjusting my goal, but really never gave it serious thought. Of course, I re-ran the calculators, using Jack Daniels, McMillan, FasterRunning.com, and Slate’s Marathon Predictor. The resulting times ranged from 3:59:32 (Jack Daniels) to 4:07:12 and 4:16:31 (Slate, the former without the Peachtree result, the latter including both Savannah and Peachtree). At the end of the day, a 4 hour marathon sounded scary and a 4:15 marathon sounded realistic, so I stuck with the original goal marathon time of 4:15-4:20 if only for psychological reasons.

Like any novice marathoner, I convinced myself I’d be able to pick up the pace in the last 10k if I was disciplined with pacing in the first half. In retrospect, this thought was hilarious. MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Pre-Race Goals, if I’m being completely honest with myself:
A: 4:15 or negative-splitting to slightly faster
B: 4:20
C: 4:29 (after all, the blog’s name is Racing Oprah)

Non-time-related goals:
Don’t hit the wall
Finish without walking
Don’t poop self

Race nutrition & hydration plan

I based my nutrition and hydration plan on a 4:15 finish, or a 9:45/mile pace. A really awesome thing about the St. Jude Marathon is that the race has aid stations EVERY MILE from 2-25. All aid stations have water, Power-Ade and Nuun. There are 3 or 4 stations with assorted Gu flavors, including 2 of my favorites: Tri-Berry and Salted Caramel. Major points for the St. Jude Marathon on the aid stations.

In training, I’d settled on one Gu per 4 miles as an ideal Gu frequency. In regular long runs, I just brought water with me, but during the two races I ran in training, I drank sports drink at aid stations in between Gus. I didn’t have any stomach problems with this strategy, so I decided to go with it for the marathon. Having the full complement of fluids available at every aid station made the fluid aspect easy, but I brought my own Gus. My plan was to take a Gu every 4 miles, and a cup of Power-Ade at every other even-numbered mile (2, 6, 10, etc). At odd-numbered miles, I’d drink water only to thirst.

Like a good CPA, I made a nutrition and hydration plan spreadsheet. I assumed I’d get between 3 and 4 ounces of fluid at each station. The spreadsheet calculated my total carb intake, total fluid intake, and average carb & fluid intake per hour. This plan resulted in 46g carbs/hour and 12 oz. of fluids/hour. The carb intake was right in the middle of the recommended 30-60g/hour, while the fluid intake was less than recommended, so I expected to drink water at some odd numbered miles.

marathon spreadsheet

Marathon nutrition and hydration planning, CPA style

Race Day

I woke up to go to the bathroom about 3 minutes before my alarm was set to go off, which was pretty great. I drank a cup of coffee, had my normal oatmeal (rolled oats cooked in half water, half milk, with banana slices, chia seeds, honey, and cinnamon). I ate as much oatmeal as my stomach felt like it could take, just before reaching a point of discomfort. I had another cup of coffee, two glasses of water, and we hit the road.

The starting line/corral area for the St. Jude Marathon is actually pretty convenient to get to if you’re being dropped off. From Germantown, we took the midtown I-240 (the north-south portion) to Lamar, cut over to MLK, and ran directly into FedEx Forum two blocks from the starting corrals.

The porta-potty lines weren’t bad, and I got to my corral with 20 minutes to spare. The rain from the day before had cleared up, and in the low 50s weather, the long-sleeved T-shirt throwaway I brought was just the right amount of layering. I did some dynamic stretching/warming up in the corral, but I didn’t have room to do any leg swings or fun things like that – it was really crowded!

I’d been debating whether I should take a Gu before the race, and after meeting a girl who told me she hit the wall in her first marathon, I decided to take a Gu about 15 minutes before the start, with about half of the 16 oz bottle of water I brought.

Another marathon-related surprise to me was that the starting line didn’t make me nervous. I get nervous in every starting line, whether it’s a small 5K or a big goal race. I think the difference here was that I knew I needed to hold back early in the race, whereas in a half marathon or less, I want to start at a pace that’s a bit of a push (to varying degrees). Score a point for the marathon.

To keep this recap in manageable chunks, I’ll cover the race itself in the next section.

How about you guys: do you get pre-race jitters? Are they better or worse before a longer race?