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


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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).



  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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).


Current mood.

Week 8: 30 miles

Week 9: 2/8 – 2/14


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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

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


  • 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.


  • 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.


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:


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 – Instant Analysis

First of all, a huge thanks to all the volunteers and spectators, who were wonderful. Especially my boyfriend Jeff, who has been so patient with me through training, and cheered all race with my parents. They were awesome cheerers. (Thank you all so much!)

I was overwhelmed by the level of fan support in a smallish city marathon. Special thanks to the families of St. Jude, who came out in the cold and did the most heartfelt cheering I’ve ever experienced as we ran through the St. Jude campus. In mile 4 it warmed my heart. In mile 24 it was fuel, every bit as much as the Gu or Powerade. I looked down as I exited and saw a 9:10 pace on my Garmin. That was not happening in mile 24 without the St. Jude energy. Also, I owe a huge thanks and congrats to my new race-friends and course tour guides. They rocked it. image

Marathons are harder than a rookie can imagine, I think. My body is wrecked like it has never been wrecked before – like I imagine someone would feel after playing a physical football game, or maybe after childbirth? It’s a pain I didn’t know how to prepare myself for. I expected hard, but it was hhhhhhhhaaarrrd.

I can do better. Let me clarify: I’m not being self-critical and I’m not saying I’ll for sure run another marathon in he spring, or ever. I executed my gameplan – I pushed myself hard, didn’t hit the wall, and learned something about the physical limits of a marathon. If I run another, I’ll be able to push myself harder just for knowing firsthand what to expect. And I don’t plan to run another marathon in the spring. It will be fall or beyond if it happens.

Consistent pounding on angled road camber is the devil. My IT band hasn’t given me the slightest niggle for over a year, and it hurt me so bad on a late-race downhill that I shed actual tears. The unavoidable camber of the Parkways is my biggest criticism of the race. More on this later.

Maybe I’m better at running hills than I thought. My fastest split was between half and 19.6, which was also the hardest and hilliest portion of the course. Inconclusive, but food for thought.

I have all my toenails. I thought losing your toenails was a marathon thing. Mine are going strong. Obvious conclusion: I didn’t really run a marathon.

Half marathons are awesome. The half marathon might be the perfect distance, and it’s way less than half as painful than the marathon.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Share your thoughts on the race with me if you ran it, in past years or this year!

St. Jude Memphis Marathon Training – 1 Week to Go

Scheduling a marathon for the first week of December is something I have to highly recommend for one reason only: the Turkey Taper.

I think being out of my normal routine has kept the taper-crazies at bay. It’s my first marathon, so mayyyybe I don’t get taper-crazy, but let’s be realistic and credit the turkeys for this one.

Total Miles: 28

Total recommitments to good habits: steady at 2 (you can’t recommit to eating normal amounts of food on Thanksgiving week)

Monday: 4 miles easy @ 11:29/mile; strides; hips

I ran after work, which almost always results in stomach issues. Stopped back by the house after mile 3. I considered not going back out, but made myself run the last mile and do strides.

Tuesday: 9 miles // mile 4 @ tempo pace; 8 x 2:00 @ 10k pace w/ 90 second jog rest

This is not how I imagined the taper.

I wanted to get out of my normal tempo-run-route rut, and I chose a “scenic” route that was nice, but it made hitting my paces a bit more challenging. On one uphill 10k pace repeat, I got smoked by this leggy high school runner I see around from time to time. She was cruising effortlessly. I looked down at my Garmin, and I was running a 7:15/mile pace, a full 1:15 too fast. Ouch, pride.

Wednesday: Rest day; Turkey Travel

Thursday: 5 miles easy @ 11:08/mile; strides; core; ATE ALL THE TURKEY

I felt really awful on this run. I would have felt more awful had I not played a guessing game with myself as I passed other runners: who’s running the race next weekend?

Guy in compression everything: marathon
Group of moms in neon everything: half marathon
Fratty-looking dude with golden retriever: just out for a run

Meaningless supposition about other runners aside, I was glad to be done.

Thanksgiving night, I did the unheard-of: I braved the lines at Target for a deal on a GoPro for Jeff. (No spoilers here, I couldn’t keep it a secret from him for more than a day!) It was quite the ordeal, but three Target stores and a day later, I got the one I wanted.

Turkey Thursday lines

Collierville, TN Target store, 5:45 PM on Thanksgiving Day. Insane.

Friday: Rest day

Did some casual Black Friday shopping with my mom, and she bought me a sweet marathon gift.

Arm warmers

Marathon gift from my mom 🙂

That night, we went out for my cousin’s 30th birthday – bowling! I hadn’t gone bowling in eons. It was a blast.


The birthday girl!


Car full of people I am really glad to be related to.

Saturday: 10 miles; last 5 @ goal marathon pace; core and hips

I got to try out Memphis’s Shelby Farms Greenline for the first time. I was a little disappointed that a good chunk of the first mile heading west ran by the penitentiary, but otherwise it was great.

Shelby Farms Greenline

Shelby Farms Greenline

Memphis Greenline

The run itself went well, except that I was not feeling goal marathon pace until the last two miles. It averaged out ok, but in miles 6-8, I’d look down and be running 10:15/mi one moment, and 9:05/mi the next. For some reason, 9:35/mi was the pace I kept gravitating toward. I’m not adjusting my plan this late in the game, but if 9:35 still feels good in the last 10k, I’ll go for it.

Marathon pace run

Miles 6-10 @ GMP

It feels good to be all caught up on training recaps, and to be pretty much done training! I signed up for Twitter race updates, which I believe are scheduled for 5k, 10k, half, 20 miles, and finish. Follow me at @racingoprah if you want to track my progress. I can’t believe its almost here!